Auburn Hills — We know that the Bad Boy Pistons were rough, tough and didn’t take any stuff. But they were also the ultimate team. That is why they were at center court before a packed house Friday night at The Palace for one last bow.
Teamwork and camaraderie earned them back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. And we saw it one more time before Isiah Thomas addressed the Palace crowd. Call it Jack McCloskey’s last ride.
The former Pistons general manager doesn’t get around like he used to. He walks with a cane and he is no longer the nimble baseball, basketball and tennis player who terrorized the eastern United States.
The corridors inside The Palace are long and unyielding. So the Bad Boy Pistons did what they did back in the 1980s. When a team member can no longer make it, they pick him up.
Isiah Thomas and his wife Lynn, along with John Salley, found an empty cart and piled McCloskey on top of it and wheeled him through the corridors so he could be part of the ceremony.
“Heck yeah,” McCloskey said after the ceremony inside of suite 116. “I was so proud to be a part of this. These were my guys.”
They turned back the clock and turned it into a back-in-the-day moment during a brief ceremony before a rare packed house. The atmosphere was similar to what it was like when the Pistons barnstormed the NBA as one of the league’s best teams. Fans paid the Pistons the ultimate compliment. On a night Michigan and Michigan State were playing Sweet 16 games people came to see the best team in Pistons history. It was a legitimate sellout and folks showed up.
That did not go unnoticed by Thomas.
“You supported us and we all persevered and overcame the obstacles and there were a lot of obstacles over the years,” Thomas told the crowd. “We never would have been able to do it without your love and support.”
The theme of the night was love and support. The fans filled the air celebrating a team that mattered. Unfortunately they got a clear view of how bad the current team is as the just bad Pistons were bombarded 110-78 to the Miami Heat.
The Pistons sat and watched the ceremony and I hope they got to talk to these players and take note.
The best way for the Pistons to honor the Bad Boys is to hang another championship banner. That was all this team was about. It kills me to hear players talking about being good enough to win games. The Pistons were not about winning games. They were about hanging banners.
The current Pistons team and organization are not even close to winning a title. There is no leadership in the dressing room and even though Gores claims there is a game plan in place, I am not seeing it.
There are no players willing to challenge management to do better, like Thomas used to do. And there is no one in the front office in place to hold players accountable.
“The main thing is we are going to get back to a championship,” owner Tom Gores said. “We are going to get back to championship days. We have to make sure we are competitive. This is what we are all about. This is what you’re all about. We will find our way.”
Maybe. But they need to find guys like McCloskey and former coach Chuck Daly, who were unafraid to take chances. Trader Jack knew fans were angry after he traded popular Adrian Dantley to Dallas for Mark Aguirre. A few days after the trade, McCloskey waited at a red light with his wife Leslie when he looked at the car next to him. Two guys turned their fingers into mock pistols, aimed them at Jack and went “Poof.”
“I guess they didn’t like the trade,” McCloskey said, laughing.
It was a key move in bring in two championships. And there on center stage at The Palace Friday was Aguirre, who went from outsider to blood brother.
“It wasn’t about acceptance, it was what lie in front of us,” Aguirre said.
The ceremony was short and sweet as Gores greeted all of the players who showed up. That included a group hug with current President Joe Dumars and Thomas.
But Friday we saw the difference between the current Pistons and the Bad Boy Pistons. The current team is made up of basketball players. The old Pistons were a team. We saw it one more time as they wheeled Trader Jack through the corridors on a rickety cart through the Palace.