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Archive → September, 2011

Don’t call Austin Daye soft

Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge and CBS Sports is in Las Vegas for the Impact Training Series where Austin Daye is currently playing along with several other pros. Golliver caught this exchange between Daye and Dahntay Jones of the Indiana Pacers:

Dahntay Jones calls Austin Daye soft. Daye replies by signaling towards media & saying, “You’ve got the worst game in here, ask any of them”

Boom, roasted. I’ve said this a few times, but there is no Piston I’m more excited to watch once the season starts than Daye. I’m not yet convinced that he’s anything more than a solid shooter/bench scorer at the NBA level, but I think he’s had a great offseason, and stories like that give me hope that his toughness and confidence, two aspects of his makeup that needed some work, have improved.

Charlie Villanueva listed at No. 191, Will Bynum at No. 188 in ESPN #NBARank

Arguably the most polarizing Piston, Charlie Villanueva, has now been unveiled in the ESPN NBA Rankings, coming in at No. 191 overall.

I’ll reserve my opinions and allow everyone else what they think in the comments. Is the ranking fair? Too high? Too low? I think Brady Ford on Twitter summed up how many Pistons fans feel about Villanueva:

@NBAonESPN Last season, the 6’9″ Villanueva made $23,796.61 for every rebound he collected. Money well spent Joe D!”

The basic issue for Villanueva is that the Pistons’ greatest need is for a big bodied scorer, rebounder and defender down low. Villanueva has the size at 6-foot-11 and he does have a diverse, if highly streaky, skillset offensively. But his defense and rebounding have fallen way short of expectations in Detroit, even if he is capable of the occasional scoring outburst.

Will Bynum, meanwhile, came in just ahead of Villanueva at No. 188. I’m really happy to see Bynum at that spot. I fully realize he has some flaws in his game as well, but I’ve also appreciated how hard he’s played since arriving in Detroit and I have the utmost respect for the journey he took just to have a NBA career. It’s frankly nice to see him out-ranking one of Detroit’s high priced underachievers.

Other Pistons unveiled in the rankings are: Jonas Jerebko (206), Austin Daye (217), Ben Wallace (227), Jason Maxiell (239), Brandon Knight (267), Chris Wilcox (330), Kyle Singler (446), Terrico White (472) and Vernon Macklin (498).

If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow along. The @NBAonESPN account is unveiling the names and picking the best comments that use the #NBARank hashtag for retweets and also featuring some on ESPN.com.

Chevette to Corvette No. 61: The 1963-64 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 23-57
  • Pythagorean record: 22-58
  • Points scored per game:  107.8 (8th of 9)
  • Points allowed per game: 115.5 (7 of 9)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coach: Charles Wolf

Leaders

  • Points per game: Bailey Howell (21.6)
  • Rebounds per game:  Ray Scott (13.5)
  • Assists per game: Johnny Egan (4.8)

Top player

Bailey Howell

Howell led the Pistons with 21.6 points per game, and he averaged 10.1 rebounds per game. He also shot 47.2 percent from the field and 80.9 percent from the free-throw line, both the best marks on the team among those who played at least 25 games.

He also didn’t have to play center, which allowed him more freedom than a couple of his talented teammates. Sports Illustrated’s season preview:

the Pistons are so desperate in the pivot they might consider using Zollner himself there. Six-foot-8 Bob Ferry will open at center, though he is better as a forward, with unimpressive Darrall Imhoff in reserve. Ray Scott, another forward, may be moved to center if DeBusschere takes Scott’s spot at forward.

The Pistons can go fast for all 48, but they won’t go far without a center.


Key transaction

Waived Walter Dukes before the season

Dukes, a 7-foot center, had played with the Pistons since they moved from Fort Wayne six years previously. He was an excellent athlete, and combined with his size, that made him a quality rebounder.

But by the 1962-63 season, he was 32 (in an era where that made Dukes the the NBA’s fifth-oldest player) and his game had mostly deteriorated. It probably made sense to cut him, especially given his off-court, um, adventures. Vic Ziegel of the New York Daily News:

"He was never the player he was in college," said Billy Kenville, a Detroit teammate. "He played hard, he was a good rebounder, but those years with the Globies hurt him, I think. He never refined his game. Walter was friendly, quiet, but Walter lived in his own world."

For instance: "He got an amazing number of parking tickets because he parked wherever he wanted. Once, when we played an exhibition game in Canada he didn’t show up. He said he didn’t have a passport. But none of us had passports. One season he started wearing contact lenses and his first game was outstanding. The next night he was missing passes, up to all his old tricks. Turned out he put his contacts in the wrong eyes. But that was Walter."

Another Piston, George Yardley, contributed this story to a book by referee Earl Strom: "As bad as Walter smelled, he had a lot of girlfriends … (Teammate Sweetwater Clifton) gave him some toothpaste and Ban deodorant. Everyone was watching as Walter opened the Ban. He knew it was deodorant, but apparently the only people he had seen use it were women, because poor Walter started putting the stuff on the inside of his thighs and on his chest. We all had to bite our tongues to keep from laughing."

Still, the Pistons had no replacement for him.

Trend watch

14-season postseason streak snapped

For the first time since their inaugural NBA season – and the first time in Detroit – the Pistons failed to make the playoffs. Not only that, they finished last in the Western Division and 19 games out of the postseason.

Why this season ranks No. 61

Dave DeBusschere played just 15 games due to injury, and he certainly would have made Detroit marginally better, but the team had much bigger issues.

The Pistons hated their coach, and they played like it. Imagine last season, slightly scale back the mutiny and subtract seven wins. It’s not pretty.

Tom C. Brody of Sports Illustrated:

Under Charlie Wolf the Pistons probably were the unhappiest team ever assembled. Wolf did not smoke or drink or swear or run around late at night and he was hell-bent on making sure no one else did either. Midseason practice sessions consisted of push-ups, sit-ups and lectures. "We had to raise our hand if we wanted to go to the bathroom," said one player. And during a game, one missed shot or bad pass meant a trip to the pines, as Piston Center Reggie Harding refers to bench time.

"I’d trade every one of you," Wolf once told his players in an effort to build up their confidence, "except you’re so bad no one will have you."

Wolf might have been right about his players’ value, but he certainly didn’t help.

Even Wolf’s ideas that weren’t necessarily terrible at inception didn’t pan out. In a story told by Ray Scott, relayed by Eli Zaret in Blue Collar Blueprint:

We did military calisthenics and had to carry clipboards around for drills, for stats and the like. We sat on the bench and kept stats during the games. It was, ‘I keep track of your stats; you keep track of mine.’ Wolf’s theory was that keeping each other’s stats kept us involved.”

Scott remembers the inevitable results. “You got a player coming over during a game and he says, ‘Let me see my stats.’ You show him and he says, ‘No, I had two steals while I was out there.’ ”

Previously

63. 1979-80 Detroit Pistons

62. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons

Chevette to Corvette No. 62: 1993-94 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 20-62
  • Pythagorean record: 21-61
  • Offensive rating: 102.7 (23rd out of 27)
  • Defensive Rating: 110.9 (26th of 27)
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: Don Chaney

Leaders

  • Points per game: Joe Dumars (20.4)
  • Rebounds per game: Olden Polynice (12.4)
  • Assists per game: Isiah Thomas (6.9)
  • Steals per game: Lindsey Hunter (1.5)
  • Blocks per game: Olden Polynice/Charles Jones (1.0)

Top player

Joe Dumars

Dumars became the last Bad Boy standing in one of the worst seasons in Pistons history. Dennis Rodman was traded in the offseason, Bill Laimbeer retired just 11 games into the season and Isiah Thomas played in just 58 games before rupturing his Achilles tendon, ending his career.

Although he wasn’t as old as Thomas or Laimbeer, Dumars was no spry youngster himself. This would be the last season Dumars averaged more than 20 points per game and the last time he’d shoot 45 percent or better from the field in his career.

Now, Dumars certainly proved to be a key steadying presence on future teams as well as a versatile player who spent time at both guard spots and still shot the three at a reliable clip in subsequent seasons. At 30-years-old, time was catching up with Dumars, but in 93-94? Joe D could still score the ball. Even before Thomas’ injury, Isiah was clearly no longer a go-to scorer. Dumars had quietly ascended into that role, and Dumars’ diverse skillset of rainbow 3-pointers, a great post game for a guard and shifty moves in the mid-range area made him a tough cover. The Pistons were a bad team, but Dumars’ efforts helped prevent them from being a historically bad team (seriously … look at that roster).

Dumars’ play in February and March might have been the biggest highlight of an overall dismal season. Beginning with a 42 point effort Feb. 5 vs. New Jersey, Dumars would score 40 points or more in four of 13 games in that stretch. Dumars was miscast as a sole go-to player, but once the Bad Boys seemingly fell apart overnight, he made every effort he could to keep an inferior team competitive on a nightly basis.

Key transaction

Traded Dennis Rodman, Isaiah Morris, a 1994 second round pick and a 1996 first round pick to San Antonio for Sean Elliott, David Wood and a 1996 first round pick

This trade was insanely bad, not just because Rodman was an extremely undervalued player and Elliott was overrated because he had decent offensive numbers playing next to David Robinson. I wrote in-depth about how badly the Pistons were ripped off last year on PistonPowered:

But it wasn’t just ‘fit’ and ‘production’ (or a lack of both) that made this a bad trade. Check out what Elliott once told SLAM’s Alan Paul about the trade:

SLAM: In ’93, your trade from Detroit to Houston was voided when you flunked the physical. Is that how you learned you had kidney disease?

SE: No. I knew way before that. Detroit knew I had a kidney condition before they got me, but they just wanted to get rid of Dennis Rodman. The Spurs didn’t know if I was going to be able to play more than another year or two, so this was a chance for them to get something in return. Midseason, we told Detroit I wanted to go somewhere out West, because things were not working out. The Pistons had told Houston I had something going on but when they tested me out, all the doctors had different opinions and everyone was in limbo. They sent me back to Detroit, which eventually sent me back to San Antonio.

I mean … read that quote again. There’s a lot to process in there. The Pistons traded arguably their best overall player at that point in Rodman for a one-dimensional scorer who they knew had a kidney condition. Then, when they were trying to trade Elliott midseason, they TOLD THE TEAM WILLING TO TRADE FOR HIM THAT HE HAD A CONDITION! Of course Houston would nix that trade!

Elliott never fit in with the Pistons, he had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, and at the end of the season, he was traded back to San Antonio for Bill Curley and a second draft pick that would become Charles O’Bannon. Elliott was one of the most disappointing acquisitions the Pistons ever made. He was a young All-Star who was supposed to be the transitional star, along with Dumars, the team needed while more pieces from the Bad Boys era were replaced. The fact that the team was ready to cut ties with him at midseason shows just how poorly they miscalculated when trading for him.

Trend watch

Goodbye defense

After the Pistons helped revolutionize the way defense was played in the 1980s, bringing physicality and toughness to the game and setting the stage for the bully-ball of the 1990s brought to you by the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, the Pistons didn’t just see some slippage defensively in 93-94. This season would mark the first of two straight seasons that the Pistons finished in the bottom two in the league in defensive rating.

The evaporation of the defense is totally understandable, looking at the roster. Rodman, the league’s best defender and rebounder, was traded for a terrible defender in Elliott. Laimbeer tried to give it a go, but just couldn’t physically play near the level he used to. The team’s best shot blocker, John Salley, was also traded.

Replacements up front included the pudgy Terry Mills, a decent offensive player who was never particularly comfortable playing physically, Charles Jones, who was signed as a free agent but was actually the same age as Laimbeer (36), and Cadillac Anderson. Olden Polynice put up good rebounding numbers, but the team thought so highly of him that they traded him for Pete Chilcutt. The sheer number of big men the Pistons paraded out there during the 93-94 season in an effort to have any semblance of a defensive presence is crazy. Along with those guys already mentioned above, David Wood, Marcus Liberty, Tod Murphy, Dan O’Sullivan and Ben Coleman also got looks.

Why this season ranks No. 62

This season was absolutely tragic. Not only was Rodman shipped off before the season started, but the Pistons unceremoniously lost Laimbeer and Thomas unexpectedly in-season. Those guys were deserving of much better send-offs. But, in Laimbeer’s case, he had one final performance that I will always remember.

Shaquille O’Neal was in his second year in the league with the Orlando Magic, and by this point, it was already clear he was going to be the league’s biggest marketing star not named Jordan. He was huge, he dunked all the time and his personality off the court was engaging. He had all of those tools working for him, he played for a still relatively new team in Orlando and the franchise was experiencing its first success with him as the key figure and rookie Penny Hardaway joining him in 93-94. The Magic were the league’s darlings, and if growing up a Piston fan taught me anything, it’s to always hate the league’s darlings.

In November, I, like anyone else, was admittedly excited to see Shaq play the Pistons. Sure, I acted like I hated him, but he was still entertaining to watch. But Bill Laimbeer still had one vintage performance left.

Now, Laimbeer was no match for Shaq defensively, other than being able to still supply a good, hard foul. But the Pistons won one of their 20 games by knocking off the Magic, a team that would go on to make the playoffs, and Laimbeer is the major reason the Pistons pulled off that upset. He scored 26 points off the bench, hitting 11 of his 15 shots (only one of them a 3-pointer), and grabbed seven rebounds in 32 minutes. O’Neal simply didn’t respect Laimbeer enough to actually step out and guard him and Laimbeer punished him for it. Laimbeer only played five more games after that one (he also actually had a 25-point game in a win over Philly in that span as well, but the Orlando game sticks out more in my mind) before abruptly retiring. It would’ve been nice to have seen Laimbeer and Thomas get the chance to play a full season on a better Pistons team in their final year, but with that not in the cards, Laimbeer’s performance against Orlando will always stick out as perhaps the coolest moment of that otherwise horrible season.

Previously

Pistons hire John Loyer, “likely to retain” Brian Hill as assistant coaches

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Assistant coach John Loyer is headed to Detroit to join Lawrence Frank’s staff, according to Nets coach Avery Johnson, who spoke with beat writers today from the practice facility in East Rutherford.

Loyer, who worked under Frank in New Jersey, is leaving a staff that already lost Larry Krystkowiak and may also lose/let go of Sam Mitchell.

Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press:

They are likely to retain assistant coach Brian Hill.

Neither hire is a surprise. The Pistons received permission to interview Loyer a week ago, and Lawrence Frank worked with Hill before.

With Dee Brown and Roy Rogers already in the fold, that makes four assistant coaches. Although the Pistons could hire more, I’d guess you’re looking at your coaching staff for next season. Bringing in more assistants would have diminishing returns and add costs.

Chevette to Corvette No. 63: The 1979-80 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 16-66
  • Pythagorean record: 22-60
  • Offensive Rating:  101.2 (22nd of 22)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.8 (19th of 22)
  • Arena: Pontiac Silverdome
  • Head coach: Dick Vitale (4-8), Richie Adubato (12-58)

Leaders

  • Points per game: Bob Lanier (21.7)
  • Rebounds per game:  Bob Lanier (10.1)
  • Assists per game: Ron Lee (5.6)
  • Steals per game:  Ron Lee (2.7)
  • Blocks per game:  Terry Tyler (2.7)


Top player

John Long

Long had a fine season, averaging 19.4 points on a career-best 50.5 percent shooting. He also might be the only top player in this series who didn’t lead Detroit in a major per-game category that year.

That’s just how screwed up this season was.


Key transaction

Pistons trade two No. 1 draft picks to the Celtics for Bob McAdoo

Before the season, the Celtics signed Pistons forward M.L. Carr, and per NBA rules at the time, they owed Detroit compensation. So, Pistons coach and general manager Dick Vitale began negotiating with Boston’s Red Auerbach – a real meeting of the mind (no ‘s’).

Vitale desperately wanted Bob McAdoo, who was just 27 and had been one of the league’s top scorers. So, in his plan to outfox Auerbach, Vitale offered two first-round picks and the rights to Carr for McAdoo. Auerbach accepted, obviously.

McAdoo flamed out in Detroit, where he earned the nickname “McAdon’t.” The Pistons cut him a year and a half after trading for him, to the relief of everyone, especially McAdoo, who never wanted to come to Detroit.

Using the picks they received in the deal, Boston picked up a couple guys named Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. They turned out OK.

And that was supposed to be the Pistons’ compensation for the Celtics signing Carr!

Trend watch

14-game losing streak

The Pistons ended the year on a 14-game losing streak, which began just a week after they had broken  13-game losing streak. To say they gave up on the season would be an understatement.

Why this season ranks No. 63

The Dick Vitale era didn’t feature many sound roster-management decisions. It didn’t feature much quality coaching. It certainly didn’t feature many wins.

But it had a lot of hope. The charismatic Vitale could at least provide that.

By the 1979-80 season, even the hope was gone.

The Pistons fired Vitale after just 12 games, and one of his assistants took over. The season was lost, and it became clear the franchise needed to start over.

In December, the Pistons hired Jack McCloskey, who traded their top player and franchise center, Bob Lanier, to the Bucks in February. Although the Pistons probably needed a fresh start sans Lanier, in the short term, the trade made them unbearably bad.

The Pistons finished with 16 wins – not just the lowest total in franchise history, but the lowest by a full four games.

When you consider Detroit traded away the high first-round pick generated by their league-worst record, this season has no redeeming qualities.

Despite missing last season, Jonas Jerebko still ranks at No. 206 in the ESPN #NBARank

Jonas Jerebko didn’t play in a single game last season and still nearly cracked the top 200 in ESPN’s ranking of the top 500 players and incoming rookies in the league, coming in at No. 206.

Mostly, that’s just a testament to the work he put in as a rookie. He’s an extremely efficient and hard-working player. A hopefully healthy Jerebko will make the Pistons a much better product to watch this season. He might not make much difference in terms of wins and losses, but he will play hard and with passion, which will be an improvement over how several players on the team played last season.

I’m also really excited to see a Jerebko-Greg Monroe frontcourt. Should be fun to watch those two attack the glass.

Other Pistons unveiled in the rankings are: Austin Daye (217), Ben Wallace (227), Jason Maxiell (239), Brandon Knight (267), Chris Wilcox (330), Kyle Singler (446), Terrico White (472) and Vernon Macklin (498).

If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow along. The @NBAonESPN account is unveiling the names and picking the best comments that use the #NBARank hashtag for retweets and also featuring some on ESPN.com.

Pistons won’t bring back assistant coach Pat Sullivan

Matt Dery of 97.1 The Ticket (via Matt Watson):

#Pistons staff nearly complete. Pat Sullivan will not be back. A great young coach who will be an asset to any NBA staff. Will be missed.

Well, that updates Vincent Goodwill’s report from earlier that Sullivan and Brian Hill were still in the running for assistant gigs. As Watson pointed out, Sullivan seems like a fine coach, but he has been a fixture in Detroit under three coaching regimes, so it might be the right time to start fresh, even if Sullivan has worked for Frank in the past. No word yet on Hill’s fate.

Dee Brown, Roy Rogers reportedly will be Pistons assistants next season

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News confirmed that the Pistons will indeed hire Roy Rogers and Dee Brown as assistant coaches:

Former NBA players Dee Brown and Roy Rogers will sit to Frank’s side whenever next season starts, a source confirmed to The Detroit News.

Both have been rumored to be frontrunners for a while now and, other than having experience playing in the league, I think both have obvious roles with the team. Brown will most likely tutor the young guards, particularly Brandon Knight, and Rogers, who was a big man coach as a Celtics assistant, will most likely focus his immediate efforts on working with Greg Monroe.

Goodwill doesn’t say how many assistants the Pistons will have next season, but he did report that incumbent assistant coaches Brian Hill and Pat Sullivan are still in the running for spots on Lawrence Frank‘s staff.

Terrico White playing with John Wall, Austin Daye playing with several Phoenix Suns in Impact Training Series

Rosters have been announced for the Impact Training Series in Las Vegas.

Austin Daye will play on a team with Houston Rockets players Kyle Lowery and Courtney Lee, Phoenix Suns Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick and former Michigan State standout Alan Anderson.

Terrico White, meanwhile, is playing with several Washington Wizards, including John Wall. Other Wizards on the team are Nick Young, Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford and Rashard Lewis. White’s team also features Marcus Banks, Larry Owens and former Flint Northwestern scoring machine Desmon Farmer. It would be nice to see White get a chance to run a team in a halfcourt offense, but with the athletes on that squad, I highly doubt they will be playing much halfcourt.

Games will reportedly be streaming online at Impact Basketball’s website starting at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Feel free to use this as a game thread and if you are able to watch, post any observations in the comments.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rob in the comments for noticing, but apparently there will be no streaming today.