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Archive → November, 2011

Kyle Singler staying in Spain is good for the Pistons

The NBA has two limits on a team’s ability to improve itself that draw frequent discussion: the salary cap and the luxury tax. But a third limit exists, and that’s the roster limit of 15 players.

For the rebuilding Pistons, that means they get just 15 chances to find a future contributor. Every player they acquire means another they can’t.

Thankfully, Kyle Singler has decided to play next season in Spain, and that means the Pistons can hold the rights of one additional player. Singler won’t count against the roster limit, but because the Pistons drafted him, they’ll retain the first right to sign him whenever he joins the NBA.

I have no idea whether the Pistons wanted Singler to play in Spain this year. There’s certainly an argument to be made that, in addition to Detroit getting an extra roster spot, Singler will benefit more from playing in Europe than sitting on the Pistons’ bench. But given how rarely the Pistons used the D-League to give young players game experience, my guess is they’d prefer Singler spent every day practicing with the Pistons and learning their routine.

To me, though, that’s inconsequential. Every player is different, and it’s futile to project which system would help Singler more in the year.

I’m concerned about that last roster spot.

Despite reports of Singler’s improvement, I doubt he’d push the Pistons into the playoffs this season. If he’s really becoming a valuable player, he’ll help more in future years – but he’ll certainly need help, and his absence will help the Pistons find it.

With that extra roster spot, the Pistons can try out one more player – regardless of his age – to see whether he can help them compete for a title. For that, I say to Singler, gracias.

Vernon Macklin and Rodney Stuckey corollaries

The same logic explains why I didn’t like the Pistons drafting Vernon Macklin (unless he agreed, as previous Pistons second rounders like Trent Plaisted and Deron Washington have, to play overseas for a year). Maybe he’ll emerge as a rotation-caliber player in a few years, but I don’t think that slim chance justifies using a precious roster spot on him in the interim. Drafting a foreign player not set on joining the NBA immediately, even if his odds of becoming a rotation player are slightly lower, comes with less opportunity cost.

This logic also explains why I was hoping Rodney Stuckey would sign in China. The Pistons wouldn’t have lost the right to match his NBA contract offers, and they could have used the upcoming rebuilding year to assess their team without him.

Pistons won’t use amnesty clause this offseason

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Source: #Pistons have no plans on using amnesty clause at this time…

If this is not a bluff,* I support the move. Take another year to assess the many talented and overpaid players on the roster and don’t risk dropping the one who will turn around.

*And it very well could be, because it would be even more difficult to trade one of their amnesty candidates if other teams believe they can sign their target as a free agent.

Update: If you were at all confused by the ambiguousness of Goodwill’s “at this time,” Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press has clarification:

Like @deryNBA, @vgoodwill say: #Pistons not using amnesty clause this offseason. Hinted at that in column 2 days ago, but didnt know 4 sure.

Jonas Jerebko ‘looks terrific,’ Pistons will likely retain restricted free agent

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Witnesses to Detroit RFA Jonas Jerebko working out at Attack Athletics in Chicago say he looks terrific after recovering from Achilles tear.

Teams will likely shy away from offering Jerebko because of Detroit’s determination to match, but he had a strong rookie season 2 years ago.

If Jonas Jerebko is completely healthy, that’s a huge win for Pistons fans. No matter how well the team plays this season, he’ll be a joy to watch.

Chevette to Corvette No. 17: The 1984-85 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 46-36
  • Pythagorean record: 47-35
  • Offensive Rating: 109.6 (9th of 23)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (9th of 23)
  • Arena: Pontiac Silverdome
  • Head coach: Chuck Daly

Playoffs

  • Won in first round vs. New Jersey Nets, 3-0
  • Lost in second round vs. Boston Celtics, 4-2

Leaders

  • Points per game: Isiah Thomas (21.2)
  • Rebounds per game: Bill Laimbeer (12.4)
  • Assists per game: Isiah Thomas (13.9)
  • Steals per game: Isiah Thomas (2.3)
  • Blocks per game: Terry Tyler (1.1)

Top player

Isiah Thomas

In 1983-84, Thomas finished fifth in the MVP voting. In 1984-85, Thomas improved his free throw shooting from 73 to 80 percent, averaged three more assists per game (a league-leading 13.9 per game) than the previous season, maintained his scoring average and improved his assist-to-turnover ratio. But the Pistons fell from 49 to 46 wins, and Thomas slid to ninth in that season’s MVP voting.

Still, Thomas was in the midst of his most dominant individual stretch of his career. It was the second of four straight times he’d finish in the top 10 in MVP voting and the second of three straight All-NBA First Team appearances. Thomas also had another brilliant All-Star performance with 22 points and 5 assists, although he didn’t capture the game MVP like he did the previous season. But his performance wasn’t what was notable about that All-Star performance — 1985 was allegedly the year that Thomas orchestrated the famous All-Star Game Freeze Out of Michael Jordan. From Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum:

Was Michael Jordan frozen out? Did the Beatles really fake McCartney’s death just for the hell of it? Who knows?

In my opinion, there was a freeze-out. Maybe not for the entire game but for major parts of it.

Jordan, flush with rookie success, Nike endorsements and unprecedented crossover appeal, came to his first All-Star Game ready to shine. He wore Swoosh paraphernalia, ignoring an unwritten rule that you wore All-Star stuff to the All-Star Game. Some of the All-Stars, particularly Eastern teammate Isiah Thomas and Western foe Magic Johnson, supposedly took umbrage at this. Or maybe they were just sick of Jordan’s popularity. Or maybe they didn’t care one way or the other, which is their story.

At any rate, Jordan got only nine shots and seven points and, after the game, a source close to Thomas and Johnson whispered that the two superstars, bosom buds at the time, had conspired to keep the ball from the tongue-wagging Bulls star. When confronted, they denied it. But Jordan always believed it. Thus began a bitter rivalry between the two players, one that Jordan didn’t get the best of until his Bulls swept Thomas’ Pistons in the 1991 Eastern finals and later, when he spoke out against including Thomas on the first Dream Team at the ’92 Olympics.

Key transaction

Traded Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston and two second round picks to Atlanta for Dan Roundfield

* Note: I was so tempted to put ‘drafting Flint legend Eric Turner in the second round’ in this space, but since Turner never actually made the team, I’ll resist my Flint bias. But trust me, people in Flint still insist that Turner was the greatest player the city ever produced — better than NBA veterans like Glen Rice, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell.

Under Jack McCloskey, the Pistons made a lot of trades. McCloskey — ‘Trader Jack’ — deservedly gets credit for landing vital players like Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson and James Edwards in trades. But it’s important to note that McCloskey didn’t always make great trades. His brilliance was also in his ability to make up for bad ones. Carr and Levingston for Roundfield was a bad one. Carr, who was dealt after the Pistons drafted him in the first round of the 1983 draft, and Levingston both became solid rotation players for several years in their careers. Roundfield, who had averaged between 17 and 19 points per game for four straight seasons and made three All-Star appearances for the Hawks, immediately saw his average fall to 10 points per game and he only lasted one season in Detroit.

But, as McCloskey so often did, he corrected the mistake. In the following offseason, Roundfield brought back Rick Mahorn in a trade with Washington.

Trend watch

The defense starts to catch up

With Thomas, Kelly Tripucka, Laimbeer, Johnson and John Long, among others, the Pistons in the mid 1980s were among the best offensive teams in the league. In 1984-85, the defense started to catch up. The team still scored points and played at a fast pace, but the Pistons improved from 18th to 9th in defensive rating. It would still be a couple seasons before they started to look like the hard-nosed Bad Boys, but by 1984-85, it was clear the team was focusing more of its efforts on both ends of the floor.

Why this season ranks No. 17

After ending a six year playoff drought in 1983-84, the Pistons won a playoff series for the first time since 1976 in 1984-85. The team swept New Jersey in the first round and started what would become perhaps their fiercest rivalry by forcing the Celtics to six games in the second round.

The Pistons looked seriously over-matched, losing game one by 34 points. But after falling behind 0-2, the Pistons won both games at home and put up a fight in the final two games of the series. Boston would eliminate the Pistons in the playoffs one more time before the Pistons broke through.

Previously

Former Pistons Dennis Rodman, Cliff Robinson playing in ‘Legends Tour’ in Asia

The poster says it all really, but Dennis Rodman and Cliff Robinson will be part of some sort of ‘relive the glory days’ tour, playing in All-Star games in Asia this winter.

Check out these names: Larry Johnson, Horace Grant, Vin Baker, Mitch Richmond, Dale Ellis, Kenny Anderson, Anfernee Hardaway, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton and Scottie Pippen.

I can’t decide which of those guys I’d enjoy watching still try to play basketball more. I bet Dale Ellis still has a lightning fast release though.

Kyle Singler reportedly staying in Spain

Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted earlier this week that no one helped himself more during the lockout than Pistons draftee Kyle Singler, who had some success playing professionally in Spain.

Well, it looks like the Pistons won’t benefit from that success. Wojnarowski reports Singler is staying in Spain:

Kyle Singler, the 33rd overall pick in the June NBA draft, is nearing an agreement with Real Madrid and won’t play for the Detroit Pistons this season, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Singler, a forward out of Duke, will sign a contract for the remainder of the season in the Spanish ACB League, replacing the Dallas Mavericks’ Rudy Fernandez on the Real Madrid roster.

After an outstanding showing with Alicante in the same league – where he averaged a team-leading 15 points on 47 percent shooting – Singler decided to take the Real Madrid offer on Tuesday. A combination of his comfort level in Spain and a salary higher than that of most second-round draft picks convinced him to finish the season there, sources said.

Even as a second round pick, Singler stood a good chance at earning minutes as a rookie if Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady both, as expected, sign with contending teams as free agents. This makes the Pistons even more thin at the small forward spot.

Chevette to Corvette No. 18: The 1983-84 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 49-33
  • Pythagorean record: 50-32
  • Offensive Rating: 111.5 (1st of 23)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.1 (16th of 23)
  • Arena: Pontiac Silverdome
  • Head coach: Chuck Daly

Playoffs

  • Lost in first round to the New York Knicks, 3-2

Leaders

  • Points per game: Isiah Thomas (21.3)
  • Rebounds per game: Bill Laimbeer (12.2)
  • Assists per game: Isiah Thomas (11.1)
  • Steals per game: Isiah Thomas (2.5)
  • Blocks per game: Bill Laimbeer (1.0)

Top player

Isiah Thomas

In the rookie year for both Isiah Thomas and Kelly Tripucka, Tripucka was Detroit’s best player. The next year, Thomas took a slight edge.

By 1983-84, Thomas had taken complete control of the team, at least relative to Tripucka. In addition to his excellent play with the Pistons – especially in the playoffs – Thomas won the All-Star Game MVP with 21 points, 15 assists and four steals.

Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting, too. He was a rising superstar.

Tripucka appeared headed in the opposite direction. Anthony Cotton of Sports Illustrated:

Although he’s the Pistons’ leading scorer with an average of 22.3 points a game, Tripucka has lately been criticized by some of his teammates. "Our white superstar sometimes doesn’t show up for games," said one, his way of saying he thought Tripucka was sulking over a slump.

Key transaction

Hired Chuck Daly

Daly made a huge impact right away in Detroit, but his legacy stretched well beyond this season. Simply, he was the best coach in franchise history.

Trend watch

Made playoffs for first time in seven years

With 49 wins (including one in the highest-scoring game in NBA history), their best record in 10 years, the Pistons snapped a lengthy postseason drought.

Why this season ranks No. 18

The Pistons had the misfortune of facing red-hot Bernard King and the New York Knicks in the first-round of the playoffs. How good was King? In Game 2, he scored a playoff-record 23 points in the first quarter. In Game 3, he scored 46 points to break his own single-game Madison Square Garden record and already break Elgin Baylor’s record for points in a five-game series. In the end, King averaged 42.6 points per game in the series.

And Isiah Thomas nearly eliminated him.

Most famously, Thomas scored 16 points in the final 94 seconds of regulation in Game 5, played at Joe Louis Arena because a motocross event booked the Silverdome. Knicks guard Rory Sparrow, via Bruce Newman of Sports Illustrated:

"God placed his hand on Isiah and said, ‘You shall play basketball, and you shall play it great,’ " said Sparrow later.

Isiah Thomas, via Eli Zaret’s “Blue Collar Blueprint”:

I must say that it was a wild scene. Coleman Young called me up and said, ‘Welcome to the city.’ Everybody in the hood was like, ‘Zeke, you’re coming to put on a show tonight.’ And being a city guy, it was almost like you were going home.

When I got into Joe Louis, the atmosphere was so electric, it was awesome. You can’t describe it—it made you want to get off. I just felt like I could do anything. The fans were screaming and every move you made, people were oohing and aahing—it was sweet. I’m not a Baptist; I was raised Catholic. But sometimes I’d go to a Baptist church and you’ll see what they call the Holy Ghost, where the spirit will take over their body and it moves them.

During that game I got the Holy Ghost—I just got the spirit into my body and I was doing stuff and making moves—I felt I was above the court looking at everybody and I could just do anything. It was great!

As well as Thomas played, the Pistons lost in overtime of that deciding game. Thomas drove home to Chicago in his jersey immediately after the game, according to Zaret.

All in all, the season presented tremendous promise for the Pistons and their superstar point guard. Anthony Cotton of Sports Illustrated:

Under Daly, Thomas. says he has felt "an incredible surge of freedom," indeed so much so that he has talked about signing a lifetime contract with the Pistons. "I really decided that I wanted to stay here over last summer," Thomas says. "I have a chance to be on Detroit’s first division winner, maybe its first championship team ever. I like being the first to do things."

Previously

Tom Gores plans to own Pistons a while

Because the value of the Pistons has increased with the lockout ending, I wondered whether Tom Gores would look to sell the franchise if it were in a less-public industry. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Gotten a few e-mails since Sunday column. Was told while ago that Gores is planning on owning #Pistons until he’s an old man.

Chevette to Corvette No. 19: The 1985-86 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 46-36
  • Pythagorean record: 44-38
  • Offensive Rating: 109.0 (7th of 23)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.9 (15th of 23)
  • Arena: Pontiac Silverdome
  • Head coach: Chuck Daly

Playoffs

  • Lost in first round to the Atlanta Hawks, 3-1

Leaders

  • Points per game: Isiah Thomas (20.9)
  • Rebounds per game: Bill Laimbeer (13.1)
  • Assists per game: Isiah Thomas (10.8)
  • Steals per game: Isiah Thomas (2.2)
  • Blocks per game: Bill Laimbeer (0.8)

Top player

Isiah Thomas

Thomas finished ninth in MVP voting and had 30 points, 10 assists and five steals to win his second All-Star Game MVP. Critics would use Thomas’ All-Star MVPs to criticize his  style of play, saying he could only excel in a freewheeling scheme that wasn’t conducive to winning in the playoffs. Unfortunately, this season would give them more evidence.

Key transaction

Drafted Joe Dumars with No. 18 pick

Pistons general manager Jack McCloskey coveted Joe Dumars entering the draft but never figured he’d land the McNeese State guard. Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Pistons owner Bill Davidson and minority partner Oscar Feldman, not so long removed from his own duties as general manager, would sit in the draft room with McCloskey and his trusted scouts, Will Robinson and Stan Novak. McCloskey would brief Davidson and Feldman in the days leading to the draft on the handful of players he figured would be in his range.

“The owners would come in and they’d always want to know who were the potential people we would pick,” McCloskey recalled. “I gave them names. Now the draft starts off and we get down to Dallas, which had two picks in front of us. And I’m saying to myself, ‘Do we really have a chance to get this guy?’

“Sure enough, Dallas takes two big guys” – the Mavs picked 7-footers Bill Wennington of St. John’s and Uwe Blab of Indiana – “and I grab the phone right away and say to the NBA, ‘the Pistons take Joe Dumars.’ And both owners jumped off their seats and said, ‘Who the hell is Joe Dumars? You never told us about him!’ ”

Dumars went on to have a Hall of Fame career, all of it with Detroit, and still ranks first in Pistons history in games and 3-pointers.

Trend watch

Step back

Entering 1985-86, the Pistons had spent half a decade mostly rising – 16 wins, 21 wins, 39 wins, 37 wins, making the playoffs, reaching the second round. But this season’s first-round loss to the Hawks represented a significant step back.

Why this season ranks No. 19

After an 11-5 start, the Pistons lost 15 of 19. Sitting 16-21 midway through January, the Pistons rallied to finish 46-36, secure the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and earn a first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks hadn’t won a playoff series in six years and had just one starter (Tree Rollins) and one other rotation player (Eddie Johnson) left from that 1979-80 team. Led by Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta had joined the Pistons as one of the East’s rising teams looking to join the Celtics, 76ers and Bucks on the top level.

The Hawks won the first two games of the series by 18 and 12, and although the Pistons won Game 3, Atlanta stole Game 4 in double overtime, 114-113.

The Pistons were no longer next in the East, ceding the role of premier upstart to the Hawks. Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

“All I know,” Isiah would say, eyes fixed straight ahead and locked on nothing in particular, jaw firmly set, amid the spartan if spacious locker room underneath the stands at the Silverdome, “is something has to change next year.”

Previously

Pistons still covet Brendan Haywood

The Pistons were interested in Brendan Haywood last summer, and I liked the idea. Apparently the former is still the case. Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

If Dallas overpays to keep Chandler, they could let go of Brendan Haywood for cap relief and the Pistons would gladly swoop in to sign the veteran big man if that happens. They wanted him two years ago and nothing has changed to alter that line of thinking.

Nothing has changed to alter that line of thinking? Haywood’s production dropped across the board last year. When that happens to a big man at 31, the line of thinking should change.

Of course, if the Mavericks waive Haywood now, he’ll fetch much less than the six-year, $55 million contract Dallas gave him. At the right price – say three years, $16 million – I’d still sign him.