Given their name, it’s easy to assume the Pistons have always been located in the Motor City, but they were originally based in Fort Wayne, Indiana - their name came from the pistons produced by then-owner Fred Zollner’s local foundry.
Moving to Detroit in the late 1950s, the Pistons developed a reputation for hard-working, tough teams. Few Pistons teams embodied this image more than the Championship-winning ‘bad boys‘ group of the late 1980s, which featured future Hall of Famers such as Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman (not to mention the late Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly).
The late 1980s, of course, was also the middle of the Michael Jordan era, and the battles between the Pistons and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls are still remembered as some of the toughest playoff series of all time. The Pistons famously developed a set of ‘Jordan Rules‘ to contain Chicago’s high-flying superstar, and the result was five Conference Finals appearances in a row (1987-91) including back-to-back NBA Championships (1989-90).
Aside from the Bulls, other notable Pistons rivals over the years include the LA Lakers. With their glamorous ‘showtime’ reputation, the Lakers are a great counterpoint to the traditionally gritty, blue-collar work ethic of the Pistons, and the two teams have met three times in the NBA Finals with Detroit winning twice.
Another Pistons rivalry that can’t go unmentioned is with the Boston Celtics, who spent much of the 1980s fighting off the challenge of the Pistons - both metaphorically and physically! On-court fist-fights were not uncommon during the heyday of the teams’ rivalry.
Pistons this season
The Pistons have been one of the league’s worst performers in 2020-21, sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Star players Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin departed partway through the season, the latter after several injury-plagued years, leaving the Pistons with just a few veteran players and a core of young talent.
One cause for optimism has been the emergence of forward Jerami Grant, who joined the franchise at the start of the season. Grant’s breakout season has seen him lead the team in scoring with over 22 points per game, including a career-high 43 versus the Bulls in February 2021. Center Mason Plumlee, another recent acquisition, leads the team in rebounds.
The team also added Canadian point guard Cory Joseph to the roster in March 2021, to try and fill the backcourt gap left by the departure of former all-star Derrick Rose.