Oct 19, 2011, 4:45 PM EST
This is the latest installment of PBT’s series of “What your team should do when the lockout ends.” Up next is the Indiana Pacers. You can also check out our thoughts on other NBA teams here as we work our way through all 30 squads.
Last Season: Other teams lost more games. Other teams had worse injuries. Other teams dealt with worse schedules, worse luck, worse in-game coaching, worse management and worse personnel. No one had a season as bad as the Pistons.
With a few rare, glorious exceptions, nearly every fan, coach and player will endure a few terrible seasons. Ones you just want to forget. Losses pile up, injuries, bad chemistry. But the kind of locker-room disasters that the Pistons organization and their fans sat through last year are the stuff of legend. It started with head coach John Kuester, who lost the locker room nearly the minute he entered it. There’s not a definitive story. But the players bristled and revolted at his leadership from the start, and last year it became unbearable. The veterans on the Pistons, the guys who had been part of championship teams and who knew the ropes of how to be a professional, came unhinged under Kuester. One player acts ridiculous, it’s a personal issue. But when an entire team of guys who coaches have raved about in the past go haywire, there’s a problem at the top.
It doesn’t excuse the behavior, particularly the midseason revolt by several players of boycotting practice. Regardless of your circumstance, you need to be professionals and set an example for the younger players and the league. That’s the same for any job in the country. But if you’re senior management and you have that many employees exhibiting that kind of behavior under one supervisor, you can’t just toss them out as rogue elements. Something drove them there. And so, Kuester was fired after the season, eventually.
The situation was exacerbated by two elements. Rip Hamilton, one of two Pistons who had remained in Detroit the whole time since the championship team, wanted out. Badly. It was time to move on, he could go join a veteran contender (Chicago would have eaten their left arms, or Kyle Korver, to get Hamilton after the deadline). But he didn’t want to give up any of his remaining salary, or at least not a reasonable amount. He wanted his cake and to eat it, too. After what he’d done for the Pistons through the years, after how he was treated (in his mind) by Kuester, maybe he thought he was owed. The fact remains that multiple reports indicated a deal was on the table for Hamilton to walk away, and he declined over the money. Instead, he facilitated a revolt.
Which would have been fixable. Ownership could have likely spit off the money to get rid of him, it would have made the team better, opened some room for the younger guys, been the best thing for everyone. Except the Pistons were locked. Ownership was in the process of selling the team, and as such, movement was restrained. Finances needed to be settled and options were put on hold.
Unhappy players, a failing coach, a struggling team, a withering fanbase in an area leveled by the economy (over the past thirty years, not just the most recent downturn), a dysfunctional locker room and a frozen ownership.
So, no, the Pistons did not have a very good year.
Since we last saw the Pistons: New owner! With the untold riches of a Los Angeles (Laker fan!) owner, comes the promise of hope. Off the bat, Lawrence Frank was hired, a defensive minded coach with good experience who is a hard-nosed guy but someone the players will likely respect, at least more than Kuester (granted, they’d respect an actual pizza guy more , but still). Those have been the big changes, and the rest will come after the lockout’s over, when Joe Dumars and management can start to get the house in order. Because clearly, there’s a realization that things have gone awry in Denmark.
Whether that means paying off Hamilton, trading Tayshaun Prince, trading Ben Gordon, trading Charlie Villanueva, or some combination will have to wait to be seen. But we do know that the Pistons acquired Brandon Knight in the first round, a scoring point guard, which could pave the way for Rodney Stuckey‘s departure. Signs seem to indicate major changes are coming, but we’ve sensed that for two years with no consummation. Waiting is not fun.
When the lockout ends, the Pistons need to: Cut bait. It’s time for a new era, and the crazy part is, if the Pistons will commit to it, they have a really exciting future ahead of them.
In the summer of 2009, the Pistons signed two big free agent signings. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva, despite being a worse player, actually made quite a bit of sense. The Pistons needed a power forward with range who could score. They needed scoring, pretty badly. Gordon? Gordon was mystifying. They had Rodney Stuckey. They had Rip Hamilton. They had Will Bynum. The last thing they needed was an undersized two-guard pure scorer. Yet, there went $55 million.
Gordon’s still a decent player. His drops can be attributed to coaching, system, and personnel changes. (That’s right, Vinny Del Negro to John Kuester was a step down. I’m not trying to kill Kuester here, I think he’ll be a great assistant in this league and possibly a better head coach next time out, bu the facts, they are not comforting.) He also suffered a wide variety of injuries. Villanueva was pretty much what was expected. He’s actually surprisingly not dramatically overpaid. He makes between $7.5 million and $8.5 million over the next four seasons. Bench role player who can score some, not bad. Not great, but he didn’t sign a $13 million per year deal.
But both of these players have to go. Along with Tayshaun Prince (unrestricted free agent) and Hamilton ($12.5 million guaranteed left on his deal), Rodney Stuckey (restricted free agency), and Tracy McGrady. It’s time to blow it up and start over. Thing is, they’re already halfway there.
Very quietly, Dumars has drafted exceptionally well over the past few years. Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe, and Brandon Knight. You throw in a superstar wing after a year of spectacular sucking (hello, Harrison Barnes!) and you’ve got something cooking there. Fill it out with free agency after a purge and you have a real shot at building something.
It should be noted I have a soft spot for most of these guys which belies their production. I see a higher ceiling than they’ve shown, and I always tend to catch their better games on League Pass. Daye is a 13.0 PER player who shot .518 TrueShooting% and doesn’t rebound or assist well. So naturally, my confidence in him is a little nuts. But really? He’s got the tools to get there under the right leadership. Monroe has already shown he can be a top flight center in this league. Whether that’s because of the abject void of quality centers outside of the top five or his actual ceiling is yet to be determined, but he’s a safe bet for a quality starter. Jerebko lost most of last season due to injury, but he’s a hustle junkie who thrives on contact and makes all those plays you want him to make. Knight has a terrific jumper. He’s going to turn the ball over so much it will make you cry, but there’s an ability there to develop into the guard of the future.
There’s a core, buried beneath all the veterans mistakenly assembled for a late-seed playoff run. The Pistons just have to commit themselves to it. When the lockout ends, there’s work to be done. But it’s not a total detonation, not a house cleaning. Just a severe remodeling.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:35 AM EST
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering how you could read a novel in 90 minutes, well, there’s an app for that… Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. If all you think Gerald Green can do is dunk, you need to watch the tape from Thursday night. It may have been true…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:39 AM EST
Adidas and the NBA will tell you that the sleeved jerseys are selling faster than they had projected, which is why you are seeing more of them (including the “Latin Nights” series of games, that are going on) . All-Star weekend commissioner Adam Silver said math showed that shooting percentages were almost identical when players…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:40 PM EST
In the first meeting of the season between the Heat and the Spurs, Miami had little trouble securing victory in the Finals rematch, in large part due to the fact that the Spurs were cobbling together a lineup that didn’t entirely feature the team’s best players. The rematch of the rematch, however, saw the Spurs…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:21 PM EST
Plenty of teams are rolling out throwback jerseys these days, but the ones the Raptors are planning for next season may be some of the more highly-anticipated. Toronto will wear the team’s original “Dino” jerseys for select games during the 2014-15 season, according to an official release. “We are excited to bring back a piece…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:14 PM EST
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his jersey retired in Cleveland this weekend, and his former teammate with the highest league-wide profile will be in attendance — despite the implications that many will attempt to ascribe to that gesture of personal support. LeBron James will be there when the Cavaliers raise Big Z’s jersey to the rafters,…
Mar 6, 2014, 8:01 PM EST
Dwight Howard returned to Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and as part of the Magic’s 25th anniversary season, they played a video tribute to Howard between the first and second periods. Plenty of fans let their disapproval be heard, and boos rained down on Howard as the video began. Howard…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
And in some very surprising news, a college basketball coach supports the college basketball system. Larry Brown brings some credibility to this — he is the only coach in history to win an NCAA title (1988 Kansas) and an NBA title (2004 Detroit) and is remains one of the great teachers of the game. He’s…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:02 PM EST
If you ask league executives, pretty much everyone expects a 2017 lockout. They see the owners putting in the groundwork now for another work stoppage in three years and most people see it as inevitable. The only question is how long it lasts and if it costs games. Three years from now, the summer of…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:28 PM EST
I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember the Shaq Fu video game. What I do know is that people didn’t really like it. Which is putting it kindly. So Shaq is trying to do a sequel. Of course. Dan Devine at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie has the details. O’Neal and his partners at Big Deez…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:32 PM EST
Suns rookie Alex Len is the only current Ukrainian on an NBA roster. Ankle injuries combined with surprisingly good play from the Suns existing front line (Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins) have kept him on the bench much of the season. However Thursday night he is going to get the start against the…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:34 PM EST
If you want to beat the best, you need to learn from the best. Paul George wants to beat the best, and right now the best is LeBron James. LeBron may be the most physically gifted player in the game (arguably ever) but he also has maybe the best basketball mind in the game. Team…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:49 PM EST
We told you last week to expect this and now it is a reality: Royce White is now a member of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings announced Wednesday the signing of White to a 10-day contract. He was immediately assigned to the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns. White was the No. 22 pick of the…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:34 PM EST
You know what Tupac Shakur is doing right now? Having lunch with Elvis, Jim Morrison and Andy Kaufman. In heaven (or your afterlife of choice). Because they are all dead. Outside of a hologram at Coachella you are never going to see Tupac again… but then who was that at the Warriors/Celtics game on Wednesday…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:55 PM EST
Tommy Lasorda is a motivator. The legendary Dodger skipper was never a managerial genius with moves that wowed baseball’s intellegentia, but his players would run through a wall for him. He understood enough that is a limping Kirk Gibson wants to pinch-hit in the World Series you send him out there, but mostly he just…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:14 PM EST
The last time the Philadelphia 76ers won a game it was Jan. 29 in Boston. Since then the Sixers have lost 15 in a row, by an average of 19.8 points a game (a couple 40+ point losses skew that number). Coach Brett Brown is not sure his team will win another game this season…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:03 PM EST
The Orlando Magic showed their Dwight Howard tribute video, and as expected, fans booed (though not as thoroughly as I would have hoped during the entire video). Presumably, Chandler Parsons, now Howard’s teammate with the Houston Rockets, was not among the jeerers. But in a different time and place, he could have been. Jonathan Feigen…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
The Nuggets got a pretty good bargain signing Nate Robinson to the bi-annual exception. But in exchange for paying Robinson such a low salary, they had to give him a player option for the second season of his two-year contract. That way Robinson wasn’t stuck being underpaid if he had a strong year, and he…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:07 AM EST
After ranking third in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have slipped to below league average this year. So, it appears they’ll target outside shooting with their vacant roster spot. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder is filling its 15th and final roster spot with the signing of shooting…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:36 AM EST
Reports Carmelo Anthony could sign with the Chicago Bulls this offseason are nothing new. Even Melo has stoked the flames of the rumors. But most published work on the subject has focused on where Melo desires to play. Sure, by trading Luol Deng for Andrew Bynum and draft picks, the Bulls signaled a greater interest…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
The Detroit Pistons couldn’t do much to bother Joakim Noah, who had a triple-double in the Chicago Bulls’ 11-point win Wednesday. But the Pistons’ mascot, Hooper, sure scared the Bulls center after the game. Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday night’s games. It’s $25 to…
- Thursday night NBA grades: Gerald Green just couldn’t seem to miss 0
- After rough shooting night LeBron says he’s “not a big fan” of sleeved jerseys 3
- Spurs get a little revenge, along with season’s signature win in takedown of Heat 21
- Suns’ rookie Alex Len takes to court with #prayforukraine on shoes 18
- Paul George wants LeBron James to be his mentor 41