Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reported in a Sunday column that the tenure of Pistons GM Joe Dumars may be coming to an end. In a report from unspecified leagues sources, Lawrence had a brief comment about Dumars:
The Pistons aren’t in the playoffs for the fourth straight season and they’ve been irrelevant for a lot longer, as they’re almost 10 years removed from their championship season under Larry Brown.
It’s been a long run for team president Joe Dumars, but league sources say that Dumars’ reign will soon be coming to a close. Dumars is so entrenched and such an iconic figure from his playing days, we’ll believe it when we see it. But it sure sounds as if he’s on his way out, along with Lawrence Frank, who is finishing his second season as coach.
It's tough to put much stock in an anonymously-sourced report included at the end of a three-page Sunday column. In echoing Mitch Lawrence, I'll believe it when I see it too. While it's a plausible move, it feels unlikely that Tom Gores and Palace Sports and Entertainment pulls the trigger this summer. Dumars has been a part of Detroit's identity, for better or for worse, for as long as most Pistons fans can remember.
Despite the difficult direction of the team since 2008, it has been an up year for Joe Dumars. He selected the steal of the 2012 NBA Draft in Andre Drummond, and he was able to free the team of the bloated contract he handed to Tayshaun Prince in 2011. If Jose Calderon decides to resign with the team this summer, it could be an end to one of the best calendar years of Dumars career as a GM.
If Calderon does not stay with the team, and this season can be viewed in a longer-term context, the situation is a bit gloomier for Dumars. The Detroit Pistons will finish this season with the team's worst record in three years, tying its 2009-10 NBA season with the 12th best record in the Eastern Conference. The team regressed from the season prior, and things appeared to get worse right out of the gate with 8 losses in a row.
Prior to the season, Pistons owner Tom Gores pointed toward an ultimatum, however casually and in platitudes:
"I came here to win. I’m a now person. Last year (at the end of the season I) said we’re going to get into the playoffs and I meant it. We need to get into the playoffs"
Gores clarified that he's not expecting "playoffs or bust", but he does have one yard stick he'll be using to judge this last season:
"There’s no ultimatum that says, ‘If you don’t make the playoffs, you’re gone.’ We don’t work like that. The ultimatum is we have to get better. We have to work hard, we have to show progress."
As I mentioned above, the team regressed from the season prior, and things certainly got worse in terms of record. Now fans will have a good opportunity to judge Tom Gores with his actions this summer. Either he's a man of his word, or his interviews and speeches are fluff in the best case, lies in the worst case.
One question fans should ask themselves-- are Joe Dumars' recent moves (Andre Drummond, Jose Calderon) enough to keep him on for at least another season? In truth, those moves shouldn't provide optimism toward what Dumars might do this summer, as his established strength (the draft) won't help him succeed in his dramatically-established weakness (free agency).
This summer marks the third time in recent years when Joe Dumars will have a major free agent purse at his disposal. In 2008-09, Dumars rather famously spent roughly $125 million on three of the wrong players while shipping out his youth movement for scraps. In 2011, then under Tom Gores, Dumars repeated the mistakes of 2009 to the tune of $63 million-- including a buyout for Richard Hamilton to help maintain the status quo with Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey. Both of these free agent spending sprees helped bring the team to its knees, but this time the risk is higher than it has ever been. Finally, the Detroit Pistons have a young, gifted frontcourt in place, but bad moves this summer could turn a potential Eastern Conference contender into a long-term lottery regular.
This summer, the Detroit Pistons have more to lose than they have in a very long time.
Are the league sources that Mitch Lawrence cites on to something about Dumars' job security? It's hard to say one way or the other. There is one important distinction with this rumor, however-- I don't ever recall even an anonymously-sourced rumor about Dumars' potential firing. Up until today, "sources" would never suggest such a thing. Just hearing this slight buzz, however faint, could mean that Joe Dumars' seat is getting a little toasty as the season comes to an end.