In a previous professional life I was the pre and postgame host for the Washington Bullets. I was happy to have the job, but let's just say the Wes Unseld era didn't feature many highlights or, cutting to the chase, many victories. You learn though. You learn about what it takes to put a winning team on the court in the NBA.
I remember John Nash, who was the GM at the time, telling me about a conversation he had with Jerry West. He asked him what it took to win a Championship? What was the key? What was the secret? West said "Number one picks."
Nash thought about his roster and like most NBA GM's he said, "I have number one picks all over the place." West said, "No, number one overall picks."
This from a man that had won titles with teams that included Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and you can also throw in Mychal Thompson.
It's an extreme example but the point is pretty simple. It's not about good players. It's not about potential. It's about great players.
So last night, there I was getting excited about the possibility that the Pistons were going to get Rudy Gay in exchange for the contracts attached to the bodies of Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey. I don't love Rudy Gay. He has holes the size of Oliver Miller in his game. HOWEVER, the salaries were basically a wash this year and then you'd have to endure one season at roughly 19 million after that. In my opinion, he is a better small forward than Josh Smith (read that again, better small forward) and I'd rather take two years of Gay, than 4 years of Andre Iguodala at 13-14 million per.
Fast forward to today. Given somewhere between 2 and 8 hours of sleep. I would still make the trade but the hopelessness of the state of the Pistons and other teams caught in the leagues lower 85% began to really hit home.
What are we talking about here? Not moving the deck chairs on the titanic. Not that bad. But you are talking about a ship that is just floating and no better. None of the players being discussed significantly change the fate and fortune of this organization. I'm not breaking any new ground here but the fact is until the Pistons find "that guy", they aren't going anywhere above the middle of the pack.
Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Duncan, Durant, Westbrook and Dirk of a few years ago. Those are the guys that give you a chance to rise above mere relevancy to actually matter. You have to find one of those guys. Until then you can watch OJ Mayo, Tyreke Evans, JR Smith, Josh Smith and anybody else cash their checks but they won't be the driving force behind winning a title. It's the sizzle and not the steak.
Joe Dumars is in an awful spot. He pulled off the incredible feat of winning a title without a surefire Hall of Famer once. They were the first since the ‘79 Sonics to do that. It was historic. It also won't happen again. (I'm pretty sure of this.)
There's nothing wrong with what he's doing. I may not love the guys he's talking to, but he has to play the hand he's been dealt. Some of the players being discussed will help get the team back to the postseason. You can't just toss in the towel. Do what you can, but in the end, reality is waiting to smack you down.
No league demands more of its Champions when it comes to the final examination. Unlike the NFL, or NHL, or Major League Baseball, teams don't just get hot and win it all. Great players do. Hall of Fame players do. The L.A. Kings don't get face time with David Stern in June.
Unfortunately, Detroit won't either until the organization finds a way to get one of those guys Jerry West was talking about.