2004 Pistons Nowhere Near 2019 Clippers, Says Charles Barkley

Getty CBS commentator Charles Barkley looks on during the 2019 NCAA Final Four semifinal between the Auburn Tigers and the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Los Angeles Clippers are stacked at every position on their roster after adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this past offseason.

The team added two of the league’s elite players and paired them with gritty and scrappy players such as Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Joakim Noah, and Montrezl Harrell, to name a few. They also added Marcus Morris at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Moe Harkless and a 2020 first-round pick to the Knicks and brought Reggie Jackson into the fold from the buyout market.

When the season was suspended last month amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Clippers were in second place in the Western Conference with a 44-20 record, 5.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers. All season long, the Clippers have hung their hats on the defensive end of the floor to help fuel their offensive opportunities. It’s a strategy that resembles the Detriot Pistons of the early to mid-2000s. Those Pistons teams featured Chauncey Billups,  Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, and Rashaad Wallace. 

Those Pistons, though, weren’t as good as this year’s Clippers, according to Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.

“I don’t think that you can compare the 2019 Clippers to any of those Detroit Pistons teams in the early to mid-2000s because the Clippers are better,” Barkley told me in February. “The Pistons didn’t have anybody close to Kawhi Leonard or Paul George back then.”

Rick Carlisle, who coached the Pistons for two seasons from 2001 to 2002, posted back-to-back 50-win seasons and won the Coach of the Year Award in 2002. Carlisle shared earlier this season before the Dallas Mavericks faced the Los Angeles Clippers that he could see the comparison because of both teams’ physicality.

“They are a tough-minded physical defensive team. So with that, there would be some similarities to our Detroit teams the two seasons, I was there,” Carlisle told me. “I haven’t thought about it that way it’s been quite a while. They [Clippers] are very physical, they have physical defenders, they are a team that gets a rate of steals, and they rebound the ball well also.”

During their heyday, the Pistons went to ssix consecutive Eastern Conference Finals from 2003-2008, finally breaking through and winning an NBA championship in 2004 against the Lakers. They returned to the finals the following season, but would lose to the Spurs in seven games. 

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NBA Insider Thinks 2018 Clippers Resembles 2004 Pistons

Heavy’s Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson recently shared that 2004 Pistons that beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals resemble last season’s Clippers because both teams didn’t feature any superstars.

“Last year’s Clippers team didn’t have a star and a superstar in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. When you look at that Clippers team from last year, they literally had a juggernaut with Patrick Beverley at point guard Montrezl Harrell that can do damage to the opposition big man. They had other pieces like Ivica Zubac, a finesse big man, which is a traditional big man,” Robinson shared with me over the phone.

“They traded for Landry Shamet in a deal with the 76ers. If you look at last year’s Clippers, they had a bunch of no-name players, and that is not a knock on them, and their best player came off the bench in Lou Williams. And they were scared of the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs like the 2004 Pistons were not afraid of the Lakers in the Finals.”

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