It wasn't that long ago that everybody talked about the Pistons -- though they rarely got the same amount of pub as the rest of the league's elite, they were undeniably in the conversation as legitimate contenders to the crown.
But these days? Good luck hearing any national voice talk about the team with any amount of nuance, making smart analysis without simply looking at the player movement ledger and concluding, "yep, they're rebuilding, nothing to see ..."
... except, I should add, for today. Henry Abbott from TrueHoop clearly watched last night's game, and paints an optimistic picture, not just for Detroit's future, but just maybe for Detroit's present, as well:
But they didn't beat the Magic just by chance. A lineup of shooters and ball-handlers all over the floor created space in the lane -- and Piston guards got to the rim again and again, putting the pressure on Howard that resulted in fouls and a lot of contact. (After the game, Howard complained about how hard opponents have been colliding with him recently.)
If the Pistons prove to be good, then the NBA teams that passed over all of their personnel will have been proven at least a little bit wrong.
The player who epitomizes the new Pistons -- the one every team could have had and who Pistons fans cheered loudest for last night -- is point guard Will Bynum. Undrafted in 2006, Bynum played for the Roanoke Dazzle before having a cup of coffee with the Warriors. Eventually he found a home playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
He joined the Pistons' summer league team slightly more than a year ago, and has been a Piston ever since.
Now Bynum joins Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon in the kind of lineup (shooters, passers and drivers all over the place) that a stat expert says can do a lot of damage.
For Detroit's front office, it's a tale of a front office finding merit in players other teams reject. For players like Will Bynum, it's proof that useful NBA players don't just come from the draft and trades.