-- One eyesore of a game into the series, and a cloud of delusion has already shrouded these NBA Finals. Discerning between conventional wisdom and reality is rough. But we will try.
Myth: A battle between the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons -- the NBA's best defensive teams -- represents a hoop purist's dream.
Reality: Spurs-Pistons slogging through each possession often makes us root for labor strife. Never mind the luxury tax or an escrow account. Lock everybody out who cannot score.
Only Manu Ginobili's ingenuity saved Game 1 from the ignominy of becoming the NBA Finals' lowest-scoring game ever. The Fort Wayne Pistons and the Syracuse Nationals combined for 145 points in 1955, eight fewer than the Spurs and Pistons lit it up for on Thursday night.
Beautiful, huh? Eight points of progress in 50 years.
Myth: Rasheed Wallace is about as insightful as Elmer Fudd.
Reality: In hindsight, Fudd's perspective and articulate observations were underrated.
"What did they do defensively to disrupt your game?" Wallace was asked after the Pistons' Game 1 loss.
'Sheed's answer? "They won. We lost. We didn't make shots. They made shots."
Myth: Detroit has no go-to star.
Reality: The problem with the NBA -- well, one of them anyway -- is that players become compartmentalized too quickly. Vince Carter was touted as the Second Coming one season, a dog the next, and now he's worked his way back to Legitimate All-Star.
The same logic applies to Chauncey Billups, who is somehow viewed as a second-tier star because he has bounced around from team to team and used to shoot much more than he passed. Billups, the Pistons' incomparable point guard, is not as famous as Stephon Marbury, and he doesn't have the cachet of Jason Kidd or the waistline of Baron Davis. But he's got one more championship ring than all three all-star guards combined.
After the retirement of Reggie Miller and Kobe Bryant's inability to lead his team to the postseason, Billups has clearly assumed the mantle of the league's most dependable player in the clutch.
Myth: Detroit Coach Larry Brown and his one-time assistant and pupil Gregg Popovich, the coach of the Spurs, were attached at the hip as children and at this moment are currently dining together somewhere.
Reality: You can see it in Popovich's poorly hidden smirk: The best friends' angle has worn thin already. Popovich was Brown's best man years ago. But they don't just call L.B. the traveling man for his long professional resume. Brown has had three best men. He has said he "occasionally" socializes with Pop. No matter. We need a story line here. By next week, their relationship will include an item in the New York Post about them being seen canoodling.
Myth: Expecting poor TV ratings, ABC and the NBA partnered in vain to make someone, anyone, watch their Game 1 broadcast.
Reality: Nah. Alanis Morissette is always imported to sing the national anthem. Will Smith is always contracted to break into song and dance a good 10 minutes before tip-off. In the NBA's futile choreographed attempt to NFL-ize their postseason product, it got worse.
A pregame interview with Phil Jackson was hyped as if the former Lakers coach had decided to accept the Democratic Party's 2008 nomination. Instead, we found out that Big Chief Triangle is still negotiating with the Lakers to possibly return. And that's it. Bad sign when you need to import a former Laker to the Finals for a non-story.
Myth: Eva Longoria is not really dating Tony Parker. It is a ruse. She was merely imported to spike ABC's declining ratings.
Reality: Untrue. The "Desperate Housewife" is indeed involved with the Spurs point guard. Why, though, is still unclear. Come on. Would a 10-car-pileup cute actress fall for a little peanut head from France if he didn't play in the NBA? When Parker starts jumping on Oprah's couch, exclaiming, "I love her, I love her," we will know it's a farce.
Myth: Argentine all-star guard Manu Ginobili, who played in Italy and whose parents are Italian immigrants, is a very good player. But, taking into account our own provincial basketball roots, we believe he is Eurotrash.
Reality: Absolutely false. Manu, we know Darko Milicic. You, sir, are no Darko Milicic. Ginobili is a real player. He is Euroflash. He saved Game 1 from becoming one of the most aesthetically unappealing games in years, or at least since the Spurs were last in the Finals. He is catching on here, too. A fan waved a placard at SBC Center on Thursday night. Underneath Manu's pasted-on face, the Spurs' guard held a lightsaber. The handmade sign read: "Obi-wan Ginobili."
The force is strong in you, young Manu. But to bring back the masses to the television, to save a partnership between a network and a league, you will need help from others.
'Sheed, Eva, show him how it's done.