Regular season games like this make the Year In Review videos.
Rasheed's half-court shot saved the game for overtime, and Detroit turned out an unlikely win.
I reserve my assessment of Detroit's status until the end of the month. March was the worst part of Detroit's schedule. I noted this month on their schedule back in November, and it was every bit as difficult as I imagined.
Meanwhile, Arnie Kander, Pistons strength and conditioning coach, was highlighted today in Detroit's Free Press. He, essentially, is Detroit's Q.
ARNIFY YOUR LIFE
Strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander keeps the Pistons healthy with potions, elixirs and ballet bars
March 28, 2007
BY KRISTA JAHNKE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
It is early Tuesday morning, technically an off day for the Pistons, and the practice facility in Auburn Hills is mostly quiet.
But to Arnie Kander, there's no such thing as an off day. As he arrives, he knows he doesn't have long before his day gets busy.
It does, quickly.
First, coach Flip Saunders stops by. He wants to borrow a Brain Innovator, a futuristic-sounding contraption that looks like a CD player and uses lights, sounds and vibrations to activate and synchronize different parts of the brain.
Then forward Tayshaun Prince wanders over to check whether Kander is available. A few minutes later, forward Jason Maxiell pops into his office.
And Kander knows point guard Chauncey Billups is on his way, coming in for work on his sore groin.
Everyone has a different need for the man who is the team's health guru, pharmacist, shrink, physical therapist, water purifier, trainer, muscle soother, alignment specialist and den mother.
He's the magic man.
The Pistons' longtime strength and conditioning coach is so vital within the organization, his influence nearly equals that of Saunders. In fact, Saunders always makes clear that he has no say in whether an injured player can play, nor for how many minutes. That's up to Kander, and Saunders respects what he tells him wholeheartedly.
"As a coach, when I decide what to do in practice, how hard I'm going to go," Saunders said, "I talk to him before I talk to anyone else."
The players also revere him, a fact that cannot be said for all who work in similar positions.
"More than anything else, the players believe in him," Saunders said. "In this league, if you can get players to believe in you, no matter who you are, you've accomplished more than you'd think."
That's no problem in Detroit. Earlier this season, when Chris Webber was asked about the sudden rediscovery of his explosiveness, he said of Kander: "He's the best. He's the best. He's the best."
That's thanks to years of learning, an open mind, a willingness to listen to those with whom he works, and, most important, to never give up or accept limitations.
"I always say, someone is never done," Kander said. "I'm going to venture into every corner that I know, and then there's 10 more that I'm still going to search out and figure out for you. You never give up. Outside of the man upstairs, who defines when healing ends?"
There are few things Kander won't try -- or at least research -- to improve the well-being of his players. And no detail is too small to explore.
Signs of his curious mind are everywhere in the practice facility, from the massive altitude chamber the team brought in last week, to the magnetic ion necklaces many players have worn at times this season to the well-stocked walls of his office.
Twenty binders filled with different test results fill one shelf. Below that is a shelf of books about various training philosophies. Above both shelves is an ever-growing collection of different players' uniquely engineered shoes.
"I've got boxes of them," he said. "I've cut shoes apart to see what happens in the mid-sole of a shoe when it starts to break down. There's a constant learning."
A former athlete, Kander first became interested in the complexity of the body as a senior in high school, when a coach suggested he try ballet to increase his jumping ability.
"I wanted to have a 40-inch vertical," he said, "and I would do anything to get it."
Ballet taught Kander about gravity, flexibility, body alignment, movement and mechanics. That led him to modern dance, which taught him how to find a center.
But more important, dance got him thinking -- especially after it got him injured with a knee problem.
"I had all these questions for the therapist," he said. "I said, 'Well, what about this? What about if I turn my foot this way? Will that change this alignment?' ... I remember the therapist couldn't give me the answers, and I was frustrated. I thought, 'Aren't you the sports therapist? Shouldn't you be able to tell me what I can do and not do?' "
Since then, he has sought answers to all of his own questions.
At 24, he enrolled at Wayne State to study physical therapy. He also dived into bio-mechanism, kinesiology and body alignment. Along with his past studies of movement, he created a one-of-a-kind curriculum that fed his unique interests.
"I wasn't just trying to memorize facts," he said.
After school, he worked with brain-injury patients, desperate for knowledge about how the body's major systems are connected.
Along the way, he also developed a deep understanding of homeopathic, natural and holistic remedies. At all times, Kander carts around a large duffel bag filled with bottles of pills, and he regularly blends potions of natural ingredients and vitamins to feed the players.
Add to those backgrounds his keen awareness of human psychology -- Kander is as concerned about a player's mental state as his muscular state -- and you get a snapshot of the methods behind his madness.
It's not a matter of Kander doing what other NBA trainers do, but doing it better. He does things no one else is doing, period.
"He's totally off," Saunders said. "Have you seen the bag he carries? No trainer has one like that. He's totally different in his approach to everything."
Kander's various influences pop up in ways big and small.
There's his dance side: The practice facility has ballet bars in it, although Kander does not refer to them as such when he instructs players to use them. During the team's pregame stretches, he sneaks in basics of Tai Chi to get the players balanced and centered.
There's his practical side: On Monday, Kander had two hours to bring guard Flip Murray's 103-degree temperature down. So he draped his head and torso in cold, alcohol-soaked towels, which cool the body and pull out the fever as they dry.
"A lot of what you do goes back to what people did 50 or 60 years ago," Kander said. "We've got more high-tech in medicine but have forgotten about the basic foundation of the body. It's hot -- cool it off."
By game time, Murray's temperature was a stable 98.6 degrees, and he was out on the court against Denver, shooting 4-for-4 from the floor.
This also shows Kander's self-described mothering side, something a feverish Lindsey Hunter noticed years ago, when he meekly greeted Kander at his hotel door with a "Hi, Mom."
"You take on that role," Kander said. "It's that feminine aspect of being able to come in and say, 'The goal right now is to rest, relax, take fluids. I'm going to send you out with three of these potions. Tomorrow, you'll take three more, and you'll be on the road to recovery.' It's not about guilt, frustration -- that's not the mother. At least, not the healthy mother."
Then there's the chemist Kander. He and assistant Dave Boyer balance the pH levels of each player's water using alkaline drops. On the road, they forgo tap water and buy bulk supplies of their favored bottled water at grocery stores, then they pH balance it at the hotel before the game.
Sometimes, Kander even uses a machine to change the angles of the bonds in the water molecules.
"Ask anyone who has drank the right water," he said, "the right bond angle, the right temperature, the right alkalinity, and they'll say they can't go back."
The stories could go on all day.
When Webber came to Detroit, Kander watched 100 game tapes, from high school to the NBA, covering his various stages of growth, development and injury. He saw something he thought he might fix his ongoing problems.
When the two finally met, Kander first asked Webber for his take. Then, slowly, he told him what he wanted to try. Webber listened, asked questions and kept an open mind.
Then they got to work. And the result was a near-immediate reversal of the foot problems that had dogged the player in Philadelphia.
A miracle? In a casual observer's eye, maybe.
To Kander, it's just another minor victory, a small reward for a lifetime of paying homage to an endlessly curious mind.
"He's constantly, always learning," Saunders said. "He never stands still. He's always trying to find that little edge, that little extra."
Contact KRISTA JAHNKE at 313-223-4493 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her Pistons blog at www.freep.com/sports.
I completely missed the game. I was going to bed early to get up and help my girlfriend drop off her car, then take her to the airport. When I saw that shot on the highlight reels, man, that was something else.
It seems that AI's teams never do that well in the clutch. Huh. Guess we're not talkin' about practice, still.
Murray wasn't lighting anything up for the first half of the season. Billups got gimped, and Hunter got suspended, and suddenly, he was it, and he really used that opportunity against Phoenix.
I still think that game was bullshit reffing though . . . the Pistons were allowed to get really physical out there, something that won't be likely in a playoff series, since it's rarely called like that in the regular season . . . but props to Detroit for running with it, and Phoenix, man, they gotta learn to get tough-n-bangin with the half court game and 80 point per side games, if they want a ring.
Last year's Pistons crew was the best of all the crews . . . they could play half-court or uptempo. They were really balanced . . . they've mostly reverted to half court this year.