Archive → June, 2011
Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys killed it covering the Pistons’ press conference introducing Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler and Vernon Macklin Saturday. Matt also caught up with Greg Monroe and got his opinions on the lockout, last season’s drama and his thoughts on his new teammates. Monroe also sang the praises of surprise Pistons head coaching candidate Patrick Ewing:
But when I asked about the recent report that Patrick Ewing was being considered, Monroe’s eyes lit up, perhaps revealing he does have a favorite after all. “He’s a Hoya! Can’t go wrong with a Hoya,” he said while laughing. “He was obviously a great player. He’s been an assistant coach for a few years now, and just watching the development of Dwight Howard as he’s worked with him over the past couple of years — Dwight Howard already had a lot of talent, but you see how much more he’s grown after he’s been working with Pat.
“Big Pat — we call him Big Pat — is a great guy, he knows the game, he played the game so he understands what it takes to be successful at the highest level.”
I wrote about the best of and worst of the NBA draft for ESPN’s 5-on-5. The Pistons didn’t strike me of deserving mention at either extreme, but Michael McNamara of Hornets247 named Brandon Knight his sleeper of the draft:
Although he still went fairly high, I think we will look back in five years and call Brandon Knight a steal for the Pistons at No. 8. Once Joe Dumars clears out some of the mess that is the Pistons’ roster, Knight will become a cornerstone piece that jells perfectly with last year’s first-round pick, Greg Monroe.
Kyle Singler will wear No. 25, and Vernon Macklin will wear No. 20.
Knight to wear 7 not 0 .. Wanted 7 but BG had it, then realized BG switching to 8 next year
BG’s request to switch to 8 was made in March 2010 but NBA didn’t approve for 2010-11 season. It’s OK’d now.
Brandon Knight: Chose between 0 and 7 and seven teams passed over me, so 7 it was.
That wasn’t the only reason Knight preferred 7. Detroit Bad Boys:
Brandon Knight let his family vote on his jersey number — they liked 7 more than zero. 7 is a "divine number," Knight explained.
The Pistons had to draft Kyle Singler. Detroit’s personnel this season forced the Pistons’ hand.
Rodney Stuckey’s insubordination, Richard Hamilton’s tirades, Tayshaun Prince’s insults, Charlie Villanueva’s retweets, Chris Wilcox’s long snoozes, Austin Daye’s tardiness and John Kuester’s stubbornness made them draft Singler.
Their loss of identity made them draft Singler.
Without question, the Pistons reached for Singler at No. 33. They took exactly the type of player who should typically go lower. That’s what happens when you draft for need and why I usually advocate drafting the best player available.
But the Pistons’ had a huge need that outweighed any other factors, and I’m not talking about the need for a backup small forward.
Detroit needed a tough, hard-working, high-character player. Anything more directly related to basketball is secondary.
I think intangibles like attitude, desire and work ethic are important. But I don’t think drafting a player solely because he appeared to exhibit those attributes while playing for a college team that won often makes a lot of sense. Talent and upside matter – at least usually.
In this rare case, the Pistons had to take someone like Singler. In many ways, it’s sad they were ever in that position. But Joe Dumars let the Pistons’ troubles spiral out of control, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
Here’s the good news: Singler has a ton of upside. More on that later.
To understand why the Pistons drafted Singler, and why it makes at least some sense, you need to understand how Dumars initially built the Pistons into winners.
From the lottery to 50 wins and back
When Dumars took over the team in 2000, his first major project was clearing the roster of cumbersome contracts and creating flexibility. Then, he used that flexibility to do what any general manager overseeing a rebuilding team would do. He acquired a bunch of old players.
Alright, nobody else would follow that plan, but it worked for Dumars, whose Pistons won 32 games his first season.
In 2001-02, essentially the first year the roster bore Dumars’ stamp, Detroit started Clifford Robinson (35) and Michael Curry (33). Jon Barry (32), Corliss Williamson (28), Zeljko Rebraca (29) and Dana Barros (34) played prominent roles. Even their young players – Ben Wallace (27), Chucky Atkins (27) and Jerry Stackhouse (27) – weren’t that young. In fact, weighted for minutes played, the Pistons’ were the NBA’s fourth-oldest team that year.
That group of veterans – low on upside and raw talent, high on know-how and hustle – won 50 games. They played the right way and established a culture that lasted into the latter stages of the decade.
Having such an ingrained identity allowed Dumars to integrate players who might not have exhibited such desirable qualities in different environments. He signed Chauncey Billups and traded for Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace. Those three obviously blossomed in one way or another in Detroit, but if they had joined a more turbulent situation, maybe they wouldn’t have reached such high peaks.
Establishing a culture first allowed Dumars to add talent with a minimal risk of discontent and inefficiency. He didn’t need to find guys who would play hard and tough no matter what. He needed to find guys capable of playing hard and tough in the right environment, and that means could pick from a much larger pool.
He tried to repeat the process recently. I believe, on the right team, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye would be much better players. I believe they’d be more accountable. By all accounts, they’re good guys and hard-workers (especially Gordon and Daye on the latter). None of the three – and I don’t mean to single them out, but I see them as having the most upside to improve their approach – was predestined to head down this path.
But by the time they came to Detroit, the culture Dumars worked to established had disintegrated. Subpar defense, softness and complaining were the norm. That’s the system Gordon, Villanueva and Daye bought into, and they’ve perpetuated the culture of losing.
The environment here is been toxic. The Pistons can’t risk exposing more young players before rectifying the problem.
Kyle Singler’s upside
Kyle Singler is a 23-year-old unathletic forward whose game is based on out-thinking and out-hustling his opponent. He’s the prototypical no-upside pick.
But upside is precisely why the Pistons drafted him.
The Pistons need more thinkers and hustlers. They need grit and toughness and determination. They need players who will re-establish a winning culture.
Once they have that, they can take chances on more-talented players – players like Tyler Honeycutt, Jeremy Tyler and Jordan Williams, all of whom were available at 33.
Singler’s upside isn’t in himself, but in what he can help the Pistons add. His main hurdle will be showing he’s capable of getting on the court. To help the Pistons, Singler doesn’t need to wow.
By nature, coaches don’t always give minutes to the best player. They’ll often pick the player they trust most. Most coaches would love Singler’s hard work and hustle.
But there’s a catch: that type of stuff will only get players so far. At a certain point, they must show ability to play basketball. We’ll certainly dig into Singler’s on-court ability in another post.
The question with Singler isn’t whether he’s good. It’s, is he good enough?
His bar is low, but the Pistons’ upside is high.
The Detroit Pistons have expanded their head coaching search by interviewing Orlando Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing, according to league sources.
Ewing, 49, has long desired to be a head coach, and has decried what he viewed as pigeonholing him as a “big man” assistant, a role he has undertaken while an assistant coach in Houston with Yao Ming and in Orlando with Dwight Howard. Ewing has said that he does a lot more than just work with bigs and is ready to run a team.
Wow. I didn’t see that one coming. Not sure how I feel about the possibility of Patrick Ewing becoming the Pistons’ next head coach, but I’m glad they’re willing to interview candidates beyond the obvious choices.
Maybe Ewing makes most sense as a lead assistant in Detroit, where he could prove he’s more than just a big-man coach.
Pistons fans looking for a new jersey: Brandon Knight has requested uniform number 0. Vernon Macklin: 20. Still waiting on Singler.
Some numbers just fit certain players stylistically, and I think this would be a good look for Brandon Knight.
In his column today, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press speculates that Brandon Knight’s arrival could likely mean the departure of Ben Gordon. Here’s the rationale:
But getting out from underneath Ben Gordon’s remaining three years at a throat-clutching $33 million would be the proper decision.
Gordon told me prior to the season’s final game that something had to change next season. He didn’t demand a trade but acknowledged regrets about his time here. Gordon has never gotten the opportunity to truly thrive since his arrival two summers ago because he believed his arrival two summers ago would spawn the end of Hamilton’s time in Detroit.
Now Knight’s arrival means either Gordon or Hamilton has to leave by any means necessary.
Now, as Sharp points out, Hamilton seems like the most likely option to go. But he also notes if a lockout shortens the season, Hamilton’s contract actually has a chance of becoming an asset after this season, since it will be expiring. It’s also not fully guaranteed that final year, meaning teams looking to shed payroll might give up something of value to get it, whereas Gordon would still have two more years on his deal after this season.
Also, I don’t think Sharp is off in his assessment that Gordon is pretty unhappy in Detroit. Check out this tweet from Sean Sweeney of Dime Magazine:
just talking to Ben Gordon about his time in Detroit, cut off the question and called it “terrible” so far…is hopeful that’ll change tho
For chemistry reasons, I assume the Pistons will do what they can to move Hamilton. But it doesn’t seem out of the question that they’ll look to ditch Gordon as well, if the lockout doesn’t completely wipe out the offseason, considering Dumars’ public support of Rodney Stuckey since the season ended. It seems, with Knight’s addition, that Stuckey will see significantly more time at shooting guard. Sharp noted that part of Gordon’s frustration is his belief that Hamilton was going to be moved after Gordon signed here. Now, Stuckey is potentially blocking him at shooting guard.
On Wednesday Brandon Knight confirmed a story I had heard that, in breaks between AAU games, when his teammates would rest, he’d do two-ball drills on the sidelines, alone.
That’s plain awesome. It won’t be difficult rooting for Knight to succeed.