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Joe Dumars almost had it

This is not about revisionism. It’s not about defending or attacking previous moves with the benefit of hindsight. It’s not about offering some concrete opinion on whether a certain polarizing general manager should or should not keep his job. Those conversations are all pretty boring to me at this point. This is simply an admission that, prior to the 2008-09 season, the Pistons could’ve realistically compared to the San Antonio Spurs. The moves they made after that season started, however, have made that comparison an irrelevant one.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News wrote this column contrasting the Pistons’ fall with San Antonio’s recent Renaissance. This passage, in particular, stood out to me:

Skill-wise, the players the Pistons acquired in 2009 (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye) aren’t dissimilar from what the Spurs have: shooters that can spread the floor and score in bunches.

But for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked in Detroit, and San Antonio no longer is the grind-it-out team that won the 2005 slugfest.

Goodwill glosses over some very specific reasons it hasn’t worked in Detroit — notably, that while Gordon and Villanueva occupy a huge chunk of Detroit’s salary cap, the Spurs have found floor spacers basically on the scrap heap. Guys like Matt Bonner, Danny Green and Gary Neal do the things that Gordon, Villanueva and Daye are supposed to do for a miniscule fraction of the cost, allowing the Spurs to spend money elsewhere. They also do it better, because unlike the aforementioned Pistons trio, those three on the Spurs actually do play defense. San Antonio might not be the ‘grind-it-out’ team they once were, but make no mistake, the Spurs are still a first-rate defensive unit. Cost is still the most important issue — a skill like ‘floor spacing’ is only a valuable one if you recognize it’s a commodity you can get at a discount rate. The Spurs recognize this. The Pistons didn’t.

I get why there are comparisons between Detroit and San Antonio and, to a lesser extent, Detroit and Boston. Those teams most closely resemble what the Pistons at the peak in the 2000s were — tough, stubborn, prideful, veteran, selfless teams that move the ball, play defense and sacrifice individual accolades to win games. And, Goodwill is right in a way, there is a comparison to be made between the Pistons and those teams. But it’s not comparing the moves of 2009 to what the Spurs have done and essentially throwing up your hands and saying, ‘Welp, the Pistons tried to reinvent themselves like the Spurs did, it just hasn’t worked out for a myriad of reasons.’

The truth is, the Pistons were very, very close to having what the Spurs or Celtics have now, and it has nothing to do with the ridiculously atrocious signings of 2009 or the poor decision to draft Daye backfiring. Basically, every move from that offseason on is irrelevant to the point I’m making here. The Pistons could be a pesky, competitive playoff team right now, led by a core group of tough-minded albeit declining vets who understand how to win in the playoffs and are supplemented by energetic, talented young players taking on major roles.

How Boston and San Antonio are doing it

The steps are fairly simple:

1. They identified their key core players — their ‘big threes’ — and have stayed blindly loyal to those players. They’ve re-signed them despite the fact that they’re expensive and aging. They’ve resisted the urge to trade them for younger players. These teams know that their star players will not last forever, but they also know that it makes little sense to blow up a team that is still capable of contending. From a financial standpoint, if you have a team that can advance a round or two into the playoffs, it would be very hard to turn your nose up at that extra income even if you know that the team may not be able to win a championship.That might actually be the situation Boston is in — I think it’s pretty clear Danny Ainge knows this team is good but probably not good enough to win a championship, which is why he seemingly got close a few times to dealing some of his key guys. I also suspect he ultimately resisted doing so because he realizes how hard it is to get back to the point the Celtics are at now, let alone getting back to being title contenders.

If these teams had made the decision to blow their rosters up, get younger, etc., they would know they were sentencing themselves to a fate of missing out on that playoff revenue with no guarantee they’d return to contention any time soon. The Spurs and Celtics seem to understand that it makes good financial sense to ride this out with their core guys as long as possible while filling out the roster with role players who help enhance the things their veterans can still do.

2. They’ve successfully infused young talent into the lineup. With the Celtics, Rajon Rondo has developed into their best player. They legitimately have a ‘big four’ (or still a ‘big three’ if you want to argue that Ray Allen is in too much of a complimentary role now to be a ‘big’ anything). But Rondo is not the only young player contributing. Avery Bradley emerged as one of the top defensive guards in the league this season. Greg Stiemsma has given energy and shot-blocking off the bench. They have two rookies — JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore — who, after sitting a lot this year, could follow a similar path as Bradley and earn rotation minutes next year as Bradley did this year.

The Spurs have been even more successful in this respect. Like the Celtics, they have a slightly younger core player in Tony Parker who, like Rondo, has emerged as legitimately his team’s best player after spending his earlier years as more of a complimentary piece. They’ve also done extremely well finding young talent in the draft. They turned George Hill, another solid find for them a couple seasons ago, into Kawhi Leonard, the type of versatile, athletic perimeter defender they’ve sorely lacked. They found efficient shooters and defenders like Danny Green and Gary Neal for next to nothing. They constantly experiment with their D-League affiliate, always bringing in players for auditions to try and find role players who fit and are cost effective. Not every draft pick they’ve made has worked out. Not every D-Leaguer they bring up can play in the league. But they are constantly evaluating those spots on their roster, they maintain flexibility by not handing out many onerous long-term contracts to non-core players and it allows them opportunities to mix and match to find the right fit. They’ve had great success with that strategy.

3. Stability. Both teams have coaches who are respected in the locker room, and most importantly, whose star players buy into what the coaches want and police the locker room themselves. There’s a hierarchy in place, so when you bring in young players, they immediately know the work that will be required to get on the court and contribute. Like any veteran players, I’m sure Boston’s and San Antonio’s guys don’t like ceding minutes, but they also have an understanding that the ultimate goal is a deep playoff run, that rest is good and that helping develop young players who can contribute will ultimately lead to more postseason success. Minutes aren’t just given to young players, and they shouldn’t be. But when players like Bradley or Leonard or Hill or Stiemsma or Neal or Green legitimately prove they belong, the coaches are not afraid to play them and the veterans do not complain about losing minutes to them because they understand the bigger picture.

That stability is also important in that it allows those teams to bring in talented players who have been problematic elsewhere. When the Spurs traded for Stephen Jackson, he understood the expectations and there’s been nary a peep from him, other than him expressing how much he loves coming off the bench for the Spurs, since he arrived. Same with Boris Diaw, whose coach in Charlotte complained about him throughout the season until he was released. In San Antonio, he clearly understands his role and he plays it well.

Stability, consistency and trust are all important elements in those two locker rooms. I’m sure neither team is free of drama (especially Boston), and they shouldn’t be. But the point is, the coaches communicate, the front offices don’t undermine the coaches, the players understand what is being asked of them and, even in the instances where they want a bigger role, they still go out and do what they’re asked.

How the Pistons almost did it

The Pistons were so close to having this, so close that it’s almost painful to think about. But let’s do it anyway and see where they missed the mark on each of these categories:

1. They had a core, they just misidentified it. The Pistons had a ‘big two’ — Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups. The ‘third’ in their ‘big three’ is up for debate — it could be any of the Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince or Rip Hamilton group. All five guys were important. Wallace and Billups were the most vital, though, and they were the ones who were most easily cast aside for some reason. Wallace was the team’s identity, it’s heart and one of the most dominant defensive players ever. Billups was the team’s brain — I’m convinced that even though Michael Curry was pretty much a boob as a head coach, that 2008 team could’ve made another playoff run essentially being coached by Billups on the floor, had they not traded him.

But anyway, the Pistons decided to let a disgruntled Wallace go in free agency rather than give in to his salary demands and — gasp! — his desire to have the team more committed to the defensive intensity it played with under Brown. Later, the Pistons traded Billups for cap space. That’s the opposite of how Boston and San Antonio have handled their core players. In fact, Garnett, Pierce and Duncan in particular are probably wildly overpaid  if you are looking solely at what they produce at this point in their careers vs. the huge amounts of money each guy makes. But those guys are important to their respective teams for more than just what they do on the court. San Antonio and Boston know that if they let any of them go or made them mad with low-ball contract offers, they’d essentially be risking the delicate locker room and on-court balance they’ve developed over the years — their franchise face would suddenly either be gone or unhappy. The Pistons risked their locker room dynamic by low-balling Wallace and by trading Billups, and as we’ve seen over the years since, those risks did not pay off as the Pistons locker room devolved into one of the most toxic last season. The bottom line is they did not stay loyal to their two most vital cornerstones, and it helped breed a culture of mistrust between some remaining players and the organization.

2. They’ve successfully identified young talent, but failed miserably at infusing it into the lineup. As I said above, this is not about being a revisionist. But if they take a redo on the Billups trade and letting Wallace go in free agency, the Pistons very well could have a lineup that includes a still competent Billups (pre-injury) starting at point guard with Arron Afflalo and Rodney Stuckey as the young, supplementary guards, with one or both of those guys kicking down the door for full-time starting jobs by now. They would still have Jonas Jerebko (the pick used on Jerebko was acquired in the Carlos Delfino trade to Toronto) and they could also have Amir Johnson — imagine the energy that duo would provide off the bench — with Wallace in the occasionally still dynamic the elder statesman role he played last season as their reserve bigs. They probably still have Prince and maybe even Hamilton in the mix. Neither guy is in his prime, but both are still occasionally effective, especially in the right role. There are holes to fill — a replacement big for Rasheed Wallace and a versatile small forward would be nice — but assuming those eight guys are on the roster, I think the Pistons likely would’ve made a shrewd draft pick or two and acquired at least one other decent player via free agency or trade since, and those things would’ve made them at the very least a team capable of getting to the second round.

Now, it’s important to note that keeping Wallace and Billups would’ve been expensive. Considering the Davidson family’s ‘no luxury tax’ policy, it would’ve meant that someone from the Rasheed Wallace-Prince-Hamilton group may have had to go for cost reasons earlier than anticipated, simply because the Pistons wouldn’t have been able to afford a starting five as expensive as those five all got. But, from an identity perspective, I think it was most important that the Pistons kept Billups and Wallace as cornerstone players while they were up to it and then, later, in the transitional veteran roles that Hamilton and Prince were miscast in in 2009.

Is that team a title contender? Definitely not. And I’m thoroughly happy the team has Greg Monroe, who might be worth all of the losing the last few seasons. But the point is, the Pistons were forced to rebuild themselves because they failed spectacularly at developing the immense young talent on their roster. If they’d done a better job, as the Spurs and Celtics have, at integrating young players into key roles in their lineup, they would’ve had deeper benches in the playoffs, they would’ve been able to rest starters more in the regular season and they would’ve had assets who would give them flexibility to improve the roster through trades. The frustrating element in this is, like the Spurs, Detroit has an exemplary track record when it comes to finding value with late first round and second round picks. But for a five-year period or so, they were a complete failure at young player development.

3. They allowed their locker room culture to crumble due to instability. The Pistons, at one time, employed someone who is now arguably a top three coach in the league in Rick Carlisle. They fired him after two years. They also fired Larry Brown, a Hall of Fame coach, after two years. They allowed an overmatched coach, Flip Saunders, to stay on the job too long even when it was clear he wasn’t respected in the locker room. Then, they compounded the issue by replacing Saunders with an even more overmatched coach in Michael Curry. Then they compounded it again by replacing Curry with the most overmatched head coach of them all, John Kuester.

Who knows if Dumars would’ve kept Carlisle or Brown longer if it was solely his call. There’s good evidence that Bill Davidson hated both of those guys. The fact that Dumars sat with Carlisle at the press conference announcing Carlisle’s firing leads me to believe that they at the very least had a good working relationship. I have no idea if Dumars wanted it to continue, and I highly doubt Dumars would make the tacky move of saying those decisions were all the fault of a dead man who can’t rebut the claims, so we’ll probably never know truly whether or not Dumars wanted to ditch either of those coaches.

As far as Saunders, he wasn’t the worst hire they could make. He had a good relationship with Billups from Minnesota and he was the biggest name on the market at the time. He was a great regular season coach, struggled making adjustments in the playoffs and several on the team seemed to tune him out. It happens. He just got one year too long on the job. The final two hires were clearly miscalculations that Dumars has to own all by himself.

Anyway, the locker room culture was impacted both by the hiring of coaches that the players didn’t believe in or respect, by the fact that, often, the front office enabled players who were undermining or disrespecting the coach (cough * Rasheed Wallace * cough) and by the fact that the remaining veterans post-Billups trade, particularly Hamilton, were increasingly resentful towards and distrustful of the organization because of the perceived lack of respect shown for Billups. Those types of things just simply never, ever happen in San Antonio.

Does it matter?

Not at all. The Pistons are on a different path now, so it’s irrelevant really to look at ways they’ve diverged from San Antonio since the days the two teams were routinely compared as the league’s model organizations in the mid-2000s. It has been too long since the Pistons have had any success, it has been too long since Billups has been traded, to rightfully compare those organizations anymore. The organizations just don’t have anything in common. Maybe San Antonio will fall off similarly to how the Pistons have at some point, though I have my doubts as long as the people running that organization remain in place.

The point to all of this is simply to say that the moves the Pistons made after trading Billups are irrelevant to the discussion. They would have something similar to what San Antonio has now (though probably not as good as this version of the Spurs, a team that is really, really good and fun to watch if you’re not watching the playoffs) if they hadn’t made the Billups trade, if they hadn’t splurged wildly in that 2009 offseason. The moment they traded Billups for cap space they were committing to a very different organizational philosophy than the one embraced by San Antonio. Here is the conclusion from Goodwill’s column:

The bottom line is this: Unless all three facets of an organization are in lockstep, maintaining a run as impressive as what the Spurs are on, is nearly impossible.

I agree with this. The Pistons were one of very few franchises in a position to have that kind of stability. Unfortunately, although some things that have happened in the last few years were beyond the control of the front office, the team has also willingly made a lot of bad decisions that prevented them from maintaining any kind of stable environment.

51 Comments

  • May 25, 20123:01 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    I stopped reading this article in the middle because it just doesn’t make sense.   The Pistons core was either older or had less left than either SA or BOS and the players weren’t as good in the first place.   In particular, Duncan was worth any two or three of any of that Pistons group and at this point is worth more than all five.   At this point, Billups may never play again, Big Ben and RIP are shadows of their former selves and Ben may never play again, Rasheed is retired and Prince is now the best player out of the five by far simply because he is the only one who isn’t basically completely washed up or just hanging on.    Further, Rondo and to a lesser extent Parker represented two young all stars and near franchise players who SA and BO had as a part of their core and the Pistons had nothing to compare with them other than maybe Stuckey who has not achieved their level and probably never will.

    • May 25, 20123:07 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I always love when people say, “I didn’t read this, but I’m going to give you my opinion on what I think of it anyway.”

      My advice would be either read it before you comment or don’t read it and don’t comment on it.

      Anyway, the point wasn’t to say that Detroit could be as good as either franchise (in fact, I said in there that they wouldn’t be as good, just that they’d still be a playoff team that has young assets), but merely to point out that they already had the ingredients to stay competitive — veteran players who were still decent enough along with a host of young players on cheap contracts who, it turns out, were pretty good. They just happened to be pretty good elsewhere (other than Stuckey) because Detroit’s in-house player development of players it drafted was an epic fail.

    • May 25, 20123:18 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Further, the point is that the 2008 Pistons, pre-Billups trade, were still very capable of making a playoff run. Were they title contenders that year? Probably not. But the Pistons willingly tore down a team that would’ve won at least one playoff series that year. That team also had three young players — Stuckey, Afflalo and Johnson — capable of playing much larger roles than they were given (specifically in the case of Afflalo and Johnson).

      Like I said, was that team winning a title? Probably not. But was that team similar to Boston, in particular, right now? Sure. If Dumars did nothing other than let Wallace and Hamilton’s contracts expire, replace one or both with a modest free agent, then let Afflalo, Stuckey, Johnson, Jerebko (who was added in that year’s draft via the Toronto pick they owned) and whoever else they drafted simply grow and develop? Yeah, it’s pretty likely that Detroit would’ve never fallen out of the playoffs and would’ve had cheap assets along the way to either package in a big trade or who would themselves develop into starters.

      • May 26, 20126:31 am
        by Max

        Reply

        Don’t get me wrong,   I always thought the Billups trade was horrible, even if, at first, both defensible and salvageable.  The one year rental of Iverson was defensible and the cap money could have been used much better,
        The logic of the Iverson trade was that the Pistons had become too predictable and needing a driving X-factor but I was opposed to the notion on the grounds that Stuckey/Afflalo could and would have been that X-factor.
        Iverson obviously didn’t work out and Dumars had to turn to his plan AB or A.  At the time, I was in favor of the Pistons using the cap room to absorb another team’s contracts in a lop sided trade in terms of players where the other team got cap relief and perhaps one of the two young guards.
        Instead he did the same thing he did when he acquired Billups and quickly signed the most obvious players to sign who were actually going to change teams.  Only this time he signed 2 players who didn’t work out and he signed them for money well above the exception as he did with Billups.*
        Previously I had always thought that Dumars was a GM who quickly admitted his mistakes and moved the players before their value had actually sunk.
        He has had some bad luck lately in that the Pistons went through some of their worst years in terms of health so he was handicapped regarding his ability to judge the players.  The sale of the team and change in ownership also may have undercut him signifigantly and even prompted him to spend his money  too quickly after the Iverson experiment so spectacularly failed.
        I think however that the last year and a half or so should have gotten him past this block and I fully expect a robust off season of moves for the Pistons whereas I thought he would stand pat the previous two.   Joe is loyal but he has his tipping points.  Just you wait and see.
        *Worst moment of Timberwolves history and Garnett’s career was when they wouldn’t promise Billups the starting gig which is the biggest reason he ever came to Detroit.  The Wolves could have been a dynasty or at least could have stopped the Spurs from having their dynasty if Billups had resigned with the Wolves.

  • May 25, 20123:15 pm
    by James Jones

    Reply

    I agree completely agree with the point you are trying to make.  However I think it’s a little premature to say Boston is like San Antonio.  San Antonio successful switched from the David Robinson era to the Tim Duncan era almost seamlessly.
     
    Boston has yet to prove they can tradition from the Pierce era to something else.  And like the Pistons I think once Boston loses KG and/or Pierce those rookies and underling players will drop off considerably.  Rondo is the wild card, if he’s really the Rondo we all think he is then Boston might be able to do a seamless hand off.  On the other hand if Rondo is a better then avg roll player surrounded by three hall of fame players then I think Boston will fall and fall fast.
     
    I’m not taking issue with your argument I think it’s perfectly sound and I may be nit picking :), but I would argue the Lakers are more like San Antonio then Boston is.

    • May 25, 20123:22 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yeah, I’m not so much comparing them as much as just pointing out that both are veteran teams who have successfully blended in and developed younger complimentary players. If you remember during the Pistons’ run, one of the arguments about why players like Deflino, Afflalo, Johnson, Maxiell and even Milicic couldn’t get minutes was, “Well, this is a veteran team competing for a title blah blah blah.”

      Boston and San Antonio have both proven how foolish the Pistons were — and I don’t know if it’s more a coaching issue or front office issue as far as blame — for not making more of an effort to get their young players, who have proven to be rotation players or better elsewhere, enough minutes to rest their veterans and develop on their own.

      And I agree with your thoughts on Rondo. I personally think he’s a transitional star, but judging by the fact that Ainge has shopped him pretty hard, he might not be convinced.

      • May 25, 20123:29 pm
        by James Jones

        Reply

        Fair enough.
         
        Young player issues with Joe is probably near hart of a lot of the woes we have had.  I cross my fingers that Joe has seen the light since it doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere any time soon.

    • May 25, 20128:02 pm
      by Chris H

      Reply

      Switching eras from one great player to another is a whole lot easier when you land the #1 draft pick and are in a position to draft a great player while you still have 3-4 good years out of the first great player.  It also helps when your #1 players are guys like David Robinson and Tim Duncan.  I don’t think people realize how lucky the Spurs were to already have Robinson and to get Duncan.

  • May 25, 20123:31 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    This is the smartest account of the Pistons demise that I’ve seen in either print or online media. I’m a Dumars fan yet disturbed my some of his missteps. The point about developing young talent is especially astute. A franchise can improve player development, it’s much harder to improve talent evaluation.

    • May 25, 20123:37 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      The thing of it is, players on the Spurs and Celts develop precisely because they are playing with vets like the Pistons had next to their young guys pre-Billups trade.

      Danny Green was terrible in Cleveland. And guys like Blair, Leonard, Avery Bradley, Stiemsma … they wouldn’t be as effective on bad teams. The Pistons’ young players would’ve developed precisely because they were playing with smart, good veterans who could’ve helped them through mistakes and quickly learn from them.

      Oh well, I’m veering into hindsight again I guess. But my main point is just that the Spurs and Celtics do prove that young player development can work while you’re still relying heavily on your veteran core.

      • May 26, 20126:46 am
        by Max

        Reply

        I love the Pistons as much as the next fan but the only Pistons of all time who can even be talked about with Duncan or Garnett* are Thomas and Hill.  And I’d have a pretty hard time arguing for Thomas or Hill.  Allen, Parker, Ginobili and Pierce are absolute lock hall of famers but when Billups and Wallace get in, and they will, a lot of people are going to argue against their inclusion and refer to how everyone always said the 2004 group somehow won without a hall of famer.
        *The two best power forwards ever.

  • May 25, 20123:55 pm
    by Andrew

    Reply

    I don’t have much to add, but just wanted to say this was a really, really good post.  Excellent analysis.

  • May 25, 20124:34 pm
    by CityofKlompton

    Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with this post.   Instead of making an extra set of keys to the franchise for promising younger players, we ripped the ones out of our veterans hands and gave them to a new face without realizing how it would effect the rest of our players.  Respect is earned.  When we lost sight of that, the players we still had lost respect for the front office and, it all started to roll down hill. 

    Simply put, the Pistons front office undervalued the impact of the behaviors of Billups and Wallace off the court.  Even if they were getting older and production was bound to start dipping, the attitude and leadership they had off the court COULD have translated to increased production and accelerated & improved development of younger players on the court.

  • May 25, 20126:25 pm
    by Mark

    Reply

    Great post and appreciate the effort, but for me, the answer as to why the Spurs continued having success and the Pistons did not could be summed up in one sentenced. Pistons fired their Popovich (Larry Brown), and the Spurs kept theirs.

    • May 25, 20128:10 pm
      by Chris H

      Reply

      First off, Larry Brown never stayed in one place long enough to be considered anything like Pop.  Secondly from all accounts of Larry Brown as a coach he eventually loses his players because of his constant nit picking.  I’m all for a coach getting players to acknowledge their shortcomings, and to work on being better players, but there is no evidence in the history of Larry Brown’s coaching career that shows he would have put in the time that Pop has put in with the Spurs.  Thirdly, if I remember this correctly Brown was fired because he was talking with the Knicks about an opening coaching position that he eventually took (the year after he was fired if I remember correctly).  He probably wasn’t going to stay around anyway.

      • May 25, 201211:43 pm
        by Mark

        Reply

        I didn’t compare LB to Popovich in terms of longevity. I was comparing them in terms of greatness. We had a coach as great as Popovich and for whatever reason, whether he wanted to leave or Davidson wanted him to leave, we weren’t able to keep him.

        You’re right there was a good chance that he would;ve left eventually anyways had he stayed a few more years. But my point was that having Brown was the reason we were even in that positon to win a championship and be compared to SA. So once he left that all went with him, imo. And that was the reason we werent able to continue that success like SA did.

    • May 25, 201211:14 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yeah, agree with Chris. If the Pistons had a Popovich (and I’m not convinced that they did), it was Carlisle, not Brown. No knock on LB, he did some great things with the team in his two years, but they were a ready-made contender when he got here and he had the benefit of coaching the team after the Rasheed Wallace trade, something Carlisle never got the chance to do.

      • May 26, 201212:02 am
        by Mark

        Reply

        I agree that in terms of longevity Carlisle would’ve been the most likely to be that coach that stays for 10+ yrs. But in terms of greatness as a coach, LB was the one who was every bit as great of a coach as Popovich.

        Once he left, our run ended I thought. yeah we still made 3 CF after with Flip, but we weren’t true contenders like we were under Brown in ’04-’05. We were still good enough to dominate the regular season and use our experience to beat out the lower teams in the 1st-2nd rounds, but we just didn’t have that championship-caliber coach anymore to beat those teams that did in the later rounds, which is one of the main reasons for SA’s sustained success. They were able to keep their championship coach, and we weren’t.

        • May 27, 20128:42 pm
          by TheDude

          Reply

          we werent true contenders anymore because progressively our bench got weaker and weaker. With the exception of McDyess and Lindsey Hunter, all the other bench players on the team were revolving doors. (I’m taking post 2004 championship through the 2008 ECF run)
          Darvin Ham, Jarvis Hayes, Mo Evans, Carlos Delfino, Carlos Arroyo, Will Blalock, Dale Davis, Ronald Dupree, Flip Murray, Tony Delk, Nazr Mohammed, Kalvin Kato, Juan Dixon, Walter Hermann, Theo Ratliff, etc.
          It wasn’t until the 2007-08 season where they had the combination of Stuckey, Afflalo, Amir Johnson, (remember that year, the bench was known as the zoo crew “because they animals”) they relieved the starters of minutes which tired them in the playoffs the years before. After the starters left the game, this bench maintained the lead and added onto it. Unfortunately, that was not transitioned into the ECF against Boston. but that was supposed to happen, you know, Big 3 and all.

          • May 28, 20121:40 am
            by Mike Payne

            TONY DELK once score 51 points, and then rescued a kitten out of a tree, delivered a baby and stopped a bank robbery in his sleep.  TONY DELK shall not be mentioned in the same sentence as Juan Dixon.
             
            -Mike Payne-
            Harvard University
            President
            Delka Delka Delka

  • May 25, 20127:48 pm
    by rick

    Reply

    I have a question in regards to the Celtics , is using Stiemensa as an example really that good when I would look at JuJuan Johnson’s underdevelopement moreso than Stiemensa developement. Bradley was not drafted by the C’s either. I think Ainge just went with what they had more than they let young players develop. I mean Big Baby(someone they drafted) plays in Orlando so how can you say Detroit gave up on a player that went somewhere and got better when thats the nature of the league. I dont think Joe underestimates young talent as most may think I just believe that it had more to do with Ownership than Mgt when making coaching decisions that wultimately affected the players in the end. In Detroit you could be coached either by an up and comer like Carlisle or a veteran like Brown or even a offensive tactician like Saunders but as long as onwership dictates your moves to a degree then you get what you get. The Spurs have agreat GM in Buford and Pop has been coaching them for well over 10years. He has a system that has been tweaked because of the advanced age of Duncan but it is still the same as it was when they were winning. Detroit never had a big man like Duncan or Garnett, future hall of famers who could help a team even when they are young and growing. If they couldve been like any team I would wish it would’ve  been the Spurs but the Spurs run will eventually come to an end just like all runs and until then we cant really know how good it is until then. Trust me its been great to see and I wish things had worked out smoother over the transisition period, but it is what it is.

    I think Boston is getting more credit than they deserve because they have guys like Dooling and Pietrus and I just dont get the young player connection with them as much as San Antonio who had grabbed assets(Hill) which allowed them to be able to get guys like Leonard. They also draft foreign guys and stash them(Splitter) and plug guys into roles accordingly on that team. More than anything though its coaching and thats what Pop and Rivers are good at. Coaching is the main thing I see in these teams and if Charlotte gets Sloan you will see the same team but with different results. Its all about implementing a system and guys buying in young and old.

    • May 25, 201211:22 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      @Rick:

      Thanks for the response. A couple of rebuttals:

      “is using Stiemensa as an example really that good when I would look at JuJuan Johnson’s underdevelopement moreso than Stiemensa developement.”

      This is a key part of player development, though. Johnson underperformed. Stiemsma, another young player, out-played him and took his minutes. I would never advocate playing a young player just to play him, if he hasn’t earned the minutes with good practices and solid minutes when he’s on the court. Johnson played some early, couldn’t nail down that backup spot and Stiemsma took it from him. I think the Celtics are hoping that experience benefits Johnson by both pushing him to work harder for those minutes and providing an example of what they want — Stiemsma plays because he’s energetic, doesn’t make a ton of mistakes and blocks shots. Johnson can do those things, and maybe he will be by this time next year.

      “Bradley was not drafted by the C’s either.”

      Yes he was. They took him 19th overall in 2010.

      “I mean Big Baby(someone they drafted) plays in Orlando so how can you say Detroit gave up on a player that went somewhere and got better when thats the nature of the league.”

      Here’s the thing though … I have no problem with teams trading players. I would not advocate that the Pistons should’ve kept Afflalo or Johnson or Stuckey or whoever forever, necessarily. What I am advocating is that having young players on rookie contracts who are productive is a huge benefit to your team financially. It allows you to spend money elsewhere, rather than having to bring in veterans to play those roles. Veteran players, other than end of bench/minimum salary guys typically cost a lot more than rookies.

      Davis is a great example of how to use a young player and then move on when he becomes too expensive. He was useful to Boston and productive in the role they needed him in. Plus, his salary was low. When he became a free agent and looked for a raised, they agreed to a sign and trade with Orlando and got a player in return in Bass who is actually a little better than Davis and doesn’t have an expensive long-term contract.

      The Pistons, on the other hand, had young players who never played enough to develop, then when they were traded, they brought back little in return. If they’d played and developed here, the Pistons could’ve possibly traded them for good value, rather than just dumping them for future second round picks.

  • May 25, 20128:22 pm
    by Tangen

    Reply

    I think Pop is way underrated in this comparison. What would this team look like if we could of kept Carlisle or Brown for 15+ years.  Would they have gotten more out of Gordon, V and Daye? I think so.

  • May 25, 20129:13 pm
    by Tiko

    Reply

    it all fell apart when Brown left…

  • May 25, 20129:49 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    as someone indicated earlier, an excellent analysis and probably the best i’ve seen in detroit media.
    good, insightful, unsparing work.
    could not agree more with the conclusions, which are supported by much evidence.

  • May 25, 20129:55 pm
    by Accelerator

    Reply

    Great well in-depth article Patrick. Great points and a great read.

  • May 25, 201210:52 pm
    by Quick Darshan

    Reply

    I remember writing a post a long time ago on another site about how well Dumars had set the team up for the future.  This was during the season in which they eventually lost to the Celtics in the ECF.

    Dumars a great mix of veterans (Billups, Rip, Tay, Sheed, Dyess) and young talent (Stuckey, Afflalo, Amir Johnson, Maxiell).  What was better was that Billups and Tay were locked up with reasonable contracts and Rip, Sheed and Dyess had very favorable expiring contracts.

    Dumars original sin was pairing Rip and Stuckey instead of Billups and Stuckey.  Rip’s expiring contract was a valuable trade asset as was Sheed’s the following year.  Dumars could have reloaded on the fly and, although they probably wouldn’t have won a title, they’d probably be a second round playoff team each of the last three seasons.

    • May 25, 201211:26 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yep, it’s unbelievable how close Dumars was to getting his transition team right. He had it right there. I doubt we’ll ever get a clear answer as to what made him blow things up to the extent that he did.

      It’s weird that by the time he finally bowed to the seeming neverending calls to ‘shake things up,’ he had got to the point where just staying the course with what he had prior to the Billups trade was his best option.

      • May 26, 201212:13 am
        by Mike Payne

        Reply

        I think the problem with stating “how close Dumars was” belies just how miserably, how horribly he failed across the board.
         
        Joe’s complacency and inability to properly analyze his own talent did him in long before most fans found his fallacy.  Tayshaun Prince was the weakest link on a team that couldn’t climb out of the east against big, strong and prolific power forwards (LeBron James and Paul Pierce).  For three playoff seasons in a row, from 2007-2009, Tayshaun Prince ruined this team not only due to his lack of defense, but his complete disappearance on offense in three season-ending series:
         
        2007 Conference Finals: 24% shooting on 66 attempts (2nd most in series)
        2008 Conference Finals: 22% shooting on 101 attempts (most in series)
        2009 Conference Finals: 26% shooting on 27 attempts (6th most in series)*
         
        Yet Dumars tells us all about “no sacred cows” and then ultimately dumps the entire youth movement and decides to sign horrible players to horrible contracts.  Ben Gordon for $11M? Charlie Villanueva for $7?  Really?
         
        I respect and appreciate your perspective on this Patrick and I don’t want my disagreement to take that away from you.  Largely, we are in tune on this issue.  My lone dissent is in the suggestion that Joe “was close” to a longer legacy for this team.  He wasn’t.  It wasn’t as if he whiffed it, like a batter barely missing a baseball, it was as if Joe caught the ball, turned around and fired it off the bat into the net with a 300mph force.
         
        I don’t think Joe deserves the story that he “almost had it”.  I think he deserves the credit for building what might be the most unlikely champion, the most defensively dominant winner in NBA history.  But I don’t think he deserves credit that he “almost made it” for these last three years, given just how unlikely, how dominant his failures were to sink this team into the abyss of the league.  Equal responsibility for failure and greatness, in my opinion.
         
        I really wish that Joe had somehow heard the voice of the blogosphere back in June of 2009.  Had he done so, he wouldn’t have drafted Austin Daye.  Ty Lawson would be a Piston.  He wouldn’t have signed Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva, and he would never for a moment trade Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson.
         
        What you point out here Patrick is fully valid no matter which side of the Dumars opinion you’re on.  He built a team that was primed for longer-term greatness, but I think the responsibility is on him for what has happened since, in equally significant terms.  Both ways, solid article MFPH

        • May 28, 201211:14 am
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          “But I don’t think he deserves credit that he “almost made it” for these last three years.”

          I fully, 100 percent, agree with this. I didn’t write this necessarily to give him credit for coming close. It was more just a reaction to watching how San Antonio and, to a lesser extent, Boston, have evolved as they’ve aged, worked younger players into their rotation and maintained their runs longer than many thought they would. It’s also really interesting to watch specifically because we were fed talking points from the organization all those years the Pistons were winning that basically said player development of guys like Delfino, Johnson, Maxiell, Afflalo and even Milicic had to be put aside because this was a veteran team close to winning, so there was no time to waste devoting minutes to younger players. The Spurs and Celtics have proven just how detrimental that thinking was to Detroit. It would’ve been a semi-defensible position for the Pistons to take had those young players proved to be lousy elsewhere, but as we’ve seen, they’ve been solid or better in their different roles.

          Anyway, hopefully it didn’t come off as a defense, more just me watching these playoffs and getting a little depressed/nostalgic because Detroit basketball never had to sink to the depths it has these past few seasons.

      • May 26, 20126:56 pm
        by apa8ren9

        Reply

        I really believe the answer to why Dumars blew it up was because of the money.  Of all of the things that were done (coaching changes, trades, free agency and draft picks)  the constant was the no-luxury/dont overpay rule.  I remember the dark days of the Tom Wilson/GM and Doug Collins days and when they low-balled Allen Houston and sent him running to NY and the fiasco of a trade to fill the gap with Grant Long and Stacey Augmon.  It was always about the money with Davidson.  He paid market value and staunchly opposed paying more.  Its the reason why Wallace left.  I found it so much easier to understand the moves the Pistons made once I figured out that fact with the Pistons.  I didnt always like it, but that was the old man’s way and it got him 3 championships.   As for why he traded Billups, it was two fold.  He was breaking down at crunch time (playoffs) and he was the ultimate professional which upheld his trade value.  Now the rest is history after that but Billups was the obvious choice to trade with that cast.   This was a great article and got me thinking back on all of the moves made during that run and before as well as how Davidson influenced it all.  That is why I come here for my Pistons news.  Great Job Patrick!

  • May 25, 201211:47 pm
    by Mike Payne

    Reply

    “This is simply an admission that, prior to the 2008-09 season, the Pistons could’ve realistically compared to the San Antonio Spurs.”
     
    Agreed.  We talked about this in a comment thread on DetroitBadBoys recently.  We can look back at the record and see the things we were saying back then and it’s pretty cool to review our opinions before the crash.  There was a strong contingent that got it right back in June of 2009 before the draft and before the CV/BG signings.
     
    My opinion was pretty straightforward– do NOT NOT NOT sign Ben Gordon, do NOT sign Charlie Villanueva, do NOT draft Austin Daye and as soon as possible, trade Tayshaun Prince.  If I could do anything as a Pistons fan, it would be to go back and undo that entire summer.

  • May 26, 20122:30 am
    by rick

    Reply

    I would agree with him overvaluing Prince because its the sole reason why I honestly believe that he didnt draft Carmelo Anthony , who I think may have turned into a better defender around better players. I think the owner had as much to do with the pick as Dumars. He’s a company man and what company man is going to out the boss who gave him first gig as GM? This thinking is why he kept a guy like Prince longer than he should have. Low key player not a coaches nightmare, and will follow instruction. Joes thinking is keep guys like this around when in fact he had a guy like Affalo who could step right into those shoes. Joe’s public speeches to the media about sacred cows is what got him in trouble when he in fact should have stayed the course and kept plugging in young talent to supplant the older players. One thing to not forget is Bill Davidsons death and refussal to pay luxury tax for marquee talent. If we are gonna look at 2009 we also have to remember all circumstances involved. Also look at Karen Davidson’s refusal to allow the trade of Hamilton for Boozer. Plenty of mitigating factors but I’m in unison about not keeping young talent and allowing it to mature. Another thing we have to look at when talking about this subject  are the coaches we had and their refusal to play young players. In the end its important to have young players develop because its softens the blow when the vets do retire and right now it’s is essential in this new NBA.

    • May 26, 20127:03 am
      by Max

      Reply

      I’m so happy Carmelo was not drafted by the Pistons.  I would have had such a horrible uneasy time rooting for him.   He is the inverse of my own personal definition of a Piston.  Give me a Rondo, an Ibaka, a Gasol, a Noah or a Perkins.   I’ll take a Reggie Evans and a Tony Allen.  Hell, give me a David West  or Joe Johnson and I’ll even take a Metta World Peace or better Ron Ron or Andrew Bynum  because I like to have an insane guy or four who scares people on my team but please don’t give me any of the clowns like Carmelo.   And you know what, I bet what I am talking about right now factored into the Pistons not liking ‘Melo.

      • May 26, 20127:07 pm
        by apa8ren9

        Reply

        I feel you Max, you’re basically saying Melo is a punk.

      • May 28, 201211:20 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        @Max:

        Yeah, why would the Pistons in 2003 have wanted a talented scorer, a really good rebounder for a small forward, who just dragged his team to a national title? What a loser that guy is!

        Listen, I get that Anthony as a pro hasn’t always been a model teammate. I even get that, statistically, he’s overrated. But he’s still far, far superior to the incumbent the Pistons had at the time (Prince), he wanted to be in Detroit (he said so in an interview before the draft, where he mentioned that Rip Hamilton was his favorite player and he’d love to play with him) and, like him or not, he’s been a go-to player on playoff teams much of his career. So no, I’m not happy the Pistons passed on Anthony. Even if he wouldn’t have fit here long-term, he would’ve still represented an incredibly valuable asset. Look at the haul Denver got for him. You’re telling me you would just turn down someone who would fetch what he did in a trade simply because you don’t like him and “would have a hard time” rooting for him? That’s craziness.

        • May 28, 201212:28 pm
          by Max

          Reply

          It’s about the direction of team.  I like my Pistons to be a deep talented bunch that has better chemistry and defense than everyone else.   No ‘Melo team will ever be like that unless they compromise an entire team to fit him like Philly did with Iverson.   And I had a poor opinion of him coming out of college in spite of his national championship because he seemed like a clown to me from the beginning.   Sorry, I have a mold and special definition of what it means to be a Piston that is based on the great and beloved players and teams they have had and Anthony doesn’t remotely match up with it.    Also, I live in NY and most of my friends who are Knicks fans wish the Knicks had never acquired him and are going through the issue of having a hard time rooting for him so I’m hardly unique in my thinking.   Basketball definitely operates for me on the level of entertainment and I want to be able to fully get behind the team I love and wish them every success so I don’t think it’s crazy for me to not want a player on my team that will make me struggle and possibly fail to do so.
          BTW: The only two players I positively couldn’t stand in Pistons’ history and couldn’t root for were Mark Aguirre and Bison Dele and they were good players.   I way preferred Kwame Brown to either one of those guys and I don’t care that it doesn’t make pragmatic basketball sense.  Loving your team is about passion and goes beyond anything purely rational.

  • May 26, 201210:17 am
    by vic

    Reply

    I totally agree…. except I would simplify it. 
    It all boils down to 2 major decisions.

    1. Firing 2 good coaches – Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown (owner’s decision ) 
    2. Undervaluing a defensive superstar (Ben Wallace) and an offensive star (Chauncey Billups) which were the on floor leaders of the team.

    It all rises and falls on leadership. Just having either of those coaches in place alone would make the “floor spacers” fit in better.

    So really the blame is on Bill Davidson for getting rid of the coaches.
    Its on Joe D for undervaluing his real talent and leadership. 

    But it goes back to Davidson, because with either of those coaches, the Pistons would have won multiple championships, and Joe D would not have made the rash moves out of frustration to get rid of his real on-floor leaders.

    • May 26, 20127:03 pm
      by apa8ren9

      Reply

      @ vic  You have articulated a points I agree with much better than I could have.  Spot on.  There it is in a nutshell.

  • May 26, 20122:55 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Does anyone realize that at this point that any single player including Duncan, Garnett, Rondo, Parker, Ginobili and even Leonard would be worth trading the whole 2004 group for?  And that Prince, who everyone here to seems to loath and under appreciate and RIP, who had definitely worn out his welcome are the only players even left to stop me from making sarcastic jokes about how they never should have traded Vinnie Johnson and should have kept the Bad Boys together until now?
    The Pistons situation and what Dumars faced are not remotely comparable to the Celtics or Spurs current situation or what those teams were facing 2-4 years ago.  It’s apple and oranges.  I’ve been trying to come up with somewhat of a comparable team to the Pistons and I don’t think there is one but the closest might be the Suns when they decided to break up Nash and Stoudamire.   At one point, they had Nash, Johnson, Marion, Diaw and Stat and some depth but they weren’t willing to overpay Johnson (Big Ben) and gradually gave up on the nucleus by first trading Marion and allowing Stat to walk (Billups, Rasheed and RIP).   The trouble with this comparison is like the Spurs and Bos though because again, these players remain more relevant than the 2004 Pistons group,

    • May 26, 20128:49 pm
      by Desolation Row

      Reply

      You are mischaracterizing his argument — he’s not looking for teams that are the equivalent of what Detroit became (like the Suns), but rather what could have become (SA, Boston).

      I do find solace in the fact that Joe Dumars, for all his blunders, is actually a GM capable of building an “institution” like the Spurs. If the stars align and ownership does not meddle too much in the vision, I do believe Joe D is capable of building that again. He’s already proven his capability.

      A perfect analogy would be to describe him as an artist. His financier insisted on small alterations that, when looking at things more holistically, derailed that vision. As the art suffered, the artist decided to completely scrap it rather than tweak his envisioned masterpiece into a “good-enough” display. Then, under subsequent financial restrictions, the artist was never given the ability to work with the canvass as he lacked all the necessary tools to do so. All that remained was an unfixable (due to his own mistakes) mess. Even though he was excellent at certain aspects of the trade throughout his successes and failures, those have not been enough to overcome both his financial limitations and his own rash mistakes.

  • May 26, 20127:25 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    San Antonio understands what NBA talent is.

    Detroit doesn’t understand what NBA talent is.

    There you go, Vince, saved you some time.

  • May 26, 20128:58 pm
    by Desolation Row

    Reply

    One other note I’d like to add: Dumars severely underestimated the impact advancements in sports medicine would have on career longevity for NBA players. When you watch San Antonio, you realize the only reason the Spurs have made it this deep into the playoffs is because of the career renaissance Tim Duncan has had. Same goes for KG and, as we saw last year, Dirk Nowitzki. Had Dumars known careers were about to stretch out considerably longer than they have historically, he may have held onto his core longer. 

    Even though I respect what LB did, I always believed it was a mistake to fire Carlisle. He laid the groundwork for the team and, as Patrick correctly notes (and so few people do), did not have Rasheed Wallace to work with — at the time of the trade in ’04, the Pistons were bound for the exact same record as the year before. I think Popovich and, previously, Jerry Sloan received the respect they have because they were the ones who laid down the rail tracks. Carlisle could have become the same thing to the Pistons, the glue that could have kept the machine going even after the Pistons traded Billups simply out of respect for his acumen. And don’t forget: he coached a short-handed, post-brawl Pacers team into the playoffs in 2005. Combine the aforementioned respect with his acumen, and the Pistons potentially makes the playoffs in 2010. 

    Great piece, thanks for posting.

    • May 28, 20124:21 am
      by Max

      Reply

      Dumars never had a single player the likes of those three players you named and part of the reason those guys have lasted so long is that they are just more special.   KG?   Duncan?   Nowitski?  How dare you even mention such names?
      You guys are acting like Dumars acted like Jerry Krause and broke up the Bulls or something and just dropped Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Jackson and more after they had just won the title because he wanted to reload.   And guess what?  The Pistons five year plan looks a lot rosier than the Spurs right now to me.  Duncan is still great but he and Ginobili will fall off the cliff within two to five years and chances are that they will be done and have to go through the lottery process.  And most believe Pop retires when Duncan retires.
      The Pistons will have Monroe, Stuckey, Knight in their primes and other players, and the Spurs will have an aging Parker Leonard and what?   You guys are nuts.

      • May 28, 201211:27 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        As someone pointed out above, you are consistently mischaracterizing what this post is saying. That’s fine, you’re entitled to it. I get that misinterpreting things is kind of your schtick around here. But you should just know that no one is really engaging with you because you are arguing about things that have no merit.

        I mean, it’s really easy to do what you are doing. You are creating points that don’t exist, attributing them to me and other commenters who didn’t make those points, then arguing against them. I mean, I could easily say, “Max argues America, kittens and Memorial Day barbecues are evil. Here’s why he’s wrong.” But that wouldn’t really be fair of me to do, since you never specifically said those words. But just know, that is exactly what you are doing. Hell, in one comment, you even admit that you didn’t even read the post you are attacking in its entirety. If you want to have honest dialogue, then first actually understand the point that’s being made and then go from there. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t expect anyone to engage with you like a thinking human being.

         

    • May 28, 20121:11 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      And just so I am not understood or characterized.   I did not bring up the Suns because I misunderstood anyone’s premise but rather because I assessed the Suns pool of talent and age as being more comparable and even said it still doesn’t hold up because their players (former or otherwise) remain more relevant.
      Look at the 86 Celtics.  They kept their players together and made some smart moves but it all fell apart because their stars fell apart.   If the Pistons had stayed together and done a better job of incorporating their young role players (and they didn’t have a young chip in Reggie Lewis or the 86 Celtics’ kind of stars) what would have prevented them from falling apart anyway as Rasheed, Hamilton, Billups and Big Ben absolutely declined and retired?

  • May 28, 201212:45 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    I read most of your posts in their entirety and this was a particularly long one that irritated me within the first few paragraphs and went on irritating me through the next few.   What argument am I attributing to you or Goodwill that isn’t being made?   This is what I see: You are basically saying the Pistons could have stuck with their core and still compared to the current Spurs or Celtics.   I think such an opinion is well beyond crazy but am I reading that wrong?
    People have engaged with me and you consistently attribute all posts as a response to your post when my last post was in response to Desolation Row.   He made a comment that Dumars severely underestimated how sports medicine impacts veterans longevity and brought up KG, Nowitski and Duncan and that’s just nonsensical to me.   Kareem, Malone and Stockton played till they were 40 without such advances but once again, those players are just even more special and higher ranked all-time than those the Pistons had in 2004.
    Which by the way since I read his whole post:   @Desolation Row: I wish the Pistons had just kept Carlisle and never really understood his firing.

  • May 28, 20121:01 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    My attempt to sum up why this irritates me.
    Duncan is perhaps the easiest player in all of NBA history to build a championship or dynasty around because he quite possibly has the best and most congenial attitude of any of the true elites–excepting Magic Johnson who wasn’t a true big or dominant defensive player.
    Dumars put together a bunch of parts that no one seemed to want and built a championship team that had an amazing run that no one could have really predicated or forseen whereas Duncan is the kind of player that gets a fan base thinking multiple titles as soon as he is drafted—and I’m not taking about the Spurs particular situation with David Robinson.   In the last 20-30 years, the only two players who seemed more highly touted as draft picks were LeBron and Shaq and their fan bases were surely thinking about future titles on draft day.   These type of players are foundational in themselves and while the Spurs have certainly done admirably, they could have done much worse and possible won titles and remained relevant.   For instance, I can’t imagine the Magic having done a worse job of building around Howard since he was drafted and yet, they have made the finals and posted good records on a yearly basis.
    I feel like it’s incredibly unfair to Dumars to put him in comparison with the Spurs because it’s like looking at two players who sit down at a poker table and expecting the player who is holding a far inferior hand with fewer chips to boot to somehow win.

  • May 28, 20122:33 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Long ago, Dumars was quoted as saying he would know the team’s run was over when the bigs declined.   It seems to me that he acted consistently with that quote when he gradually tore the 2004 group down.
    The Spurs run will be over when Duncan retires or declines and they will not somehow remain a good team without a break in their playoff run when that happens because they have such overwhelming great management.   For one thing, despite their success, reputation and great teammates to offer, much like Detroit, great free agents almost never sign there unless they are being resigned.  They are mostly limited to draft and trade.   All of the great pieces that constiture their depth are role players who couldn’t consistently win games without any two of their big three.  They are basically like an old Thunder (though they kind of have a big four) or Mia with a deep rounded cast instead of a thin one.
    @Patrick…..I get that you really love Big Ben and I do too but the Wallace’s helped each other a lot and it’s notably that ‘Sheed has gone to conference finals and finals without the Pistons and his tandem of playing Shaq in POR with Sabonis was also amongst the most effective ever at playing a prime time Shaq–I’d throw Divac and Webber and obviously Robinson and Duncan in there as well.   I say this because beating a prime time Shaq twice was probably Big Ben’s and that entire group’s greatest accomplishment and it absolutely required both Wallaces.
    I don’t know if you were very angry at Dumars when he failed to match the Bulls ludicrously high (and spiteful to the Pistons) offer for Wallace but I was not.  I was much more angry when he signed Gordon and Charlie V because in my mind that (and the RIP extension) was the first time he overpaid anyone and I had previously taken that as one of his strongest points.

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