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Archive → October, 2011

Chevette to Corvette No. 34: The 1956-57 Fort Wayne Pistons


  • Actual record: 34-38
  • Pythagorean record: 30-42
  • Points per game: 96.4 (7th of 8)
  • Opponent points per game: 98.7 (3rd of 8)
  • Arena: War Memorial Coliseum
  • Head coaches: Charles Eckman (34-38)


  • Lost in Western Division Semifinals to the Minneapolis Lakers, 2-0


  • Points per game: George Yardley (21.5)
  • Rebounds per game: George Yardley (10.5)
  • Assists per game: Chuck Noble/Gene Shue (3.3)

Top player

George Yardley

Yardley is a fixture in the top player section in the Fort Wayne years for a pretty simple reason: the Pistons didn’t have much offense. The 56-57 season was Yardley’s fourth in the league and in those four seasons, the Pistons finished seventh, eighth, fifth and eighth in points per game in an eight-team league. After his rookie season, Yardley led the team in scoring the next three years, with his best season to date in 1956-57, when he averaged 21.5 points per game and also a team-leading 10.5 rebounds per game.

Key transaction

Traded a first-round pick to New York for Dick McGuire

McGuire was acquired at the end of the 1956-57 season, so he didn’t actually play in Fort Wayne, he joined the Pistons the following season in their first year in Detroit. McGuire’s career was winding down, but he became a steadying influence at point guard and, the following season, Yardley led the league in scoring with McGuire running the offense. McGuire also would go on to have some minimal success as a coach with the Pistons. The pick they have up turned into Mike Farmer, a forward who didn’t make much impact in a few seasons in the league.

Trend watch

Declining win total and declining defense

In their final season in Fort Wayne, the Pistons also had their first losing season in five years. The Pistons in this era were never good offensively, and with just two players on the roster who shot 40 percent in 1956-57, things were no different. But where the team began to erode a bit was at the defensive end. After leading the league in points allowed, the Pistons fell to third in 1956-57. Larry Foust, who had led the team in scoring just two seasons prior, missed 11 games due to injury and the team lacked an inside presence. Although some of the roster issues were addressed in the offseason, the trend of a once-stingy defense gradually becoming a lot less stingy would be a recurring theme as the team declined in subsequent decades as well.


NBA’s best of 2011

I participated in a 5-on-5 about the best of 2011 in the NBA. Unlike Patrick’s 5-on-5 about the strangest things of 2011, mine obviously didn’t include any Pistons moments.

Here’s No. 2 on my list, and it should give you a good idea of No. 1:

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Miami Heat reaching the Finals. THE story of the NBA season was: Will LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh win a title this year? Most fans rooted against them, but nearly every fan cared. By reaching the final round, the Heat allowed the storyline to garner attention as long as possible.

Businesses near the Palace worried they will be hurt if more games are cancelled

It’s not exactly a revelation that the people being hurt most by a lockout are low level team employees and businesses that rely on large crowds attending games for survival, but Carol Hopkins of The Oakland Press went out and talked to some of the business owners who are worried that no games at the Palace will mean significantly less money for them this year:

(Post Bar manager Darrel) Krause said if this year’s season drops from its normal 82 games to 50, he’ll lose $100,000 in revenue.

“The events at The Palace make us an event-driven bar,” he said. “It’s why we’re here. Without The Palace revenues, it makes business on a day-to-day basis very difficult. We want the contract negotiations settled.”

Krause, who oversees 40 employees, said his team was “very cognizant” of the negotiations. The Post management haven’t cut staff, Krause said, but they haven’t hired either. “We’ve lost staff because of it,” he said.

I haven’t been to The Post in a few years, but I lived about a mile away from there in college and used to hang out there all the time. It’s a staple for many Pistons fans before and after games. Just another reason to hope that the cautious optimism surrounding yesterday’s negotiating session turns into an actual agreement.

Robert Traylor had to get his shoes from Bill Laimbeer

SLAM’s Alan Paul has a nice memorial of former Michigan star and Detroit native Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor posted today, and it included a brief Pistons-related note:

Traylor was a Detroit man, through and through. As a 6-6, 250-pound freshman at Murray-Wright High School, he had to get his size 18 shoes from Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer, his coach once told the Detroit Free Press.

I’m biased here, obviously, but the basketball tradition in this state is so rich and connected. I love finding stories like this that pop up from time to time. The Bad Boys era Pistons seemed very connected to the community — Jalen Rose has talked about working out with them when he was a high school and college player. In the early 2000s, when Flint still had a really good summer pro-am league, Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace both came up and played in a few games. I hope the current group of Pistons gets that plugged into the local basketball scene as some teams of the past were.

What were the strangest events of the NBA season?

Today’s ESPN 5-on-5 roundtable discussed the five strangest occurrences in the NBA in 2011. The alleged Pistons shootaround boycott in Philly was at the top of my list:

The Pistons boycotting a shootaround. With constant media coverage and PR-mindful players and agents, I’m still dumbfounded that several Pistons allegedly thought boycotting a shootaround in Philly as a vote of no confidence in their overmatched coach was a good idea. It wasn’t, of course, but it did result in Will Bynum playing all 48 minutes in a game, which is just good for the soul.

It wasn’t so much that many players couldn’t stand the coach and were frustrated with the organizational dysfunction and losing. I get all of the things that led to the boycott. I just still can’t believe it happened — as I said in the roundtable, agents and PR people are everywhere nowadays and it’s just hard to fathom that at least one didn’t catch wind of this and get in the ear of a player or two to say, “Hey, this would not make you guys look good.” But hey, it happened and it was weird, but there were plenty of other weird occurrences this year. My other choices were the T-Wolves and their clumsy coaching search, the Celtics trading Kendrick Perkins while they were in first place in the East standings, Kevin Durant playing in every pro-am league he could find and basically everything about JaVale McGee. Feel free to nominate your choices in the comments.

Brandon Knight coaches Kentucky alums in exhibition game

Although an ankle sprain forced Brandon Knight to sit out an exhibition between Kentucky and Western Kentucky alums on Tuesday, Knight still found a way to get involved, taking over coaching duties for his team. From The Associated Press:

The 19-year-old has remained close to Kentucky’s fan base since declaring for the draft after the Wildcats’ Final Four run last season.

“I’m happy with my decision, and I always will be,” he said. “It was the best time to go.”

On Tuesday, Knight became increasingly active on the sideline in his “Big Blue” team’s 112-97 loss to a “Big Red” team led by the Houston Rockets’ Courtney Lee and the Utah Jazz’s Jeremy Evans.

With seven minutes to go in the fourth — the blue team trailing by double digits — Knight started jeering officials over a foul called on former teammate Josh Harrellson, a second-round selection by the New Orleans Hornets.

“I’ve gotta get this ref’s name,” he said, as a crowd split between Wildcat blue and Hilltopper red laughed.

The article also says that Knight hung around and signed a lot of autographs before the game. I think every Pistons fan is more than anxious to actually see Knight play, but hopefully the fact that he’s been a fixture at these types of fan events in Kentucky most of the summer is a small consolation that Pistons fans can get excited about.

Chevette to Corvette No. 35: The 1957-58 Detroit Pistons


  • Actual record: 33-39
  • Pythagorean record: 30-42
  • Points per game: 105.3 (5th of 8)
  • Opponent points per game: 107.7 (6th of 8)
  • Arena: Detroit Olympia
  • Head coaches: Charles Eckman (9-16), Red Rocha (24-23)


  • Beat the Cincinnati Royals in first round, 2-0
  • Lost in Western Conference Semifinals to the St. Louis Hawks, 4-1


  • Points per game: George Yardley (27.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Walter Dukes (13.3)
  • Assists per game: Dick McGuire (6.6)

Top player

George Yardley

Yardley’s best season as a pro also happened to coincide with the franchise’s first season in Detroit. He led the league in scoring, averaging a career-high 27.8 points per game and also averaged a career-best 10.7 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, it would also be Yardley’s last full season as a Piston.

Key transaction

Traded Larry Foust to Minneapolis for Walter Dukes

The Pistons swapped centers with the Lakers before the season and, although Dukes certainly had some flaws (namely an anemic sub-40 percent field goal percentage) for a big man, he was a couple years younger than Foust and would go on to average four straight double-doubles for the Pistons. He also made two All-Star appearances as a Piston.

Trend watch

Parting ways with another coach

After having four coaches in the franchise’s first six years, it looked like the Pistons had some stability heading into the 1957-58 season with Charles Eckman, who was entering his fourth season on the job. But as Sports Illustrated’s Bil Gilbert reported, Eckman didn’t last long:

Fred Zollner, owner of the Detroit Pistons, performed what may be the most delicate and tactful coaching amputation of all time, the patient being Charley Eck-man. Under Eckman the Pistons played more or less as they had for other coaches, in other words not very well. In due time Zollner called Eckman and commented that things were going badly. Eckman agreed but said there was hope for improvement. Zollner said that even so he thought maybe some changes should be made in Eckman’s department. “I said, ‘Sure, O.K., Fred,’” recalls Eckman, “but then I remembered that I was the only one in my department.”

Why this season ranks No. 35

On the court, this season wasn’t much different than several others ranked below it on this list. The Pistons finished below .500 and fired another coach. But it gets a bit of a bump for a couple reasons. First, it was the franchise’s first season in Detroit after moving from Fort Wayne. And secondly, things appeared to be looking up for the Pistons with Yardley having his best season as a pro and Dukes and Gene Shue proving to be reliable young starters. The team was also the final NBA stop of the legendary Nathaniel ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton this season.

Fred Zollner, the team owner, was also proving to be an asset to the league, although the league was not doing much to repay that generosity according to Myron Cope of Sports Illustrated:

Indeed, to the NBA, Zollner has been square old Pop who always comes through when you write home for money. During the league’s years of growing pains Zollner helped keep it afloat by lending it large sums, while many clubs failed to pay their dues. He asked no concessions for his vote when the league gerrymandered its territorial draft to allow Philadelphia to select Wilt Chamberlain of Kansas University and to swing Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas to the new Cincinnati Royals. “I try to vote on what I think are the ethics of a situation,” he says.

In return for all his efforts his fellow owners have spit in his eye. With the excuse that the Pistons had a private plane in which to get about, the NBA awarded them the worst schedule, the tight, grueling trips that grind a team down. When the territorial draft was about to expire two years ago, Zollner pleaded for its extension in one form or another, so that he might satisfy local pressures and draft Michigan’s Cazzie Russell. He was voted down. “I asked for a special favor and didn’t get it, so I wasn’t wronged,” reasons Zollner.


Explaining my Pistons fandom, in book form

I’ve been hanging around these internets at MLive and PistonPowered long enough to establish myself (hopefully) as someone who is at least generally competent about the Pistons. I’m definitely biased when it comes to the team, a result of my upbringing during the Bad Boys era when I became obsessed with basketball. And although I try to maintain some objectivity, I think it’s pretty clear that whether I agree with the direction of the team all the time or not, I’m always rooting for them to succeed and create more lasting memories.

Something that has always intrigued me about interacting with readers online over the last few years has been how, exactly, individual allegiances to the Pistons take shape. Plenty of otherwise reasonable people all love and root for the Pistons, but those rooting interests are formed under very different circumstances, often causing fun, heated arguments as to what, exactly, is the best direction for the team to go in.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is better explain, from my perspective, what has shaped my fandom and the lens through which I view the team when I’m writing about it. My solution is this book, Piston Devotion: The ups and downs of a long-term relationship with the most underappreciated franchise in sports. It’s self-published through Amazon/Create Space and has many of the elements my longer term readers should come to expect from me: snark, crudely designed graphics reminiscent of my It’s Just Sports days and even a pro wrestling reference or two. But I also try to go in-depth to explain that, despite my internet reputation, I actually am a huge fan of Bill Laimbeer. I also play revisionist and discuss how Allan Houston/Grant Hill could’ve totally led a 1990s Pistons dynasty, how, for one quarter, I believed that Amir Johnson, Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell looked like burgeoning All-Stars and how my brother came to be named after Adrian Dantley, among other things.

So, here’s the link one more time. I promise not to shill to hard for people to buy the book (Actually, who am I kidding? I’m shameless. Expect a lot of shilling.), but if you like what Dan and I do here at PistonPowered and you enjoy far-fetched scenarios  or want to reminisce about the enigma that was Don Reid, you might enjoy the book. Or if you enjoy telling me what a know-nothing ass I am, this will give you an abundance of new material.

There will be a Kindle version coming soon and I’ll post that link when it is available. Thanks for letting me shamelessly plug this and, if you’re so inclined, any links, Facebook mentions or Tweets to people you might know who would like the book would be greatly appreciated. And as always, feel free to hurl insults in the comments.

Rodney Stuckey reportedly considering offer from Chinese team

ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that Rodney Stuckey is considering a deal in China that would not have a NBA out-clause:

The biggest hurdle for Guangdong to clear, though, is the same hurdle all Chinese teams face when trying to land NBA players: Stuckey would be unable to come back to the NBA until Guangdong’s season ends in the spring if he goes through with the deal.

If Stuckey elects to sign with the Tigers, he’d be obligated to stay with the Chinese team through the completion of the season in March even if the ongoing NBA lockout ends before that, thanks to rules instituted this season by the Chinese Basketball Association that prevent its teams from offering an in-season out to players signed away from the NBA.

Stuckey would join Denver Nuggets free agents J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler as NBA players who have accepted deals in China that wouldn’t allow them to come back to the NBA should the lockout end. If Stuckey signs, this would obviously put a little more pressure on Brandon Knight to be an immediate impact player.

Chevette to Corvette No. 36: The 1999-2000 Detroit Pistons


  • Actual record: 42-30
  • Pythagorean record: 45-37
  • Offensive Rating: 107.3 (4th of 29)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (21st of 29)
  • Arena: Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: Alvin Gentry (28-30), George Irvine (14-10)


  • Points per game: Grant Hill (25.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Jerome Williams (9.6)
  • Assists per game: Grant Hill (5.2)
  • Steals per game: Lindsey Hunter (1.6)
  • Blocks per game: Mikki Moore (1.1)

Top player

Grant Hill

Hill’s final season in Detroit did not disappoint. He was an All-Star six times in six seasons with the Pistons, so by his sixth year in the league, it was hard to believe he would add much to his game, but this season gave every indication that were it not for the devastating ankle injuries that first started plaguing Hill in his final playoff series with the Pistons against the Heat, he looked like a man on the verge of becoming one of the game’s best. Hill averaged a career-best 25.8 points per game this season and did so while shooting 48 percent from the field, which at the time was the second best mark of his career. He also successfully extended his range, shooting nearly 35 percent from 3-point range, only the second time in his career that he finished a season better than 20 percent. ‘What would’ve happened if Grant Hill stayed healthy?’ will remain one of the most speculated ‘what ifs’ in modern NBA history.

Key transaction

(Tie) Signed Mikki Moore and Terry Mills as free agents

Bison Dele’s surprise retirement before the season just two years into a three-year contract left the Pistons with a hole in the middle. Moore was a thin, end-of-bench type and Mills was an end-of-the-line veteran. Neither was the type of guy any team would look at as an ‘impact’ signing, but between the two, the Pistons got just enough competent center play to sneak into the playoffs. Mills, known his entire career for his shooting, hit 39 percent from three in his second stint with the Pistons and Moore, who eventually carved out a nice NBA career for himself, provided about 17 minutes of boundless energy every game. He finished around the basket (hitting 62 percent of his shots), had nice range for a big man and protected the rim (averaged 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes). Plus, it was always fun when Moore and Jerome Williams, another energy player who could rebound, run the floor and finish, at the same time. They were undersized, but they helped make the Pistons more competitive and were nice targets for Hill on the break.

Trend watch

The declining defense

Championships in Detroit were always built around tough defense. Although the 1999-00 team made the playoffs, they did it in decidedly un-Pistons like fashion. The team was weak in the frontcourt with the slow and aging Mills, the undersized Moore and Williams and the soft Christian Laettner. The team ranked 26th out of 29 teams in points allowed this season. Part of that decline was a result of playing at the fourth fastest pace in the league, but the Pistons’ transformation into a finesse, perimeter-oriented team was also at its height. The Pistons were seventh in points per game allowed the previous season.

Why this season ranks No. 36

For better or worse, this was the end of the Grant Hill era in Detroit. After the season ended, the severity of Hill’s ankle injury wasn’t clear and it certainly didn’t scare off the Orlando Magic’s big offer to him. I remember being really nervous that Hill would leave that entire season and I felt all along that the Pistons needed to win a playoff series in order for him to even consider staying, something that looked pretty unlikely considering they were the seventh seed. That final series against the Heat was symbolic of the entire Hill tenure in Detroit. It featured Hill doing a bit of everything, surrounded by a cast of players who, even though they tried hard, were just not good enough to compete with any of the East’s upper echelon teams. Once the playoffs ended, it felt like Hill was leaving and unfortunately for the Pistons, the team didn’t seem to have many assets moving forward. At least we only had one more season of teal jerseys to go after this though.