Chevette to Corvette No. 40: The 1982-83 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 37-45
  • Pythagorean record: 40-42
  • Offensive Rating: 105.4 (11th of 23)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (14th of 23)
  • Arena: Pontiac Silverdome
  • Head coach: Scotty Robertson

Leaders

  • Points per game: Kelly Tripucka (26.5)
  • Rebounds per game: Bill Laimbeer (12.1)
  • Assists per game: Isiah Thomas (7.8)
  • Steals per game: Isiah Thomas (2.5)
  • Blocks per game: Terry Tyler (2.0)


Top player

Isiah Thomas

Believe it or not, this choice wasn’t easy. Second-year point guard Thomas tied for 16th in MVP voting, but a few of his more seasoned teammates – Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson and Kelly Tripucka – could make cases as the Pistons’ best player. Thomas showed signs of becoming Detroit’s go-to player, and it won’t be long until he’s an annual mainstay in this section. This year, though, he barely beat a crowded field.


Key transaction

Drafted Ricky Pierce with No. 18 pick

The Pistons had two first-round picks this year, and they drafted Cliff Levingston with the ninth pick and Pierce with the 18th pick. Both players stuck in the league for quite a while, neither with the Pistons.

Levingston had a fine career, mostly with the Hawks. Pierce was a bit better. He won two Sixth Man of the Year awards and made an All-Star game, his best years coming with the Bucks.

Trend watch

Momentum thwarted

The Pistons had gone from 16 to 21 to 39 wins the previous three seasons. Everyone expected Detroit to break into the playoffs in 1982-83, a season after finishing one spot out the year before.

Instead, the Pistons took a small step back, winning just 37 games. That meant missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

Why this season ranks No. 40

The few future Bad Boys already on the roster – Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson – progressed nicely. And Kelly Tripucka had a nice moment when he scored a then-team-single-game-record 56 points against the Bulls in January – even if he didn’t immediately appreciate it. Via a wire report:

“In a way I’m sorry to have broken Bing’s record because I always admired him and his accomplishments when I was a kid,” Tripucka said.

But the positives of the season were overshadowed at the time by one big negative: the Pistons expected to make the playoffs and didn’t. As often happens in those situations, the team fired its coach. Bill Laimbeer, via Eli Zaret’s “Blue Collar Blueprint”:

A coaching change had to be made at that time. Scotty was inflexible and was always butting heads with Isiah.

Zaret:

Robertson refused to fall on the proverbial sword. “I think it was the wrong decision, but it wasn’t my decision,” Robertson said grim-faced. He knew that the Pistons were destined to improve, and although claiming he wasn’t bitter, he seemed to sound it. “I’ve given an awful lot of myself over the past three years and somebody else is going to get the rewards.”

When he met the media to announce his decision, McCloskey was terse and pointed. “We feel we need improvement defensively and there has been no progress made along on those lines. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the specific reason for the change.” He added that the search was under way for a new coach who would “hopefully have NBA head coaching experience.”

Previously

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