Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nuggets Visit Pistons (So We Can Witness the Ghost of What Might Have Been)

Hard to believe we're a quarter of the way through the NBA season. And we already have a pretty good idea how it will end. With Kobe and the Lakers winning the championship. The only thing we can hope to break this inevitable finish is injuries or maybe a massive SoCal earthquake.

As for the Pistons, they are a team in search of an identity. The only starter left from the 2004-2005 Finals magic time is Ben Wallace who returns after his prodigal paydays in Chicago and Cleveland. Rip Hamilton and Tashyn Prince are technically still on the roster but injuries have kept them out of the lineup. And the longer they don't play the more it makes sense to trade them. Because in the upside down world of the NBA, it makes more sense to have that season where you bottom out, get a lottery pick and hopefully also have enough salary cap room cleared to bring in a free agent. I assume since Rip Hamilton re-upped last year it could be prohibitive to trade his contract but the guy is a running around pull-up jump shot scoring machine, maybe somebody in the western conference will order that up.

More painful is Tashyn Prince. When we see Chanucey Billups at the Palace with Carmelo Anthony, Pistons fans will see what might have been if Joe Dumars picked Anthony in the 2004 draft rather than Darko. The reason for gambling on the Serbian big man was we already had Tashyn at small forward, and it did make a lot of sense at the time, but Prince seems to have worn himself out the past few years (extended playoff runs and the olympics) and more of a defensive role player than a high scoring superstar like Anthony (40 tonight in Detroit although in a losing cause.) And now he has a bad back. The beginning of the end. A career killer.

The Pistons aren't drawing fans and I have a theory for this. The continuing economic woes of Michigan is the main culprit but fans have a hard time following a team on the decline. In recent years the interest and intensity of fans for their Detroit teams has been strongest for the team on the rise; first the Red Wings, then the Pistons and then the Tigers. The Red Wings are a separate case because they have been so good, so long. And won champions four times across 12 seasons. The Tigers were so bad for so long, and then out of nowhere a World Series appearance and then an aggressive front office to get them back there. The Pistons meanwhile run on the fumes after the over-achieving mid 2000s team. And the much celebrated Joe Dumars may be over-rated. Who built a team that dominated (at times) for an impressive stretch (six straight conference championship appearances.) But now let's blow this up, bottom out and began another rise.

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