Cliff Robinson was part of a core group that helped the Detroit Pistons rise from the ashes.
Everybody remembers the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons. I can still name all 12 on the roster plus the reserve and the coaches. I wont do that now. However. what a lot of people forget is the guys that helped build to get there. Cliff Robinson was one of those guys.
The NBA was different before Lebron James started running around the country building super teams. If you were a team trying to come up you usually had to take your lumps. It happened to the Bad Boys before they broke through. It happened to Micheal Jordan and the Bulls. The list goes on and on. Watch “The Last Dance” or 30 for 30 “Bad Boys” and it will show you how hard it was.
Early 2000 Detroit Pistons
It was the same way in the late 90’s early 2000’s. Especially for the Detroit Pistons. At one point we were f’n TEAL! The Joe Dumars became GM and it seemed as if he couldn’t miss. Starting with changing us back to Red, White and Blue. Dumars said “I don’t bleed Teal.”
In late 2000 Dumars traded away the Pistons best player, Grant Hill. What he got back made a lot of people shake their head. It was a sign-and-trade deal which brought serviceable point guard Chuckle Atkins and some guy named Ben Wallace
2001-02 Cliff Robinson Arrives in Detroit
Coming off a 32-50 season, Joe Dumars fired George Irvine and hired Rick Carlisle. Dumars also traded Jub Buechler and John Wallace for Cliff Robinson. Pairing Cliff with Ben Wallace as the Detroit Pistons front court.
Cliff and Ben complimented each-other well. Cliff would spread the floor with his ability to shoot 3’s and Ben would patrol the middle slowing becoming the Best Defensive Player in NBA history.
In September of 2001 Joe Dumars made another move trading All Star Jerry Stackhouse for RIP Hamilton. Yessssir! That move turned out the be one of the best trades in Piston history.
The 2001 Detroit Pistons finished 50-32. Flip flopping their record from 2000.
The 2001 Pistons made the playoffs and won their first round series against the Toronto Raptors. They would however get bounced from the NBA Playoffs by The Celtics 1-4 in the next round. But this was the start of the process The Pistons had to go through.
Coming off a 50-32 season the Pistons once again went 50-32. Only this time it was a different 50-32. They just seemed like a more solid team. The addition of Chauncy Billups at PG really stabilized who the Pistons were to become.
Cliff Robinson played 81 games that year. Finishing with 12.2 points and 4 rebounds per game. He was a BIG part in helping the Pistons get over the hump.
In the playoffs, Detroit beat the Orlando Magic in the first round (4-3). Which can also be known as the Tayshaun Prince coming out party. Then they disposed of Philadelphia 76er’s (4-2).
Once they got to the Eastern Conference Finals the Pistons ran into a buzzsaw. Getting swept by the New Jersy Net’s (0-4). You could see the team growing.
This is what the Detroit Pistons as a franchise had to go through. These are the growing pains of building a special team. It does, or didn’t, happen over night. You go step by step. The team finds their flaws and you fix them. You constantly improve until the ultimate goal is achieved.
In 2003 Cliff got traded to the Golden State Warriors for Bobby Sura. But his contribution to the core foundation of the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons will always be immeasurable. He was a true professional, an All Star, and a great teammate. I was lucky enough to thank him for helping the Pistons build and you could tell it made him feel good to be recognized for what he did while he was here. He is just as much a part of 2004 Championship as everyone else. RIP Uncle Cliff. CHAMPION.