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How the Pistons went from the brink of a dynasty to over 10 years without a playoff win | Collapse

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15:52   |   May 16, 2019

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How the Pistons went from the brink of a dynasty to over 10 years without a playoff win | Collapse
How the Pistons went from the brink of a dynasty to over 10 years without a playoff win | Collapse thumb How the Pistons went from the brink of a dynasty to over 10 years without a playoff win | Collapse thumb How the Pistons went from the brink of a dynasty to over 10 years without a playoff win | Collapse thumb

Transcription

  • - [Narrator] On June 15th, 2004, the Detroit Pistons
  • rode their suffocating relentless defense
  • to a championship for the third time in franchise history.
  • Capping a winding journey back to the NBA mountaintop.
  • After they'd gone 10 straight seasons
  • failing to win a single playoff series,
  • president of basketball operations Joe Dumars
  • hired Rick Carlisle as coach in 2001.
  • In his first year, they got off the schneid
  • with a playoff series win over the Raptors,
  • then traded Jerry Stackhouse
  • for Wizards sharpshooter Richard Hamilton,
  • and signed free agent point guard Chauncey Billups.
  • The next season, they won two series,
  • earning a berth in the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals.
  • But they were swept by the Nets
  • and with Larry Brown available,
  • Dumars fired Carlisle to bring in the former 76ers coach.
  • Brown would elevate second year string bean Tayshaun Prince
  • to the starting lineup to replace Michael Curry
  • and he proved to be an immediate defensive stopper.
  • Then down low was the 'fro.
  • Ben Wallace, the two-time defending
  • Defensive Player of the Year,
  • who terrorized anyone who dare to enter his paint.
  • - [Announcer] Feels, forces.
  • Blocked by Ben!
  • - [Narrator] At the trade deadline they acquired
  • fellow Wallace, Rasheed,
  • fortifying a smothering, ferocious starting lineup.
  • With Billups locking down point guards,
  • Prince eliminating the opponent's top scoring wing,
  • and big Ben anchoring everything inside,
  • the '04 Pistons defense was off the charts.
  • They held their opponent under 100 points
  • in 78 of their 82 games.
  • The most of all time.
  • They'd survived the Jermaine O'Neal
  • Ron Artest Pacers in a six game slug fest
  • to reach the 2004 NBA Finals,
  • where the heavily favored Shaq, Kobe,
  • Payton, Malone Lakers awaited them.
  • The Pistons weren't intimidated
  • and took that star-studded team behind the woodshed.
  • And they did it by adopting the personality
  • of the city where they played,
  • with a roster of blue collar selfless very good players
  • that lacked a true superstar who'd get all the credit.
  • This team worked together and shared the glory together
  • with each piece perfectly complementing one another.
  • The next year they returned mostly the same core,
  • though they replaced backup big Mehmet Okur
  • with Antonio McDyess.
  • But just eight games into their championship defense
  • in the first Pistons Pacers matchup
  • since their heavyweight bout of a playoff clash
  • less than six months earlier,
  • Ben Wallace and Ron Artest got into a scuffle
  • with Detroit down big late in the game,
  • and a massive brouhaha ensued when a fan tossed
  • a drink on Artest.
  • - [Announcer] He's absolutely out of his mind!
  • This is the ugliest scene you'll ever see.
  • - [Narrator] Wallace was suspended six games
  • for his role in the Malice at the Palace
  • A key reason for their slow 12 and 12 start to the season.
  • But they rebounded, and again returned to the NBA Finals
  • to face Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan,
  • and the San Antonio Spurs.
  • They each held serve at home through four games
  • and with under 10 seconds to play in overtime of game five,
  • the Pistons were primed to take a three-two lead.
  • But then Rasheed Wallace helped off of Big Shot Bob Horry
  • and they don't call him big shot Bob for nothing.
  • - [Announcer] Oh my!
  • - [Announcer] Unbelievable, this guy is off the charts.
  • - That one flubbed rotation turned
  • what was looking like a potential dynasty
  • into a team that in a few years wouldn't even
  • be able to tread water.
  • Upon losing that heartbreaking seven game NBA Finals in 2005
  • Pistons management had grown weary
  • of Brown's wandering eye for other gigs
  • as well as his ever present health concerns,
  • and the two sides parted ways after two seasons
  • and 31 playoff wins.
  • In stepped Flip Saunders, who won 37 of his first 42 games
  • as their head coach en route to a franchise record 64 wins.
  • While 80% of their starting lineup were all-stars.
  • Sorry Tayshaun.
  • Their fourth straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals
  • failed to yield a third straight trip
  • to the NBA Finals however as the Heat
  • exacted some revenge from the prior year
  • with Dwyane Wade and new pal Shaq just too much to handle.
  • The 2006 off season would deal them a tough blow
  • as Ben Wallace, who'd monopolized
  • the Defensive Player of the Year Award,
  • with four trophies in the previous five seasons,
  • signed with the Bulls in free agency.
  • They replaced him by signing Nazr Mohammed
  • before scooping up Michigan man Chris Webber
  • after he was bought out in Philly.
  • They made yet another Conference Finals
  • which they kicked off with a couple 79-76 wins
  • before finding themselves knotted up
  • at two games a piece against Lebron James
  • and a bunch of flotsam riding his coattails
  • known as the Cavaliers.
  • But in game five from the comfort of their own Palace,
  • the Pistons' attempts at resistance
  • against the 22 year old James, in what would have been
  • his senior year of college, proved futile.
  • James scored his team's final 25 points
  • including a couple dunks in the final 30 seconds
  • of regulation to will his team to overtime.
  • It also included all nine of his team's points in OT,
  • followed by all nine of his team's points in double OT.
  • A crushing blow in a devastating loss
  • that the Pistons couldn't recover from two days later,
  • as baby Bron was off to his first NBA Finals.
  • And in that summer of 2007,
  • a new super team was forming in the eastern conference,
  • with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen
  • each traded to Boston to team up with Paul Pierce.
  • The Pistons were still chugging along
  • with the same core, though they didn't bring back
  • Chris Webber, leading to increased roles
  • for third year youngsters Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson.
  • But despite making their sixth consecutive
  • Eastern Finals, nothing mattered against that powerhouse
  • in Eastern Massachusetts.
  • Sure a game four Pistons win tied up the series,
  • but that would be their last playoff victory
  • for a long time.
  • The Celtics took the last two games and the series,
  • causing Dumars to fire Saunders for his team's complacency
  • while putting his whole team on notice
  • that everyone was on the trade block,
  • and that no one was a sacred cow
  • because you lose that status when you lose
  • for three straight years.
  • Dumars hired his old teammate Michael Curry
  • to coach the team, and Dumars wasn't playing
  • about a drastic shakeup.
  • November 3rd, 2008 became a day that represented
  • a monumental fork in the road for the organization.
  • Just two games into the season,
  • both wins by the way, he traded 2004 Finals MVP,
  • franchise legend and fan favorite Chauncey Billups to Denver
  • for the expiring contrast of Allen Iverson,
  • while simultaneously signing Rip Hamilton
  • to a big money three year extension.
  • Piston players were extremely shocked
  • and disappointed by Billups' departure.
  • And their first game after the stunning trade
  • was against the Bobcats, coached by old friend Larry Brown.
  • Brown knew the two point guars traded for one another
  • quite well, and eloquently equated it
  • to trading Marilyn Monroe for Jane Russell.
  • But Iverson quickly proved out to be an awful comparison
  • as he'd firmly entered the twilight of his career
  • and had a miserable year.
  • Without their longtime leader and floor general in Billups,
  • Detroit started falling apart around the all-star break,
  • and it only got worse after Iverson
  • aggravated a back injury, knocking him out for over a month.
  • During this time, team owner Bill Davidson died,
  • making an already tenuous time that much more unstable.
  • When Iverson returned, it was to a reserve role,
  • which he hated, remarking that he could perform
  • his diminished role while carrying on his back
  • some sort of truck for ants.
  • Following their April 1st loss in Jersey,
  • the third game with this new arrangement,
  • Iverson reached a boiling point
  • saying that he'd rather retire
  • than keep coming off the bench.
  • So that would be the last time he'd ever put on
  • a Pistons jersey, with Dumars pulling the plug
  • on the Iverson era.
  • But this is the east, the land where mediocrity is rewarded.
  • Their 39 and 43 record was still good enough
  • to crash the postseason party as the eighth seed.
  • But they just became a fly on LeBron's shoulder
  • that he swatted away with four straight
  • double digit blowouts.
  • So out went Curry and in came John Kuester,
  • an assistant on their '04 championship squad.
  • Surely that would do the trick to turn around
  • the team's fortunes.
  • Though any attempt to do so would have to come
  • without the services of their top two bigs
  • in Rasheed Wallace, who signed with the rival Celtics,
  • and Antonio McDyess, who signed with the Spurs.
  • But hey, they still had that copious amount
  • of cap space which their fans had been salivating over,
  • and was the one silver lining to the Billups trade.
  • Dumars in turn chose to use it to sign Ben Gordon
  • and Charlie Villanueva to huge deals
  • that soaked up a third of their entire cap.
  • Along with Hamilton, they were drowning
  • in outrageous deals given to a bunch of UConn Huskies.
  • And with Rasheed now gone, you can't just give the fans
  • zero Wallaces after years of giving them two great ones.
  • So to meet their Wallace quota,
  • they brought back Ben for a second go around
  • in the motor city ahead of the '09-'10 season.
  • Their roster was this weird mishmash
  • of aging banged up, over the hill vets
  • from their title run, youngsters like Rodney Stuckey
  • and rookie second round pick Jonas Jerebko
  • just trying to keep their head above water.
  • And of course the underwhelming
  • but overpriced free agent acquisitions coming off the bench.
  • The result was a miserable joyless 55 loss season.
  • But at least it set them up with a great pick
  • in the 2010 draft.
  • It was their highest pick since burning
  • the second overall selection on Serbian teenager
  • Darko Milicic seven years earlier,
  • instead of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or Carmelo Anthony.
  • One of whom might be nice to have right now.
  • This time they burned the seventh pick
  • on Georgetown center Greg Monroe,
  • a couple spots before Paul George and Gordon Hayward
  • came off the board.
  • Later that summer they continued their fascination
  • with washed up has-beens and brought Tracy McGrady
  • on board the sinking ship.
  • They again hemorrhaged losses in Kuester's second season,
  • and things reached a tipping point
  • when Kuester and Hamilton, a couple weeks after
  • getting yanked from the starting lineup,
  • got into a heated altercation at practice in early 2011.
  • Shortly thereafter, following a January 10th
  • loss in Chicago, Kuester removed him from the rotation
  • entirely for a couple months,
  • which really pissed the team off, especially Wallace,
  • who thought it was crazy for his shorthanded squad
  • to deactivate an all-star.
  • Attempts to trade Hamilton failed to come together
  • and before a February 25th game in Philly,
  • most of the team skipped pregame shoot around
  • in a mutiny against their head coach,
  • who then only played the six guys that did show up.
  • And when Kuester got ejected in the second quarter
  • of that game, the Pistons bench had a jolly old time
  • laughing at him.
  • When they wrapped up another 50 loss season,
  • big changes swept through the entire organization
  • in a weird extended off season thanks to
  • the 2011 NBA lockout.
  • First, Tom Gores bought the team
  • from Davidson's widow on June 1st, 2011,
  • with Kuester receiving his pink slip four days later.
  • They'd landed the eighth overall pick in the draft,
  • where now Dumars decided to shy away
  • from UConn products and chose Brandon Knight,
  • a man best known for having his soul ripped
  • straight from his body by DeAndre Jordan
  • in the middle of a basketball game.
  • - [Announcer] Oh, what a monster jam by Deandre Jordan!
  • - [Narrator] One spot ahead of March Madness hero
  • Kemba Walker.
  • Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard also went a few picks later.
  • In July, they settled on former Nets coach
  • Lawrence Frank to replace Kuester.
  • Fast forward to December 12th, still the off season,
  • the Pistons reached an agreement
  • to pay Rip Hamilton 11 million dollars to go away.
  • The season finally kicked off at the end of the month
  • where Frank's squad was beaten like a crash test dummy
  • by the rest of the league,
  • dropping 20 of their first 24 games.
  • The worst start in franchise history.
  • At the end of another disappointing season,
  • 37 year old Ben Wallace called it a career.
  • And as the 2012 draft approached,
  • they attached what turned out to be a future top 10 pick
  • to dump Ben Gordon's contract on Charlotte.
  • Two days later at the draft, they actually did well,
  • replacing Wallace with UConn center Andre Drummond,
  • before scooping up Khris Middleton in the second round.
  • But they were yet again doomed by another terrible start,
  • losing their first eight games
  • and digging themselves into a hole they couldn't get out of.
  • With the team reeling in late January,
  • Dumars traded away the final remaining player
  • from their NBA Finals run, Tayshaun Prince,
  • to Memphis in a three team deal
  • that brought back Jose Calderon from Toronto.
  • Another wasted season, another coaching change.
  • In what would be Dumars' final off season
  • running the show, he canned Lawrence Frank,
  • replacing him with former Sixers coach, Mo Cheeks.
  • In free agency, Dumars' last big deal
  • was a 54 million dollar contract given to Josh Smith,
  • forming one of the wackiest lineups you'll ever see
  • with not one, not two, but three complete non-shooters
  • all-starting and sharing the floor together
  • for heavy minutes.
  • It was a quest to destroy the very concept
  • and essence of spacing a basketball court
  • that set hoops back for decades.
  • And while Dumars threw fans a bone
  • by bringing back Chauncey Billups
  • to let him play out the final year
  • of his career in Detroit, the final trade Dumars
  • ever executed was a disaster,
  • when he tossed in future all-star Khris Middleton
  • in a deal with the Bucks for Brandon Jennings.
  • Midway through that '13-'14 season,
  • just 50 games into his tenure,
  • Cheeks became the eighth coach fired by Dumars
  • in his 14 year presidency.
  • On April 14th, 2014, with one game remaining
  • in their fifth straight season losing over 60%
  • of their games, Dumars stepped down
  • as Pistons president of basketball operations.
  • The Pistons under Joe Dumars had built
  • a wonderful roster of selfless hardworking players
  • who knew their roles, did their job,
  • and worked in harmony with one another.
  • They were blue collar through and through,
  • developing an ethos in which their time together
  • became known as the Goin' to Work Era.
  • They became champions without a superstar,
  • an unbelievable feat that we may never see again
  • in an era of super teams.
  • But then Dumars completely lost his touch.
  • Ultimately, the glaring mismanagement
  • of the draft and free agency,
  • a polarizing trade of the heartbeat of their team,
  • and constant coaching turnover which sparked disfunction
  • and inner turmoil were all a perfect storm of forces
  • to ruin the marvelous thing they had going.
  • They were turned into a laughing stock
  • that's gone over a decade without winning
  • a single playoff game, thanks to their devastating
  • yet spectacular collapse.
  • Don't worry, Piston fans.
  • If you need a lasting Dumars remnant
  • to hold near and dear to your heart
  • you'll always have that Josh Smith contract
  • taking up a chunk of your salary cap
  • until I think the sun burns out.
  • Anyway, thanks for watching and don't forget
  • to like, subscribe, and click to watch more of our stuff.

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Description

The Detroit Pistons and their president of basketball operations, Joe Dumars, had constructed a magnificent roster that went out every night and performed a beautiful hoops symphony of selfless ball with ferocious defense.

They rode that to an NBA Championship, came excruciatingly close to repeating, leading to Dumars becoming irrationally impatient, losing his touch, and eventually trading his team’s leader and floor general for pennies on the dollar — and it sent them falling down a pit of despair of terrible hires, trades, signings, draft picks, even a mutiny against a head coach ... until they were nothing but unidentifiable rubble.

Written and produced by Alex Rubenstein
Shot by Michael Imhoff
Edited By Jiazhen Zhang
Motion Graphics by Michael Das

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