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Archive → January, 2011

Mavericks, Celtics, Bulls and Spurs could be interested in Richard Hamilton

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweeted a few updates on Richard Hamilton:

Pistons sale makes a Rip Hamilton buyout tough, but sources believe if Rip is let go Dallas and Boston will most aggressively pursue him.

A couple of executives expressed surprised the Mavs have not tried to trade for Rip. "They must really not want that contract," an exec said

Chicago and San Antonio could also get involved if Hamilton is freed. Bulls likely the only team that could offer Rip a chance to start.

Pistons well aware Hamilton wants to be moved and rival executives say they are doing everything they can to accommodate him.

Six years of drafting explains a lot of the Detroit Pistons’ current woes

John Krolik of Cavs: the blog wrote an extremely interesting piece yesterday called, “This is why the Cavaliers are terrible.” As you can probably guess, the post was about some guy named LeBron James. But it wasn’t for the reason you think.

Krolik’s argument: After LeBron, the Cavaliers became very good very quickly. That meant they didn’t have time to supplement LeBron with high picks, minimizing their chances of drafting good players.

The Pistons experienced a similar fate in the earlier part of the century. Instead of drafting a remarkable talent who immediately transformed the franchise, the Pistons did it differently. But they still went from 32 wins to winning at least 50 games the next seven seasons.

That’s a long time without having a poor enough record to land a high draft pick.* It’s mighty difficult to stay competitive with that disadvantage. Just the Mavericks and Spurs won 50 games each of those seven seasons, and they’ve only remained contenders because the Mavericks are willing to pay the luxury tax and the Spurs are the model franchise.

*Although, the Pistons lucked into a No. 2 pick during this run. You might have heard about it. It didn’t go so well.

Krolik targeted post-LeBron drafts and found seven years of gaining little in the draft. The Pistons’ run of relatively fruitless drafts lasted just six years, so they’ve got that going for them.

Let’s inspect what happened:

2003 draft

  • No. 2 Darko Milicic – never panned out in Detroit, traded for a pick that became Rodney Stuckey
  • No. 25 Carlos Delfino – played OK in Detroit, dumped to the Raptors for a pick that later became Jonas Jerebko
  • No. 58 Andreas Glyniadakas – never signed with the Pistons, played 13 career NBA games (with the Seattle Sonics)

2004 draft

  • No. 54 Rickey Paulding – never reached the NBA

2005 draft

2006 draft

  • No. 60 Will Blalock – played 14 games with the Pistons before bouncing around NBDL and overseas

2007 draft

2008 draft

In this time span, the Pistons also traded their first-round pick three times:

  • 2004 – helped to land Rasheed Wallace, whom the Pistons eventually let walk in free agency
  • 2006 – helped to land Carlos Arroyo, whom the Pistons later threw in with Darko in the Magic trade
  • 2008 – traded for Sharpe and Plaisted

That leaves the Pistons with three players they drafted or acquired by trading one of their first-round picks during this span – Stuckey, Maxiell and Jerebko. From the seven years Krolik examined, Cleveland is left with Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and Christian Eyenga. Which group would you rather have?

To close, this post isn’t meant solely to criticize Joe Dumars. This haul is based on a number of factors – circumstance (winning 56 games per season during this span, which leads to lower draft picks), poor drafting (Darko) and failure to retain successful picks (Afflalo, Johnson and, perhaps, Delfino).

Strong drafts in 2010 (Greg Monroe) and 2009 (Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko) have the Pistons back on track, but going so long without adding young talent via the draft was obviously a setback Detroit is still working to overcome.

John Kuester didn’t have to pick winning or Richard Hamilton’s feelings

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit wrote a column called “Pistons coach is right: Winning trumps Richard Hamilton’s feelings,” and it case you think an editor mis-headlined it, the article also includes this line:

But what it all comes down to is this:Management has to look out for the team, not one individual.

I have a simple question. Why was the choice between winning and Richard Hamilton’s feelings?

The key issue is John Kuester refusing to speak with Richard Hamilton, not the coach removing Hamilton from the lineup. Indications are Hamilton has the same priority.

Even if he believes he shouldn’t have been pulled from the rotation, Hamilton hasn’t publicly articulated that belief. That shows restraint, and when you feel strongly about something, showing restraint is difficult. That’s the same reason Hamilton couldn’t restrain himself from telling Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press he felt offended Kuester didn’t come to him directly – because Hamilton felt strongly about what he felt was a sign of disrespect.

So, I’ll go back to my original question. In what possible way does Kuester refusing to speak with Hamilton help the Pistons win?

Never mind on Eric Lefkofsky buying the Pistons if Tom Gores doesn’t

Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News followed up on the earlier news of Eric Lefkofsky buying the Pistons if they can’t reach a deal with Tome Gores:

Chicago Internet entrepreneur Eric Lefkofsky was approached about purchasing the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment, but Lefkofsky expressed no interest in the purchase and, so far, there has been no follow-up on the solicitation, a source close to Lefkofsky told The Detroit News on Thursday.

Oh, well. Hopefully, there’s another Wolverine out there in case the Spartan can’t get it done (just like tonight, har, har).

John Kuester says more with his actions toward Rip Hamilton than any conversation could undo

Two coaches from my youth still stand out to me. Both happen to be coaches who cut me from basketball teams, one in seventh grade and one in ninth grade (I know, you must be shocked that a sports blogger was not particularly good at sports).

For those lucky enough to have never been cut from a team, it’s one of the worst feelings. Even for someone like me, who went into basketball tryouts with a good idea about my limitations (namely, build-wise I made Sean Bradley look like Glen Davis) and my longshot chances of making those teams, that final knowledge that you’re not wanted stings like few other things in life.

One coach — "KP" everyone called him — stands out because of the way he went about delivering the news to those of us who didn’t make the freshman team. He pulled us each aside individually after the last practice. He told us, without sugary platitudes, that we had not made the team. He thanked us for working hard. He encouraged us to stick with the game, and for those of us who did offer some upside if we ever grew into our gangly frames, he even offered some specific things to work on individually and invited us to give it a go again the following year. Sure, the news still sucked to receive, but there was closure involved with the way he delivered it. We knew exactly why we weren’t on the team. We knew our weaknesses in the eyes of the coaching staff. But above all, we all developed respect for an authority figure who thought enough of us as people, even at that young age, to look us in the eye and deliver news to us that I’m sure was not pleasant for him to have to deliver just like it wasn’t for us to receive it.

KP, who was a guidance counselor at the school, always remembered my name. He always said ‘Hi’ to me in the hallways. And even though I was depressed about not making the team, I couldn’t help but respect the man who made that decision.

My other memorable coach, needless to say, was the opposite. On the last day of tryouts, he announced that the players who made the team would be listed in the locker room in the morning. Sure enough, a list was posted before school started and sure enough, the coach was nowhere to be found in the vicinity of that list as kids nervously crept in to see if they had made it. Throughout tryouts, the coach was fine. He made some minimal effort to learn names. He occasionally would even give you a pointer or two, even if you weren’t one of the better players. But after that list was posted, his job was done. I never remember that coach even making eye contact with me when we’d pass in the hallways after I didn’t make his team.

It’s pretty clear that John Kuester is that second coach. I wrote early on that I thought Rip Hamilton was entitled to an explanation about his benching. And when it became a long-term benching, when no explanation was forthcoming, Kuester essentially nuked the relationship.

This isn’t meant to be a complete shot at Kuester. Let’s face it: the "meet the minimum requirements of the job" attitude is not uncommon in this country, and that starts at the lowest level jobs and goes all the way up to high profile jobs like coach of a professional basketball team. Kuester did the minimum in this case, and he’s no different than many, many other people in positions of authority who daily make difficult decisions and do so without having the backbone to face them head-on. Kuester wanted to bench Hamilton because Hamilton has not played well this season. But it’s clear he didn’t want a confrontation with a player known to be headstrong, so Kuester took the easy way out.

It doesn’t make Kuester a terrible person. Bosses, managers and decision makers make comparable moves every day for the same reason: it’s extremely difficult to deliver news to people that they won’t take well. It just makes Kuester a poor coach.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix wrote this about the situation:

What should have happened is Kuester should have pulled Hamilton aside after a practice or a shootaround — head coaches can do that, you know — and hashed things out. Because the reality is neither man is at fault. Kuester is a good coach. Hamilton is a good player. They both want to win, they just have different ideas on how to do it.

Mannix is a fantastic NBA writer. But this is a cop-out. You know what types of coaches pull players aside and privately deliver bad news? Good ones. Gregg Popovich would do it. Larry Brown would do it. Doc Rivers would do it. Phil Jackson would do it. And what makes all of them great coaches in that respect is that they’d do it whether it was their star player or the last guy on their bench. Hell, Phil Jackson destroyed Kobe Bryant in a book and still managed to salvage their relationship afterward and win more titles together.

Not many people blame Kuester for his decision to bench Hamilton. Hamilton wasn’t playing well, and the Pistons have clearly played better with him out of the rotation. But by failing to handle the situation in a strong way (and it surely would’ve been an unpleasant conversation, I’m not debating that), Kuester lost this one. Hamilton is a respected player in the Pistons locker room and around the league. Now, because this frayed relationship has become a national story, the Pistons look like an organization that doesn’t treat veteran players with respect, and that’s Kuester’s fault. The bottom line is good coaches are willing to take responsibility for the tough decisions they make, not just publicly, but behind closed doors, and Kuester wasn’t willing to take that responsibility.

Now, with Rodney Stuckey injured and possibly missing games, the Pistons actually find themselves in a position where they might need Hamilton. After he’s sat for about three weeks, I can’t imagine summoning him from the bench to go into a game is going to be a particularly enjoyable conversation either.

This isn’t meant as a defense of Hamilton’s actions throughout this drama. He’s paid extremely well to be a member of this team and do what is asked of him by the coaching staff. Honestly, he’s acted like a baby for the most part. But it’s kind of expected that professional athletes, especially ones who have the pedigree Hamilton does, will be childish, will over-value their worth and are, shall we say, a little removed from reality.

As depressing as the deteriorated relationship between Kuester and Hamilton is, it represented an opportunity for Kuester. An unspoken problem for the Pistons has long been the death-grip veteran players have seemed to have on the direction of the team. Hamilton and Prince are the last vocal hangers-on of that bygone era. By benching Hamilton and by owning the situation by telling Hamilton beforehand that is exactly what was going to play out on the court, Kuester missed the chance to put his stamp on the team and wrest a bit more influence away from the powerful locker room vets. Instead, he tried to take the easy way out in order to avoid a confrontation, and now Hamilton has become a more sympathetic figure, further empowering the same old ‘players run the show’ situation that has freqently been alluded to over the last 10 years in Detroit.

Ben Gordon is a legend in his hometown

Last week, I plugged the ‘Highschool Hierarchy‘ series I’m doing for SLAM, and this week’s installment (Nos. 25-21) of the countdown, which attempts to rank the best NBA-producing high schools of all-time, has a Pistons connection as well. Ben Gordon‘s school, Mt. Vernon High School in NY, came in at No. 25 on the list. Here’s what Gordon had to say about his school:

“I think what makes the tradition of Mt. Vernon so great is the culture of the town.. It’s only four square miles, but somehow it’s able to produce talent year in and year out.”

There’s a lot of interesting background on Gordon and his hometown out there, including the fact that Mt. Vernon has an annual ‘Ben Gordon Weekend’ to commemorate their most successful pro player.

If not Tom Gores, Eric Lefkofsky could be next in line to buy Pistons

Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press reports Tom Gores’ representatives have been in metro Detroit doing due diligence on the Pistons, and Gores has even met with with NBA officials in New York this week.

But his 30-day window for exclusive negotiating rights will end soon, and a deal hasn’t been reached. So, who could be next? Walsh:

And meanwhile, a whiff of interest in the Pistons has surfaced from another well-heeled ex-Michigander — Eric Lefkofsky, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and early investor in the online shopping-deals site Groupon.

Let’s deal with that report of an intriguing new potential bidder. The reason I mentioned it last was that I’m assured that this dalliance is at a pre-infancy stage. No formal bid has been made; no financial information has been exchanged. File it under, "Rich guys look at scores of possible deals all the time; this may just be a passing glance."

But Lefkofsky, 41, is certainly a fascinating name to throw in this pot. A Southfield-Lathrup High School and University of Michigan grad, he has started and sold a string of technology companies and sits on the board of directors of Groupon, which just turned down a $6-billion purchase offer from Google.

I don’t know much about Lefkofsky yet, but as a rule of thumb, I’d prefer a Wolverine to a Spartan.

Tayshaun Prince named the impact player third most likely to be traded

ESPN’s Chad Ford listed Tayshaun Prince as the impact player third most likely to be traded:

We should just go ahead and rename this list the "Tayshaun Prince Trade Watch." Prince has been on the block for years, but the Pistons have yet to find a deal that works for them.

Why should this season be different? Several reasons.

One, Prince, along with teammate Rip Hamilton, has mentally checked out. Two, Prince’s contract expires this summer, making him attractive to GMs who don’t want to make long-term commitments right now. Three, he can still play (he averages of 15 points and five rebounds per game) and would really help a number of teams competing for a title. Finally, the Pistons need to do something.

While they’ve tried hard to trade Hamilton, there isn’t a huge market for him — if they can get some cap relief for him, they’ll be happy. Prince is a better asset and the rebuilding Pistons need to use him to improve their talent base. While it’s possible he won’t get traded (again), it’s never been more likely that he will be.

Illustrating the Pistons’ fall in Forbes’ NBA franchise value projections

Forbes released its projections for NBA franchise values today, and the Pistons slipped to 13th at $360 million. The declines hardly comes as a surprise, but it’s still not encouraging to see.

I worry about the timing of this report, because based only on blind odds, the projection is more likely to hinder negotiations between Karen Davidson and Tom Gores than help the process. One side could easily use Forbes’ $360 million projection to strengthen its bargaining power, and I doubt the other side would be thrilled with that.

Still, there’s a chance both sides were already hovering around a $360 million price tag, and Forbes’ report just confirmed to Davidson and Gores the deal was fair. I’m hoping for that.

In addition to value, Forbes projects four other measures for each team – one-year value change (percentage), debt/value (percentage), revenue and operating income. I charted each of those five measures below.

Two of the graphs stand out. The second is miserable for the Pistons, and the third shows how great an owner Bill Davidson was.

Current value


One-year value change (percentage)


Debt/value (percentage)


Revenue


Operating income


Chauncey Billups would like Will Bynum to remember who built this house

Will Bynum enjoys fourth quarters, it seems. Unfortunately, a certain former Piston who hopefully haunts Joe Dumars’ dreams enjoys them just a bit more.

A Bynum layup, two of his 13 fourth quarter points, with just over three minutes left got the Pistons within one, but Chauncey Billups immediately answered with a 3-pointer and he’d hit three more 3-pointers for good measure in the final minutes because, well, just to give an added kick to the groin I guess, and Denver pulled out a 109-100 win.

Honestly, because of Feldman’s antiquated views on profanity, I can’t relate exactly what I thought immediately after Billups’ second 3-pointer. But let’s just say it involved Joe Dumars. And something he can do. And I don’t even dislike Joe Dumars. It was just impossibly hard to watch that Billups sequence in the fourth quarter without getting really mad. Ridiculously mad, actually.

But seriously, good for Billups. That has to be the ultimate feeling, to come back to an arena you used to own, an arena that used to be full of energy, as weird as that sounds considering the Palace right now is probably the deadest place in the NBA, and give the ultimate middle finger to the organization that traded you for no reason. And on top of that, he got the added bonus of getting a small measure of revenge of his beleaguered friend Rip Hamilton, whom Billups obviously has a lot of sympathy for right now.

The fourth three in that flurry wasn’t even really necessary, and it was the one that brought out the trademark Billups grin. That’s when it was too much pain for me. But I got over it because, made up in my own head or not, I like to think that last three and the smile that went with it was specifically for Dumars for pulling the plug on Billups and his team too soon.

Denver is a good team, and the Pistons were in this game most of the way, but don’t get it twisted: they took some steps back from the goodwill that had been built up by positive performances in previous games. Denver wasn’t at full strength, not even close actually. Detroit didn’t defend well. And to make matters worse, not only did Billups score 26 points, but fellow starter Arron Afflalo scored 17. Nothing like seeing two former players come in and show that they are infinitely better than the guys you replaced them with.

Watching Billups and Afflalo perform at that level for another team on the Palace floor made this one of the hardest games for me to watch in a long time. I’m glad the Pistons have played better lately, I’m glad there are some young with promise on the team getting good minutes and contributing, but it’s frankly ridiculous that the Pistons not only gave up Billups and Afflalo, but they gave them up with no assets to show for the trouble.

Defending ‘Melo

Carmelo Anthony shot the ball poorly and Tayshaun Prince, who played 38 minutes defending ‘Melo for many of them, did a nice job contesting Anthony’s shots. Anthony hit only two shots in the second half.

To his credit, however, Anthony did a little bit of everything since his shot wasn’t falling. He had 10 rebounds and seven assists and he even played a little defense himself, holding Prince to 5-for-14 shooting. The Pistons did enough with ‘Melo to limit his scoring, but this was the rare game where Anthony made a positive impact on the outcome even when his shot was not falling.

No taking advantage of backups

Other than the whole Billups/Afflalo angle, the most disappointing aspect of this game was Detroit’s inability to take advantage of a really depleted Denver frontcourt. Nene and Kenyon Martin were both late scratches, so Denver started Shelden Williams and Al Harrington. That’s hardly an imposing duo. And still, both were pretty effective. Williams scored a season-high 13 points and although Harrington shot poorly (though it certainly didn’t make him more bashful as his 13 shot attempts attest), his presence and 3-point shooting ability stretched the Pistons defense enough to open up driving lanes for Billups, Afflalo and J.R. Smith.

Detroit actually out-rebounded Denver 43-37, but they got minimal on offense from Ben Wallace (no points) and Chris Wilcox (2-for-6 shooting).

Consistency eludes Daye

Many were understandably excited with Austin Daye‘s career-high performance against Orlando. It’s not that I’m not excited about Daye’s potential. I am. He’s a beautiful offensive player. But I do get irritated with fans and writers alike who treat him as if he’s clearly going to be an elite-level scorer in this league. Frankly, he’s still wildly inconsistent. He followed up that brilliant Orlando performance with a poor one against Denver.

In the past, the staunch Daye defenders chalk that up to one of two things: either the veterans didn’t pass to him or John Kuester didn’t play him enough minutes. Now, he did only put up six shots vs. Denver, but it was more a matter of Daye not being very aggressive rather than teammates not looking for him. And he also played 24 minutes. It’s just way too early to project what his ceiling is when he follows up a great performance with a performance in which he only makes one shot. And worse yet, he didn’t even do anything else really against Denver.

Right now, Daye is a nice scoring option off the bench, and a handful of decent performances aside, he hasn’t proven than we should expect him to be anymore than a nice scoring option off the bench.