As eager as I am to move on to the Finals, I can't help but take one last look back on the team we just defeated. As you well know by now, the Pistons have been in the Eastern Conference Finals for each of the last 6 years. That's an impressive streak, but a little less impressive considering that they won the title only once in that span. So their legacy is a bit like the Atlanta Braves.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, and as good as that team has been, there are signs that the window may be closing on this era. Ben Wallace is already gone and it sounds like Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys wouldn't be too surprised to see a number of other core members of the team leave this summer.
- This was easily Flip Saunders’ best year on the sidelines, and Tayshaun Prince did his best to deflect criticism from Flip after the game, but I think he’s probably gone — even if for no other reason than the fact that he’ll be entering the last year of his contract next season. I don’t think Dumars/Davidson wants to can him before his contract is up, but I don’t think they want to extend him, either, and bringing back a lame duck coach who’s allegedly struggled to earn the respect of everybody in the locker room doesn’t make sense.
- Who do I think will replace him? Michael Curry or Avery Johnson are my guesses. Plus, Curry would be dirt cheap as a first-time coach, which would offset the expense of paying Flip to leave.
- Did Rasheed Wallace play his last game as a Piston? I’m leaning toward yes. He can still produce and is an underrated defender, but he’s not consistent and (most importantly) will be entering the final year of his contract. That said, I don’t think Dumars will give him away — it’d have to be the right package, and it’s difficult to get full value on one of the most misunderstood players in the league.
- Another guy who might be moved: Rip Hamilton. Not because he doesn’t fit this team, but because his trade value is still sky-high and the Pistons could probably enter next year with Rodney Stuckey playing next to Chauncey Billups and still expect to compete for a title.
Could it be true? Could we have seen the end of the Pistons as we know them? As an NBA fan, that would be kind of a shame, but as a Celtics fan I can't help but smile at the thought of it.
Still, don't count on Joe Dumars sitting back and letting the team fall into obscurity. We saw how effective Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell can be already. There seems to be a lot of hope that Amir Johnson will be the third piece to that puzzle. Not a bad example of rebuilding on the fly to consider as this Celtics team advances along its own window.
We haven't seen the last of this team (regardless of what it will look like). Still, it is a lot easier to appreciate the Pistons now that they are no longer a threat to us this year.