Collecting UConn players has apparently become the newest craze to sweep the nation.
Husky fever -- catch it. Detroit Pistons GM and consummate square Joe Dumars certainly has.
Noticing the fun (and success) the Grizzlies had in acquiring Rudtih Gay, Hasheem Thabeet and (at least for the next few weeks) the woyah, Dumars assembled his own Connecticutian triumvirate. Thursday, the Pistons lured both Ben Gordon and Charles Villanueva off the free-agent market and to Detroit, where the duo will team up with former UConn guard and masked avenger Rip Hamilton.
PRBL (Puerto Rican Basketball League) All-Star and Piratas de Quebadillas star Marcus Williams was set to sign a contract as well, but Williams pocketed the pen at the negotiation table. Talks strangely broke down thereafter.
In a somewhat depleted market, Charlie V. and Gordon were probably two of the best options available. And with the stain left by trading away their best and most popular player still fresh, Dumars was willing to throw every bit of the cap space the team had to put a band-aid on their problems.
The signing does give the team a pretty formidable core. Although they'll likely let Rasheed Wallace walk in free agency, the three UConnites, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince form a nice five. And on the bench they also have some decent pieces, such as Jason Maxiell and Walter Hermann, one of maybe three NBA players to ever sport a pony tail and not understand the irony of it and who would be that much better (both in basketball and in life) if he went by Walter Herman.
But the additions are also a bit puzzling. Not only does it leave Detroit a bit thin in the frontcourt, but it creates a logjam in the backcourt, as Hamilton and Gordon will have to share time at the 2. The supposed rationality behind this is Dumars is trying to create a three-guard rotation similar to the one he was in with Vinnie Johnson and Isiah Thomas during the Pistons' badboys days.
But first, the whole three-guard thing didn't exactly work when the team brought AI over. Now, Gordon certainly doesn't have the ego AI had and Gentle Ben probably knows he's going to be a sixth-man, not a go-to scorer. But he's the type of player that needs the ball a lot to be productive.
And secondly, why do people think that just because things worked in the past, it'll work again? As Nebraska showed by optioning its way to the Big 12 cellar, things sometimes work back in the day for a reason. Maybe Dumars isn't trying to recreate the badboys backcourt. Similar to the way most automatically assume the Knicks are interested in every European player just because Mike D'Antoni has ties there, maybe we're reading into it too much. But if he is, it could end up blowing up in his face. The backcourt her has now assembled may have similar talents, but who knows how the three personalities will mesh? Rip certainly didn't enjoy his time on the bench last season. And without a coach in place, will the team have someone capable of managing it. Chuck Daly's not walking through that door. And with any hope, Bill Laimbeer won't be, either.
The team certainly has potential, and if Dumars can swing a trade to add some size in the frontcourt -- John Hollinger suggests (Insider) Tyson Chandler -- it should make Detroit a legitimate contender in the East.
Problem is, with the Cavs' trade for Shaq, the Magic's trade for Vince Carter and the Celtics getting back Kevin Garnett, the Pistons are probably only the fourth-best team in their own conference.