Chevette to Corvette No. 30: The 1967-68 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 40-42
  • Pythagorean record: 36-46
  • Points scored per game: 118.6 (4th of 12)
  • Points allowed per game: 120.6 (10th of 12)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coach: Donnie Butcher

Playoffs

  • Lost in first round to the Boston Celtics, 4-2

Leaders

  • Points per game: Dave Bing (27.1)
  • Rebounds per game: Dave DeBusschere (13.5)
  • Assists per game: Dave Bing (6.4)

Top player

Dave Bing

Bing averaged a career-high 27.1 points per game – on a career-high, by a wide margin, 24.0 shots per game. It wasn’t his best season, but by volume, it was probably his biggest.

Key transaction

Drafted Jimmy Walker with No. 1 pick

Walker had a fine career and made a couple All-Star games, but he never met the hype of a No. 1 pick. Not that the Pistons knew that in 1967-68. Jerry Bembry of ESPN The Magazine:

NBA Hall of Famer Dave Bing, representing Walker’s early professional career, spoke fondly of the rookie he took in as a roommate 40 years ago in Detroit. "I’m 22, Jimmy’s 21 and we feel like we have the NBA’s best backcourt," Bing recalls. "We played together, lived together and enjoyed each other as friends and as teammates. A great guy to be around; Jimmy had a big heart."

Walker is probably best known for fathering, but never meeting, Jalen Rose.

Trend watch

Move to Eastern Division

The Pistons made the playoffs for the first time in five years. In fact, they’d also miss the playoffs the next five seasons.

But it’s difficult not to wonder what could have happened had the Pistons remained in the Western Division. The NBA expanded with the Houston Rockets and Seattle SuperSonics, and consequently, Detroit moved to the much-tougher East.

The Pistons went 15-25 against the East and 25-17 against the West.

Why this season ranks No. 30

This was the second of just two full seasons Dave Bing and Dave DeBusschere played together, and it began with a tense situation. Sports Illustrated:

Like the three monkeys on the log, Donnis Butcher, Dave DeBusschere and Paul Seymour see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil—at least, of each other. It’s just what they’re thinking that has Piston fans curious. The whole Detroit coaching situation has fallen right past curious all the way down to ludicrous. When the Pistons had a shot at a playoff berth last March, Owner Fred Zollner made Player-coach DeBusschere a player and Assistant Coach Butcher a head coach. With DeBusschere concentrating on playing and Butcher on coaching, the Pistons made a sparkling finish, losing six of their last eight games and missing the playoffs. After the season General Manager Ed Coil retained Butcher as head coach and kept DeBusschere as key player. Zollner, however, announced he was hiring Seymour, former head coach at Syracuse and Baltimore, as "assistant coach and head scout." Seymour, normally discreet, did not keep it a secret that Zollner had asked him to coach Detroit a long time ago, saying, "If things go wrong this year, I suppose they’ll be looking around to me." With that stirring vote of confidence, Butcher signed a one-year contract and everyone went skipping off to training camp.

The Pistons went a fairly uneventful 40-42, and Seymour didn’t replace Butcher until the following season.

Detroit even held a 2-1 lead against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics in the first round in 1967-68. But the Celtics won the next three games, eliminated the Pistons and won the 10th of 11 title in a 13-year-span.

What could have been one of the Pistons’ biggest playoff series ever instead just served as a mediocre ending to a mediocre year. At least the Pistons set a franchise record for attendance in the process.

Previously

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