The Pistons Might Never Win Again
9:35 AM EST on December 22, 2023
It would be in bad taste for the NBA office to figure a way to commemorate the Detroit Pistons as they approach the two losing streak records they have worked so hard toward. That, though, provides all the more reason to do it, frankly, for the Pistons are finally America's Team.
In losing to the injury-ravaged and road-weary Utah Jazz Thursday night in a game that looked like the 24 that came before it, the Pistons are now one expected loss to the Nets away from tying the record for most consecutive losses in one season, and three (Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Boston) from breaking the record for most consecutive losses over any span. One can only imagine the 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2014 Philadelphia 76ers gathering in a posh New York hotel to raise champagne glasses to the ceiling and salute the team that takes them off the hook for all time. Sure it would be petty, but the 1972 Miami Dolphins do it every year, and they get away with it.
By now, all the analyses of why the Pistons are what they are have been done and dusted, including these gems from Comrades Nathan and Thompson. They are unutterably the thing you see before you now, a team that has enthralled the nation with its complete inability to consider the benefits of a gift horse. Last night, the Pistons took an early 27-19 lead over the starless and moribund Jazz, gave it up in two and a half minutes, and never led again. Utah was horrible, tired, and depleted and the 'Stons still couldn't catch them. This was a game clever people thought Detroit could steal, but they did not reckon with the Pistons’ persistence in defeat or their willingness to do anything to avoid victory.
Over the last five games and 240 minutes they have led for a total of three minutes and 13 seconds, as though they understand their fate so thoroughly that they give up their leads by the time the starters are taken out for the first time, knowing that a deficit is safe in the hands of their teammates. They have had their will to not fail beaten out of them, to the point where no reason you can give for their inertia is invalid, and no hypothetical solution you offer will be helpful. The only thing to do with the Pistons is watch, and now that America is fascinated by the possibility that they could go 0-for-November and then December as well, there is no reason to wish them well. Which is to say poorly. I mean, they've gone to this much trouble to catch our eye, right?
That's the one goal that still dangles before them—to be the best at being the worst—and it is important that their fans come out to cheer them off, rather than on. The season is already more than merely lost, and jobs are sure to follow as those losing habits become instinctive rather than merely likely. There are no quality comedic highlights from last night because unlike the Washington Wizards they have no gift for farce. They just trot out, try a bit, accept their fate, and move on to the next crime scene.
But at least their fans are figuring it out. They spent the early part of the game cheering with undeserved optimism, then pulled back before the end of the quarter and spent the rest of the night amusing themselves with sing-songy chants of comprehensive vitriol aimed at top basketball man Troy Weaver, head coach Monty Williams, and especially owner Tom Gores. To which we can only say, "That's the spirit."
But they are very much jumping the gun in wanting the firings now. They'll need that chant and much more besides to achieve the next few losses to cement their place at the bottom of Lake Erie. Get past the next few and then head out on a Western road trip after that. They could have a strong foothold on a winless January by then, and once that happens, the drainage ditch is the limit, and the league needs to … well, leave enough alone. The Pistons are doing what they must in their own particular idiom, and it doesn't need to be cheapened by unwanted help. Let them do this the old-fashioned way: by failing repeatedly and on their own merits.