The Detroit Pistons began the 2008-09 NBA season with a 2-0 record. They defeated the Pacers and Wizards in competitive matchups at the now-defunct Palace of Auburn Hills. Things appeared to be off to a much-needed good start for the team.
After all, they parted ways with Flip Saunders in the offseason, paving the way for former Pistons’ player, Michael Curry, to step into the head coach role. Ideally, they wanted Curry to have a smooth start in his first year. And in my opinion, there’s no better way to start than winning your first few games.
Then two days after that, everything changed.
On November 3rd, 2008, Joe Dumars, who was the Pistons President of Basketball Operations, completed the worst trade in team history. You know what? I’ll go a step further. Joe Dumars completed the worst trade in the history of Detroit Sports.
The Detroit Pistons traded 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Cheikh Samb to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
Now let’s be realistic here.
Pistons fans didn’t lose sleep over Samb leaving. Like, not one. McDyess’s case was bittersweet, however. He wasn’t a part of the 2004 championship team, but he did become a fan favorite in Detroit. People loved his grittiness. And he defined that hard-working, blue-collar attitude Detroit embodies.
But Chauncey, Chauncey Billups?
At that time, he was the face of Detroit Basketball. He was everything to fans who loved this team. The day the Pistons traded Billups wasn’t only a dark day in Detroit. It was a dark moment for sports fans all over Michigan.
When Ben Wallace left Detroit to join the Chicago Bulls, the “Goin’ To Work” era of Pistons’ Basketball lost its heartbeat. Many questioned Wallace’s decision to head to the Bulls, of all teams, but it was what it was. However, when Dumars decided to trade Billups the Nuggets, that team lost its spirit. The Pistons run atop the Eastern Conference officially ended.
At that moment, Dumars traded away consistency. Dumars traded away his star player. And most importantly, Dumars traded away the trust fans and players had in him.
He dealt the selfless leader of six-straight Eastern Conference runs and two NBA Finals appearances––winning one, of course, for the selfish Allen Iverson. And while there are many false narratives attached to Iverson, there’s one sure thing––he was all about getting his buckets.
“We just felt it was the right time to change our team,” Dumars told The Associated Press. “Iverson gives us a dimension that we haven’t had here, and we really think it’s going to help us.”
“In this league, six or seven years is an eternity to have a core together,” Dumars said. “So when a situation like this presents itself where you can cover yourself on both sides — the immediate impact player and the long-term flexibility — you have to push the button.”
Save it, Joe D. No one was trying to hear it. Because as an old saying goes, “everyone and their mama” knew that was a bad trade.
As great of a scorer as Iverson was, Billups was the better player at that time. He was a better leader, more poised, knew what it took to win, and had the respect of his locker room. And if the proof wasn’t in the pudding before the trade happened, then look at the results of it.
The chemistry between the Pistons collapsed throughout the season. The Pistons went from six straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances to the Cavaliers sweeping them out the first round of the playoffs. Richard Hamilton lost the “dog” he had in him because his backcourt brother left.
Iverson, whom Dumars acquired to get them back to glory, didn’t finish the season. The team deactivated him due to a back injury. However, several days before that happened, Ivo said he would call it quits and retire before coming off the bench. It was a complete trainwreck for the Pistons.
Now in the Denver Nuggets case, not so much.
Billups returning to Denver catapulted the Nuggets from 8th place in the West the previous season to 2nd by season’s end. Because of his contributions to the Nuggets that season, Billups finished sixth in NBA MVP voting. And in case you’re wondering, no, Iverson did not get any MVP votes that season. Iverson’s last vote for MVP was the 2005-06 season when he tied Shawn Marion for 10th place. Billups immediately aided in the growth of Carmelo Anthony.
The time has passed, and both players eventually bounced around the league, with Billups playing a few years longer than Iverson. However, one can only wonder what the results would be if Joe Dumars didn’t make the worst move in Pistons history. Because for everything he did to build a championship team in Detroit, he did just as much to tear it down.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.
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