Once upon a time, in an Eastern Conference long, long, ago, existed one of the most unrecognized dynasties in the history of the NBA. The Detroit Pistons were once one of the more dominant teams in the NBA. But what happened to the team, the dynasty that was?
2004 was almost a storybook season. The Pistons got back to their defense and rebounding roots and could match up with anyone in the game, including the star power of a team like the Lakers. Enter 2005 and the Pistons looked even better. A third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would eventually lead to a second consecutive NBA Finals appearance, this time against the like-minded San Antonio Spurs. However, a Game 7 loss on the road would prevent a championship repeat for Detroit.
Things wouldn’t get better as suddenly the Pistons were thought of as the elder statesmen of the Eastern Conference going into 2006. They didn’t play like it though, as they passed the 60 win mark for the first time in over 10 years. They made a fourth straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and faced a retooled Miami Heat team which had a newly acquired Shaquille O’Neal and budding star Dwayne Wade. The Pistons would fall to the Heat in six games and witness Wade and O’Neal win Miami’s first championship over the Dallas Mavericks. Both 2007 and 2008 were as the Pistons witnessed the rise of LeBron James as an NBA superstar and the meteoric jump by the Boston Celtics with their newly formed “Big Three” to Eastern Conference dominance. 2009 was the official end of the dominant era as Chauncey Billups was traded to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson and Michael Curry was named head coach after Flip Saunders was fired.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, Curry was never supposed to be an NBA head coach and Iverson never bought into the Pistons system. It was a poor trade and the rest of the team suffered. By the end of the season, stalwarts like Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace had been gone and the team barely made the playoffs. Worst of all, in March of 2009, beloved owner Bill Davidson passed away and the team was up for sale by Mr. Davidson’s widower, Karen Davidson.
Amid 2010 and 2011, the long, arduous search for a new owner brought a financial lockup for President Joe Dumars. No relief was in sight from the bench as long time NBA assistant John Kuester was hired to be the new head coach. Two seasons in the cellar of the Eastern Conference and a couple lottery picks later brings us to today’s Detroit Pistons.
As we all know, Karen Davidson sold the team to Michigan native and billionaire Tom Gores who has given Dumars a deeper wallet to pull from. The Draft has given the Pistons three stud players at key positions: point guard Brandon Knight, power forward Greg Monroe, and center Andre Drummond. The Pistons found their coach going forward in former New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank. While Detroit won’t contend for any division titles or playoff appearances, this season will be a confidence building one for the young Pistons. The Pistons are one draft pick away from seriously contending in the Eastern Conference.
It was a long road to get to a championship for the 2004 Pistons. Even if they are a long way from a title, the future looks bright and the road looks a lot shorter.