The Myth of Joe Dumars

Joe Dumars is, by all accounts, a great guy. He's a legend -- an icon -- a class act, who won championships both as a player and a general manager.

But is anyone else starting to see a little tarnish on the halo?

Even when things were going great, Dumars' tenure had its face-palm-inducing moments -- like the legendarily-bad selection of Darko Milicic over... oh, about a dozen guys that have had good-to-great NBA careers, but most notably Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. But hey, the Pistons won that title in 2004, and were contenders for years afterwards -- so Dumars has mostly gotten a pass for that. (Of course, we could be asking how many titles the Pistons would have won if they'd teamed a Wade or 'Melo or Bosh with Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace... but that's another column.)

It's easy to overlook mistakes when the team is winning. But right now, Detroit's basketball team is performing about as well as Detroit's economy. Under first-year coach Michael Curry, they're riding an eight-game losing streak -- with Orlando and Boston next on the schedule. Their record is under .500. Their sellout streak at the Palace of Auburn Hills is over. And instead of being in the mix with the Celtics, Cavs and Magic for the top of the East, they're muddled up with Philly, Milwaukee, Chicago and the Nets for the bottom half of the playoff bracket.

What went wrong?

The trade of Chauncey Billups for the guy who used to be Allan Iverson is certainly a big factor. Billups has his new team, battling for a top-three seed in the West. Detroit's record since the trade is 23-29. In theory, the trade was supposed to hand the reins of the team to Rodney Stuckey -- but Stuckey has generally seemed unprepared for the burden. Meanwhile, Iverson's arrival has confused roles on what was the most cohesive team in the league -- how do you play AI and Rip Hamilton? Meanwhile, Dumars' big offseason gamble -- center Kwame Brown -- has worked out so well, the Pistons have resorted to starting the creaky Antonio McDyess at center... just months after Dice was traded away in the Iverson deal.

As I've said on this site 100 times... I don't pretend to know more basketball than Joe Dumars. Or even Scott Layden. Maybe Dumars' deals will allow the Pistons to turn things around quickly after the season, without the years of bottom-feeding that teams like the Knicks, Bulls and Celtics went through once their cores got too old to compete. Maybe Stuckey will turn into the player we were told he'd become, and Iverson's cap figure will be turned into one of those elite 2010 free agents (that Dumars could have drafted in the first place...)

But if you're a Pistons fan... can you honestly tell me you feel optimistic about all that?


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