Apr 8, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Joe Dumars is the NBA’s longest-tenured general manager.
He’s one of just six active general managers – along with Pat Riley, Donnie Nelson, Mitch Kupchak, Danny Ainge and R.C. Buford – who’ve won an NBA championship in that role.
And he’s soon to be out work.
Dumars has told multiple sources within the NBA that he plans to resign — possibly as soon as this week
Dumars became the Pistons’ president of basketball operations in 2000, tasked primarily with re-signing Grant Hill.
It didn’t work.
Hill spurned Detroit for the Magic, leaving Dumars to pick up the pieces just months into the job. Dumars settled for a free agent role player named Ben Wallace, ultimately acquiring him in a joint sign-and-trade for Hill.
Next, Dumars ridded the roster of its hefty contracts, creating flexibility. But the moves cost the Pistons on the court, and they lost 50 games in his first season.
Then, Dumars’ reputation rose meteorically as he took the Pistons to new heights.
Dumars acquired overlooked assets, forming a hard-working team that won 50 games under Rick Carlisle’s leadership and defensive system. The Pistons won a playoff series for the first time since the Bad Boys, when Dumars still played.
He took chances, turning over the roster from scrappy to talented. In came Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace. Larry Brown, already a Hall of Famer, became head coach. Considering the Pistons had just surpassed any expectations, the talent influx was daring.
One of Dumars’ most-conventional moves in this period was drafting Darko Milicic No. 2 overall in 2003. Nearly every NBA team would have drafted Darko in that situation, but obviously it remains one of the biggest blemishes on Dumars’ record.
Detroit won the 2004 championship, reached Game 7 of the NBA Finals the next season and reached six straight conference finals in all. It was a historically great run.
Then, almost as suddenly, Dumars deconstructed everything he had going.
He traded Billups for Allen Iverson, practically gave away Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson, signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to big contracts, traded a potentially valuable first rounder to dump Gordon a year early and then used the money on Josh Smith. His latest coaching hires – Maurice Cheeks, Lawrence Frank, John Kuester and Michael Curry – all flopped. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in six years.
Along the way, Dumars drafted Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, giving the Pistons real hope to rebuild – hope that still exists. But under new owner Tom Gores, rebuilding was never the goal. Gores wanted to reach the postseason, and Dumars failed to deliver.
That’s why he’s on his way out, whether it’s this week or when the regular season ends next week. Dumars’ contract expires after the season, and ever since Gores stepped over Dumars to fire Cheeks mid-season, it’s been apparent this would be Dumars’ final year with the Pistons.
Whether it’s framed as a resignation, mutual parting or ownership-mandated change doesn’t really matter. Change is happening.
Dumars’ championship and remarkable run as an executive should have gotten him a long leash, and it did. His glory days as a Pistons player probably gave him even more leeway, which is not a courtesy that needed to be extended.
But time has, justifiably, run out. Few general managers would have survived the mistakes Dumars has made the last few years, and now he won’t.
Now, it’s just a matter of it becoming official.
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