Pistons focus on past, not present, at fundraiser
DETROIT (AP) — Several members of the Detroit Pistons’ first two championship teams gathered Thursday for a fundraiser, but the man who still works for the team kept a low profile.
President Joe Dumars didn’t speak to reporters and owner Tom Gores wouldn’t discuss his plans for the end of a season that seems headed toward a fifth straight spring without a postseason berth.
"We’ll do like we always do and re-evaluate," Gores said before refusing to discuss his plans for the team’s or Dumars’ future.
The Pistons are 26-45 after Wednesday’s loss to Cleveland and speculation on Dumars’ future only increased after the franchise fired coach Maurice Cheeks 50 games into the season.
Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson and other players from the 1988-89 and ’89-90 teams took part in "Bad Boys Unite," which raised money for six nonprofit organizations in southeast Michigan, including the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.
Pistons great and former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing also was there.
Gores preferred to talk about the club’s run to its first two titles, which saw the Pistons topple Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers en route to the crown. The nickname stuck after enforcers like Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn developed reputations for rough play and often some of their paychecks sent to the league office.
Detroit didn’t win over most of the country, but the team quickly found its niche in a region where many families relied on blue-collar incomes. ESPN Films will take a closer look at the era between Bird and Magic and Michael Jordan’s rise in a "30 for 30" film that debuts April 17.
"For too long our story was defined by others, basically by the people we beat," said Thomas, who welcomed the opportunity to sit for interviews when the program began filming. "We never could get our voices out into the national realm."
Laimbeer, who coached the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to three championships before the franchise relocated to Tulsa, Okla., said the Pistons thrived on defense. They even held Michael Jordan in check in his first few playoff appearances.
"We changed the game and we proved the big boys weren’t going to win anymore," he said. "We proved defense wins. We were a trendsetter that has influenced the game even today."
Laimbeer wouldn’t bite when asked if he’d be interested in coaching in the NBA and Thomas, a coach or executive with three different franchises after his playing career ended, simply said he’ll always have fond thoughts of Detroit and the Pistons.
The late Chuck Daly also was enshrined in the Hall of Fame after the team’s glory years and Thomas, Dumars and Dennis Rodman later joined him in Springfield, Mass.
Thomas played a large role in planning Thursday’s charity event and reached out to several of his former teammates. He said Rodman, who has battled addiction and drawn ire for visiting North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, is in Argentina conducting a basketball camp.