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June 2, 2006

Flip Saunders


Q. Flip, obviously no shoot-around this morning. I'm just wondering why you made that decision and what you guys might have done as a team, if anything.
FLIP SAUNDERS: Well, basically what our shoot-arounds have been lately have been mostly walk-throughs and more mental approach, and we did the same. We had a taped up ball room and everything we would have done probably at the shoot-around we did this morning. I think it was a better situation than having to drive 25 minutes to the shoot-around. The media is a lot longer when you're coming down here, so you're looking at almost a two and a half hour stint from a shoot-around to a non-shoot-around, so I thought we got out what we needed to get out of it today.
Q. You had a theory a couple weeks ago about injured players playing their best in this game. Are you hoping that theory gets exploded tonight because of Dwyane Wade's situation?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I hope so. I mean, we'll see. He's going to play well. What you expect in these games, your main players are all going to play well, and usually what happens is that some guy that someone least expects or role player steps up and is a difference-maker. I expect Dwyane to play well and Shaq to play well, as I expect some of our main guys to play well tonight.
Q. Teams have obviously won three championships in a row or more. What is the cumulative effect of being in 75, 80, 85 playoff games over three years versus the experience level of being in that many playoff games over that many years?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I think the biggest thing is it can wear on you emotionally more than anything. I think it's an emotional strain of knowing all the big games that you've had to get up for to play, and it can just -- constantly, as far as wear on you. That's why you look, a lot of teams don't have the ability to do that, to go two, four Conference Finals. It just doesn't happen a lot because of the wear and tear mentally, the wear and tear physically.
On the other hand, you look at it, when a team has been there and they have success doing it, it's something that they fall back on. It's not where they're in uncharted waters. So they can go in a with a sense of calmness and I think a sense of confidence.
Q. Another hard-hitting question here, but the decision to go to the red jerseys, was that something you guys had planned on?
FLIP SAUNDERS: That's a pretty good reason.
Q. Was that really conscious, though?
Q. Do you want to expound on that?
FLIP SAUNDERS: It's 9 and 0.
Q. You had talked before game 5 about finding the mojo, and defensively it sure looked that way. Offensively it still seems like there's -- with the exception of Tayshaun Prince, everybody is shooting about 30 percent. What's going on with Richard and Chauncey? Are they coming to you saying, "I don't know why I'm missing these shots"?
FLIP SAUNDERS: No, I think that they miss some open shots, which is uncharacteristic of them. I think when you are playing hard defensively, sometimes it's tough to do it at both ends. I think in Rip's case, he's running around chasing Wade a lot, and Wade has had the ball in his hands all the time, where Rip doesn't have the ball in his hands that much, only when he's going to shoot it. So he's had more pressure having to defend that. I think it wears you out a little bit and maybe does affect you.
I think the other thing is we've been playing behind this whole series, so it's like every shot is a huge shot. We haven't been in situations where you consider it just a flow type of situation. I thought our last game we had good looks. We shot pretty well for most of the game. We didn't shoot as well down the stretch, but we were shooting 47 at the half, which we were pretty happy with. I think tonight really whoever shoots the ball well is going to have a huge advantage, and hopefully -- it would be a nice time for us to come out shooting it.
Q. After Game 4 how much concern was there that Antonio had broken his hand and were you surprised how well he had played with those stretched ligaments that he had in his hand?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I didn't think it was broken just from talking to Arnie. I was concerned when I saw him at shoot-around trying to catch a ball knocking it down with his right hand and not using his left. But it seemed to help his free throws because he made his free throws. But it gets back to that same situation. I told him before the game when we talked about it, you'll get out there in the heat of the battle and you'll forget about it and you'll probably play pretty well, and he went out there and had a great game.
Hopefully he will be able to do the same -- I think for him it's good as far as the ability to shoot the basketball. It hurt him a little bit when he had to put the ball on the floor and pass it out. He couldn't use it as much.
Q. I don't recall that many Conference Finals where a coach has become the focus of so much commentary. What are your friends and family and people you confide in, what do they say about that?
FLIP SAUNDERS: Take cover (laughter). I've got a lot of people who have called and they've all been very supportive. I had some coaches call within the league and said, "geez, looking in the last ten years I don't think I've seen where there's been so much focus on a coach." So I knew coming in here there would be this type of situation coming in, maybe not to this extent, but that's all part of it, and everything is a learning experience you go through.
Coaches learn, players learn as far as going through situations, and it makes you better. As my parents once told me, you're never given anything that God doesn't think you can handle, so you deal with it and move forward. That's how I pretty much approached it.
Q. Ben got more involved in the offense in the last game, and he had arguably his best game in terms of energy on both ends of the court. How cognizant are you in making sure he gets touches on offense so that his energy stays up?
FLIP SAUNDERS: We're trying. A couple of the games he got touches, but he was passing it out or they were fouling him. He went to the free throw line ten times. As we talked before. I think he made a more conscious effort he was going to be more aggressive and not turn opportunities away. Just getting him involved whether it's a pick-and-roll or in screen situations, we're going to continue to do that and try to do what we've done -- when we've had some success, we've moved bodies and moved the ball. One or two players are not standing and watching. There's no question we're going to try to get him actively involved. Hopefully that will keep his energy level up, too.
Q. With Antonio is it a torn ligament?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I'm not sure.
Q. Do you know if he'll need surgery later?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I don't know. I doubt it.
Q. I apologize, I know this has been asked, but how do you approach a game knowing that a star player has gone through some type of illness, speaking about Dwyane Wade?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I won't even talk about it. It won't even be a part of the talk with the players. We're going to approach him just like -- I'm going to assume that he's going to be 100 percent. We're not going to change anything that we would have done or wouldn't have done, so we'll approach it just like we were if he was 100 percent.
Q. It seems when the Pistons have had most success this season, not actually scoring so many points on fast breaks but pushing the ball after making baskets, moving defense back, getting guys to change ends, for a while there it seemed like your team got into a lot of half court --
FLIP SAUNDERS: It wasn't by design.
Q. How come it happened?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I think that you get -- we were running in mud at both ends. We just weren't getting the thrust that we really needed as far as to get -- we tried to make a conscious effort and we weren't getting the numbers. We'd have one or two guys run but we couldn't get that third or fourth guy to run with us. We just kept on watching film and talking to our guys, and eventually what we did is we were able to do a little bit more. Part of the problem is when you're playing a team and they shoot 56 percent or 60 percent, against you, you're taking the ball the whole time and you can't run. It was a combination of a little bit of both. More than anything, this series we played five games and there's no question that whatever team has been the most aggressive team at the offensive and defensive end, that's the team that's won this game. I think this game is going to be no different. Whoever is the most aggressive is going to be the team to have success and win.
Q. Just wondering if you've heard from K.G. in week?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I know he was down here and talked to Chauncey. I have not talked to him as far as this week, but I talked to him a couple weeks ago.

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