After Sweep, Detroit Pistons Can Only Wonder What Might Have Been

James CampbellContributor IMay 8, 2009

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 26:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks to pass against Will Bynum #12, Richard Hamilton #32 and Tayshaun Prince #22 of the Detroit Pistons in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 26, 2009 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  The Cavaliers won 99-78.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Perhaps there was no bigger disappointment than the 2008-2009 Detroit Pistons.

The Detroit Pistons, who had been in the Eastern Conference Finals for six straight years, are out of the playoffs, swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.  They get to go home much earlier than they have had to in previous seasons.

Wow, how the mighty have fallen.

Power in the Eastern Conference has now shifted to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic.

Firing Flip Saunders did not help the team at all.  In fact, under new head coach Michael Curry, the team got much worse.  Saunders had a record of success, of accomplishment.  Curry, on the other hand, had little coaching experience, other than as an assistant.

Saunders had his faults, but why fire a coach with a record of achievement and then hire a nobody?

The biggest move, of course, was a boneheaded one.  The Pistons traded their star point guard, Chauncey Billups, to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.  They were hoping that it would improve the team.

The move did improve a team, just not the Detroit Pistons.  The Denver Nuggets, who had been a joke for years, now find themselves a contender in the Western Conference.

The Pistons, on the other hand, went from a possible contender to a team on the decline rather quickly.  They had a losing record (39-43) for the first time in years and they got swept in the first-round, losing by double digits in each game.

The Pistons really missed Chauncey's leadership.  Too frequently, the team looked lost and out of sync.  Iverson had a sub-par year before he was forced to miss the rest of the season due to injury. 

Chemistry problems also plagued the team.  Iverson and Richard Hamilton fought over the starting job.  Whenever either player was benched, they resented it greatly.

Many players on the Pistons may very well find themselves on different teams next year.  Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, and Allen Iverson might be gone.

What if the Pistons hadn't fired Flip Saunders?  What if they had kept Chauncey Billups?  Would they have done better during the season?  Would they still be in the playoffs?

Indeed, as the Detroit Pistons begin the long offseason, they can only wonder what might have been.