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Archive → April, 2009

As the roster turns

Enough about who will be back. Let’s talk about about change.

Dealing with the Hornets

Sam Amico of Pro Basketball News:

A few league sources whom I respect have said that the Hornets may try to take advantage of Detroit’s possible housecleaning this off-season, with their eyes focused on Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince (or both). West could be part of one of those deals, but it’s all speculation at this point. Still, you can’t help but wonder if it’s time to start over in New Orleans. That’s pretty sad when you think about how close the Hornets were to contending last year.

David West is one of my favorite players in the league, and I think he’d be a great fit in Detroit. Tyson Chandler also makes sense given his size and New Orleans’s desire to trade him before the trade deadline.

Do you really want Boozer?

On paper, Carlos Boozer seems like a desirable candidate to be a Piston next year. He averaged 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds for the Jazz this year.

But this column from Doug Robinson of the Desert News bring up several cons with Boozer. An excerpt:

Would it kill him to act as if he were having some fun out there? Have you ever seen a more joyless, detached player? Look, he’s not laying bricks out there or digging ditches or pouring concrete or preparing taxes. He’s playing basketball. Maybe he could get really crazy and even smile once out there, other than when he wants to show up a referee after a bad call.

Passion for the game translates into consistent hard play and better defense, which leads to . . .

A little more defense would be helpful. Sure, Boozer has averaged 19 points since he joined the Jazz, but he’s probably given up 25 at the other end of the court with his matador defense. Half of playing defense is about effort and passion for the game. Sometimes you wonder if his heart is in it (reread Item 1).

Sheed be gone

Dave Dial of Full Court Press gives a nice breakdown of the rumor that Rasheed Wallace asked for a buyout so he could join the Cavaliers.

He’s probably gone either way, but Chris McCosky of the Detroit News says Wallace never asked for a buyout. But McCosky has an idea where the rumor came from.

That said, one of Wallace’s running bits in the locker room was to wish out loud for a buyout. It started when the Pistons signed Chris Webber a couple years ago after he’d been bought out by Philadelphia.

Wallace would always say, "Damn, I wish somebody would buy me out."

It was a joke. He was envious of Webber getting all his money from the 76ers and another check from the Pistons on top of it.

Dumars: Curry will be back

From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Also, as has been widely reported, Dumars confirmed that coach Michael Curry would return for a second season.

“It was an up-and-down season for him,” Dumars said, “and an up-and down-season for us.”

Curry was 39-43 in his first year as a head coach.

“The fact that we made so many changes for a first-year coach, I had to step back and be a little more patient than I have been,” Dumars said. “During the season, I said to myself, ’What affect is this having on him as a first-year coach?’ I tried to put myself in his shoes.”

Bynum will be back

From a Pistons release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the club has picked up the team option on the contract of guard Will Bynum for the 2009-10 season.

        Bynum, 26, appeared in 57 games (one start) last season, averaging 7.2 points (.456 FG, .798 FT), 1.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.59 steals in 14.1 minutes per game.  The 6-foot guard played 20-plus minutes in 15 games during the 2008-09 campaign, averaging 16.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 26.2 minutes per game.  He scored a career-high 32 points (career-high 14-16 FT) vs. Charlotte (4/5), including a franchise-record 26 points in the fourth quarter.  In Game 4 of the Pistons’ first round playoff series against Cleveland, Bynum scored a playoff career-high 22 points.

Redefining an era

You’ve certainly heard this is an end of an era for the Pistons and how this was an ugly end. There’s certainly truth to the ugly part:

  • The Pistons won’t reach the second round for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
  • Dating back to the final two games against the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, the Pistons have lost six playoff games in a row for the first time since they dropped a combined six straight to the Philadelphia Warriors, St. Louis Hawks and Minneapolis Lakers.
  • The Pistons won just three of 16 quarters this series.
  • They lost to Cleveland by 18, 12, 11 and 21.
  • Tayshaun Prince scored  15 points on 7-of-27 shooting in the series.
  • Rasheed Wallace scored 13 points in the final three games, including none yesterday. And he didn’t shoot a free throw all series.
  • Detroit’s highest-paid player, Allen Iverson, didn’t play because everyone agreed he was better off staying away from the team.
  • LeBron James torched the Pistons for 32.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. I understand no team can stop him, but better teams could hold him under 51-percent shooting.
  • And Cavalier fans took over the Palace, chanting MVP at James louder than any cheer for Detroit.

But this isn’t the end of an era. At least, not necessarily.

There are a lot of ways to define the end. And a lot of the reasons you read about why this is the end are certainly valid. But here are a few reasons this era could keep going.

Roster

If you think this is the end because the roster will completely change, you’ve already missed the boat.

In 2001-02, Detroit won 50 games with a starting lineup of Chucky Atkins, Jerry Stackhouse, Michael Curry, Ben Wallace and Clifford Robinson.

The Pistons won at least 50 games the next six years. Last year, the final season of the streak, Detroit started Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace. And the entire bench was different, too.

No other team has ever completely turned over its roster during a streak of 50-win seasons.

And in case you were wondering, a few had just one player last through a streak.

Los Angeles Lakers 1979-80 through 1990-91: Magic Johnson.

Milwaukee 1980-81 through 1986-87: Sidney Moncrief.

San Antonio 1997-98 through 2008-09: Tim Duncan.

The roster has almost turned around a second time, too. The Pistons have just four players left from the team that nearly beat the Spurs in 2005. And they might be gone by next season.

Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess are free agents. Tayshaun Prince fits the profile of players Dumars dumps. And this info from Chris Broussard of ESPN indicates Richard Hamilton’s future with team might be in doubt:

Michael Curry’s eventual benching of Hamilton in favor of Iverson only compounded the problems in the locker room. While Hamilton was professional enough to give it his all as a sixth man, he’s been upset ever since, even though he’s returned to the starting lineup, and multiple sources tell me that he and Curry haven’t been on speaking terms for months.

The Pistons have had four coaches in the last eight seasons, too. Turnover doesn’t mean a new era.

Style

Although the Pistons’ defense fell off this year, it’s still the hallmark of the team. That won’t change as long as Joe Dumars is in charge.

Michael Curry oversaw Detroit’s defensive problems this year. But this team lacked athleticism. And it had to overcome Allen Iverson’s shortcoming. There was nothing Curry could do about it.

Defense is a priority with Curry, and that’s Detroit’s identity. That will be true next year, too.

Success

So, the 50-wins-in-a-season streak is over.

The Pistons have made the playoffs eight straight seasons, the third-longest active streak in the league behind San Antonio (12) and Dallas (nine). If Detroit continues to make the playoffs, these years will blend together as one era.

The challenge for Detroit now is keeping that playoff level up. And compared to the other teams in similar situations, the Pistons are in an unbelievably better position.

Just teams five teams have at least four players who are in the top 50 among active players for minutes (a measure of being old) or playoff minutes (a measure of being overworked).

Detroit: Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Antonio McDyess and Tayshaun Prince (And the Pistons could easily have two more in Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace).

Dallas: Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, Eric Dampier and Josh Howard.

Los Angeles Clippers: Baron Davis, Cuttino Mobely, Marcus Camby and Ricky Davis.

Phoenix: Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson.

San Antonio: Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley, Kurt Thomas, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Outside of San Antonio, the Pistons have been the most successful of this group. And Detroit, by far, has the most flexibility to get younger.

Here’s the amount of salary each team has committed for the next two years.

Team 09-10 10-11
Pistons $33,093,746 $11,148,760
Clippers $56,677,949 $43,392,111
Suns $62,272,538 $41,202,544
Spurs $65,989,918 $32,200,00
Mavericks $68,794,830 $49,538,524

Dumars has shown an ability go get and keep the Pistons on track. Turning around the entire roster during a streak of 50-win seasons might be one of the most underrated feats in the game.

He can do it again.

I’m not saying the Pistons will make the playoffs for the next few seasons. But if they do, that era should be connected to this one.

This might be the end. But we won’t know until next year.

Live Blog: Detroit vs. Cleveland, Game Four

Game Preview: Detroit vs. Cleveland, Game Four

Essentials

Date: April 26, 2009

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Television: ABC

Records

Detroit: 39-43

Cleveland: 66-16

Series: Cleveland leads, 3-0

Probable starters

Detroit:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Richard
Hamilton
Tayshaun
Prince
Antonio
McDyess
Rasheed
Wallace

Cleveland:

PG SG SF PF C

Mo
Wiliams
Delonte
West
LeBron
James
Anderson
Varejao
Zydrunas
Ilgauskas

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +8.5

Over/under: 177

Score: Cleveland wins 93-84

Statistical projection

Detroit offensive rating: 107.4 (21st)

Detroit defensive rating: 108.0 (16th)

Detroit pace: 86.7 (29th)

Cleveland offensive rating: 112.4 (4th)

Cleveland defensive rating: 102.4 (3rd)

Cleveland pace: 88.7 (25th)

Score: Cleveland wins 92-87

Outlook

It wasn’t my first game, but the earliest Pistons game I remember going to was in the first round of the playoffs against the Magic in 1996. Detroit was down 0-2 in the best-of-five series after losing the first two games by 20 and 15.

Orlando, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, won 60 games and made it to the Eastern Conference finasl before losing to the Bulls. The Pistons clearly had little to no chance of advancing.

But they fought hard that third game and lost by just three. Doug Collins got ejected and cried after the game. The passion definitely showed, and the Palace was rocking.

And you want to know a secret about today’s game?

The Pistons can win. How many of you picked Cleveland in five? Why couldn’t that still happen?

Now, I don’t expect the Pistons to win. Far from it. I expect Detrit to show almost no swagger. After all, that’s how the Pistons handled the only other time they were facing a sweep in this era.

In 2003, the Nets won a pair of two-point games at the Palace to open the conference finals. The Pistons showed no life in New Jersey and lost by 12 and 20.

It’d be nice to see this group go out with a fight. But I’m not counting on it.

  • Today’s game is available on ESPN 360.

Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 79, Detroit 68

ESPN

"Joe Smith’s double-double comes with lyrics," by Chris Broussard

Smith’s impact was lost on no one, and afterward, coach Mike Brown gathered his team in the locker room and gave props to his 33-year-old reserve.

"I said in front of the team, ‘Way to go, old man,’" Brown said. "And the players jumped on me right away and reminded me that he’s not an old man, he’s ‘Joe Beast.’"

We’re not joking about this "Joe Beast" stuff. In a league full of wannabe emcees, Smith is the real thing. In December, he released a mixtape titled "The Beginning," and his hip-hop ode to the Cavs, "One Goal," has become the club’s playoff anthem this spring. The song blared through The Q’s sound system as the players warmed up before the first two games of this series.

"Z the president, ‘Bron James the king, and Anderson Varejao, they call him the wild thing …"

Detroit won’t hear the Beast spit any more this season — unless they purchase his CD — because obviously this thing is over, not likely to return to Cleveland for a Game 5. The Cavs hold a 3-0 lead heading into Sunday’s Game 4, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a collection of brooms in the luggage compartment of the Cavaliers’ bus.

Detroit News

"Cavs emphatically ending Pistons era," by Bob Wojnowski

This isn’t about heart and pride and effort anymore. The Pistons played hard for stretches, they’re just not nearly good enough. Once this team fully realized how valuable Chauncey Billups was after the trade, and how uncoachable Allen Iverson was, it was over.

"Pistons have no answer for Cavs," by Chris McCosky

"This is killing me, I can’t even lie," Hamilton said. "Knowing how great we were, and then being down 0-3 and being the eighth seed and watching them celebrate shot after shot, it’s hard. It’s a terrible situation."

"Cavs reserve Joe Smith killing his former team," by Tim Twentyman

Joe Smith is officially becoming a Pistons killer.

And in the process, the former Piston is proving he’s no ordinary Joe when it comes to these 2009 playoffs.

Smith has scored 13 or more points in a playoff game just seven times in his career, but six of those games have come against the Pistons.

"Fourth quarter haunts Pistons again," by Ted Kulfan and Tim Twentyman

The Pistons held the backcourt of Delonte West and Mo Williams to 1-of-18 shooting (West was 0-for-7), and a total of four points combined.

Detroit Free Press

"Bad signs litter this lopsided series," by Michael Rosenberg

Another bad sign: The Pistons have shot 30 free throws in this series. The Cavaliers have shot 100.

Faced with that statistical nugget, you have two choices. You can conclude that the refs have a horrible bias against the fair city of Detroit.

Or you can watch the games.

There are two conventional ways to get to the free-throw line: drive to the basket and draw a foul, or make a post move and draw a foul. The Pistons don’t have anybody who does either consistently.

"Pistons a game away from playoff elimination," by Vince Ellis

After questions about their heart since putting up little resistance in Games 1 and 2, the Pistons fought to try and get back in the series. For three quarters, a Piston victory looked like a possibility, but those hopes were dashed after the Cavs’ 18-2 run in the fourth quarter.

"Prince, Wallace control fate of team," by Vince Ellis

When asked before the game if he would go to the bench earlier, Curry said: "Our bench has been playing really good, but let’s make no mistake about it. If Tayshaun and ‘Sheed can’t play really good in this series we don’t have a chance."

"Instant replay," by Vince Ellis

Cavs coach Mike Brown, on James: "Once he decided to say, ‘Hey, I’m not getting calls. I’m going to will this team to a win,’ our whole team changed."

Booth Newspapers

"It’s LeBron’s world, Pistons are just losing in it," by Greg Johnson

It also means we can rush to judgment here. It has been relatively clear the past few years that whenever James was ready, this team would be championship bound.

He is so ready.

It was just three years ago that the Pistons fought off the younger James, 79-61 in a brutish Game 7 of a playoff series, and showed him exactly what he needed to learn.

"They trapped me, they went under screens, they went over screens," he said that day in 2006. "I’ve seen almost every defense that I could possibly see for the rest of my career in this series."

And so it was, he saw it, learned from it, and now brushes the Pistons aside. Three years later, he simply flips the switch when and if he needs it.

"Pistons fall into 3-0 hole after losing to Cavaliers," by A. Sherrod Blakely

The 68 points scored by Detroit tied the franchise record for fewest points score in a playoff game.

"Detroit, nor ourselves thought we played our best basketball," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "But somehow, someway, especially in the fourth quarter defensively, we found a way."

"Ben Wallace: Pistons definitely a ‘different team’," by A. Sherrod Blakely

"It’s definitely a different team," Wallace said. "I don’t know what’s going on the floor because I’m not here anymore. I know when I was here, we had a lot of passion for the game. We took pride in being able to come out here every night and get it done. It’s definitely a different team."

The Plain Dealer

"With one mighty dunk, James leaves demoralized Pistons thoroughly dashed," by Bill Livingston

Afterward, coach Mike Brown kissed James on the head before the dehydrated, spent player tottered to the locker room to receive intravenous fluids.

In the fourth quarter Friday, James scored 11 points and everything he did then came with serious complications and drama. He hit a 20-foot turnaround jumper with the shot clock at zero. He drove from the arc to the rim, through everybody on the Pistons except maybe Bill Laimbeer, feathering a left-handed layup into the net and following with a free throw. He ran the ball down on three rebounds, passed off for four assists, blocked two shots. He made the blacksmith’s dunk.

Finally, with the Pistons’ resistance as limp as a windsock in the eye of a hurricane, he made another three-point play on a layup down the lane.

"Joe’s a Beast (and LeBron’s pretty good, too) as Cavaliers take 3-0 series lead, 79-68," by Brian Windhorst

The nature in which Smith delivered was as important as the overall numbers. With the Cavs’ offense wheezing in the second half, Smith came up with several giant baskets including a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that gave the Cavs the lead for good. The long-range shot being a new weapon in his game, he’s made as many in the series (two) as he did in the entire regular season.

In general, Smith has been a vital piece in the series, averaging 12.3 points and six rebounds on 55 percent shooting. Another reminder why landing him after the trade deadline after he was bought out by the Thunder so important.

"He’s been here and done that for many teams before," coach Mike Brown said. "We were excited as heck when got him, stuff he’s doing now is no surprise to us."

"The Courtside View: Williams’ rough night brightened by assist to high-flying James," by Mary Schmitt Boyer

As a kid growing up in Lithuania, Ilgauskas played point guard before a growth spurt turned him into a center.

Every once in a while, though, the big fellow shows flashes of his ball-handling ability, as he did in the second quarter on Friday, when he led a fast break, went airborne, used a head-fake as he approached the lane and then fired a high pass to LeBron James for a layup that gave the Cavs a 44-35 lead with 34.7 seconds left in the half.

It was an accident.

"I just took off with the ball and then I got into trouble," Ilgauskas admitted. "So when I was in the air, thankfully I saw LeBron to my left and just lobbed the ball to him. If I would have turned the ball over, I’m sure I would have gotten an interesting look from coach Brown. Thankfully, it all worked out."

Said West, "I’m nervous. The way me and Mo played, he might take one of our positions."

Akron Beacon Journal

"LeBron switches it on," by Patrick McManamon

The Pistons could only watch as James roared.

”This is killing me,” Hamilton said.

He meant emotionally, of course. But he could have been talking about the Pistons themselves. James is doing away with the Pistons — because really it’s anyone’s guess what that team will look like next season.

Detroit’s only solace? James is making it happen fast.

"Cavs push it to brink," by George M. Thomas

James might have thought he was playing at home instead of the Palace. On more than one occasion, chants of MVP could be heard from a substantial number of people in the crowd. Did he ever think he’d hear that in Auburn Hills of all places?

”No,” he said. ”But I didn’t ever think that I’d play the Pistons without Chauncey Billups. I didn’t think that would happen either, but it happened.

Cavs the Blog

"Recap: (14) Really? Is this all we have to be concerned with?," by John Krolik

When everything breaks down, we always have our defense. Two Pistons in double figures tonight, and neither managed a TS >50%. It’s hard to lose when you do that. And LeBron, our best defender and the #2 in the DPOY race, had an off-game on the defensive end of the floor, over-helping and getting beat baseline occasionally, although he did manage two blocks and three steals. That’s like the Lakers hanging 120 with Kobe going 6-17.

Live Blog: Detroit vs. Cleveland, Game Three

Game Preview: Detroit vs. Cleveland, Game Three

Essentials

Date: April 24, 2009

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Television: ESPN and Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Detroit: 39-43

Cleveland: 66-16

Series: Cleveland leads, 2-0

Probable starters

Detroit:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Richard
Hamilton
Tayshaun
Prince
Antonio
McDyess
Rasheed
Wallace

Cleveland:

PG SG SF PF C

Mo
Wiliams
Delonte
West
LeBron
James
Anderson
Varejao
Zydrunas
Ilgauskas

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +5.5

Over/under: 178.5

Score: Cleveland wins 95-83

Statistical projection

Detroit offensive rating: 107.4 (21st)

Detroit defensive rating: 108.0 (16th)

Detroit pace: 86.7 (29th)

Cleveland offensive rating: 112.4 (4th)

Cleveland defensive rating: 102.4 (3rd)

Cleveland pace: 88.7 (25th)

Score: Cleveland wins 92-87

Outlook

Don’t count on the home-court advantage providing much for the Pistons tonight.

Detroit is one of two playoff teams to have a worse home record than its opponent’s road record (Philadelphia is the other). The Pistons are 21-20 at home, and Cleveland is 27-14 on the road (Orlando’s road record is just three games better than the 76ers home record). 

And the Palace might be filled with plenty of Cavs fans.

I think the most drama tonight will watching the Pistons atempting to try just hard enough to not embarrass themselves, but not to hard that they push back their vacation with a return to Cleveland for a game five.

  • Tonight’s game is available on ESPN 360.

Pistons target Cavs fans to fill Palace

In the last live blog, we talked about whether game three will be a true sellout. I said no. This report from Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer confirms my suspicions:

The Pistons even sent an e-mail to Cavs season-ticket holders offering tickets for sale.

This reminds me of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler’s first year in Ann Arbor, 1969. The Wolverines’ attendance had been down, and Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham bought ads in The Columbus Dispatch advertising tickets for the Michigan-Ohio State game.

Schembechler, livid about the promotion, led the Wolverines to a 24-12 upset of the top-ranked Buckeyes. (Not that the ticket sales were his main motivation. He was playing his mentor, Woody Hayes). Canham never had to try to lure Ohio State fans to Michigan Stadium again.

Except I don’t think the Pistons will pull the upset.