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Archive → May, 2011

Tom Gores officially approved as Pistons owner by NBA

Via Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

I know Dan and I both mentioned it often, but Goodwill and Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News absolutely owned this story from the get, so it’s fitting that Goodwill broke the final piece.

Many thoughts on trading Richard Hamilton and No. 8 to the Cavaliers

As simple as the reported Pistons-Cavaliers-Timberwolves trade appears for Detroit – Richard Hamilton and the No. 8 pick to Cleveland for essentially nothing – the ramifications are fairly complicated. Let’s try to sort through them.

Creating cap room

The first question that comes up about the trade typically involves cap space.

The new Collective Bargaining can change any of these rules, but for now, I’ll evaluate using the current rules.

Without Hamilton, the Pistons would have $34,573,920 committed for 2011-12. That covers seven players – Ben Gordon , Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum, Greg Monroe, Ben Wallace and Austin Daye.

Nearly everyone wants to keep Jonas Jerebko, so Detroit wouldn’t renounce him. His cap hold will be $1,059,293. (The Pistons could, and hopefully would, wait to sign him, because his first-year salary would likely exceed his cap hold. Basically, they’d sign all their other free agents first, then go over the cap to keep Jerebko.) That brings Detroit’s payroll to $35,633,213.

If the Pistons plan to pursue other teams’ free agents, they’d likely have to renounce Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox, Tracy McGrady and DaJuan Summers and release Terrico White, whose contract is fully unguaranteed if waived before July 19, 2011.* The Pistons could sign-and-trade Prince, but they’d have to do so before signing other free agents, because he’ll count at least $11 million against the cap until he signs with any team or the Pistons renounce him. Also, any salary acquire in a Prince sign-and-trade would count against the cap.

*The lockout could prove to be a boon for White. July 19 could easily come and go during a time when teams can’t conduct business. Unless terms for players like White are specifically written into the next CBA, I’d presume his 2011-12 salary would become guaranteed. Maybe the Pistons will be proactive and release him before June 30, when the current CBA expires.

That leaves Rodney Stuckey, whom I’ll address shortly.

The minimum roster size is 12. With eight players (seven under contract and one, Jerebko, who will count as a roster spot), the Pistons would also have three roster charges ($490,180 each) to get to 11.* That puts their salary at $37,103,753.

*I know the Pistons have two second-round picks. Their hold on the salary cap, for all intents and purposes here, is identical to a roster charge.

So, what about Stuckey? The Pistons could renounce him, accept another roster charge and have just $37,593,933 in committed salaries. But as long as they want to retain the right to match a contract he signs elsewhere, he’d count against the cap $8,301,378. Or, if Stuckey signs with Detroit, he’d count for his first-year salary (which hopefully be less than his cap hold).

It all becomes a question of timing (unless the Pistons just want to lose Stuckey, regardless, which seems unlikely) .

Let’s say next year’s salary cap is identical to this year’s ($58,044,00). With Stuckey’s cap hold, the Pistons would have $12,638,869 to sign free agents in addition to Stuckey and Jerebko. They could boost that number to $20,450,067 by renouncing Stuckey and the right to match offers he signs with other teams.

Here’s where the timing issue gets complicated.

Many, myself included, think Detroit could sign Stuckey to a reasonable offer by waiting for other teams to offer him first. But if the Pistons want to use that strategy, he counts $8.3 million against the cap in the meantime.

If Stuckey signs an offer sheet with another team before other free agents the Pistons are targeting sign, they could be left with nobody if they don’t match Stuckey’s offer.

What happens if the Pistons renounce Stuckey to sign another restricted free agent (e.g., DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Greg Oden) and the other restricted free agent’s team matches? Teams can un-renounce players if they did so to sign a restricted free agent and the restricted free agent’s original team matches the offer. But would the Pistons regain the right of first refusal, and what if Stuckey signs elsewhere while the Pistons are waiting on the other team to match? I’ve asked Larry Coon to explain, and I’ll post his answers.

Basically, using this year’s salary cap, the Pistons would have $12,638,869 in cap room this summer if they keep Stuckey’s rights. That number could increase (more likely) or decrease (gosh, I hope not) slightly if they sign Stuckey. Or, they could renounce Stuckey and have $20,450,067 to spend on free agents.

Of course, the huge risk with making this trade before the draft is that the new CBA disappears the newly created cap room.

Richard Hamilton’s value

At this year’s trade deadline, Richard Hamilton had negative value. That’s likely still the case.

In February, the Pistons and Cavaliers agreed to deal that would’ve sent Hamilton and a 2012 lottery-protected first-round pick to Cleveland for essentially nothing.

So, it seems a bit absurd for people to claim the Pistons definitely wouldn’t make this deal. They’re not that different.

Of course, Hamilton’s contract is a little shorter now than in February. The No. 8 pick is probably more a little more valuable than a lottery-protected 2012 first-round pick, but given the poor quality of this year’s draft – and by extension, the large number of underclassmen who would’ve typically come out this year who will instead go pro in 2012 – the difference isn’t huge. Tom Gores buying the team changes some things, too. But overall, if the earlier trade was palatable, this one should at least get consideration from the Pistons.

Making the trade viable

Even if the Pistons wanted to make this trade from a payroll-structure/basketball standpoint, I doubt they would. There’s no way to sell it to the fans.

The Pistons have said they need to receive a player in return to make the deal. Is that because they don’t find the trade appealing? Or is that just so they can spin this trade to look good for fans? Either is possible, and the fix is the same: another player.

Just because the Pistons have turned down this version of the trade, we don’t necessarily have us more info about how much they value Hamilton and the No. 8 pick.

Fixing the culture

There are certainly NBA players who are unhappy with their teams and just playing out their contracts. Nothing will appease them, except a change of venue. They’re miserable, and by extension, they make their teammates miserable.

They might do things like curse out their coach, skip a game when they don’t get their way or lead a practice boycott. Know anyone who fits that bill?

Joe Dumars understands this. That’s why he’s always said he’d trade anyone who wants out. Unfortunately, Hamilton’s large contract has prevented Dumars from trading him.

Making this move or a similar move would benefit Detroit’s culture. As someone outside of the Pistons’ locker room, it’s impossible for us to know how much help the deal would provide. That’s why I’m hesitant to say the trade would absolutely be a mistake.

Creating friends

NBA transactions can’t always be analyzed in simple terms of the amount of direct benefit a team receives. There’s a contingent of agents, advisors, etc. involved who work frequently with every team. As Henry Abbott once explained, it’s like selling a house to your cousin. You’re not just trying to extract as much value to your side as you can.

Leon Rose, Hamilton’s agent, did the Pistons a favor by insisting the Nets include Hamilton in the proposed Carmelo Anthony trade. The Pistons could do Rose a favor by making this trade. That’s how business in the NBA works sometimes.

The Pistons will have to deal with Rose again, most immediately this summer with Stuckey’s free agency. Maybe they don’t save any money on Stuckey by making this trade (that would be an unethical promise for Rose to make, because  wouldn’t be fair to Stuckey), but maybe Rose gives Detroit a better picture of his client’s offers. That could help the Pistons navigate some of the challenges listed above.

Effect of an amnesty provision

If the next Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a one-time amnesty provision, similar to the Allan Houston rule, the Pistons could release one player who wouldn’t count against the luxury tax. Conventional wisdom says the prospect of releasing Hamilton means they shouldn’t make this trade. After all, why give up the No. 8 pick to clear salary if they can accomplish the same result with the amnesty provision?

The first issue is the amnesty provision, as currently constructed, would only affect the luxury tax, not the salary cap. So, the Pistons, who aren’t near the tax line, wouldn’t benefit much from releasing Hamilton.

But what if the final version of the clause provides teams with cap relief and the Pistons would prefer to cut Charlie Villanueva (who I think is the favorite to get the axe), Jason Maxiell or Ben Gordon. Keep in mind, Detroit would still have to pay the released player.

Right now, the Pistons can tell Hamilton they can’t trade him. With his contract and age, there certainly isn’t a market for his services. As much as Hamilton wants out, I’d think he understands that.

But if the Pistons could release Hamilton without cap or tax penalty, he’d almost certainly expect Detroit would make him its amnesty-provision casualty. I’d guess Dumars has been telling Hamilton he’s trying to trade him. From Hamilton’s perspective, this would be the perfect out. How could Dumars deny him now after months of saying he’s trying to trade him (if that’s the scenario)?

That would likely mean a malcontent become unhappier. Rose probably wouldn’t appreciate Detroit cutting someone else, either. See the issues I discussed in the previous two sections for why this matters.

Trades like this aren’t desirable, but the Pistons have their backs against the wall. This might their best chance at avoiding bigger problems in the near future.

Former Pistons Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman remembered for Finals performances

The Good Men Project is running a series parodying the NBA’s weird talking ball commercials. Basically, several writers are coming up with their favorite Finals moments that they’d like to see a creepy animated talking ball discuss. A couple of former Pistons made the cut.

Here’s Tim Burke on Bill Laimbeer:

The first NBA Finals I remember, 1988, lends itself to my strongest NBA Finals memory. I grew up (and remain) a Cavs fan, but my best friend was a Pistons fan. I’ve always been a contrarian by nature, so that meant I was pulling hard for the Lakers.

Game Seven is remembered for a lot of things and a lot of strong visual images, most notably the sheer number of people surrounding the court on all sides in the final moments, and the storming of the court that followed the Lakers’ win. I couldn’t join in those fans’ celebrations, though, because moments before I’d swapped allegiances and become a Detroit supporter, if only momentarily. What did it?

Bill Laimbeer.

And Peter Schrager discusses Frank Brickowski, but more importantly, offers up this Youtube clip of one of the greatest examples of Dennis Rodman’s ability to irritate opponents:

Would the Bulls trade Carlos Boozer for Rip Hamilton or Ben Gordon?

The Chicago Bulls need shooting guard help. The Pistons have extra shooting guards. Keith Langlois of Pistons.com posits on how the two teams would shape up as potential trading partners in his latest mailbag:

No question, the Bulls will need to target a shooting guard good enough to play starter’s minutes but particularly someone who can provide scoring – whether that’s a knock-down perimeter shooter or someone who can create off the dribble. It was widely reported that the Bulls were prepared to sign Rip Hamilton had he agreed to a buyout with Cleveland that would have allowed the reported Pistons-Cavs trade to go down at the trade deadline. It is already being speculated the Bulls will quietly but aggressively explore the trade market for Carlos Boozer this off-season. With Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, they have three players capable of manning the two inside spots. None is anywhere near the scorer Boozer has been. But Boozer is due about $60 million over the next four years – a whopping contract for a player who found himself mostly on the bench in the fourth quarters against Miami because he wasn’t offsetting subpar defense by providing consistent scoring, either in the paint or via his mid-range jumper. I think the Bulls would be naturally interested in Gordon, who enjoyed a high level of success there for five years. Their interest in Hamilton has been already evidenced. The Pistons could certainly use what Boozer at his best offers – but it would have to give them pause that an oft-injured player, about to turn 30, did not have the anticipated impact with the Bulls this season. It would be unusual, also, for teams in the same division with the history of the Pistons and Bulls to trade high-profile players.

A one-for-one Boozer-for-Hamilton trade works, but the Pistons would take on more salary both short and long term since Boozer makes more per year and is signed longer than Hamilton. A one-for-one Gordon-for-Boozer trade wouldn’t work salary-wise. But throw in Jason Maxiell? And you have the Pistons ridding two bad contracts for one bad contract, albeit to a player in Boozer who is sometimes useful and would fill a need as a sometimes capable offensive big man. The Pistons would take on more long-term salary in that deal, but it wouldn’t be as big a long-term hit as a Hamilton trade. If Chicago were willing to take both Gordon and Maxiell — a longshot to be sure, considering the Bulls could surely get better offers than that and no one knows if they are even that motivated to trade Boozer anyway — the Pistons would certainly be wise to consider. But I can’t say that I’d give a Hamilton for Boozer trade much consideration, considering Hamilton’s bad contract is only a year or so away from becoming an asset rather than an albatross. If Boozer’s production declines, a good bet considering his age and reputation for … uh … let’s just say relaxing a bit in non-contract years, his contract will become much more difficult to move down the road.

Detroit Pistons deny they’ve decided to fire John Kuester

The Pistons’ front office hasn’t made many moves lately, but it’s been busy refuting ESPN reports in the last few days. After denying involvement in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Timberwolves, the Pistons are saying they haven’t decided to fire John Kuester (at least, not yet).

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

The Pistons have not made a decision on coach John Kuester’s future, according to multiple team sources.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

A team source with firsthand knowledge of the situation said today that no major decisions will be made until the sale of the franchise to Los Angeles-based financier Tom Gores is complete and that nothing has changed since the end of the regular season. The source requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak for Gores, who is expected to gain control sometime this week.

If the Pistons fire Kuester now, whether Karen Davidson or Tom Gores would pay the final year of his contract becomes another point for the lawyers to deal handle. For simplicity’s sake, waiting makes sense.

That doesn’t mean Joe Dumars hasn’t had discussions about firing Kuester. Ric Bucher’s report came from somewhere. But that means the Pistons can’t publicly say Kuester has been fired.

No Draft Dreams today

Unfortunately, Patrick lost power, so he won’t have a Draft Dreams post for today. Hopefully, he’ll be back up and running for Wednesday.

Pistons to fire John Kuester

Ric Bucher of ESPN:

Detroit head coach John Kuester will not be returning to the Pistons, according to sources. It is presumed that president Joe Dumars and his staff will be returning, but there has been no definitive indication of that yet, sources said.

The approval vote by the Board of Governors on the team’s sale will be Wednesday, sources said. The vote was originally supposed to take place in the middle of June but apparently has been moved up, in part, to give Gores more time to make moves and decisions before the anticipated lockout begins July 1st.

Pistons want more return in trade with Timberwolves and Cavaliers, who would buy out Richard Hamilton

Chris Broussard of ESPN added a couple more details to his earlier report that the Pistons were discussing a trade with the Cavaliers and Timberwolves that would send out Richard Hamilton and the No. 8 pick:

Forgot to mention that if trade happens Cavs would buy out Rip Hamilton. But may be smart to wait & see if amnesty clause in new CBA….
Detroit won’t do 3-team deal as proposed. Would need to get players back in return for Rip and 8th pick…stay tuned

News/Freep source denies Pistons-Cavaliers-Timberwolves trade discussions involving Richard Hamilton

Someone – I’m guessing a member of the Pistons’ front office – is being vigilant about denying the Pistons-Cavaliers-Timberwolves trade that would send Richard Hamilton and the No. 8 pick to Cleveland. These denials came quickly.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Source: Pistons aren’t in discussions with Cavs, Timberwolves.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Source: #Pistons wouldn’t trade Rip, who’s almost becoming an expiring contract w/lockout coming, and get rid of a draft pick

Frankly, these statements mean nothing to me. Whether or not the Pistons are actually discussing this trade, I’d expect them to say this. If they’re not interested in this deal, then they’re saying it because it’s true.

But if they are interested, what else would they do besides deny it?

This looks bad. Many fans don’t want Hamilton gone. Nobody wants the Pistons to essentially forfeit their first-round pick. There’s no way to sell this trade to the fans.

Maybe Ellis’ and Goodwill’s source is telling the truth. Maybe he’s spinning. I have no idea. Both would make sense.

Pistons, Cavaliers and Timberwolves discussing three-team trade than would shed Richard Hamilton, No. 8 pick

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Cavs, Pistons, Twolves discussing 3-team trade that would give Cavs 1st & 2nd picks, sources say.

Cavs absorb Rip Hamilton into 14.6 mill trade exception & get Det’s 8th pick. Cavs send 4th & 8th picks to Minny for 2nd pick

Cavs would then draft Kyrie No. 1 and Derrick Williams No. 2. Nothing imminent but trade us being discussed by the teams.

The Pistons desire to explore this trade should come as no surprise. They nearly sent Richard Hamilton and a lottery-protected 2012 first-round pick to the Cavaliers at the trade deadline.

With so many underclassmen staying in school, a non-lottery pick next year might be more valuable than this year’s No. 8 pick. And because the 2012 draft will be stacked, other players might stay in school until 2013, and so on. The ramifications of this draft might be felt for years. So, if Detroit wants to trade a pick to dump Hamilton, this could be the optimal time.

Also, remember when Joe Dumars said this after the lottery?

We’ve done our homework and we know we can get a good player.

I didn’t believe it then, and I certainly don’t now. I’m not saying the Pistons can’t get a good player at No. 8, but there won’t be any sure things at that spot.