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Archive → August, 2012

Are the Pistons new enough to make the playoffs?

Me at the Free Press:

In the NBA, there’s a tried-and-true method for getting significantly better quickly: get new players or a new coach. There’s no guarantee either method will work, and the former probably has a better chance than the latter, but it’s nearly impossible to leap forward without one or the other.

In the last three years, 22 teams improved by more than six games. All but one made the leap with new players and/or a new coach.

• More than 35% of total minutes going to players who didn’t play for the team the previous year: 18 teams

• Coach other than the one it started the previous season with: 15 teams

In fact, most of those 22 teams met both conditions.

The only exception to the rule — the 2010-11 San Antonio Spurs — had a brilliant coach, smart veterans and a top player who missed part of the previous year because of an injury. They went from 50 to 61 wins. I don’t think the Pistons can replicate that formula.

So the Pistons won’t have a new coach, but do they have enough new players?

Five players – Ben Gordon, Damien Wilkins, Ben Wallace, Walker Russell and Vernon Macklin – who collectively played 24% of Detroit’s minutes last season are no longer on the roster. Of course, there’s no guarantee those vacated minutes go only to new players. Returning players could see more (such as Stuckey) or less (such as Prince), but 24% is a decent estimate.

Unfortunately, 24% is well below the 35% typically required for leaping forward without a new coach.

The All-Also Rans: The Pistons had two chances at Randolph Childress

In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to try to help pass the time by profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

Few people can say that they’ve overshadowed Tim Duncan at any point in his career, but Randolph Childress is one of those people.

I’ve always had a weird affection for Wake Forest basketball — Michigan native Kyle Visser developed into a solid big man in that program. But I fell in love with that program watching the team led by Duncan and Childress in 1995.

In the 1995 ACC Tournament Final against a North Carolina team that featured future Pistons Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, Duncan was his typical dominant self with 16 points and 20 rebounds. But the player on the court who was impossible to take your eyes off of was Childress, who finished with 37 points. Here are some highlights:

I loved the fearlessness he played with and the fact that he looked genuinely pissed off that entire game, I loved the inside-outside connection between Childress and Duncan and, other than the Fab Five and UNLV, that is one of the first college basketball teams that I vividly remember watching.

So when the 1995 NBA Draft rolled around and the Pistons called his name with the 19th overall pick, I was momentarily excited — until it was announced that they were trading him to Portland as part of a deal for Otis Thorpe. Despite the obvious need Thorpe filled and the fact that the Pistons also traded the awful Bill Curley in that deal, I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t get to watch Childress as a Piston.

As fate would have it, though, Childress would eventually be a Piston. Portland traded him, along with Aaron McKie and Reggie Jordan, to the Pistons in January of 1997 for Stacey Augmon. That reunion, however, last just barely longer than when he was momentarily a Piston on draft night.

Childress reportedly, like so many others, didn’t get along well with then-Blazers coach P.J. Carlesimo. He also had a knee injury that severely limited him his rookie season. He played 10 minutes in his first game as a Piston, scoring eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in a win over Philadelphia, but he’d make just one more shot as a Piston in three more games that season. The team eventually released him and Childress didn’t play another NBA game, although he did go on to a long and successful career in foreign leagues.

I was convinced that Childress’ mix of scoring and playmaking ability along with his intense demeanor would make him a fantastic Pistons. Although he made no impact on the court, he did play a minor role in shaping the recent history of the organization — he was part of a trade that brought in McKie, who was used to trade for Stackhouse, who was used to trade for Rip Hamilton and he was part of the trade that brought Thorpe, who led to Darko Milicic, who led to Rodney Stuckey.

I’ve never been shy about my unabashed fandom of Will Bynum, but Childress will always be my favorite former ACC-turned-Piston point guard.

Previously

Jonas Jerebko injures ankle in FIBA EuroBasket play

Via Os Davis of Ball In Europe, Jonas Jerebko injured his ankle playing for Sweden in a win over Luxembourg on Tuesday:

The Detroit Piston was injured in Tuesday’s win against Luxembourg; while the injury is not deemed serious (he certainly won’t miss any NBA games), it comes nevertheless at a seriously bad time for the Swedes. Currently at 2-2, Team Sweden is statistically tied with Azerbaijan and Bulgaria for second place in Group B with four games to play. The top two to three teams from the group will advance to the next round.

Jerebko is reportedly a game-time decision for Sweden’s game Thursday against Bulgaria.

Poor offseason grades keep rolling in for Pistons

Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com gave them a D:

The Pistons did not improve their roster in any meaningful way, they sacrificed a big-time asset to get out of the final season of Gordon’s contract, they made an imbalanced roster even more imbalanced, and they didn’t cut ties with Villanueva, a no-brainer decision for a team looking to build around its younger players.

Why wasn’t this an "F"? Both Drummond (despite his obvious risks) and English filled clear needs and no new big contract mistakes were made. Counting those as victories is an incredibly low standard, but that’s how bad things have gotten in Motown.

The Pistons figure to be awful once again this year. If they aren’t awful, it will be a big disappointment, as somehow sneaking into the No. 8 seed would be the definition of false hope. This season will be a success if the Pistons start slow, gut a veteran or two from the roster at the trade deadline, tank to a top-5 pick, and then put together a solid plan to hit the ground running in free agency next summer. Recent history and the franchise’s insistence on working hard to be awful rather than giving up and being horrendous tells me those chips won’t fall perfectly into place.

And Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops gave them an F:

Not that we like to dwell on the past or anything, but they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson to create the cap space to sign Charlie Villanueva, who stinks and is a prime amnesty candidate for next July, and Ben Gordon, who stunk and has since been turned into Corey Maggette, who stinks. Oh, and the Pistons had to throw in a future No. 1 to offload Gordon. Nobody goes to their games anymore after they sold out the Palace for almost a full decade. Given that they have six (!) small forwards, you have to believe at a certain point they are going to send Tayshaun Prince to a contender in exchange for some building blocks to put alongside a pair of very capable big men, Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond. In the interim, they become the cure for insomnia. Condolences to Lawrence Frank.

As Hurricane Isaac approaches, Greg Monroe remembers Katrina

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

“After going through Katrina and just having to pay attention to it your whole life, every time one starts to form and all the news stations start to track it, you pay attention,” Monroe said Monday morning. “It’s something that you have to worry about. But you try to stay calm and get as many facts as you can, get to a safe place if you need to.”

Monroe had just started his sophomore year of high school when the early exodus began on the Friday of Labor Day weekend in 2005. He was heading into a movie with friends, planning to attend a football jamboree later that night, when his sister called with the news that the family was getting out of town. Around 3 a.m. on Saturday, a Monroe caravan headed for Houston. They spent several days in a hotel before the reality of Katrina’s devastation led to another month or so in available apartment space.

The extended Monroe family – Greg’s mother, sister, grandmother and nephew in one vehicle and the families of two uncles in others – will head to Lafayette, about 135 miles along Interstate 10, the heart of Cajun country, later today and wait out Isaac.

Apparently, getting crushed in a playoff game = same thing as back-to-back champions

I’m not the world’s biggest football fan, but being in Michigan, I obviously root for the Lions to do well. Still though, via Justin Rogers of MLive, this shirt made by company Alternate Hero is too much for me:

Building off the Detroit Bad Boys theme utilized by the Detroit Pistons more than two decades ago, Alternative Hero have re-branded the current Lions as Detroit’s new bad boys.

The shirts are nearly identical to the original version, down to the font, but the color scheme has been updated, and the skull and crossbones is now sporting a football helmet.

I’m sorry, but that original Pistons shirt/Bad Boys nickname/design is too iconic to be tampered with. I like watching Megatron do incredible things and Suh stomping on opponents as much as anyone, but that team hasn’t really accomplished anything, especially in comparison to Detroit’s ONLY Bad Boys. This shirt offends me as a Pistons fan.

Best Pistons trade of all time?

Matt Watson(!) of Detroit Bad Boys delves into the question: “What’s the best trade the Pistons ever made?” He identifies four legitimate candidates:

  • Bill Laimbeer
  • Mark Aguirre
  • Ben Wallace
  • Rasheed Wallace

Mark Aguirre-for-Adrian Dantley was fine, but I’m not convinced the Pistons wouldn’t have won those two titles anyway. Rasheed Wallace put the Pistons over the top in 2004, but he flamed out in the playoffs too often afterward.

If you’re counting the Ben Wallace trade – all three players involved were free agents heading to their new team regardless – that’s the clear winner. Wallace defined the second-best era of Pistons basketball, and Chucky Atkins was a solid starter for a while. Meanwhile, due to injury, Grant Hill became wildly overpaid.

But I wouldn’t count that sign-and-trade, which was a trade only by technicality. In terms of real trade, that Bill Laimbeer deal was an absolute steal. The foolish Cavaliers had no idea they had such a good player on their hands, and Laimbeer fit perfectly in Detroit.

Pistons assistant general manager George David’s awesome rise

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press wrote a great feature on Pistons assistant general manager George David. The story includes plenty of fantastic anecdotes, but this might be my favorite:

Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, the 2004 Finals MVP when the Pistons won their last title, recalls a night when the team was on the road and an ice storm hit the Detroit area.

Worried about his family, Billups got a call from David asking if he needed anyone to check on his wife and daughters.

Billups, who has played for seven teams in 15 seasons, said that kind of stuff is rare.

"It is rare because he was a scout," Billups said. "It wasn’t like he needed to scout me. I was already on the team.

"Really we could have went along my whole six years there and not even really spoke or have a relationship because I was already on the team. Everything he did was out of the kindness of his heart — just trying to make sure people enjoyed their experience while they were there."

But’s only one of several. Seriously, read the whole thing.

Pistons uniforms rank 11th in NBA

Paul Lukas of ESPN ranked the uniform sets of all 122 NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL teams, and the Pistons ranked 11th in the NBA, but just 57th overall:

So many NBA teams these days are using these round-ish lettering fonts, and they all lack punch. The chest mark feels soft, inconsequential. Not an unattractive uniform, but not a memorable one either.

That sounded a bit harsh to me – I definitely like the Pistons’ uniforms – but it’s tough to find teams Lukas undeservingly ranked higher.

CBSSports.com Pistons podcast

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News and I spoke with Matt Moore of CBSSports.com about the Pistons’ offseason. Check it out.