AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – No matter who wins the NBA championship, there’s a strong likelihood the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs will be competing for titles for the next several years.

Both teams have been built to last.

The Pistons, who were tied with the Spurs 2-2 heading into Sunday night’s Game 5, are back with the same starting five that defeated the Los Angeles Lakers last season. The changes made to the roster in the offseason – trading Corliss Williamson and allowing Mehmet Okur and Mike James to leave as free agents – were made in order to free up future salary space to re-sign Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince to long-term deals.

The other three starters, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton, are already locked into long-term deals at reasonable prices, a big part of the season why Detroit’s $52 million payroll might just be the most cost effective in the NBA.

“We’re deep, talented and big,” team president Joe Dumars said. “We have experience and we’re battle-tested.”

The same can be said for the Spurs, who tinkered with their roster this season by bringing in Brent Barry as a free agent, then trading Malik Rose to New York for Nazr Mohammed. Their starting five also is locked in for the long haul.

San Antonio also will be over the salary cap for the first time in several years this summer, allowing them to use the midlevel salary cap exception to make a run at forward Luis Scola of Argentina.

“He’s the best forward in Europe right now,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

The Spurs have been among the league’s elite teams ever since Tim Duncan entered the league eight years ago, but the way their supporting cast has been put together is a testimony to the talents of general manager R.C. Buford.

Buford drafted Manu Ginobili 57th overall in the 1999 draft, Tony Parker 28th overall in 2001 and backup point guard Beno Udrih 28th in 2004. He also signed free agents Barry, Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry.

In the two years since San Antonio defeated New Jersey to win the franchise’s second title in five years, the Spurs have turned over nearly two-thirds of their roster while staying atop the Western Conference.

But the main reason for their success all dates back to the day in the spring of 1997 when they won the draft lottery and the right to select Duncan with the No. 1 pick. They haven’t lost 30 games in a season since.

Duncan won’t turn 30 until next year’s playoffs, while Ginobili is an All-Star at 27 and Parker is only 23.

The Pistons’ core also is relatively young, with three 30-year-olds who were born within 10 days of each other in 1974 – Antonio McDyess and the two Wallaces – all but certain to spend the next several years of their careers in Detroit.

Billups is 28, and Hamilton is 27.

The credit for assembling the Pistons’ roster goes to Dumars, whose most notorious personnel move – selecting Darko Milicic rather that Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh with the overall No. 2 pick in 2003 – was certainly not his best.

He acquired Hamilton from the Washington Wizards when Michael Jordan was running that franchise, swapping Jerry Stackhouse, and Dumars also made a brilliant move when Grant Hill decided to leave as a free agent in 1999, convincing the Orlando Magic at the last minute to execute a sign-and-trade deal that brought Ben Wallace to Detroit.

All Wallace has done since then was win three defensive player of the year awards, while Hill has spent the vast majority of his time in Orlando recovering from numerous operations to his ankle.


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