By Jeff Moss
January 11, 2014
Earlier today, I wrote an article explaining why it was long past time for Tom Gores or Platinum Equity or Palace Sports and Entertainment or Anthony Pellicano or whoever is running the Pistons to fire Joe Dumars as President and General Manager of the organization.
Well, late Friday, I spoke to two sources with connections inside the Palace who told me that there have been recent rumblings that the Pistons and Dumars could part ways as early as next week.
It is the worst kept secret in town that the Pistons had to make the postseason in 2013-14 for Dumars to keep his job, but it appears that the team’s recent struggles coupled with ownership’s unhappiness with first-year coach Mo Cheeks’ performance might have accelerated that timeline.
According to my sources, a number of factors are at play for why Dumars might not make it through the season ….
1) The biggest issue seems to be that neither of Dumars’ two headlining offseason moves have worked out as planned. There was intense pressure on Joe D. to hire the right leader for this team as there has been a head coach revolving door at 6 Championship Drive over the last few years.
Gores’ people even brought in the winningest coach alive, Phil Jackson, in as a consultant on this crucial hire.
The Cheeks Era got off to a rough start even before the Pistons played their first game with allegations that the former 76ers great was involved in a domestic dispute. Charges were never filed by prosecutors, but the ugly details of alleged abuse still became a national story.
What has occurred on the court since then hasn’t gone much better for Cheeks, as his team is sitting at 15-22 in the pathetic Eastern Conference. The Pistons currently occupy the ninth spot in the East which means if the season ended today, they would not qualify for the postseason.
Before tonight’s victory against the lowly 76ers in Philadelphia, the Pistons had lost six straight games to teams under .500. After a humiliating loss at home on Sunday to the Memphis Grizzlies, Cheeks basically admitted that he was at a loss as to what ailed his team.
Not exactly the start that Gores and his people envisioned when Cheeks was given a three-year contract this season after Lawrence Frank was fired after the end of last year.
2) Dumars’ marquee free-agent signing of Josh Smith hasn’t paid the necessary dividends either. The Pistons inked the Atlanta forward to a four-year, $54 million contract over the summer and not only has Smith’s play been a disappointment, but he has had multiple run-ins with Cheeks.
In a year where Dumars’ team had to make the playoffs while the players and coaches peacefully coexisted — unlike the “buffoonery” of previous regimes — the new head coach and headlining free-agent acquisition are the ones who are at loggerheads.
It is no secret that Smith and Cheeks haven’t gotten along. The Pistons coach has benched Smith on a couple of occasions this season, including a highly-publicized incident where a miscommunication led to Smith missing a practice.
But, according to one of my sources inside the Palace, the situation between the two is even worse than we have been led to believe. Apparently, Smith and Cheeks have gotten into such intense arguments that, on at least one occasion, the dispute ended in the two throwing items at one another.
The last time that the DSR received a rumor alleging that items were being tossed around the Palace, the accusation was that Rick Carlisle had thrown a vase or plant at a member of the secretarial staff. And a week after our report, Carlisle was fired.
So, to summarize the first half of the 2013-14 season, the Pistons are off to a miserable start; the two key components brought in to turn things around haven’t done their jobs and are at each other’s throats; and the team is well on its way to the worst possible scenario imaginable:
A franchise that has made several shortsighted decisions with the sole intent of making the playoffs in 2014 barely missing the cut without being bad enough to get a top-eight draft selection — resulting in the Charlotte Bobcats obtaining the Pistons first-round pick in a very deep class.
Joe Dumars was selected by the Pistons in the first round of the 1985 draft. He has been here ever since, first as a great player before he transitioned into management and eventually became President and GM. His number has been retired and he has won three championships as a member of this organization.
But after 29 years, the Joe Dumars Pistons Era could be over in the next few days — the last connection to Bill Davidson’s ownership out the door.
I have reached out to Platinum Equity partner Mark Barnhill for comment about this story, and am still awaiting a response.
Stay tuned …….