By Austin Kent
Just when I think it’s justifiable to openly discuss the Detroit Pistons’ most recent struggles, they start to do what they always do whenever a potential crisis looms they rack up a ton of wins so that I look like an idiot for even suggesting that things were ever amiss. In typical Pistons fashion, the team has already managed to put together yet another streak of lethargic performances just weeks into this young season, and in typical Pistons fashion they have been able to instantaneously right the ship and pull themselves out from their own demise.
To be frank, I’m still recovering from the last breakdown, the one that sent them home before June and ruined my summer vacation. It’s unfair for the organization to expect the hoards of fans to just ignore the fact that their favourite team has a tendency to quit when they need them most, but they do. As a fanatic of the blue and red myself, I wish I could let my guard down and be content with the current state of the franchise, I won’t because I don’t think the Detroit Pistons have exhausted all of their opportunities to improve yet.
The Pistons haven’t lost a game since November 15, which is great considering they started the campaign rockier than a Hollywood marriage. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it, but I’ve been on this bandwagon for awhile and I’ve learned not to let go. I like to call it constructive skepticism and so I look like the negative Nancy that can’t get it up over a six game streak that’s seen the ‘Stons vault into a tie for first place in the central division. It feels like the world is about to come to a sudden and tragic ending and I’m the only one who cares or even notices something is wrong.
Losing the Ben Wallace bid was a blessing in disguise for the Pistons brass as they have made their intentions clear, Joe Dumars will stick with what works and go down with his ship. He is after all the one who built it in the first place. Fortunately this inevitable fall from grace can be avoided, but Captain Joe will have to start bailing, both literally and figuratively.
Chauncey Billups, despite last year’s success, will not be getting any younger, and expecting Rasheed Wallace to provide any sort of foundation that the team could rely on is a considerable stretch at this point in time. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, the Detroit Pistons have a roster designed for the defensive slugfests that the NBA has been so diligently trying to squash since they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.
Trading Darko Milicic was the beginning of the end for the Detroit Pistons. They’ve since proven that they can still be one of the elite teams in the league, but in a single swap they gave up their two best young reserves (Carlos Arroyo being the other) for a draft pick and Kelvin Cato. Even if Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo pan out to be mediocre at best, February 15, 2006 marks the day that Joe Dumars gave in and committed to feeding the fire instead of collecting more wood, to building a team instead of a dynasty.
Fast forward to today, the money saved by dumping Milicic and Arroyo is sitting comfortably in Nazr Mohammed’s bank account and the Pistons have, in less than a year, effectively sabotaged their future. With Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell waiting on deck it is hard to write them off completely, but until Joe Dumars proves that he is willing to commit to building and maintaining a solid foundation, it’s hard to take them as seriously as they should be.
Watching Flip Saunders revert back to playing his starters big minutes every night will only lead to more breakdowns in Motown, and watching his inconsistent methods of dealing with his young players leaves Pistons enthusiasts no choice but to assume things will end with a similar fate.
There are a lot of changes that need to be made if the Pistons plan on making the playoffs just three years down the road. They still after all host one of, if not the best starting line up in the league, it would be a shame to see all of that go to waste. Like any successful business the Pistons need to keep finding ways to improve or else they will fall behind. Unfortunately, four consecutive Conference Finals appearances and a six game winning streak take away from the sense of urgency commonly associated with change.
The Pistons, like all sports teams across the globe, have been breaking hearts for the better part of the last half decade, but they have always remained contenders and as it stands they will have just as much of a chance this year as they have had in years past. All they need to do now is show that they understand what works now, won’t work forever.
Joe Dumars, I’m not saying you’re not great. I’m just saying you’re not done.