Why Detroit Had to Deal for Iverson
There has been some confusion as to why Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars would make this deal for Allen Iverson, when it goes against "the Pistons way" that resulted in an NBA title, two NBA Finals appearances and six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference finals. Well, the whole team-before-superstar philosophy wasn't working anymore.
It was great for the game when the Pistons recorded their five-game victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals. Detroit was the better team, but they pulled off an upset of recent NBA reasoning that stated that star power prevails in June. There is a reason that the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics (R.I.P.) had been the last team to win a title without a bonafide Hall of Famer.
The Pistons dismantled the best two-man combo of this decade -- Shaq and Kobe -- with Chauncey Billups winning the NBA Finals MVP without a previous all-star appearance. They made it back to the Finals the next season, losing to San Antonio in seven games. They could've easily won back-to-back titles if not for a Rasheed Wallace brain-freeze that left Robert Horry open for a decisive three-pointer in that critical Game 5.
But since Tim Duncan and the Spurs knocked out the Pistons, the Pistons were demolished in the Eastern Conference finals by the Dwyane Wade wrecking ball in 2006, the LeBron James bulldozer in 2007 and finally, the Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce three-star championship train last summer. Three in a row. To paraphrase Hall and Oates, Joe can't go for that.
The message was very clear to Dumars. The Pistons had gone as far as Billups would take them. He needed a star. Although Dumars was able to turn the Darko Milicic blunder into promising second-year combo guard Rodney Stuckey, he realizes that the franchise may have been able to avoid the past three shortcomings if he had only drafted Wade, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh with the No. 2 pick in 2003.
As an NBA front office executive told me on Monday, the Pistons succeeded in the past because all five players would consistently play at the top of the games. But after winning the championship, they got a bit complacent and could count on only two or three players bringing it at a time. And without a legitimate star, there was little margin for error -- and no superstar to cover up all of their teammates mistakes. That's tough to overcome.
This trade for Iverson is the first step toward remedying the lack of star power in Detroit. The Pistons hope they can rent a championship-starved Iverson for one season at least, and see how far he can take them. If it doesn't work out, they'll be able to have the cap space to sign a desired star, preferably in 2010 when James, Wade and Bosh could be available.
Eventually, continuity has to be replaced by a new plan.
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