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Category → Pistons History

New York Knicks reportedly considering bringing Rasheed Wallace out of retirement

Remember when Rasheed Wallace was working out at the Pistons practice facility a couple weeks ago, and every Wallace fan, myself included, thought, ‘Man, the NBA was a more interesting place with Rasheed Wallace in it?’ Well, everyone rooting for another Wallace appearance could get their wish according to ESPN’s Ric Bucher:

Adding ‘Sheed to what will already be a circus of a team in New York this season? Yeah, I’d watch that.

Former Piston Isiah Thomas doing his part to help fight violence in his native Chicago

Most who follow national news are surely familiar with the awful, record-setting violence being experienced in the city of Chicago this year. Former Pistons and native Chicagoan Isiah Thomas is trying to do his part to fight that. From Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago:

“Ninety to 95 percent of the people who are living in poverty in those situations, they’re kids going to schools, their parents are doing the right things,” Thomas said. “There’s a community of the church, community of aunts and uncles who are about contributing positively to society.

“Now there is a fraction to be addressed, and we need to address that small minority that is in need and is doing harm to the community. We are all affected by it personally.”

Thomas isn’t just saying Chicago needs help, he’s also trying to provide it. He has teamed up with St. Sabina on the South Side and father Michael Pfleger to create the PEACE basketball tournament, which will unite rival gang members through basketball in hopes of ceasing the violence between them. The tournament will be held at St. Sabina’s gymnasium from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

At this point, from a basketball perspective, Thomas will always be a polarizing figure for a variety of reasons, some fair, some unfair. But off the court, he’s easily one of the most complex, interesting people to ever play the sport.

Hall of Famer Reggie Miller’s final game was against the Detroit Pistons

Because of the infamous Palace brawl in November of 2004 between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, it’s easy to forget the incredibly classy moment between the two teams in the 2005 NBA playoffs.

With the Pistons up three games to two and seconds away from clinching the second round series in Indiana, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle took Reggie Miller out of the game for the final time so he could get one last standing ovation from the Indiana crowd. Pistons coach Larry Brown, who coached Miller with the Pacers, called a timeout to let the ovation continue and stood with Pistons players near halfcourt as they applauded Miller as well.

Miller enters the Hall of Fame this weekend. Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie has one of several fantastic reflections on Miller.

The All-Also Rans: The original human victory cigar

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to try to help pass the time by profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

During the Detroit Pistons’ run to the to 2004 NBA title, seeing 12th man Darko Milicic get into a game was one of the most exciting subplots of any game.

As a rookie that season, Milicic had not yet earned the ‘one of the worst draft picks in history’ label he would be branded with down the line. Pistons veterans raved about his talent behind the scenes and fans were both excited about his potential and patient enough to wait for him to develop. After all, the team was already really good, there was little reason to not be content with the status quo. The Pistons would keep winning with their suffocating defense and at home games during blowouts, fans would start peppering Larry Brown with ‘we want Darko’ chats during the fourth quarter. Brown, ever stubborn, would invariably pretend like he didn’t hear the chants for at least a little while before finally giving in and letting the team have a glimpse. It became a great tradition that season, further enhanced by Rasheed Wallace and Rick Mahorn labeling Milicic ‘the human victory cigar.’

The good-naturedness of those moments inevitably wore off, however, because unlike most lovable end-of-the-bench guys Darko was … well … not all that lovable. He also had the burden of expectations — he wasn’t roster filler, he was the No. 2 pick in a historically good draft, selected before three likely Hall of Famers. It was untenable for Milicic to maintain that goofy role simply because the onslaught of expectations were about to come down on him.

The Pistons did have a more perfect incarnation of a human victory cigar several years earlier, however, and unlike Milicic, Scott Hastings was not miscast in that role.

Hastings was the 12th-ish man on the 1990 title team. He scored 42 points in 40 games that season and never reached double figures in 67 games as a Piston. Despite making little impact on the court, his personality made him a great fit on that team. He always displayed a funny, self-deprecating personality, was well-liked by media and elicited cheers from the home crowd when he’d finally get into a game the same way Milicic would during the 2004 title run.

The difference, however, is that Hastings didn’t have the baggage or expectations Milicic did. He was a second round draft pick who had bounced around on three different teams before ending up in Detroit. Hastings could’ve stayed in that end-of-bench role forever and still received good-natured cheers from fans who never expect him to do anything more than hustle around in garbage minutes as his team wins games.

I loved how excited the crowd would get about Milicic in 2003-04, but there was always just a tad bit of uneasiness about it — yeah, it was great watching a young player get minutes, but what if this is it? What if this awkward player who aggressively flails around the court is all he ever is? What if he’s not the star in the making his draft position asserts he should be? Those thoughts might not have dominated those moments, but I’m sure most fans had a doubt or two about Milicic creep in to what should’ve just been stress-free ends to blowout wins.

With Hastings, you could just watch and enjoy him in garbage time guilt-free, without worrying about what his future held.

Like Milicic, however, who the Pistons turned into Rodney Stuckey, the team also turned Hastings into a decent player (and a player who will show up later this week in the All-Also Rans) in Orlando Woolridge.

Now, Hastings is still quotable — just ask Jay Cutler — as a Denver Nuggets analyst and radio personality in Denver, displaying some of the same personality traits that made him a fun, albeit largely unimportant, element of a championship team.


The All-Also Rans: A frontcourt of the future, complete with Lou Roe, all from one draft

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to try to help pass the time by profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

In the 1995 NBA Draft, the Pistons used all three of their draft picks that year to infuse some youth into their frontcourt, and at the time, there was reason to be excited about each pick.

First round pick Theo Ratliff, a relatively unknown skinny shot-blocker the Pistons took 18th overall out of Wyoming, was certainly a bit raw coming into the league, but his shot-blocking was an intriguing commodity for a Pistons team that hadn’t really had a legitimate rim protector since John Salley left town. Ratliff was in and out of then-coach Doug Collins’ doghouse as a rookie, but he did play in 75 games and 3.2 shots per 36 minutes, showing the potential that would eventually help make him an All-Star (though not in Detroit) and one of the top shot-blockers in the league during his era.

Plus, his athleticism, dunks and rattler sound effect whenever he came into the game or made a play helped make him an immediate crowd favorite.

Don Reid, who the Pistons selected 58th overall out of Georgetown, as the opposite of Ratliff. He was undersized, he went to a big college, he wasn’t particularly skilled in any one area, but he was also intelligent, well-coached and hard-working. He maximized his ability by working extremely hard, earning minutes and he even earned the trust of Collins, a coach who proved to be hesitant to play more mistake-prone young players. Reid started 46 games as a rookie for the Pistons. He wasn’t exciting or a crowd-pleaser like Ratliff, but as a starter on a team that exceeded expectations and won 46 games, Reid’s hustle was always appreciated.

Sandwiched in between those two players, however, was the real prize of that draft, at least to my naive eyes. Lou Roe, a chiseled forward out of UMass, fell to the Pistons with the first pick in the second round, 30th overall.

Roe was a key part of another of my favorite college teams. Coached by John Calipari and featuring players like Roe, Marcus Camby, Edgar Padilla, Donta Bright and Carmelo Travieso, those UMass squads were always exciting to watch. Roe averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game for his career at UMass. He was a possible first round pick had he declared for the draft after his junior year, when he averaged 18.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. His stats slipped a bit as a senior, plus questions about whether he could adjust to playing the small forward spot in the NBA, caused him to slip to the second round.

Unfortunately, those questions turned out to be legitimate ones. Roe, though a great college player, was a bit too small to guard NBA power forwards and he didn’t have the perimeter game to adjust offensively to being a small forward. He played in just 49 games as a Piston, starting to, and shot just 36 percent that season. He did have a couple of good moments — scoring 14 points with 9 rebounds in a loss to Orlando and getting 11 points and 4 rebounds in a loss to Utah — but the Pistons ultimately released him after the season. Roe played briefly in Golden State and then went on to a strong international career, playing in Spain, where he won a Spanish League MVP in 2001, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Argentina. In the spring, UMass announced that Roe would join the men’s basketball coaching staff.


The All-Also Rans: The Pistons needed size, and Eric Montross had it

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to try to help pass the time by profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

Glancing back at the rosters during the bleak era of Pistons basketball between the Bad Boys’ championships and the resurgence of the Going To Work Pistons in the 2000s is often a great trip down memory lane, a chance to look at the names of some truly terrible NBA players who made brief stops in Auburn Hills as the team tried to forge out a new identity and entice Grant Hill to stick around forever because of the exciting opportunity to play with Jud Buechler.

One theme in that era always stuck out, though: the Pistons always needed quality bigs and always seemed to strike out in their quest. Terry Mills was fine if you like stretch fours who aren’t great defenders. Veteran Otis Thorpe was a decent stopgap until they had to trade him or risk that he’d murder then-coach Doug Collins. Although I’m quite fond of Brian Williams/Bison Dele, who we lost far, far too soon, his signing with the Pistons turned out to be a disaster. They struck out again in free agency when they added Christian Laettner. The Pistons got acquiring a good big man right when they drafted Theo Ratliff … unfortunately, that wasn’t apparent until they’d traded him to another team.

Those years of frustration, watching the Pistons try to apply every kind of fix imaginable to their frontcourt situation, led  me to do something drastic, something I’m a little ashamed to admit — I got genuinely, momentarily excited when the Pistons traded for Eric Montross.

The Pistons acquired Montross with Jerry Stackhouse in a trade with Philadelphia for Ratliff, who they were giving up on prematurely, and the useful Aaron McKie. I was disappointed to see Ratliff go, but Montross was a legitimate, big 7-footer. He was only 26 when the Pistons traded for him and, although he’d bounced around the league a bit, he was a former lottery pick, and a famous one at that after he led a pretty underwhelming (by UNC standards) collection of talent at North Carolina to a national championship against Michigan’s Fab Five.

Since averaging a solid 10 points on 53 percent shooting and 7 rebounds per game as a rookie with Boston, Montross’ production had fallen off a cliff, however. He was shooting just 39.5 percent with Philly before being shipped to the Pistons, atrocious for a guy who rarely ventured outside the paint. Despite his size, he was still pushed around often inside and he was certainly not the quickest big man by any stretch.

He was not much better with the Pistons even though he managed to hang around and play 167 games with the team in parts of four seasons. Amazingly, he didn’t score in double figures with the team for the first time until his fourth season with the team, when he finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds against Indiana. He only reached double figures in rebounding four times as a Piston. That seems incredible considering how little size they had up front at times, but he was just never able to solidify himself in the rotation.

Montross was certainly no fun to watch as a Piston and he did not provide any kind of solution to their recurring frontcourt issues. His Pistons tenure was not a complete loss, though — he and Jerome Williams were eventually traded to Toronto for Corliss Williamson. And, unless you count the Grant Hill-Ben Wallace/Chucky Atkins trade that wasn’t a trade since all the players were free agents who were going to be signed by the respective teams regardless of a sign-and-trade being worked out — the Montross/Williams for Williamson swap has a case for being the best trade Joe Dumars made his first year on the job as team president.


The All-Also Rans: The Pistons had two chances at Randolph Childress

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to try to help pass the time by profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

Few people can say that they’ve overshadowed Tim Duncan at any point in his career, but Randolph Childress is one of those people.

I’ve always had a weird affection for Wake Forest basketball — Michigan native Kyle Visser developed into a solid big man in that program. But I fell in love with that program watching the team led by Duncan and Childress in 1995.

In the 1995 ACC Tournament Final against a North Carolina team that featured future Pistons Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, Duncan was his typical dominant self with 16 points and 20 rebounds. But the player on the court who was impossible to take your eyes off of was Childress, who finished with 37 points. Here are some highlights:

I loved the fearlessness he played with and the fact that he looked genuinely pissed off that entire game, I loved the inside-outside connection between Childress and Duncan and, other than the Fab Five and UNLV, that is one of the first college basketball teams that I vividly remember watching.

So when the 1995 NBA Draft rolled around and the Pistons called his name with the 19th overall pick, I was momentarily excited — until it was announced that they were trading him to Portland as part of a deal for Otis Thorpe. Despite the obvious need Thorpe filled and the fact that the Pistons also traded the awful Bill Curley in that deal, I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t get to watch Childress as a Piston.

As fate would have it, though, Childress would eventually be a Piston. Portland traded him, along with Aaron McKie and Reggie Jordan, to the Pistons in January of 1997 for Stacey Augmon. That reunion, however, last just barely longer than when he was momentarily a Piston on draft night.

Childress reportedly, like so many others, didn’t get along well with then-Blazers coach P.J. Carlesimo. He also had a knee injury that severely limited him his rookie season. He played 10 minutes in his first game as a Piston, scoring eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in a win over Philadelphia, but he’d make just one more shot as a Piston in three more games that season. The team eventually released him and Childress didn’t play another NBA game, although he did go on to a long and successful career in foreign leagues.

I was convinced that Childress’ mix of scoring and playmaking ability along with his intense demeanor would make him a fantastic Pistons. Although he made no impact on the court, he did play a minor role in shaping the recent history of the organization — he was part of a trade that brought in McKie, who was used to trade for Stackhouse, who was used to trade for Rip Hamilton and he was part of the trade that brought Thorpe, who led to Darko Milicic, who led to Rodney Stuckey.

I’ve never been shy about my unabashed fandom of Will Bynum, but Childress will always be my favorite former ACC-turned-Piston point guard.


NBA.com looks back on Isiah Thomas in ‘Legends Profile

NBA.com has a lengthy look back at the career of Isiah Thomas that’s well worth your time and includes some great video clips that unfortunately are not embeddable here. I won’t excerpt much because if you’re an Isiah fan, you should really go read it all, but here’s a sampling:

Isiah Lord Thomas III came into the world in 1961 under the harshest of circumstances. He was the youngest of nine children growing up in one of the poorest and dangerous neighborhoods of West Chicago. His family sometimes went without food or heat, and the lack of bed space forced some of the kids to sleep on the floor. Isiah’s father left the family when he was 3 years old, leaving Isiah’s mother to raise the children.

Mary Thomas, whose courage inspired a 1990 television movie, did her best to shield her children from the drugs, violence and crime that plagued the area. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, one night, when thugs came looking for Isiah, his mother got out her sawed-off shotgun and warned them, “There’s only one gang here, and I lead it. Get off my porch or I’ll blow you off it!” Another night, when Isiah got home late, she grounded him for the entire summer.

Hat tip to reader RyanK for the link

The All-Also Rans: The Pistons and hometown reunions

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to spend the next two weeks profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

In one of the essays I wrote in my Pistons book (Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve plugged that … you can buy it either as a printed or Kindle book through Amazon here) last year, I wrote a bit about Mateen Cleaves and the fascination the team has always seemed to have with in-state players:

Drafting Cleaves, a point guard who famously played in the national title game on a badly sprained ankle, to his hometown team, a team in need of a savior, a team whose most famous player ever just happened to be a point guard who had a well-known performance while playing on a badly sprained ankle, was not the best move for either party.

The Pistons have strangely had a weird fascination from just before the teal era on with acquiring players who have ties to Michigan from their amateur days. Occasionally, that’s worked out OK — Romulus native Terry Mills had a very good career with the Pistons, Detroit native Chris Webber made decent contributions as a rental player one season during their most recent run as title contenders, Saginaw’s Darvin Ham was a Larry Brown favorite on a title team and Rochester’s Walker Russell Jr. was a nice story last season, finally getting to make his NBA debut in his hometown.

But there’s also a long list of players from Michigan the Pistons have brought in who have not had great success playing for their hometown team — Flint’s Cleaves was traded after one season, Detroit native Negele Knight was soon out of the league after a brief signing by the Pistons and draft pick Ricky Paulding, also a Detroit native, never made the roster.

There are plenty of reasons to route against hometown team reunions. Sure, when they work, they’re incredibly fun, but they also make players much more susceptible to hangers on or distractions that might not be as present if playing in another location. Still though, I’m a sucker for them, and three of my favorite hometown reunions happened in the 1990s.

Grant Long, a standout at Romulus and Eastern Michigan, was a natural fit as a Piston. His uncle, John Long, was a star with the team in the 1980s and his cousin, Mills, had become a key player on the team by the time the Pistons traded for Long and Stacey Augmon in the 1996 offseason, giving up a collection of draft picks that never amounted to much.

Long was seemingly the kind of tough, blue-collar frontcourt player the Pistons lacked, averaging 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in his final season with the Hawks. With the Pistons, however, his numbers and minutes plummeted. He went from 36 minutes per game in his final season as a Hawk to 17 per game in his first as a Piston. Then, in his second season with the Pistons, he had one of the worst shooting seasons of his career. He left as a free agent and re-signed with the Hawks after that season. I was sure a hard-working, goggle-wearing lunch pail type of player like Long would succeed in Detroit, but for whatever reason, both he and Augmon struggled to fit after that trade.

Those same qualities are why Grand Rapids native and Michigan great Loy Vaught should’ve been destined for success as a Piston. Vaught helped Michigan win a national title, then went on to an unappreciated career with the L.A. Clippers as a perennially underrated player because, well, he played for the Clippers. He averaged double-doubles in back-to-back seasons in 1996 and 1997.

Cruelly, though, Vaught suffered a knee injury just before he was set to hit free agency and escape Clipperdom. He never got the opportunity to show that he was an underrated player post-Clippers. He signed with the Pistons in 1999 and played parts of two seasons with the team, but was never close to the same type of player he’d been pre-injury.

Mark Macon, a Saginaw native and Temple great, came to the Pistons as a bit of a reclamation project. The Nuggets traded him to the Pistons for Alvin Robertson midway through Macon’s second season, strange considering the Nuggets had just used a lottery pick on him and Robertson was being shipped out of Detroit for fighting then-Director of Player Personnel Billy McKinney. Incidentally, I loved this quote from Robertson on that incident:

“It was a split second when I lost my cool,” Robertson said of the fight. “And that split second is going to get me more media attention than I have had for the last two years, so I certainly regret the incident.”

Macon came into the league well-schooled defensively, obviously, playing for John Chaney at Temple. He was also a big combo guard, something that the Pistons have always had an affection for. His offense — he was a big-time scorer at Temple — never really translated to the NBA, though. It’s a shame too, because the former Mr. Basketball winner really was an elite, tough high school and college player.

As someone who runs a site partially dedicated to celebrating the basketball legacy in the state of Michigan, I’m obviously a huge fan of in-state players. But I always worry a bit when they join my favorite pro team, just because it puts so much unnecessary, behind-the-scenes pressure on them that might not otherwise be there, although it’s obviously cool to see up-close what guys who starred here in high school or college grow into as pros too.


The All-Also Rans: The Pistons once employed two of ‘B-Ball’s Best Kept Secrets’ at the same time

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to spend the next two weeks profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

Athletes trying to become musicians has always been a running punchline. But ‘B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret‘ was no joke. That album was one of the many CDs I got for a penny from BMG Music in the 1990s. The reason I had to have it: Ced Ceballos can rap. He had the above video with Warren G and it actually got played on MTV Jams fairly regularly for a little while.

There wasn’t much else particularly memorable about the album, other than the fact that somehow a bunch of random NBA players decided to put out a hip-hop album together which is memorable in itself. But I was pretty excited when Ceballos and another player featured on that CD, Dana Barros, became Pistons late in their careers.

Ceballos played 13 games for the Pistons during the 2000-01 season, which turned out to be his last in the league. He didn’t have much left by the time he was a Pistons, but he was always one of my favorite underrated players in the league. He had the famous blindfold dunk to win the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, he was an All-Star during the 1994-95 season with a fun pre-Kobe/Shaq Lakers team that featured Nick Van Exel, Vlade Divac, Elden Campbell, Eddie Jones, George Lynch, Anthony ‘Pig’ Miller, Lloyd ‘Sweet Pea’ Daniels, Sedale Threat, Anthony Peeler and, amazingly, Kurt Rambis, who played in 26 games that season.

Ceballos was great around the basket and one of the better players in the league at moving without the ball. He never quite replicated the production he had that season, but he was a legitimate rotation scorer who didn’t need many plays run for him to get baskets throughout his career. He had one great performance for the Pistons, scoring 19 points off the bench in a loss to Indiana, and was eventually traded to the Miami Heat for a second round pick.

He didn’t make much impact for the Pistons, but he, along with John Wallace and Eric Murdock, at the very least was part of a trade that rid the team of Christian Laettner, so that’s a positive contribution in my book. And on top of that, the Pistons were eventually able to use Wallace in a trade that got them Clifford Robinson.

Barros lasted a bit longer with the Pistons, playing 89 games over two seasons after the team acquired him from Dallas for Loy Vaught. Although Barros’ rapping didn’t immediately stick out to me like Ceballos’ did, Barros, like Ceballos, was also a part of a really fun 1990s team, the Seattle Supersonics. I always liked Barros, a smallish sharpshooting point guard, on those teams, but stuck behind point guards Gary Payton and Nate McMillan, opportunities were limited for him in Seattle.

Barros was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he also made the 1994-95 All-Star Team, also his only appearance in the game. He signed with the Boston Celtics as a free agent, didn’t fully live up to expectations, and eventually found himself on a rebuilding Pistons team late in his career.

He had a good season off the bench for the Pistons in 2000-01, averaging 8.0 points per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. The following season, started 19 games for an eventual playoff team, although his shooting dipped to 34 percent from three and he was eventually supplanted by Chucky Atkins as the regular starter.

I’ve met a lot of NBA fans over the years who remember that album for all kinds of nostalgic reasons. And looking back on it, it was pretty terrible music, as most athlete/actor attempts at becoming musicians inevitably are. But to a teenager obsessed with the NBA, it was great, and it’s pretty unique that the Pistons have three connections (the late Malik Sealy, a Piston for one season in 1997-98 was also featured on it) to such a random part of the 1990s NBA.