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Pistons history - Detroit Pistons history - history of the Detroit Pistons - history of Detroit Pistons

1941-48: The Zollner Pistons

Automobile-piston magnate Fred Zollner launched the club in 1941 and christened it the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. The Pistons joined the National Basketball League, a circuit that consisted primarily of teams fielded by Midwest corporations. Fort Wayne posted a 15-9 record in that inaugural season and reached the NBL Finals before losing to the Oshkosh All-Stars.

From 1943 to 1946 Fort Wayne posted the NBL's best record, and the Pistons survived the playoffs to claim the championship in 1944 and 1945. The team's star was 5-11 Bobby McDermott, the league's perennial Most Valuable Player. In 1947 and 1948 the Pistons put together strong regular-season records before falling in the early rounds of the playoffs.

1948-57: From The NBL To The BAA To The NBA

Four NBL teams, including the Pistons, jumped over to the rival Basketball Association of America for the 1948-49 season. Fort Wayne fell to a 22-38 record and finished in fifth place in the BAA's Western Division.

Following the 1949 playoffs the NBL and BAA merged to form the National Basketball Association. The Pistons were placed in the Central Division, the circuit's toughest, along with the Minneapolis Lakers and the Rochester Royals. Fort Wayne put together a decent campaign at 40-28 and swept Rochester in the first round of the playoffs. However, the Pistons were no match for eventual NBA-champion Minneapolis Lakers, who eliminated them in two games. Fred Schaus led the team in scoring that season with an average of 14.3 points per game.

The Pistons finished in the middle of their division during each of the next four years. The team made the playoffs in all four of those seasons but survived the first round only once. In 1952-53, after getting by Rochester in the division semifinals, Fort Wayne extended the powerful Minneapolis Lakers to the limit in the Western Division Finals before bowing out in five games.

12 Seconds From Ecstasy

Led by Coach Charles Eckman, the Pistons forged a 43-29 record in the 1954-55 season and came within 12 seconds of winning the NBA championship. This was the first season in which the 24-second clock was used, transforming the previously plodding NBA into a running league. In the final game of the 1955 NBA Finals the Pistons built a 17-point second-quarter lead over Syracuse, then saw the Nationals claw their way back. As the fourth quarter waned, a free throw by George Yardley pulled the Pistons to a 91-91 tie. The Nats' George King followed with a free throw to give Syracuse a 92-91 edge; then King intercepted Fort Wayne's inbounds pass to seal the Pistons' fate.

The mainstays of the Fort Wayne team were Max Zaslofsky (a former league scoring titlist with the Chicago Stags who was finishing out his career), Mel Hutchins, and Yardley, who became the first player to score 2,000 points in a season when he reached 2,001 in 1957-58. The team also had a powerful center in 6-9, 250-pound Larry Foust, who was named to the All-NBA First Team in 1955. Foust finished the 1954-55 season with a career-high 17.0 points per game.

The 1955-56 Pistons reached the NBA Finals after winning the Western Division with a 37-35 record. However, they fell to the Philadelphia Warriors in five games. (It would be more than 30 years before the franchise would play for the championship again.)

1957-61: Coaches Come And Go, But They All Lose

In 1957 the Pistons moved to Detroit, and Coach Charles Eckman was replaced by Red Rocha 25 games into the 1957-58 season. The team finished at 33-39. Through the 1950s and 1960s the Pistons continued to post losing records. Coaches came and went-including Rocha (.423 winning percentage); Dick McGuire (.432); Charles Wolf (.275); Dave DeBusschere (.356); Donnis Butcher (.458); Paul Seymour (.367); Butch van Breda Kolff (.471, although he did take the Pistons to a 45-37 mark in 1970-71, the team's first winning season in Detroit); Terry Dischinger (0-2 in two games); and Earl Lloyd (.286).

Although the teams weren't very good, Detroit did have some stalwart players. George Yardley led the league in scoring in 1957-58 with 27.8 points per game, a mark that survived into the 1990s as the best in Pistons history. He also set team records that season for free throws attempted (808) and converted (655). Yardley scored 51 points against the Boston Celtics on January 15, then topped his own record with 52 against Syracuse on February 4 (a franchise mark that lasted until 1971). The 6-5, 195-pound Yardley had been a first-round pick out of Stanford in the 1950 NBA Draft. After a few years in the military he had signed with Fort Wayne in 1953. An All-NBA First Team selection after his prolific 1957-58 season, Yardley was traded to Syracuse the following year.

Another solid performer was rugged Walter Dukes, acquired from Minneapolis in a trade for Larry Foust. Beginning in 1957-58 Dukes averaged more than 13 rebounds per game for four years. Gene Shue was another durable player and an accurate free throw shooter. And Dick McGuire was a clever ballhandler and floor general who later coached the Pistons. Yardley, Shue, and McGuire were All-Stars in 1957-58.

The top draft pick in 1959 was hustling Bailey Howell, a stocky 6-7, 220-pounder who averaged more than 20 points and made four All-Star appearances in his five seasons with Detroit.

The 1959-60 Pistons posted a 30-45 record under Rocha and McGuire. McGuire took over as player-coach on December 28 and finished the year in that dual role. He retired as a player and continued to coach the Pistons for the next three seasons. Shue's average of 22.8 points per game was sixth in the league. The team had been playing its home games at Olympia Stadium and the University of Detroit, but during the playoffs it had to host one contest at the Grosse Pointe High School gym, since no other facility was available. The Pistons lost the game by a single point to Minneapolis.

The 1960-61 season began in strange fashion. On November 15, almost exactly a year after they had put up 142 shot attempts in a game against Boston, the Pistons pulled down a record 107 rebounds against that same team. In a November 25 contest Bailey Howell had 21 rebounds in the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Howell, Shue (who ranked among the league leaders in assists), and Walter Dukes (14.1 rpg) represented Detroit in the 1961 NBA All-Star Game. For the year Detroit was a forgettable 34-45. Even with that record, the Pistons' third-place division finish earned them a berth in the playoffs, in which they were eliminated by the Lakers in five games. Howell paced the Pistons with 23.6 points and 14.4 rebounds per game.

1961-66: A New Arena And A New Star

In 1961-62 the Pistons began playing their home games at Cobo Arena, where they remained through the 1977-78 season. Led by Howell, the squad set an all-time Pistons single-season record with 5,823 rebounds and struggled to a 37-43 record. In a January 5 game against Syracuse, the Pistons made a team-record 48 free throws. They again reached the playoffs, edging Cincinnati before losing to Los Angeles.

In 1962 the Pistons drafted Dave DeBusschere. The 6-6, 235-pounder led the Pistons in rebounding for three seasons, beginning in 1965-66. He made three All-Star appearances while in a Detroit uniform. An outstanding all-around player and exceptional rebounder, DeBusschere was traded in 1968 to New York, where he became an integral part of the Knicks' championship teams of the early 1970s.

DeBusschere also had many achievements off the basketball court. He had been a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization, playing 36 games in the majors in 1962 and 1963. He then spent two more seasons in the minors before returning to basketball full time. After his playing career DeBusschere held front-office jobs with the Nets and the Knicks and was ABA commissioner in 1975.

One of the more unusual chapters in NBA coaching history was written while DeBusschere was still playing for Detroit. The heady 24-year-old forward was named player-coach just 11 games into the 1964-65 season, making him the youngest coach in league history. He coaxed 29 wins out of his colleagues, and Detroit finished the season with a 31-49 record. The Pistons' Joe Caldwell was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team at season's end.

In 1965-66 the team fell to 22-58. The silver lining for the season was Tom Van Arsdale, an NBA All-Rookie Team selection.

1966-70: Pistons Draft Future Hall Of Famer

The Pistons owned the No. 2 pick in the 1966 NBA Draft and selected Dave Bing, a 6-3 guard who became one of the top scorers in franchise history. He was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1966-67, the only Pistons player ever to receive that honor. It was the start of a career that would end in the Hall of Fame.

Toward the end of the 1966-67 season, with Detroit laboring at 28-45, Dave DeBusschere was replaced as coach by Donnie Butcher, and the team went 2-6 for the remainder of the schedule.

The 1967-68 team averaged 118.6 points, an all-time Pistons record, and moved to the Eastern Division as expansion teams in Seattle and San Diego were added in the west. Bing burned the nets for a league-leading 27.1 points per game and joined DeBusschere in the All-Star Game. Bing was also named to the All-NBA First Team.

Detroit ran up a 40-42 record and made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. However, the Pistons faced a powerful Boston Celtics team in the division semifinals and were dispatched in six games.

The 1968-69 campaign yielded a 32-50 record and saw Butcher replaced by Paul Seymour early in the season. Bing continued his sensational play, averaging 23.4 points and 7.1 assists and making his second straight All-Star appearance. DeBusschere was traded to the Knicks on December 19, 1968, for Walt Bellamy and Howard Komives.

Butch van Breda Kolff was brought in as coach for the 1969-70 season. The Pistons posted a typical 31-51 record, led by Bing's 22.9 points per game.

1970-78: Mr. Inside Joins Mr. Outside

In 1970 big Bob Lanier, a 6-11, 265-pound former All-American from St. Bonaventure, was chosen with Detroit's No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Throughout the early 1970s future Hall of Famers Dave Bing and Lanier were an effective inside-outside team. By the end of their careers their numbers were almost identical-Lanier was the all-time Pistons scoring-average leader with 22.7 points per game, and Bing was one tick behind with 22.6.

In 1970-71 the club got off to its all-time best start by winning nine games in a row. But the Pistons leveled off to play .500 ball the rest of the way and finished with a 45-37 record. It was the team's first winning year since moving to Detroit. Bing set the team single-season record for points with 2,213. In February he set the club mark for field goals in a game, cashing in 22 against the Chicago Bulls; his 54 points in that game broke George Yardley's 1958 mark and stood until Kelly Tripucka went on a scoring rampage in 1983. Bing's average of 27.0 points per game ranked fourth in the league.

Unfortunately for the Pistons, their 45-37 record wasn't good enough to sneak them into the playoffs. The eventual NBA-champion Milwaukee Bucks went 66-16, and the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns each posted better marks than Detroit in the newly formed Midwest Division.

Butch van Breda Kolff was dismissed 10 games into the 1971-72 season. Earl Lloyd, who had played for Detroit for a couple of years in the late 1950s, was brought in to mop up the 26-56 season. This was the year that Detroit began going inside more than outside. Bob Lanier paced the club in scoring with 25.7 points per game, the first of eight consecutive seasons in which he topped the squad. He also averaged 14.2 rebounds, ninth best in the NBA. Bing and Jimmy Walker also averaged more than 20 points, and Walker joined Lanier in the 1972 NBA All-Star Game. For Lanier it was the first of eight All-Star appearances.

Ray Scott, who had played for the Pistons in the early 1960s, took over as head coach in 1972-73. As a player he had averaged 14.9 points in a nine-year NBA career, including a career-high 17.9 points per game for the Pistons in 1965-66. As a coach Scott led Detroit to a 52-30 mark in 1973-74 that earned him NBA Coach of the Year honors. That season the Pistons slugged it out all year with Chicago for second place in the Midwest Division behind the Milwaukee Bucks, finally finishing two games behind the Bulls. Detroit returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1968 but was eliminated by Chicago in a physical seven-game division semifinal series.

That season Lanier led the club in scoring with 22.5 points per game. The big lefthander also recorded a .504 field goal percentage, a mark he improved upon in each of the next four seasons, peaking at .537 in 1977-78. Lanier was also a tough defender, blocking 3.05 shots per game, fourth best in the NBA. He scored 24 points in the 1974 NBA All-Star Game and was named MVP of the midseason classic.

Fred Zollner, who had owned the team since its inception in 1941, sold the Pistons after the 1973-74 campaign to a group headed by Bill Davidson.

In 1974-75 the team returned to mediocrity, falling to 40-42. The Pistons continued their descent in 1975-76, finishing 36-46. After the season Bing was sent to Washington with a first-round draft choice in exchange for Kevin Porter and draft picks. The 1976-77 squad set a Detroit record for thievery while running to a 44-38 record. The Pistons recorded 877 steals, led by Chris Ford's 179.

Detroit's won-lost record in 1977-78 reversed to 38-44. In a game against the Denver Nuggets on April 9, the final day of the regular season, the Pistons became victims of David Thompson in his quest for the league scoring title. Thompson and the San Antonio Spurs' George Gervin had virtually identical scoring averages before the game, but Thompson put the pressure on Gervin (who played later that night) by pouring in 73 points against the Pistons. But Gervin wasn't called "the Iceman" for nothing. He scored 63 points against the New Orleans Jazz to edge Thompson by the slimmest of margins, 27.22 to 27.15 points per game.

1978-80: The One And Only Dick Vitale

In 1978-79 the Pistons began playing home games at the Pontiac Silverdome, where they would stay for a decade. The club had a new head coach, Dick Vitale, who later gained fame as a television sports personality. Vitale didn't have the answers for the Pistons, as Detroit dropped to 30-52. The team's roster was a model of inconsistency, with 20 different players appearing in the lineup at one time or another. Still, there was a bright spot-Kevin Porter led the NBA in assists with 13.4 per game. He recorded a season-high 25 assists twice, against Boston on March 9 and versus Phoenix on April 1. Many of Porter's assists went to center Bob Lanier, who poured in 23.6 points per game but missed 29 games with a knee injury.

Detroit's 1979-80 record of 16-66 was not only the worst in the league that season but the worst in Pistons history. Porter returned to the Washington Bullets in the offseason and came back to haunt his old team. On March 20 he delivered 24 assists against the Pistons, the most ever by a Detroit opponent. The team also traded Lanier to Milwaukee at midseason. He went on to lead the Bucks to five consecutive playoff appearances.

1980-83: Pistons Hit The Jackpot

After a slight improvement to 21-61 in 1980-81, the Pistons hit the jackpot. Wielding the No. 2 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft, Detroit selected Isiah Thomas, a multitalented guard from Indiana University. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, Thomas had led the Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA Championship and had been named tournament MVP. Detroit also used the 12th pick to take Notre Dame's Kelly Tripucka.

The Pistons showed immediate improvement in 1981-82, finishing 39-43. The two rookies were Detroit's representatives at the 1982 NBA All-Star Game. For Thomas it was the first of 13 consecutive All-Star selections. In a November 1981 trade with the Seattle SuperSonics the team also acquired guard Vinnie Johnson in exchange for Greg Kelser.

The club made another fortuitous swap in February 1982 when it acquired center Bill Laimbeer and Kenny Carr from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Phil Hubbard, Paul Mokeski, and draft picks. Laimbeer was a 6-11, 260-pound bruiser, a rugged rebounder and an accurate shooter from the outside. The team's wheeling and dealing paid off throughout the decade - Tripucka, Thomas, Johnson, and Laimbeer comprised the team's scoring nucleus for several years.

Tripucka put up big numbers in 1982-83, raining in 26.5 points per game, third best in the NBA. Laimbeer collected 12.1 rebounds per game, also good for third place in the league. There was little support from the bench, however, and Coach Scotty Robertson's team went 37-45.

1983-86: Detroit Acquires Daly And Dumars

In 1983 the Pistons hired Chuck Daly as coach. Daly had started his coaching career at Punxsutawney High School in Pennsylvania, then had worked his way through the college and pro ranks, spending part of a season as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Early in the 1983-84 season the Pistons participated in the highest-scoring game in NBA history. In a December 13 contest against the Denver Nuggets, Detroit notched a 186-184 triple-overtime victory. Isiah Thomas (47 points), John Long (41), and Kelly Tripucka (35) had huge scoring nights, as did Denver's Kiki Vandeweghe (51), Alex English (47), and Dan Issel (28).

Bolstered by that record night, as well as by the arrival of Daly, Detroit made a dramatic improvement to 49-33 in 1983-84. Bill Laimbeer pulled down 12.2 rebounds per contest, while Thomas and Tripucka tied for the team scoring lead with 21.3 points per game. In a January game against Chicago, Tripucka tallied a team-record 56 points, topping Dave Bing's 1971 mark of 54. Then in February, Thomas set a club record by making 13 consecutive field goals against Cleveland. Thomas's 204 steals on the season set another franchise record, and he also earned the first of three consecutive All-NBA First Team selections. In the All-Star Game he scored 21 points and had 15 assists, numbers that earned him the MVP trophy.

Detroit returned to the NBA Playoffs in 1984, but an inexperienced Pistons squad lost in the first round to the New York Knicks.

The team slipped a bit to 46-36 in the 1984-85 season. Thomas led the league with 1,123 assists (13.9 apg), wresting the crown from Los Angeles' Magic Johnson and setting an NBA mark that was later broken by Utah's John Stockton. Thomas also tied Kevin Porter's team mark for assists in a game by dishing out 25 against the Dallas Mavericks. Laimbeer's 12.4 rebounds per game ranked him second in the league to Moses Malone of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pistons won a playoff series for only the fourth time in franchise history when they swept the New Jersey Nets in the first round. Detroit then ran into a Finals-bound Boston Celtics squad and lost in six games.

In the 1985 NBA Draft the Pistons picked 6-3 guard Joe Dumars out of McNeese State, securing the third member of the Thomas-Laimbeer-Dumars triumvirate that anchored their championship teams of the future. Before the season Detroit also acquired power forward Rick Mahorn from the Washington Bullets.

The team repeated its 46-36 record in 1985-86. Laimbeer led the league in rebounding with 13.1 per game. Near the end of the season the Silverdome roof collapsed, and the Pistons played their final 15 games at Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Arena. Isiah Thomas earned his second All-Star Game MVP Award, scoring 30 points at Dallas. Detroit faced the Atlanta Hawks and Dominique Wilkins in a first-round playoff series and lost, three games to one.

1986-88: "Microwave" Cooks, And So Do Pistons

The 1986-87 Pistons were led in scoring by Adrian Dantley (21.5 ppg), who had been picked up from Utah in a trade for Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson. Dantley was still an offensive force, even though he was nearing the end of a career that would land him among the NBA's top 10 all-time scorers. The dominating backcourt of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars was supported by Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson, who was sent into games to provide instant offense. The Pistons were also becoming known for their tough defense and physical play, which earned them the nickname "the Bad Boys."

The team finished the regular season at 52-30, and for the first time in decades the Pistons advanced deep into the playoffs. They eliminated Washington and Atlanta in the early rounds, then put Boston on the ropes in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the pivotal Game 5 at Boston Garden, Detroit had a one-point lead and possession of the ball with five seconds left. But Boston's Larry Bird stole an inbounds pass from Thomas and fed teammate Dennis Johnson for a layup and a stunning victory. Detroit won Game 6, but the Celtics prevailed in Game 7, 117-114, to advance.

In 1987-88 Detroit posted a 54-28 record to claim a Central Division championship for the first time in team history. Dantley paced the team in scoring, followed by Thomas, Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, and Johnson. Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, and Rick Mahorn each grabbed more than 565 rebounds. The deep and talented Pistons rumbled through playoff encounters with Washington, Chicago, and Boston to claim the Eastern Conference championship before meeting Los Angeles in the 1988 NBA Finals.

Detroit split two games in Los Angeles, then won two of three at home to take a three-games-to-two lead back to Los Angeles. The Lakers won Game 6, 103-102, despite a heroic effort from Thomas. The All-Star guard recorded 6 steals and set a Finals record by scoring 25 points in a single quarter. His 43-point total for the game is tied for the eighth highest in Finals history. In the process, however, he sprained his ankle and was not effective in the climactic Game 7-which Los Angeles won, 108-105, to claim a second straight title. The Lakers were the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Celtics in 1968-69.

1988-89: 63 Wins, A New Arena And A World Title

Just nine years after hitting rock bottom with a 16-66 record, the Pistons reached the top of the basketball world in 1989. Their 63 wins in the 1988-89 season were a franchise best. That season the Pistons also moved into a new home-the 21,454-seat Palace of Auburn Hills.

The team started slowly but took off after a midseason trade sent Adrian Dantley and a No. 1 draft choice to Dallas in exchange for Mark Aguirre. Far from disrupting team chemistry, the deal enhanced the squad's spirit.

The Pistons were the league's best team all season. They had a guard-oriented offense featuring Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, a solid work ethic, and they lived up to their Bad Boys image with tough, physical play. (When Bill Laimbeer missed a game on January 29 to serve a fighting suspension, it interrupted a string of 685 consecutive games played that dated back to 1982.)

The Pistons were led by Thomas, whose angelic smile belied a fiercely competitive nature. He could shoot from the outside or drive to the basket and was always among the league leaders in assists. Backcourtmate Dumars had many of the same offensive skills as Thomas, though he wasn't expected to pass as much, and he was a formidable defender. Laimbeer was a bruising inside player but not a traditional center; his shot from long range became a trademark of the Pistons' offense. In addition, Laimbeer developed his persona as a villain, becoming a player opposing fans loved to hate.

These star-quality players were augmented by a cast of role players and specialists. Aguirre possessed as inventive an offensive repertoire as any NBA player. Vinnie Johnson was capable of torrid shooting streaks. Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn, James Edwards, and John Salley each brought different assets to the front line while sharing playing time.

Dumars and Rodman were named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team at season's end, starting a long string of selections for Rodman. Thomas led the club in scoring with 18.2 points per game, but the scoring burden was well distributed-five players averaged more than 13.7 points. Rodman displayed an unerring nose for the ball, led the team in rebounding (9.4 rpg), and, unexpectedly, led the league in shooting percentage (.595), mostly by declining to shoot anything but point-blank layups.

The Pistons fashioned the NBA's best regular-season record at 63-19 and shredded opposing teams in the playoffs. They cruised through the first two rounds of the postseason, eliminating Boston and Milwaukee without suffering a loss. The Chicago Bulls provided a little more resistance before falling in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In a rematch of the previous year's NBA Finals, the Pistons demolished an injury-plagued Lakers team by sweeping the defending champs in four straight games. A new star was born as Dumars averaged 27.3 points in the series and was named Finals MVP. In 17 playoff games Detroit held the opposition to only 92.9 points per game, the stingiest defense of any NBA champion since the advent of the 24-second shot clock in 1954-55.

1989-91: Thomas Leads Detroit To Repeat Performance

The Pistons won the NBA Finals again in 1989-90. From January 23 to February 21 they ran off a 13-game winning streak, an all-time club record. They lost once, then won another 12 games for a 25-1 mark from January 23 to March 21. By then the Pistons' most evident quality was a punishing defense. For the season, they held opponents to a league-low 98.3 points per game.

Michael Jordan - led Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Detroit prevailed in the seven-game series, then knocked off Portland in the 1990 NBA Finals, four games to one. Isiah Thomas was named Finals MVP.

After two seasons at the pinnacle, the 1990-91 team was still a solid unit but was beginning to unravel. Detroit's regular-season record was 50-32, but the eventual NBA-champion Bulls swept the Pistons in the conference finals. Detroit's trademark defense held opponents to a club-record 96.8 points per game.

Joe Dumars, who increased his scoring average in each of his first six years in the league, supplanted Thomas as the team's top scorer with 20.4 points per game. He also set a team record for consecutive free throws, making 62 straight during one stretch. Dennis Rodman was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, and he joined Dumars on the league's All-Defensive Team.

1991-92: Detroit's Rebounding King

Dennis Rodman dwarfed the rest of the league as a rebounder during the 1991-92 season, leading the NBA with 18.7 boards per game. He set new team standards for most rebounds (1,530), most offensive rebounds (523), and most defensive rebounds (1,007) in a season. He had an all-time Detroit high of 34 boards in a game against Indiana on March 4, breaking Bob Lanier's 1972 mark by a single rebound. Just 10 days later Rodman set the Detroit standard for defensive rebounds in a game with 22 against Sacramento. On December 1 another of Lanier's marks fell when Isiah Thomas passed him to become the Pistons' all-time leading scorer. (Lanier, the Pistons' center of the 1970s who had retired in 1984, was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.)

Detroit's aura of invincibility was beginning to fade. The Pistons' 48-34 record was only good for third in the Central Division (behind Chicago and Cleveland), and they were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs by New York. It marked the first time in six seasons that Detroit had failed to advance past the first round.

Chuck Daly departed as coach after the 1991-92 campaign after amassing 538 victories, a .632 winning percentage, and two world championships in nine seasons-all Detroit coaching records. He went on to coach the New Jersey Nets for the next two years.

1992-93: Playoffs A Thing Of The Past

In 1992-93 the Pistons plummeted to 40-42 under new coach Ron Rothstein and finished out of the playoffs for the first time since 1983. Joe Dumars led the team in scoring with 23.5 points per game, a career best and the highest Pistons average since 1982-83, when Kelly Tripucka had scored 26.5 points per contest. Dumars also set a team record by knocking down 7 three-pointers in a game against the Knicks on February 26. When Bill Laimbeer pulled down his 10,000th career rebound against Philadelphia on December 5, he became the 19th player in NBA history to record 10,000 points and 10,000 rebounds.

By the end of the 1992-93 season Laimbeer had become the team's all-time leading rebounder. Thomas, with 1,793 career steals, had twice as many as runner-up Chris Ford, and his 8,662 assists were also more than double the total of the No. 2 man on the Pistons' list, Dave Bing, who had handed out 4,330.

Don Chaney was named head coach during the offseason, replacing Rothstein. Chaney, a one-time Detroit assistant, had held the head-coaching reins with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets, winning Coach of the Year honors at Houston in 1990-91.

Realizing the need to rebuild its fading franchise, Detroit used its two first-round draft picks in 1993 to restock its backcourt, acquiring guards Lindsey Hunter and Allan Houston.

1993-94: Still Out of Contention

However, more was needed in 1993-94 as the Pistons slid to their worst mark, 20-62, since the club's 16-66 record in 1979-80. Prior to training camp Detroit traded a disgruntled Dennis Rodman to the San Antonio Spurs for Sean Elliott. Bill Laimbeer retired 11 games into the season, leaving the club with only two players, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, who had been Pistons during the team's two championships. The Pistons' season featured losing streaks of 14, 13, 8, 7, and 6 games; Detroit was 1-14 in January and 0-13 in April.

Dumars was the club's leading scorer, tallying 20.4 points per game, 13th best in the NBA. Terry Mills scored 17.3 points per game. Thomas, who became one of four players to rack up 9,000 career assists (along with Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and John Stockton), retired on April 19 after tearing his Achilles tendon in Detroit's final home game. He was the Pistons' all-time leader in points, assists, steals, and games played.

In the offseason hope arrived in the form of Grant Hill, a tremendous all-around talent from Duke University whom the Pistons nabbed with the third overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. Later in the summer Dumars participated on Dream Team II, the U.S. squad that won a gold medal at the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.

1994-95: Hill Highlights Pistons' Disappointing Season

The Detroit Pistons started the 1994-95 season with only two players remaining from the 1992-93 campaign and just one (Joe Dumars) from their championship years. Inexperience, the players' unfamiliarity with one another, and injuries made the season a difficult one for Detroit, as the Pistons finished at 28-54 and in last place in the Central Division. Ten players were injured during the season for a combined loss of 194 player-games. The injuries piled up early in the campaign, and some nights it almost seemed as if the Pistons would not be able to field a team. Detroit used 25 different starting lineups during the year.

There were nevertheless some reasons for optimism. Rookie Grant Hill was even better than expected, emerging as the team's top scorer at 19.9 points per game. An immediate star and fan favorite, Hill was the first rookie ever to lead all players in fan voting for the NBA All-Star Game. At season's end he was named NBA co-Rookie of the Year along with the Dallas Mavericks' Jason Kidd.

Guard Allan Houston was torrid over the final two months of the season, leading the Pistons in scoring in 13 of the team's final 21 games. He averaged 21.6 points in the 36 contests after the All-Star break. Veteran superstar Dumars slipped into the shadows a bit, yielding the spotlight to the team's younger players, but he had some memorable moments of his own. Dumars tied an NBA record with 10 three-pointers in a November 8 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and at midseason he made his fifth trip to the NBA All-Star Game.

After the season, changes were made. Head Coach Don Chaney was replaced by former Chicago Bulls coach Doug Collins, and Vice President of Basketball Operations Billy McKinney resigned from his post.

1995-96: Collins Leads Pistons Back to Playoffs

The most pivotal member of the 1995-96 Pistons was not the veteran Joe Dumars, the last link to the Pistons' championship glory...it was not Allan Houston, who emerged as an offensive powerhouse with a 19.7 ppg average...it wasn't even Grant Hill, who led the the team in points, rebounds and assists

The key to the Pistons' success didn't even wear a uniform. Doug Collins, first-year coach of the Pistons, led the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 1991-92, as the Pistons finished 46-36, an 18-game improvement over the previous season.

The postseason ended with a first round ouster, compliments of the Orlando Magic, but nevertheless, the Pistons looked like a team on the rise. OK - maybe Hill, Houston, Dumars and the rest of the Pistons had something to do with it.

Hill, in particular, emerged as one of the games brightest stars, even upstaging Michael Jordan as the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, the second year in a row that Hill had topped the voting list. Hill led the league with 10 triple-doubles, and posted averages of 20.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 6.9 apg, among the league's top 20 in all three categories. After the season, he represented the United States in the Atlanta Olympics as a member of the Dream Team, adding a gold medal to his list of accomplishments.

Although Hill was the Pistons main man, Detroit relied on many other players to provide a team effort. Dumars and Otis Thorpe suplied a steadying veteran influence, Terry Mills offered a punch off the bench as a backup forward, while Houston established himself as one of the league's premier sharpshooters. Following the season, though, Detroit suffered a blow when Houston signed with the Knicks as a free agent.

1996-97: Hill, Pistons Forge Forward

Two years removed from a 28-win season, the Detroit Pistons emerged among the NBA's elite in 1996-97, posting 54 wins and advancing to the postseason for the second straight season. Although the season ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the team continued its rapid progress under coach Doug Collins.

The rise of the Pistons, not coincidentally, has paralleled the rise of forward Grant Hill. The league's most versatile player, Hill recorded 13 triple-doubles in 1996-97, averaging 21.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. An All-Star for the third consecutive season, Hill continued to wow crowds, but he was far more than a one-man show.

Lindsey Hunter and veteran Joe Dumars provided the backcourt spark. Dumars, in his 12th season, averaged 14.7 points and finished fourth in the league in three-point shooting (.432). Hunter, among the league's most improved players, averaged 14.2 points. In the frontcourt, Otis Thorpe (13.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) provided the rebounding and 6-10 Terry Mills was an unlikely three-point marksman, finishing eighth in the NBA (.422 percent) in accuracy.

Detroit climbed one of its biggest hurdles toward respectability on April 13, when it defeated the Chicago Bulls 108-91, ending a 19-game drought against the defending NBA champs. Two days earlier, Dumars became the fourth player to score 15,000 points in a Pistons uniform when he tallied 21 points against the Cavaliers.

In the offseason, the Pistons took further strides toward their goal of a championship by signing coveted free agent center Brian Williams to a multi-year contract and resigning Hunter and Dumars, foreshadowing continued progress in 1997-98.

1997-98: Many Changes in Motown

Detroit signed a new center, pulled off a big trade and replaced their coach. The one constant to the Pistons' season was forward Grant Hill, who was voted to start in the All-Star Game for the fourth year in a row.

Hill averaged 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.8 assists and was named to the All-NBA Second Team. Despite Hill's stellar season, the Pistons finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs.

Center Brian Williams, who signed as a free agent in August, proved to be a valuable acquisition. He was second on the team in scoring (16.2 ppg), led the Pistons in rebounding (8.9 rpg) and posted 30 double-doubles.

Jerry Stackhouse was also a welcome addition to the Detroit rotation. The promising swingman averaged 15.7 points in 57 games with the Pistons after he and Eric Montross were acquired from Philadelphia for Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie.

Alvin Gentry replaced head coach Doug Collins after Detroit's 21-24 start. The team went 16-21 the rest of the way.

1998-99: Joe D. Hangs 'Em Up

During his 14-year career, Joe Dumars was a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star and full-time gentleman. And when he played his final game - an 87-75 loss to Atlanta in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series - an era ended for the Detroit Pistons.

Dumars, a four-time member of the NBA's All-Defensive First Team, finished his career as Detroit's franchise leader in points (16,401) and games (1,018) before moving into the team's front office. He was MVP of the 1989 NBA Finals, recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1994 and the winner of the 1996 NBA Sportsmanship Award.

Grant Hill had another stellar season in 1998-99, earning All-NBA Second Team honors after leading the Pistons in scoring (21.1 ppg), rebounds (7.1 rpg) and assists (6.0 apg) for the third time in four years.

Alvin Gentry was 29-21 in his first full season as Detroit's coach. The Pistons received a lift from free-agent acquisition Christian Laettner, who averaged 13.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 16 games. Laettner missed 34 games with an Achilles injury and broken rib, but he helped Detroit to a 13-3 record when he played.

1999-2000: #4 is Retired, Dumars is Back

The Pistons retired the number 4 jersey of former guard Joe Dumars on March 10, 2000 and was named the team’s President of Basketball Operations on June 6, 2000. Dumars was further honored for his 14 seasons in the league when Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik announced that the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award would be renamed the Joe Dumars Award. Dumars, who won the inaugural award in 1996, became the first player to have a postseason award named after him.

The Pistons finished 42-40, fourth in the Central Division, and made the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. In the playoffs though, they were eliminated in the first round by the Miami Heat three games to none. George Irvine took over head coaching duties 58 games into the season and guided the Pistons to a 14-10 mark in the last 24 games and losing only once to a non-playoff team.

Jerry Stackhouse played in the 2000 NBA All-Star Game for the first time, finished third in balloting for the Most Improved Player Award and averaged a career-best 23.6 points per game. His 618 free throws were the most by any NBA player. Grant Hill averaged a career-high 25.8 points with 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists en route to his fifth All-Star appearance. At 49.4 points per game, Hill and Stackhouse comprised the second-highest scoring tandem in the NBA. The Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant averaged 52.2 points.

Jerome Williams ranked 10th in the NBA in rebounding (9.6 rpg) despite playing the fewest minutes of any player ranked in the top-10. He had a team-best 23 double-doubles and improved his scoring and rebounding averages for the fourth consecutive year. Lindsey Hunter ranked third in the NBA in three-pointers made (168) and seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.432).

2000-01: Despite Glum Season, Stackhouse Prevails

Detroit finished 32-50, fifth in the Central Division and did not make the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Pistons led the NBA in rebounding at 45.5 rpg. The team lost eight straight home games from December 30 through February 2.

Jerry Stackhouse was named to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Team for the second consecutive season and led the Pistons in scoring (29.8 ppg, 2nd in the NBA) and assists (5.1 apg). Stackhouse scored a season-high 57 points vs. Chicago on April 3, 2001, breaking Kelly Tripucka’s old Pistons record of 56 points set against Chicago in January 1983. Stackhouse also broke Dave Bing’s single-season club record for total points and George Yardley’s record for season scoring average. He scored in double-figures in every game and led the team in scoring 72 of his 80 games. He had a career-high eight 40-point games.

Ben Wallace had the best season of his five-year career, achieving career-highs in every statistical category, including scoring (6.4 ppg), rebounding (13.2 rpg, 2nd in the NBA), blocks (2.33 bpg, 10th) and steals (1.34 spg). Wallace became the first player to lead the Pistons in rebounds, steals and blocks. He led the NBA in total rebounds with 1,052. Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo were the only players to have back-to-back 20-rebound games. Chucky Atkins achieved career-highs in scoring (12.0 ppg), assists (4.1 apg), rebounds, steals and minutes. In 27 games with Detroit following a trade with Toronto, Corliss Williamson averaged 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Overall, he shot 50.2 percent from the field, the ninth-best percentage in the league. Mateen Cleaves scored 16 points in the Schick Rookie Game on NBA All-Star Weekend.

2001-02: Pistons are Central Divison Champions

The Detroit Pistons finished 50-32 and captured their first Central Division title since 1990 and made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Detroit defeated Toronto three games to two in the first round and lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals four games to one.

Rick Carlisle was named NBA Coach of the Year, becoming the second Detroit coach (Ray Scott, 1973-74) to win the honor. With 50 victories, Carlisle became the winningest first-year coach in franchise history. The Pistons led the league in blocked shots (6.89 bpg) and had the fewest shots blocked (4.09 bpg). The team lost 11 consecutive road games from December 4 through January 11 and won a franchise-record seven consecutive road games from January 18 through February 22.

Jerry Stackhouse led the Pistons in scoring (21.4 ppg, 14th in the NBA) and assists (a career-high 5.3 apg). He also shot a career-high 85.8 percent from (495-577 FT) from the free throw line.

Ben Wallace led the league in rebounds (13.0 rpg), blocked shots (3.48 bpg) and steals per turnover (1.97) en route to being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Wallace became the fourth player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounds and blocked shots in the same season, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Hakeem Olajuwon. He also averaged a career-high 7.6 points and 1.73 steals (T-14th in the NBA). Wallace, an All-NBA Third Team selection, pulled down an NBA season-high 28 rebounds in a March 24 game vs. Boston and had 10 blocks (tying for the franchise single-season high) in a February 24 game at Milwaukee.

Corliss Williamson was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 13.6 points in 78 games, 71 off the bench. He shot a career-high 51.0 percent from the from the field (8th in the NBA) and 80.5 from the free throw line… Clifford Robinson was second on the team in scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (4.8 rpg) and earned NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors. Zeljko Rebraca earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors.