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Pistons' Future Is Bright

June 17, 2004|From Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Joe Dumars was sporting an NBA championship hat and T-shirt while chewing on an unlighted cigar. Almost two hours after Detroit beat the Lakers on Tuesday night, the Pistons' president of basketball operations was still smiling.

"I don't even smoke," Dumars said. "But I just felt like Red Auerbach, so I grabbed a cigar and I threw it in my mouth."

There could be more championship cigars in Dumars' future.

"Maybe we don't have two superstars like the Lakers, but we've got five stars in their own way in the starting lineup and a lot of other solid players," Dumars said. "We've got the best of both worlds because we won now, and we can win in the years to come."

With a starting lineup of players 29 or younger, salary cap space and a Hall of Fame coach, the Pistons seem like a team built to last.

Before thinking about the championship possibilities of the future, however, the Pistons and their fans plan to celebrate today with a parade in downtown Detroit and a rally at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The most valuable player of the NBA Finals was Chauncey Billups, who was on five teams in his first four seasons before finding a fit in Detroit two years ago.

Ben Wallace, the team's only All-Star, wasn't even drafted out of college. He was a little-known player when he came to the Pistons in the Grant Hill trade four years ago in what was Dumars' first major move as an executive.

Even Rasheed Wallace fit in, and helped turn a contender into a champion. Re-signing him is Detroit's No. 1 priority.

Rasheed Wallace, an unrestricted free agent who made $17 million this season, declined to talk about his future plans Tuesday night, just as he has done since Feb. 19 when he was acquired for reserves and draft picks in a three-team trade.

Dumars said his approach to re-signing Wallace would be simple.

"I'm just going to ask him, 'What's not to like?' " Dumars said. "And I'll tell him we'll do everything in our power to bring him back."

The Pistons might lose free agent Mehmet Okur because he may be looking for more money and playing time. But Dumars likes the Pistons' nucleus and two No. 1 picks last year: Darko Milicic, a 7-foot center who turns 19 on Sunday, and Carlos Delfino, one of the top players in Europe this season.

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