There’s a movie out now in which Jim Carrey gets to be God for a while. And I figure, if he can, why can’t Joe Dumars? I mean, Carrey never won NBA executive of the year.
So, while he is Joe Almighty, here are my suggestions for Dumars’ Ten Commandments of the Off-Season.
1. THOU SHALT THINK POSTSEASON.
It’s great that the Pistons won 50 regular-season games. But it’s time now to focus on what really counts, and building a team to win in January and February isn’t the same as building one for May and June. This “Goin’ to Work” mentality of defense, defense, defense can bite you in the playoffs, when other teams suddenly play defense, too. The Pistons actually lost more playoff games than they won this year. They need scorers and go-to guys. It says something that the No. 8 seed, Orlando, took No. 1 seed Detroit to the ropes, while New Jersey swept two of its first three playoff rounds. Both Detroit and Jersey have mastered defense. But only one has mastered scoring points.
2. THOU SHALT MOVE ON OFFENSE.
Honestly. Was there anything more painful than watching the Pistons try to score in their slowdown, half-court offense? The ball got dumped into somebody on the wing, and the other four Pistons watched the ball thump, thump, thump as the shot clock ran down. And if the shot missed, they were often flat-footed in their reactions, allowing teams like the Nets to fast-break for easy buckets.
“In the playoffs,” Jon Barry pointed out, “the other teams know all your moves by the second game. They set their defense. You can’t just have option A or B. You need C and D, too.”
For that there needs to be movement, and the team needs to open up more. That leads to . . .
3. THOU SHALT MAKE THY COACH MORE FLEXIBLE.
Rick Carlisle is a master of discipline and routine. But his intractability almost got Detroit bumped in the first round. Dumars has to convince Carlisle that flexibility is not weakness. That the team identity can be more than one thing. Oh, and this . . .
4. THOU SHALT START YOUTH. It’s time for Carlisle to move away from the sacred cows. Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur are the future of this team, and they belong in the starting lineup. Until, we hope, another young fellow is ready, which takes us to . . .
5. LET THERE BE DARKO. Stop talking Carmelo Anthony. Every year there is a Carmelo Anthony, a small forward out of college with NBA skills. So what? How often does a 7-foot-something kid come along who already has played a couple of years of pro ball, has a muscular frame and knows how to shoot and post up? By drafting Serbia’s Darko Milicic with the (thank you, Ping-Pong balls) No. 2 pick, the Pistons can change their entire offense. Ben Wallace can become a real power forward. The Pistons can play an inside-outside game, which would make their three-point shooters more potent. If Darko can become what people are expecting, this is a no-brain move. And so is . . .
6. HONOR THY UNCLE CLIFFY, THEN SAY GOOD-BYE.
He helped this team a lot, but Cliff Robinson should go. He’s better served on a younger, building team. Yes, Dumars signed him to a contract extension. That was smart. Now he can trade him at a relatively inexpensive salary, around $5 million a year. Teams will bite. But let’s face it: Robinson has never been good in the postseason, and he was mostly bad during this one. Can’t have that now. And sorry, you can’t go entire games with one rebound when you’re 6-feet-10. Which brings us to . . .
7. THOU SHALT BOARD. This is huge. The Pistons don’t rebound. Wallace does, but everyone else either watches or gets boxed out. There will be no advancement until this changes. Jersey regularly outrebounded Detroit. Which leads to . . .
8. KEEP THINE EYE ON THE NETS. New Jersey isn’t going anywhere. If Jason Kidd stays, the Nets are the team to go through. Just as the Pistons once built for the Celtics and the Bulls once built for the Pistons, so now must Detroit construct a team designed to match the Nets. Which means . . .
9. REMEMBER FREE AGENTS.
Dumars already has said he plans to shake up the team by 25 percent. Good. Barry, Danny Manning and Don Reid are all likely gone, Robinson should be, and, tough as it seems, the Pistons probably have outgrown Michael Curry, too. Although if they lose him, they need to remember . . .
10. THOU SHALT FIND LEADERS.
At no point during the Pistons’ last game did I see any player besides Curry really step up and exhort his teammates. Part of this blue-collar mentality is that no one feels entitled to be “the man,” but the Pistons could have used more locker room leadership. They don’t get angry enough at losses. And Wallace’s throwing an inflammatory quote at the media isn’t enough. Carlisle isn’t vocal. Someone needs to be. The old Pistons champs had Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer to scream up the intensity. It didn’t keep them from playing defense or being blue-collar. On the contrary, it helped them win.
So there they are. The Ten Commandments for Pistons growth. And when Joe Almighty is finished with all that, what next?
Why, rest, of course. Even God — and Jim Carrey — got to do that.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).