Pieces in place for more championship runs

Updated: June 16, 2004, 2:07 PM ET
By Dr. Jack Ramsay | Special to ESPN.com

The Detroit Pistons are the 2004 NBA champions and have the pieces to remain a contender for a number of years. The players who make up the essence of this team will be back and will continue to improve.

Kobe Bryant and Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton was a tough cover for all the Lakers, including Kobe Bryant.
Richard Hamilton stepped up his game in the postseason and will continue to become a better player, while Chauncey Billups has figured out his game and found a niche running the offense in Detroit.

Tayshaun Prince, meanwhile, showed a complete game in the NBA Finals and has become a great defender. But he still needs work on his shooting mechanics and can improve his shooting percentage.

If the Pistons sign Rasheed Wallace to a contract during the offseason -- and they likely will -- he will give them stability while the younger players polish their games, and as good as Ben Wallace has been, he can still add to his offensive game under a great teacher in coach Larry Brown.

Detroit also has a player coming in next year -- 6-7 European swingman Carlos Delfino -- who the Pistons feel can step in and contribute immediately. Delfino is a strong player who has had great success overseas and will only add to the overall strength of the lineup next year.

And while the teacher in Brown will allow the Pistons to become better individual players, his emphasis on playing the right way will allow Detroit to maintain its team-first game.

That kind of game was evident in the team defense the Pistons played in the Finals. The Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal got their points but did so only after lots of hard work, and the rest of the team was never allowed to find a rhythm. Detroit forced turnovers and bad shots throughout the entire series by hustling as a team all over the floor.

Few people felt the Pistons would be able to score enough points to beat the Lakers, but it turned out their defense held the Lakers down more than enough.

Brown coached the Denver Nuggets in 1977, the first year former ABA teams came into the NBA and the same year my Portland Trail Blazers team won the NBA title. Our Blazers beat Larry and the Nuggets in the second round that year, which seems like an eternity ago.

Brown never stopped coaching and teaching, though, and now he finally has his first NBA championship, won with a team that in the eyes of many had lesser talent than its Finals opponent.

That must be extremely gratifying for Larry and is absolutely a great coaching accomplishment.

Dr. Jack Ramsay, an NBA analyst for ESPN, coached the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Legendary coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay served as lead game analyst for The NBA on ESPN Radio. He also contributed to ESPN.com and ESPN The Mag.

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