Auburn Hills -- We saw another shameful performance at The Palace on Sunday. This time, it didn't come from the Pistons, who actually played with spirit and nearly stole a game from the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers.
We witnessed the annual migration of Kobe Bryant lovers who wore his jersey and cheered his every move. Thanks to Pistons guard Will Bynum it was not a total sham. He ignited the Pistons and even turned Lakers fans into Pistons blue.
But Bynum left The Palace with his spirits down following a 98-97 loss because he missed a potential winning shot with 3.8 seconds left that he flipped high over center Pau Gasol. It rimmed in and rimmed out.
He should not feel bad because Bynum even outshined Bryant, and if wasn't for Bynum this game would have been a ho-hum blowout instead of a delicious appetizer before the Super Bowl.
Bynum rallied his team from an 18-point deficit with 18 points and 10 assists. This wasn't just Bynum putting his head down and attacking the basket. He did some of that, but he broke down the defense and found teammates when they were open. Bynum was the best player on the floor, even with three potential Hall-of-Fame players on the other side.
"I don't really care nothing about that. We lose, we lose," Bynum said. "There's no sympathy for losing. Whether you lose by one or 100, it's all the same. It's a loss. I'm a winner and I want to win. Nothing really matters when you lose."
Let's talk about the real losers. They are Pistons fans who turned The Palace into Staples Center East, the Lakers' home away from home. Many came dressed in Lakers gold and purple and they cheered as loudly for Bryant as anything the Pistons did for much of the game. There were banners and signs for Bryant but few for the Pistons.
I don't know what ignited the crowd more. Was it the Earl Clark dunk off a Bryant inbounds pass to end the first half? Or was it when Bryant dunked over Brandon Knight and stared at the crowd?
There was almost a repeat of the Malice at The Palace.
This time Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) put Knight in a head lock late in the second quarter, drawing a flagrant foul. Afterward, World Peace was stationed within inches of the spot where a fan clocked him with a beer after he got into it with Ben Wallace in 2004.
No one even thought of throwing suds at him this time. Why would they? He was among friends.
Andrew Prauago of Romeo swears he is a Pistons fan, but he was among hundreds who wore Bryant jerseys. He wants to see Bryant win a sixth championship and tie Michael Jordan, who won six with the Chicago Bulls.
"He's a terrific player," Prauago said. "He's respectful. He's excellent."
Same old story
This was a repeat of a few weeks ago when LeBron James came to town for loud cheers. People wore James jerseys and cheered a man this town once said it hated. It wasn't always this way but the passion for the Pistons changed over the years.
Jordan used to get booed in this building. People hated him and his Picasso-looking sidekick Scottie Pippen. But later in his career, even after Jordan destroyed the two-time champion Bad Boys and said they were bad for basketball, Jordan was forgiven and lauded.
James swept the Pistons in the 2009 playoffs and Piston fans sent him off to "MVP" chants after he scored 36 points against the home team. Even when the Pistons beat Bryant and the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals he refused to credit the Pistons for his subpar series.
So why do you cheer a guy like this?
Maybe it makes more sense for a guy like Dwayne Hall of Flint, who is originally from Washington D.C. He has a half-season Pistons ticket plan and said he roots for everybody but the Pistons and proudly wore his Lakers gold.
"Best team. Best tradition. And the No. 1 player," Hall said. "Besides what do you have to cheer here? A lot of the moves by the Pistons make no sense."
But not everybody who came was down on the Pistons. Laila Hammoud of Dearborn loves the Pistons. But she wore her Kobe gear.
"I am still a Pistons fan," she said. "But I grew up loving the Lakers. I won't be mad if the Pistons win. I will always be a Pistons fan."
But celebrity trumped the home team just as it will when Bryant returns to The Palace next season. It's a shame, but part of this is on the Pistons (18-30). They look like a team that will miss the playoffs a fourth straight season, and fans don't want to venture to this building unless there's something to see.
Bryant was the main attraction, but Bynum gave Pistons and Lakers fans an eyeful. He came within inches of stealing the show at The Palace.
"I don't really care about that," Bynum said. "I came to win."