Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons
2016–17 Detroit Pistons season
Conference Eastern
Division Central
Founded 1941
History Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons (NBL)
Fort Wayne Pistons (BAA)
Fort Wayne Pistons (NBA)
Detroit Pistons
Arena The Palace of Auburn Hills
Location Auburn Hills, Michigan
Team colors Red, royal blue, navy blue, white[4][5]
President Stan Van Gundy
Team manager Jeff Bower
Head coach Stan Van Gundy
Ownership Tom Gores
Affiliation(s) Grand Rapids Drive
Championships 3 (1989, 1990, 2004)
Conference titles 7
Western: 2 (1955, 1956)
Eastern: 5 (1988, 1989, 1990, 2004, 2005)
Division titles 9 (1988, 1989, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Retired numbers 10 (1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 15, 16, 21, 40)

The Detroit Pistons are an American professional basketball team based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The Pistons compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member club of the league's Eastern Conference Central Division. The team plays its home games at The Palace of Auburn Hills and was founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne (Zollner) Pistons in 1941, a member of the National Basketball League (NBL). The Pistons joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1948. In 1949, the NBL and BAA merged to become the NBA, and the Pistons became part of the merged league.[3][6] Since moving to Detroit in 1957, the Pistons have won three NBA championships in 1989, 1990 and 2004.

Franchise history

1941–1957: The Fort Wayne (Zollner) Pistons

The Detroit Pistons' franchise was founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League (NBL) team, playing in the gym of North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owners Fred Zollner and his sister Janet's Zollner Corporation was a foundry, manufacturing pistons, primarily for car, truck and locomotive engines. Fred Zollner, who currently owns a professional softball team known as the Zollner Piston softball team, was eventually persuaded to start a basketball team due to the fact that Indiana was so basketball minded. The Zollner Pistons were NBL champions in 1944 and 1945. They also won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1944, 1945 and 1946.

In 1948, the team became the Fort Wayne Pistons, competing in the Basketball Association of America (BAA). In 1949, Fred Zollner brokered the formation of the National Basketball Association from the BAA and the NBL at his kitchen table.[7]

There are suggestions that Pistons players conspired with gamblers to shave points and throw various games during the 1953–54 and 1954–55 seasons. In particular, there are accusations that the team may have intentionally lost the 1955 NBA Finals to the Syracuse Nationals.[8] In the decisive Game 7, the Pistons led Syracuse 41–24 early in the second quarter, then the Nationals rallied to win the game.[9] Syracuse won on a free throw by George King with twelve seconds left in the game. The closing moments included a palming turnover by the Pistons' George Yardley with 18 seconds left, a foul by Frankie Brian with 12 seconds left that enabled King's winning free throw, and a turnover by the Pistons' Andy Phillip with three seconds left which cost Fort Wayne a chance to attempt the game-winning shot.[10]

1957–1979: Decades of struggle

Dave Bing joined the team in 1966, where in his rookie year he scored 1,601 points.
Detroit Pistons logo 1957–1971.
Detroit Pistons logo 1971–1979.

Though the Pistons enjoyed a solid local following, Fort Wayne's small size made it difficult for them to be profitable, especially as other early NBA teams based in smaller cities started folding or relocating to larger markets. After the 1956–57 season, Zollner decided that Fort Wayne was too small to support an NBA team and announced the team would be playing elsewhere in the coming season. He ultimately settled on Detroit. Although it was the fifth largest city in the United States at the time, Detroit had not seen professional basketball in a decade. In 1947, they had lost the Detroit Gems of the NBL (whose remnants became the Minneapolis Lakers), and the Detroit Falcons of the BAA. Zollner decided to keep the Pistons name, believing it made sense given Detroit's status as the center of the automobile industry.

The new Detroit Pistons played in Olympia Stadium (home of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings at the time) for their first four seasons, then moved to Cobo Arena. The franchise was a consistent disappointment, struggling both on the court and at the box office.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Pistons were characterized by very strong individuals and weak teams. In fact, in their first 27 years in Detroit, they only had three winning seasons. Some of the superstars who played for the team included Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Jimmy Walker, and Bob Lanier. At one point DeBusschere was the youngest player-coach in the history of the NBA. Unfortunately, an ill-timed trade during the 1968 season sent the popular home grown DeBusschere to the New York Knicks for Howard Komives and Walt Bellamy, both of whom were in the later stages of their careers. DeBusschere became a key player in leading the Knicks to two NBA titles. The Dave Bing and Bob Lanier era did have some solid and exciting years, but they were handicapped by being in the same division as the Milwaukee Bucks, which had a young Lew Alcindor, and the Chicago Bulls, which likewise had some very strong players. Detroit qualified for the postseason in four straight seasons (1973–74 through 1976–77), but never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.

In 1974, Zollner sold the team to glass magnate Bill Davidson, who remained the team's principal owner until his death on March 14, 2009. Davidson was displeased with Cobo Arena, but opted not to follow the NHL's Detroit Red Wings to the under-construction Joe Louis Arena. Instead, Davidson moved them to the suburb of Pontiac in 1978, where they played in the mammoth Silverdome, a structure built for professional football (and the home of the Detroit Lions at the time).

1989–1994: The Bad Boys era

Detroit Pistons famous "Bad Boys era" logo 1979–1996.

The Pistons stumbled their way out of the 1970s and into the 1980s, beginning with a 16–66 record in 1979–80 and following up with a 21–61 record in 1980–81. The 1979–80 team lost its last 14 games of the season which, when coupled with the seven losses at the start of the 1980–81 season, comprised a then-NBA record losing streak of 21 games (since broken).

The franchise's fortunes finally began to turn in 1981, when it drafted point guard Isiah Thomas from Indiana University. In early 1982, the Pistons acquired center Bill Laimbeer in a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers and guard Vinnie Johnson from the Seattle SuperSonics. The three would remain together for a decade, forming much of the core of a team that would rise to the top of the league. Another key move by the Pistons was the hiring of head coach Chuck Daly in 1983.

Initially the Pistons had a tough time moving up the NBA ladder. In 1984, the Pistons lost a tough five-game series to the underdog New York Knicks, three games to two. In the 1985 playoffs, Detroit won its first-round series and faced the defending champion Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. Though Boston would prevail in six games, Detroit's surprise performance promised that a rivalry had begun. In the 1985 NBA draft, the team selected Joe Dumars 18th overall, a selection that would prove very wise. They also acquired Rick Mahorn in a trade with the Washington Bullets. However, the team initially took a step backward, losing in the first round of the 1986 playoffs to the more athletic Atlanta Hawks. After the series, Coach Chuck Daly and team captain Thomas decided that their best chance to seize control of the Eastern Conference would be through a more aggressive style of play.

Prior to the 1986–87 season, the Pistons acquired more key players: John Salley (drafted 11th overall), Dennis Rodman (drafted 27th) and Adrian Dantley (acquired in a trade with the Utah Jazz). The team adopted a physical, defense-oriented style of play, which eventually earned them the nickname "Bad Boys". In 1987, the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals—the first time it had advanced that far since 1961—against the Celtics. After pushing the defending champions to a 2–2 tie, the Pistons were on the verge of winning Game 5 at the Boston Garden with seconds remaining. After a Celtics' turnover, Thomas attempted to quickly inbound the ball and missed Daly's timeout signal from the bench (the NBA had not yet instituted the rule that allowed coaches to call timeout themselves). Larry Bird stole the inbound pass and passed it to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup. While the Pistons would win Game 6 in Detroit, they would lose the series in a tough Game 7 back in Boston.

A ticket for Game 1 of the 1988 NBA Finals at The Forum.

Motivated by their loss to the Celtics, the 1988 Pistons, aided by midseason acquisition James Edwards, improved to a then-franchise-record 54 victories and the franchise's first division title in 33 years. In the postseason, the Pistons avenged their two previous playoff losses to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, defeating them in six games and advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since the franchise moved to Detroit.

The Pistons' first trip to the Finals in 33 years saw them face the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After taking a 3–2 series lead back to Los Angeles, Detroit appeared poised to win their first NBA title in Game 6. In that game, Isiah Thomas scored an NBA Finals record 25 points in the third quarter while playing on a severely sprained ankle. However, the Lakers won the game, 103–102, on a pair of last-minute free throws by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar following a controversial foul called on Bill Laimbeer, referred to by many Piston supporters, and Laimbeer himself, as a "phantom foul". With Isiah Thomas unable to compete at full strength, the Pistons narrowly fell in Game 7, 108–105.

Chuck Daly, coach of the 1989 and 1990 NBA Champions

Prior to the 1988–89 season, the Pistons moved to Auburn Hills to play at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The 1989 Pistons completed the building of their roster by trading Dantley for Mark Aguirre, a trade that Piston fans would criticize heavily initially, but later praise. The team won 63 games, shattering their one-year-old franchise record, and steamrolled through the playoffs and into an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers. This time the Pistons came out victorious in a four-game sweep to win their first NBA championship. Joe Dumars was named NBA Finals MVP.

The Pistons successfully defended their title in 1990, despite losing Mahorn to the Timberwolves in the expansion draft. After winning 59 games and a third straight division title, the Pistons cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs before playing a tough Eastern Conference Finals series against Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls. Facing each other for the third straight season, the Pistons and Bulls split the first six games before the Pistons finished the series with a decisive 93–74 victory in Game 7.[11] Advancing to their third consecutive NBA Finals, the Pistons faced the Portland Trail Blazers. After splitting the first two games at The Palace, the Pistons went to Portland, where they had not won a game since 1974, to play Games 3, 4 and 5. The Pistons summarily won all three games in Portland, becoming the first NBA team to sweep the middle three games on the road. The decisive game came down to the final second. Trailing 90–83 with two minutes remaining, the Pistons rallied to tie the game, then took a 92–90 lead when Vinnie Johnson sank an 18-foot jumper with 00.7 seconds left in the game; this shot earned Johnson a new nickname in Detroit, "007", to go with his original, "The Microwave". Isiah Thomas was named NBA Finals MVP.

The Pistons' championship run came to an end in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, as the Pistons were swept by the eventual NBA champion Chicago Bulls, 4 games to 0. The most critical Piston injury belonged to Isiah Thomas who had surgery on his wrist just prior to the NBA Playoffs. The Conference Finals were best remembered for the Pistons walking off court in the last game just before it ended, unwilling to shake hands with the Bulls. After the series, Jordan said he was "shocked that Isiah didn't play as hard". Following this, the franchise went through a lengthy transitional period, as key players either retired (Laimbeer in 1993 and Thomas in 1994) or were traded (Edwards, Johnson, Salley and Rodman among others). The team quickly declined, bottoming out in the 1993–94 season when they finished 20–62.

1994–2000: The Grant Hill era

The team's fortunes improved after that season, but the rebuilding process soon sputtered. As a result of the poor finish in the 1994 season, the Pistons were able to draft Grant Hill, a promising small forward. However, this period also saw the team make numerous questionable personnel decisions, such as the loss of free agent Allan Houston to the New York Knicks,[12] the signing of free agent wash-outs Christian Laettner, Loy Vaught, Cedric Ceballos, and Bison Dele; and head coaching changes from Ron Rothstein to Don Chaney to Doug Collins to Alvin Gentry to George Irvine in an eight-year span. Of those coaches, only Collins had any sort of success with the Pistons, winning 54 games in the 1996–97 season. The franchise even changed its team colors in 1996 from its traditional red and blue to teal, burgundy, gold and black in what proved to be a highly unpopular move with fans. The white is the only team color that did not change after all. This period has become known, often derisively, as the "teal era".

2000–2008: Return to championship contention

2000–2002: Building a contender

After being swept by the Miami Heat in the 2000 playoffs, Joe Dumars (who had retired following the 1999 season) was hired as the team's president of basketball operations. He quickly faced what appeared to be a setback for the franchise, as Grant Hill elected to leave the team for the Orlando Magic. However, Dumars managed to work a sign and trade with Orlando that brought the Pistons Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins in exchange for Hill. Both quickly entered the Pistons' starting lineup, and Wallace would develop into an All-Star in the coming years. Conversely, Hill would play only 47 games in the following four seasons due to a recurring ankle injury.

The Pistons suffered through another tough season in 2000–01, going 32–50 despite Jerry Stackhouse averaging 29.8 points a game. After the season, Dumars fired Irvine and hired Rick Carlisle, a widely respected assistant coach who had been a tough substitute contributor for the Celtics during the mid-1980s. In 2001, the franchise also adopted a modified version of its traditional red-white-and-blue scheme.

Larry Brown coached the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title and the Eastern Conference championship the following season.

Carlisle helped lead the Pistons to their first 50-win season since 1997, and their first playoff series victory since 1991 by defeating the Toronto Raptors in five games, they would however lose to the Boston Celtics five games.

2003–2008: Six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals

In the 2002 offseason, Dumars revamped the Pistons' roster by signing free agent Chauncey Billups, acquiring Richard "Rip" Hamilton from the Washington Wizards, and by drafting Tayshaun Prince from Kentucky. The Pistons posted consecutive 50-win seasons and advanced to the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals, for the first time since 1991. There, however, they were swept in four games by the New Jersey Nets.

Despite the team's improvement, Carlisle was fired in the 2003 off-season. There were believed to be five reasons for the firing: first, that Carlisle had appeared reluctant to play some of the team's younger players, such as Prince and Mehmet Okur, during the regular season, which had upset Dumars; second, that some of the players (notably Wallace) had not gotten along with Carlisle; third, that Carlisle's offense was thought to be conservative; fourth, that Hall of Famer Larry Brown had become available; and finally fifth, that Carlisle was rumored to be interested in the Pacers head coaching job during the Pistons' 2003 playoff run. Brown accepted the job that summer and Carlisle landed the job in Indiana as expected.

Chauncey Billups Tayshaun Prince Richard Hamilton Rasheed Wallace Ben Wallace
The starting five of the Pistons' 2004 championship team. (Left-to right: Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince).
A game ticket from March 2006 between the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards.
The Pistons are honored at the White House for the team's victory in the 2004 NBA Finals.

The Pistons' transformation into a championship team was completed with the February 2004 acquisition of Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons now had another big man to pose a threat from all parts of the court. The Pistons finished the season 54–28, recording their best record since 1997. In the 2004 playoffs, after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in five games, they defeated the defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets in seven games after coming back from a 3–2 deficit. Detroit then defeated the Pacers, coached by Carlisle, in six tough games to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1990. Many analysts gave the Pistons little chance to win against their opponents, the Los Angeles Lakers, who had won three out of the previous four NBA championships, and who fielded a star-studded lineup that included Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone. However, the Pistons won the series in dominating fashion, defeating Los Angeles in five games for the team's third NBA Championship. The Pistons posted double-digit wins in three of their four victories, and held the Lakers to a franchise-low 68 points in Game 3. Chauncey Billups was named NBA Finals MVP. With the win, Bill Davidson became the first (and to this date, the only) owner to win both NBA and NHL championships in the same year, having won the Stanley Cup as owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite losing key members of their bench during the off-season (including Okur, Mike James and Corliss Williamson), the Pistons were considered a strong contender to win a second consecutive title in 2005. They won 54 games during the regular season, their fourth consecutive season of 50 or more wins. During the 2005 playoffs, they easily defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 4–1 and then rallied from a 2–1 deficit to finish off the Indiana Pacers, 4–2. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons faced the Miami Heat. Once again, Detroit fell behind, but won the Eastern Conference Championship in seven games. In the NBA Finals, the Pistons faced the San Antonio Spurs. The teams split the first four games, with the possible turning point in the series coming at the end of Game 5 in Detroit, which went into overtime. The Pistons were ahead 95–93 with nine seconds to play in the extra session, only to have Robert Horry sink a game-winning three-point basket for the Spurs. Detroit fought back to win Game 6 in San Antonio, setting up the first NBA Finals Game 7 since 1994. The Pistons then lost a hard-fought, low-scoring game to the Spurs, who won their third NBA championship since 1999.

The Pistons' 2004–05 season was marked by a major controversy, as well as distracting issues involving Larry Brown. In the first month of the season, a Pacers–Pistons brawl erupted, one of the largest fan-player incidents in the history of American sports. It resulted in heavy fines and suspensions for several players, and a great deal of NBA and media scrutiny. Meanwhile, Brown was forced to leave the team on two occasions due to health concerns, and also became involved in a series of rumors linking him to other job openings. Concerned about Brown's health, and angered over his alleged pursuit of other jobs during the season, the Pistons bought out his contract soon after the 2005 NBA Finals. Brown was promptly named head coach of the New York Knicks, and the Pistons hired Flip Saunders, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Detroit Pistons' team logo from 2005 to the present day. The logo merged the original "Bad Boys" logo with the secondary Pistons logo of 2001–06.

During the 2005–06 season, the Pistons recorded the NBA's best overall record. Their 37–5 start exceeded the best start for any Detroit sports franchise in history and tied for the second-best 42-game start in NBA history. Four of the five Pistons starters (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace), were named to the All-Star team, and Flip Saunders served as the Eastern Conference All-Star team coach. The Pistons finished the regular season with a record of 64–18, setting new franchise records for both overall and road victories (27). In addition, the team set an NBA record by starting the same lineup in 73 consecutive games from the start of the season.

The top-seeded Pistons defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 4–1 in the first round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs, but struggled in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, falling behind 3–2 before winning in seven games. Things did not improve against second-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami defeated the Pistons in six games en route to the 2006 NBA championship.

Current alternate logo, 2005–present.

During the 2006 off-season, the Pistons offered Ben Wallace a four-year, $48 million contract which would have made him the highest-paid Piston ever. However, Wallace agreed to a 4-year, $60 million contract with the Chicago Bulls.[13]

To replace Ben Wallace, the Pistons signed Nazr Mohammed as a center. He struggled to fill the team's void at center, however, and the team began looking for additional help. On January 17, the Pistons signed Chris Webber, who had become a free agent. The Pistons quickly began playing better basketball and, according to Newsday, started "to get their swagger back". The Pistons were only 21–15 before Webber was acquired; with him, the team went 32–14. On April 11, the Pistons clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference, which guaranteed them home-court advantage for first three rounds of the playoffs.

The Pistons opened the 2007 NBA Playoffs with a 4–0 victory over the Orlando Magic, their first playoff series sweep since 1990. The team advanced to face the Chicago Bulls, marking the first time that the Central Division rivals had met in the postseason since 1991. After winning the first two games by 26 and 21 points, the Pistons overcame a 19-point deficit to win Game 3, 81–74. Chicago avoided elimination by winning Games 4 and 5, but the Pistons closed out the series, 95–85, in Game 6. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth consecutive time (equaling their streak from 1987–1991)— three short of the NBA record set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons won games 1 and 2, but lost 4 in a row to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the 2007 NBA draft the Pistons selected Rodney Stuckey as the 15th overall pick and Arron Afflalo as the 27th overall pick.[14] They also re-signed Chauncey Billups to a long-term contract, as well as re-signing top prospect Amir Johnson and key reserve Antonio McDyess. This season marked the 50th anniversary of the franchise in Detroit.

At the start of the 2008 season, Rasheed Wallace became the Pistons' new center. Upon entering his third season as Pistons coach, Saunders became the longest-tenured Pistons coach since Chuck Daly's nine-year tenure (1983–92). Detroit finished the season 59–23, with the second-best record in the league. The Boston Celtics held the first seed, and many speculated that Boston was their main competition in the Eastern Conference. In the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Detroit started out poorly with a Game 1 loss to the seventh-seeded Philadelphia 76ers and found themselves in a 2-games-to-1 deficit. But the Pistons rallied to defeat the Sixers in six games.

Meanwhile, in the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Detroit rolled out to a Game 1 romp of the Orlando Magic, and won a tight Game 2 amid mild controversy. At the very end of the third quarter, Chauncey Billups hit a three-point field goal that gave the Pistons a three-point lead. However, the clock had stopped shortly into the play. League rules currently prohibit officials from using both instant replay and a timing device to measure how much time has elapsed when a clock malfunctions, nor is a replay from the time of the malfunction onward allowed. The officials estimated that the play took 4.6 seconds, and since there were 5.1 seconds remaining when it began, the field goal was counted. The NBA later admitted that the play actually took 5.7 seconds and the basket should not have counted.[15]

In addition to losing Game 3 badly, 111–86, the Pistons also lost all-star point guard and team leader Chauncey Billups to a hamstring injury. Despite his absence, the Pistons rallied from 15 down in the third quarter to win Game 4 90–89, on a field goal by Tayshaun Prince with just 8.9 seconds to play, taking a 3–1 series lead. Again with Billups sitting on the sideline, they then proceeded to win Game 5 in Detroit, winning the series 4 games to 1.

Detroit advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth straight season, squaring off against the Boston Celtics. This put the Pistons second on the all-time list of most consecutive conference final appearances, only behind the Los Angeles Lakers who appeared in 8 straight conference finals from the 1981–82 to 1988–89 seasons.[16] They lost Game 1 88–79, but won in game two on the road, 103–97 (marking Boston's first home court loss in the 2008 postseason). Immediately following that, the Celtics won their first road playoff game of the post-season, 94–80, in game three. Game four saw the Pistons win 94–75. In the pivotal fifth game, they lost 106–102, despite rallying from 18 points down late in the game. In Game 6, the Pistons entered the fourth quarter leading 70–60, but a lack of focus, a poor game from Rasheed Wallace, and a rally-killing turnover by Tayshaun Prince ultimately led to their demise; the Pistons ended their season with an 89–81 loss. The postgame interview was notable for Wallace, possibly knowing Dumars would soon break up the core of the team, saying simply, "It's over, man." After that, the Celtics went on to win the 2008 NBA Finals. On June 3, 2008, the Pistons announced that head coach Flip Saunders would not return as head coach for the 2008–09 regular season.[17]

2008–2011: Failed express rebuilding

In November 2008, the Pistons traded its key members Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for Allen Iverson.[18] McDyess was later waived on November 10 and rejoined the Pistons on December 9, 2008. This Billups/Iverson trade was marked as a start of a new rebuilding process because of Iverson's free agent status at the end of the season.

The season was marked with many controversies and injuries. As a result of that, and poor play, the Pistons dropped down the standings, only clinching a playoff berth on April 10, 2009, good for the #8 seed at 39–43, their first losing season in 7 years. The Pistons were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games in the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs. It was the first time the Pistons had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs since 2000. Iverson left the team at the end of the season.

In the 2009–10 offseason, Dumars reached an agreement with the former Bulls guard Ben Gordon on a 5 year/$55 million contract, as well as an agreement with former Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva on a 5-year contract worth $35 million. That same month, the Pistons lost their two key members during the last few years, veterans Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess. On July 8, 2009, Dumars hired former Cavaliers assistant coach John Kuester to be the Pistons new head coach. Kuester was, same as his predecessor Michael Curry, a debutant on the NBA head coach position.

The Pistons signed back their former player and former defensive player of the year, center Ben Wallace, before the 2009–2010 season.[19]

Despite these changes, the team regressed even further, hampered by injuries to key players. On March 23, 2010, the Pistons were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Indiana Pacers, assuring their first Draft Lottery appearance and their first 50-loss season since 2001. The Pistons finished with a 27–55 record, and were last in the Central Division. It was their worst record since 1994. Another 50-loss season, this time finishing at 30–52, led to the firing of Kuester at the end of the 2010–11 season.

2011–2015: New ownership; more struggling

On April 7, 2011, the Detroit Pistons reached a long-awaited agreement to sell the NBA franchise to billionaire Tom Gores. The deal was granted by NBA in June and also included The Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy Music Theatre.[20] According to Crain's Detroit Business, the final sale price was $325 million, far lower than expected.[21]

Prior to the 2011–12 season, the team decided to hire a new coach, Lawrence Frank, former head coach of the New Jersey Nets and an assistant coach of the Boston Celtics. The 2011–12 season was an improvement from previous years for the Pistons, although they still posted a losing record. While they started the season 4–20, they managed to win half their remaining games to finish a lockout-shortened season with a record of 25–41. The team continued to build its young core with the drafting of the talented center Andre Drummond.

Following the 2012–13 season, coach Lawrence Frank was fired on April 18, 2013, after two losing seasons,[22] and on June 10, 2013, the Pistons hired former player and coach, Maurice Cheeks. His tenure lasted for just a bit more than half a season, and he was replaced with interim coach John Loyer.[23] In April the Detroit Pistons announced that Joe Dumars would step down as President of Basketball Operations, yet remain as an advisor to the organization and its ownership team,[24] and on May 14, 2014, Stan Van Gundy was hired. The former Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic coach, signed a 5-year, $35 million contract to become the head coach and President of Basketball Operations for the team.[25]

After starting the 2014–15 season with a 5–23 record, the Pistons waived Josh Smith, who was acquired in the summer of 2013.[26] The team went on a lengthy winning streak, but would only finish the season with a W-L record of 32–50 after Brandon Jennings' Achilles injury.

2015–2016: Return to the playoffs

In the 2015 offseason, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy began to change the roster to his liking by making such acquisitions as Ersan İlyasova, Steve Blake, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris. They also drafted rookie Stanley Johnson with the 8th pick in the 2015 NBA draft and re-signed point guard Reggie Jackson. The Pistons entered the 2015–16 season with a stronger roster than the previous season, although losing starter Greg Monroe to the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency. Andre Drummond started the season on fire earning himself the honor of consecutive Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards for the weeks of November 1 and November 8.

The Pistons entered the All-Star break with a 50% win-loss record at 27–27. The Pistons did surpass their win totals from the 2009–10 NBA season to the 2014–15 NBA season on March 9, 2016, when Detroit defeated the Dallas Mavericks 102–96. On April 6, 2016, following a 108–104 win over the Orlando Magic giving the Pistons their first winning season since the 2007–08 NBA season when they went 59–23. On April 8, 2016, the Pistons defeated the Washington Wizards 112–99 and clinched a playoff berth, ending a six-year drought that started from the 2009–10 NBA season. The eighth-seeded Pistons faced the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs. They were swept in 4 games in a highly-competitive series.

Move back to downtown Detroit

Since the 1978–79 season, the Pistons have played their home games in suburban Oakland County (directly north of Detroit/Wayne County), first playing ten seasons at the Pontiac Silverdome, and then began play at the Palace of Auburn Hills starting in the 1988–89 season, where the team has remained since. As such, the Pistons remain the only NBA franchise playing in a suburban location; however, team owner Tom Gores, Palace Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Arn Tellum, and Olympia Entertainment (the Ilitch family's holding company that controls the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers) had been in negotiations over a partnership since the summer of 2015, with the Pistons possibly relocating to the new Little Caesars Arena as soon as the 2017–18 season. Talks intensified just as the Pistons were set to open their 2016–17 season, and as part of the terms of the agreement, it also may include a possible merger between Olympia and PS&E.[27] Also contingent on a finalized agreement, the Pistons were looking for a parcel of land in the arena's vicinity, to build a new practice facility and team headquarters.[27] [28] The leasing agreement/partnership would need both league and city approval to be finalized.[29][30]

On November 22, 2016, the Pistons announced their intention to move to Little Caesars Arena, and the site of the Palace of Auburn Hills would be redeveloped and sold, with the arena likely to be demolished as part of the redevelopment.[31]

Media coverage


The Pistons flagship radio station is WMGC-FM 105.1 The Bounce. They took over from WXYT-FM starting with the 2014–15 season. There are several affiliate stations throughout Michigan.[32] The regular radio announcers are Mark Champion with play-by-play and Rick Mahorn with color commentary.


The Pistons' current exclusive local television rights holder is Fox Sports Detroit.[33] The regular TV announcers are George Blaha with play-by-play, Greg Kelser with color commentary, Grant Long with studio analysis and Johnny Kane or Matt Shepard with sideline reports.


After moving from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Detroit in 1957, the Pistons' uniforms remained largely unchanged for two decades, featuring the word "Pistons" in blue block lettering. In the 1978–79 season, the team featured a uniform with lightning bolts on the sides and in the wordmark on the front of the jerseys. The team ditched the lightning bolt theme and returned to its classic block lettering and simple side panel pattern in 1981, staying with this look until 1996. That year, the Pistons changed its colors to teal, black, yellow and red, and unveiled a new logo with a horse's head and flaming mane. This uniform pattern lasted until 2001, when the team returned to the traditional red, white and blue colors, and a uniform pattern taking cues from the 1981–96 threads.[34]

On August 14, 2013, the Pistons unveiled a new alternate uniform, with navy blue and red colors. It featured the words "Motor City" across the front and mark the club's first alternative look since the 2005–06 NBA season. The uniforms are the first of their kind, designed to celebrate the pride and character of metro Detroit while paying homage to the region's automotive roots. The team said in its press release that it "worked in consultation with adidas and the NBA in development of the uniforms. Lettering and numbering style on the jersey is consistent with the team's current home and away uniforms. To contrast the navy blue and red accents, lettering and numbers on the jerseys and shorts are white with hair-line red and blue trim. The club's secondary logo appears on the shorts – similar to the primary home and away uniforms."[35]

On October 4, 2015, the Pistons unveiled a new alternate pride uniform, intended to be worn during the 2015–16 NBA season. The team said in a press release that "the inspiration for the Detroit Chrome jerseys came about as a way to honor our coolest cars from the past and the cars of the future. Detroit is universally known as the auto capitol of the world, where chrome leaves an indelible mark on the cars we create. The uniforms feature a matte chrome base color with clean simple lines inspired by the classic muscle cars that have roared up and down Woodward Avenue for decades. The navy trim and Detroit emblazoned across the chest represent the blue collar work ethic that the auto industry and region was built on."[36][37]


Season-by-season records

Home arenas

The Detroit Pistons playing in The Palace of Auburn Hills, seen here in January 2006.

Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons:

Detroit Pistons:



Current roster

Detroit Pistons roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY–MM–DD) From
F/C 12 Baynes, Aron 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 260 lb (118 kg) 1986–12–09 Washington State
F 25 Bullock, Reggie 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 205 lb (93 kg) 1991–03–16 North Carolina
G 5 Caldwell-Pope, Kentavious 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 205 lb (93 kg) 1993–02–18 Georgia
C 0 Drummond, Andre (C) 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 279 lb (127 kg) 1993–08–10 Connecticut
F 8 Ellenson, Henry 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1997–01–13 Marquette
G/F 9 Gbinije, Michael 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1992–06–05 Syracuse
F 34 Harris, Tobias 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1992–07–15 Tennessee
G/F 6 Hilliard, Darrun 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 205 lb (93 kg) 1993–04–13 Villanova
G 1 Jackson, Reggie  (C) 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 208 lb (94 kg) 1990–04–16 Boston C
F 7 Johnson, Stanley 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1996–05–29 Arizona
F 30 Leuer, Jon 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 228 lb (103 kg) 1989–05–14 Wisconsin
C 51 Marjanović, Boban 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m) 290 lb (132 kg) 1988–08–15 Serbia
F 13 Morris, Marcus 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1989–09–02 Kansas
G 14 Smith, Ish 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1988–07–05 Wake Forest
G 19 Udrih, Beno 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 205 lb (93 kg) 1982–07–05 Slovenia
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • (DL) On assignment to D-League affiliate
  • Injured

Last transaction: 2016–10–24

Retained draft rights

The Pistons hold the draft rights to the following unsigned draft picks who have been playing outside the NBA. A drafted player, either an international draftee or a college draftee who isn't signed by the team that drafted him, is allowed to sign with any non-NBA teams. In this case, the team retains the player's draft rights in the NBA until one year after the player's contract with the non-NBA team ends.[40] This list includes draft rights that were acquired from trades with other teams.

Draft Round Pick Player Pos. Nationality Current team Note(s) Ref

Recent NBA draft selections

Note: The rights to Budinger were traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for the rights to future second round draft pick and cash considerations
Note: The rights to White were traded to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for the rights to Seattle's draft picks Walter Sharpe (round 2, pick 32) and Trent Plaisted (round 2, pick 46)

Retired numbers

All of the Pistons retired numbers are currently hanging in the rafters of The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Detroit Pistons retired numbers and honorees
No. Player Position Tenure
1 Chauncey Billups G 2002–2008
2013–2014 7
2 Chuck Daly Head coach 1 1983–1992
3 Ben Wallace C 2000–2006
2009–2012 6
4 Joe Dumars G 1985–1999 2
10 Dennis Rodman F 1986–1993 5
11 Isiah Thomas G 1981–1994
15 Vinnie Johnson G 1981–1991
16 Bob Lanier C 1970–1980
21 Dave Bing G 1966–1975
40 Bill Laimbeer C 1982–1994
William Davidson Team owner 1974–2009 3
Jack McCloskey General manager 1979–1992 4

Basketball Hall of Fame members

Detroit Pistons Hall of Famers
No. Name Position Tenure Inducted No. Name Position Tenure Inducted
4 Andy Phillip G/F 1952–1956 1961 15 Dick McGuire G 1957–1960 1993
22 Dave DeBusschere F 1962–1968 1983 12 George Yardley F/G 1953–1959 1996
17 Bob Houbregs C/F 1954–1958 1987 18 Bailey Howell F 1959–1964 1997
20 Bobby McDermott G 1941–1946 1988 11 Bob McAdoo F/C 1979–1981 2000
21 Dave Bing G 1966–1975 1990 11 Isiah Thomas G 1981–1994 2000
11 Harry Gallatin F/C 1957–1958 1991 17 Earl Lloyd 1 F 1958–1960 2003
16 Bob Lanier C 1970–1980 1992 4 Joe Dumars G 1985–1999 2006
8 Walt Bellamy C 1968–1970 1993 45 Adrian Dantley F 1986–1989 2008
10 Dennis Rodman F 1986–1993 2011 24 Nathaniel Clifton C/F 1956–1957 2014
1 Allen Iverson G 2008–2009 2016
No. Name Position Tenure Inducted No. Name Position Tenure Inducted
2 Chuck Daly Head coach 1983–1992 1994 Larry Brown Head coach 2003–2005 2002
Dick Vitale 2 Head coach 1978–1979 2008
No. Name Position Tenure Inducted No. Name Position Tenure Inducted
Fred Zollner Founder/Owner 1941–1974 1999 William Davidson Owner 1974–2009 2008

Head coaches

General managers


Franchise leaders

Individual awards

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

NBA Eastern All-Star Game head coach

NBA All-Defensive First Team

NBA All-Defensive Second Team

NBA All-Rookie First Team

NBA All-Rookie Second Team


Chicago Bulls

Boston Celtics

Los Angeles Lakers


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  12. after the 46-win 1996 season PISTONS: Detroit Pistons 1990's
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  14. "2010 NBA Draft – Yahoo! Sports". 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
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  22. Lawrence Frank fired by Detroit Pistons – ESPN
  23. Detroit Pistons Relieve Maurice Cheeks of Head Coaching Duties, February 9, 2014
  24. Detroit Pistons Announce Organizational Changes, April 14, 2014
  25. Detroit Pistons Name Stan Van Gundy Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, May 14, 2014,
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  36. "Pistons Chrome Jersey" (Press release). Detroit Pistons. October 4, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  37. Whitaker, Lang (October 5, 2015). "Detroit Pistons roll out new "chrome" uniforms". National Basketball Association. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
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  40. Coon, Larry. "NBA Salary Cap FAQ – 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement". Retrieved April 13, 2014. If the player is already under contract to, or signs a contract with a non-NBA team, the team retains the player's draft rights for one year after the player's obligation to the non-NBA team ends. Essentially, the clock stops as long as the player plays pro ball outside the NBA.

Further reading

External links

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