There's been a lot of talk around Jonathan Abrams's Grantland article on Chauncey Billups this week. The article titled "The Professional" takes a look at the the many different roles Detroit's own "Mr. Big Shot" has played over the years throughout Chauncey's eight team tour of duty in the NBA. The article is a must-read for any Pistons fan looking to revisit the glory days of the mid-decade millennium, with great quotes and insights from coaches like Rick Pitino and Larry Brown, executives like Joe Dumars , teammates Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace, to Chauncey Billups himself.
But if you've found yourself looking at the Pistons new young-pieces, watching the team's freshly marketed black and white, "blood, sweat and tears" commercials, and sniffing traces of the old "Goin' to Work" mantra that had the mid-decade Pistons in back-to-back NBA Finals, then the insights in Abrams' article may also make you want to take a second whiff.
Here's a quick bit from "The Professional" in which Grantland's Jonathan Abrams talks about how the NBA may never see a team like the 2004 Pistons ever again:
It may be a long time — if ever — before we see another "superstar-free" championship in this era of free-agent alignment. "We thought we were the best five alive," Rasheed Wallace said. "We felt like we could take on any five in any era of the NBA. That's how close-knit, that's how together we were … I'm not comparing one team to another, but I know we kicked a lot of ass for a long time."(Joe) Dumars won't venture that far: "We understood it was not the typical way to build a championship roster. To be able to duplicate it, there's no way I can sit here and tell you it's easy or we'll see it again. I don't know if we'll ever see it again."Prince agreed, pointing to superstars playing together as the biggest reason why it might not happen: "Once a couple start doing it, then it continues to grow from there. It might happen one day. It might take a while. But I think in the near future, it's not going to happen, just from the fact that all these talented guys are starting to get together and trying to win a championship that way. You can't blame them, because everybody wants to win and have the best chance at winning. But the way we did it, I don't think you'll see that for a while."
I agree with Abrams, Dumars and Prince on this one. There will never be another team like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, just like there won't be another Magic vs. Larry, or another Michael Jordan. The way the 2004 team was put together, the way they selflessly played together, and the way they won was rare. No superstars, and a long-shot future Hall-of-Famer in Ben Wallace. The closest comparison in recent memory would be the current Indiana Pacers roster. The Pacers are an unselfish, close-knit bunch with playoff success, playing an endangered brand of team basketball in the land of superstar dominance…like the 2004 Pistons. Still, that comparison begins and ends with the belief that the Pacers probably can't win an NBA Championship, as the 2004 Pistons did, without a stone-lock superstar. (Sorry Danny Granger)
Now, let's look at the "foundation" pieces of this current Pistons roster. Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond. Knight and Monroe are developing into two strong scorers at their respective positions, and with every passing game Andre Drummond climbs further and further above the bottom-floor, Kwame Brown comparison and closer to that Dwight Howard ceiling. (Drummond's rookie averages are about half of what Howard's were, but Howard averaged 12 minutes more per game in his rookie campaign)
While the three young Pistons are strong players that seem capable of creating that unselfish balance together, the team is still going to need to add a superstar talent to the line-up if they want to become deep-running, playoff regulars. Maybe Knight, Monroe, or Drummond become that superstar. Maybe it comes via trade, free agency or a lucky draw in the NBA Draft. Either way, the Pistons will need a superstar to succeed, and fans calling for the Pistons to use the current roster to re-create a "Goin' To Work" style team should listen to Abrams, Dumars and Prince. While a team like the 2004 Pistons might be put together again, it will mostly likely never win the NBA's grand prize as today's superstars continue to join forces like a Justice League comic book.