The Detroit Pistons’ own personal Era of Good Feelings lasted a grand total of eight days after news broke that Stan Van Gundy would take the keys to the franchise.
Unlike last Tuesday night, however, this Tuesday, everyone remembered why the Pistons have no carburetor, as the unthinkable happened. The Charlotte Bobcats (nee Hornets, new Hornets) stole Detroit’s draft pick when the Cleveland Cavaliers moved up in the lottery. Again. The odds weren’t in Cleveland or Charlotte’s favor. Then again, they never are, except on lottery night.
Of course, in the aftermath of the disaster, everyone was tempted to blame Joe Dumars for executing the now famous trade that sent Ben Gordon and a future first round draft pick packing in exchange for the useless Corey Maggette and cap relief. That cap relief was then used to sign Josh Smith, which ended up being a disaster which haunts Detroit to this day. Clearly, Dumars is at fault for all those reasons.
People forget that Dumars had to get creative to rid himself of Gordon early because both he and his owner, Tom Gores, were vehemently opposed to using basketball’s new amnesty clause. Such a clause is designed with people like Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in mind, players who fail to deliver value upon their bloated contracts. In Gores’s mind, it’s not good business to simply pay an undesirable employee to go away.
Thanks to their stubbornness on the amnesty issue, the team had no other option with Gordon. Yes, Dumars could have hung onto the shooter for another season, but with outcry growing about his play and Gores consistently swinging a “playoffs or bust” edict around Auburn Hills, Dumars had to act. A roster with Gordon was closer to “bust” than playoffs, so he made the move, likely to try and save himself. Foolish? Yes. Stupid? Certainly. At the time, though, it was all that Dumars could do because his boss wasn’t telling him to sign a check to cut Gordon, and Dumars wasn’t exactly prepared to fight for such a move, either.
It’s why the Pistons under both Gores and Dumars were the biggest comedy of errors.
As a result, now, the Pistons continue to look like suckers. Dumars remains the butt of Detroit’s general manger jokes the way Matt Millen once was, and Gores, despite his exalted Forbes profile, looks like a business nubile. Surely he’d pay certain employees some type of severance package when liquidating a company. Why not do the same with Gordon after taking over the Pistons? Now, Detroit loses a chance to have a quality pick in a quality draft. Van Gundy better not make his own mistake in free agency, because it’s clear his new owner won’t exactly open up his wallet to help fix things.
Hopefully, the collection of suits and hairdos in Auburn Hills learned a valuable lesson from this latest embarrassment. Sometimes, it’s better to pay a fool than constantly play one.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax