What Will Joe Do?
They’re going to have another of those NBA Drafts next month. Another day where a bunch of man-children’s souls are sucked into the darkness of pro sports. The NBA allows the nation’s teenagers to get drafted. Someday, someone will stop them.
But that day is far from being here. So it is that the Pistons will, with the No. 7 overall pick, take their chances on a likely-to-be immature, underdeveloped project. Heaven forbid you draft a senior. Heaven forbid a player stay in college that long, period.
There isn’t going to be, at No. 7, a cure-all player. No panacea will be ripped from a college campus and plopped into the laps of the Pistons in Auburn Hills.
The ping pong balls didn’t cooperate, nor did one of the U.S. mint’s coins.
The Pistons lost a coin flip at the end of the season with the Philadelphia 76ers, and it apparently cost them the No. 2 overall pick. The ping pong balls put the Pistons where, mathematically, they suspected they’d be: seventh.
So now it’s up to Pistons president Joe Dumars to turn water into wine.
He’s been less-than-miraculous in that area over the years.
The beauty of pro basketball is that, since one new player represents 20 percent of your on court presence, improvement can come in a hurry.
The evils of the NBA Draft say that, unlike the NFL’s, first round picks are hardly guaranteed starting positions and a legitimate shot at success. If you’re not a Top 5 pick, the odds take a nosedive that you’re going to be an impact player. Sometimes.
Dumars is the rare president/GM, in that he’s now being given the chance to do a second rebuild.
The first came in 2000, when Dumars officially took over the Pistons’ front office and inherited a mess. He had himself a superstar (Grant Hill) who wanted out, and a questionable coaching situation. There were precious few talented players on the roster outside of Hill.
A few trades and free agent signings later, plus the hiring of Rick Carlisle as coach, and the Pistons were back on the map.
Rebuild No. 2 is just beginning, and this time the mess is of Dumars’s own making.
But like I said, Joe D is a rarity; not too often in this win-now society in which we live does a GM get the chance to even stick around long enough for a second rebuild. Usually they’re canned somewhere in the middle of the first one.
Yet here Joe Dumars is, ten years and six coaches later, with a roster full of shrimps and the big men he does have play like shrimps.
The Pistons haven’t had a center who could score with men guarding him since Bill Laimbeer. And Bill was most comfortable 15-20 feet (or more) away from the basket.
Don’t come at me with Rasheed Wallace, who isn’t a true center.
They haven’t had a low post threat with the ball since Mark Aguirre, and Mark was a shrimp, too.
If you want the awful truth, the Pistons haven’t had a true center to whom they could toss the ball in the post and make something happen since Bob Lanier—and Bob last played here in 1980.
Yet the Pistons have won three championships since then, playing with perimeter-happy big men and being served by guard play par excellence—and a bench that was among the league’s best, both in the Bad Boys days and in 2004.
Today the Pistons are a bunch of crooked jump shooters with no affinity for defense or rebounding. It’s a team lacking heart, leadership, and anyone taller than 6’10” who can insert the basketball into the hoop.
No one plays close to the rim, except for Ben Wallace, who just happens to be the least talented man on the team. But he’s the hardest worker, which has kept him in the league for over a decade.
To this hodgepodge Dumars will add two players from this year’s draft—the Nos. 7 and 36 overall picks. The pie in the sky hope is that those youngsters will somehow invigorate a stale bunch and the relative newcomers—guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva—will rebound from lousy seasons and the whole unit will start to come together.
Yeah, and they used to hope that New Coke would take the nation by storm.
Forgive my lack of confidence in Dumars presently. He’s on a bad streak that’s now in its fourth year. It’s as if the soul he sold to the Devil early in his tenure is now a marker that Satan himself is calling.
Joe D needs a great draft in the worst way. He also needs a whole bunch of “ifs” to come true.
If Dumars has a plan left in him, now would be a wonderful time to break it out.