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The Rise and Fall of Joe Dumars

Matt Moore asked me to record an audio essay on “The Rise and Fall of Joe Dumars” for Voice on the Floor. You can listen to it on their site. (And while you’re there, poke around. It’s definitely one of the best new NBA sites.) If you’re more textually inclined, the transcript appears below.

Every major contributor to the Pistons’ run of success in the last decade has an iconic image. NBA fans know many of them. Pistons fans know all of them.

Chauncey Billups making a half-court 3-pointer against the Nets to force the first of three overtimes.

Richard Hamilton curling around multiple screens to hit a game-winning mid-range jumper with eight tenths of a second left against the Celtics.

Rasheed Wallace standing in front of his locker guaranteeing a Game 2 victory against the Pacers.

Tayshaun Prince backing up that Guaransheed with a come-from-behind block on Reggie Miller in the final seconds.

Ben Wallace holding the Larry O’Brien trophy high over his head in the middle of his cheering teammates.

Larry Brown sitting in the middle of a huddle and telling his team he loves them.

When you think of the Pistons’ greatness, you can see it. You can see it in Chauncey. You can see it in Rip. You can see it in Sheed. You can see it in Tay. You can see it in Big Ben. You can see it in LB.

You can see it in everyone – everyone except Joe Dumars.

While the talent he put together shined in front of 20,000 fans 100 nights a year, Dumars remained in the shadows. Literally.

He sits in a mid-level suite at The Palace. Occasionally, cameras zoom in on the dark space wedged above the lower deck and covered by the upper deck. You can make out a head, but if the graphic at the bottom of the screen didn’t identify it as belonging to Dumars, it could belong to anybody.

He comes out for a couple low-key press conferences a year, too, but that’s it.

When things were going well, Dumars never bragged. He never talked about himself. He never sought credit.

He still keeps himself out of the spotlight now, and maybe that’s why he’s so maligned..

When a man deserves praise, it’s difficult to bestow when he’s nowhere to be found. When a man deserves criticism, it’s easy to bestow when he’s nowhere to be found.

That’s why Dumars’ subtle sagacity was never appreciated as much as it should have been. If it had, perhaps, more people would believe he can turn this team around.

Dumars took a team that won 50 games in 2001-02, and in five years, completely turned over the roster – all while winning 50 years each year.

He built a title team without a major contribution from a lottery pick the Pistons drafted.

And perhaps my favorite accomplishment, he’s never been perfect.

He drafted Mateen Cleaves, Rodney White and Darko Milicic. He failed to re-sign Grant Hill. He hired Michael Curry. And that’s when things were going well.

But Dumars’ genius has always been his ability to fix his mistakes.

He turned Cleaves into another first-round pick and Jon Barry, who was instrumental in turning the team into a winner.

He traded White for a first-rounder used to acquire Rasheed Wallace.

He flipped Darko for a pick that became Rodney Stuckey.

He acquired Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins in a sign-and-trade for Hill.

He fired Curry, his handpicked coach, after only one season.

That’s why the fall of Joe Dumars has been oversimplified.

Sure, trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson was a mistake.

Keeping Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton is regrettable.

Signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva was questionable at best.

But give him a chance to fix his mistakes. Give him a chance to evaluate his team when it hasn’t lost 155 man games to injury. Give him a chance to operate without being handcuffed by the sale of the team.

Maybe Dumars will still fail. Maybe this special run is over. Maybe the Pistons should just appreciate what they had.

After all, Dumars was never supposed to be the GM. That was Isiah Thomas’ job. For years, everyone knew he would take over the front office after retirement. But a spat with Bill Davidson made him an outcast.

We didn’t realize it then, but Dumars – the quiet, thoughtful kid from Louisiana – was a much better fit as an executive than the impulsive and overly calculating Thomas.

And that’s why I can’t call this period the fall of Joe Dumars.

There is no fall of Joe Dumars. There will likely never be a fall of Joe Dumars.

His values are too resolute.

This is the man who stayed to shake the Bulls’ hands while his Bad Boy teammates walked off the court.

Not only did he win the NBA’s first sportsmanship award, rather than give it to him every year, the league named the trophy after him.

It’s silly to define Dumars’ record as a GM by just his last two years. It’s even sillier to define him by his record as a GM.

I can’t believe someone like that will fail. I keep telling myself he won’t fail because he’s too smart, too diligent, too focused. Although it might take time, he won’t fail. But maybe I just don’t want to believe he could fail – and I won’t.

So, yes, there was a rise of Joe Dumars. It began occurring Detroit when the Pistons drafted him in 1985.

But whether or not he turns this team around, there is no fall.


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  • Nov 11, 20104:14 pm
    by Jacob


    Nice. I like it. Very poetic. Should be read slowly over the song “Any other Name” by Thomas Newman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDOXxa1U7Oc Voice on the Floor – re-record the narration on top this song, it could be chilling, inspiration, and bring a tear to Pistons fans’ eyes :).

  • Nov 11, 20104:39 pm
    by Laser


    bah. he’s got another chance. it comes in february. once that opportunity passes, feed him to the wolves. ownership may have prevented him from making any moves for the past two months, but joe’s bad decisions prevented him from making any moves for longer than that. face it: he put this team together. every piece was put here by one man. this is his bed.
    also, we’re getting a nice peek right now at the death of the “155 man games lost to injury” hogwash. our current rotation is basically the same as last year (when we apparently had so much promise and potential according to revisionist history), except sub out an unskilled second rounder for a LOTTERY pick and add tracy mcgrady. and, shoot, where exactly has that left us? 2-6, and even tayshaun admits the wins feel like losses. this is last year’s team WITH UPGRADES, with an extra season under daye’s belt, with stuckey getting the benefit of consecutive seasons under the same coach (and boy is that going well), with reasonably good health all around, with most of this unit having a full year and two training camps together…
    so this bogus “155 man games lost to injury” business has to stop. now. this is basically what we would have been at full health last year, maybe even better. we’re worse at full strength than if we lost a couple of core perimeter players.

  • Nov 11, 20104:50 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    “except sub out an unskilled second rounder for a LOTTERY pick”
    Talk about revisionist. The unskilled second rounder who was statistically the team’s second best player? Is that the one you mean? Jerebko is a huge loss. He’s better than Daye, better than McGrady (at this point in McGrady’s career). I don’t know how much he’d have helped, but I do know it’s really sketch to play it off like he wasn’t a big loss, regardless of how good the team was going to be or not. I suspect you know that though.

  • Nov 11, 20104:56 pm
    by gmehl1977


    Not making any excuses but you also have to take into account that most other teams in the league haven’t got the same roster either.

  • Nov 11, 20105:52 pm
    by Laser


    @hayes: look, i love jj, but he’s a relatively unskilled player. he’s an effort/hustle/energy guy. i’m not saying he’s not a big loss; i’m saying you can’t weep over a second rounder when his replacement (for this season anyways) is a lottery pick.
    it’s bizarre the way comments get twisted, but what i’m saying has nothing to do with jerebko’s injury. all i’m saying is that THIS is essentially last year’s team. swap jerebko for monroe and t-mac, and it’s the same roster. so we can whine all day long about 155 games lost to injury all we want, but we’re getting a VERY good look at what this team would have looked like with the “benefit” of reasonable health. i’ve long maintained that good health would not have made a significant impact on the team, since the injuries occurred in our areas of greatest depth.
    imagine, if you will, the dream scenario where hamilton goes out for the year with a blown achilles like jerebko. gordon isn’t reduced to a bench role and 6 shots per game, he starts alongside stuckey and is a full-blown #1 scoring option. suddenly there’s room for daye on the perimeter, where he’s an intriguing player and matchup problem for our OPPONENTS instead of us. our rotation at the power positions is body/villa/monroe/max (GASP! all actual power players). so an injury or two would be an upgrade. seven perimeter players in a rotation of ten is a recipe for disaster.
    all i’m saying is that we’re looking at a VERY reasonable approximation of last year’s team right now (and, if anything, a bit of an upgrade with the added lottery pick and all), so at least give haters like me the benefit of tossing aside this “boo hoo. 155 man games lost. waaahhhh.” because we’re looking at that team without all the injuries, and it looks worse than it did last year.
    @gmehl: dude, it’s not my problem that they kept the team intact. it may be some combination of ownership issues or joe’s unwillingness/inability to improve it, but none of that is germane to my point. the issue is that SOME people had a lot of faith in this team and made a MAJOR issue of all those pesky injuries, they thought we were a playoff team at full strength. i disagree. now all those people get the chance to see what a very close approximation of that team looks like. and it looks BAD.
    i’ve said this was a ROTTEN team from the beginning. i hated it last year, i hate it this year. skeptics can never win in these kinds of arguments, because there’s always a nit to pick. “yeah, but other teams changed, so we’ll never know what last year would have looked like.” give me a break, man. throw me a bone. the team stinks, and at some point you’ve got to run out of excuses, quit holding out hope and start holding the responsible parties accountable.

  • Nov 11, 20106:01 pm
    by detroitpcb


    Joe has already created the next Pistons winner. It is just unfinished and minus one or two pieces. Vinnie Johnson told me before the season “they are two/three years away but he has all the parts except the big”. Daye, Monroe, JJ, Stuckey, Gordon, and maybe even CV are a good nucleus. Add another lottery pick next summer and whatever Joe gets for Tay & Rip & Max & Wilcox once his hands are untied and the Pistons are going to be a young exciting team that will just need some seasoning to challenge in the East.

  • Nov 11, 20106:18 pm
    by detroitpcb



    JJ is not an unskilled player. He is an above average defender, above average rebounder, above average passer, and i believe we would have seen him be an above average shooter this year. He had a lot of confidence coming into camp.

    and look….I hated this team last year and was totally unhappy that Joe didn’t ship a vet out, grab an extra draft pick and grab Cousins. The injuries were/are no excuse and he knows it. Joe is no dummy. He sees what is happening on the court. He knew he had to ship Chauncy out when his skills were deteriorating. (Still don’t know why he gave Rip a new contract but everybody makes an occasional mistake). Joe hasn’t focused on the injuries, he has focused on the record – 27 wins – unacceptable.

    I don’t think there is any doubt his hands have been tied ever since Bill Davidson died. When Tom Wilson jumped ship it was immediately apparent that things within the organization were on hold.

  • Nov 11, 20106:23 pm
    by tads


    This was a good write up.  The focus on Dumars’ current challenges always takes priority over his history.  No matter what you say about the state of the roster, you can’t say he hasn’t handled the team in a professional manner.  If Illitch fires him, which I hope he doesn’t, he could get work almost instantly anywhere else in the league if he wants to.  My guess is that he is too loyal to the Piston organization to want to work for another team.  I guy like that is worth a chance, maybe a couple more chances.

  • Nov 12, 201012:29 am
    by Rodman4Life


    It’s all part of Dumars’ master plan:  to secure a second straight lottery pick!!  Our odds with the ping pong balls will be even better this year.
    If we want a trade to happen, I think we have to look at including Stuckey in the deal.  Trading him has to coincide with the departure of either Rip or Tay.

  • Nov 12, 20101:08 am
    by Oats


    @laser. Wow, this is weird, your comments don’t seem consistent with other things you have said. First off, Jerebko being replaced by Daye makes us that much smaller. Yeah, JJ is more of a SF than PF, but I think everyone here can agree that JJ is the more natural option at the 4 right now. Considering you would rather have us playing Maxiell than Hamilton, you seem to agree that this team would be better off having a bigger, stronger guy than Daye play the 4. Plus, JJs skill set is vastly different, being a better defender than Daye. Jerebko’s skills fill a hole on our roster that Daye doesn’t fill. It’s not a question of talent, it’s about what they bring to the table and how they complement the rest of the roster. JJ at the 4 is a better complement to the rest of the team than Daye is. That is all before you consider that Jonas is the better player right now. It is a big loss.
    The other thing thing that seems weird is your arguing it is the same team with additions. Aren’t you the same guy that argued Jonas getting hurt might help the team because it would cut back on the rotation, thus allowing them to develop better chemistry? Well, then how do you turn around and argue that having the same guys from last year with additions to the roster is advantageous to us? Using your logic, those “additions” would actually be hurting the team, not helping. If you buy into that, then you can’t argue that this season is an accurate reflection of how good last year’s team would have been without injuries.
    You also have to take into account that last season’s failure seems to have caused a rift in the team that is bad for chemistry, a rift that might not be there if they stayed healthy and could have won.  That rift also skews the ability to judge how good the team could have been if they were healthy. It should also be noted that this team has also had injuries this year, so it definitely isn’t a good indicator of how successful last year’s team would have been if healthy.  This team is just not a good indicator of what last year’s squad could have done.
    Oh, and just for the record, I disagree with your comment that Jerebko is unskilled. That implies that defense and hustle aren’t skills, which I think is not accurate. He also shot the ball reasonably well, and scored surprisingly well considering he never had plays called for him. He has skills, just not ones that are appropriately valued.

  • Nov 12, 20103:37 am
    by frankie d


    sorry, but this is just juvenile BS.
    i’ve been a huge fan of joe dumars forever.  i’ve always thought that dumars, not zeke, was the real glue and star of the bad boys’ title teams.  zeke had the flash, but dumars was all about substance, defense, timely shots and the right decision…always.
    so i am not a dumars hater and never have been.  but i am also someone who looks at matters with a cold, logical and analytical approach.  and dumars has been making horrible decisions for a long time.  not just the last two years.  and it has finally caught up to him the last two years, and the last two years have been one disaster after another.  but the bad decisions and questionable moves have been piling up since the title year, and they have finally cascaded down on the heads of dumars and pistons’ fans.  (and before the title year, if you include the worst draft choice of the decade, darko.)
    changing coaches like he changed socks, breaking up the title team because he felt that guys like mike james and big nasty weren’t that important, hiring a guy like flip saunders, a guy with a proven record of playoff failures,  refusing to play and develop the talented players he drafted and then making matters worse, by simply dumping those players like they were used toilet tissue, hiring curry, hiring kuester, signing mcgrady, trading chauncey…
    the rest of the league and the rest of the nation’s media has figured out how poorly joe d has done his job the last few years.   read the national media’s take on dumars and they accurately describe what has happened the last two years.  detroit sports fans still must suffer with the joe falls/mitch albom style of detroit sports journalism that holds that no one is ever really at fault for even the most obvious mismanagement.
    joe’s record speaks for itself.
    the last two seasons and the debacle that this season is becoming is the proof of how poorly joe d has done his job.
    wishing it weren’t so is what high school girls do their reality becomes too tough to bear.

  • Nov 12, 20106:24 am
    by Dave


    I really enjoyed the audio – nice job Dan.  I’m still rooting for Joe.

  • Nov 12, 20108:41 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    @frankie d:
    What a lazy response. I think everyone, even the biggest Dumars fan, knows mistakes have been made. But this, singularly, is how EVERY GM in the league is evaluated:
    Did the team make money?
    Under Dumars, the Pistons have never paid luxury tax. This is where they’ve finished in attendance under Dumars: 2001-22nd; 2002-11th; 2003-1st; 04-1st; 05-1st; 06-1st; 07-2nd; 08-1st; 09-1st; 2010-8th. Not to mention deep playoff runs that went at least into the second round in seven of his 10 seasons. So yeah, Dumars ran a team that was very, very successful financially.
    Fans will complain about draft picks or wring their hands and call for someone to be fired for bad signings or firing a popular coach or whatever. Bottom line is, team ownership evaluates executives differently. Why do you think Millen kept his job for so long? Because bozo Lions fans kept selling out Ford Field year after year. Why make a change then?
    Your comment is tired. Feldman pointed out Dumars’ shortcomings and mistakes in the post. The overarching point of the whole thing is Dumars’ positives far outweigh his negatives.
    Seriously, list potential GM candidates right now. Find me guys that are better. Otis Smith? The guy who drafted Fran Vazquez and gave Rashard Lewis $20 million a year? Presti? The guy who lucked into Kevin Durant and has really done nothing else except trade off his high-priced stars for future picks? Anyone can do that, and if Portland had taken Durant, OKC would still be pretty terrible right now. Pritchard? The guy who took Oden over Durant, and was falling all over himself to try and sign Hedo Turkoglu to a huge deal last year? Daryl Morey? He’s not looking like such a genius right now with Houston stumbling. Colangelo? The dude who just gave Amir Johnson $35 million? John Hammond? The guy who just gave Drew Gooden big money and drafted Joe Alexander in the lottery? McHale? Bird? Isiah? Vandewghe? Who out there is a significant upgrade?
    You say that you take a “cold, logical and analytical approach.” I’m asking you to actually prove that, since your comment didn’t do anything really except rant. Prove why Dumars, despite consistently good financial success, should be fired. Prove to me why a GM who is one of only a few GMs in the league with a ring and who has had his team in the playoffs in 8 of 10 seasons should be fired. Find me a GM who has never made a bad signing that limited his team’s financial flexibility. Find me a GM who has never made a horrible draft pick.
    Your comment is full of innaccuracies. For example:
    “he felt that guys like mike james and big nasty weren’t that important’
    Total garbage. I’m sure he felt they were vital. But Dumars has been the only GM on a title contending team in recent years who hasn’t had the freedom to go into luxury tax. Guys like Williamson and James were luxuries he couldn’t afford. He re-signed Rasheed Wallace that offseason, he tried to re-sign Okur and he had to extend Prince the following season for significantly more money. Williamson was traded to clear money to sign those more important players. Unless you are arguing that Prince was less important than Williamson?
    As for James, he was a free agent who wanted more money and wanted to start. The Pistons couldn’t really offer him either of those things.
    “hiring a guy like flip saunders, a guy with a proven record of playoff failures
    Find a coach on the market that offseason who had a better track record than Saunders. You fail to mention that Saunders had a pre-existing relationship with Billups, Billups was extremely comfortable in his offense, etc. So yeah, Saunders was a good hire. He wasn’t Larry Brown, but it wasn’t really Dumars’ decision to dump Larry Brown, it was Davidson’s. So Dumars went and hired the best coach available.
    “wishing it weren’t so is what high school girls do their reality becomes too tough to bear.”
    You can go read Jay Mariotti columns or something then, if you prefer national media so much.

  • Nov 12, 201010:11 am
    by nuetes


    Dumars deserves the chance to correct this, but if I was going to go the Frankie D route and say he should be fired my only rationale would be that I think he’s become delusional. I have no problem with him making mistakes, and since in his past he’s shown the ability to recognize them and correct them to some degree you have to have faith he’ll do the same in this situation. My fear is that he’s not currently recognizing his mistakes. Some of his comments suggest that he thinks this team should be competitive, like his qoute from last season about how the team was 10-5 when healthy or whatever the record was. He does see the obvious need for a big man, but it’s still nerve wracking that he believes that Stuckey, Gordon, and CV constitute a core. No team with those three at the core will ever win anything. Maybe he wakes up and realizes those players will never get us anywhere, and then I’ll give him some serious props, but as long as he thinks that is the future I could question his ability to do the job just a tad, right?

  • Nov 12, 201010:25 am
    by Patrick Hayes



    I don’t think he’s delusional. I think he’s realized you can’t publicly call your guys out and then expect to trade them for any value. He made that mistake once when he said they were “open for business” and then got overwhelmed by a sea of 10 cents on the dollar offers.

    He hasn’t been able to make a move because of the ownership situation this offseason, and I’m sure that he’s not under any illusions about the performance of some of his guys, but I don’t know of any intelligent GM who would put his players on Front Street in the media if he’s hoping to trade them. That’s why he’s constantly saying they should be winning, constantly saying guys are playing well if they really aren’t.

    It’s fine to call him out for that, because obviously some of his statements aren’t true or are gross overestimates of a guy’s value, but I think that’s just part of being a GM. The David Kahn strategy of going on TV and comparing Darko to Chris Webber righ to C-Webb’s face or going on the radio and talking about all the pot Beasley smokes is kind of atypical for GMs. Usually, they give non-statements, never talk badly about a player and just generally play everything close to the vest.

  • Nov 12, 201012:40 pm
    by frankie d


    As for James, he was a free agent who wanted more money and wanted to start. The Pistons couldn’t really offer him either of those things.
    not true.  james gave an interview on one of the local stations last year – it is probably still floating around on the web somewhere – where he talked about the negotiations after the title year.  he stated that to his surprise, the team showed no real interest in signing him and that he was really surprised about that posture.  he indicated that he had been willing to accept his “role” in detroit and apparently less money as a result of the fact that he wanted to stay, but that joe d never seriously offered him that opportunity.  his distinct impression was, as he stated in the interview, that joe d had no interest in signing him.  in the interview, james seemed to sincerely appreciate the fact that the team had something special going on and he claimed that he’d wanted to remain a part of that championship environment.  that sentiment is not an uncommon one, as is proven all the time, as many players accept less money to go to or remain on title teams, as winning is a heckuva lot more fun than losing.
    his supposed desire to start?
    he went to milwaukee, where he did not start a single game and then played 27 games in houston where he started 5 games.
    now, james could be simply lying in retrospect, but why would he do so, some 4 or 5 years later, when criticizing, even mildly, one of his former bosses has no upside.  every nba player knows that the guy who releases you today may be the guy who re-signs you tomorrow, so most players never, ever speak ill, even mildly, of former bosses.   i’d take him at his word.
    unfortunately, the news that had been reported in the detroit media about the james situation obviously came from joe d and he put his spin out there, no matter how it may have jibed with reality.  and it has simply become accepted truth.
    do you have any statements, quotes, from that time, from james, where he states that he was leaving because of those reasons you cite?
    i don’t recall anything of that sort being reported at the time, and i was very curious, because it seemed so odd that he would have left such a perfect situation.  i have to say that i was truly shocked when he left and his more recent statements in that interview, the only time i’ve seen his own statements reported rang very true.
    while joe d may have saved money by trading him, you forget the most crucial fact of all: joe d gave him the contract that supposedly was such a burden.  it would be one thing if joe had traded for him and then had to deal with a burdensome contract.  no, he signed williamson to a contract that would be deemed too expensive, so no one else is to blame for him being in that predicament other than himself.  he is 100% responsible and accountable for any financial crunch that may have necessitated trading a guy who was crucial to his team’s success, the only real low post option on the team.
    what happened with james and and big nasty, imho, and others was the distinct view that the players AND coaches were fungible units.  joe could simply plug guys in slots, plop a coach in that seat and the team would roll on.
    because joe d has been the real leader of the franchise.  contrary to the idea that joe has been this self-effacing, man behind the scenes with the team, the more common view, at least among those who pay attention, is that joe d has been the one constant, the one real leader, with the pistons.
    (for an example of how this is perceived by players, one only has to refer to that infamous story chris webber told on tv about joe d being capable of crashing into the locker room at halftime, threatening to trade everyone.  the message was simple: i’m the real leader of this team and i’ll intrude on the coach’s territory at any point when i feel like it.  whether such a move is good or bad is not my point.  my point, and webber’s point in telling the story was to emphasize that while coaches might come and go, joe was the real boss.  and this situation, imho, has severely hurt the team as players know that the coach is not really a person of real authority, and that they can go over his head at any time, and deal directly with the real power, joe d.)
    early on, this was very good, because joe had tons of credibility and respect with just about everyone.   but as the years have gone on, and the coaches have come and gone and the team has deteriorated in a slow-motion fashion, it has gotten to the point where nationally, his reputation has taken a beating.
    a beating that has wounded him so severely that coach after coach said, no thanks, when he tried to hire them, and he was left with a lifetime assistant with no head coaching experience and a horrible record at the college level when he had gotten a chance.
    look, as i said right from the beginning, it gives me no real pleasure to state that it is time for joe d to go.   as i noted, i’m a life-long fan and i’ve gotten into plenty of heated arguments because i’ve always maintained that joe, not zeke, was the real force behind the pistons titles.
    and his early teams, rekindled a decades long devotion to the pistons, one that had faltered during the teal years.  those early teams were  teams that scrapped and hustled and outworked other teams and showed the kind of heart and mental toughness that  any sports team would die to be able to exude.
    but those days are gone.
    imho, it started to fall apart when ben refused to go into that game late in his last season with the team – he later left to some degree because of his conflict with saunders -and from point forward came the string of playoff losses to teams that were obviously inferior.
    since then, his teams have borne no resemblance to those foundational pistons’ teams, the ones that established the culture that led to the title.  they’ve been mentally weak, they’ve often acted like spoiled children and joe d seemingly has no idea about how to fix it, as his actions have  ranged from odd – drafting yet another combo guard when big men prospects were available – to downright insane – signing a gimpy former shooting/scoring guard when the team was already overloaded at that same position.
    “…there is no fall.”  ????
    i would argue that objectively, that statement is simply false.
    when a general manager goes from the enviable record that joe established, to the debacle that has unfolded recently, any description of the process has to include “fail” or “fall” or anything synonymous.  it is that refusal to deal with the plain reality that the team presents, no matter one’s personal views about the man, that i most severely criticized.
    and i will offer very simple evidence as to why other gms have done a better job.

  • Nov 12, 20101:28 pm
    by frankie d


    patrick hayes writes:
    “I think everyone, even the biggest Dumars fan, knows mistakes have been made. But this, singularly, is how EVERY GM in the league is evaluated:
    Did the team make money?”
    has joe d ever stated that this is the way he is to be evaluated?
    do you have any quotes from joe d or from mr. davidson or from karen davidson that this is the criteria by which he is to be evaluated?
    now, i might be wrong, but i think that i recall joe speaking repeatedly and very specifically about the fact that he and his team is to be judged by whether the team wins or loses.
    do you have any statements from joe that support your contention that he is judged by whether the team makes money?
    i’d be very interested in such information and i’m sure other fans and readers would be similarly interested.

  • Nov 12, 20101:47 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    Jesus. Are you serious man?

    EVERY executive in EVERY pro sport is judged by that. It’s a billion dollar business.

    Of course no one is going to say that publicly or put it in the papers. But you are the most naive person in the world if you believe that they’re all just out their hoping to win ballgames.

    I’m not saying they don’t want to win. And winning, of course, is the easiest way to ensure your team makes money. Prolonged losing will inevitably lead to horrid attendance, etc. But come on … you think any team owner is in this just because they want to reward all of the loudmouth fans by putting championship teams out there?

    They want to win, certainly. But making money and running the business efficiently is the primary purpose of any GM. I don’t think the contracts handed out to Gordon, Hamilton and Villanueva were prudent business decisions, and they may yet haunt the team. But the man has run a very successful business for a long time, and that’s the measure that any boss evaluates any high level employee on.

  • Nov 12, 20101:58 pm
    by frankie d


    “You can go read Jay Mariotti columns or something then, if you prefer national media so much.”
    my…my…must you be so petulant.
    a good, vigorous exchange of ideas, even with people who vehemently disagree with one, is much more interesting than simply agreeing with someone.
    i read all kinds of people.  some i agree with, others i don’t.
    and frankly, one of the reasons i read folks i may not agree with is because one often finds very intelligent, thoughtful comments that go far beyond what may have been originally posted.
    i don’t regularly read mariotti because i think he tries to hard to be provocative and controversial and will often just throw stuff on the wall to see what happens.
    but if i am surfing and i come across something of interest, i’ll surely take a peek at it.
    better gms than joe?
    during his run in the middle of the decade, he would have been in the top 2 or 3, with a very strong argument to being the best.
    he’s in the lower middle, at best.
    mitch kupchak, lakers
    pat riley, heat
    danny ainge, celtics
    donnie nelson, jr., mavs
    kevin o’connor, jazz
    sam presti, okc
    darrell morey, rockets
    all of those gms are doing a better job than dumars
    recently fired kevin pritchard and denver’s mark warkentein both, imho, have done a better job over the last few years.  the billups and afflalo trades by warkentein seal that issue.  dumars got fleeced in both deals.
    o’connor at utah has done an excellent job, even if one uses the dubious criteria you propose.  he’s made money for his team in a small market, and kept it competitive.
    it is laughable that you denigrate portland’s former gm and presti and houston’s gm.  over the last couple of years, while detroit has been cascading downhill, those teams have been on the upswing.  and i doubt very many objective observers would trade detroit’s roster for any of the rosters from those teams.
    proof that those guys are better?
    wins in the 08-09, 09-10 and 10-11 seasons:
    portland – 54, 50 and now 6;
    okc – 23, 50 and now 4;
    houston – 53, 42 and now 1;
    milwaukee – 34,46 and now 4;
    detroit – 39, 27 and now 2.
    i’ll take joe d at his word, despite your assertion.  when he says that his only goal is to win as many games as possible, i’ll assume that he is telling the truth.
    according to joe’s own criteria, the guys you denigrate, laugh at, assert joe is much better than, they all have performed much better.
    btw, i only wish that joe d had “lucked” into d-wade or melo or even chris bosh or chris kamen.  i’ll take that kind of luck any day.

  • Nov 12, 20102:05 pm
    by frankie d


    you made a very specific and definitive assertion.
    i assume that you have some evidence to back up that claim.
    something other than your own statements being used to back up your own conclusions.
    naive, no.
    i understand clearly that sports teams are moneymaking enterprises and that those matters are factored into the evaluation of any gm’s performance.
    but if you are going to make a baldfaced assertion and proclaim it as being indisputable truth, i’d expect that you would have some evidence to back it up.
    especially when the known record of public statements absolutely contradicts that view.
    btw, even by the moneymaking criteria, joe is failing.
    the palace is getting to be like a ghost town at times.  they are almost giving away tickets to try to get the place filled.
    while his salary structure at one point was a thing of beauty, the envy of the league, now it is a travesty.  in my view, you could lop off 3 of the top paid players – rip, tay, and CV – and the team would actually be a better team.  that is a far cry from the years when the guys who produced got paid accordingly.

  • Nov 12, 20102:21 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    “according to joe’s own criteria, the guys you denigrate, laugh at, assert joe is much better than, they all have performed much better.”

    Not denigrating any of them. I’m just pointing out that even great GMs have blemishes. Yes, they have all built good or great teams, either by drafting well or making good trades. The point is, none of them (other than Kupchak, Buford, Riley) have built championship teams. The best Presti’s team did was lose in six in the first round last year. And if you look at the Thunder this season, they have some shortcomings, namely Jeff Green is getting exposed a bit and they have no big who is a legit presence defensively. Also, Harden is a fine player, but they passed on Tyreke Evans and Steph Curry. Both of those guys are significantly better than Harden.

    Pritchard made some great trades (landing Roy and Aldridge in lopsided draft-day deals for Thomas and Foye respectively was amazing). But again, did he ever get out of the first round? He took Oden over Durant, which unless Oden gets healthy, will be the second worst draft blunder of the decade behind Darko. And on top of that, he was fired in Portland because he was a pain in the ass to work with, according to the reports that surfaced before he was ousted. Also, he made a huge blunder in how he handled the Darius Miles contract situation.

    Hammond has had great draft picks late in drafts (Ilyasova/Mbah a Moute), but he also missed huge on Joe Alexander, who was the first lottery pick not to have his option picked up after his second year in the league. He had Brandon Jennings fall to him at 10 last year, which was a huge help. And he handed out two potentially bad contracts this offseason to Gooden and Salmons. Again, never been out of the first round of the playoffs. Also, Milwaukee’s best player is Andrew Bogut, who was in place before Hammond ever got there.

    Morey everyone loves b/c he’s the king of the stat-heads. I think he’s great. But what significant move has he made? His big signing last year was Trevor Ariza, who had a really bad season and was traded already. He made a good trade with McGrady, turning him into Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill and a first rounder, and he pulled off a heist getting Scola from the Spurs for nothing. He’s drafted well with Landry and Brooks late in drafts, but he’s also made poor moves — swapping picks with Portland, which ended up giving the Blazers Nic Batum for Joey Dorsey. Not great. He’s been to the second round once, and like Hammond, his best player (Yao) was in place before he took over.

    Those guys all look like they’ll have great careers as GMs and build really fun to watch teams. I hope they do. But Dumars has already accomplished what they are trying to accomplish. He’s had one offseason to rebuild this team. I don’t count this offseason because he hasn’t been able to add longterm pieces as the ownership situation gets sorted out.

    “i’ll take joe d at his word, despite your assertion.  when he says that his only goal is to win as many games as possible, i’ll assume that he is telling the truth.”

    I’m not saying he’s lying. But those quotes are fan-speak. There’s much more to running a NBA team than the aspects that fans care about. Dumars wants to win, but he has to do it within a budget (not pay luxury tax), he has to make determinations about young players who will need to be considered for extensions soon (Stuckey, Jerebko) and he’s been forced to put a team on the floor this year that, at best, is not complete because he hasn’t been able to make a significant trade with his best trade chip, Prince’s expiring contract.

    As far as me being “petulant”, don’t give me that. Don’t go on a post and, in your first comment, use 500 words to rip it as some slappy, homer garbage that’s not as good as your beloved national writers, and then when someone checks you for being an ass, throw your hands and go, “Whoa … what would you get bent out of shape about?”

    If you want the civil, healthy back and forth you crave, then don’t be a jerk-off in your original comment. Set the tone better, and the discourse will be better.

  • Nov 12, 20102:35 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    Sorry, but I don’t need evidence to back up a claim that is common sense. The No. 1 job of a GM is to make money. It’s why Chris Wallace is still employed. The owner of Memphis is a noted cheapskate. Wallace every couple years is very good at shipping off high priced talent for nothing. That keeps the team making money and keeps him employed.

    It’s very basic. The Pistons are committed to winning and making money, which is nice for fans. But if Dumars’ primary objective was not to make money, he wouldn’t have had to tap dance every year of the playoff runs to avoid the luxury tax.

  • Nov 12, 20102:45 pm
    by Rodman4Life


    It seems that peoples’ views regarding Dumars seem to be more about optimisim and pessimism rather than a set truth.  Those detractors make very compelling arguments, but so do the supporters.
    I support Dumars, although I will admit he is in a valley right now, and needs to find his way out.  He is willing to take gambles, and when they work out, it’s great.  But it was about time that he found some poorer results.  That comes with his style of GM-ing.  It’s ironic that he was so quick with axing coaches, because I actually forgive him on that one.  The one time I support a GM making those kind of decisions is when the team is truly close to a championship, which we were.  Did we really need to tinker so much?  I think so, just because we weren’t the prototypical contending team (no major superstar).  He gambled, and he got only one championship.  I love that roster from ’04, but compare it to average NBA champions and it is definitely atypical.
    Winning a championship every year is not realistic.  Aspiring toward a contending-level team, ok that is more fair.  And how about a minimum expectation that you should be in contention for a playoff seed until at least April?  But I want more than that, and I think Dumars has normally answered the bell.  He has an expectation of defense, and until recently we have always been a solid defensive squad.  He drafts long-armed athletes, and his draft track record is actually pretty good sans the Darko pick.
    But recently, I feel he broke from his own rules by acquiring CV AND Ben Gordon.  Both are defensive liabilities, and that just doesn’t mesh with what our teams had always been about. I could see getting one or the other to boost the offense.  Getting both has not worked out well so far.
    And finally, Dumars doesn’t bad-mouth his players.  He has a positive rapport with NBA players.  Additionally, he sometimes overpays players nearing the end of their prime as some sort of tribute.  Players know the signs of decline, and they know it is an unwritten rule not to pay a player big money on a contract that will extend into the early to mid 30′s age-wise.  But maybe that’s Dumars way of keeping Detroit in the mix in the minds of high-caliber free agents.  Just a thought.

  • Nov 12, 20103:03 pm
    by frankie d


    “jerk off…ass…”
    “500 words to rip it as some slappy, homer garbage…”
    where did i ever use those words or anything similar to those words?
    i can take it as well as give it and i really wasn’t offended or angered by your “petulance”.  i was being a bit facetious, actually.  i was amused by it.
    frankly, i don’t take any of this personally.
    apparently, you do, as you cannot stop yourself from using profanity to engage in a discourse…something i never did.
    now, if you don’t want to act like a jerk off or an ass, i’d suggest that you stop using profanity.
    it is truly the last resort of someone who doesn’t have anything else to say.
    now… unfortunately, detroit sportswriters have a long history of being suckups and homers, in the sorry tradition of joe falls and mitch albom.
    i don’t know exactly why it happens, but it is the state of the market in detroit.
    as a fan, i want to read writers who provide objective, straightforward information.
    that is sadly lacking in the detroit market, which is why i supplement my reading about the pistons with national writers.
    the best articles on the pistons this year have all been written by national writers, many of whom you’ve referenced here on your blog.  the tripe that is served up locally never touches on the real issues that are confronting the team.
    and i find your assertion that you don’t need evidence to support your assertions to be laughable.
    it is like a kid sticking his fingers in his ears saying,
    “nah…nah…nah…i can’t hear you.”
    i’d expect that most people would be reasonable enough to offer evidence for the things they assert as being true.  otherwise, you are telling people that they should accept you as some sort of religious figure and take what you say on faith.
    common sense matters are matters of common sense because they are based on evidence that is accepted universally and rarely if ever contradicted.
    joe d says his number one priority is winning.
    other owners are very open about the fact that they have to make money while having a team that is good enough to win.
    lots of gms and owners show and prove that their priority is winning, not making money.
    paul allen, the blazers owner spends money on his hobby, the blazers and making money is obviously not the priority.  even though the team has not won a title during his ownership, he spends his fortune to help the team win, not make money. and he spends his money very freely, with cap considerations never really factoring into decisions, at least not the way they factor in with other owners.
    mark cuban spends his money to win.  winning is definitely his priority.
    the knicks, cleveland, orlando…all of those teams spend, and while i’m sure they make money, the bottom line is obviously not the obsessive bright line that it always was with detroit.
    in fact, dumars and the pistons – along with the spurs – were really an anomaly in that they won while making money.  there are plenty of owners, in the nba or in other sports – jerry jones -  some who come and go, whose teams are their hobby, their playthings and they may care a bit about the bottom line, but their main concern is making sure their plaything is fun to watch.
    paul allen is exhibit A of that species of owner and it make your categorical, unqualified statement, that EVERY gm is judged by whether he makes money, out to be untrue.
    mostly true, sure.  sports is a business.  but by no means universally true.

  • Nov 12, 20103:35 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    I’m not going to keep going back and forth here, but this was the very first line you posted in response to Dan’s post:

    “sorry, but this is just juvenile BS.”

    So yeah, you did set the tone poorly from the get. Agree with the sentiments of his post or not, you didn’t engage in a “respectful but hearty disagreement” kind of way. You acted in the typical, overly-critical, stereotypical internet d-bag kind of way. And now you want to play Mr. Innocent, “Whoa man, I was just here to have some good conversation and you’re acting like a jerk and a bully”? Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

    As for my refusal to back up a claim that the primary responsibility of any GM is to make money for the organization, I won’t be able to find a link to something substantiating it. Joe Dumars has never said, “My No. 1 goal is to make lots of money so the rich people running this team can get even richer.” It’s not a good look to say things like that. It’s a much more acceptable thing to say “We just want to win.” I read between the lines though and I have a basic understanding of the function of businesses. Bill Davidson was never a fanboy who got into the biz to to rub elbows with athletes, like some owners are. He was a successful businessman who ran the Pistons as a successful business. So saying that he wants a GM in charge who will help the team continue to be a successful business goes without saying. They wanted to win, I have no doubts, and they did win. In eight of the last 10 years, they’ve been in the playoffs in fact. That’s a track record that only teams like LA, Dallas, San Antonio can compete with.

    Throughout this whole thread, the main problem I have with your comments is that I don’t understand the point you are trying to make. Are you saying that Dumars should be fired? And if so, what would the reasoning be? That he traded Corliss Williamson and didn’t re-sign Mike James to try and have enough cap space to sign Okur and Rasheed Wallace, it didn’t work out b/c Okur left anyway, and then the team still came within one game of winning a title anyway?

    I think everyone who is a Dumars supporter is at least realistic enough to admit that he’s made mistakes that have led to the team being in the poor position its in now. But on what planet can someone have a track record like he has and get fired for two straight poor seasons while he tries to rebuild?

    Billy King did a terrible job in Philly and still stayed there for 9 years and got another GM job in NJ now. Billy Knight was terrible as Atlanta’s GM and still lasted six years. McHale was terrible in Boston and was there over 10 years. Ainge had a terrible run in Boston before McHale gave them Garnett in one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. Danny Ferry stayed in Cleveland six years despite major playoff failings every year and an inability to land any talent to put around James. Colangelo is going on six years in Toronto, they’ve never won anything there and he never put any pieces in place around Bosh. Bird has been in Indiana for seven years and that team went from title contender to lottery overnight, yet he’s still employed.

    I’m sorry, but if your case is that two poor years are going to cost Dumars his job or should cost him his job, that just really goes against NBA logic. GMs who have won and who have proven track records are rare. Dumars comes with flaws, but there’s no arguing his track record. He built a championship team. There are guys who have been long-term GMs who haven’t built playoff teams, let alone championship teams.

  • Nov 12, 20104:15 pm
    by frankie d


    i’ll plead guilty to using intemperate words to describe the  original post.  it would have been better to use less incendiary language.
    no doubt.
    but to your main point, it is simply false and now you’ve admitted that it was false.
    you made the categorical statement that “EVERY” gm is judged simply by whether he made money and that is simply not true, as you’ve essentially admitted – though you will not actually say, “i was mistaken and wrote something that was incorrect” – in your last post.
    lots of owners ARE fanboys who use their franchises as playthings.
    again, paul allen is exhibit A.  he is in the draft room and has real input on who gets drafted.  he even gives media interviews where he talks very specifically about players and why they are valuable.
    (the whole darius miles fiasco was almost entirely allen’s fault.  he fell in love with miles and the horrible contract was all his doing.  all parties have essentially admitted that fact.)
    he fired pritchard because, as you correctly noted, pritchard basically was acting like an egotistical jerk.  his job evaluation had nothing to do with whether the team made money, as the team is making tons of money and had done so since pritchard had been the gm.
    there are plenty of other gms all across the sports landscape who run their franchises in a similar way.  for better or worse.  usually for the worse.
    so your unequivocal statement about how gms are evaluated is simply untrue and that is what i had a problem with, as far as your response is concerned.
    as far as dumars is concerned, i’d long been of the mind that he should be given the chance to clean up the mess he’s made.
    however, his recent actions and his words seem to indicate that he is simply incapable of doing what needs to be done in order to right the team.
    he talks about winning every game and he mocks the idea of trying to develop young players who can help the team transition.  that attitude is not new.  he has long been resistant to the idea that he actually nurture and develop young players.  he’s stated such and his actions back up what he has said.
    again, i take him at his word when he says that he really doesn’t want to depend on young players to win.
    unfortunately, for the team to get back to a winning path, imho, it is essential that he make an investment in his young players.  and that means letting them play and make mistakes and work through those mistakes.
    and in my view, it also includes doing stuff like taking d-league and its potential more seriously.  again, his refusal to use the d-league speaks to his stated refusal to develop and ultimately depend on young players.
    the idea of signing a crippled mcgrady and having him steal minutes away from young players is crazy.
    setting the team up so that hamilton and prince and ben wallace are all playing major minutes is also crazy if the idea is to have a team that will compete for a title in the near future.
    continuing to accumulate combo guards and small forwards – while your team screams for size and a distributor – like some senile old lady collects cats is also crazy.
    and his response to any criticism – check out his local interviews – is defensive and unresponsive and extraordinarily arrogant.
    it is like he just doesn’t get it, and that he is just going to stubbornly keep doing things his way no matter what.
    (the whole stuckey-as-point-guard thing is a prime example.  i like stuckey a lot as a player.  i think he is an all-star caliber talent, a kind of jumbo-sized jason terry-type player who would excell off the bench as a third guard. or even as a starter at SG.  but he is not a point guard.  plain and simple.  i completely understand why joe is so enamored of him as a potential point guard, but trying to make stuckey into a point guad is just severely misguided, as the last few years have shown. but because of many reasons, joe insists on continuing down that path, no matter how poorly it works out on the court.)
    sometimes it is just time for a player/executive to go.
    jerry west, imho, has been the best nba gm of the last generation.  he’s mr. laker, the logo, for crying sake.  but there was a time when he realized that it was time for him to leave LA.  time for him to go.
    joe’s at that point.  for his sake and for the sake of the team.

  • Nov 12, 20104:37 pm
    by Laser


    @pcb: regarding post #7… ok so we’re “set” for the future, (according to a sure-fire bastion of unbiased opinions, dumars’s close friend and teammate) and all they needed was TWO LOTTERY PICKS???? give me a damn break. if you take an elite team, immediately turn it into a lottery team for two straight seasons, and then you’ve got a “nice core” going forward… IT IS NOT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT. building through the draft is for losers, and make no mistake that’s who we are. keep on making excuses for dumars and sporting rose-colored glasses. it suits you.
    also, regarding post #8… you obviously get my point, and it’s got nothing to do with jerebko himself, so why picks a fight? leave it alone. you get what i’m saying. this is last year’s team, only with monroe (pick #7) instead of jerebko (pick #39) and the addition of t-mac. all i was saying is that the “155 man games lost” excuse needs to die, because we’re looking at that team right now.

  • Nov 12, 20104:52 pm
    by Laser


    @oats: buddy, you’re killing me. please read this carefully, so i don’t feel like i’ve wasted my time…
    my thesis statement here is that the team is RUBBISH, that injuries DID NOT have a significant impact on last year’s record, and that there’s no reason to believe that this year’s record will be any better.
    as for jerebko, let’s drop this “unskilled” debate. he’s in the damn NBA, so he has skills. duh. i get it. but in the broad spectrum of NBA players and skills, he’s not considered a “skilled” player. he gets by on effort and energy, not shooting abilities, passing, leaping. so drop it. it’s over. my whole point, if you were paying attention, is that JEREBKO isn’t a better piece to have than MONROE. daye’s got nothing to do with it, because he’s been on the roster both years. and that’s what i’m comparing: 09-10 and 10-11 rosters. so you’ve traded jerebko (second rounder) for monroe (lottery pick), and that’s not a downgrade. jerebko’s a loss, but not significant enough to negate the addition of a lottery pick. so for all intents and purposes, you’ve traded jj for monroe. so let’s leave daye out of this. if you started monroe at PF you would be ADDING size over jj. it’s not my fault the pistons insist on misusing their talent, but the team itself is no worse than last year’s.
    as for rip vs. max: we have too many shooting guards. this team would be better off with one of our shooting guards breaking both legs. so if you deactivated rip, the team is instantly better. he may be a better player than max overall, but maxiell is a big man, and we only have 2.5 big men in our rotation right now.
    i am not saying the team will be good or better than last year. i’m only saying it’s basically the same team. so nobody can complain anymore about all those injuries last year. because THIS is that team. that’s my whole point.

  • Nov 12, 20105:09 pm
    by Laser


    @hayes: on this whole “making money = good job” thing, it doesn’t hold up. for a few reasons. there are too many outside influences, and there’s too much of a continuity to things to judge a GM’s performance on profitability. first, you have to look at the market. the knicks always make money, because their market is the biggest, but that has no bearing on the GM. anybody could make them profitable. detroit also has a good fanbase, though the market is considerably smaller. there will always be die-hards, no matter what joe does. you also have to look at the continuity angle. there’s a continuum here. you don’t just want to be profitable today, you want to be profitable forever, and palace attendance is certainly in a freefall. it may take ten seasons for the team to become unprofitable, but the damage is being done right now.
    i was never a lions fan or a football fan at all. i’m 28, and the lions have been rubbish forever. if the lions were ever good in my lifetime, maybe i’d be chatting on a lions’ blog right now. but sports are a generational thing. if i had kids three years ago, i’d be buying them pistons swag, taking them to games, fostering a passion for the stones. if i had kids today, i’d probably buy them tigers gear or something. my passion for this team dies by the week, and come february, i’m at a crossroads. if nothing changes, i’m not going to encourage the next generation to be pistons fans. i’ll adopt another team. maybe i’m rambling now, but i hope i made my point.
    also, profitability needs to be judged on a continuum too. if the profitability is in freefall, you’re not doing a good job.

  • Nov 13, 20109:11 am
    by detroitpcb


    @ Patrick & Frankie D
    I think Joe D’s worst trait as a GM is also one of his greatest strengths: loyalty. He is loyal to players who perform for him and seems to reward them with contracts that they might not deserve going forward: i think of Corliss, Max, Rip, & now Bynum.

    and if you want to look at a franchise were winning has not mattered and only making money counts – just look at the Lions. As long as the Ford family owns that franchise nothing good will ever happen.

    Joe did a great job working under the salary cap.

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