Monday , Jun , 05 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

What’s next for the Pistons?

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – Detroit hit a bump in the road when it was eliminated in
the Eastern Conference finals by the Miami Heat. The Pistons had represented
the East in the 2004 and 2005 NBA Finals and have appeared in the conference
finals four straight years.

The Pistons, who captured the Central Division and home-court advantage
throughout the playoffs because of their franchise-best 64 victories during
the regular season, seemed to lose something in the conference semis. They
were pushed to seven games by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and
even though Detroit won it took a lot out of the Pistons.

Under the guidance of head coach Flip Saunders, who finished his first season
on Detroit’s bench, the Pistons dominated the East during the regular season.
What happened against Miami?

Saunders is not the problem with the Pistons. He allowed the Pistons more
freedom on offense and preached for them to continue to play the hard-nosed
defense that has helped them win many games over the years. If anything,
Saunders enabled Detroit to show that it was not just a defensive team.

“This team has had a phenomenal run,” said Saunders. “They’ve been to the
conference finals four straight years. They’ve had a lot of big games and
mental games, and it can wear you out as much mentally as physically.”

All-Stars Ben Wallace, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent
this summer, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton team with
unsung hero Tayshaun Prince to makeup the NBA’s best starting five.

Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, who will be free to negotiate
with any team that is interested in his services, averaged 7.3 points and
a club-high 11.3 rebounds during the regular season and will draw interest
from many teams. Signing Ben Wallace is key for Detroit, as he is the catalyst
to the Pistons defensive schemes and intensity.

The backcourt of Billups and Hamilton is the best in the league. Billups
averaged 18.5 points and a team-best 8.6 assists, while Hamilton led the
Pistons in scoring (20.1 ppg). They are true professionals and shine when the
game is on the line. Both are solid defenders and can burn their opponents on
the offensive end of the court as well.

Forwards Rasheed Wallace and Prince are the perfect forward combination, as
Rasheed can score from the outside as well as the inside. Since becoming a
member of the Pistons late in the 2003-04 campaign, Rasheed has become a solid
defender and has adapted to Detroit’s style of play on both ends of the court.
Prince, like Ben Wallace, excels defensively, and, like Rasheed Wallace, can
drain the outside jumper and is also able to drive to the hole effectively.

There is not much to change here. The Pistons were worn down by Cleveland in
the conference semis. Miami caught Detroit at the perfect time and was able to
capitalize on a team that was emotionally and physically worn down. The Heat
were the better team in that series, but things can change.

Would it help the Pistons to add some new blood to their roster?

Absolutely. veteran forward Antonio McDyess is a solid reserve, while guard
Lindsey Hunter, who is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, is a
versatile guard who fits in with the Pistons style of play. McDyess and Hunter
are nice options, but it would help Detroit to have some more depth.

Maybe the Pistons were lacking the same hunger that they have had in the past.
By bringing in some new players it could help to rejuvenate this talented
roster and add a new sense of urgency.

Hamilton is confident that they can bounce back from a tough loss to the Heat.
Even though Detroit was knocked out by the Heat, the Pistons are still the
gold standard in the East.

“Ever since I got here, I’ve only been here for four years, Chauncey has been
here four years, Tayshaun has been here for four and Rasheed has been here for
three,” said Hamilton. “What we’ve accomplished in four years is four Eastern
Conference finals, a championship and another trip to the NBA Finals. I think
the sky is still the limit.”

Keep their starting five together is most important for the Pistons. Saunders
is a good coach and this team can win with him calling the shots. Some new
blood coming off the bench and Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Prince, Billups
and Hamilton is enough for the Pistons to return to the Eastern Conference
finals next season and maybe even the 2007 NBA Finals. Detroit will be hungry
and ready to go when next season rolls around.

Don’t forget about the Pistons!