When people look back at the Pistons' 2006-07 season, they may remember with
fondness the 53 wins which earned the Pistons the No. 1 seed in the East.
They may remember how the team survived the free agent departure of Ben
Wallace and how Chris Webber made a difference in the middle of the season.
But everything the Pistons accomplished last season came crashing down in the final moments of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The image of the Pistons most hoops fans were left with last season was of Tayshaun Prince, one of the NBA's best defenders, ducking and clearing as if he were escaping a burning building while LeBron James roared down the lane and brought down the Palace with a thunderous dunk.
Though they were eliminated two night later, the Pistons' intimidating aura -- five Eastern Conference Finals appearances, four Central division titles, two Finals and one NBA title in the last five years -- faded that night. Suddenly, there were questions: Would Chauncey stay or bolt in free agency? What of the relationship between Rasheed Wallace and coach Flip Saunders, which at times, seemed strained? Would Webber return, and if he did, would he hold up under a season's worth of pounding?
This summer, Billups re-signed and Sheed has reportedly dropped 25 pounds
and could start at center with Antonio McDyess sliding into the power forward spot. As for the rest of the roster, Webber's still a free agent, but GM Joe Dumars shored up what had been Detroit's major shortcoming: the bench. We'll let Pistons.com's Keith Langlois take it
"My hunch that the Pistons are going to be a more formidable team by year’s end is based on the belief that Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, Jarvis Hayes and even Arron Afflalo are going to alter the mix significantly, giving the Pistons a considerably different look that will prove a tough adjustment for opponents who know exactly what they’ll get from the mainstays. I’m banking on a team that by the time the postseason arrives will be getting far more explosive and consistent production from its bench than recent Pistons teams."
Detroit boasts the best starting backcourt in the East, and quite possibly the NBA. Before landing in Detroit before the 2002-03, Chauncey Billups had built a journeyman's resume with four teams in six years. Since then, Billups has joined Jason Kidd and Steve Nash as the top point guards in the league. Few, if any, point guards control his team as well as Billups does.
Shooting guard Richard "Rip" Hamilton has also found a home in Detroit, averaging 19.2 points per game in his five years as a Piston. Hamilton gives defenders fits, as he moves better without the ball than anyone in the league since Reggie Miller retired.
After those two, it becomes a little dicey. Flip Murray has had a mercurial career, veteran Lindsey Hunter will give the Pistons 15 solid minutes of defense a night, but not much else on the floor and rookies Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo will be learning on the job.
Will 'Sheed start at center as reported? Does it really matter if he's at center? He usually ends up guarding the other team's best big anyway. The biggest benefit of that move is getting McDyess into the starting lineup, who as Chris McCosky blogged in the Detroit News
: "The move should help McDyess relax. The last two years, the Pistons have asked McDyess to come off the bench and not only provide energy, but to be one of the main scoring options. By starting, he can ease himself into the flow of the game more and play off the rest of the starters."
Tayshaun Prince is as good a disruptive perimeter defender you'll find outside of San Antonio, though his career defensive stats (0.6 steals per game, 0.6 blocks per game). Behind the projected starters is veteran Nazr Mohammed, who lost his starting job when Webber joined the team and youngsters Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson. Sean Deveney of The Sporting News
reports that Johnson will get some burn
this season: "I am going to play," Johnson says. "Joe Dumars tells me constantly, 'This is your year. There will be no DNPs this year.' "
-- Rob Peterson
Don't wait to reserve your seats for the 2007-08 Pistons season! Order full, half-season or mini season packages now.
Rasheed Wallace, of course. As steady as Chauncey is, as stalwart as Prince is, as tireless as Rip is, you know they'll be there running the offense, shutting down a scorer on the perimeter or running defenders ragged. 'Sheed is the emotional heart of the team. (Just check out one of the better fan-run sites out there: Need4Sheed.com
Wallace helped put the Pistons over the top in 2004 and his histrionics near the end of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals helped seal Detroit's fate. When Wallace is on, he can score in the post, drag a slow-footed power forward or center away from the hoop and drain Js in their mugs and he can disrupt another team's low-post offense with the best of them.
But when he's bad, well, you never know what's coming next. The Pistons need good 'Sheed for good things to happen.
-- Rob Peterson
||The Pistons have won 50 or more games for the past six seasons: 50, 50, 54, 54,
Thirteenth Season, Third with Pistons
Career Record: 528-375 (.585)
Playoff Record: Ten times, 37-44 (.457)
Flip Saunders has won 117 games in two seasons with the Pistons. For most franchises, that would be reason to rejoice. Not for the Pistons, who have fallen in six games in the last two Eastern Conference Finals. Failing to reach The Finals had Saunders looking over his shoulder wondering whether or not he'd return.
Well, he's back, and as McCosky reports
in the Detroit News
, Saunders could become the first coach in since Chuck Daly 15 years ago to finish his third season with the team. In the same article, McCosky points out that Wallace and Saunders have buried the hatchet. All of this has Saunders in a kumbaya-kind of mood.
"It might sound crazy," Saunders told the Detroit News
, "but I am more
excited right now going into a season than I have ever been -- even more than
my first two years here. I can't even explain why. Maybe it's the combination
of the young players we have coming in and everybody talking about how the conference
has gotten so much better. But I kind of feel like, 'We're still here. Come on,
we're standing here. Come get us.'"
-- Rob Peterson
KNOW YOUR PISTONS
Chauncey Billups and Lindsey Hunter both have daughters named Cydney.
You can say they are the best team in the East. I
think you can still say
that. They added a couple rookies, a kid from Eastern Washington, Rodney
Stuckey and Afflalo, both those guys as rookies could help them a little
bit. Obviously their core is set and they are good. They were playing well
and then they got in the Cleveland series and they just didn’t play well.
I am sure that first year they were adjusting to
Flip. He has a whole
different style than Larry Brown. Last year they seemed to have corrected a
lot of things and again they were playing pretty well but they hit a
stretch there against Cleveland where they couldn’t get it done for
whatever reason. To me, talent wise they are the best team and I think they
will still be up there.
-- Eastern Conference Scout