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Archive → March, 2009

Hamilton a rare double champion

Here’s note No. 8 in today’s Daily Dime:

Winners In College And Pros

Of the 34 players in NBA history who have played for and won both an NBA title and an NCAA title, only Charlotte’s Nazr Mohammed (Spurs and Kentucky) and Detroit’s Richard Hamilton (Pistons and Connecticut) are still active in the league.

Hamilton is obviously with the Pistons, and Mohammed used to play for Detroit.

How many of the other 32 can you name?

Professional Game Coverage: Memphis 89, Detroit 84

Detroit News

Pistons’ Sunday struggles continue,” by Chris McCosky

Wallace due to sit out Texas,” by Chris McCosky

Detroit Free Press

Curry upset by lethargic effort in loss,” by Shawn Windsor

Allen Iverson ‘doesn’t want to be the story‘,” by Shawn Windsor

Booth Newspapers

Pistons honor Bill Davidson, fall to Memphis,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

Will Bynum provides spark off of Pistons’ bench,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal

Conley, Milicic lead Grizzlies over Detroit Pistons, 89-84,” by Ronald Tillery

Grizzlies notebook: Milicic recalls Piston era,” by Ronald Tillery

Karen Davidson to own team

From Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Wilson said he would continue to run the day-to-day operations of the entertainment side and Joe Dumars, president of basketball, will continue to run the basketball side.

Ownership, Wilson said, will remain with the Davidson family. His wife, Karen, and son, Ethan, could be taking on more responsibility. Ethan was at the practice facility Saturday, speaking with Wilson and Dumars.

This will probably work out fine for the Pistons. But the worry is there’s nowhere to go but down. The Pistons have been one of the best-run organizations in sports.

But as long as Tom Wilson and Joe Dumars maintain their autonomy, there’s little cause for concern.

Reflections on Davidson

In the last couple days, there have been several reflections written about Bill Davidson, including my own. Here a few more:

Detroit News

Mr. D did things right,” by Bob Wojnowski

Soft-spoken Bill Davidson let actions do the talking,” by Terry Foster

Sports world mourns ‘greatest owner of all time’,” by Chris McCosky

Dignitaries remember Pistons owner,” by Detroit News wire services

Detroit Free Press

For Davidson, it was never about money or fame, just people,” by Michael Rosenberg

Davidson never avoided responsibility,” by Mitch Albom

Metro Detroit leaders react to Bill Davidson’s death,” by  Christy Arboscellov

Bill Davidson’s compassion evident off the court,” by  Christy Arboscellov

Pistons reflect on life of Bill Davidson,” by  Vince Ellis

Free Press staff remember ‘Mr. D’,” by  Free Press Staff

Formers players and colleagues comment

Booth Newspapers

Pistons’ William Davidson was the perfect owner,” by Greg Johnson

Joe Dumars forged strong bond with Bill Davidson,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

Pistons’ Tom Wilson: We lost a family member,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

Basketball.org

Bill Davidson-A Unique Man,” by George Irvine.

Game Preview: Detroit vs. Memphis

When

Date: March 15, 2009

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Records

Detroit: 33-31

Memphis: 16-48

Probable starters

Detroit:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Richard
Hamilton
Tayshaun
Prince
Jason
Maxiell
Antonio
McDyess

Memphis:

PG SG SF PF C

Mike
Conley
O.J.
Mayo
Rudy
Gay
Darrell
Arthur
Andrea
Bargnani

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit -8.5

Over/under: 183

Score: Detroit wins 96-87

Statistical projection

Detroit offensive rating: 106.6

Detroit defensive rating: 107.1

Detroit pace: 87.2

Memphis offensive rating: 102.7

Memphis defensive rating: 109.7

Memphis pace: 90.2

Score: Detroit wins 96-93

Outlook

Rasheed Wallace will miss today’s game and probably the Pistons’ two-game road trip to Houston and Dallas, according to Dana Gauruder of the Oakland Press.

Davidson was one of the best

When the Pistons celebrated their 2004 NBA Championship with a parade through Detroit two days later, Pistons owner Bill Davidson stole the show. He stepped up to the podium at Hart Plaza and said (via the Free Press):

“Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of b(*******) going on in this country. Let me be a little more refined and say misconception. Let’s start with the 8-1 odds on the Lakers to beat the Pistons. B(*******). Actually, they were lucky to win one game.”

It was a startling moment of brashness from someone who had always made a habit of staying behind the scenes.

But the Pistons had been disrespected, and Davidson was too proud to let his team be insulted. He took it personally. After all, the Pistons were his. Davidson was the team’s second owner. He bought the franchise from Fred Zollner in 1974.

But as much as the Pistons meant to him,  he was so much more. Davidson, who died yesterday, will be remembered for many reasons.

Guardian Industries Corp.

Davidson earned a business degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Wayne State.

He gave up his law practice to save a drug company, and then a surgical supply company, from bankruptcy. He used that expertise to help the ailing family company, Guardian Glass.

Guardian declared bankruptcy the same year Davidson took over, 1957. But he turned the company into one of the largest glass suppliers in the world.

Some of his tactics came under attack. Competitors sued Guardian at least six times between 1965 and 1988, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Ernie Brooks, president of Southfield-based Brooks Kushman P.C., represented two of those companies and sees parallels between Davidson’s business tactics and the Pistons of the 1980s, who earned the nickname “Bad Boys.”

“Look at the Pistons. Don’t they track what you know Davidson to be? They were the “Bad Boys.” They committed some fouls, but they were successful,” Brooks said.
Brooks represented Denver-based Johns Manville, which sued Guardian in 1981 for stealing its fiberglass-making technology. In 1989 — the same year the Pistons won their first championship — Guardian was ordered to pay Johns Manville $38 million.
Still, Brooks said, “He was aggressive. You can argue whether it was right or wrong … but I have high regard for him.”

In 2007, Forbes said Davidson was Michigan’s richest man. Thankfully for the Pistons, he didn’t acquire that fortune too quickly.

Davidson only bought the Pistons because he couldn’t afford the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He spent $6 million for the Pistons. The franchise is now valued at $480 million.

The Palace of Auburn Hills

The Palace, which is one of the few privately owned stadiums in sports, opened in 1988. It cost $90 million to build.

To help pay the high costs of construction, the arena had lower-level suites — a never-seen-before feature.

Just two teams, New York and New Jersey, have been in their arena’s longer. And the Palace still stands as one of the NBA’s premier facilities.

Although it wasn’t the only example of Davidson’s commitment to excellence — under Davidson’s control, the Pistons became the first NBA team to have its own plane, Roundball One — the Palace serves as the largest (figurative and literal) reminder of Davidison’s terrific reign over the Pistons.

“His friends begged him not to do it,” Wilson said. “(Theater mogul) Joey Nederlander called me and begged me to persuade him to back out, he’s going to go broke. His friends would say, ‘Hey, we know he knows what he’s doing, but with this, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ I think one reason he takes a lot of pride in this place is because of all the naysayers.

“It will be his legacy. A lot of the incredibly critical issues he took on with the NBA – all his work on the collective bargaining agreements and his support of David Stern in the early days – might have a more lasting impact on the game. But that was where he was one among a group of owners, a leader among them, but still among a group. This was all individual. And nobody else would have done it.”

Isiah Thomas

Bill Davidson and Isiah Thomas once had a father-son relationship. Here’s what each had told the Free Press about each other in 1986.

Davidson on Thomas:

“The overall improvement of the team, the caliber of players that we have, the success of the league and our franchise — all of it gives me enjoyment,” Davidson said. “But the high point was definitely when Isiah came here in 1981. Until then we did not have players, did not have the coaches, did not have any tradition. Lanier and I were friendly, but I didn’t have that same feeling that I have with Isiah. We have a lot of the same approaches to life and people.

Thomas on Davidson:

“He’d still be someone I’d want to hang out with. (And) put it this way: We’d get into a lot of trouble.”

In 1994, a trade that would have sent Thomas to the Knicks reportedly fell through because Davidson assured Thomas he would get a large contract the next year and a front-office position when he retired.

But news of the meeting leaked, and supposedly that irked Davidson. Thomas retired after the season and never got that front-office position. Tensions remained between the two for about a decade.

What exactly went down still remains a mystery, but Davidson shed some light in an interview with the Free Press last year:

Q: OK. Who’s the best player?

A: I’d say the best player we ever drafted was Isiah Thomas.

Q: Can you say anything — and I recognize it’s been a complex relationship over the years — about the falling out you two had at the end of his playing career?

A: Well, I was very, very close to Isiah, and there were times he was almost like a son. But, because of his background, um … I told him he had to change — you know, coming from where he came from. I said, “You’ve got it made now. Don’t keep doing those things that you’ve been doing.” I won’t tell you what they are. But he couldn’t change.

Q: And that’s why he didn’t have a future with the Pistons?

A: Right.

Q: Had he been able to change, would you have envisioned him having a lifelong career in the front office?

A: Yeah, certainly.

Q: Had you discussed that at one point with him?

A: I wouldn’t go that far.

Q: But in your mind you had considered that a possibility?

A: If you know the relationship was like a son — I was trying to counsel him — the subject of his future relationship and what his job would be never came up. Because he had to change first.

Q: To use your metaphor — he didn’t take his father’s counsel?

A: No.

Q: What’s your relationship with him at this point?

A: We’re the best of friends.

Q: How did it heal?

A: One day I decided — this was about five years ago — that there’s only one guy that I’m really not friendly with. So I called Isiah up, and I said Isiah (chuckling) — before I go to my grave — you know, whenever I do — I want you and I to be friends.

Q: Interesting.

A: So we hug each other now — and you know we just had the reunion. We’re the best of friends today.

Q: Why was it important to you to make peace? Did it have to do with getting older?

A: Right. As you get closer to the end, you say … there’s one exception. I want to cure that exception.

Q: And he didn’t know why you were calling?

A: No. In a way he didn’t understand — never has quite understood …

Q: What happened?

A: Right.

Q: Did you feel a need to go into all that?

A: No, no. There was no point in going into it. …We just come from different backgrounds. He had to fight his way up, and I didn’t have the problems he had growing up. There’s a lot of good things about Isiah, but when we had our parting, it was over something pretty substantial.

Coaches

The last three Pistons’ coaches never won fewer than 50 games in a season. But Davidson had a hand in firing all three — Flips Saunders, Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle.

Davidson didn’t think Saunders was good enough. From True Blue Pistons:

Joe Dumars wasn’t the only one with a voice that matters who left The Palace the night of the Pistons’ elimination by Boston saying, “I’d seen enough.” So had his owner.

“Absolutely,” Pistons owner William Davidson told me Wednesday morning. “No question in my mind. And I encouraged Joe to sever the relationship with Flip Saunders.”

And with Brown, when old Jewish men bicker — oy. From the Free Press:

Q: Speaking of coaching, let me ask you about a few coaches. Larry Brown. What can you tell me about him?

A: Well, Larry Brown is not what he appears to be. And he’s built a reputation for himself based on his own PR people. He’s not what he appears to be.

Q: When did you decide he was out?

A: Ah, probably after I’d been with him for half a season.

Q: Half a season?

A: Yeah, that’s all.

Q: But you let him continue to coach?

A: Well, we won that year.

Q: What if they had won against San Antonio?

A: Uh, probably not. I can’t tell you. … It depends on the players. The reason I get rid of a coach is if he’s lost the players. I don’t want to subject my players to a coach they don’t want, basically and in whom they have lost faith.

Q: Did you feel that was the case with Larry?

A: Oh, yeah.

There have been rumors Carslisle was fired because he didn’t say hello to Pistons staff, and that irked Davidson. But in the interview with the Free Press last year, Davidson denied that. Another mystery about Davidson’s relationships.

Q: Rick Carlisle — was that your call? Or had he lost the players?

A: Yeah, he had lost the players. He had a certain style, which wore off after a certain amount of time. But he was a good coach, on kind of a short-term basis. He knows the game, did all the right things, but he didn’t have that personal touch with players.

Q: The whispers were that you didn’t like his style or personality.

A: No, definitely not true.

Q: He wasn’t fired because he had words with members of your staff?

A: No.

Q: Why was he fired?

A: Players. A player will never come out and say it, but because I’m close to them, I know what they’re thinking.

Q: So you can tell when the coach has lost the players just by talking with the players?

A: No, it comes back around. Somebody will say something to somebody, and then that person will say something to me. And if that happens enough times, then you realize what it is.

Philanthropy

Davidson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor last year, but his contributions far suprassed the game of basketball. From his profile on the Pistons’ official site:

Davidson’s involvement in the Detroit community is well documented. In 1997 he was honored for his lifelong philanthropic efforts, locally, nationally and internationally, by the Council of Michigan Foundations. The same year, he was listed in a New York Times article as one of America’s most generous donors. Davidson was also one of the “founding fathers” who originated the Pistons/Palace Foundation, a charitable vehicle that has donated more than $20 million dollars in cash and merchandise since 1989. In January, 1995 the foundation worked in conjunction with the City of Detroit’s Parks and Recreation Department to establish the Partnership to Adopt and Renovate Parks for Kids (PARK) Program. The program provides for restoration of Detroit parks, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, running tracks and playground equipment.

In 1992, he donated $30 million to his alma mater, the University of Michigan’s School of Business Administration. The grant to establish the William Davidson Institute will provide assistance in a special program to help develop market economies throughout the world. He has also endowed the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York with a $15 million gift, and the American Technion Society to establish the world’s first educational institution entirely dedicated to the international management of technology-based companies at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. In 1999, the Davidson Institute of Science Education was established at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. His $20 million gift was the largest private donation ever given to the Institute that is a leading international science research center and graduate school.

Locally Davidson has donated a renewable $2 million gift to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra that enables the organization to make long-term touring plans both in the U.S. and internationally and pledged to fight cancer with a gift of $1 million to support collaborative research, prevention and early detection programs in breast and pediatric cancers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Children’s Research Center of Michigan.

He also donated $75 million to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.

Championships

Davidson has his own banner in the rafters of the Palace, up with the team’s three NBA Championships — all earned under him.

Two of his teams — the Pistons and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lighting — won championships in 2004, making him the only owner to win the title in both sports in the same year. His WNBA team, the Detroit Shock, have also won three titles.

But that wasn’t enough for Davidson, who thought the Pistons could have four titles.

The 1987 season saw the Pistons eliminated in seven games by Boston, led by the Bird-Parish-McHale triumvirate made possible by Dick Vitale’s obsession with Bob McAdoo. But it was a piercing Game 5 loss with the series tied 2-2 that proved decisive, a game that turned on Isiah Thomas’ pass intercepted by Bird and fed to Dennis Johnson for a winning layup.

The following season the Pistons hurdled Boston only to run into the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Ahead 3-2 and leading in Game 6’s waning seconds, a questionable foul call on Bill Laimbeer allowed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to sink the tying and winning free throws. With Thomas hobbled by a badly sprained ankle, the Pistons narrowly lost Game 7, as well.

“We have the game won,” Davidson said, “and I’m sitting there in the locker room with David Stern, waiting to accept the trophy, and Hugh Evans – I’ll never forget the official – called the foul on Bill Laimbeer. It never should have been called – never been called in the history of the game. My thought was I’ll go to my grave and this is the only thing I’ll ever get.

“We should have won when the ball was thrown away, we should have won in Los Angeles, we should have won four in a row.

Organizations, not teams, win championships. The Pistons won a title in 2004 because of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. They won because of Larry Brown. They won because of Arnie Kander and Mike Abdenour. They won because of Joe Dumars.

And they won because of Bill Davidson, who put everyone else into motion.

Davidson always said the way to run a business was to hire competent managers and let them work.

He did that for 35 years with the Pistons. Detroit should hope whoever owns the team for the next 35 does it as well.

Game Review: Pistons grit out win

In their second game without Rasheed Wallace, who’s out with a strained ankle, the Pistons went to overtime against a bad team — just like in a loss to the Knicks on Wednesday.

But Detroit scraped out a 99-95 win tonight in Toronto.

A second straight fourth-quarter collapse is concerning. But without Wallace, getting the win is most important.

Wallace isn’t the player he used to be, but his size and versatility aren’t easily replaced. Nobody else on the Pistons can offer what he does. Of the starters, his skill-set is hardest to replace.

So, Detroit had an uphill battle to win.

If the Pistons beat Memphis on Sunday without Wallace, I’d call the three-game stretch without him a success.

Rip roaring

Richard Hamilton had a hand in 20 of Detroit’s 24 first-quarter points. He scored four points and had eight assists for 16 more.

And he accounted for all of the Pistons’ 20 fourth-quarter pints. He scored nine and and had five assists that led to 11 points.

Pistons owner Bill Davidson dies

Here’s the Pistons’ release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment mourn the passing of pioneer owner William Davidson.  The 86-year-old passed away at home on March 13, 2009 with his family by his side.

“The entire Palace family is mourning the loss of Mr. Davidson,” said Tom Wilson, President of Palace Sports and Entertainment and the Pistons.  “He was truly a pioneer in so many ways. His legacy will live forever.”

Mr. Davidson owned the Pistons since 1974 and won three NBA Championships (1989, 1990, 2004), three WNBA Championships (2004, 2006, 2008) and one NHL Championship (2004).  He became the first owner in sports history to win championships in three different professional sports leagues during the 2003-04 calendar year (NBA – Detroit Pistons, NHL – Tampa Bay Lightning and WNBA – Detroit Shock).  In September 2008, Davidson’s contributions to the game of basketball were honored when he was officially enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1988-89, the Pistons began play in The Palace of Auburn Hills, a state-of-the-art arena built with Davidson’s financial support: a privately-financed facility, which when combined with the Pistons, formed the foundation of his entertainment business. The company also added management of the DTE Energy Music Theatre in 1990 and Meadow Brook Music Festival in the summer of 1994, further developing the entertainment division of Palace Sports and Entertainment.

Davidson’s world champion Pistons were the first professional sports team to own their own plane, Roundball One.  Roundball Two, a newer, larger, multimillion-dollar aircraft was purchased and refurbished in the summer of 1998 for the organization. He continued to keep the team at the league’s forefront with such amenities as a state-of-the-art practice facility, solely designed for the Pistons. Updated with new offices and enlarged locker room space in 2008, it was used for the team’s training camp for the 14th straight year, alleviating the need to go off-site for the preseason.

The Pistons have played in the postseason in 19 of the past 25 years, including 11 of the past 13 seasons.  Davidson acquired the Detroit Pistons in 1974 from the late Fred Zollner, the man who founded the team in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the 1940s.  With a franchise-record seven straight seasons of recording 50 or more wins, the Pistons have won 384 regular season games (.669 wining percentage) since 2001, including a franchise-record 63 wins in 2005-06.  The club has compiled 73 playoff wins in that same span and made six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.  Detroit has won six Central Division titles in the last seven seasons and nine overall since 1987-88.  Only the San Antonio Spurs have won more division titles in the same 20-year span.

The Detroit Shock joined the Washington Mystics as the first two expansion teams in the WNBA in 1998 and the team was an immediate success in the upstart league.  The Shock have won three championships since their inception (2004, 2006, 2008) and set a WNBA attendance record (22,076) in Game 3 of the 2004 WNBA Finals while also becoming the first team since 1890 to go from the worst team in a professional sports league to the best team.

Game Preview: Detroit at Toronto

When

Date: March 13, 2009

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Records

Detroit: 32-31

Toronto: 23-42

Probable starters

Detroit:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Richard
Hamilton
Tayshaun
Prince
Jason
Maxiell
Antonio
McDyess

Toronto:

PG SG SF PF C


Jose
Calderon
Anthony
Parker
Wilson
Chandler
Al
Harrington
Andrea
Bargnani

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit -1

Over/under: 193.5

Score: Detroit wins 97-98

Statistical projection

Detroit offensive rating: 106.8

Detroit defensive rating: 107.3

Detroit pace: 87.1

Toronto offensive rating: 106.5

Toronto defensive rating: 110.7

Toronto pace: 91.3

Score: Detroit wins 97-95

Outlook

Rasheed Wallace is still out, and he may miss Sunday against the Grizzlies, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers. But that shouldn’t matter too much today.

The Raptors are 2-8 since the Jermaine O’Neal-Shawn Marion trade, and they’ve lost six in a row.

And in its last nine games, Toronto has allowed 113 points per game.

Also, check out Raptor Republic’s preview.

UPDATE: Former teammate DOESN’T say Iverson wants out

Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys clarifies a story about 76ers guard Lou Williams saying Allen Iverson wants out of Detroit. He hunted down the actual interview, this is what actually went down:

Host: Are you friends with him, are you friends with Allen?
Lou Williams: Big brother.

Host: Really, no kidding. How’s he doing?

Lou Williams: He’s doing great, he’s doing great. Back’s a little messed up so he’s going through that, but he’s doing well.

Host: Does he like Detroit?
Lou Williams: I really haven’t asked him about that because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to be there. My personal opinion, that’s my disclaimer, but, you know.

Here’s the paraphrase from RealGM that caused a stir:

Williams: A.I. Doesn’t Want To Be In Detroit

Earlier in the interview, Williams referred to Iverson as a “big brother” and said that he remains in contact with his former teammate.

76ers reserve Lou Williams has given validity to rumors that Allen Iverson is unhappy playing with the Pistons.

Williams, appearing on WMMR’s Preston & Steve morning show in Philadelphia on Thursday, said his belief is that Iverson doesn’t want to be in Detroit.