Mike Ashcraft, From Downtown

Mike Ashcraft

Acquisition of Webber could make Detroit beasts of East again

Notice to the Eastern Conference: If you’re not named the Detroit Pistons, you might as well get ready to play for next year, because the chances of the aforementioned not breezing through the postseason are slim.

The Pistons acquired that scoring spark they so desperately needed when president of basketball operations Joe Dumars plucked five-time National Basketball Association All-Star Chris Webber from the waiver wires.

The Detroit-native made his initial appearance with his new club Wednesday against the Utah Jazz. Dumars, who has been regarded as one of the NBA’s front office geniuses for piecing together a team that captured a championship in 2004 and has reached the conference finals the past four seasons, obviously knows a good match when he sees one.

The Pistons were a team desperate for an impact center – not necessarily a superstar, but someone who could put up a substantial amount of points night-in and night-out to help the team chalk up wins.

The 33-year old Webber brings just that to the table. One of five active players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, Webber should help fill the void left by former center Ben Wallace, who bolted for Central Division-rival Chicago during the offseason.

The Pistons attempted to plug that hole by bringing in free agent Nazr Mohammed, whom Detroit picked up from the San Antonio Spurs. Mohammed helped guide the Spurs to the 2005 NBA crown, but he has averaged just seven points in 36 games this season.

“The starting five that we’ll put out there eventually, with him (Webber), it’s going to be right up there with the best in the league,” Dumars told the Associated Press.

And he is not kidding, either. The Pistons are loaded with talent at the other four starting positions.

Shooting guard Rip Hamilton is putting up 23.3 points-per-game, and he is followed by point guard Chauncey Billups, with 18.0, small forward Tayshaun Prince with 15.5 and power forward Rasheed Wallace with 11.3.

Detroit has not seen a lot of help from its bench, and that could potentially derail another run to the NBA Finals. However, the Pistons are starting what is as close to an all-star lineup as there is in the league.

The Pistons (21-15) are currently nipping at the heels of the division-leading Cleveland Cavaliers (23-14). Cleveland’s starting lineup is much less impressive than their rivals. Despite LeBron James cashing in 26.9 a night, the gap is wide between the play of himself and his teammates. Larry Hughes is second with 14.5, while Drew Gooden follows with 12.4, Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 12.3, and Damon Jones with 8.5.

If the season ended today, two of the East’s playoff-bound teams would have losing records. The race for a title is truly a two-horse one between the Pistons and Cavs.

With such a brilliant cast of starters, it would be crazy not to put your money on


Mike Ashcraft

Mike Ashcraft is a freshman newspaper journalism major out of Latrobe, Pa. He revels in rubbing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ glory in the faces of disgruntled Cleveland Browns’ fans, believes Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher are saints, longs for the Pirates’ glory days of Doug Drabek, Orlando Merced and Andy Van Slyke, and hopes that the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh long enough for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.