MIAMI — This might fall into the category of inciting a riot.
It depends on what happens Sunday night in The Palace of Auburn Hills when Detroit Pistons fans get a chance to react — up close and insultingly personal — to what Heat coach Stan Van Gundy had to say about them Friday afternoon.
What's altogether predictable, of course, is that Detroiters everywhere will be plenty pistoned-off. They'll be fuming. They'll be more than eager to live up (or down?) to their reputation for displaying a particular style of, umm, zealotry.
But maybe Van Gundy decided the setting — Game 3 of a long-anticipated and growingly antagonistic Eastern Conference championship series — can't get much more hostile than it figures to be, anyway.
So, he growled first.
Except he's probably wrong about the can't-get-much-worse part, which means vitriolic might take on a whole new meaning when Van Gundy walks onto The Palace court.
And he'll have started it.
What happened was this: Van Gundy was on the AmericanAirlines Arena practice floor talking about how the road frequently is less of a disadvantage to a team deep in the playoffs.
One of his points was that a team involved in, say, an Eastern Conference championship series usually is a pretty good one and therefore reasonably capable of handling adverse situations. Another of his points was that those games usually are worked by some of the NBA's best officials, who aren't likely to be intimidated or influenced by surroundings.
All good so far.
But not for long.
Van Gundy did say it was the Pistons themselves, obviously, who make Detroit a difficult place to play.
But here's what else he said:
"Detroit, even in the regular season, has a particularly nasty crowd. They're not just loud. Those people will say anything and do anything. ... I have never understood the idea (that) because I bought a ticket to the game, I can sit there and yell anything I want. ...
"It's always sort of funny to look around in the stands and see somebody sitting with their 10-year-old kid yelling profanities at you. I always thought, 'That was a great role model.' "
He was just getting started.
"I think (in) Detroit and New York, you get some of the absolute nastiest people. Hey, that's the way it is. That doesn't make it any tougher to play. It's no louder than anywhere else."
And then came the real stunner in pointed reference to the regular-season brawl in the stands during an Indiana-Detroit game.
"Hey, what other arena did somebody throw beer on somebody?" Van Gundy said. "I mean, let's face it. It's a different place. We heard it in the first two games up there (this season). The second was after the (fight) happened.
"I don't think their security people cared. The thing worked out great for them, to be quite honest. ... There aren't very many arenas where you specifically hear people yelling profanities and vulgar things at you. You just hear people yelling, but Detroit's a different place. Detroit's a different place. It just is."
All righty, then.
The strangest aspect of the Van Gundy diatribe was that it came from a guy who's funny and glib and cerebral and typically not inclined to give any fodder to an opponent or, in this case, an opponent's fans.
It's also worth noting that Detroit defeated Indiana without incident in the Eastern Conference semifinals after the regular-season ugliness involving those rivals.
The Heat players, by the way, seemed unconcerned about the logistics of their upcoming assignment.
Eddie Jones mostly is concerned with "matching the Pistons' intensity" with the home crowd behind them. Dwyane Wade dismissed whatever "unprintable" comments he'll hear as part of the equation.
Wade probably figures if he goes for another 40 points, as he did in a Game 2 victory by the Heat, it'll be the best possible response to whatever Detroit's crowd has to say.
Which is what Van Gundy, too, finally got around to in talking about using an unfriendly environment as motivation.
"It fires you up a little bit more," he said.
Figure on Pistons fans happily and angrily taking that risk.
'Cause they must think this stuff is a real riot.
Palm Beach Post