Listen, nobody admires Joe Dumars more than I do, but he still works for someone. That someone is Bill Davidson. Bill Davidson owns the Pistons. And Bill Davidson was never — repeat, never — going to give Jerry Stackhouse
$100 million or anything close to it.

So trading Stackhouse was a done deal a long time ago, really as soon as Davidson’s wallet was zipped, long before Wednesday, when Stack was actually dealt to the Washington Wizards. It wasn’t Dumars’ being creative or risky. It was Dumars following orders.

Why, you ask, wouldn’t Davidson, the reclusive mogul, pony up that kind of money for Stackhouse, a potential free agent at the end of this season? Come on. Would you? Stackhouse has proven to have starry talent, but not star stature. He never led this team very far. And last year, during the playoffs, his touch disappeared. Jerry had one disaster night after another. He went 0-for-10 and 3-for-18. He was a shot fighter by Game 5 against Boston; he couldn’t land a ball in a swimming pool.

If Davidson ever had thoughts of giving Stackhouse a superstar payday, they were gone after that. So it was up to Dumars to maximize Davidson’s investment. He did so Wednesday, trading Stackhouse, 27, to Washington for a younger, cheaper and more promising player, 24-year-old Richard Hamilton.

And do you know who couldn’t be happier, despite his reserved tone and “I’m gonna miss Detroit” statements?

Jerry Stackhouse.

His kind of towns

Stackhouse did something last year few players of his stature would do, cutting back on shots and concentrating on passing and defense. But doing it and liking it are two different things. Stack, a natural scorer, certainly didn’t want a future diet of that recipe, so he was out of here at the end of this year anyhow.

Shed no tears. Jerry won’t. What he sees in Washington is the chance to shoot all night, play with Michael Jordan, and get paid big by some team when the year is up.

As for loyalty to the city? Well. That’s a bit overrated. On Wednesday night, after learning of the trade, Stackhouse lamented leaving Motown. He said,
“This (Detroit) is always going to be home for me.”

But on Thursday, at a Wizards news conference in D.C., he smiled and said,
“This place (D.C.) is like a second home to me.”

Wow. That was fast.

And that’s how it works. Stackhouse had some hot nights in Detroit, and he was a good guy, as long as things went well. But he was never going to save this team. He was never going to lead it, either. Jerry has many strengths. Inspiring others does not top the list.

So now the Pistons have a younger version, a shooting guard named Richard Hamilton, who can run all night and hit middle-range jumpers. Dumars likes his game.

“We didn’t just flip some coin here and hope it comes up heads,” Dumars said.

I asked Dumars the difference between a great player, which I think Stackhouse was, and a franchise player, which I think he wasn’t. Dumars said a franchise player does one of two things: fills the seats every night, or leads you to championships.

“The rare guy does both,” he said.

Stackhouse would do neither.

Hamilton won’t either. Not this year. But when the year is up, the Pistons can’t lose him to another team the way they could Stackhouse. That makes Hamilton a good investment. And Davidson likes good investments.

Exit, stage right

By the way, if you pull back with a larger lens, this star-players-leaving-Detroit thing has gotten pretty contagious. In baseball, most big-name Tigers have bolted (Juan Gonzalez) or been traded away (Jeff Weaver). The big-name Lions have quit (Barry Sanders) or been cut (Johnnie Morton, Herman Moore, Charlie Batch). Even the championship Red Wings have seen their subtractions (Dominik Hasek).

And the Pistons? Well, every marquee player since the Bad Boys era has come in one door and gone out the next (Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Mateen Cleaves, now Stackhouse). They are left with a group of mostly swingmen, none of whom can call himself a superstar, all of whom can lay claim to the ball.

“We won 50 games last year without a one-man show,” Dumars says. “We had a lot of depth, and guys that keep coming at you. And that’s what we’ll have this year.”

Meanwhile, don’t cry for Stackhouse. He’ll be fine. The man they once called
“the next Michael Jordan” now gets to play with the original, and labor at the amusement park they call Doug Collins Land.

The Pistons already have done that. On to newer things. Dumars has so far steered a pretty smart ship. No point in doubting it until it leaks.

But as good as Dumars is, remember, presidents and general managers don’t do anything their owners don’t want them to do. And this team’s owner did not have Jerry Stackhouse on his make-rich list. Open the door. Wave bye-bye. Close the door. End of story.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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