Can the Pistons repeat?

Updated: July 8, 2004, 11:48 AM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
How's this for a championship blueprint?

Build a team with no superstars, no max contracts, no major egos. Bring in the misfits -- NBA castoffs working on their third or fourth chances in the NBA.

Ask them to play defense and run through walls, to emphasize heart over scoring averages, teamwork over stats and hard work over flash.

Build the anti-Lakers, then watch them demolish the competition.

Pistons president Joe Dumars' vision for last season's Pistons was uncompromising. The results were nothing short of miraculous.

In late December I interviewed Dumars during a turbulent stretch. The Pistons had lost four straight, and it had been eight games since they had scored 90 points. The questions were everywhere. Why did they fire Rick Carlisle? Why did they trade Cliff Robinson? Why didn't they draft Carmelo instead of Darko?

Dumars was resolute.

"We had gone as far as we were going to go with that team," Dumars said then. "We had to make a change before it was too late. I knew there was a good chance that by changing the makeup of this team we probably had to take a step back. That, to me, is a small price to pay for a championship.

"I'm not going to sacrifice tomorrow so I can have last year's record. My job is balancing today and tomorrow with the same moves. ... I believe they have the talent to help turn us into a legitimate contender down the road.

"I know patience can be a dirty word in this business. But at the very time people are writing that our window is closing, I'm telling you it's just now starting to open. They gave me that award [Executive of the Year] last year because we surprised a lot of people and turned around a pretty bad team quickly. But I've done more this summer than I did last year. It's just going to take a little longer to see the results. But when they come, we won't be happy just to be in the Eastern Conference Finals."

Six months later, the Pistons are the NBA Champions. Dumars looks prophetic.

"I am happy we won, but I did believe in what I was doing," Dumars said after winning the title. "It is easy for me to say that if I had to do it all over again, I would do the same thing over again. But I have never backed off a move I made or had second thoughts. I think coming in here and winning it all speaks more for me than anything I can tell you."

"I understand it is part of the job to be second-guessed and have stones thrown your way," Dumars added. "We caught all of the stones and put them away."

What will he do for an encore?

"What you try an do for an encore is rally around the idea of playing as defending world champs and to play at the same level as the previous year," Dumars told Insider on Wednesday. "The ultimate goal in this job is to give your team a chance to win now and to have a bright future at the same time. We've managed to put this organization in that position, and that's what I'm going to continue to focus on."

Here's a look at what to expect as Insider continues its summer blueprint series.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer