Dumars' good decisions and good fortune helped make Pistons NBA champs again
By Rob Peterson
"Dealin'" Joe Dumars shaped the Pistons roster into a championship one.|
Andrew D. Bernstein
-- When he took over as Detroit's president of basketball operations on June 6, 2000, Joe Dumars had some work to do.
He inherited a 42-40 Pistons team which had just been swept out of the first round by Miami. Dumars' roster included one mega-star in Grant Hill, a rising superstar in Jerry Stackhouse, Hill's Duke teammate Christian Laettner, Michigan native Terry Mills and Pistons mainstay Lindsey Hunter.
Four years later despite not having a "superstar" and only three players they have drafted themselves, the Pistons are NBA champs and every player mentioned above is gone, with the exception of Hunter, who no matter how many times he's traded or released finds his way back to The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Dumars' first season at the player personnel helm had some people scratching their heads. He traded Hill for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins. He sent Hunter to Milwaukee for Billy Owens. The Pistons finished an ugly 32-50.
But the next two seasons, the Pistons, led by coach Rick Carlisle, would win the Central Division with identical 50-32 records.
Then, after 100 wins in two seasons, Dumars fired Carlisle. The critics sharpened their knives. Dumars tabbed legendary coach and vagabond Larry Brown to take the reins on June 3, 2003. Some 12 months later, the Pistons parade through Detroit's streets as champs and Dumars is the first African-American GM to win an NBA title.
In building the NBA champions, some could claim Dumars to be prescient. Some could claim he's lucky (we'll get to Darko later). More likely, it's a combination of the two as good decisions and a bit of good fortune has come Dumars and the Pistons way.
Let's look, in chronological order, at how the Dumars built the Pistons.
On Aug. 3, 2000, Ben Wallace became a Detroit Piston, along with guard Chucky Atkins, when Dumars signed Grant Hill and then traded him to Orlando. At the time, the swap seemed lopsided ... for Orlando. Hill was a bona fide NBA stud with a Hall of Fame future. He also had a gimpy ankle, but that would heal in time, right? Detroit would be Wallace's third home in as many years. With two Defensive Player of the Year trophies on his mantle and a ring on his finger, Wallace has helped the Pistons become champions.
Ben Wallace has become the cornerstone of the franchise.|
Jesse D. Garrabrant
Williamson joined the Pistons in the middle of the 2000-01 season when the Toronto Raptors shipped him, Tyrone Corbin, Kornel David and a future first-round pick for Jerome Williams and Eric Montross. The next season, Williamson won the NBA's Sixth Man Award by averaging 13.6 ppg and 41. rpg in 21.8 mpg.
One of four players on the active roster drafted by the Pistons. Selected with the 38th pick of the 2001 Draft, Okur didn't make his Detroit debut until the 2002-03 season. He's played in 143 games and started 42 of them in the last two seasons. He is a free agent.
Another of the players on the active roster drafted by the Pistons and a reason Dumars used the No. 2 overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft on Darko Milicic instead of Carmelo Anthony. Prince, who the Pistons selected at No. 23 of the 2002 NBA Draft, rewarded Dumars' faith in the lanky forward. Prince shut down Orlando's Tracy McGrady in the 2003 Playoffs and played shutdown D on Kobe Bryant in the 2004 Finals.
The 2004 Finals MVP. Dumars signed Billups as a free agent on July 17, 2003. Before signing with the Pistons, Billups had played for five NBA teams in five seasons. He has averaged 16.6 ppg in two seasons with Detroit and 21.0 ppg in the 2004 Finals. Under Larry Brown's tutelage, the shoot-first point guard averaged 5.7 apg, a career high, in 2003-04.
Acquired for All-Star Jerry Stackhouse on Sept. 11, 2002, Hamilton has proved to be Stack's equal, although Hamliton has yet to make an NBA All-Star team. He averaged 17.6 ppg to lead the Pistons in scoring this season, while averaging 4.0 apg, a career-high.
Dumars signed Campbell, a 13-year NBA vet, on July 16, 2003. Campbell played in 67 games in his first season with Detroit, averaging 5.6 ppg and 3.2 rpg in 13.7 mpg.
||** - Team option
Thanks to a trade the Pistons sending Otis Thorpe to the Grizzlies in 1997 for a future first-round pick, Dumars found himself with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He used it on 18-year-old Darko Milicic. Raw, yet talented, Milicic played in only 34 games and often played only when the Pistons had a win sewn up. Dumars was roundly criticized throughout the season for selecting Milicic and passing on Carmelo Anthony, who went to Denver with the No. 3 pick. The point is moot now that the Pistons have a title.
Detroit marks the sixth NBA team in Ham's seventh NBA season. The Pistons signed him as a free agent on Sept. 23, 2003.
After seven tumultuous years in Portland and 42 minutes of game action in Atlanta, Wallace found himself on an Eastern Conference contender on Feb. 19, 2004. Immediately after acquiring the 6-11 forward, the Pistons went on a defensive run unlike the NBA has seen. holding five consecutive opponents under 70 points in March. Wallace's size and basketball smarts helped make the Pistons one of the more dedicated defensive squads in recent memory.
The Pistons acquired James on Feb. 19, 2004 in a three-way deal that also brought Rasheed Wallace to Detroit.
Detroit drafted Hunter with the No. 10 overall pick in the 1993 Draft. One of Dumars's first moves was to trade his former teammate to Milwaukee for Billy Owens before the 2000-01 season. The Bucks then traded Hunter to the Lakers after the season. The Lakers then traded Hunter to Toronto for Tracy Murray and the rights to Kareem Rush. The Piston then re-acquired Hunter when they sent Michael Curry to the Raptors. (Whew!) But Hunter's travels don't stop there. Hunter was sent to Boston in the three-way deal that brought Rasheed Wallace and Mike James to Detroit on Feb. 19, 2004. Boston then waived Hunter that same day and the Pistons picked up Hunter on Feb. 26. In addition to being the Piston with the most tenure in Detroit, he's also the "newest" Piston.