LOS ANGELES - Four years ago today, Joe Dumars was re-introduced as the man who would put the Detroit Pistons back on the NBA map.
Since winning consecutive titles in 1989 and 1990, when Dumars was a player, the Pistons had lost their way.
On June 6, 2000 - one year after his retirement as one of the most decorated players in franchise history - Dumars assumed command as president of basketball operations.
The quietest Piston on a boisterous Bad Boy squad featuring Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, it was Dumars to whom owner Bill Davidson ultimately entrusted the keys to the franchise.
As a player, Dumars always did whatever was necessary for the Pistons to win.
As the Pistons top basketball executive, nothing has changed.
Dumars adapts to any and every situation.
As a result, he has a chance to do what playing contemporaries Thomas, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge haven t been able to accomplish as executives: win a championship.
Under s Dumars leadership, history repeats itself: Pistons vs. Lakers in the 2004 NBA finals.
“I think it s kind of ironic. It s neat we re going back to play them,” said Dumars, who was named MVP of the 1989 finals in Detroit s four-game sweep of the Lakers.
The qualities that made Dumars a great player are what also make him a great executive.
He s made mistakes, sure.
Keeping George Irvine around a year too long as coach was one mistake. Drafting Mateen Cleaves was a huge mistake. Drafting Rodney White may have been his worst mistake.
Dumars, however, doesn t make excuses or alibis.
Instead, he seeks answers and solutions.
As a Pistons beat writer a decade ago, Isaw how Dumars altered his approach to the game following Thomas retirement.
No more Zeke around to provide big-time scoring and valuable leadership?
Let Joe do it.
For the good of the team, Dumars became more of a scorer and a mentor to newcomers Grant Hill, Allan Houston and current Piston Lindsey Hunter.
Whatever it takes.
Get swept by New Jersey in the 2003 Eastern Conference finals?
Let Joe fix it.
Good-bye, Rick Carlisle.
Welcome, Larry Brown and Rasheed Wallace.
Hello, NBA finals.
It s Dumars specialty, his knack for making everything better.
It was Dumars who, when it became apparent Detroit was going to lose the popular Grant Hill to free agency in the summer of 2000, insisted on a sign-and-trade deal with Orlando for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins.
The trade, which at the time appeared to be one-sided in Orlando s favor, is now considered one of the greatest heists in NBA history.
While Hill has never recovered from a foot injury he suffered playing for the Pistons, Wallace developed into a two-time defensive player of the year and has his team in the finals. Atkins became a valuable team member whose salary-cap friendly contract negotiated by Dumars helped facilitate the blockbuster trade for Rasheed Wallace.
With the Pistons, Rasheed has been a good player and an even better teammate. Attitude-wise, he has performed a complete 180.
For whatever reason, players seem to like playing for Dumars Pistons.
After scoring a game-high 21 points in Detroit s clinching victory over Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals, shooting guard Richard Hamilton, who joined the team prior to last season in a trade for Jerry Stackhouse, approached Dumars outside the locker room.
“Thanks for bringing me here,” Hamilton said.
If you wondered how Dumars dealt with the season-long criticism of firing Carlisle and replacing him with Brown, of drafting Darko Milicic instead of Carmelo Anthony, and of trading for Rasheed Wallace, the NBA s former Public Enemy No.1, stop right now.
Dumars is as mentally tough as they come. Upon learning of his father s death during the 1990 finals against Portland, Dumars refused to return home to Louisiana until the Pistons won the championship.
Dumars was one of the few players willing and able to stand up to Michael Jordan in his prime. Jordan openly acknowledged that Dumars was his most worthy adversary.
So, no, standing up to media criticism has been the least of Dumars worries.
“I ve been getting second-guessed all year,” Dumars said. “We had to go through a lot of adversity to get here.”
A visiting reporter asked Dumars if there was anything he wanted to get off his chest.
“Nothing,” he said.
“There s nothing to say. It s been proven out. L.B. [Brown] came in and did what he was supposed to do. Rasheed came in and did what he was supposed to do. It all came together,” Dumars said.
“We re going to the NBA finals. That speaks for itself.”
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