Chevette to Corvette No. 56: The 2009-10 Detroit Pistons



  • Actual record: 27-55
  • Pythagorean record: 26-56
  • Offensive rating: 105.6 (21st of 30)
  • Opponent points per game: 111.4 (26th of 30)
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coaches: John Kuester


Top player

Ben Wallace

Wallace, who turned 35 before the season, nearly retired after the Phoenix Suns waived him, but he accepted a one-year contract with the Pistons. For sentimental reasons, I was on board. For practical reasons, I never jumped off the bandwagon.

Excellent defensively and dependable offensively, Wallace stood out on an otherwise dismal team. He didn’t post the best numbers, but the Pistons always played better with him on the court. It even got to the point I graded players on a curve based on how often they got to play with Wallace.

Key transaction

Signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva

OK, that’s technically two transactions, but they both signed on the same day, both went to Connecticut and both received huge contracts. The $95.7 million men have flopped in Detroit and cripple the Pistons’ cap flexibility (and likely will for years to come).

Other moves – signing Ben Wallace, drafting Jonas Jerebko in the second round – were better. None were more significant.

Trend watch

Eight-season playoff streak snapped

Between 2001-02 and 2007-08, the Pistons won 50 game each season and qualified for the postseason each of those years. Even the dysfunctional 2008-09 team made the playoffs.

But the 2009-10 bunch took Detroit’s decline into first gear, leaving Pistons fans longing to be at the losing end of a first-round sweep like the year before.

Why this season ranks No. 57

I was confident the Pistons – with newly acquired Gordon and Villanueva, led by Kuester instead of Michael Curry and minus Allen Iverson – would improve from their 39-win season the year before:

"Besides center, the Pistons will be better or the same across the board from last year.Point guard: Rodney Stuckey is a year older, and hopefully a year better. He improved last year from his rookie season. At worst, he’s the same.Shooting guard: Richard Hamilton will regain his starting role, and there’s no doubt he’s better than Allen Iverson.Small forward: Tayshaun Prince is back. No reason to expect much difference.Power forward: Antonio McDyess played admirably last year. But Charlie Villanueva is also good.Although he’s not as good defensively, his PER (18.6) was higher than McDyess’s (16.6).Center: However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.Bench: Ben Gordon will be a strong contender for sixth man of the year. He’s easily makes the bench better – especially given Richard Hamilton played better as a starter.Coaching: Michael Curry was terrible. John Kuester will also be in his first year as a head coach. But he spent 13 years as an NBA assistant – 12 more than Curry. Odds are strong Kuester is better than Curry, who set the bar very low."

It didn’t exactly work out that way. Kuester was pretty awful (perhaps not as bad as Curry, though), and Gordon and Villanueva didn’t come close to earning their contracts. Richard Hamilton played just 46 games and Tayshaun Prince played just 49 due to injury, and several other players were hurt throughout the year.

At least the injuries gave Jonas Jerebko a chance to shine. Otherwise, they caused dire effects.

At a certain point, it appeared the Pistons began feeling sorry for themselves, and that crushed their energy. The Pistons repeatedly embarrassed themselves throughout the year, and as much as I wanted to believe they were a better team than they appeared to be, they weren’t.

The on-court problems exasperated some other issues that had been lingering beneath the surface. Their locker room was divided. Villanueva and Austin Daye missed a team flight. Prince clashed with Kuester. At least those issues paled to what would come next.