Scrawny basketball players everywhere owe a debt to the Detroit Pistons' Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton for their playoff performances.
At the NBA's predraft camp in Chicago, scouts, coaches and general managers noted that many within their ranks once considered both players too skinny to play in the NBA.
Hamilton is 6 feet 7, 193 pounds and Prince is listed at 6-9, 215. Just how skinny are they? Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher, by no means a hulk, is 6-1, 200.
"They aren't skinny," said Ben Wallace, Detroit's 6-9, 245-pound center. "They're just slim-cut."
Hamilton's 22.1 points per game in the postseason rank second all-time for the Pistons franchise (Bob Lanier is the leader with 25.6 points per game). Prince has scored 346 points in 36 postseason games during his two seasons with Detroit, 18th all-time. Moreover, Hamilton and Prince have played stellar defense.
Some NBA personnel remembered how they knocked Prince prior to the 2002 draft. Detroit General Manager Joe Dumars chose Prince with the No. 23 pick, behind such players as Curtis Borchardt (Orlando, 18th) and Qyntel Woods (Portland, 21st).
The success of Hamilton and Prince has begun to convince NBA personnel to place less importance on size and strength when evaluating players, NBA talent evaluators said.
"A lot of teams are getting down to asking themselves the question that probably matters most," said one team executive. "Can the kid play in the NBA or not? That's what it comes down to."
Detroit's strategy prior to Sunday's game was evident to anyone in the team's locker room.
On the team's chalkboard was written the heading "Transition Defense." Underneath that was "Stop Shaq at the [free-throw line]. No easy layups."
What that means is that the Pistons were determined to prevent the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal from scoring off the fast break, usually on monstrous dunks.
See It, Sell It
The NBA's marketers are on high alert.
They must be ready to design new gear quickly to exploit an important play, such as Fisher's game-winning shot with four-tenths of a second remaining that beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. Within hours of the shot, the NBA began selling foam hats and T-shirts commemorating the basket.
Following a breakout performance by Lakers reserve forward Luke Walton, the NBA began selling shirts that had "L-U-U-U-K-E" written on them.
According to an NBA spokesman, the idea is to ride the wave of enthusiasm after an important game or event, but speed is everything when you're trying to cash in on the passion of fans.