DETROIT — Joe Dumars bit his tongue when explaining his ire toward his team's debilitating lack of character last season.
There were young, impressionable ears in the Pistons' draft party audience Thursday, so he spared them the saltier descriptions of the depth of his anger.
But he made it clear that he tabbed 6-foot-11 forward Austin Daye 15th overall not only for what he could do on the court, but also for what he won't do away from the court. He won't show up late on game days or late to the airport for flights. He won't show up authority if he disagrees with a coaching decision.
"Never again will I allow us to be in a position where we're dealing with issues, where we're dealing with drama," said Dumars.
Daye's selection is more symbolic than anything else.
A light breeze could knock him over. The kid is still skinnier than the original thin man, Tayshaun Prince. He supposedly possesses some skill, but it's difficult getting excited about any draft pick selected beyond the first selection overall, because the NBA first round this decade largely has become a scrap heap of grossly overrated potential.
Dumars could have taken somebody more NBA ready physically, but he sent a message in choosing Daye that the Pistons must correct a deficiency in attitude as well as an absence of pure talent.
"I think Joe was madder than anybody else about us losing all those Sunday games," said coach Michael Curry, "and usually that has something to do with what you were doing Saturday night."
Curry isn't the guiltless innocent. There remains a communications divide between himself and Rip Hamilton over Curry's mishandling of Hamilton's benching in favor of Allen Iverson. If that relationship doesn't improve, Dumars might find himself with even more drama — choosing between his coach and his best player.
Who do think usually wins that battle?
This is the Pistons' most important summer since 2000 — Dumars' first off-season as president.
The franchise flirted with irrelevance then. They couldn't sell out the Palace regularly despite fielding a playoff team with the presence of one of the league's legitimate young stars in Grant Hill. And they were just days away from losing him to free agency.
Dumars determined then that character and toughness would be the principal traits of the players he sought. He acquired Ben Wallace in a sign-and-trade with Orlando for Hill. Dumars needs his next Big Ben — that commanding presence, be it forward or guard, who brings the character and locker-room leadership the Pistons have lacked since Wallace signed an overpriced free-agent deal with Chicago three summers ago.
The draft provides some fresh bodies. They selected Georgetown forward DaJuan Summers with their first second-round pick. He's a solid choice who played at a successful program in the nation's most challenging college basketball conference — the Big East. But the more important moves will come July 8 — the first day teams can sign free agents, and with the Amir Johnson salary dump, the Pistons should have about $20 million of available salary-cap room.
It's all about creating as many options as possible.
The new faces are coming. They had better bring a new attitude with them.
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