Taking one for the team: Pistons trying to repeat using the play-as-a-group approach

By By Austin Bell

By Austin Bell

As the 2004-05 NBA season rolls on, there is speculation about whether last year’s champion will rise again. The Detroit Pistons, who won the title in 2004, might do just that.

That is, if they continue to focus on teamwork, said hall-of-famer Bill Bradley, who played on the 1973 New York Knicks championship team. A team, which, he said, “was the most complete of any team I’ve played on.”

Bradley, in his article for the Detroit News, makes comparisons between that 1973 Knicks team and the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Neither team had a dominant player, he said-not one guy who was among the top scorers in the league.

The 1973 Knicks had five players who averaged double figures for the season and the 2004 Pistons who had five players averaging double figures in scoring and four others who averaged more than nine points per game. Speaking of the Pistons’ current team, Bradley said, “They are young, determined and, most important, play together as a team.”

If Bradley is right, and it really is important to a team that wants to seriously contend and hopefully win an NBA championship, he said, “They are the new model for success.” Joe Dumars, former Detroit Piston and current president of the organization, who has won two NBA championship rings of his own, said, in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune’s Trent Nelson, “If you bring in good people, if you bring in unselfish guys, if you bring in guys who are willing to sacrifice for each other, it doesn’t take long [to win a championship], you can see it right away on the court.”

The assist, for Detroit, played a large role in their championship run.

In fact, two players who were acquired by the Pistons in the middle of the 2003-04 season nearly doubled their assists per game after joining the team.

Concerning the history of the league in past years and decades, the sport of basketball has seen a wide array of great talent come through its doors and many great teams. The game can be broken into these two distinct and separate categories, or styles, of play.

The sport was originally meant to be played as a “team” sport and is the root of the game, such as was the case with the 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers, a cast of “unknowns,” upsetting the highly favored Philadelphia ’76ers, led by Dr. J.

In 1969-70 and again in 72-73, the New York Knicks handed losses to Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, as they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win an NBA championship.

Throughout the 1990s and into the early part of the 21st century, team play was forgotten and replaced with a selfish, superstar-driven, one-on-one play.

The Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, won six championships in the ’90s, while Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and about a dozen others won three championships (2001, 2002, 2003), according to Detroit News research.

However, now many superstars, coaches, media and other players are realizing that this “team” sport is better played as a team. They understand, very much because of the change in thought provided by the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons-if you want to win, you play as a team.

This idea is beginning to gain more momentum in the league, as last year’s underdog, the Pistons, were victorious over the more talented, higher paid and heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers, featuring the likes of superstar talents Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton-a feat they could not have accomplished without their ability to work as a team and play as a team.

The point is, that if the Pistons had not played as a team, they would have been overpowered and simply outplayed.

They would have been defeated, probably even been swept in the 2004 NBA championships and I might not even be writing this article.

Fortunately for the Pistons, because they played the sport the way it was intended to be played and the Lakers didn’t choose to or weren’t capable of it, they were able to be crowned as NBA champions and shed some light on the advantages of “team basketball.”