AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Chicago Bulls did a pretty good job of dismantling the Detroit Pistons in their four-game sweep of the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference finals, and now the remainder of the task is left to Detroit general manager Jack McCloskey and his coaching staff.
McCloskey cried when the Pistons left the court Monday afternoon. He cried for the end of a powerful, if not critically acclaimed, reign by the Detroit team and because he, more than anyone, knows the extent of the changes to come.
"I've got a five-step plan for the off-season," McCloskey said the other day when asked if he knew exactly how the Pistons would be rebuilt. He said it with the level confidence of a man who has listed his intentions on a legal pad somewhere and made a pact with himself to carry them out.
Nine of the 12 Pistons who finished the season are 30 or older. Only three Detroit players -- Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman -- would bring significant value in trade. One key player, John Salley, is a restricted free agent and he is seeking a salary that would throw the Detroit pay structure completely out of whack. The two main front-court players, Bill Laimbeer and James Edwards, reached the end of this season looking like stegosauri left over from a forgotten epoch.
"That's the nature of the business," Thomas said of the coming changes. "We understand that coming in. I'm just thankful we got to do what we did together the last few years. Now, we have to make the team better. We've maxed out as a team."
Age got them, and injuries, and, in the end, a better Chicago team. For all their infirmities, however, the Pistons still had enough to push past an athletic Atlanta team and a warhorse Boston outfit that must be scratching its collective cranium right now.
As interesting as the permutations that will affect the roster is the future of coach Chuck Daly. He's been guiding the Pistons for eight seasons now.