Overrated: Joe Dumars
Let’s look ourselves in the mirror, fellow media members: We’ve all given the guy a free pass because of his amazing run to six straight conference finals and blithely ignored the fact that he’s screwed up a hundred ways from Tuesday since he decided to whack Flip Saunders after the 2008 conference finals.
Check out the résumé and find me a correct decision. Just one. Fire Saunders? Wrong. Hire Michael Curry? Wrong. Trade Chauncey Billups? Wrong. Extend Richard Hamilton? Wrong. Sign Kwame Brown? Wrong. Go after Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva? Wrong again.
In two years, the Pistons have gone from one of the best teams in basketball to among the worst. They stink, they’re capped out, and they don’t have much in the way of young talent; for all we know, in two years they’re going to be the Pittsburgh Pisces or the Seattle Grunge or something. If Isiah Thomas or Rob Babcock had done this, we’d have buried them alive by now, so it’s only fair for us to point out that regardless of his previous track record, Dumars is on a two-year losing streak of McHalian proportions.
If you’ve read my previous posts, I’m a big believer in Dumars. Let’s go point-by-point with what Hollinger wrote.
Hollinger: “We’ve all given the guy a free pass because of his amazing run to six straight conference finals and blithely ignored the fact that he’s screwed up a hundred ways from Tuesday since he decided to whack Flip Saunders after the 2008 conference finals.”
Me: Sustaining success after a long run of being elite is nearly impossible in the NBA. The core players get old, and there are no young reinforcements because teams get stuck with low draft picks. So, I can’t blame Dumars too much for being in a position many other elite teams have faced:
- The Lakers had consecutive losing seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94.
- The Celtics never won more than 36 games between the 1993-94 and 2000-01 seasons.
- The Pistons had three straight losing seasons after the Bad Boys broke up.
- Once Hakeem Olajuwon hit 37 and his production fell dramatically, the Rockets missed the playoffs for four straight seasons.
- In the six years after Michael Jordan retired, the Bulls won an average of 20 games.
- The Heat when from winning the 2006 title to 15-67 two years later.
- The Lakers kept have kept it going with half their core in Kobe (minus Shaq), so you can call them an exception if you’d like.
- And let’s see how the post-Duncan Spurs look.
Hollinger: “Check out the résumé and find me a correct decision.”
Me: Firing Flip Saunders, signing Will Bynum, signing Antonio McDyess, draft Jonas Jerebko, firing Michael Curry, signing Ben Wallace.
Hollinger: “Fire Saunders? Wrong.”
Me: Flip Saunders is a good, not great coach. But he had completely lost the respect of that team. There was no way he could continue in Detroit. Firing him was a no-brainer.
Hollinger: “Hire Michael Curry? Wrong.”
Me: No question, that was a terrible hire. But how many generals managers have the guts to fire their hand-picked and young head coach a season after hiring him?
Hollinger: “Trade Chauncey Billups? Wrong”
Me: In hindsight, I wish the Pistons wouldn’t have made the trade. But it’s not as bad as it looks. Billups was in a rut in Detroit. There’s no way the Pistons could have had the same Billups that Denver does.
Hollinger: “Extend Richard Hamilton? Wrong.”
Me: As I’ve covered here many times, Dumars offered Hamilton the extension before Billups was traded. Dumars didn’t want to go back on his word after the trade. You can still say it would have been a mistake even if Detroit had kept Billups, but it wouldn’t nearly look as bad.
Hollinger: “Sign Kwame Brown? Wrong”
Me: He was signed to provide depth on the front line. How is this a bad signing? He was never expected to be a major contributor, and he was pretty good the second half of last season.
Hollinger: “Go after Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva? Wrong again.”
Me: The early returns haven’t been encouraging, but it’s way too early to label these bad signings.
Hollinger: “They stink”
Me: If the Pistons were healthy this year and battling for one of the final playoff spots in the East, would Dumars have been included as overrated in this column? I don’t think so. Sneaking into the playoffs isn’t this team’s long-term goal, but it would’ve have been enough to keep a lot of people off Dumars’ back. Injuries didn’t allow that to happen.
Hollinger: “they’re capped out”
Me: They’re over the cap, but I don’t think they have a single player who’s untradable — even Hamilton. I think they could easily position themselves to have cap room in the summer of 2011 if that’s the direction that makes the most sense.
Hollinger: “they don’t have much in the way of young talent”
Me: I’d consider Ben Gordon (26), Charlie Villanueva (25), Rodney Stuckey (23), Jonas Jerebko (22) and Austin Daye (21) young talent.
Hollinger: “for all we know, in two years they’re going to be the Pittsburgh Pisces or the Seattle Grunge or something”
Me: I’ll let Justin Rogers of Full-Court Press take this one.
Hollinger: “If Isiah Thomas or Rob Babcock had done this, we’d have buried them alive by now”
Me: Thomas and Babcock had a nasty habit of compounding bad moves with more bad moves. It’s not like Dumars didn’t make plenty of mistakes during the Pistons’ run as an elite team. But he fixed them.
Darko Milicic, Mateen Cleaves and Rodney White were all notoriously bad draft picks. He turned all of them into valuable assets.
It’s way too early in the rebuilding process to throw Dumars under the bus. Let’s see where he’s going before we freak out. His last plan worked. I’m willing to give him time to let this one unfold.