For 29 years, the Detroit Pistons have possessed at least a hint of Bad Boys basketball.
But now that Joe Dumars is out as the man running things, don’t expect the Pistons to return to that era. Instead, those around the league seem to think owner Tom Gores will turn the team over to someone outside the organization.
In fact, the lone member of the Pistons family being listed as a potential replacement: Chauncey Billups, the point guard for the 2004 title team who will retire at season’s end.
Still, Billups seems like a long shot to move straight from a uniform off the bench to a suit and tie in the general manager’s office. If he stays with the organization, it’s more likely to be in a smaller front-office role — at least at first.
Like anyone who is trying to lead their franchise back to relevancy, Gores is expected to shoot for the moon first. He may eventually settle on someone else’s assistant GM, but we’ve already heard names such as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and former Phoenix Suns main man Steve Kerr linked to the Pistons.
It should be noted that Izzo has indicated he’s not interested, and Kerr may have a job waiting for him with the New York Knicks. Plus, both of those guys want to coach. The Pistons will hire a coach too — but the new basketball guru takes precedence. Makes sense. In most cases, before you hire a coach, you have to hire the man who hires the coach.
So who might the Pistons have in mind to replace Dumars, relieved of his duties Monday?
The Detroit Free-Press threw out some possibilities — from Knicks assistant GM (and former Pistons sharpshooter) Allan Houston to former Suns and Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo to former Knicks and Indiana Pacers basketball lifer Donnie Walsh.
All have fairly strong resumes.
And let’s not forget Isiah Thomas, the baddest of the Bad Boys in terms of playing, but not exactly highly thought of as an executive during stints with the Raptors and Knicks.
It’s sometimes hard to remember the Pistons were an Eastern Conference power, and not long ago, under the likes of coach Larry Brown and even Flip Saunders after that. In fact, Saunders and the Pistons parted ways after Saunders finished with a record of 176-70 in three seasons (2005-08). But that was considered not good enough. Today, the Pistons would kill for something close.
That’s because this once-proud franchise has been, in one simple word, a mess. Attendance is downright shameful and overall interest a step below that. So this is a franchise that fell from grace quickly. Some of that had to do with Dumars’ decisions, and some of it had to do with the natural cycle of things. No one stays good forever.
That’s why this summer is so huge for Detroit basketball.
Gores’ task is to get the Pistons from where they are now (bad) to where they once were (bad with a capital B). More precisely, Gores is in charge of making sure the Pistons become bad in a good way. Bad, of course, in the way this organization prefers to be.
— As for Dumars, he has been reassigned to the role of team "advisor." But NBA sources think that won’t last long, that Dumars will find a more-prestigious role in a front office before summer’s end. It’s too early to speculate, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Dumars at least hears from Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Detroit native Dan Gilbert.
— The Cavs, of course, have their own opening in the front office. It could be filled by current interim GM David Griffin, but that’s considered no gimme. Sources say Gilbert is likely to take some time and conduct some research before offering anyone the job on a full-time basis.
— Speaking of the Cavs, one source close to the team said the players have a newfound respect for Dion Waiters. The second-year shooting guard was at the center of some drama (real and imagined) earlier this season. But the Cavs are beginning to feel Waiters "is a great teammate," as he’s earned respect via "his effort and maturing," the source said.
— Still, Gilbert is clearly agitated after a disappointing season that will end with the Cavs failing to qualify for the playoffs a fourth straight year. One source said regardless of who is named GM, "they will make a major deal" this summer. Read: The owner is not a fan of the Cavs’ roster as currently constructed.
— Hard to believe, but the Raptors set a franchise record when they won their 48th game April 14. Hard to believe because this is an organization that’s boasted stars such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh. Now, the names are DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and second-year center Jonas Valanciunas. This was a team that was supposed to tank for a nice draft pick. Instead, Dwane Casey will receive at least a few Coach of the Year votes, perhaps a lot, and deservedly so.
— Interestingly, Lowry is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He will surely be recruited come July, but it’s hard to envision him leaving. He likes Casey and appreciates the trust the Raptors have shown in him. It doesn’t hurt that they’re likely to pay him more than anyone else, too.
— Finally, there’s no accurate way to explain what the Suns accomplished under first-time coach Jeff Hornacek. The Suns were similar to the Raptors. They were supposed to really stink. Instead, the Suns weren’t eliminated from the playoff race until two days before the regular season ended. They gave their fans a season’s worth of surprise and fun, and players such as Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and the rising Gerald Green displayed some real promise for the future. All that and the Suns are in line for three first-round picks.