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Detroit Pistons release statement saying the team is not moving to Las Vegas

Wow. That Pistons-to-Vegas rumor gained steam pretty quickly there. Let me tell you what I think may have helped it: people like Rob Otto writing things like this:

The purpose of this article is not to tell you what I want to happen, it is to tell you what I think could happen.

The Pistons moving to Nevada could be a viable possibility.

This whole thing basically started with David Stern’s press conference the other day, when he was asked about the Pistons’ future in Detroit. He gave a very Stern-like response:

“We like to stay where we are, but if you judge us by our past we haven’t been entirely successful,” Stern said. “But our first choice is always to have the team sold to somebody that will keep it in the market.”

Now because he’s David Stern, this caused the, “Oh my God, the Pistons are totally moving,” bandwagon to get started again. This, coupled with the fact that the Las Vegas Sun reported that an anonymous team was already under contract to move to Vegas, provided public funding for a new arena could be delivered, meant that the Pistons were totally out of here.

Hysteria ensued, causing the Pistons to release a statement denying all of this:

“While there is no substantive news to report regarding the sale of the Detroit Pistons, our ownership group has absolutely nothing to do with any proposal that would move the team to Las Vegas. As stated since the beginning of this process, the preference is to find an ownership group that is committed to Detroit and the surrounding area.”

But hey, the team has to deny this, right? I mean, even if this were true, they’re still going to be in Detroit for a while at least, and probably want to avoid the embarrassing lame-duck status the Thunder Sonics went through in their last season in Seattle. Well, if that’s not enough of a denial, there was this report from Vince Ellis of the Free Press:

“We categorically deny that there is an NBA team under contract (to move to Vegas),” NBA spokesman Tim Frank told the Free Press today.

Teams with much richer histories than the Pistons have moved. But they are far from the only NBA franchise with a not-so-great financial situation going in their home city. Vegas has long been a desired NBA market, and only recently has Stern become more amenable to going against those pesky moral stands on gambling he’s taken in the past. So of the handful of teams that may have an interest in moving, why are the Pistons automatically the most logical choice?

The ownership situation is obviously a factor. But teams get sold fairly often, and in the last 30 years, only five franchises have moved. What other cities should be worried about their team moving to Vegas? I’d say these teams all would have at least tepid interest: New Orleans, Charlotte, Memphis and let’s throw Sacramento in just because of that whole Maloof connection, even though they are denying. These franchises all have as many, if not more, uncertainties than the Pistons, with the added bonus of not really doing well attendance-wise.

Even with a miserable season, the Pistons still ranked eighth in the league in attendance last year. They were first in 2009, first in 2008, second in 2007, first in 2006 and first in 2005. Compare:

  • Kings: 29th; 30th; 27th; 16th; 14th; 13th
  • Hornets: 28th; 19th; 26th; 15th; 11th (aided by playing games in Oklahoma City); 30th
  • Bobcats: 22nd; 26th; 24th; 27th; 22nd; 28th
  • Grizzlies: 23rd; 29th; 29th; 30th; 26th; 19th

Typically, when a franchise wants to move, it has to prove to the league that it’s not in a market where it can viably succeed, either because of facilities or lack of a fanbase. The Pistons still have one of the best facilities in the NBA at the Palace of Auburn Hills. And as the attendance suggests over the last six years, they can routinely fill the building.

When the Sonics left Seattle, there were issues with the arena and the team had been in the 20s in attendance for several seasons. Some of the above teams, to me, would have much better cases to leave a city than the Pistons, even if new ownership did want to move the team. The Kings, even in the early 2000s when they were a title contender, couldn’t crack the top 10 in attendance. The Grizzlies were a playoff team before they gave away Pau Gasol, and yet only made it into the top 20 once in six years. The Hornets have one of the five best players in the league and only made it into the top 15 once, and that was when they were playing a significant portion of their home games in Oklahoma City. The Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and were purchased by the biggest star in NBA history last year, yet couldn’t get into the top 20.

So yeah, when people like Otto write that it “could be a viable possibility,” they are kind of right I guess. But it’s not particularly easy to move a franchise, let alone one with a great building and a strong history of filling it every year. To say that the Pistons are anything more than a very remote possibility to move seems like a pretty big stretch.


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  • Jul 16, 20101:28 am
    by gmehl1977


    Patrick if an when Joe Dumars ever steps down, i am nominating you to be the new GM. On serious note though i think you have calmed a lot of people down after reading this thorough analysis of the teams pending sale (including me). Thanks man and keep up the good work.
    PS – mlive is not the same without you. R.I.P Full Court Press!

    • Jul 16, 201012:44 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Haha … how did you know that NBA GM is part of my career track? Sports blogger to GM within 5 years.
      Like I said above, it’s still a possibility they could go because the NBA is pretty unpredictable. David Stern would have to approve letting a popular team walk away from a plush facility, and that would be unprecedented when compared to other modern era franchises who have moved.

  • Jul 16, 20102:49 pm
    by Andrew


    I think, as it is the case most of the times, it’s much ado about nothing.
    One thing, Patrick. The Kings sold out every game for most of the 2000′s. The reason they werent in the top 10 was because they played (and still play) in one of the smallest arenas in the league (capacity is barely above 17,000).

    • Jul 16, 20103:30 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Yeah, they have a great fanbase. But it’s been a battle for the Maloofs to get a new arena there. The early 2000s team would’ve generated serious revenue with an up-to-date and bigger building.

  • Jul 16, 20102:53 pm
    by Andrew


    Oh yeah, I’ll miss your work on Michigan Live, Patrick. FCP was one of the main sites I always used to check out. A must read for any Pistons/NBA fan. Looking forward to read your work on PP.

  • Jul 17, 20103:30 am
    by gmehl1977


    Hey if Charlotte doesn’t re-sign Dampier then would it be possible for the pistons to sign him to a new contract? By that i mean one that isn’t as crazy as the $13 million owed to him. Maybe a Dampier for Hamilton trade could be in the works.

  • Jul 17, 201011:39 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    Damp would be a huge help, but I don’t think Charlotte would trade him for Hamilton. They already have Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace signed long-term on the wings, not sure they’d give up a huge expiring, non-guaranteed deal for Rip’s remaining deal.

  • Jul 19, 20103:03 am
    by Travis


    I’d much rather have Shaq than Damp. I would start Shaq and Ben at C, PF…. It would be the worst Free Throw Duo ever, but It would be amazing to see them on the court together.

    • Jul 19, 20108:52 am
      by gmehl1977


      Shaq in a pistons uni…he would no longer be Shaq diesel, he would be Shaq piston!

    • Jul 19, 201012:15 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Did you see Shaq last year? He was terrible.
      I think it’s pretty unlikely that any veteran big will come to Detroit willingly as a free agent. Every team wants veteran big men. They can basically pick whichever contender they want to play for and chase a ring.
      Non-contending teams are left to sift through the remains, which is how you end up with guys like Chris Wilcox.
      Dampier is still a solid rebounder and shot-blocker and he’ll stay out of the way on offense, other than getting the occasional offensive rebound/put-back. Shaq’s a guy who still expects plays to be run for him. Not sure that fits into what the Pistons want to do, since they seem to be committing to building for the future.

      • Jul 19, 20102:29 pm
        by Travis


        I don’t think its fair judge the play of Shaq last season with the Cavs… The year before that with the Suns he was an all star and going 20 and 10, and the Suns were really starting to click before Amare went down with the eye injury.
        And yes he was terrible last season, but so was Ben Wallace when he played with LeBron.  The fact is that Shaq was getting at most 25 min a game and 20 min in the playoffs and broke his hand midseason.  And if you watched any of the cavs playoff games, you would have seen that at the times when shaq was on the court, he was the most efficient player out there, and sometimes giving more effort than the King.
        I don’t think we need another Big with no Skills.  Damp can rebound thats true, but the Pistons were the best offensive Rebounding team last year anyway.  Dampier would be the next Nazr for the pistons and would probably ride the bench until Big Ben gets injured later in the year from carrying the team on his back.
        But I think Shaq can still get it done… Plus he might get some motivation from Kobe’s comments.  Maybe if we offer more money (sign and trade) for a year or 2 than any other team, than maybe Shaq’s ego would have him join.
        I think the Diesel would be a perfect fit in the Motor City!

        • Jul 19, 201010:15 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          If he’s in shape and motivated, like he was in PHX that year, then yes, by all means, bring him in.
          But an underplayed story in Cleveland last year was the fact that he came into the season in pretty bad shape, then got injured. If he wasn’t super motivated in Cleveland, on a contending team, how motivated would he be on what’s likely a middling team in Detroit?

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