NEW YORK — Already staggered by the deaths this year of Larry Miller, Red Kerr and Norm Van Lier, as well as the life-threatening illness of ex-Pistons maestro Chuck Daly, the NBA took another giant hit Friday when Pistons owner Bill Davidson died at 86; enshrined into the Hall of Fame last September, he had been ailing for well over a year.
Winner of three league championships, Davidson was the hands-on Godfather of the two-time-winning Bad Boys . . . as tough in the trenches as Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Mark Aguirre, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Johnson, Ricky Mahorn, John Salley and James Edwards.
Davidson also was lavishly loyal (a legendary philanthropist) and excessively compassionate . . . as long as you didn’t cross him; a double-cross got you deleted from the franchise and cut out of his will.
Fair or unfair (there remains justifiable debate on the issue), that’s what happened to Thomas. Considered a son by the man affectionately known as “Mr. D.” Thomas was in line upon retirement in 1994 to become Pistons president and receive a piece of the team.
Somehow word leaked out in a Detroit paper to that effect before its official announcement. Despite the fact Thomas had nothing to gain by that news prematurely getting out, Davidson was infuriated. He accused Thomas of betraying his trust and summarily canceled their agreement.
A half-dozen years or so ago, the pair patched things up, but their relationship was never the same.
Meanwhile, Dumars wound up with the title (no percentage, as far as I know) when he retired after the lockout year in 1999. Together, Mr. D. and Dumars — joined at the hardcore hip for every jagged decision — rebuilt the Pistons into a perennial championship contender and an additional crown.
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Considering Al Harrington complained about having to give up the ball more times than not to Jermaine O’Neal, imagine how he feels about deferring to Knicks teammate Nate Robinson . . . who, by the way, is the league’s fourth-leading scorer since the All-Star break behind Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
True, the Lakers are cycling the crest of the Western Conference standings at the same height as the Cavaliers in the East, but James’ exploits seem to eclipse Bryant’s feats more nights than not.
LeBron’s 51 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three blocks in Cleveland’s road comeback over the Kings last Friday was just more of the same succulence.
One night later, Wade surpassed that cosmic performance with yet another routine recital — 50 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists — as the Heat needed three extra sessions to vaporize the Jazz.
Wade may not beat out LeBron for MVP in the minds of the majority of media voters, but, undeniably, he’s done everything imaginable.
Then again, Miami being seven games above the equator with 17 to go is more amazing than the Cavs’ 53-13 record.
Don’t look now, but the Jazz have dropped three straight after winning 12 in a row. Clearly, Jerry Sloan is backing into his first coach of the year honors and induction into the Hall of Fame.
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The 76ers sashayed across the street to the Spectrum one last time Friday night, beating the Bulls by three in the final game at their old haunt.
Several storied Sixers, including Julius Erving, were on hand. It seems Charles Barkley had a previous engagement . . . a prison pep talk to Bernie Madoff.
Say this much for Sir Cumference . . . he was in and out of jail faster than my laundry.
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You have to hand it to the Nets, who proved tanking a 14-point halftime lead in Oaktown to begin a five-game roadie was no fluke.
Up a dozen in the first half Friday night at home, and eight early in the fourth, the Nets lost going away by nine. Portland scored 16 of the game’s last 22 points.
The Nets try to the upright the ship when they visit my Paper Clips on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Even Hollywood, where nothing is real, can’t fake interest in this game.
That Syracuse-UConn game went on so long, by the time it was over, some of the Orangemen actually became academically eligible.
Jason Richardson made a late run for a bonehead award attempting a 360-degree dunk vs. the Cavs. Because the Suns savant slowed down on the move, James had time to get there and invalidate it.
Seems Dave Bing, running for mayor of Detroit — a position of unimpeachable moral qualities — claimed he had a master’s degree when that might not exactly have been correct. He has turned over any further inquiries on the subject to his spokesman, ex-Notre Dame football coach George O’Leary.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.