This is the end of an era.
The Pistons played the hardest they have in weeks and still lost their eighth straight game. This ties their worst losing streak since 1994-95.
But worse, Detroit can no longer rely on two of their starters.
Last night the Pistons trailed, 20-11, when Allen Iverson left the game with a sore back. After that, they outscored the Hornets, 76-70.
There have been plenty of thoughts Detroit would be better off without Iverson, but now there’s clear, solid evidence. And that’s causing tension. Richard Hamilton via the Detroit News:
"“I said I would come off the bench as long as we win,” Hamilton said. “But we’ve been losing. We are 4-12 with me coming off the bench. Something’s got to give. Something’s got to change. I am on board with doing whatever for the team but coming off the bench and we’re not winning, that’s something totally different.”"
And Rasheed Wallace picked up two technical fouls while the game was tight in the fourth quarter. Video from Need4Sheed:
Wallace won’t be suspended against Orlando on Friday, according to the Detroit News, because the league rescinded two of his previous technicals.
But his actions are inexcusable. This wasn’t Wallace getting ejected in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers two years ago. Cleveland was on a 14-4 run, and Wallace didn’t want to stick around for the ugly end. Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince publicly excused Wallace then.
But last night, Wallace gave up on his teammates. The game was close, and he couldn’t control his emotions. He’s becoming the cancer many feared the Pistons acquired in 2004.
Let’s go back to that Game 6 against the Cavaliers.
Everyone seemed to realize the Pistons as we knew them were done.
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press:
"There is no royal cloak on this team. They weren’t robbed. They weren’t exiled. They lost four straight to a young, hungry franchise and left the arena as second runner-up in the NBA playoffs. So long, swagger. By the time the Pistons boarded the bus, the shadow they thought they cast had disappeared permanently into the dark sky of another unhappy ending."
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press:
"It’s over. And there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the end. It proves that you didn’t take the heights to which the Pistons soared the last five seasons for granted. You appreciate the commitment required."
Terry Foster of the Detroit News:
"The Pistons are done, and now comes the hard reality of losing. This must be the conclusion of the Pistons as we know it. This has been a nice run of five straight Eastern Conference finals, two NBA Finals and an NBA title in 2004. But all good things must come to an end."
But Joe Dumars brought back the same core the next year and the beginning of this year. That won’t happen this time.
But what if Wallace goes to the Celtics or any other team the Pistons could face in the playoffs? Like Billups in Denver, his motivation will be greater than it could have been with Detroit. It’s a lose-lose situation.
And benching Iverson won’t help, either. He’s too talented and too head-strong to let that move fly smoothly.
In the summer of 2007, every starter save Chauncey Billups was a free agent, so a transformation would have been difficult.
But Wallace and Iverson will be free agents this summer. After last night, it’s clearer than ever, it’s time to let them walk.
The Pistons are just 26 games (unless they rebound enough to make the playoffs) from a new beginning.