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Marty Burns
October 30, 2000
Are the days of the Bad Boys back in Motown? Depends on what your definition of bad is
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October 30, 2000

14 Detroit Pistons

Are the days of the Bad Boys back in Motown? Depends on what your definition of bad is

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Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Cedric Ceballos


16.6 ppg

6.7 rpg

1.3 apg

0.81 spg

44.6 FG%


Jerome Williams


8.4 ppg

9.6 rpg

1.16 spg

56.4 FG%

61.6 FT%


Ben Wallace


4.8 ppg

8.2 rpg

1.60 bpg

50.3 FG%

47.4 FT%


Jerry Stackhouse


23.6 ppg

3.8 rpg

4.5 apg

1.26 spg

42.8 FG%


Chucky Atkins


9.5 ppg

3.7 apg

1.5 rpg

0.63 spg

42.4 FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


John Wallace


6.5 ppg

2.3 rpg

0.4 apg

46.7 FG%

80.4 FT%


Mikki Moore


7.9 ppg

3.9 rpg

1.07 bpg

62.1 FG%

79.4 FT%


Mateen Cleaves (R)


12.1 ppg

6.9 apg

1.38 spg

42.1 FG%

37.6 3FG%


Billy Owens


6.0 ppg

4.9 rpg

1.6 apg

41.9 FG%

59.4 FT%


Dana Barros


7.2 ppg

1.8 apg

1.4 rpg

45.1 FG%

41.0 3FG%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Before joining the Pistons this summer, forward Ben Wallace and point guard Chucky Atkins were friends and teammates on the Orlando Magic. An interest they shared was, of all things, remote-controlled cars. "One day Chucky comes over to my house with his new car and puts it on the ground," Wallace says with a chuckle. "Next thing you know it's all smashed up in pieces. He drove it right into a curb."

That wouldn't be the last crashing sensation Atkins experienced during the summer: On Aug. 3 he learned that he and Wallace had been traded to Detroit for superstar forward Grant Hill. One minute he was playing a key role for an up-and-coming team, and in his hometown, no less. The next minute he was staring at a car wreck.

That's about the only way to describe the situation in Motown, where hopes have been shredding like Firestone tires. Since being swept by the Heat in the first round of last year's playoffs, the Pistons have seen their franchise player (Hill) skip town and several big-name free agents ( Jalen Rose, Tim Thomas and Austin Croshere) say thanks but no thanks to lucrative offers. Even coach George Irvine—who had his interim title removed in June—initially expressed reservations about taking the job on a permanent basis.

The good news is that Joe Dumars has taken over as president of basketball operations. With plenty of room under the salary cap, the Pistons are primed for a run next summer at free-agent-to-be Chris Webber, a Detroit native. Dumars's hiring also signals an end to last season's habit of allowing opponents to waltz merrily through the lane. "We were not a tough team last year," says Dumars, whose tenacious defense was a Pistons' trademark during their 1988-89 and 1989-90 championship seasons. "That'll change, I guarantee it."

Enter Atkins and Wallace. Besides an affection for racing little cars up and down the block, the two share an affinity for hustle and elbow grease. "In Orlando we didn't have anybody in the All-Star Game; we didn't have any big names," says Atkins, who spent three years in the CBA and Europe before catching on with the Magic last season. "But we did all the little things that add up to success. That's what made that team special, and that's what we're going to try to bring here."

Lightning-quick and a good decision-maker, the 26-year-old Atkins will serve as a mentor to top draft pick Mateen Cleaves while giving Detroit its first true point guard in years. For his part Wallace, 26, adds athleticism and toughness to the front court. Last year the 6'9" bruiser led the Magic in rebounds (8.2 per game) and was second in blocks (130) despite bone spurs in his right foot that required him to wear a walking cast when he wasn't on the court.

While A&W supplies some much-needed fizz, the Pistons lack the pop to make a serious run at the postseason. In the absence of Hill, shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse, who blossomed into an All-Star last year, will find the going much tougher as teams throw double team after double team at him. Small forwards Cedric Ceballos, Billy Owens and John Wallace are all serviceable scorers, but they will not make anyone forget Hill, who averaged 21.6 points per game in six seasons with Detroit.

Then there's the matter of Detroit's glaring lack of size in the middle, where Ben Wallace figures to get the nod over Mikki Moore and Eric Montross. With Jerome Williams at power forward, look for opponents to relentlessly pound the ball inside. "We're not big, so we're going to have to be disruptive defensively," Irvine says. "If we let teams play half-court, we're going to be in trouble."

Yes, they will. But the Pistons will at least make Dumars proud and go down with a fight. In addition to Atkins and Wallace, the team is loaded with hard-nosed guys like Stackhouse, Owens and Cleaves. Moreover, five Detroit players are playing for new contracts. "One thing's for sure," Williams says. "We won't be giving up nearly as many easy baskets this year."

It might not sound like much, Pistons fans, but it's a start.

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