Andrew Unterberger has a post on The Basketball Jones today evaluating which players for each Eastern Conference team have the best chances at getting their numbers retired. Here’s his section on the Pistons:
Already Retired: Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson, Bob Lanier, Dave Bing, Bill Lambieer
Definitely: Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace
Possibly: Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamitlon
Maybe Someday: Greg Monroe
Analysis: If you’re counting from the “Already Retired” list, that’s five of the Bad Boy Pistons of the late ’80s and early ’90s who’ve seen their numbers lifted to the rafters in Detroit. Could the starting five of the championship-winning, six-straight-conference-finals-appearing mid-’00s Pistons be in for similar honors?
It’s possible, but not guaranteed — the only two that seem sure things to me are Chauncey Billups, who has the Finals MVP on his resume and whose departure in 2008 triggered the Fall of the Detroit Empire, and Ben Wallace, who was arguably the key player on that ’04 championship team, has four All-Star appearances and four Defensive Player of the Year awards to his credit, and who even returned to Detroit to help see the team through through some leaner years.
Of the other three, Rip Hamilton’s No. 32 probably has the best shot — he was the team’s leading scorer and primary offensive option for most of their contending years — but his chances are hurt a little by the acrimonious way in which his Detroit tenure ended, with Rip phoning in the last year or two of his stay, playing a part in that player walkout mess of last season, and ultimately being waived by the team. It’s a similar story for ‘Sheed, whose arrival in midseason 2004 was the final piece of the puzzle for the Pistons, but who had the shortest time in Detroit of the core ’04ers (just over five seasons), and who was increasingly unmotivated towards the end of his stay, eventually finishing out his career with the rival Celtics. Tayshaun has no such PR blemishes for his Pistons career, but doesn’t quite have the resume of the others, being the only of the five to never appear in an All-Star Game.
Still, you’d think all five have at least a 50/50 shot at retirement (and I’d guess they all go up eventually, maybe at the same time?), which is certainly more than you could say for anyone else currently on the Pistons roster — though keep 2/3 of an eye on Greg Monroe and/or Rodney Stuckey, perhaps.
I agree with Unterberger that all five are likely to go up some day (though I’d probably put ‘Sheed’s odds a tad lower than the others). I would say Vinnie Johnson’s number being retired sets a good precedent for the ’04 team. Johnson was a great Piston and obviously a key player, but he was still a third guard and probably the fifth or sixth best player on their title teams. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman were all clearly more important cogs. So if the Pistons retired the number of the fifth best player on a title team for the Bad Boys, why wouldn’t they do it for the 2000s team?