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Archive → July, 2011

Rodney Stuckey helped organize charity game in Seattle

Rodney Stuckey didn’t play in it, but he, Brandon Roy and some other Seattle area NBA talents helped put on a good show at a charity basketball game at Key Arena over the weekend. From the Seattle Times:

Saturday’s H206 Charity Basketball Classic, which was the first NBA-sanctioned game in Seattle since the Sonics left in 2008, fulfilled most expectations of the game’s organizers.

The attendance was smaller than expected and a handful of local players who were slated to play — Portland’s Brandon Roy, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey, Boston’s Avery Bradley and Chicago’s Brian Scalabrine — didn’t. However, Roy and Stuckey made an appearance.

Still there were plenty of stars on hand in a game that pitted Seattle-area NBA standouts against various players from the league.

While former Sonics Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp coached the home team, Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford — the Rainier Beach High product — thrilled fans with an array of dunks, deft dribbling and showboating.

Seattle has quietly blossomed into one of the top talent-producing hotbeds in recent years, with players like Stuckey, Roy, Crawford, Spencer Hawes, Nate Robinson, Jason Terry and others among the area’s NBA players.

Ben Gordon will get paid during lockout

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Aminu, a rookie last season, is one of four clients of agent Raymond Brothers who spread their 2010-11 NBA salaries over 18 or 24 months to continue receiving paychecks if the league-imposed lockout forces the cancellation of games.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler and Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, all Brothers clients, have similar setups.

On a purely technical level, this is a poor plan for Ben Gordon and friends. Their NBA teams can collect interest on that money for these 6 to 12 months, when if the players had been paid on a typical schedule, they could’ve. But on a practical level, it obviously makes sense. It’s difficult to spend money you don’t have yet, and this plan could definitely help the players manage their budgets.

Zillgitt also spoke with Bill Duffy, who represents Tayshaun Prince:

Agents have advised players to prepare for a lengthy lockout by working with their financial planners.

"For the last two years, we have been consistently preaching about what lies ahead," said Bill Duffy, whose clients include Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash and Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince. "I think our guys are very well prepared to even miss the entire year."

Duffy, who held several conference calls with his players, said he was not worried about his veterans.

"Mostly, it was for the younger guys and modifying their spending habits and not making exorbitant purchases at the beginning of their career," he said.

I hope all these players can handle going a few months without paychecks. The owners clearly want an extended lockout that ends with the players desperate for a deal, any deal. For the good of the game, hopefully, both sides will bargain from a position of power.

PistonPowered Book Club: ‘Playing for Keeps’ by David Halberstam

I had originally planned on doing these book club posts every other Friday, but we’re going to change things up and start doing them every Saturday. The reasons? First, there’s less going on on the weekends news-wise, so theoretically, more time to discuss a book. But more interestingly, a couple guest bloggers have come forward and asked if they could participate (and if others would like to pitch me ideas, feel free to e-mail patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com), starting with today’s guest host, J.M. Poulard of the TrueHoop Network’s Golden State Warriors blog, Warriors World. You can e-mail J.M. at JM.Poulard(at)Warriorsworld(dot)net. And if you’re on Twitter and not following him @ShyneIV already, you’re missing out. He’s one of the best hoops Tweeters out there. Below is his take on Halberstam’s ‘Playing for Keeps’ from a Pistons perspective. Next Friday, we’ll discuss Terry Pluto’s book ‘Loose Balls.’ — Patrick

The old adage has always been that it takes talent to win in professional basketball. Go back through time and look at any championship team and you will find an amazing amount of talent on that squad. But talent alone does not win in the NBA. Indeed, if such were the case, the 2000 Portland Trail Blazers and 2002 Sacramento Kings would be the proud owners of championship rings.

It takes talent yes, but also equally important is willpower. Often times, a group with a bunch of talented players can want to win, but not do enough to get there.

Going all the way might mean imposing your style of play on your opponent or simply completely taking another team out of what they wish to accomplish.

Hence, when we look at past NBA champions, we see talented teams; but also we see extremely mentally tough teams.

If there is one team that exemplifies these traits best, it has to be the Bad Boys Pistons.

In his book Playing For Keeps, David Halebrstam states: “The singular strength of the Pistons, their mental toughness and their sense of purpose made them the most difficult opponent of all for a team on the ascent. The Pistons had an unerring ability to hone in on the weaknesses, physical or psychological, of their opponents.”

Pistons players were smart, tough and focused on winning. Their identity came directly from Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer.

Chuck Daly demanded that his players practice and play hard in order to earn playing time. Furthermore, he would coach a tough team that had fierce practices. Thus, when they played against other teams, they typically had an easier time against them because few teams could match their physicality as well as their intensity, especially in the frontcourt.

Detroit boasted a frontline of Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and Dennis Rodman. For those unfamiliar with these players, one could argue that they are some of the toughest players the league has ever seen. Consequently, they often won games before the tip off, as coaches and players would try to alert officials to expect hard hits prior to the start of games.

The Pistons were the equivalent of the Horsemen in the WCW (wrestling posse that bullied and intimidated other wrestlers in World Championship Wrestling), and Bill Laimbeer was clearly Ric Flair.

Flair spent most of his wrestling career it seems as the World Heavyweight Champion in the WCW; and he retained his title by any means necessary. Using brass knuckles and throwing powder in the face of his opponents were par for the course for him; and consequently the fans despised him.

Laimbeer played the exact same role in the NBA that Flair played in wrestling. Other players regarded him as the league’s premier cheap-shot artist given his willingness to hit players when they were caught in vulnerable positions. The end result was that the Pistons center often got players to lose their cool and play out of focus.

The combination of an imposing physical defense with an extremely tough minded team meant that more often than not the Bad Boys would come out on top.

This explains why former Pistons PR man Matt Dobek once said that the Bad Boys led the league in five-point blowouts: late in games, when officials typically wanted players to decide games, they would allow for much more pushing, grabbing and hitting to occur. Hence, if the Pistons got up by a mere five points late in the game, it was almost impossible for teams to come back.

Between the physical level of play and the taunting of Pistons players, opposing teams almost always unraveled.

The toughest hurdle that Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had to clear was not the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics; it was the Detroit Pistons.

And for all of those who have romanticized the Airness’ career, let’s not forget that the last team to ever beat Michael at full strength in the playoffs was none other than the 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons.

Not only did they defeat Michael’s Bulls, but they nearly broke him.

After Game 7 of 1990 the Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Jordan, much like Isiah Thomas before him (against the Celtics), openly wondered if he would ever be victorious against his nemesis.

What made things particularly hard for Jordan was the way the Pistons attacked him psychologically. The Jordan Rules, the media called it.

Chuck Daly built a defense that challenged the Bulls star both physically and mentally. Every time he would get the ball, the Pistons defense would dare him to take it to the rack and absorb the punishment that came along with it.

For all of his gifts as a basketball player, Michael had an ego that matched his immense basketball skills. Consequently, the Pistons preyed on Jordan’s mind state, knowing he would take the team out of their offense and continually attack a tough defense in an attempt to beat them all by himself.

In doing so, Jordan would get his numbers, but would fail to elevate the level of play of his teammates. So it was no surprise when Chicago players wilted under pressure against Detroit, because that had been the plan all along.

MJ maximized his efforts but ultimately his team came up short in the process. Much like he would eventually do to other teams in the future, the Pistons had cut out his heart and left it exposed to the rest of the basketball world.

At the conclusion of the game, Jack McCloskey (the Pistons’ general manager at the time) spotted Michael Jordan in the parking lot and went over to talk to him. Halberstam shares part of their conversation: “Mr. McCloskey, are we ever going to get past the Pistons? Are we ever going to win?”

The general manager’s answer did not matter as much as the question itself. As Jordan boarded the team bus and wept in the back, it was clear that the man had been defeated and that Detroit was in his head. The three consecutive playoff exits at the hands of the Pistons left him vulnerable in a way we would never see again.

In a roundabout way, Michael Jordan as well as his teammates can thank the Bad Boys for his six championship rings. The physical and psychological abuse that those teams put on MJ’s Bulls eventually hardened them and made them nearly unbeatable.

Although Playing For Keeps is the story of Michael Jordan’s rise to the top, it shows us that the most important battles of Michael’s career happened with Detroit.

The 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons were the last team to defeat Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen after they had enjoyed a full training camp together.

And the Bad Boys accomplished that given their talent, but also because of their ability to stretch out the limits of willpower.

Previously:

Scouting Lawrence Frank: Devin Kharpertian from Nets are Scorching and Hayes Davenport from Celtics Hub give their take

I reached out to a couple of fellow TrueHoop Network writers who have covered the Nets and Celtics, respectively, to get their thoughts from watching Lawrence Frank and his impact up close over the last few years. Here are their responses:

Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching:

First, the good: Lawrence Frank is an absolute workhorse; as the Nets head coach, he was constantly watching video and prepping for games. I mean constantly. Basketball is his life. I’d say that gave him a good grasp of match-ups, and more often than not was able to maximize the talent on New Jersey’s roster.

It didn’t always come up roses, though. There were times when he didn’t command the players’ respect, and veterans occasionally tuned him out. While he’s certainly better than Kuester in this regard, I know that’s been an issue in Detroit. On the floor, I never thought his playbook was particularly diverse. That said, a season with Doc Rivers couldn’t have hurt him in either of these areas.

He was bound to get another head coaching job, given how hard he’s worked at this level. I don’t think he’ll change Detroit forever as we know it, but he’s an above-average coach who will always give you more effort than you expect. But that won’t always mean better results.

Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub:

Watching Lawrence Frank sit on Doc Rivers’s right for a year, it’s pretty clear that he’s capable of being a great head coach, though his work with the Celtics might not appear to speak volumes about his ability to lead a team. He was mostly brought in to maintain the defensive system engineered by Tom Thibodeau and Rivers in previous years, a job that’s really about monitoring details and making sure nothing’s out of place. Frank did the job about as well as it could be done; with every timeout, he was the first coach out on the floor, intercepting players on their way to the bench and making quick tweaks. But beyond his coaching ability, Frank was just as valuable to the Celtics for his personality, which is probably his most relevant asset as a head coach. He’s a very friendly, very funny guy, and he managed to bring the players onto his side by the end of his first day in camp. For the veterans in Boston to listen to you, they have to like you first, and they all really liked Lawrence Frank.

Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe: Pistons could push .500 mark next season

Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe is a fan of the Pistons potentially hiring Lawrence Frank and he expects the returning players to play better next season:

This is not to oversell Frank. The Pistons could hire Red Auerbach and sign Phil Jackson as his lead assistant, and they aren’t doing anything next season but sneaking into one of the final two or three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. But this team should win more than 30 games, and it should be far more competitive defensively next season. Given some effort and development of Detroit’s young guys (Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and Monroe), this team could push .500 next season. That’s a start.

Dave Checketts: Work with the Pistons will end soon, Tom Gores is a friend

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch spoke with Pistons consultant Dave Checketts (hat tip: I am a GM):

As for his next move, Checketts still has his sights set on the NBA. Asked if he would return to basketball, the former New York Knick and Utah Jazz executive, said: “Some day, yes.”

Recently, Checketts caused a stir when it was learned that he had been hired as an adviser to Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores. Checketts said Wednesday that the employment was short-term and will end shortly.

“People can say whatever they want,” he said. “Tom Gores is a friend of mine. He just asked me to take a look at the organization. It probably cost me three days. I know everybody wants me to get this concluded, but we’re working diligently in that direction.”

To clarify, I’m pretty sure that stir was in St. Louis, where Checketts works as the chairman of the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are for sale, and that’s what everybody wants to get concluded.

But I think the sentiment also applies here. Although I had no problem with Checketts temporarily aiding Tom Gores, if Checketts overstays his welcome, that would cause too much friction between him and Joe Dumars. I’m glad to hear Checketts’ three-or-so days with the Pistons will conclude soon.

Michael Rosenberg: Assertion that Joe Dumars was forced to hire Lawrence Frank is ‘laughable’

ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Joe Dumars felt Mike Woodson was the best choice as Pistons coach while Tom Gores and his Platinum Equity colleagues were more impressed by Lawrence Frank. The inference, then, would be that Gores possibly overruled Dumars. Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press says that’s not the case though:

“Any assertion that Joe Dumars was somehow coerced into hiring Lawrence Frank is laughable. Frank has been the likely choice for weeks.”

Even if Dumars favored Woodson over Frank, that doesn’t mean he also wasn’t high on Frank. We know that the Pistons’ hiring process dragged for a long time. Gores has also expressed his desire to learn on the job and to not make decisions without putting a fair amount of time and thought into them. Maybe they identified Woodson and Frank as their two best candidates, interviewed both, and then had healthy internal dialogue on the merits of each. Even if Dumars had a preference for Woodson, that doesn’t mean he was somehow overruled and is now stuck with a coach he doesn’t want in Frank. I would like to think that, based on Gores’ previous comments about his management style, that the team considered many factors and spent the last few weeks reaching a consensus that Frank was the best man for the job. Gores is a smart enough business man to know that it would be a mistake to force a coach on Dumars if Dumars absolutely believed that coach wasn’t right for the job.

UPDATE (via Jason in the comments):

Vincent Goodwill tweeted this:

Contrary to what’s been posted nationally, this was not a Dave Checketts move, IMO…a little heavy-handed stuff to this point

 

Magic Johnson joins Dan Gilbert in Detroit investment, sets the bar for Tom Gores

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times (hat tip: I am a GM):

Lakers Hall of Famer and former Michigan State standout Magic Johnson will join Detroit Venture Partners, a venture-capital firm that invests in seed and early-stage technology companies.

“I am investing in Detroit Venture Partners and the city of Detroit because I want to have a positive impact on the biggest downtown in my home state,” Johnson said in a statement. “I believe strongly in the Detroit 2.0 movement.”

Johnson is referring to the initiative originally launched by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in which he relocated Quicken Loans and its 1,700 workers from the suburbs in Detroit. Gilbert had purchased the downtown Madison Theatre in hopes it becomes a collaborative entrepreneurial hub for tech companies, such as Skidmore Studios. GalaxE.Solutions also opened a downtown office in the former First Federal of Michigan building.

Obviously, Tom Gores has no obligation to help the city of Detroit, but I think Pistons fans generally appreciate those who do. So, when I see Magic Johnson, who was once possibly part of Mike Ilitch’s ownership bid, and Dan Gilbert, who very well could have owned the Pistons had the timing been a bit different, invest in Detroit, I think of Gores.

There’s so much we don’t know about Gores, but in his introductory press conference, he spoke often about engaging the community. We’ll see how he plans to do that, and he’ll have plenty of time to make his own mark as a public figure in this state.

For now, though, Magic and Gilbert have set the standard.

Reaction: Lawrence Frank’s hiring shows that Tom Gores will challenge Joe Dumars

Dan Feldman’s post yesterday pretty much summed up both of our thoughts on Lawrence Frank: we think the Pistons hired the best of the candidates they were interested in, even if compelling cases could also be made for Mike Woodson, Bill Laimbeer or Kalvin Sampson as well. Below are reactions from local and national media to the hiring.

Danny Bohnlein, Need4Sheed:

No Laimbeer, No 2004 LB connection in Mike Woodson, No 1st year coach, and more interestingly No Joe Dumars companion. Frank is from outside of the organization, and will likely fill his coaching staff with others who are from outside of the organization and who have had little to no affiliation with the Pistons and/or Joe Dumars.

Interesting. I’ve been on Team Frank all along so…. I’ll take it.

Matt Dery, 97.1:

I was a Sampson fan at the start of #Pistons search, but I like L Frank. Dynamic guy and fun to talk to. Hope this also means Sully stays.

Does the hiring of Frank signal any discord in Auburn Hills? Stein seems to imply as much with his article on the Pistons hiring Frank. The report is rife with instances of pointing out the “growing influence” of Cheketts. Wojnarowski, meanwhile, doesn’t bother to mention Checketts at all. He does, however, say:

“Frank has benefited from the recommendations of Philadelphia 76ers president Rod Thorn – his old boss with the New Jersey Nets – and Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars holds both Thorn and Rivers in high regard.”

This would indicate that it was Dumars who gave the final blessing and not a sign of Checketts exerting power on the team.

Brian Packey, Detroit Bad Boys:

Now, I imagine there’s going to be some initial disappointment around these parts because it’s not Laimbeer, but at least it’s not Mike Woodson/Dumars’ choice, right? The report less than a week ago was that Dumars wanted Woodson for the job, but his new boss Tom Gores fancied Frank. If that’s true, then I think Gores is making it pretty clear who is running the show.

Either way, Frank is a strong choice. He has experience (and a record for consecutive wins to start a coaching career!), he’s defensive minded, and perhaps most importantly he’s not another pluck from the 2004 Larry Brown family tree of coaching.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie:

He’s famous for starting his coaching career with a pretty good New Jersey Nets team that was better than the 22-20 record Byron Scott left it with when he was fired in 2003-04. Frank started off his Nets tenure with a 14-0 record, and finished it with an 0-16 run in 2009-10. Both disparate records were the function of players either tuning in and tuning out. He, and those teams, weren’t as good or as bad as either record.

Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm:

Frank is a defensive guru – otherwise he wouldn’t have been Thibsy’s replacement in Boston – which is something that has been lacking from the Pistons persona since the end of their glory days. With his main competition for the role being Mike Woodson, improved over the years but still responsible for the Atlanta Hawks Isolation Program, this hire is both the best available, and good in any circumstances. With a horrible defensive team, a promising young center that glorifies the concept of a moving offense, and several players prone to gunning for their own shots (Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, the current version of Rip Hamilton, and while we’re reluctant to include his name on this list and hope he proves us wrong we have to be realistic – Brandon Knight), you can see why the defensive Xs and Os guy takes precedent over the Iso-heavy Mr. Potato Head motivator.

Terry Foster, The Detroit News:

Frank is passionate, and knows his stuff. But will players believe in him? No.

But I’m not here to simply rip a decision by an organization that put their faith in Michael Curry, Flip Saunders and Kuester. Here is a solution that will make this hire work: Clean house.

That means Joe Dumars must forget about re-signing free agent Tayshaun Prince. Dumars must get rid of Richard Hamilton. And Rodney Stuckey. And Tracy McGrady. And the players who turned this franchise into a circus.

Pat Caputo, The Oakland Press:

I would have taken Mike Woodson over Lawrence Frank as Pistons head coach. One of the problems the Pistons have had is controlling players. Woodson’s status as a former player of note would help him in that regard. Also, I didn’t think Frank did that well in New Jersey. He completely lost his last Nets’ team and was more of media darling than an actual success.

Trey Kerby, The Basketball Jones:

And here’s hoping your team of overpaid veterans and mismatched youngsters actually plays for you, unlike when they turned on their previous coach, John Kuester. After two straight seasons that saw the Pistons win fewer than 40 percent of their games, the first such stretch since 1995, you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you. Maybe try that thing where you win your first 13 games again? I dunno, just a suggestion.

Austin Daye in favor of Pistons choosing Lawrence Frank as coach

I saw this tweet from Terry Foster of the The Detroit News last night and my immediate thought was, “Well … good luck Lawrence Frank.”

I already talked to a player about lawrence frank. Not impressed if the pistons hire him he must win them over

Then, in Foster’s column today, he cemented that point:

Frank is passionate, and knows his stuff.

But will players believe in him?

No.

I assume that sentiment from Foster was strengthened because of the perspective given to him by whoever the anonymous player he talked to was (I won’t speculate on who that player was … feel free to go for it in the comments). The point is, after last season’s poor player-coach dynamic that unfolded, having a player blast the decision to hire Frank before he’s even been officially hired was certainly not what an organization trying to turn the page on a terrible couple of years wanted to see.

Thankfully, another player went on the record with Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News and showed refreshing maturity, particularly for a young player. Here was Austin Daye on Frank:

“Two thumbs up,” Pistons forward Austin Daye said. “He’s a winning coach, he’s got a lot of experience. He knows what he’s doing. He had a little rough patch in New Jersey, but other than that, I think he’s a good hire.”

More importantly, it’s clear the Pistons have the strong voice they were looking for.

“I think someone that has his credentials will demand more respect,” Daye said. “Not that Kue (Kuester) didn’t have credentials, but (we need) someone that’s won playoff games. From what I’ve heard around the league, players respect him and he expects a lot from his players.”

Whether you wanted Frank to get the job or not, I think everyone can agree that we all would like the dissension and locker room drama from last season disappear. Daye’s comments are a good step in that direction and hopefully signify that Frank will be given a fair shot by the players at earning their trust. But more importantly, I like that a young player like Daye spoke on this and is setting the example. That’s a good sign for his development.