After a long layoff, I'm finally back and boy does it feel good. A lot has happened since I last talked to you loyal readers at Detroit4lyfe.com. This may surprise you, but today I want to discuss a team that disappointed many this past year. The Detroit Pistons backed into the NBA playoffs as the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference and were promptly sent fishing in four blowouts by Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This series had a vintage 1991 feel to it. The 1990-1991 Detroit Pistons had a roster of guys who had battled together through the 1980's, proudly wearing the red, white and blue. Their team was the 8th straight Pistons team to make the playoffs, and they made the Eastern Conference Finals for the 5th straight year. They were the two-time defending NBA champs, and had made the NBA Finals three straight seasons. However, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls caught up with and passed the Bad Boys in one fell swoop in the spring of 1991, leaving the Pistons behind in their rear view mirror as "Trader" Jack McCloskey's dynasty crumbled. After being swept by Jordan and a surrounding Bulls cast that was coming of age, SG Vinnie "the Microwave" Johnson moved onto San Antonio to finish his wonderful career with an anti-climactic season with the Spurs, and PF James "Buddha" Edwards headed out west to play for the Clippers. In the next two years, C Bill Laimbeer, PG Isiah Thomas, SF Dennis "the Worm" Rodman and PF John "Spider" Salley followed suit and played their final games as Pistons. The Pistons were 0-4 in playoff series the rest of the 1990's.
Similarly, the 2008-2009 edition of the Pistons was on the tail end of a successful run. 6 straight Eastern Conference Finals, 7 straight playoff appearances, 2 NBA Finals and an NBA title in 2004, all with the core of SG Richard "Rip" Hamilton, PG Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups, SF Tayshaun "I'm not anorexic I just have a REALLY good metabolism" Prince and PF Rasheed "I'm trying not to complain about every call, but I just can't help myself and what is the deal with this weird bald spot anyway" Wallace. Yet, Wallace has not been the same since his first magical year with the Pistons when he helped them to a title after being traded from Portland (with a brief stop in Atlanta) at the trading deadline. Tayshaun has routinely disappeared in the playoffs. Rip has slowed a couple steps. And, of course, General Manager Joe Dumars backed up his promise to make "major changes" after the Pistons failed to show up for the 4th quarter and blew a lead in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston in 2008, trading Chauncey Billups in the first week of the '08-'09 season to Denver for Allen Iverson. Iverson quit on the Pistons, deciding to spend the last couple months of the season harrassing dealers, refusing to tip waitresses and being banned by local Detroit casinos instead of hogging the ball and jacking up 25 horrendous shots every night on the court. Chauncey has taken the Nuggets to another level and is poised to lead them to a Western Conference Final showdown with the preseason favorite in the West, the L.A. Lakers. Meanwhile, the 2008-2009 Cavs, who are eerily reminiscent of the '91 Bulls team with Lebron playing Michael and Mo Williams playing Scottie, smelled blood in the first round against the overmatched Pistons, and dismissed them unceremoniously in four games.
The key difference between the Pistons' current situation and their situation in 1991 is simple: they have a GM at the helm who is both extremely sharp and unbelievably driven, and they are in financial position to rebuild immediately instead of being saddled with a nursing home lineup of decaying talent. You see, there was one guy who didn't jump ship after the Pistons were swept by a clearly superior Chicago team in 1991. Joe Dumars played throughout the entire 1990's with the Pistons, proudly leading by example despite some lean years, and never compromising his class. So it is not surprising to me that it has been the same Joe Dumars that has led the Pistons through an amazing stretch over the last decade as their GM. And he will take them to the top again, and very soon. The Billups trade was unpopular, as Chauncey was a beloved leader in Detroit. He has thrived in his hometown of Denver, while AI was an embarrassment here both at the Palace and at the craps tables at the Motor City Casino. Yet, the Billups trade was a move for the future, as this offseason AI and 'Sheed's contracts come off of the books, and the Pistons could clear more cap space by letting go of McDyess and Rip, and possibly even Tayshaun, whose games are all on a steep decline. The Pistons are in position to sign two or even three big time free agents. Ben Gordon and Chris Bosh are just a couple players who would look really nice with the block Detroit across their chests. The future is bright for the ballers in Detroit blue, because in Joe we trust.