Detroit Pistons
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Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons logo
HistoryFort Wayne Zollner Pistons
Fort Wayne Pistons
Detroit Pistons
ArenaLittle Caesars Arena
LocationDetroit, Michigan
Team colorsRoyal blue, red, chrome, navy blue, white[4][5]
Main sponsorFlagstar Bank[6]
PresidentEd Stefanski (interim)
General managerEd Stefanski (interim)
Head coachDwane Casey
OwnershipTom Gores
Affiliation(s)Grand Rapids Drive
Championships3 (1989, 1990, 2004)
Western: 2 (1955, 1956)
Eastern: 5 (1988, 1989, 1990, 2004, 2005)
Division titles9 (1988, 1989, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Retired numbers11 (1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 15, 16, 21, 32, 40)

The Detroit Pistons are an American professional basketball team based in Detroit, Michigan. The Pistons compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Central Division and plays its home games at Little Caesars Arena. The team was founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne (Zollner) Pistons in 1941, a member of the National Basketball League (NBL) where it won two NBL championships: in 1944 and 1945. The Pistons later joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1948. The NBL and BAA merged to become the NBA in 1949, and the Pistons became part of the merged league.[1][7] In 1957, the franchise moved to Detroit. The Pistons have won three NBA championships: in 1989, 1990 and 2004.

Franchise history

1941-1957: Fort Wayne (Zollner) Pistons

The Detroit Pistons franchise was founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League (NBL) team, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[8] Owner Fred Zollner's Zollner Corporation was a foundry that manufactured pistons, primarily for car, truck, and locomotive engines.[9] The Zollner Pistons were NBL champions in 1944 and 1945.[8] They also won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1944, 1945 and 1946.[10]

In 1948, the team became the Fort Wayne Pistons, competing in the Basketball Association of America (BAA).[9] In 1949, Fred Zollner brokered the formation of the National Basketball Association from the BAA and the NBL at his kitchen table.[9]

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.[11] In the decisive Game 7, the Pistons led 41-24 early in the second quarter before the Nationals rallied to win the game.[12][13] The Nationals won on a free throw by George King with twelve seconds left in the game.[12][13] The closing moments included a palming turnover by the Pistons' George Yardley with 18 seconds left, a foul by Frank Brian with 12 seconds left that enabled King's winning free throw, and a turnover by the Pistons' Andy Phillip in the final seconds which cost them a chance to attempt the game winning shot.[12][13]

1957-1979: Decades of struggles

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 1975-1979.

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.[8] 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.[8] Although it was the fifth largest city in the United States at the time,[14] Detroit had not seen professional basketball in a decade.[8][15][16][17] They lost the Detroit Eagles due to World War II, both the Detroit Gems of the NBL (whose remnants became the Minneapolis Lakers) and the Detroit Falcons of the BAA in 1947, and the Detroit Vagabond Kings in 1949.[8][15][16][17] Zollner decided to keep the Pistons name, believing it made sense given Detroit's status as the center of the automobile industry.[8][9]

The Pistons played in Olympia Stadium (home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL) at the time) for their first four seasons, then moved to Cobo Arena.[17][18]

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Pistons were characterized by very strong individuals and weak teams.[18][19][20] Some of the superstars who played for the team included Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, and Bob Lanier.[21][22][23] At one point, DeBusschere was the youngest player-coach in the history of the NBA.[21] A trade during the 1968-69 season sent DeBusschere to the New York Knicks for Howard Komives and Walt Bellamy, both of whom were in the later stages of their careers.[21] DeBusschere became a key player in leading the Knicks to two NBA titles.[21]

In 1974, Zollner sold the team to glass magnate Bill Davidson, who remained the team's principal owner until his death in 2009.[24][25]

While the Pistons did qualify for the postseason in four straight seasons from 1974 to 1977, they never had any real sustained success.[26][27][28][29]

In 1978, Davidson became displeased with Cobo Arena, but opted not to follow the Red Wings to the under-construction Joe Louis Arena. Instead, he moved the team to the suburb of Pontiac, where they played in the 82,000 capacity Silverdome, a structure built for professional football (and the home of the Detroit Lions at the time).[18][30]

1980-1991: 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.[31] 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.[32][33][34]

The franchise's fortunes finally began to turn in 1981, when they drafted point guard Isiah Thomas from Indiana University.[20] In November 1981, the Pistons acquired Vinnie Johnson in a trade with the Seattle SuperSonics.[35] They would later acquire center Bill Laimbeer in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in February 1982.[36] Another key move by the Pistons was the hiring of head coach Chuck Daly in 1983.[37]

Isiah Thomas against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 1985.

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, 3-2.[38] 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.[31] In the 1985 NBA draft, the team selected Joe Dumars 18th overall, a selection that would prove to be very wise.[39] They also acquired Rick Mahorn in a trade with the Washington Bullets.[40] However, the team took a step backwards, losing in the first round of the 1986 playoffs to the more athletic Atlanta Hawks.[41] After the series, changes were made in order to make the team more defensive-minded.[31]

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).[42][43] The team adopted a physical, defense-oriented style of play, which eventually earned them the nickname "Bad Boys".[44] In 1987, the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals 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.[45][46] After a Celtics' turnover, Thomas attempted to quickly inbound the ball and missed Daly's timeout signal from the bench. Larry Bird stole the inbound pass and passed it to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.[45][46] While the Pistons would win Game 6 in Detroit, they would lose the series in a tough Game 7 back in Boston.[45][46]

Chuck Daly, coach of the 1989 and 1990 NBA champions.
A ticket for Game 1 of the 1988 NBA Finals at The Forum.

Motivated by their loss to the Celtics, the Pistons, aided by midseason acquisition James Edwards, improved to a then-franchise-record 54 victories and the franchise's first division title in 32 years.[31][47][48] 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.[31]

The Pistons' first trip to the Finals in 32 years saw them face the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.[31][49] 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.[50] However, the Lakers won the game, 103-102, on a pair of last-second free throws by Abdul-Jabbar following a controversial foul called on Bill Laimbeer, referred to by many as a "phantom foul".[50][51] With Thomas unable to compete at full strength, the Pistons narrowly fell in Game 7, 108-105.[50][52]

Prior to the 1988-89 season, the Pistons moved to Auburn Hills to play at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the first NBA arena financed entirely with private funds.[53] The 1989 Pistons completed the building of their roster by trading Dantley for Mark Aguirre, a trade that Pistons' fans would criticize heavily initially, but later praise.[54][55][56][57] 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.[58]

The Pistons successfully defended their title in 1990, despite losing Mahorn to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the expansion draft.[59][60] 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.[61][62][63] Advancing to their third consecutive NBA Finals, the Pistons faced the Portland Trail Blazers.[60] 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.[64] The Pistons summarily won all three games in Portland, becoming the first NBA team to sweep the middle three games on the road.[65] 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 a 15-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".[60][66] Isiah Thomas was named NBA Finals MVP.[60]

The Pistons' championship run came to an end in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, as they were swept by the eventual NBA champion Chicago Bulls in four games.[67] The most critical Piston injury belonged to Isiah Thomas who had suffered a wrist injury a few months prior to the NBA playoffs.[68] The Conference Finals is 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, Michael Jordan said, "You see two different styles with us and them. The dirty play and the flagrant fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct. Hopefully, that will be eliminated from the game. I think we play clean basketball. We don't go out and try to hurt people and dirty up the game. You never lose respect for the champions. But I haven't agreed with the methods they used. I think people are happy the game will get back to a clean game [with a Bulls triumph] and away from the 'Bad Boy' image."[69][70][71]

1991-2000: Dormancy

Doug Collins, one of five head coaches for the Pistons in an eight year span.

After getting swept by the Bulls, the Pistons would trade James Edwards and waive Vinnie Johnson during the offseason.[72][73] In the 1991-92 season, the Pistons finished with a 48-34 record.[74][75] In the first round of the 1992 NBA playoffs, the Pistons were defeated by the New York Knicks in five games.[76] Chuck Daly would resign as head coach after the season.[77] Following Daly's departure, the Pistons went through a transitional period, as key players were either traded (Salley and Rodman), or retired (Laimbeer in 1993 and Thomas in 1994).[78][79][80][20] They would bottom out in the 1993-94 season, finishing with a 20-62 record.[74]

1994-2000: The Grant Hill era

Following the 1993-94 season, they were able to draft Grant Hill, a promising small forward, with the third overall pick.[74][81] 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,[82] the signing of free agent wash-outs Loy Vaught and Bison Dele;[83] and head coaching changes from Ron Rothstein to Don Chaney to Doug Collins to Alvin Gentry to George Irvine in an eight-year span.[74][84][85][86] Of these coaches, only Collins had any sort of success with the Pistons, winning 54 games in the 1996-97 season.[74] 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.[86][87] The only color that did not change was white.[87] This period has become known, often derisively, as the "teal era".[86]

2000-2008: "Goin' to Work" era

2000-2002: Building a contender

After being swept by the Miami Heat in the 2000 playoffs, Joe Dumars, who had retired following the 1998-99 season, was hired as the team's president of basketball operations.[86] He quickly faced what appeared to be a setback for the franchise, as Grant Hill elected to leave for the Orlando Magic. However, Dumars worked a sign and trade with Orlando that brought the Pistons Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins in exchange for Hill.[86][88] Both quickly entered the Pistons' starting lineup. Wallace in particular would develop into a defensive stalwart in the coming years.[86][88] Conversely, Hill would play only 47 games in the following three seasons due to a recurring ankle injury.[86]

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

The Pistons suffered through another tough season in 2000-01, going 32-50 despite Jerry Stackhouse averaging 29.8 points a game.[89] After the season, the Pistons fired George Irvine as head coach and hired Rick Carlisle, a widely respected assistant coach who had been a contributor for the Celtics during the mid-1980s.[90] The franchise also returned to its traditional red, white, and blue colors.[86]

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.[91][92] They would, however, lose to the Boston Celtics in five games.[93]

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.[94][95][96] The Pistons posted consecutive 50-win seasons and advanced to the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals, for the first time since 1991.[97][98] There, however, they were swept in four games by the New Jersey Nets.[99]

Despite the team's improvement, Carlisle was fired in the 2003 offseason. 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; second, that some of the players 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 have alienated owner Bill Davidson with his personality.[100][101] Brown accepted the job that summer.[102]

Chauncey BillupsTayshaun PrinceRichard HamiltonRasheed WallaceBen Wallace
The starting five of the Pistons' 2004 championship team. (Left-to right: Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince).
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.[103] The Pistons now had another big man to pose a threat from all parts of the court.[104] The Pistons finished the season 54-28, recording their best record since 1997.[104] 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.[104] The Pistons then defeated the Pacers, coached by Carlisle, in six tough games to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1990.[105][104] Many analysts gave the Pistons little chance to win against their opponent, 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.[104][106] However, the Pistons won the series in dominating fashion, defeating Los Angeles in five games for the team's third NBA championship.[104][107] 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.[104][108] Chauncey Billups was named NBA Finals MVP.[104][107] With the win, Bill Davidson became the first owner to win both an NBA and NHL championship in the same year, as he had also won the Stanley Cup as owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.[25]

Despite losing key members of their bench during the offseason (including Okur, Mike James and Corliss Williamson), the Pistons were considered a strong contender to win a second consecutive title in 2005.[109] They won 54 games during the regular season, their fourth consecutive season of 50 or more wins.[110] 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.[111][112][113] In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons faced the Miami Heat. Once again, the Pistons fell behind.[114] However, they would ultimately win the series in seven games.[115] In the NBA Finals, the Pistons faced the San Antonio Spurs. After both teams split the first four games of the series, the turning point came at the end of Game 5 in Detroit, which went into overtime. The Pistons were ahead 95-93 when Robert Horry sank the game-winning three-point basket for the Spurs with 5.8 seconds left in the extra session.[116] The Pistons fought back to win Game 6 in San Antonio, setting up the first NBA Finals Game 7 since 1994.[117] The Pistons then lost a hard-fought, low-scoring game to the Spurs, who won their third NBA championship since 1999.[118]

The Pistons' 2004-05 season was marked by a major controversy, as well as distracting issues involving Larry Brown.[119][120] 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.[119] It resulted in heavy fines and suspensions for several players, and a great deal of NBA and media scrutiny.[119] Meanwhile, Brown was forced to leave the team on two occasions due to health concerns. During this time, he became involved in a series of rumors linking him to other job openings.[120] 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.[120][121] Brown was promptly named head coach of the New York Knicks, while the Pistons hired Flip Saunders, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves.[122][123]

Alternate logo used from 2005 to 2017.

During the 2005-06 season, the Pistons recorded the NBA's best overall record.[124] Their 37-5 start exceeded the best start for any Detroit sports franchise in history and tied for the fourth-best start through 42 games in NBA history.[125][126] 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.[127] The Pistons finished the regular season with a record of 64-18, setting new franchise records for both overall and road victories (27).[124][128][129] In addition, the team set an NBA record by starting the same lineup in 73 consecutive games from the start of the season.[124]

A game ticket from March 2006 between the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards.

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.[130][131][132] Things did not improve against the second-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami defeated the Pistons in six games en route to the 2006 NBA championship.[133][134]

During the offseason, the Pistons offered Ben Wallace a four-year, $48 million contract, which would have made him the highest-paid player in franchise history at the time. However, Wallace agreed to a 4-year, $60 million contract with the Chicago Bulls.[135]

To replace Ben Wallace, the Pistons signed Nazr Mohammed.[136] He struggled to fill the team's void at center, however, and the team began looking for additional help.[83] On January 16, 2007, the Pistons signed free agent Chris Webber.[137] The Pistons quickly began playing better basketball. They were only 21-15 before Webber was acquired; with him, the team went 32-14.[138][139] 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.[140]

The Pistons opened the 2007 NBA playoffs with a 4-0 victory over the Orlando Magic, their first playoff series sweep since 1990.[141] The team advanced to face the Chicago Bulls, marking the first time that the Central Division rivals had met in the postseason since 1991.[142] After winning the first two games by 26 and 21 points, the Pistons overcame a 19-point deficit to win Game 3, 81-74.[143][144][145] The Bulls avoided elimination by winning Games 4 and 5, but the Pistons closed out the series, 95-85, in Game 6 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth consecutive season.[146][147][148] In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons faced the Cleveland Cavaliers. After both teams split the first four games of the series, the turning point happened in Game 5. The game is best remembered for LeBron James' performance where he scored the Cavaliers' final 29 of 30 points, including the team's final 25 points, to help defeat the Pistons 109-107 in double overtime.[149] The Pistons never recovered as they were eliminated in Game 6, 98-82.[150]

In the 2007 NBA draft, the Pistons selected Rodney Stuckey with the 15th overall pick and Arron Afflalo with the 27th overall pick.[151] They also re-signed Chauncey Billups to a long-term contract, as well as top prospect Amir Johnson and key reserve Antonio McDyess.[152][153][154] This season marked the 50th anniversary of the franchise in Detroit.[155]

At the start of the 2007-08 season, Rasheed Wallace became the Pistons' new center.[156] Upon entering his third season, Saunders became the longest-tenured Pistons coach since Chuck Daly.[157] Detroit finished the season with the second best record in the league at 59-23.[158] The Boston Celtics held the first seed, and many speculated that Boston was their main competition in the Eastern Conference.[158][159] 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 2-1 deficit.[160][161] However, the Pistons rallied to defeat the Sixers in six games.[162]

In the semifinals, the Pistons faced the Orlando Magic. The Pistons rolled out to a Game 1 romp,[163] 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.[164]

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.[165] 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.[166] Again with Billups sitting on the sideline, they then proceeded to win Game 5 in Detroit, winning the series 4-1.[167]

Detroit advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth straight season, squaring off against the Celtics.[167][168] This put the Pistons second on the all-time list of most consecutive conference finals appearances, only behind the Los Angeles Lakers who appeared in eight straight conference finals from the 1981-82 to 1988-89 seasons.[169] They lost Game 1 88-79, but won in Game 2 on the road, 103-97, marking the Celtics' first home court loss in the postseason.[170][171] Immediately following that, the Celtics won their first road game of the postseason, 94-80, in Game 3.[172] Game 4 saw the Pistons win 94-75.[173] In the pivotal Game 5, they lost 106-102, despite rallying from 17 points down late in the game.[174] 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.[175] After that, the Celtics went on to win the 2008 NBA Finals.[176] On June 3, 2008, the Pistons announced that Flip Saunders would not return as head coach.[177]

2008-present: Rebuilding

2008-2011: Failed rebuilding

On June 10, 2008, the Pistons hired Michael Curry to be their new head coach.[178] In November 2008, the Pistons traded key members Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.[179] McDyess was later waived on November 10 and rejoined the Pistons on December 9.[180][181] The trade was marked as a start of a new rebuilding process due to Iverson's free agent status at the end of the season.[179]

The season was marked with many controversies and injuries.[182][183] As a result of this, and poor play, the Pistons dropped down the standings, only clinching a playoff berth on April 10, 2009.[184] The Pistons finished the season at 39-43, securing their first losing season in eight years.[185][186] The Pistons were then swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games in the first round of the 2009 NBA playoffs.[187] On June 30, 2009, Michael Curry was fired as head coach.[188] Iverson would sign with the Memphis Grizzlies during the offseason.[189]

In the offseason, the Pistons reached an agreement with former Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon on a 5 year/$55 million contract, as well as an agreement with former Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva on a 5-year contract worth $35 million.[190][191] That same month, the Pistons lost their two key members during the last few years, veterans Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.[192][193] On July 8, 2009, the Pistons hired former Cavaliers assistant coach John Kuester to be the new head coach.[194] The Pistons would later resign Ben Wallace in August 2009.[195]

Despite these changes, the team regressed even further, as they were hampered by setbacks and injuries.[196][197] On March 23, 2010, the Pistons were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Indiana Pacers.[198] The Pistons finished with a 27-55 record. It was their worst record since 1994.[199] Another 50-loss season, this time finishing at 30-52, led to the firing of Kuester at the end of the 2010-11 season.[200]

2011-2015: New ownership; more struggling

Andre Drummond was selected by the Pistons with the ninth overall pick in 2012 NBA draft.

On April 7, 2011, Karen Davidson, the widow of the late Bill Davidson, reached a long-awaited agreement to sell the franchise to billionaire Tom Gores, which was approved by the NBA Board of Governors in May. The deal also included The Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy Music Theatre.[201][202][203] According to Crain's Detroit Business, the final sale price was $325 million, far lower than expected.[204] In the 2011 NBA draft, the Pistons selected Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler and Vernon Macklin.[205]

Prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, the Pistons made several leadership changes, including appointing Dennis Mannion as president of the franchise and Palace Sports & Entertainment.[206] The team decided to hire Lawrence Frank as the head coach.[207] 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 won half their remaining games to finish a lockout-shortened season with a record of 25-41.[208] The team continued to build its young core with the drafting of the talented center Andre Drummond.[209]

Following the 2012-13 season, Frank was fired as head coach on April 18, 2013, after two losing seasons,[157][210] and on June 10, 2013, the Pistons hired former player and coach, Maurice Cheeks.[211] His tenure lasted for just a bit more than half a season, as he was replaced by interim coach John Loyer.[212][213] In April, the 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.[214] On May 14, 2014, Stan Van Gundy was hired. Van Gundy signed a 5-year, $35 million contract to become the head coach and president of basketball operations for the team.[215]

After starting the 2014-15 season with a 5-23 record, the Pistons waived Josh Smith, who was acquired in the summer of 2013.[216] The team went on a lengthy winning streak, but would only finish the season with a record of 32-50 after Brandon Jennings' Achilles injury.[217][218]

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 ?lyasova, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, and Steve Blake.[219][220][221][222] They also drafted rookie Stanley Johnson with the eighth pick in the 2015 NBA draft and re-signed point guard Reggie Jackson.[223][224] The Pistons entered the 2015-16 season with a stronger roster than the previous season, although they lost starter Greg Monroe to the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency.[225] Andre Drummond started the season strong, earning himself the honor of consecutive Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards for the weeks of November 1 and 8.[226][227]

The Pistons entered the All-Star break at 27-27.[228] The Pistons did surpass their win totals from the 2009-10 season to the 2014-15 season on March 9, 2016, when Detroit defeated the Dallas Mavericks 102-96.[229] On April 6, 2016, following a 108-104 win over the Orlando Magic, the Pistons reached 42 wins and were assured their first winning season since the 2007-08 season.[230] On April 8, 2016, the Pistons defeated the Washington Wizards 112-99 and clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2009.[231] The eighth-seeded Pistons faced the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2016 NBA playoffs. They were swept in four games in a highly-competitive series.[232][233]

2017-present: Returning to downtown Detroit

Little Caesars Arena in 2018.

Beginning with the 1978-79 season, the Pistons 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.[18][234][235] Pistons owner Tom Gores, Palace Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Arn Tellum, and Olympia Entertainment, the Ilitch family's holding company that controls the 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, there was discussion of a possible merger between Olympia and PS&E.[236] 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.[236][237] The leasing agreement/partnership needed both city and league approval to be finalized.[238][239]

On November 22, 2016, the Pistons officially 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.[240] From 1999, when the Lakers relocated from The Forum in suburban Inglewood to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, until the end of the 2016-17 season, the Pistons remained the only NBA franchise to play in a suburban location, ending a 39-year stay in Oakland County.[241][242]

On June 20, 2017, Detroit City Council approved the Pistons' move to Little Caesars Arena.[243] On August 3, 2017, the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the move, which made it official.[244][245] The move made Detroit the only U.S. city to have its Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), NBA, and NHL teams play in its downtown district, and one of only two U.S. cities to have said teams play in one place, the other being Philadelphia.[246]

On January 29, 2018, the Pistons announced they had acquired all-star forward Blake Griffin, along with Willie Reed and Brice Johnson, from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-round draft pick and a 2019 second-round draft pick.[247]

The Pistons finished the 2017-18 season with a 39-43 record. They missed the playoffs for the eighth time in ten years.[248] On May 7, 2018, the Pistons announced that Stan Van Gundy would not return as head coach and president of basketball operations.[249] On June 11, 2018, Dwane Casey was hired by the Pistons to be their new head coach, agreeing to a five-year deal.[250] The Pistons finished the 2018-19 season with a 41-41 record, clinching a playoff spot as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.[251] In the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs, the Pistons were swept in four games by the Milwaukee Bucks, setting an NBA record for the most consecutive playoff losses with 14.[252][253]

Media coverage


The Pistons flagship radio station is WXYT-FM.[254][255] There are several affiliate stations throughout Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.[254] The regular radio announcers are Mark Champion with play-by-play and Rick Mahorn with color commentary.[254][256]


The Pistons' current exclusive local television rights holder is Fox Sports Detroit.[257] The regular TV announcers are George Blaha with play-by-play, Greg Kelser with color commentary, Grant Long or Tim McCormick with studio analysis and Johnny Kane, Mickey York, or Brooke Fletcher with sideline reports.[256][258]

Team identity

Logos and uniforms

The "teal era" logo from 1996 to 2001.

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 color scheme 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.[259] The horse's head and flaming mane logo lasted until 2005, when the team switched to a more classic logo design.

Sir Slam A Lot was the mascot of the Pistons from 1994 to 1996.

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 they wore a red alternate, which was basically a recolored version of their regular road uniform, from 2005-2009. The uniform is the first of its 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."[260]

On October 4, 2015, the Pistons unveiled a new alternate pride uniform, intended to be worn during the 2015-16 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."[261][262]

On May 16, 2017, the Pistons unveiled a new logo, which is a modernized version of the previous "Bad Boys" era logo used from 1979 to 1996.[4][263]

The team's current mascot is named Hooper.[264]

Season-by-season records

Home arenas

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



Current roster

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 is not 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.[273] This list includes draft rights that were acquired from trades with other teams.

Draft Round Pick Player Pos. Nationality Current team Note(s) Ref
2019 2 37 Deividas Sirvydis G  Lithuania Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania) Acquired from the Dallas Mavericks [274]

Retired numbers

Detroit Pistons retired numbers and honorees
No. Player Position Tenure Date
1 Chauncey Billups G 2002-2008
2013-2014 1
February 10, 2016[275]
2 Chuck Daly Head coach 2 1983-1992 January 25, 1997[276]
3 Ben Wallace C 2000-2006
2009-2012 3
January 16, 2016[277]
4 Joe Dumars G 1985-1999 4 March 10, 2000[276]
10 Dennis Rodman F 1986-1993 5 April 1, 2011[276]
11 Isiah Thomas G 1981-1994 February 17, 1996[276]
15 Vinnie Johnson G 1981-1991 February 5, 1994[276]
16 Bob Lanier C 1970-1980 January 9, 1993[276]
21 Dave Bing G 1966-1975 March 18, 1983[276]
32 Richard Hamilton G/F 2002-2011 February 26, 2017[278]
40 Bill Laimbeer C 1982-1994 February 4, 1995[276]
-- Bill Davidson Team owner 1974-2009 6 December 28, 2011[279]
-- Jack McCloskey General manager 1979-1992 7 March 29, 2008[280]


  • 1Reggie Jackson wore the number at the time it was retired and continues to wear it today.[281]
  • 2Never played in the NBA; number represents the two NBA championship teams he coached.[37]
  • 3Stanley Johnson wore the number at the time it was retired.[281][282]
  • 4Also team president from 2000 to 2014.[283]
  • 5Greg Monroe wore the number at the time it was retired (2010-2015).[284][285][225]
  • 6Banner raised to honor his 35 years with the team.[279]
  • 7Banner raised to honor his 13 years as the team's general manager.[280]

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[286] 22 Dave DeBusschere F 1962-1968 1983[287]
17 Bob Houbregs C/F 1954-1958 1987[288] 20 Bobby McDermott G 1941-1946 1988[289]
21 Dave Bing G 1966-1975 1990[290] 11 Harry Gallatin F/C 1957-1958 1991[291]
16 Bob Lanier C 1970-1980 1992[292] 8 Walt Bellamy 1 C 1968-1970 1993[293]
15 Dick McGuire G 1957-1960 1993[294] 26 Buddy Jeannette G 1943-1946 1994[295]
12 George Yardley F/G 1953-1959 1996[296] 18 Bailey Howell F 1959-1964 1997[297]
11 Bob McAdoo F/C 1979-1981 2000[298] 11 Isiah Thomas G 1981-1994 2000[299]
4 Joe Dumars G 1985-1999 2006[300] 45 Adrian Dantley F 1986-1989 2008[301]
10 Dennis Rodman F 1986-1993 2011[302] 24 Nathaniel Clifton C/F 1956-1957 2014[303]
1 Allen Iverson G 2008-2009 2016[304] 1 Tracy McGrady G/F 2010-2011 2017[305]
33 Grant Hill F 1994-2000 2018[306] 6 Chuck Cooper F/G 1956 2019[307]
Name Position Tenure Inducted Name Position Tenure Inducted
2 Chuck Daly 2 Head coach 1983-1992 1994[308] Larry Brown Head coach 2003-2005 2002[309]
Name Position Tenure Inducted Name Position Tenure Inducted
Fred Zollner Founder/Owner 1941-1974 1999[310] 17 Earl Lloyd 3 F 1958-1960 2003[311]
Bill Davidson Owner 1974-2009 2008[312] Dick Vitale 4 Head coach 1978-1979 2008[313]
10 Rod Thorn 5 G 1964-1965 2018[314]


  • 1 In total, Bellamy was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice - as player and as a member of the 1960 Olympic team.[293][315]
  • 2 In total, Daly was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice - as coach and as a member of the 1992 Olympic team.[308][316]
  • 3 Lloyd was inducted as a contributor as the first African American player and bench coach in the NBA.[311]
  • 4 Vitale was inducted as a contributor for his career as a college basketball broadcaster.[313]
  • 5 Thorn was inducted as a contributor.[314]

Head coaches

General managers

GM history
GM Tenure
Carl Bennett 1948-1954[317]
Fred Zollner 1954-1957[317]
Otto Adams 1957[317]
Fred Delano 1957-1958[317]
W. Nicholas Kerbawy 1958-1961[317]
Francis Smith 1961-1964[317]
Don Wattrick 1964-1965[317]
Edwin Coil 1965-1975[317]
Oscar Feldman 1975-1977[317]
Bob Kauffman 1977-1978[317]
Bill Davidson 1978-1979[317]
Jack McCloskey 1979-1992[317]
Tom Wilson 1992[317]
Billy McKinney 1992-1995[317]
Doug Collins 1995-1998[317]
Rick Sund 1998-2000[317]
Joe Dumars 2000-2014[317]
Jeff Bower 2014-2018[317]
Ed Stefanski 2018-present[317]

Individual records and awards

Franchise leaders

Bold denotes still active with team.

Italic denotes still active but not with team. Points scored (regular season) (as of the end of the 2018-19 season)[318][319]

  1. Isiah Thomas (18,822)
  2. Joe Dumars (16,401)
  3. Bob Lanier (15,488)
  4. Dave Bing (15,235)
  5. Bill Laimbeer (12,665)
  6. Richard Hamilton (11,582)
  7. Vinnie Johnson (10,146)
  8. Tayshaun Prince (10,006)
  9. Grant Hill (9,393)
  10. John Long (9,023)
  11. Bailey Howell (8,182)
  12. Gene Shue (8,034)
  13. Chauncey Billups (7,940)
  14. Andre Drummond (7,661)
  15. Kelly Tripucka (7,597)
  16. Jerry Stackhouse (7,451)
  17. Eddie Miles (7,419)
  18. George Yardley (7,339)
  19. Larry Foust (7,124)
  20. Dave DeBusschere (7,096)

Other statistics (regular season) (as of the end of the 2018-19 season)[318]

Most minutes played
Player Minutes
Isiah Thomas 35,516
Joe Dumars 35,139
Bill Laimbeer 30,602
Tayshaun Prince 26,166
Dave Bing 26,052
Bob Lanier 24,640
Richard Hamilton 21,679
Ben Wallace 21,358
Vinnie Johnson 20,218
Lindsey Hunter 18,574
Most rebounds
Player Rebounds
Bill Laimbeer 9,430
Bob Lanier 8,063
Andre Drummond 7,424
Ben Wallace 7,264
Dennis Rodman 6,299
Larry Foust 5,200
Walter Dukes 4,986
Dave DeBusschere 4,947
Bailey Howell 4,583
Ray Scott 4,508
Most assists
Player Assists
Isiah Thomas 9,061
Joe Dumars 4,612
Dave Bing 4,330
Chauncey Billups 2,984
Grant Hill 2,720
Vinnie Johnson 2,661
Richard Hamilton 2,419
Bob Lanier 2,256
Tayshaun Prince 2,074
Lindsey Hunter 2,038

Individual awards

NBA All-Star Weekend

NBA Eastern All-Star Game head coach

NBA All-Star Game MVP


Chicago Bulls

Boston Celtics

Los Angeles Lakers


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Further reading

External links

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