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14 Detroit Pistons Are the days of the Bad Boys back in Motown? Depends on what your definition of bad is

Before joining the Pistons this summer, forward Ben Wallace and
point guard Chucky Atkins were friends and teammates on the
Orlando Magic. An interest they shared was, of all things,
remote-controlled cars. "One day Chucky comes over to my house
with his new car and puts it on the ground," Wallace says with a
chuckle. "Next thing you know it's all smashed up in pieces. He
drove it right into a curb."

That wouldn't be the last crashing sensation Atkins experienced
during the summer: On Aug. 3 he learned that he and Wallace had
been traded to Detroit for superstar forward Grant Hill. One
minute he was playing a key role for an up-and-coming team, and
in his hometown, no less. The next minute he was staring at a car

That's about the only way to describe the situation in Motown,
where hopes have been shredding like Firestone tires. Since being
swept by the Heat in the first round of last year's playoffs, the
Pistons have seen their franchise player (Hill) skip town and
several big-name free agents (Jalen Rose, Tim Thomas and Austin
Croshere) say thanks but no thanks to lucrative offers. Even
coach George Irvine--who had his interim title removed in
June--initially expressed reservations about taking the job on a
permanent basis.

The good news is that Joe Dumars has taken over as president of
basketball operations. With plenty of room under the salary cap,
the Pistons are primed for a run next summer at free-agent-to-be
Chris Webber, a Detroit native. Dumars's hiring also signals an
end to last season's habit of allowing opponents to waltz merrily
through the lane. "We were not a tough team last year," says
Dumars, whose tenacious defense was a Pistons' trademark during
their 1988-89 and 1989-90 championship seasons. "That'll change,
I guarantee it."

Enter Atkins and Wallace. Besides an affection for racing little
cars up and down the block, the two share an affinity for hustle
and elbow grease. "In Orlando we didn't have anybody in the
All-Star Game; we didn't have any big names," says Atkins, who
spent three years in the CBA and Europe before catching on with
the Magic last season. "But we did all the little things that add
up to success. That's what made that team special, and that's
what we're going to try to bring here."

Lightning-quick and a good decision-maker, the 26-year-old Atkins
will serve as a mentor to top draft pick Mateen Cleaves while
giving Detroit its first true point guard in years. For his part
Wallace, 26, adds athleticism and toughness to the front court.
Last year the 6'9" bruiser led the Magic in rebounds (8.2 per
game) and was second in blocks (130) despite bone spurs in his
right foot that required him to wear a walking cast when he
wasn't on the court.

While A&W supplies some much-needed fizz, the Pistons lack the
pop to make a serious run at the postseason. In the absence of
Hill, shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse, who blossomed into an
All-Star last year, will find the going much tougher as teams
throw double team after double team at him. Small forwards Cedric
Ceballos, Billy Owens and John Wallace are all serviceable
scorers, but they will not make anyone forget Hill, who averaged
21.6 points per game in six seasons with Detroit.

Then there's the matter of Detroit's glaring lack of size in the
middle, where Ben Wallace figures to get the nod over Mikki Moore
and Eric Montross. With Jerome Williams at power forward, look
for opponents to relentlessly pound the ball inside. "We're not
big, so we're going to have to be disruptive defensively," Irvine
says. "If we let teams play half-court, we're going to be in

Yes, they will. But the Pistons will at least make Dumars proud
and go down with a fight. In addition to Atkins and Wallace, the
team is loaded with hard-nosed guys like Stackhouse, Owens and
Cleaves. Moreover, five Detroit players are playing for new
contracts. "One thing's for sure," Williams says. "We won't be
giving up nearly as many easy baskets this year."

It might not sound like much, Pistons fans, but it's a

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: FERNANDO MEDINA/NBA ENTERTAINMENT ATTENTION GETTER Without Hill to draw defenders, the high-scoring Stackhouse will be in doubled trouble.

In Fact

Lindsey Hunter, Christian Laettner, Terry Mills and Grant Hill
started a total of 316 games for the Pistons last season. With
their off-season departures, Detroit lost more games started than
any team.

Projected Lineup


SF Cedric Ceballos[1] 16.6 ppg 6.7 rpg 1.3 apg 0.81 spg 44.6 FG%

PF Jerome Williams 8.4 ppg 9.6 rpg 1.16 spg 56.4 FG% 61.6 FT%

C Ben Wallace[1] 4.8 ppg 8.2 rpg 1.60 bpg 50.3 FG% 47.4 FT%

SG Jerry Stackhouse 23.6 ppg 3.8 rpg 4.5 apg 1.26 spg 42.8 FG%

PG Chucky Atkins 9.5 ppg 3.7 apg 1.5 rpg 0.63 spg 42.4 FG%


F John Wallace[1] 6.5 ppg 2.3 rpg 0.4 apg 46.7 FG% 80.4 FT%

C Mikki Moore 7.9 ppg 3.9 rpg 1.07 bpg 62.1 FG% 79.4 FT%

G Mateen Cleaves(R)[1]12.1 ppg 6.9 apg 1.38 spg 42.1 FG% 37.6 3FG%

F Billy Owens[1] 6.0 ppg 4.9 rpg 1.6 apg 41.9 FG% 59.4 FT%

G Dana Barros[1] 7.2 ppg 1.8 apg 1.4 rpg 45.1 FG% 41.0 3FG%

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons

"You don't want to let Jerry Stackhouse get to the middle of the
floor. Channel him to the baseline, where you can cut off his
angles by having your big guys ready to double-team him. He's a
little out of control when he's driving....They're going to miss
Grant Hill a lot. When he and Stackhouse were their go-to guys,
they made all the peripheral players better. Now the defense can
load up on Stackhouse, and he's very selfish--terrific scorer,
reluctant passer....Cedric Ceballos was out of shape in the
preseason. He's a guy who's just collecting a paycheck....Mateen
Cleaves's lack of scoring is going to hurt him. I know they said
he had all the intangibles in college; he won every drill at
practice, he won a national championship, but that was college.
This is the NBA, and he's going to have to spend some time on
his shot....Ben Wallace, John Wallace and Jerome Williams are
all high-energy guys. They're going to be tough on the glass."