General Sports

Motown Madness

The end of an era in Detroit.Joe Dumars is a man to be envied. The Pistons GM and 2002-2003 NBA Executive of the Year was on top of the basketball world in 2004 when his team of unheralded misfits upset the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers in five games to win the third NBA title in franchise history. The following season the Pistons battled the San Antonio Spurs to a decisive Game 7 in the NBA Finals before succumbing 81-74. A tumultuous offseason  following the Pistons NBA Finals loss centered around the firing of head coach and NBA vagabond Larry Brown (due to numerous flirtations with other teams), and the hiring of former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders. Saunders hiring brought excitement to Motown as his reputation as an offensive genius would bring a welcome change from the halfcourt “slogball” that Larry Brown was fond of. A record breaking 64 win season and 110.3 ppg average made the Pistons the overwhelming favorite to capture their 2nd title in three years.  Talk of a potential Pistons dynasty was beginning creep up in the NBA mainstream, and after a quick five game defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit took the first two games of their second round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Things on and off the court were never the same for the Pistons as the Cavs stole Game 3 of the series behind a yeoman-like triple-double from Lebron James. After the game outspoken Pistons PF Rasheed Wallace vowed that the Cavs would not win another in the series. He couldn’t have been more wrong because the Cavs took games 4 and 5 to move to commanding 3-2 series lead. The Pistons recovered to win the series 4 games to 3, but the damage was done, leaving gaping holes in the team’s confidence and it showed as the Pistons were disposed by eventual the NBA champion Miami Heat in six games. During that fateful game 6 Pistons Center and defensive stalwart Ben Wallace was benched the entire fourth quarter further tearing a rift between himself and coach Flip Saunders that began near the end of the regular season with Wallace’s refusal to enter a game against the Orlando Magic.

The situation came to a conclusion Monday night as Ben Wallace agreed to a free agent contract with the Chicago Bulls. The deal is said to be 4 years 52 million dollars and puts Wallace in the uniform of the Pistons hated Central Division rival. Wallace was said to be disappointed at the Pistons initial 4 year 48 million dollar offer and even more so at the fact that they declined to match the Bulls offer. Wallace departure ends an era of winning  basketball in Detroit, an era that over the last four seasons saw 222 regular season wins, 49 playoff wins, 4 trips to the Eastern conference finals and an NBA championship.

You can stop envying Joe Dumars, as the inept handling of this situation tarnishes his legacy and puts him in the difficult position of finding 4-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace’s replacement. Wallace’s departure also brings up the topic of the 2004 Draft and how Dumars drafted Croatian Darko Milicic (who was dealt at the 2006 NBA trade deadline to the Orlando Magic for Kelvin Cato and a future first rounder) when future All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were left on the board. Anyone want to say that Chris Bosh couldn’t help the Pistons frontcourt go right ahead. Meanwhile the Bulls are legitimate Eastern Conference contenders now with Ben Wallace being the defensive post player they could never turn Tyson Chandler into. ESPN reports that with Wallace in the mix Chandler is no longer needed, a potential swap with New Orleans for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith is being crafted. Wallace adds veteran savvy and championship experience to a young, talented roster spearheaded by Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng.

Whatever was once desirable about Joe Dumars position has subsided and he must now throw millions of dollars at unproven centers such as Joel Pryzbilla, Nazr Mohammed, and Michael Olowokandi to fill the massive void left in his frontcourt. An era ended yesterday in Detroit and they will probably never see anything like it again.

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