In his early years as the Pistons president of basketball operations, Joe Dumars made trades at a dizzying rate. After he was hired in 2000, he made seven deals in the first year alone. During the next three seasons, Dumars made blockbuster deals that landed guard Richard Hamilton and forward Rasheed Wallace. Those moves led to a 2004 championship and six consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Given that track record, it's hard to believe Dumars is still in charge. He didn't make a move before the trade deadline Thursday, extending his streak of inactivity on that front to nearly three years. The last deal he made was in July 2009, when he traded guard Aaron Afflalo to Denver for a second-round draft pick. His last significant deadline deal came six seasons ago, when he traded disappointing center Darko Milicic to Orlando and acquired a draft pick that he eventually used on starting guard Rodney Stuckey.
Before Tom Gores bought the franchise late last spring, Dumars' hands were tied by the ownership negotiations for nearly two seasons. Dumars has been given the green light since Gores took charge, but he hasn't found anything that would facilitate his rebuilding plan. The Pistons, who play the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon, are 12 games below .500 after losing 109-101 to Phoenix Friday.
Moreover, the Pistons simply don't have a lot of tradeable commodities because Dumars swung and missed on the free-agent market. He has been unable to move guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva, who signed five-year contracts during the summer of 2009 and have not come close to delivering bang for the Pistons' bucks. Dumars also tried to find a new home for third-year forward Austin Daye, who had been in a deep shooting slump before falling out of the rotation, but couldn't find a taker.
"It takes a certain amount of discipline to be on those conference calls all day and all night and stick to your guns of what you're going to do for your team," he said. "There are no shortage of opportunities to make deals that would have done absolutely nothing for us."
It might be just as difficult for Dumars to make a significant deal this offseason. Center Greg Monroe and guard Brandon Knight aren't going anywhere and the way Stuckey has elevated his game under new coach Lawrence Frank, Dumars would have to get an overwhelming offer to break up his backcourt tandem.
On the flip side, the Pistons' salary-cap space will still be weighed down by the contracts of Gordon and Villanueva, though Dumars could use the amnesty clause to lop one of them off the books. Starting 32-year-old small forward Tayshaun Prince will still have three years left on the contract he signed in December, making him tough to include in any trade scenario.
Dumars was a master at getting rid of bad contracts (Christian Laettner, Loy Vaught) during his early years as team president but that's much harder to do now, when everyone realizes the value of cap space. Thus, he has taken a patient approach, rather than doing something that wouldn't have long-term benefits. But that lack of activity continues to frustrate Pistons supporters, who will have to wait at least a couple more months for Dumars to finally pull the trigger again.
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