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Archive → June, 2011

CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment Alan Ostfield is out

Crain’s Detroit Business:

Alan Ostfield is out as president and CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment Inc., the umbrella company that manages the Detroit Pistons and three venues.

"We have made some changes as part of an overall realignment of the business side of the organization. We appreciate Alan’s contributions but have decided to move in another direction," Phil Norment, a partner with new Palace Sports owner Platinum Equity LLC, said in a statement this afternoon.

"The search for a president of business operations will be completed as quickly as possible. PS&E is also looking to expand its sales force and is in the process of hiring additional sales representatives."

Several other employees are thought to have been ousted as well.

Whoa. Tom Gores is making waves.

It doesn’t seem like this is lockout-related. One of my first thoughts was the Pistons are reducing staff while their basketball operations are ceased. But if they’re truly looking for an immediate replacement and more sales representatives, as Norment claims,* that theory goes out the window.

*Just because he says it doesn’t necessarily make it true. People like to hear the Pistons and their sister companies are hiring. It makes them seem vibrant and attractive to potential sponsors and customers.

I’m not saying Norment is misleading the public. I have no idea whether he is or isn’t. I’m just pointing out he has incentive to do so.

Ostfield took over for Tom Wilson, when Wilson left to work for the Red Wings. Here’s part of a Pistons statement at that time:

Alan Ostfield joined the Pistons and Palace in 2000 as senior vice president for legal affairs and assumed his current title as chief operating officer of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons and as assistant general manager of the Detroit Pistons in 2002. Previously, he was senior vice president and general counsel for the San Diego Padres major league baseball club. A resident of Beverly Hills, Michigan, Mr. Ostfield earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA and JD degrees from Boston University.

"I have the deepest respect for Tom Wilson and the culture of excellence he and Mr. Davidson developed here," said Mr. Ostfield. "Working with Tom has been an extraordinary professional and personal experience, and I am confident the management team we have in place can build on his achievements and momentum. I appreciate Mr. Davidson’s confidence in me as well as ownership’s trust and support as I assume these new responsibilities."

"Alan Ostfield and Tom have functioned as an outstanding senior management team in anticipation of a seamless transition," said Jonathan Aaron, co-personal representative of Mr. Davidson’s estate. "Tom has left his indelible mark on our organization and we want to thank him for his years of exemplary leadership."

We’ll certainly keep an eye on which other Pistons employees the new regime has let go, too.

For better or worse, Gores is making his mark at The Palace.

Update: Alan Ostfield speaks

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Ostfield seemed content and relaxed when reached by the Free Press.

"I knew that when I committed to stay on to get the organization through this transition that this outcome was a distinct possibility," Ostfield said. "This wasn’t about me or one particular person.

"It was all about transitioning this organization on to the next phase from the wonderful ownership of Mr. Davidson. And I accomplished that."

Mike Woodson interviews with Pistons’ Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment

Mike Woodson met with Tom Gores’ right-hand men, Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment, according to Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press:

“I wore my best suit," Woodson joked. “They didn’t really give me a timetable. I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. They said they were going to go away, and I’m sure they’ll talk to Mr. Gores and figure out their next move, I guess. All I can say is that I thought it went well."

Woodson also said he hasn’t met Gores and Joe Dumars was in and out of today’s meeting.*

*Today is the final day teams can make trades using 2010-11 salaries and the current Collective Bargaining Agreement’s rules. I suspect most trades the Pistons would make will also be possible after the lockout, but Dumars has probably spent most of his day doing his due diligence in case a deal presents itself that works now but might not later.

If he doesn’t make a trade before midnight, I’m not concerned. I don’t care whether he makes roster moves three months or three days before training camp. Neither changes Detroit’s prospects for next season and beyond.

It certainly appears Woodson is progressing as a candidate. Meeting with the Bobs* Bob &Phil,** seems like the next step toward him becoming the Pistons’ next head coach.

*Norment should really change his first name to Bob. I can’t read about them and not picture this.

**I’m going to continue introducing them with their last names for now, but fair warning, Wentworth and Norman will soon be known as just “Bob & Phil” on this site.

I wouldn’t necessarily conclude this is Woodson’s job to lose,, though. Who knows how many other candidates the Pistons plan to bring back for second interviews? Maybe they just happened to schedule Woodson’s second interview first.

But without knowing any plans for more second interviews, I’d guess – and I stress “guess” – Woodson is the favorite.

Mike Brown praises John Kuester’s “ability to effectively communicate,” expected to make Kuester the Lakers’ offensive coordinator

The Lakers formally announced John Kuester has joined their staff as an assistant coach, and Mike Brown said in their statement (emphasis mine):

"I’m extremely excited to have John join the team as a member of my coaching staff," said Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown. "Having previously worked together in Cleveland, I know what assets he will bring to the team. His ability to effectively communicate with the players while teaching them valuable skills on both ends of the court is a quality that I respect and value. I look forward to working with him again."

OK, now that we’ve had our laugh at Kuester’s expense, let’s move on to the meat of the issue for the Lakers.

John Kuester as an offensive coordinator

It’s a bit funny to me that John Kuester has been labeled an offensive coach. Before his final season as an assistant coach with the Cavaliers, 2008-09, he’d always stressed defense first. But then-Cleveland coach Mike Brown wanted someone to improve the Cavaliers offense and turned to Kuester.

It worked. Cleveland’s offensive rating improved from 20th to fourth, and Kuester’s reputation changed. He became known as offensive guru, a label he carried to Detroit.

It doesn’t appear he’ll shake that tag in Los Angeles anytime soon. The Orange County Register:

The Lakers are expected to have Kuester, regarded as an excellent offensive coach, in charge of offense and Phil Jackson holdover Chuck Person in charge of defense — with Jim Boylen also a full-time assistant on the bench.

Kuester’s meek personality made him a poor head coach, but it doesn’t matter as much as an assistant coach.* He’s a much better fit further down the bench, and I think he’s become a good fit as an offensive coordinator, too.

*At least, it usually doesn’t matter for assistant coaches. But now that Kuester has been exposed as someone the players feel they can walk over, it might matter now in Los Angeles. Usually, assistant coaches never have a real chance to display their shortcomings. It will be important for Kuester that Kobe Bryant treats him with respect, because then, the other Lakers will fall in line.

The Pistons didn’t have a group of players who complemented each other well last season, and although that problem hindered their defense more than their offense, it certainly affected both ends. Even though everyone expected the Pistons to run an isolation offense, Kuester didn’t settle. He tinkered and adjusted and schemed throughout the season.

The Pistons never had an offensive identity, but they did a lot of things:

Somehow, that hodgepodge ranked 15th in offensive rating – pretty great for the Pistons’ lowly standards.

Will it work in Los Angeles? Maybe, but I don’t expect the Lakers to run the same offense. What Kuester did with the Cavaliers and a clear central player, LeBron James, is probably a better guide for Kobe and the Lakers.

But Kuester’s time in Detroit showed a willingness to adjust and ability vary his schemes. That should serve the Lakers well.

Kuester’s track record suggests he’s a good, but not necessarily great, offensive coach. Most teams don’t get someone like that to work as an assistant.

The Lakers did well to nab Kuester.

Chauncey Billups’ Denver homecoming won’t be as emotional as his Detroit homecoming

Chris Tomasson at HoopsHype has a nice story on Chauncey Billups up today. It’s mostly related to the Knicks — loved Billups’ comments about the Knicks not needing any more stars — but he did talk about what it was like returning to Detroit after he was traded. Billups will have his return to Denver as a visitor with the Knicks this season (knock on wood), and said it won’t be the same as his return to Detroit with the Nuggets was:

“I’m not mad at (the Nuggets) at all,’’ Billups said. “It is what it is. It’s a business. I thought I was going to finish my career in Detroit (before the 2008 trade to Denver). I thought I was going to finish my career (in Denver). It didn’t happen. I don’t know where I’m going to finish my career.’’

Billups figures to get a big round of applause whenever he makes his first trip back to the Pepsi Center. But Billups insists it won’t be like his March 2009 Detroit homecoming.

“It will be cool,’’ Billups said. “It won’t be emotional for me. It won’t be like when I went back to Detroit. I had so many great years in Detroit. Six years, won a championship. Three years I was (with the Nuggets). Had some good, fun years. But it won’t be a big deal at all. I wasn’t (in Denver) long enough. It won’t be a big deal at all. But with Melo, it will be… I’m just going to sit back and chill and watch that.’’

At least one general manager preferred Brandon Knight over Kyrie Irving

And it wasn’t Joe Dumars (unless he’s talking to himself). Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

But were there teams in the NBA that preferred Knight over Irving? Yes. One GM told the Pistons as much the morning after the draft.

I think Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving have nearly identical upsides, but I think Irving has shown he’s much further ahead right now – and that’s why Irving deserved to go No. 1. So, part of me thinks it’s great another general manager thinks so highly of Knight, and part of me thinks that general manager is foolish.

Lakers hire John Kuester

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

Also, the Lakers probably will announce this week they have hired assistant coaches John Kuester, Chuck Person and Quin Snyder, according to an NBA executive not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

Working for Mike Brown in Los Angeles is a good and long-expected match for John Kuester, whom the Pistons fired earlier this month. He’s much more suited to be an assistant coach, and he should help the Lakers.

Pistons to interview Mike Woodson a second time

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The Free Press has learned that former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson will be in town Thursday for his second interview with the Detroit Pistons.

Rehashing my Draft Dreams post on Woodson, I’m not thrilled about the him. Given how unexceptional his Atlanta defenses were, I don’t think he’s that safe a choice.

Terrico White and the lockout

Almost every Piston will suffer from the upcoming lockout. Detroit’s pending free agents – Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Tracy McGrady, Chris Wilcox and DaJuan Summers – will likely have to find contracts in a new climate more favorable to owners. The other Pistons will eventually have to become free agents in the new conditions, too. And, of course, no players will get paid during a lockout.

But I started this post with “almost” for a reason.

Terrico White might benefit from the lockout.

White, a rookie last season, signed a two-year contract. The first year paid him $473,604. The second year will pay him $788,872, but – and this is a huge but – he won’t get any of his second-year salary if the Pistons waive him on or before July 18, according to Sham Sports.

Before we go any further, let’s quickly get two scenarios out of the way.

1. The Pistons think White is great. If that’s the case, they’ll definitely keep him, lockout or no lockout.

2. The Pistons think White is awful. If that’s the case, they’ll definitely waive him, lockout or no lockout.

If either of those scenarios is accurate, this is all extremely simple and the post can end here. But I don’t think either are.

I think a third scenario is likeliest: the Pistons believe enough in White to want him back under some circumstances, but not enough to want him back in all circumstances. If that’s the case, Detroit faces a difficult decision.

In a typical year, when free-agent negotiations begin July 1, the Pistons would have a much better idea of their 2011-12 roster by the time they’d have to make a decision on White. If they’ve already signed or traded for a better guard, they’d likely waive White. If they haven’t and don’t believe they can, they’d likely keep White.

But with a lockout looming, I don’t think the Pistons can chance waiting until July 18. I think they must decide by June 30, before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. If a lockout is still in effect July 18, the Pistons can’t make roster moves, meaning they can’t waive White.

It’s my understanding that if July 18 comes and goes and the Pistons haven’t waived White, his second season will become fully guaranteed for $788,872. Of course, the owners and players could always overrule the contract and collectively bargain a solution for clauses like White’s – perhaps, giving teams a few days after the lockout to still waive him. But do the Pistons want to risk that?

If they don’t, they must decide by tomorrow whether they can fill White’s roster spot with a more valuable player.

Or maybe they’ll decide it’s worth taking the chance of doing nothing tomorrow. They could hope the lockout will end before July 18, giving them more time to evaluate White.

If the Pistons haven’t waived White by the time the CBA expires tomorrow, his chances of making $788,872 next season will rise dramatically – whether the Pistons keep him or not. Without a lockout, he’d likely make that money only if the Pistons kept him.

Not bad timing for a lockout for White.

Agency representing Ben Wallace and Tracy McGrady planning a tournament of NBA players in China during lockout

If the NBA does, indeed, lock out its players, there are plenty of ideas floating around about things that would fill the void if it ends up being a prolonged stoppage. One interesting concept, reportedly pitched by Wasserman Media Group, is a basketball exhibition in China this summer featuring NBA players:

In a “China Basketball Tour” proposal summary obtained by SportsBusiness Journal, a sister publication of Sporting News, Wasserman in April began floating a plan to bring 15 to 20 of its NBA clients to China for a two- or three-week tournament if there is a work stoppage. The agency represents 45 NBA players, including this past season’s Most Valuable Player, Derrick Rose.

Not sure how players would be chosen, but WSG does represent two players who played for the Pistons last season, Tracy McGrady and Ben Wallace. McGrady is a huge star in China and was already planning a visit there this summer.

Pistons won’t extend qualifying offer to DaJuan Summers

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The writing was on the wall when the Detroit Pistons drafted Kyle Singler in the second round of last week’s NBA draft, but they have declined to offer a qualifying offer to third-year small forward DaJuan Summers – basically turning him loose on the open market whenever the NBA’s labor cloud lifts.

This doesn’t mean the Pistons can’t re-sign him, but it signals that they won’t. It just means Summers won’t be a restricted free agent, so the Pistons won’t have the right to match any offer sheets he signs.

The advantage for the Pistons not extending the qualifying offer is Summers won’t have the option of accepting a one-year, $1,059,293 contract with Detroit. Obviously, with Kyle Singler, Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko (and I think a decent chance of Tayshaun Prince) in the fold for next season, there just wasn’t a place for Summers on this team.