Detroit coach Flip Saunders offered his viewpoints on several topics at this morning's shootaround. The Mavs and Pistons play tonight at the AAC at 8 p.m.
Q: Are Mavs and Pistons both seemingly flying under the radar?
A: Everyone's under the radar because of how well Boston's playing. People around the league that have watched games know how good both teams are. You're taking a team last year, virtually Dallas is the same team from last year, at this point last year everyone was talking they're going to win 70 games, that's what Boston's like as far as this year.
Q: What have you seen different about the Mavs this season:
A: Maybe they've paced themselves a little bit more. They understand that no matter what they do during the regular season they're judged by what they do in the postseason. I think Eddie Jones has helped them a little bit. I think their biggest change is their ability to cut Jason Terry's minutes down from 38 to 32 range, they feel that is going to benefit them when it comes to playoff time.
Q: Are the Mavs more about Dirk than ever?
A: I don't think that's true. Dirk is a main part of their team, but I think how their team goes a lot is how Josh Howard goes and how Jason Terry goes. Dirk has not had, until these last couple weeks he's been like the Dirk of old where he's pretty much dominated the game as far as offensively. I think the one thing Avery's done is trying to become a little more diversified with their team with Josh, with Terry, with Devin Harris being able to run some pick-and-rolls. They're definitely trying to do more as far as posting up people when they have the opportunities. So I definitely think they looked and they decided that maybe in order to have playoff success they can't rely on like a Dirk to do everything. It's just too much pressure on one guy.
Q: You had Chauncey Billups in Minnesota and Detroit. When did you know he would become a special player?
A: When he averaged 22 against Dallas in the playoffs. To be honest, during the regular season he had that one phenomenal game where he had like 20 in a quarter when we came in here and beat Dallas. I think KG didn't even play that game, he was sick. That was the beginning and he had a great playoff. I think the problem we had if you remember is that we lost our backups and we signed Robert Pack to a 10-day and he was our backup point. We played him like three minutes a game during that stretch and his plus-minus was like a minus-12. When Chauncey was on the floor we actually had success against Steve and Dirk and those guys but we couldn't keep him on the floor for 48 minutes. I think at that point that's where we knew he was going to be really good. Detroit knew and that's why Joe [Dumars] went after him.
-- Jeff Caplan