Waxing nostalgically — not so much poetically — is all Detroit Pistons have been able to do for the past eight years.
Fond memories of the 2004 NBA championship team come and go, in and out, but they remain strong: Chauncey Billups, who led the working man’s team; shouts of “Sheeeeed” every time Rasheed Wallace took the floor; the chime of London’s Big Ben — a famous clock tower — when Ben Wallace made his appearance. A string of Eastern Conference Finals showings gave Pistons fans hope; hope that the Bad Boys Era was on its way back.
And speaking of the Bad Boys, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Johnson and Isiah Thomas, among others, were the precursor, the forefathers of an attitude Detroit basketball fans hoped would remain intact at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Dumars, now the Pistons’ president, has been criticized for draft day blunders. He can attempt to at least right some of those wrongs June 28 during the 2012 NBA Draft.
But I’m not here to talk about what could be in terms of this year’s draft, I’ll save that for another time, another place. However, Dumars, as one of the founders of the hard-working style Pistons fan came to love, owes it to the franchise’s fanbase to make smart decisions, wise choices and prudent calls to get his former team back to where many feel it should be.
Not every franchise can lay claim to having arguably two of the best teams ever put on the floor of an NBA arena. The Bad Boys of the late 1980s and early 1990s, along with the 2004 championship team, certainly fit that mold. Not flashy, not over-hyped, just basketball players like Richard Hamilton, who weren’t megastars, but stars in Detroit, nonetheless. However, the Bad Boys boasted superstar talent. But they became superstars together.
It seems like eons since the Pistons were relevant in the world of basketball. The sport, like others, goes in short-term cycles which are defined by fans and pundits as eras. In reality, eight years aren’t an eternity, but to Pistons fans, that span of a nearly a decade with little to cheer for seems like forever ago.
As a child, I looked forward to seeing the Bad Boys, Bill Laimbeer, James Edwards and John Salley, literally fight for baskets, and honor, on the court. That was basketball, I told myself, obviously too young to understand what unfolded before my eyes. Never would there be an era of Pistons basketball like that, I later told myself, a few years later. But then the 2004 team rolled around. I was 23, and the NBA hardly featured the game that I fell in love with about 15 years earlier.
Draft Day, June 28, won’t be the beginning of something special. It’ll add to the excitement that already exists. Detroit is just a player or two from playoff contention. Players like Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight instill a type of faith, a belief, in Pistons fans, one that promises a bright future.
I’m not saying Knight and Monroe will lead the Pistons to a championship. However, when judging their potential, it would be logical to assume that with a little help, those two can anchor a once-proud team and bring back that lunch pal mentality — maybe even raise a banner, eventually.
Detroit is rounding the corner, by most accounts. The 2012-13 season will serve as a bridge to the organization’s future. The playoffs are just a year or so away. Eastern Conference supremacy, maybe a few more years down the road, is a distinct possibility if the chemistry, bond and strength of the Pistons’ young talent keeps developing at its current pace.
Call me a fool. Call me a wisher. Detroit Pistons basketball will regain respectability. Dumars holds the cards in his hands. Pistons followers can only hope he plays the right ones.