Friday, May 30, 2008

In memorium: Detroit Pistons.

Nope, no fancy picture this time. Just solemn realization and resignation.

This is how the Detroit Pistons will be remembered. Not necessarily by actual Pistons fans, but by the majority of people that watch basketball. People aren't going to remember the ultimate "team" beating the Lakers in 2004, or pushing the team of the decade to the 4th quarter of Game 7 in 2005.

What people will remember is a team that started 37-5 flaming out spectacularly in the conference finals in 2006.

What people will remember is LeBron James making this team look like a bunch of slow, old fools in Game 5 in 2007.

What people will remember is the most inconsistent, schitzophrenic team in recent sports history falling behind by 17 in the second half of Game 5 in Boston only to rally within one before losing by four and then staking a ten point lead at home in the fourth quarter of an elimination game before having the chair pulled out from under them and losing.

Face it, folks. This is as far as this Pistons team can go. Flip Saunders should and hopefully will be unemployed shortly. He will be the scapegoat. Make no mistake, he shoulders a gargantuan part of the blame for these past three years. He ran the starters into the ground and as a result they tuned him out in 06. He didn't double team LeBron because he was scared the WalMart employees and used car salesmen posing as LeBron's teammates would beat them, so they left Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell on islands, with predictably disastrous results. This time around he's not the main culprit, but look at the Game 6 box score. Antonio McDyess, 2-3. Three shots? Really? That's what this offensive genius can draw up? Three shots for Dyess? 10 minutes for Theo Ratliff is about five too many.

But no. If you want to point fingers, lets start pointing fingers at the players that put on those jerseys and play the game. Lets point fingers at Chauncey Billups, who was a ghost in the conference finals until the final two games, and even then, despite a cushy 29-6-6 line, missed open shots in the fourth quarter tonight. Lets point fingers at Tayshaun Prince. Yeah, it was painfully obvious that he had nothing left by about Game 4. That'll happen when you're called on to guard the other team's best player while not having a true backup. But it got to the point where he was essentially Ben Wallace out there, a complete black hole on the offensive end of the court.

But finally, lets point a lot of fingers at Rasheed freaking Wallace.

Game A: 4-12, 2-5, 10 points.
Game B: 5-14, 0-2, 11 points, ejection.
Game C: 2-12, 0-6, 4 points, 5 fouls.

Game A is Game 6 in Miami two years ago. Game B is Game 6 in Cleveland last year, and Game C is Game 6 tonight. The last three times these Pistons have faced elimination, Rasheed Wallace, the one who likes to talk the most about this team never being scared and loving pressure situations, has been a complete ghost. For all his talk, all his arrogance, he has vanished when the chips are down for three years in a row.

This is the end of an era. If Joe D has a brain (and he does), Saunders is a lock for the unemployment line, but will that be enough? Is there a coach out there that can unite this same bunch of players? Michael Curry is an interesting candidate, but is he ready? Avery Johnson's out there, but he clashed with his players in Dallas. Could he work?

I don't have the answers for that, but what I do believe is that a simple coaching change won't get this done. I have individual issues with Rip and Chauncey as well (especially "Mr. Big Shot", which is a frivolous nickname by the way), but I truly think it doesn't matter what coach is brought in - this team will never win another title with Rasheed Wallace as the starting forward. They have ALWAYS gone as he goes, and he is the most inconsistent player in the NBA. I have all these grandiose scenarios in my head that involve Rasheed being traded and Elton Brand being brought in, but I don't think any of them are realistic.

Dumars has some brutal decisions to make, but he has to make them. In my opinion he hasn't taken nearly enough flack for the Darko fiasco, which has set this franchise back years. There are all kinds of hypotheticals about what this team would've been like with Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, but they're all senseless and impossible to analyze. But there isn't any doubt we'd be in better shape with one of them than with what we got with Darko, which was a whole pile of nothing.

This is probably the most important offseason of Dumars' tenure. Rip and Tayshaun are locks to return. Chauncey signed that deal after last season, and is probably untradeable. McDyess will be back if he wants to be. Lindsey Hunter will probably retire, and hopefully they'll slap a suit on him and put him on the bench as an assistant coach. Maxiell and Stuckey are locks to return as well. That leaves guys like Rasheed, Jarvis Hayes, Juan Dixon, Amir Johnson, Theo Ratliff. Ratliff might retire, Hayes is a lock to be let go, Johnson will be back, and Dixon could go either way. And then there's Rasheed. He's entering the final year of his deal, is there any team out there willing to trade for someone like Rasheed simply to get money off the books?

On April 20th, I wrote this post, declaring the Pistons to be gutless. They tried proving me wrong with their rally in Philadelphia, winning in Orlando without Chauncey and stealing Game 2 in Boston.

Well, after tonight, let no one ever question their hearts again. With a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter of an elimination game, the Pistons proved to everyone just how much heart they have.


1 comment:

Packer487 said...

Honestly, I think Dumars has taken too much flak for the Darko fiasco. It's nice to think about what this team could have been with Bosh or Wade, but there's not a GM in the entire league that would've taken either of them #2 (as I recall, Wade was even considered a reach at 5).

Carmelo was the only alternative and I think it's questionable if Detroit would have been better off with him. They won a title based on chemistry and the desire to go balls out on defense. Anthony isn't the most well-liked guy and he can't play defense for crap. There probably aren't too many players out there who would have been a worse fit for a Larry Brown coached team.

Darko busted in a big way, but we won a championship with him on the roster. I do think it's entirely possible that we would not have won it all if Anthony was on the team. If they could redo the draft, Bosh would be the guy.

But the good news is that Dumars was able to trade Darko for Stuckey, and Stuckey looks to be a damn fine player.

I don't have the answers either, but I trust in Joe D. More Stuckey, more Maxiell, more Johnson. Find a fucking backup for Prince so we can stop wearing him out. I love Sheed, but I think the time has come.

I would love to see some 3-guard offense next year. Stuckey at the 1, Billups at the 2, Hamilton at the 3. Stuckey could get into the lane and draw the defense and he'd have 2 very solid 3-point shooters to dish to. They'd be hell to play against with as fast as Stuckey and Hamilton are.