It was the year 2004. They were the scrappy, fight-for-every-loose-ball, play-team-ball Detroit Pistons.
It is the year 2009. They are the lethargic, stand-around-and-watch-one-man-try-to-penetrate Detroit Pistons.
How far we have fallen since that magnificent year of championship basketball. Hell, how far we have fallen since just last year.
The current Detroit Pistons now sit a game under .500. The phrase "under .500" has not been uttered at the Palace of Auburn Hills in a great while, unless the Bulls were coming into town.
The finger for this collapse has been pointed in a lot of directions: in Michael Curry's, Allen Iverson's, Joe D's, and so on. But from what I see, there is no way one person can be responsible for the Pistons' decline from Eastern Conference badasses to seventh place, where they regularly get slapped around by the Hawks and Heat. It has to be several factors.
First, I'll address Joe D, the new general manager, the man responsible for putting this squad on the hardwood. He's made some great decisions in the past, like acquiring Rasheed in the trade that sent the Pistons to the promised land, letting Ben Wallace go while he was on the decline, drafting Rodney Stuckey, and forming a team of outcasts into a great squad.
Yes, Joe D has had some great decisions in the past. But he's also had a couple Homer-esque "D'oh!" moments.
Melo, D-Wade, Chris Bosh or...Darko? Enough said.
He didn't do enough to keep Mehmet Okur; can you imagine what the five would be like had he managed to retain him? That would be nice.
The most recent Dumars blunder is not working out so nice either. Chauncey is putting up great numbers.
Which brings us to our next suspect, The Answer. I'm going to come out right now and say that while he's not playing the best basketball of his life, this is not his fault. You can't blame the guy being brought into a team that's had the same core forever. OK, so he's a little off his "A" game, but he's playing an entirely unfamiliar style of ball.
Detroit was totally built on the no-star mentality. A.I. is a H.O.F-caliber star. He likes to run and take lots of shots, whereas Detroit has always liked to walk it up the court and let everybody get their shots in.
So you're seeing how he probably wouldn't fit? A guy like A.I. needs to dominate the ball to be successful, while team like Detroit needs to spread the ball to be successful. It's like eating cereal with a fork; they're not really meant for each other, and it sort of works, but not as well as a spoon.
Rookie head coach Michael Curry. If he knew how to keep a rotation, what style of basketball to employ, and how to call some plays rather than isolation, the Pistons might be a few games over .500.
But instead, the Pistons toil in the bottom of the playoff seedings, shooting ill-advised jumpers, playing lazy D and just plain bad basketball.
I thought Flip was a pretty good coach and Chauncey a pretty good point guard. I think it would've ultimately made more sense to keep those guys, add a true center (that wasn't drafted by Michael Jordan) and tried another championship run.
Stuckey isn't ready to take over (or doesn't seem willing) and Curry obviously wasn't ready to take over. But hey, Carlos Boozer is supposed to be available soon...
P.S. Sheed, get in the paint. Please.