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Archive → August, 2009

Bill Laimbeer hired by Timberwolves as assistant coach

Bill Laimbeer will join Kurt Rambis’s staff in Minnesota, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

ESPN voters make no sense in Pistons diss

Why does everyone think the Pistons are due for a drop-off next season?

A panel of 53 ESPN voters made predictions for “Team Turnaround”  and “Team Turmoil.”

Detroit tied Golden State for the lead in Team Turmoil with eight votes.

It’s not clear what Team Turmoil means. But depending on how you define it, picking the Pistons first is either ridiculous or very ridiculous.

Ridiculous

Here’s the vague definition ESPN gives for Team Turmoil:

Team Turmoil — the squad that could encounter quite a few difficulties this season.

Really? Of all the teams in the league, Detroit is tied for most likely to face trouble?

How about Grizzlies, Bobcats, Bucks, Nets, Clippers, Timberwolves and Knicks?

But to be fair, all those teams received at least a vote.

Two that didn’t: Pacers, Kings. I’m pretty confident Detroit will be better than both.

Besides center, the Pistons will be better or the same across the board from last year.

Point guard: Rodney Stuckey is a year older, and hopefully a year better. He improved last year from his rookie season. At worst, he’s the same.

Shooting guard: Richard Hamilton will regain his starting role, and there’s no doubt he’s better than Allen Iverson.

Small forward: Tayshaun Prince is back. No reason to expect much difference.

Power forward: Antonio McDyess played admirably last year. But Charlie Villanueva is also good.

Although he’s not as good defensively, his PER (18.6) was higher than McDyess’s (16.6).

Center: However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.

Bench: Ben Gordon will be a strong contender for sixth man of the year. He’s easily makes the bench better – especially given Richard Hamilton played better as a starter.

Coaching: Michael Curry was terrible. John Kuester will also be in his first year as a head coach. But he spent 13 years as an NBA assistant – 12 more than Curry. Odds are strong Kuester is better than Curry, who set the bar very low.

Very ridiculous

Team Turmoil came out the same time as Team Turnaround – defined as “the squad that could see vast improvement this season.” So maybe Team Turmoil means the opposite of that.

In that case, the voters are even more misguided.

Not only do I think the Pistons will be better next year, but the voters are picking a team that finished in the bottom half of the league last year. There’s less room to drop.

The Rockets (third) were the only playoff team in the top six. (By the way, if Team Turmoil is the team that will have biggest drop from last year, Houston is the best choice. Without Yao Ming and Ron Artest, there’s just not enough talent).

No matter how you slice it, the Pistons don’t belong on that list – let alone tied for the top.

Catching up

It’s been a while since I’ve been blogging regularly. Moving, jobs, blah, blah, blah.

But everything should be back to normal now. At least after this long post where I catch up on everything.

No respect

An ESPN panel ranked the top newcomers for next season. Unsurprisingly, Richard Jefferson, Shaquille O’Neal, Ron Artest and Vince Carter claim the top spots.

But Ben Gordon, the best player on a playoff team last year, doesn’t get a single vote.

I would’ve voted for Jefferson, but how do these guys get votes over Gordon?

  • Rasheed Wallace
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Jamal Crawford
  • Terrence Williams

What could have been

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie listed the 10 best teams of the decade that didn’t win a championship. The 2005-06 Pistons came in fourth. Here’s Dwyer’s analysis:

With Flip Saunders turning what was a 17th-ranked offense into a 4th-ranked offense while sustaining the defense (dropped from 3rd under Larry Brown to 5th with Saunders), the Pistons were bandied about as a possible 70-win team until a March and April swoon saw what was once a 47-9 outfit finish 17-9.

Whether these Pistons tuned Saunders out is up for discussion, but the desultory end to the regular season was topped off by two sleepwalking turns against the Bucks and Cavaliers in the first two rounds (even losing by 20 to an underwhelming Milwaukee team), before the Heat downed the Pistons in six games (with three of Miami’s wins coming by double-digits, no small feat considering the snail-like pace) in the Conference finals.

No organization could have multiple teams on the list, butt two other Pistons teams were considered (2004-05 and 2007-08). The Spurs and the Kings had four teams considered.

The Pistons also eliminated two teams on the list: the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers (No. 6) and the 2004-05 Miami Heat (No. 10). Detroit also eliminated an honorable mention team: the 2003-04 Indiana Pacers.

When the Pistons won the title in 2004, most people called it a fluke. Experts questioned whether Detroit was the worst team ever to win a title.

But the Pistons’ high level of involvement in this list shows that title was much-deserved.

What could have been part two

Dwyer also ranks the 10 biggest draft busts of the decade. No real surprises as far as the Pistons go. Two were Detroit picks, and one plays for the team now. You should probably know who they are.

No. 1 Darko Milicic:

He’s the total package. His name eases right into the lame jokes ("you could get yourself another Dar-ko Milicic; you know what I mean? This guy knows what I’m talking about!"), he’s been an underachieving flameout, he only rose to prominence by taking advantage of well-sourced but not entirely basketball-savvy (at least, then) hoops scribes who were smitten by his ability to spin and dunk in an empty gym, and he was taken ahead of franchise types like Dwyane Wade(notes), Carmelo Anthony(notes), and Chris Bosh(notes). Darko is, quite easily, the biggest lottery bust of the decade.

No. 3 Kwame Brown:

Kwame’s the first top pick on this list, which holds quite a bit of weight because a top selection’s success or failure will rightfully be measured alongside all that come after him. Every pick. Even the free agents. Luckily for Kwame, the 2001 Draft wasn’t great shakes in terms of star power, though it was a deep and helpful prospect pool, so his middling NBA career can almost be left to its own merits. And his merits (seven points, 5.6 rebounds in 23 minutes a contest, career) are bloody awful.

No. 8 Rodney White

He came with a slightly shinier resume than Kedrick Brown, selected with an Andy Katz stamp of approval by Detroit’s Joe Dumars, who was in his first year as Detroit’s personnel chief (after merely working as a consultant the year before). White had skills and an offensive touch, but he never put any work into that game of his. He was sent to Denver before being packaged with Nikoloz Tskitishvili and shipped to theGolden State Warriors for a pick that eventually (after being tossed around by several teams) landed the Philadelphia 76ers the rights to Petteri Koponen(notes). History!

A hiccup in my Ben Wallace optimism

Before the Charlotte Observer reported Allen Iverson could sign with the Bobcats , I was reading Philadunkia’s Michael Kaskey-Blomain’s wish that Allen Iverson return to the 76ers.

So, isn’t it fitting for these two, who have done so much for each other, to reunite, allowing Allen to end his exceptional career in the only uniform that he truly looked right in?  Like I said, I don’t care that Ed Stefanski has proclaimed of Allen that the Sixers, “don’t see him in our plans with the age of our kids”.  A fan can dream, and if the dream doesn’t materialize and Allen Iverson provides me no new memories in a 76ers uniform, at least I have ten years of unforgettable ones.

My first thought: Michael, no. You don’t realize what Iverson has become. He’s not worth the headaches. He’s not the player he used to be. This will just tarnish your image of him.

My second thought: The reasons he wants Iverson in Philadelphia sound a lot like why I want Ben Wallace in Detroit. And the reasons I don’t think it would work are similar to the reasons many are saying signing Wallace was a bad idea.

But – maybe this is more hoping than thinking – the situations are different.

Iverson would start for the 76ers.

Wallace probably won’t start in Detroit. And if he does, he definitely won’t play starters minutes.

I really hope I didn’t have a revelation here.

This is Detroit’s likely starting center

Mike Kurylo of KnickerBlogger reviewed Chris Wilcox’s season, and the results are pretty discouraging.

I don’t know what concerns me more – Wilcox’s ‘F’ grade or Kurylo’s pointing out the Knicks seem content replacing Wilcox with Darko and Eddy Curry.

Who?

Life on Dumars has a pretty cool series on forgotten Pistons since 1996-97, since he first started following the team closely. Here’s his list so far:

1. Kornel David

2. Steve Henson (I’d never even heard of him before this)

3. Tremaine Fowlkes

4. Cedric Ceballos

Amir Johnson traded for Carlos Delfino

1. Kind of crazy

2. This should tell you something about Amir Johnson’s value.

Deron Washington not the athletic freak everyone thinks he is

Washington reflected with Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Blog on his famous dunk over Duke guard Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus.

Except, it wasn’t a dunk. It was a layup.

Nobody likes the Pistons

The Pistons are just 23rd in ESPN’s poll of everyone’s second-favorite team.

And none of the TrueHoop Network bloggers picked Detroit.

Can’t say I’m surprised.

An argument for building around a team instead of a superstar

Wired Science has a plan for building a team based on mathematical analysis.

First, Skinner explains how people making the best decisions for themselves can hurt the efficiency of a total system. Let’s say that there are two roads, a highway and an alley shortcut. The alley takes up to ten minutes, but sometimes less depending on traffic, and the highway always takes ten minutes. Individuals realize they could save time by taking the alley, so they do. Unfortunately, when everyone takes the shortcut, it ends up taking the full ten minutes.

It’s a suboptimal arrangement that statisticians call “the price of anarchy.” If you force some cars to take the highway to give other cars a faster alley commute, then the average commute time goes down.

In more complex simulations, even closing down some roads actually leads to reduced traffic — and some real-world evidence [pdf] from cities like San Francisco appears to agree with theory, Skinner wrote.

By analogy, perhaps, getting rid of Kobe Bryant could actually make things better by dispersing the “cars” (i.e. possessions) more evenly. Offensive balance could reduce “traffic,” making putting the ball in the basket easier.

The analysis admits it doesn’t consider the difference in scoring ability between a team’s best player and his teammates.

But this makes the Pistons’ plan look even better. When there are four or five quality scorers on the floor, that seems to be a path to efficiency.

@PistonPowered

Just a reminder to follow PistonPowered on Twitter. I often use the account to post links to articles that don’t warrant a full post on their own (and will get back to updating it now).

If you’re not on Twitter, you can always view all of my Tweets on this site by looking under “The Glove Compartment” heading on the right.

My second favorite team: San Antonio Spurs

As part of a TrueHoop Network project, several of us are explaining our second favorite NBA team.

I love defense.

Remember that Pistons-Pacers series in 2004? The high game score was an 85. Everyone said it was terrible basketball.

But I could watch games like that 82 times a season. Every possession was a war.

Back then, I thought the Pistons were a budding dynasty. They won the title that year. It seemed they could win something like two of the next four.

They were led by an underrated superstar who quietly dominated. They had a great coach who knew exactly how to push his players’ buttons. And they had a GM who continually kept the team a contender.

But instead of Ben Wallace, Larry Brown and Joe Dumars, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford led a team to three championships in five years.

The Spurs have been everything I thought the Pistons could be. They play tough D. They rebound. They play hard. The play smart. They have great fundamentals.

I don’t need flash. Winning is key. And the Spurs system wins. It’s ridiculous how long their championship window has been open.

When I watch the Spurs, I see what the Pistons could have been. And Detroit was just the Darko pick away from being San Antonio.

I rarely feel strongly about a team other than the Pistons. I didn’t really root for the Spurs as much as I recognized they were everything I wished the Pistons were.

But now I want them to be the rich man’s Detroit, so they can get Antonio McDyess the ring he deserves.

Then it’s time for the Pistons to become the envy of other teams’ fans.

I really want to hear back from you in the comments. I thought this was a pretty interesting question. Is there a consensus second favorite team among Pistons fans? Which team’s fans do you think like the Pistons most (and none isn’t an option)?

Ben Wallace signing becomes official

Pistons release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the club has signed free agent center Ben Wallace. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to announce Ben Wallace’s return to the Pistons organization,” said Dumars. “Ben played an integral part in the success of the franchise from 2001-2006 and we feel there is a role for him on our team this season. His size and experience will provide depth in the front court while his work ethic and commitment to winning will help our club throughout the year.”

Wallace, 34, has NBA career averages of 6.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 30.9 minutes in 903 games (785 starts) with Washington, Orlando, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. The 13-year veteran played in Detroit from 2000 to 2006 where he was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year and an NBA All-Star four times. Wallace was an All-NBA Second Team selection three times (2003, 2004, 2006), All-NBA Third Team selection twice (2002 and 2005) and an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection five times (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006). The Pistons made the playoffs in five of the six years he was in Detroit, winning Eastern Conference Championships in 2004 and 2005 and the NBA Championship in 2004. Wallace is the franchise’s all-time leader in regular-season and playoff blocks (1,297 and 215, respectively) and ranks first among all-time playoff leaders in rebounds (1,237). He holds franchise single-game records for blocks in a game (10 – twice), defensive rebounds in a quarter (10) and blocks in a quarter (6). During the 2006-07 season, he became just the fifth player in NBA history to record 100 blocks and 100 steals for seven consecutive seasons joining Hakeem Olajuwon (12 times), Julius Erving (seven times), Sam Lacey (seven times) and David Robinson (seven times). Wallace ranks fifth among active players in career blocks with 1,948 and led the NBA in blocks during the 2001-02 season (3.48 bpg).

Originally acquired by the Pistons along with Chucky Atkins in exchange for Grant Hill as part of a sign-and-trade deal with Orlando (8/3/00), Wallace signed with Chicago as a free agent on July 13, 2006. He was traded by Chicago to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade on February 21, 2008.

Signing Ben Wallace was a great move

I wasn’t happy when Ben Wallace left for the Bulls. He was my favorite Piston, and I wanted him back.

I was sure he would return, and that just made the parting worse. Detroit’s championship window was wide open, and there were no suitable replacements on the market. (The Pistons’ consolation was Nazr Mohammed).

I thought Detroit would have to pay Ben whatever he wanted. Sure, he’d be overpaid, but that’s the price of a title. Joe Dumars had given the Pistons flexibility. It was time to take advantage.

But he decided to let Ben go.

It was the right move

Ben quickly went from my favorite to least favorite player in the league. He was a traitor.

But deep down, I didn’t blame him.

Sam Smith chronicles Ben’s struggles after taking the money. The presumption is he would have been better off taking less in Detroit.

But who says he would have been happy here?

Piece of mind with the Pistons was far from guaranteed. The contract was.

Flip Saunders’s system obviously didn’t fit him. He clashed with Rick Carlisle, too.

Maybe it’s a Ben thing not a Chicago/Cleveland thing.

And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, Ben wasn’t Ben his last year with the Pistons. Shaq, then with the Heat, scored at will on him during the conference finals. (And although Ben was a better defender off the ball, he was definitely one of the best on-ball defenders in the league during his prime).

He can still play a little

Obviously, the Pistons aren’t signing the Ben they had. And I’m not expecting him to play much. Heck, I’m not even sure if he’ll be in the rotation.

But he can still produce.

He had a 16.4 rebounding percentage last year. If he had enough minutes to qualify, he would have been tied for 12th in the league.

And in our chat before the playoffs, John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog raved about Wallace.

Patrick Hayes of It’s Just Sports has more detail on Ben’s post-Detroit production, finding his productions suffered more for a decline in minutes than ability.

There’s no risk

The Pistons aren’t going to win the title this year. They’re young and will still be finding themselves.

So, it’s not too big a deal who the players at the end of their bench are.

And even if they were contenders, Ben isn’t going to make or break anything. The Lakers just won a title with Didier Ilunga-Mbenga as their third center.

Besides, who would you rather have? Joel Anthony?

Wallace won’t be a key contributor, and he doesn’t cost much. From a basketball sense, this is a very minor move.

It’s nearly impossible for it to go wrong. The expectations for a player this far down the bench are just too low.

Which Ben are we getting?

Once Wallace left, we learned he didn’t always fit his on-court image.

He feuded with Scott Skiles over a headband. He publically challenged Flip Saunders. Basically, he was a spoiled, me-first baby.

Players like him aren’t typically malcontents.

Guys who dive for loose balls don’t refuse to enter the game.

Guys who play harder on defense than offense don’t demand touches.

Guys who went to a small school, weren’t drafted and toiled in Europe don’t undermine coaches.

I think the money and attention got to him. I’m hoping a reduced salary and a reduced role come with a reduced ego this time around.

For $1.3 million, I’m willing to take a chance on a happy ending.

Deron Washington signs, gets BIG recognition

Unsurprisingly, Deron Washington has become the fourth rookie to sign with the Pistons, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive. He has a two-year deal with a team option for 2010-11.

Washington also will be featured in a giant picture at Virginia Tech’s new practice facility (Hat tip: Deadspin). Or maybe, Greg Paulus is featured. Either way, Washington is in it.

Jeremy Pargo won’t be Pistons’ third point guard

Jeremy Pargo has signed with Hapoel Gilboa/Galil Elyon. (Hat tip: Ballin Europe).

Pargo put up some decent number in the summer league as late addition to the Pistons’ roster.

Sean Singletary and Andre Owens are now the frontrunners to become Detroit’s third point guard.

Pistons to sign Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace will sign a one year, $1.3 million contract with the Pistons next week, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.

Unlike most Pistons bloggers, I love this move. I’m busy with work, but I’ll have more analysis on the signing today.

Pistons release schedule, don’t have much national exposure

The Pistons have release their 2009-10 schedule.

Fox Sports Detroit and not much else

Detroit’s profile is definitely lower than in recent years.

The Pistons don’t play on national television (not including NBATV) until a Dec. 9 game at Philadelphia is on ESPN.

Detroit has just four games on ESPN, one on TNT and none ABC. Here’s the complete national slate:

Dec. 9: at 76ers, 7 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 10: vs. Nuggets , TNT

March 5: at Cavaliers 7 p.m. ESPN

March 15: at Celtics, 8 p.m., ESPN

March 21: at Cavaliers, 8 p.m. ESPN

Case of the Sundays

The Pistons have 12 Sunday games this season. Detroit struggled in Sunday games last year, which Joe Dumars later attributed to late Saturday nights.

We’ll have 12 good chances to see if this new group has a better attitude.

Key stretch

Detroit’s first home stand or road trip longer than two games begins Nov. 17 – at the Lakers, Trail Blazers, Jazz and Suns in six days.

That will be a tough run for a team that will likely still be trying to find its identity.

Back-to-backs

The Pistons have 23 sets of back-to-backs, but that doesn’t worry me much.

Without Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace, fatigue shouldn’t be as much of a factor this season.

Final thoughts

I’m not sure how good the Pistons will be next year, but they’re not going to look as good nationally.

People pay attention to the beginning of the year (when Detroit has 9 of its first 14 games on the road), end of the year (five of seven on the road) and national games (four of five on the road).

Detroit has to stay solid between its tough high-profile games.