In 2005 the Spurs and Pistons were at the top of their game and THE game. The Spurs would go on to win their 3rd of 4 rings while the Pistons would continue to dominante the Eastern Conference for two more years making the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) an astounding 5 straight years. From that Finals meeting in 2005 these two franchises have gone in two very different directions.
After winning a title in 2004 the Pistons got to the finals the next year and seemed to always be in the mix in the East. In 2007 the Pistons lost to LeBron James and the Cav's in the ECF and from there things have just gotten worse. Joe Dumars, proclaimed to be the GM of the mid-oughts by many, has not been able to recapture the magic he had from 2003-2007 in the Motor City. Three years ago, Dumars dealt Chauncy Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson. A head-scratcher of a move to be sure. Two years ago Dumars gave huge contracts to mediocre players after already paying big money to his fading stars. If this story sounds familiar, it is. A cautionary NBA tale of a team that got to the top with a team oriented philosophy only to fall back down to earth with multiple poor moves from a once highly thought of front office.
How can a team avoid this dreaded fate?
Take a look at the Spurs. After winning it all in 2005, the Spurs were upset by the Mavs in 2006, then bounced back in 2007 to take the title back. In 2008 they reached the WCF and ended up losing a much closer than it appeared series to the Lakers without a healthy Manu. However, the dreaded drop off in 2009 the Spurs were bumped in the first round and then swept by the Suns in 2010. Unlike Joe Dumars, R.C. Buford and Co. (or PATFO, if you prefer) didn't go out and trade the franchise PG so they could sign a couple of young "studs" to try to fix the problems. No they made a shrewd trade to get a younger SF in the fold and then made 2 very strong drafts while at the same time retaining all the stars of the team for very reasonable prices. They continued to use their overseas advantage to sign a 2007 draftee. After the trade for the younger small forward looked to be a bust they surprised us all by re-signing him to a better deal for him and the team that has paid off tremendously. The result is a team that still has it's core in tact and has improved vastly because of the pieces put around that core are young, smart, hungry players who are willing to do whatever the coach asks of them.
The logo for the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons.
Remember Spurs fans, even when a team is built right and plays and works as a team, the wheels can come off in bad way, enjoy what we've got. Of course you have to feel a little bad for Detroit, well at least their fans. They are currently paying almost 62 million for 19 wins. Rip Hamilton just played his first game in almost a month as he and his coach go thru some sort of spat. Their best rebounder is an aging Ben Wallace who is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game. Their leading scorer is Stuckey who's getting 15 ppg while being the league's 4th highest paid guard. Things are tough in the Mo-Town and it's not just the economy. The good news? They are only a few games back of a playoff spot, oh, and their hockey team is still good.
Let me let Detroit's own welcome you.
San Antonio Spurs @ Detroit Pistons
Where: The Palace at Auburn Hills
When: 2-8-2011, 6:30 p.m. Spurs Time - Timezone Converter
Watch: Fox Sports Southwest
By the Numbers
PG: Stuckey is probably the best player for the Pistons, but he hasn't been playing due to a bad shoulder. Bynum will likely be Parker's main adversary. I think Tony will be able to dominante this game on offense. Detroit doesn't have any real shot blockers. Oh yeah and Parker needs to dominate Fisher. EDIT: Apparently T-Mac is now Detroit's PG, I doubt he and Parker will play against each other too much.
SG: T-Mac, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon. A few years ago this might have been an All-Star lineup. Now they will try to keep pace with The Sickness. Manu should be able to take care of these guys even if he didn't have the help off the bench. EDIT: Apparently Stuckey is the SG for the Pistons, but he is likely out with a bad shoulder.
SF: Prince vs. Princess Peanut. I see this ending badly for the Prince. Jefferson seems to have found his shooting stroke again and that only makes him more endearing to all Spursdom. Here's an interesting tid bit about how the Spurs should go out an acquire Tayshaun, what the Spurs would give up for him is beyond me and apparently the author as well, but it's an interesting thought.
PF: Duncan will not win this match up by being more athletic that his opponent, but let's be real, he hasn't done that with any opponent in well, probably the last decade. Duncan will win it with BBIQ and wily veteran ways.
C: This should be an interesting match up for Blair. He's going to face several "undersized" hustle guys that are supposedly in the same category as himself. I'd like to see Blair make the Pistons big men work hard on the defensive end. The bigs in Detroit are not really an offensive threat, but Blair and Co. will need to take care of all the glass work.
The one thing that's a little scary about the Pistons bench is the amount of fire power they can bring into a game. Gordon, Hamilton, Villenueva are all scorers and can get hot at any time. I'm hoping the Bonner might make it back, but I'm not holding my breath. Anderson getting some PT would be nice. I wouldn't mind seeing Splitter get in there either. This is the first of a back to back and the first of 4 games in 5 nights. The bench will be important this week.
Who's coaching Detroit? Oh, a guy named John Kuester. Who knew? Advantage Pop.
Spurs coming off of a very nice trip to California feeling good about themselves. The Pistons realize that they still live in Detroit and not feeling so good about themselves.
Spurs have San Antonio McDyess, the Pistons do not.
Spurs win by double digits despite the game being closer than any of us would prefer.
Key(s) to the Game
Key 1 - 3 pointers. Detroit is a decent 3 point shooting team and is surprisingly good at defending the long ball as well. The Spurs are good at shooting it, but not so much at defending it, although they have moved up to 28th in the NBA in opponents 3-point percentage.
Key 2 - Bench Play. As I mentioned, the Pistons have a lot of offensive punch coming off of their bench. The Spurs bench needs to come out and play well giving the starters good rest as the games will start coming fast and furious the rest of this week.
48 Minutes of Hell - The best of the True Hoop Network
Spurs Planet - Our old friend Wayne Vore is back.
Project Spurs - Good perspective on your Spurs
Spurs Nation - Lots of quality Spurs news and articles
Detroit Bad Boys (SB Nation)
Fox Sports Southwest
WOAI 1200AM; Audio League Pass[streaming]
As always, NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area.
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