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R.I.P. Pistons (2002-2009)


By R.I.P., I'm assuming you're not talking about my nickname. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)


In case some of you were worried about not having anything to talk about over the weekend, I wanted to assure you all that I did not come down with swine flu. After following Gilbert Arenas and Flip Saunders the past month, a brother just needed a break.

Nothing new to update on the Washington Wizards, but I happened to watch the former team of the current Wizards' coach on Sunday and it was quite depressing. It's bad enough that the Pistons had their worst regular season in more than eight years, but it was more disconcerting watching that once proud team simply roll over against the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no shame in losing to an obviously superior Cleveland team, but in getting swept in a 99-78 whimper on Sunday, the Pistons didn't even bother to muster the energy to wave a white flag. Even worse, they watched Cavaliers fans take over the Palace of Auburn Hills and serenade LeBron James with humiliating chants of "MVP! MVP!"

Tayshaun Prince's eyes appeared to be watering as he watched the final seconds click down. He understood what was happening. Detroit wasn't just losing a game or a series. After reaching the conference finals six consecutive years, winning one championship and making two trips to the NBA Finals, the Pistons, as we once knew them, are done. Bad Boys Part II to just plain bad.

The anti-superstar, five-fingers-forming-one-fist movement is officially over.


You bandwagon cats can hop off now. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images Sport)

From 2002-09, the Pistons gave us DeeeTroit Basketball, raucous sellout crowds, Ben Wallace's unkempt Afro, Chauncey B-b-b-billups and his big shots, "Gauransheed" Wallace and his gaudy championship belt, masked man Richard Hamilton running around screens, elastic armed Tayshaun Prince chasing down Reggie Miller and Larry Brown showing how to "play the right way."

Through that amazing run, the Pistons were able to withstand a few coaching changes and the departure of Ben Wallace, the former 'fro of the franchise. But trading Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson was like the removal of that final Jenga block that brought the whole wooden tower down. Now Joe Dumars is facing the difficult task of taking the team on a new, uncomfortable course.

Rasheed Wallace probably played his final game in Detroit as a member of the Pistons. His contract and the one belonging to Iverson are coming off the books this summer, leaving the Pistons about $17 million in cap space to start rebuilding in a hurry. Dumars will also have to consider blowing up the whole thing and dealing Prince and/or Rip Hamilton.

(If the Pistons are truly about to rebuild/reload, the Wizards should look long and hard into finding a way to bring Antonio McDyess to Washington. Miggedy-miggedy-Mac-Dyess is a bit up in age, but he is a solid, professional veteran and was the only guy who brought it every night against Cleveland. He'll be a free agent, and there is the obvious connection with Saunders and Wizards Vice President of Basketball Administration Tommy Sheppard, who worked with McDyess in Denver. McDyess was one of three forwards Ernie Grunfeld considered acquiring in the summer of 2004 -- Antawn Jamison and Al Harrington were the others -- before Gilbert Arenas suggested he go with Jamison).

ESPN's Chris Broussard wrote an excellent column about how it all crumbled this season, with Iverson providing no answers and first-year Coach Michael Curry unable to extort confidence from his veterans, most notably Hamilton (The story also had this interesting line about Flip Saunders: "Detroit's management had watched the players blatantly disrespect and curse out Saunders for years ...").


We're gone. Now the Pistons are done. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein /NBAE via Getty Images)

The Pistons semi-renaissance was largely the result of some former Wizards. And, while Dumars made the first bold move by plucking Ben Wallace in that sign-and-trade deal involving Grant Hill in 2000, the Pistons didn't become perennial conference finalists until the Wizards shipped Hamilton to Detroit in exchange for Jerry Stackhouse in the September 2002. They didn't win a championship until Dumars swindled Rasheed Wallace from Atlanta. In between, the Pistons also drafted Prince and signed Billups, building an Eastern Conference fixture.

Drafting Darko Milicic instead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will stand out as the most glaring Blunder that Dumars made (I use a capital B because it was that huge). But playing devil's advocate here, if Milicic hadn't turned into a major, major project (um, bust), Dumars may not have felt the need to trade for Rasheed Wallace in February 2004, the move that put the Pistons over the hump.

If the Pistons hadn't taken Milicic, they likely would've selected Bosh over Anthony and Wade, given their need for frontline frontcourt talent. But Bosh wasn't going to lead the Pistons to a championship his rookie season, and he's still struggling to get Toronto out of the first round. Rasheed Wallace, however, came at the perfect time in his career. He was in his prime, healthy, a free-agent-to-be and playing with a Liberty Bell-sized chip on his shoulder.


Right. It is not all my fault. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)

Those three straight Eastern Conference finals exits under Saunders exposed Detroit's lack of a superstar and the difficulty of winning a title without one. And the Pistons surely would've captured a star in 2003 draft. But it's a tough thing to consider: Would you trade in a guaranteed championship ring and several years of being good for the hope of several years of being good and a championship or two some day?

I think most will take the ring.

But to me, the reason Detroit was unable to win another championship wasn't necessarily because it lacked a marquee superstar, but more because of complacency, arrogance and an over-inflated sense of accomplishment. After winning the title in 2004, the Pistons didn't display that same hunger that drove them to dismantle the Los Angeles Lakers in that NBA Finals upset. And it showed during some playoff moments (Rasheed Wallace leaving Robert Horry wide open; the Dwyane Wade and LeBron James explosions) when they let down their guard and expected that championship swagger to just kick in.

Unfortunately for them, it never did. And with an uncertain future ahead, it never will for that group. But the memories were great, to say the least.

By Michael Lee  |  April 27, 2009; 10:06 AM ET
 
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Comments

...the Wizards should look long and hard into finding a way to bring Antonio McDyess to Washington. Miggedy-miggedy-Mac-Dyess is a bit up in age, but he is a solid, professional veteran and was the only guy who brought it every night against Cleveland...

McNice on the Wiz and Sam "E.T." Cassell on the bench! can't wait for next season...

Posted by: prescrunk | April 27, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

...'consider bringing McDyess to DC...' We should be looking to work a trade to bring Rip back to DC (should have never traded him to start with [thanks again Mike]).

Dumars may be willing to take Etan or Mike James (expiring contracts) and this years 1st round pick in exchange for Hamilton...??? Shot, throw in Nick Young too in some variation to bring back Rip. Consider a starting line-up of Gil, Rip, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood... SOUNDS GOOD TO ME and considering the situation in Detroit it could happen.

*For those who say don't trade the pick if it's #1... remember our window of opportunity for this group is closing fast (only 2 or 3 years left before we will be just like the Pistons in that we will have to start all over, if we want to win)

Posted by: fishin41 | April 27, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

The Pistons strength was playing a cool, composed style, but when it didn't work it always looked nonchalant. It seems like the core is too reliant on that style to integrate the younger players who have a more frenetic, energetic style. I don't agree that they didn't care or rolled over, but they certainly didn't have any alternative strategy. The Cavs really snuffed out any momentum they ever showed.

Posted by: emrj | April 27, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I doubt Hamilton's going anywhere. I've been saying for years that they needed to move either Hamilton or Prince and replace one of them with an athletic, attacking, off the dribble SG/SF who can manufacture offense. But it seems much more likely that Prince is the guy who's on the way out of town.

http://www.freep.com/article/20090426/COL22/904260712/1051/SPORTS03/Time+to+put+pride+aside+as+this+era+ends

(T)hese Pistons always have been an overly prideful bunch -- often acting as if their success was well-deserved, but their failures were somebody else's fault. You could accept that as part of their charm when they were winning: They had no superstar, so they needed that defiance.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

And forget about McDyess. If he doesn't stay in Detroit, he's headed somewhere where he has a shot at winning a title, and that ain't DC.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Don't think Hamilton will work in DC. His game is running around multiple picks. Other than Haywood, who will set the picks for him? Most likely, the ball will be gone by the time he runs around the picks.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 27, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Since ESPN was reporting last friday that Rip and Curry hadn't been speaking in months, I'd assume if Dumars brings Curry back he's going to want the air cleared in the lockerroom. Rip could be on the way out the door if Dumars can find a taker for the last 4 years of his deal.

The other interesting tidbit has been Rip's comments about Suanders and the Piston player's reaction to him. Sounds like a guy mending fences.

I wouldn't think Ernie would want to talk about including this year's 1st in any talk for Rip, I can't imagine he's going to fetch a high price with 4 more years quarenteed.

There are a lot of teams that are bleeding money right now. Apparently the Wizards aren't one of them, so Ernie might be willing to tkae on a contract if the price was right.

Micheal, I'd agree with the notion that McDess could make a valuable vet off the bench if he's willing to play another year or two.
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | April 27, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Dumars' history when it comes to player/coach conflict suggests that if Curry and Hamilton can't get on the same page, Curry will the one gone, not Rip. There's a reason why the Pistons are on their 4th coach in 8 years. Dumars gives his players a lot longer leash than the coaches (otherwise, Rasheed would have been gone two years ago). The reason he waited until a week into the season to pull the trigger on the Billups/Iverson deal was because he wa atrying to lock Hamilton up to an extension before shipping his PG out of town. It's pretty clear how highly he values Rip (right or wrong).

Also, Prince will be easier to move than Rip.

In any event, Hamilton would be a bad fit for the Wiz, as currently constructed. We just say how poorly he fits into an offense with a shoot-first PG. Don't really see him coexisting well with Arenas. And, given his history with Flip and the fact that (if the reports are true) he tuned out Curry after less than a season, I doubt Grunfeld would want to import a potentially disrupting influence into a locker room full of young players. Hamilton is a talented player, but he's no more a plug and play guy than iverson. He thrives in a very specific kind of structure, and the Wiz don't have that.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Agree with Kal re: Hamilton. He would be at best the 3rd option on a team with a shoot first PG and he's not a great defender. Not to mention he's going to be 31 this year and has 4 years left on his contract extension. Even if the Wiz could unload the contracts of Etan and Mike James along with the No. 1 pick, why would they want to tie up so much money in a 31-yr. SG who doesn't fit the system.

Posted by: wizfan89 | April 27, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

The Pistons provide a nice comparison point for the Wizards:

- The Wizards roster is older. The Wizards have 9 players with 7 or more years of professional experience while the Pistons have 6; the Wizards have 6 players with 4 or fewer years of experience while the Pistons have 7.

- The Pistons traded their point guard (Billups) for essentially cap room (Iverson) and still made the playoffs. The Wizards lost their point guard for the year and went 19-63.

- With $17 million in cap room, the Pistons can rebuild on the fly, with three good starters already in place who are young enough to be counted on going forward in Hamilton (31), Prince (29), and Stuckey (23), plus some young talent on the bench. Add a top tier free agent and they are back in the thick of things. The Wizards have no cap room, and instead are talking about trading young for old.

- The Piston vets got mad at Saunders when he didn't emphasize defense enough. The Wizards won't have that argument with Saunders.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | April 27, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"The Piston vets got mad at Saunders when he didn't emphasize defense enough"

The Pistons were a top 5 defensive team under Saunders.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Great comment about the MVP chants in Detroit yesterday when LeBron James was shooting frees, Michael. I thought the same thing while I was watching the game on TV yesterday. I remember sitting in our seats at Verizon center a couple of years ago being surrounded by Detroit "fans" chanting "SHEEEEEEED" every time Wallace touched the ball. It has indeed been a quick fall for the Pistons.

For those out there who think we never should have traded Rip, I look at it this way. First, Rip was not the same player in DC that he became in Detroit. Sure he could have developed into that player, but I think Larry Brown had a lot to do with it. Second, I look at the Rip deal as bringing us Stackhouse who was a disaster here in DC but we did trade him with Devin Harris for Jamison, who led us to four playoff appearances. You could make the case that we could have had Jamison for some other players and you could also say that we could have done better without Jamison but with this franchise, I wouldn't take any success for granted.

Posted by: jonathan30033 | April 27, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

@Kalorama:

"He'll be a free agent, and there is the obvious connection with Saunders and Wizards Vice President of Basketball Administration Tommy Sheppard, who worked with McDyess in Denver..."

please explain why you think this is but pipe dream.

Posted by: prescrunk | April 27, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Two things have driven McDyess to keep playing the past couple of years, the desire to win a ring and loyalty to the Pistons, specifically Joe Dumars, for taking a chance on him and signing him to a long-term deal after the knee surgeries when everyone else had written him off. He has said as much more than once in multiple interviews. If he leaves Detroit this summer it'll be because he wants to go somewhere that will give him a legit shot to win a title in the next couple years (which is how long he's said he wants to keep playing, max). That ain't the Wizards.

That simple.

And I find it wildly entertaining that people keep bringing up the "Flip Saunders connection" as a reason why his ex-Pistons players would come to Washington. By all accounts, the players barely tolerated Saunders and openly disrespected him. Some "connection." Just because a guy played for a coach doesn't mean he liked him or would want to play for him again.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Don't need or want Rip...was good but his best years are past him. Again I say, IF we get # 1 pick, trade the pick, Etan Thomas, and Mike James for Amare. Work a deal with Chicago for Ben Gordon...pesh and D. Stevenson in a sign and trade deal. Chi will not pay Ben...we'll take him.


Gil, Caron, Jamison, Amare, Haywood Starting 5, Critt, Young, McGuire, Blatche, McGee, back ups. Darius, and Juan or another guard rounding out the 12.

Can ANYONE come up with a better line up?

Posted by: Gooddad | April 27, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Don't need or want Rip...was good but his best years are past him. Again I say, IF we get # 1 pick, trade the pick, Etan Thomas, and Mike James for Amare. Work a deal with Chicago for Ben Gordon...pesh and D. Stevenson in a sign and trade deal. Chi will not pay Ben...we'll take him.


Gil, Caron, Jamison, Amare, Haywood Starting 5, Critt, Young, McGuire, Blatche, McGee, back ups. Darius, and Juan or another guard rounding out the 12.

Can ANYONE come up with a better line up?

Oooops, Ben Gordon in with the second unit.

Posted by: Gooddad | April 27, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

This has been a great bunch, but to me the Pistons will always be Chuck Daly's crowd. Now that team was fun to watch.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 27, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't feel too too sorry for Detroit.

They cycled through 2 sets of Bad Boys, and both of which won championships.

Detroit is an org that's used to winning, and will be back.

What has Les BouleS done in those years?

Again, don't feel sorry for the Pistons. They have rings and banners to soothe them until they're back in the mix again.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | April 27, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Here is a question to ponder; if the Wizards land the #1 pick, could anyone see the Wiz trading it to Detroit with Etan Thomas and Mike James, for the Pistons #15 pick? Detroit has the cap room, and would love the chance for a building block to rebuild along with Stuckey. Wizards would clear a huge amount off their payroll, which would give them serious breathing room. And Detroit still has a boat load of cap room available in 2010. Could work out real well.

Posted by: Roman5 | April 27, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

"Here is a question to ponder; if the Wizards land the #1 pick, could anyone see the Wiz trading it to Detroit with Etan Thomas and Mike James, for the Pistons #15 pick? Detroit has the cap room, and would love the chance for a building block to rebuild along with Stuckey. Wizards would clear a huge amount off their payroll, which would give them serious breathing room. And Detroit still has a boat load of cap room available in 2010. Could work out real well.

Posted by: Roman5 | April 27, 2009 9:33 PM "

Not much to ponder here. I fail to see how this benefits Les BouleS.

Let's see, giving up the #1 and getting rid of two guys who can clear cap space for Les BouleS after this coming season all for the 15th pick?

Les BouleS don't need cap space now. They need cap space, if they are going to do anything, after this upcoming season is over where ET and MJ's contracts expire.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | April 27, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

However, this ownership/management team wants and needs to clear space. The Wizards are projected to be more than $7 million over the luxury tax line next season, without counting the draft pick and such. This would still allow the team to get a 1st round pick, while clearing two contracts to get under the tax, while also giving themselves breathing room to sign a player or two who can help off the bench.

Posted by: Roman5 | April 27, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Main thing is that the Wizards would need to clear out cap space in order to sign McDyess.

As far as whether he opts for a team other than the Wizards -- kalo_rama's probably right.

If the Wizards fall out of the 1st or 2nd slot, and clear out some cap space -- maybe they'll make a play for him -- although I'd think their main thing is to leave some room over to resign Haywood after 2009-2010.

It's worth noting that McDyess passed up a chance to play with Boston, Cleveland, and Denver this past year -- so that he could return to Detroit.

Clearly the loyalty to Dumars was strong -- he also took a pay cut above what other teams were offering. Sounds like he'll probably leave though in the off-season. I'd guess he ends up in Cleveland, but if the Wizards clear out some cap space, I wouldn't be too surprised to see them try to make a play for him.

Posted by: JPRS | April 27, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

That deal really doesn't make any sense for either team.

Dealing Thomas and James for nothing serves no purpose for the Wiz other than to get under the luxury tax; they still wouldn't have any real FA money to improve the team; all they would have to spend would be the MLE and the vet minumum. The only pick that matters to this team is the #1 pick; if they don't get that, they likely won't be interested in anything the first round has to offer. They aren't looking for any more development projects, which is what they're going to get at #15 in this draft.

The Pistons are looking at reloading on the run and by all reports have plans on using that cap space this summer, either in a FA signing (Boozer, Millsap) or facilitating a trade for an established player they can use with a team trying to either clear cap space or avoid having an impending FA leave with no return (Stoudemire, Bosh). Using their cap space on two players who have no value other than cap space doesn't make much sense, even to get the #1 pick, esp. in a draft with no real immediate franchise quality talent.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Lots of teams will be going after McDyess, but the money they'll be offering will probably be pretty much the same. It's going to come down to who offers the best chance to win, and the Wiz simply aren't in a position to compete with teams like Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston or some of the other teams that'll probably be bidding for his services.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 27, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

The only trade that makes sense is the scenario where if we do not get the first pick, we make a deal with someone to pick Rubio and we trade Rubio with James and Thomas for there lower 1st pick.

Take it or leave it.

I am not convinced that we use our pick for Mcdyess or Hamilton in return.

If we cannot do the deal above, then I think we use our pick for the Best Big Mean Tough Guy, even if he does not help right away.

Or, use the pick for Lawson and our 2nd pick for the BBMTG. This builds our Team and gives us depth for the future.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 28, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Iverson did not fit with the Pistons even when he was healthy. If Dumars had kept Billups they would not have been an 8 seed and probably would be in a great series with the #2 seed Celtics right now.
Dumars is down but the Pistons will be back.Will Bynum and Stuckey along with Afflalo give them some youth to build on.
Still, it is indeed the end of an era in Detroit.

Posted by: jeremybozz | April 28, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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