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Chevette to Corvette No. 27: The 1972-73 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 40-42
  • Pythagorean record: 42-40
  • Points scored per game: 110.3 (6th of 17)
  • Points allowed per game: 110.0 (10th of 17)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coach: Earl Lloyd (2-5), Ray Scott (38-37)

Leaders

  • Points per game: Bob Lanier (23.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Bob Lanier (14.9)
  • Assists per game: Dave Bing (7.8)

Top player

Bob Lanier

In his first two seasons, Bob Lanier made the All-Rookie Team and then the All-Star team. His scoring went down just a bit from his second year to his third year in 1972-73, but that’s also when Lanier felt his game began to reach new heights. NBA.com:

With Lanier dominating the middle, the Pistons finally began to click in 1972-73. “It wasn’t until I was into my third year that I started playing the kind of basketball I felt I was capable of playing and had the kind of mobility I wanted,” he said in the Detroit Free Press.

Lanier would continue to be one of the game’s great centers, but his 14.9 rebounds per game in 1972-73 would be the best mark of his career in that category.

Key transaction

Traded Jimmy Walker to Houston for Stu Lantz

As tempted as I am to pick the team’s brief signing of Flint legend Justus Thigpen here, Mr. Thigpen just didn’t have much of a NBA impact. Instead, we’ll go with a trade that shook up a young group that at one time looked like it would finally turn the Pistons into a contender. Walker proved to be a capable scorer and made a couple All-Star games during his Detroit career, but after following up a 45-win season in 1970-71 with a 1971-72 season that saw the team fail to live up to expectations, Walker was one of the players who was shipped out. The Star News:

Pistons coach Early Lloyd grew disenchanted with Walker’s erratic performance last season and talked openly about wanting to trade the 6-foot-3 guard.

Of course, Lloyd himself wouldn’t survive the season either. He lasted only seven games before being replaced by Ray Scott.

Trend watch

That elusive .500 mark

The Pistons had finished above .500 just once in the past 16 seasons heading into the 1972-73 season. The came close to breaking even after Scott took over as coach, but would have to wait one more season before they finally got above .500 for the second time in that stretch.

Why this season ranks No. 27

Lanier had established himself as a dominate force, Dave Bing was still a reliable player and, according to Lanier, it appeared the team finally had a coach the players believed in after Scott took 0ver:

He credited part of the Pistons’ steady improvement to new coach Ray Scott. “He took over and we started playing collectively as a unit,” Lanier said in the Free Press. “We had a good feeling, and we related well with one another.”

The Pistons were never the most harmonious bunch during the 1960s and 1970s, so any coach that could help maintain any amount of positive feelings in the locker room had to be viewed as an asset. The team went 38-37 under Scott and would take a big step forward the following season.

Previously

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