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Before making his presence felt for the New York Knicks in the second part of the ’90s, Allan Houston was drafted into an aging Detroit Pistons squad looking to rebuild. Even though the Pistons were merely a shadow of themselves when they were two-time NBA champions, there was still a lot of grit and toughness in that squad.

In a recent interview for The Players Tribune, Houston remembers how important it was for his career to get drafted by the Detroit Pistons. That team had a lot of pride, but it was slowly entering a process of rebuilding. However, watching two leaders on that team in Isiah Thomas and Cheap Joe Dumars Jersey  even for a brief period of time, was enough to inspire Houston and give him the pattern of becoming successful in the NBA.

Detroit was a pivotal time in my life. Looking back on it, I needed to be around people who would push me and challenge me, on and off the court. I experienced the remnants of the Bad Boys. I saw brawls between teammates, players, and management. But I was also fortunate to be mentored by arguably the best NBA backcourt of all time. And wherever Cheap Isiah Thomas Jersey and Joe Dumars went, I followed. I watched their habits, listened to their conversations, studied their preparation.

Allan Houston, via The Players Tribune
For any NBA rookie, it’s important to land in a stable organization with good veteran leadership, and for Houston at that time, the Pistons were the right fit. Both Dumars and Thomas took Houston under their wing and taught him how to be a professional and have a broader perspective of everything, both professionally and personally.

These were legends — guys who … they’re in the Old Heads O.G. Hall of Fame. Serious individuals. Grown men. Those guys, they taught me how to be a pro. How to work. They gave me a vision for the type of career and the long-term impact I wanted to have as a professional and as a man. You couldn’t help but learn from those dudes.

Cheap Allan Houston Jersey  via The Players Tribune

Houston remembers his time with the Pistons as a lot of hard work, a great environment if you are young and eager to learn about the game. He learned that no matter what type of skillset you have and how good you were, toughness is a highly desirable trait, and it was imprinted in the Pistons’ DNA.

Everything was about hard work, and the players on those teams … they also taught me a valuable lesson about how grimy it could get in the league back then. Because, for as skilled as the guys on my first few Pistons teams were as players, they brought their lunch pails to work every day. No one wasted anything. And, of course, they were also just world-class brawlers.

Allan Houston, via The Players Tribune
Unfortunately for the Pistons, Houston later signed with the Knicks despite the fact they had tremendous potential immediately after Cheap Grant Hill Jersey was drafted. Prime Hill and Houston could’ve been a great dynamic duo for the Pistons, but eventually, it didn’t work out, and the Knicks came in the right time to snatch Houston away. He later made a name for himself with the Knicks, where he played until the end of his career in 2005.

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To an outsider’s eye, there was nothing amiss about the Pistons in early 1989. They were on pace for 60 wins, battling Cleveland for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and looking very much as if they’d get their chance to avenge the bitter Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the 1988 NBA Finals.

But Jack McCloskey’s perspective told him otherwise. The body language of the Bad Boys was worrisome. Chuck Daly tipped him off that Cheap Adrian Dantley Jersey had become sullen and both men were concerned his mood threatened to make for a toxic locker room.

McCloskey pulled Dantley aside one day after a Pistons practice. They met in the tiny officials locker room at The Palace, off the tunnel entrance, and McCloskey pressed for an explanation. Dantley demurred.

McCloskey finally told him bluntly: “Adrian, if you don’t want to talk about it, I’m going to trade you, and I’m not kidding you. I’m going to trade you. I’m not going to have you break up this team. I’m not saying you’re at fault, but you know something that I don’t know. I told him, flat out, ‘I’m going to trade you,’ and I think it was just two days later we flew down to Dallas and made the trade.”

The Feb. 15 deal stunned the NBA. There had been no rumblings that the Pistons were shopping Dantley or intent on doing anything to alter the mix of a deep and versatile roster that came within one outrageous call – the phantom foul on Cheap Bill Laimbeer Jersey in Game 6 of the ’88 Finals – of winning its first league title the previous spring. Speculation centered on a rift between Dantley and Cheap Isiah Thomas Jersey. When Dallas – to which Dantley was traded in exchange for Cheap Mark Aguirre Jersey – visited The Palace the month following the trade, Dantley spent several fraught seconds before the opening tip whispering something into Thomas’ ear as a full house watched, transfixed.

It later was reported that Dantley admitted to saying, “I’ll never forgive you for what you did to me.”

But McCloskey flatly rejected the notion that Thomas pushed for a Dantley trade.

“No. God no,” McCloskey told me in 2011. “If a player ever said that to me … no. No.”

And Thomas also doused rumors of his involvement, telling reporters at the time, “People didn’t give me credit for trading Paul Mokeski for (Bill) Laimbeer and I’m not the one who traded A.D., either.”

Pistons fans reacted angrily to the deal. Dantley had come to the Pistons prior to the 1986-87 season and helped them take the next step. After being eliminated in the first round by Atlanta in 1986, the Pistons pushed Boston to seven games in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. He led the Pistons in scoring that season (21.5 points a game), again in 1987-88 (20.0) and was leading them again (18.4) at the time of the trade.

If McCloskey doubted how fondly Dantley was viewed by Pistons fans, he got a stark reminder as he was driving near The Palace with his wife, Leslie, one day soon after the deal went down.

“We stop at a red light and there were two guys in the other car. They both looked and saw me, then they pointed their finger toward me with their thumb up – like they were going to shoot me for making the trade. I told Leslie, ‘You made that trade; I didn’t.’ ”

It’s fair to assume the collective temperature of Pistons fans cooled as the results of the trade played out. The Pistons closed the regular season on a 30-4 run and blew through the playoffs with a 15-2 record, sweeping the Lakers to win the first NBA title in franchise history. With Aguirre in the starting lineup, the Pistons went 44-6 that season.

There’s no definitive way to know how it would have played out if the Dantley-Aguirre trade hadn’t been made, but McCloskey doesn’t equivocate.

“It was going to get worse,” he said. “It was not a risk. I went to Chuck and said, ‘He didn’t communicate with me; he’s not communicating with you. I’m going to trade him.’ We just had to move Adrian. And I really liked Adrian. But something happened there. And I still don’t know.”