Why is this even a question?
I’m still not sure how the 2004 Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. It’s been over 7 1/2 years and even after two titles, I’m still a bit bitter and perplexed as to how it happened. The denial runs deep. But what I do know for certain is that Joe Dumars, former star guard and two-time champion with the Pistons, was the General Manager and primary architect of that 2004 title team. What’s amazing is that he built his team quite unlike any other champion in the last 30 years. The sport is built for to duos leading the way towards titles (Magic and Kareem, Shaq and Kobe, Robinson and Duncan, Michael and Scottie, Bird and McHale and so forth). Though not as common, even a single player can be turned into a June parade, as we’ve seen with Hakeem and Dirk, while surrounded by quality role players performing at the peak of their abilities.
What Dumars did was one of the biggest aberrations in a sport where there are few exceptions to the rule. He assembled a team representative of what is the most lauded quality of basketball – the fact that it is the truest example of team sports. Dumars took a bunch of spare pieces and managed to make no singular player more important than the sum of the parts. When you look back on every champion team since the early 80’s, you can point a player on a title team and say “that was HIS team”. The 2004 Detroit Pistons are the ONLY exception.
How did Dumars do this? He signed future NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups as a free agents and made a very shrewd trade for Rip Hamilton for a near-the-end of his prime Jerry Stackhouse. He manufactured a sign-and-trade agreement for a departing Grant Hill and managed to turn him into an undrafted young center named Ben Wallace. He took Tayshaun Prince with a late pick in the 2002 draft. He turned Bob Sura and some draft picks into Rasheed Wallace. All these moves were met with little fanfare and the best possible result. After 2004, Dumars kept the momentum going, sending the Pistons to another 4 Eastern Conference Finals by drafting guys like Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey and signing Antonio McDyess.
I bring this history lesson to the forefront to illustrate why Joe Dumars still has his job. He has arguably been one of the worst GMs in the league the previous 4 NBA seasons.
After the aforementioned 2004 core aged and slowly disbanded, Dumars has made a series of confusing moves and universally criticized signings. Chief amongst them was using valuable cap room to pay over $20 million annually for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, hiring two terrible coaches in two seasons (Michael Curry and John Kuester) and trading a still game Chauncey Billups for a washed-up Allen Iverson. Please note that I didn’t even name the infamous drafting of Darko Milicic over All-NBA performers Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, as well as All-Stars Chris Kaman, David West, Josh Howard and Mo Williams.
While the Pistons should have been reloading or even rebuilding years ago, the effort has only begun in earnest the previous two seasons. Dumars has largely held onto his job because of the unbelievable amount of success he achieved his first half-decade on the job, but nearly everything he’s done the past three seasons has failed miserably. It’s stunning to see a perennial playoff team like the Pistons in the cellars of the NBA standings. Another 30 win season and a similar amount of locker room turmoil as 2010-2011 could spell the end for Joe D.
How will this play out?
Months ago new owner Tom … Read more...