It’s Marvel theme week at SB Nation and that means a lot of people within the basketball community are talking about The Avengers. Everyone wants to be the damn Avengers. Assembling a super team of telegenic superheroes with upstanding morals, a chiseled jawline and scream idol straight out of central casting.
That doesn’t really fit the Pistons. There are no Tony Starks or Captain Americas wearing the Pistons red, white and blue. No, Detroit is for the outcasts and the misfits. The lunchpail crowd cruising the galaxy in a rust bucket out not for headlines but to take what is theres.
Detroit, with its defensive mindset have always been guardians, and so it seems that they are, truly, the embodiment of The Guardians of the Galaxy.
This is especially true of the title-winning 2004 Going to Work Pistons. The roles sync up shockingly well.
I’m not sure if you’d agree with my re-casting, but let’s go step by step through the crew.
The ostensible head of the crew and leading scorer for the Pistons, but, really, everyone understands that the Pistons were great because of all the people around the player taking on the biggest piece of the scoring load.
Hamilton’s mid-range game was effective, but by today’s standards probably a little inefficient. But his easy-going demeanor and willingness to run around the court trying to pull away people’s attention so they could be successful gets him the nod. Hell, you can do worse than be compared to Chris Pratt.
Gamora is Chauncey Billups
A soft-spoken assassin who serves as the general of the crew and brains of the operation. Billups was the leader behind the leader and he was always looking for a kill shot. Billups also shares a little backstory with Gamora. She was an outcast shunned by a father who didn’t know how to show her love, and didn’t find her place until falling into the guardians family.
Billups, meanwhile, was a top-3 pick the Celtics dumped almost immediately and then was an NBA outcast bouncing around between organizations. Eventually, he found his home in Detroit and cemented his legacy in the NBA. Both careers ended ended somewhat tragically, sacrificed by those who were supposed to protect them (daddy Thanos and Joe Duamars, respectively).
Drax the Destroyer is Ben Wallace
Part of me wanted to make Big Ben Groot. Both men of few words, and in Groot’s case, three words, actually. But I didn’t think that did justice to Wallace’s immense strength while at the same time being a soft-spoken guy with a heart of gold.
Both could send a weak shot into the upper bowl and crush you with their broad shoulders and gigantic biceps. Both, though, were always focused on just getting the job done. They had a little bit of flair, Ben with his fro and Drax with his tattoos. But they weren’t flamboyant or showy. And watch out if you got either of them to laugh.
Rocket is Rasheed Wallace
It’s not the size that matters here, it’s the inferiority complex. Nobody had more fun, was smarter or more dangerous on a basketball court than Rasheed Wallace. And nobody was more convinced people were out to get him. The same can be said of Rocket Racoon, who does everything he can to push people away, but loves his family and would support them like no other.
They are also hilarious, foul-mouthed comic relief who love nothing more than a good practical joke. Think of Rocket devising elaborate traps or miraculously fixing his ship similarly to how Rasheed would back down his opponent in the post. Once you saw them get to work, you knew they couldn’t be stopped.
Groot is Tayshaun Prince
That leaves one role left for the spindly, limitless limbs of Tayshaun Prince as gigantic tree man Groot. In fact, teenage groot from Vol. 2 has pretty much the same body shape as a young Tayshaun.
Can you imagine Groot blocking Reggie Miller’s shot .... good times.
The Palace Prince was the unsung but indispensable hero of the Going to Work Pistons while Groot, at least in teenage form, was more of a novelty afterthought. You loved that he was there, and he was doing essential things to help his crew, but it was a quiet, complementary piece. Bonus: they both went through a moody teenaged malcontent phase. Groot as the aforementioned team and Tay in the post-title contending “buffoonery” years when he seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else.
Ego is Larry Brown
The villainous father figure who wants to destroy, believing it’s an act of love but in reality is just a showcase for his own narcissism. That describes Larry Brown to a T. Yes, he brought a championship to Detroit and almost bought them a second title, but the relationship had frayed beyond the breaking point as the always nomadic brown, seeding his coaching philosophy at several stops throughout his prolific career, already had one foot out the door. He was eyeing more prestige and a big pay day. He thought the NBA world belonged to him, and he betrayed his family to get what he wanted. Worse, he thought he could paper over all his betrayals and bad acts by telling his team he loved them. But it only elicited eye rolls and laughs.