The Pistons have eight retired numbers hanging from the Palace rafters. Quick, can you name them all? I'll give you a minute to think about it (and I gave you a clue above) -- I'll distract myself watching this video of David Stern announcing Tayshaun Prince's name at the 2002 NBA Draft ...
OK, here we go. First, the six from the 1989 and 1990 championship teams: Chuck Daly's No. 2 (in honor of his back-to-back titles, for any confused young folk), Joe Dumars' No. 4, Dennis Rodman's No. 10, Isiah Thomas' No. 11, Vinnie Johnson's No. 15 and Bill Laimbeer's No. 40. The two numbers that precede that era belong to Bob Lanier (No. 16) and Dave Bing (No. 21).
As the longest-serving member of the Goin' to Work era Pistons, do you think the organization will someday retire Prince's number? Should they?
I don't think they will retire 22, but they should definitely honor it. I've contradicted myself in the past on my own standards for retiring numbers because my feelings have changed and I'm sure the sentimentalist in me will get the best of me next year when the Pistons likely honor the 10 year anniversary of the 2004 team. But I think at the very least, the Pistons should recognize the '04 starting five by raising a banner in their honor with all of their numbers and names on it.
As much as I've always appreciated Prince I don't think he deserves to have his number retired in Detroit. And I don't think it will happen. He was the fifth-best player on the best Pistons teams and should be remembered as such. It's no knock to be just a very good complementary piece on a truly great team. Heck, I'm not even sure Richard Hamilton deserves to get his number retired in Detroit. Those teams were always about Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups with a huge assist from Rasheed.
I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, Billups and Big Ben may be the only two whose individual production warrants that kind individual recognition. Prince ends up on lots of individual statistical leaderboards in Pistons' history thanks largely to longevity... but he wasn't a true star player.
On the other hand, that group is remembered as being more than the sum of its parts. While I don't particularly buy into that narrative personally, I'm sympathetic to it. If the Pistons retire more than just Billups' and Wallace's jerseys, I'd say retire the whole starting five's, Prince included, to pay homage to the group as a whole.
(Will they?) Probably not. (Should they?) Absolutely. We retired six jerseys from the Bad Boys. Might as well hang all of them up from the Going to Work crew, particularly since their distinguishing characteristic was how well they operated as a unit.
Will they? Yes. Should they? No. Prince was a great piece, but he was never an all-star, never deserving of all-star status, and never a top-three player on the team.
Will they? I'm not so sure. With six numbers from the Bad Boys era up there, it's easy to assume the organization might go overboard honoring the 2004 championship team. But it's a different time, with a different ownership group and a different front office making those decisions.
Another thing to keep in mind: under Joe Dumars, the Pistons have been remarkably dismissive about the importance of jersey numbers. Once upon a time, I took for granted that Ben Wallace would see his No. 3 retired, but the front office had no problem allowing Rodney Stuckey to claim it his rookie year. And who can forget the kick in the gut to see Allen Iverson's wearing Chauncey Billups' still warm No. 1?
Should they? Not unless they also retire the rest of the 2004 starting lineup -- and that might be going overboard. Perhaps they someday hang up a No. 5 with all of their names.