Not ‘Bad Boys’ Anymore, the Pistons Just Want to Be Good Again
Jalen Rose had gathered with basketball fans at a bar for Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. It was also the night of the draft lottery, which Rose, the small retired striker, covered in his role as analyst for ESPN.
His Detroit Pistons, Rose decided, would win the lottery for the first time since its implementation for the 1985 draft, receiving the right to make the first overall pick and an encouraging path to reinstate the relevance of basketball.
Rose never played for the Pistons in his 13-year NBA career, but he’s been a Detroit native and a lifelong Pistons fan. He announced that he would buy shots for the dozens of fans at the bar if his lottery prophecy turned out to be correct.
As NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum revealed the draft order in reverse of pick 14 and Detroit remained on the board, Rose’s mind drifted. He thought of Jimmy Walker, the man who had given him half the genes of his NBA career and whom Detroit had selected over 50 years ago. He thought of Jeanne Rose, his mother, who had nurtured and facilitated these dreams with Walker out of sight and who had died of cancer four months earlier.
“And it kind of hit me at this point that my mother and birth father are going to storm the gates of heaven and get us No. 1 choice,” Rose recalled during a telephone interview.
The Pistons entered the lottery tied with the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic for the best chance (14%) of landing the first pick. Rose’s other revelers quickly turned into passing fans of the Pistons when Ben Wallace, the organization’s lottery rep and a mainstay of his last championship team, won the top pick.
“Having the No.1 pick, in a lot of ways, for the NBA in particular is symbolic,” Rose said. “We haven’t had the first pick since Big Dobber Bob Lanier in the early 1970s. We haven’t picked a No.1 perimeter player since my biological father, Jimmy Walker, in 1967. And the reason it’s so symbolic is because when you make that choice it should be a player changing the franchise, a generational change. player. And not all selection drafts # 1 are created equal. In this one, there is a unanimous choice.
Rose’s alleged pick for the Pistons on Thursday is Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, a versatile point guard and scorer. Pistons coach Dwane Casey said he’s thrilled to add Cunningham or one of the top prospects: G League’s Jalen Green, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs or Southern California’s Evan Mobley.
Adding a player with Cunningham’s abilities would give Detroit a good start after the Pistons trailed for years as the Eastern Conference Playoff average team before hitting bottom and breaking down for years. undergo a rebuild under Casey and general manager Troy Weaver.
There was a reason Wallace, a tough rebounder and defenseman soon to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, represented the team in the lottery.
The Pistons have long been removed from the 1980s Bad Boy era that starred Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer, and they didn’t look like Wallace’s unified, underdog team of the early 2000s. who downed Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s Los Angeles Lakers for the title in 2004.
This latest title team – along with Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince – played consistently at a time before superstars regularly teamed up via free agency. They have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for six straight seasons, barring a young LeBron James in Cleveland, recalling how the Bad Boys denied a rising Michael Jordan in Chicago.
These championship teams represented Detroit’s gritty work ethic, even though the 2004 team didn’t play within city limits.
“I’ll always be a Pistons fan,” Wallace told The New York Times. “I’ll always be a Detroit fan, a Michigan fan, so for me it’s exciting because you always want to see the organization perform well.”
Detroit has only appeared in the playoffs twice since 2009 and has been swept in the first round each time. The franchise suffered from an unsuccessful rebuilding effort following the departure of the Championship core and missed out on long contracts with players like Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. In 2012, Detroit drafted center Andre Drummond during a period when the organization had gone from deep throws in the playoffs to missing the playoffs for three consecutive years. Drummond, a free agent this summer after stint with the Lakers, played more than seven seasons in Detroit and rose to second on the Pistons’ career rebound list and fifth in interceptions before trading him to the Cleveland Cavaliers due in February 2020.
From 2008-9 to 2014-15, the Pistons rode their bikes with five coaches: Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and Stan Van Gundy. (John Loyer was the interim coach after Cheeks during the 2013-14 season.)
They caused a stir when they traded with the Los Angeles Clippers for former All-Star Blake Griffin in January 2018, but Griffin’s injuries and a weak roster around him limited the impact of the move.
Weaver joined the organization ahead of the 2020-21 season and initiated a dizzying overhaul.
“People have asked me if I was surprised that Troy changed the list like he did. I would say I’m surprised how quickly he did it, “said Tom Gores, owner of the Pistons since 2011.” I’m not surprised he did, because he has this great ability to do it. ‘assess talent and also understand the value in a player.
Weaver’s moves included the writing of Killian Hayes; the acquisition of Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey in draft day deals; signing Jerami Grant of Denver in free agency; the Derrick Rose business; and buy out Griffin.
“I’ve said before that it doesn’t matter where you hit – you have to hit the ball, and we just happen to be hitting the start,” Weaver said of his approach. of this draft.
The Pistons finished the season with the worst score in the Eastern Conference 20-52, but Casey said he saw enough of his young core to build.
“We’re going to scratch and scratch, but at the end of the day that’s our goal, is to be a championship program, to get into the championship rounds,” said Casey, who won the award. coach of the year in 2018 with Toronto and entering his fourth season with Detroit. “It’s going to take action, and we’re not going to skip steps in the process to get there.”
As much as that Choice # 1 represents a necessary cog in the Pistons rebuilding – or restoration, as Weaver called the process – it also symbolizes the revitalization of the city of Detroit.
The Pistons moved to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1978 from the Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit. They spent 10 years there before moving to Auburn Hills Palace, about 30 miles north of Detroit. Auburn Hills Palace is perhaps best known for being the site of the so-called Malice at the Palace brawl between Pistons and Indiana Pacers players in 2004, although the team also won their last championship there. .
The move to Auburn Hills represented a “sore spot,” as Rose described it, that bothered Detroiters and Pistons fans for nearly 40 years. The franchise had fled to the suburbs with much of the city’s population and financial backing.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit since 2014. He added, “The Pistons have never been great. And just as they were getting good, they left town, and for the people of Detroit, it was a long drive to Auburn Hills. And if you lived on the west side, in the western suburbs, the drive was even longer, but it’s a basketball town. And we always felt the Detroit Pistons belonged to Detroit.
The Pistons remained in Auburn Hills until Gores announced that the Pistons are returning to town to share Little Caesars Arena with the NHL Red Wings for the 2017-18 season.
The organization has reintegrated into the community since its return. The Pistons moved their headquarters and training center to Detroit, built basketball courts in parks, helped develop the surrounding neighborhood and sparked discussion within the community.
Gores, however, has come under fire for his private equity firm’s purchase of Securus Technologies, a company that sets high prices for phone calls made by inmates. He said he was looking to reform the industry.
“The Pistons have become a big part of the Detroit community and it’s a very loyal city,” Duggan said. “The city is very emotionally attached to their return and would love to see the team win. So that’s going to take the level of excitement towards the Pistons to a whole new level.
That level would be the hope that Thursday returns a player who can elevate the franchise the same way Magic Johnson once did for the Lakers, Allen Iverson for the Philadelphia 76ers and Tim Duncan for the San Antonio Spurs.
They were of course all # 1 picks that quickly breathed new life into their franchises.
“Nothing against any of our companies, but it would just mean the world to me, the most to me, if we could get a championship and thrill and excite this stadium,” Gores said. “I don’t know if there is – other than you want your kids to thrive – I mean, it’s about as important as that.”
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