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Chevette to Corvette No. 38: The 1975-76 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 36-46
  • Pythagorean record: 38-44
  • Offensive Rating: 99.2 (4th of 18)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.2 (16th of 18)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coaches: Ray Scott (17-25), Herb Brown (19-21)

Playoffs

  • Beat the Milwaukee Bucks in first round, 2-1
  • Lost in Western Conference Semifinals to the Golden State Warriors, 4-2

Leaders

  • Points per game: Bob Lanier (21.3)
  • Rebounds per game: Bob Lanier (11.7)
  • Assists per game: Kevin Porter (10.2)
  • Steals per game: Chris Ford (2.2)
  • Blocks per game: Bob Lanier (1.3)

Top player

Bob Lanier

Lanier had a down year by his standards. He scored his fewest points per game, aside from his rookie year, while with the Pistons. His rebounds per game were lowest since his rookie year. He also blocked the fewest shots per game while in Detroit.*

*Blocks weren’t kept his first three years in the NBA.

Ah, the mighty high bar Lanier set for himself. He was still pretty dominant,

Key transaction

Traded Dave Bing and a first-round pick to the Washington Bullets for Kevin Porter

Still smarting from his holdout the year before, Bing was traded for the younger Porter in the offseason. Bing was the better player – he finished sixth in MVP voting with the Bullets – but Porter was seven years younger and had led the league in assists the year before.

Trend watch

10th coach in 14 seasons

The Pistons started 10-5, but they went in a 7-20 rut, losing the last two games by 17 points each. Before their next game, the Pistons were practicing at Southfield High School when they fired Ray Scott. Greg Eno of Out of Bounds:

Scott was conducting practice — the Pistons were in a terrible slump at the time — and management strode onto the court, relieved Ray Scott of his silver whistle, and marched him off the court to give him the Ziggy — that Detroit word for a coach getting fired.

The Pistons hadn’t yet learned to act with class in 1976. They were still a bush league franchise, even though Bing and Scott and Lanier had combined to put pro basketball on the map in Detroit. So the firing of Scott — in front of his stunned players — in January 1976 was done with all the subtlety of July 4th fireworks.

Herb Brown, a Scott assistant and Larry Brown’s brother, took over.

Why this season ranks No. 38

Under Herb Brown, the Pistons went 19-21 and salvaged a lousy regular season by making the playoffs. There, they met the 38-44 Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Curry Kirkpatrick of Sports Illustrated:

The Pistons and Bucks finished a combined eight games below .500 and have about as much right in this tournament as Walter Matthau’s Bad News Bears.

The Pistons slipped past the also-mediocre Bucks in a full three-game series, before losing a hard-fought battle to the top-seeded Golden State Warriors. Curry Kirkpatrick of Sports Illustrated:

The Warriors seem in emotional tatters after their tough battle against the put-upon Pistons, whose coach, the hyperactive Herb Brown, emerged as the most unexpectedly adroit tactician since Marko Todorovich was guiding Tri-Cities in 1951. In the deciding contest Rick Barry wailed so much about the refereeing that teammates seeking to restrain him pushed him over a chair in the runway. Whereupon a kindly old Motown gentleman tried to poke out his eyes with a cane.

Not a bad finish to a year that included trading a superstar for a lesser player and firing a coach.

Previously

1 Comment

  • Oct 22, 201112:26 pm
    by hazen

    Reply

    thanks dan for doing this list. my dad took me to 20 games this season. he knew how much i loved the pistons and basketball. while others skated, i shoveled the snow and played hoops! i am feeling rather upset about the nba situation. ’99 was bad enough. Cheers and keep up the good work.

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