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Archive → September, 2013

Josh Harrellson No. 388 in #NBArank

We can now stop worrying about the rest of ESPN’s #NBArank because the greatest nickname in the NBA, Jorts, has been ranked with Josh Harrellson at No. 388.

Kidding, of course.

These rankings are based on what the ESPN Forecast panel predicts what a player’s impact and level of play will be in the upcoming season. Harrellson joins teammates Peyton Siva and Luigi Datome — post located here.

Here’s the thing about Harrellson — I don’t really know what the heck he is. He really only played one year at Kentucky, he’s had a couple of stints with the Knicks or Heat in the NBA, but overall he’s kind of just a big body who can shoot a little.

He hasn’t had the chance to really show himself in the pros, and similar to Peyton Siva, it’s probably a good sign for the Pistons’ success if he’s not a key guy. He’s insurance depth; he’s this year’s Slava Kravtsov.

Instead of tweeting #LetSlavaDunk you can tweet #LetJortsShoot — it’ll be great.

Honestly, best case is that Harrellson can be a situational Channing Frye, but he’s likely just depth behind a crowded front court.

Luigi Datome, Peyton Siva revealed in #NBArank

With training camp just a month away, ESPN has rolled out its #NBArank series. The countdown of the league’s top-500 players focuses on what the ESPN Forecast panel predicts that a player’s impact and level of play will be in the upcoming season.

That”s why a pre-crazy Lamar Odom in 2012 was No. 130 and a reportedly crazy Lamar Odom in 2013 is currently projected as the No. 462 player.

Anyway, as one of the most made-over teams in the NBA this summer, the Pistons have already seen two of those new faces pop up in the rankings — No. 421 Peyton Siva and No. 397 Luigi Datome.

This early in the rankings, you’re looking at guys who are young, unproven or just your average end-of-the-bench players; and that’s basically what you’ve got with Siva and Datome.

It’s a situation where, while both players present some amount of value to the Pistons in 2013, they aren’t going to make or break your season if they live up to these low rankings.

Right now, Siva is probably the No. 5 or 6 guard on this team. Now that doesn’t mean he’s destined to be a schmuck, but if the Pistons are the quasi-playoff team some think they can be, he’s probably not a rotation guy right now.

Datome, on the other hand, might have a chance to be a guy this season.

This isn’t a perfectly constructed roster by any means, but if you can hit 3-pointers, you can probably get on the floor. Part of what made the apparently-great shooter Kim English expendable was that the Pistons picked up another, albeit more proven, apparently-great shooter in Datome.

He’s had a pretty strong EuroCup with Team Italy, too, putting up 14 points and 5.5 rebounds a night to go with two threes a game. If he can bring something close to that production to the table this season, he should exceed his No. 397 ranking and be a very valuable piece for the spacing-challenged Pistons.

No longer burdened by expectations, is this the season Rodney Stuckey finally exceeds them?

I’ve never been much of a fan of Rodney Stuckey’s style of play and have always been relatively skeptical of the high regard the organization has held his talents since the time he arrived in the league. But I’ve also felt that those expectations of the organization have been unfair to Stuckey, who is at worst a rotation guard on any team in the league. The problem has always been the fact that the Pistons predestined him to be more than that.

In this week’s column for the Detroit Free Press, I admitted to some casual intrigue about whether Stuckey, seemingly forgotten on a suddenly deep roster, can thrive now that he has no expectations to live up to:

Now, in the final year of his contract, on a Pistons team that seems to be both moving on with young players such as Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and moving back with veterans such as Billups and Will Bynum, Stuckey has become a forgotten player, almost a nonfactor in projections of Detroit’s guard rotation. And maybe that’s OK — that might be a recipe for Stuckey to exceed expectations for the first time in his career.

Maurice Cheeks will be Stuckey’s fifth coach since he entered the league in 2007, but — at least according to his introductory news conference — Cheeks seems to be intrigued by Stuckey’s attributes. He wouldn’t be the first coach to see a strong, big, athletic guard and fall in love with the potential. But that’s the problem. Previous coaches have failed with Stuckey because they are too tantalized by the package of what he should be or could be instead of focusing on what he is. What he is is a player who should be motivated by playing for his next contract, who should be able to give minutes at both guard spots, depending on matchups, and who should be able to use the one proven skill in his repertoire —getting to the line — to his advantage on a Pistons second unit for which he could be a focal point of the offense.

Discussing Stuckey’s potential long ago became an act reserved only for the most positive of positive-thinking fans. Now that his tenure in Detroit could be nearing its end, as an overlooked player competing for a role on a suddenly deep team, he finally could be in a position to live up to realistic expectations.

How Bill Laimbeer ruined his chances of becoming an NBA head coach

Kate Fagan of ESPN wrote a fantastic on Bill Laimbeer, and she spoke with NBA general managers about him:

When I mentioned Laimbeer, though, the reaction was visceral.

He’s lazy.

He’s a buffoon.

He can’t relate to NBA players.

He treats them like it’s college.

Guys just won’t play for him.

Laimbeer’s tenure with the Timberwolves is seen as a resounding failure, probably the final nail in his NBA coffin. Never mind this is the same league in which losing and getting fired seem like badges of honor for other coaches, something that happens every few years, like the Olympics, or the Sixers making the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Laimbeer, the popular opinion of him as an NBA coach can be crystallized in one key moment when he acted very Laimbeer-like, his behavior confirming for those who witnessed it that the label they have for him — a whiny crybaby no one wants to play for — is not just a stereotype, but God’s honest truth.

Before the 2010 NBA draft, many of the league’s top decision-makers flew to Minnesota to watch a few prospects work out for the Timberwolves, who had a high pick. As one NBA general manager explains it, the purpose of these sessions is usually twofold: "The team is trying to impress the players as much as the players are trying to impress the team. And everyone with half a brain in the NBA understands this."

Laimbeer was on the court that day, running the workout. He set up one drill, telling the players to outlet the ball to him with a crisp chest pass, then run the lane and finish on the other end. Pretty basic stuff. Once the drill started, though, the players occasionally forgot the whole "outlet the ball" part, and Laimbeer, as he is known to do, called them out in a sarcastic manner. The next time around, the players remembered to outlet the ball but forgot about the chest pass. Laimbeer became visibly agitated by their inability to run the drill correctly. "By the end of the workout, we all thought there might be a fight on the court," one GM remembers. "Why make yourself the center of attention like that? For some executives, that day is all they know about him. And everyone left that gym with the same impression, that Laimbeer doesn’t understand how the NBA works."

So how does the NBA work?

Perception is often reality. And in NBA circles, Laimbeer has a perception problem, compounded by his "I-don’t-give-a-s—" attitude about it. He doesn’t care how he’s viewed, even if how he’s viewed is keeping him from achieving the very thing he says is (or at least was) his ultimate goal: a head-coaching job in the league.

"I’ve had to get over that," Laimbeer says. "It hasn’t happened, for whatever reasons. If it does happen, it would be an oh-my-God moment. But I don’t really care what NBA people think. I’ve always been who I am, and I’m not going to change my style to fit their mold. I’m just not a career assistant. I’m not that guy. I had to decide if going into the ladies’ league would hurt my chances to be in the men’s league, and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t care. I thought, ‘Coaching basketball is coaching basketball.’"

Laimbeer grew up in Los Angeles as the rich kid, spoiled at every turn. Playing at Notre Dame certainly didn’t end his entitled attitude.

Now, if Laimbeer is ever going to become an NBA head coach, he’ll have to work twice as hard as the competition, because he’s not being given any benefit of the doubt.

Even I can see the irony – and I like Laimbeer.

Laimbeer probably hasn’t gotten a fair shot at becoming an NBA head coach. If someone like Gregg Popovich had run that Minnesota workout the same way, the narrative would have been how meticulous he is. Because NBA people are predisposed not to like Laimbeer due his playing career, he gets tagged as a buffoon.

In reality, Laimbeer can makes a decent argument for deserving an NBA head-coaching job. He was a smart player, and he’s had success coaching in a lesser league. But it’s not an airtight case – he’s not exactly outsmarting the world’s best coaches in the WNBA, and his abrasiveness probably wouldn’t please NBA stars – and there are constantly other candidates with intriguing, though flawed, credentials. What has Laimbeer done to separate himself from them?

Maybe Laimbeer could bridge the gap, working to show NBA decision makers he’s changed, but apparently he has no interest in doing that, and at this point, he has nobody to blame for his stalled NBA-coaching career but himself.

Laimbeer didn’t get his way, so he took his ball and went home (to the WNBA). Perhaps, Laimbeer should have gotten his way, but his stubborn response when he didn’t has only shown NBA general managers they were right about Laimbeer all along.

Maurice Cheeks not charged after witness refuses to cooperate, leaves state

Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks will not be charged in a domestic incident that occurred Aug. 30 in Birmingham, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper told the Free Press today.

Cheeks went to the Birmingham police station for questioning and was released after police were called to a Woodward Avenue address. He was not arrested. Birmingham police conducted an investigation and presented its findings to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.

Cooper said the witness in the investigation was uncooperative with prosecutors and refused to press charges. “She left the state and refused to cooperate,” Cooper said.

When Maurice Cheekssituation initially came to light, this is the result I had desired: Cheeks not being charged. But I had hoped that was because evidence would show this was a big misunderstanding and Cheeks is the good guy we’d all believed him to be.

This isn’t that.

We’re still light on details, but for Cheeks to avoid charges this way, with the witness refusing to cooperate and leaving the state, does not return faith in his reputation the way a thorough investigation would have. Maybe Cheeks acted completely appropriately, but this outcome doesn’t exactly demonstrate that. Of course, it doesn’t demonstrate Cheeks acted inappropriately, either.

We’re left knowing practically nothing other than Cheeks did something that can be described as a “domestic incident,” police questioned him and didn’t arrest him, the witness was uncooperative and there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him.

There are a wide range of reasonable conclusions to draw from those set of facts, and everyone can make their own judgments. Personally, I’m still rooting for Cheeks to succeed with the Pistons – players’ crimes rarely turn hometown fans against them, and Cheeks was never charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime – and I’m certainly not rushing to any conclusions just because he was questioned by police, especially considering how black men are treated by this country’s law-enforcement system. But until Cheeks addresses the situation publically or more information emerges, I can’t help but wonder what happened Aug. 30, and accordingly, I can no longer blindly trust that Cheeks is an A+ human being.*

*I probably shouldn’t have such blind trust in someone I’ve never met, and even in people I know well, for that matter. But I did. That’s my fault, and it’s incidents like these that will prevent me from repeating that mistake.

Jennette McCurdy, Andre Drummond take relationship from internet to real life

Jennette McCurdy, in light of her budding relationship with Andre Drummond that started over Twitter, wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal about online romance:

A month and a half ago, I logged onto Twitter and saw my timeline clogged with people asking me to follow some account called “@DRE_DRUMMOND_.” Five tweets are easy to ignore; hundreds are not. Impressed by the amount of energy centered on this account, I of course had to click on it. I first read the bio attached:Official Twitter of Andre Drummond. Former UCONN HUSKY F, Now a Detroit Piston. Live by GOD, #T.A.G.O.D. Curious and admittedly ignorant in the sports arena, I took to Google for some research. I read the guy’s Wikipedia page… confronted by statistics and a bunch of basketball jargon, I gathered that he was gifted at basketball… and super, super tall. Not yet satisfied with my knowledge of this guy’s deal, I backtracked on his Twitter page a few months and checked out his Instagram… he appeared personable, youthful, and fun. And judging by the amount of me-related posts he had shared, it seemed he had been expressing his crush on me for quite some time. I found it sweet, gutsy, and flattering. It’s hard not to be impressed by a boy who will express his feelings for you in front of hundreds of thousands of people. I followed him back on Twitter and sent him a public message. We had a brief banter and then he sent me a private message with his phone number. Inevitably, I utilized it.

Text conversations started, followed by phone conversations, followed by daily hour-long FaceTime chats. He sent me flowers and gifts. I was giddy in the way I hate girls to be.

A few weeks after we started talking, Andre told me he was going to come visit California. I was excited. Then, as his visit crept closer, I began to feel a little unnerved. What if my fears of the overhype of cyberspace played out in my life? Granted, Andre and I had much more personal communication than the few flirty public tweets we would send each other every couple of days, but still… When you don’t have a million people telling you how cute your attempted date joke was like they tell you how cute your emoticon tweet exchange was, will any real spark exist? Will the chemistry between two people fall short of the buzz of millions? Maybe the more really is the merrier…

Also, what if the person I had built up in my head was different than the person I’d soon be sitting across from? What if technology aided and enhanced our conversations to the point where we felt crippled without it? What if two screens cannot properly replicate two humans after all?

Turns out, they can’t. Overall, the Andre Drummond I got to know in person is the same person he projects online, but it’s important to remember that the image displayed through a screen is in fact just that – a display. A person doesn’t converse in 140 characters, they don’t react in filters, and a well-played moment doesn’t loop itself every 6 seconds. We don’t live our life in glossy little quips, blips, and fragments, regardless of the fact that that’s what we’re encouraged to do in this day and age.

First of all, McCurdy shows tremendous perspective throughout her article, and if you’re confused about relationships in today’s technological world, you should read it. Because this is a Pistons blog, I excerpted the section about Drummond, but this article is about more than just those two.

But speaking of Drummond, he’s becoming a megastar. He’s dating a famous actress, and he’s featured prominently in a Wall Street Journal article that isn’t about basketball. Drummond gained national recognition last season from devoted NBA fans who campaigned for him to get more playing time. This is on a completely different, and larger, level.

I don’t know whether Drummond invites that attention, passively accepts it or tries to avoid it. But it’s growing, and it will be fascinating to watch how it affects him as he simultaneously takes on a larger role on the court.

Those issues might go hand in hand, but there’s also a level of privacy that should come with one, and I have a strong opinion for those who overly blend the two.

To those who have publically worried Drummond’s relationship with McCurdy might affect his focus on basketball, get a life. You might be the biggest Pistons fan in the world, but that doesn’t mean Drummond owes your team his complete devotion. Plenty of people choose to put their personal lives ahead of work, and I wouldn’t chastise Drummond if he choses to do the same. Basketball, or any job, isn’t everything.

If he still wants his NBA career to be his top priority and McCurdy becomes a distraction, that’s another story, and it might be worth discussing down the road. For now? Don’t pettily stress over the details of someone else’s relationship.

If you are worried about Drummond, let me refer you to the two people handling this situation most maturely. Through Twitter, of course:

At EuroBasket, Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome compete for Pistons playing time

Jonas Jerebko cut hard, pump faked, drew Luigi Datome’s fifth foul while making a layup and converted the free throw to tie Sweden’s EuroBasket game with Italy late in the fourth quarter.

Gigi was done for the night, and Italy eventually finished off Jerebko’s Sweden (82-79), but the competition between these two is just beginning.

Because the Pistons have so many players who play multiple positions, the ripple effects of any lineup adjustment can be felt everywhere in the rotation. That’s why a combo forward like Jerebko and a small forward like Datome are competing for minutes, even if Jerebko is more likely to play power forward on this Detroit team.

Today, Jerebko outdid Datome, notching 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists to Datome’s seven points in 13 minutes. But Sweden needed Jerebko more than Italy needed Datome, whose outside shooting might make him a better fit in a Pistons lineup that will heavily feature Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

As I argued last year, Jerebko’s inclusion into the rotation is dependent on his willingness to accepter a lesser role. Lawrence Frank got a hard time for benching Jerebko early, but Frank was justified based on Jerebko deciding to shoot a lot (without making many baskets) and not do much else. Hopefully, Jerebko has accepted his NBA niche as a hustle player with a better-than-average jumper for that role. If he hasn’t, hopefully Maurice Cheeks can work with Jerebko on his outlook rather than banish him to the end of the bench like Frank did.

When Jerebko stepped to the free-throw line today, he was drenched in sweat, his face red and his hair disheveled. He clearly hasn’t stopped playing hard. In this setting, it’s as co-top player with Jeffery Taylor. In Detroit, Jerebko must play hard differently, working to get loose balls rather than jump shots.

For Datome, the path to at least cracking the Pistons’ rotation is simpler: make shots. After scoring 25 points and making 3-of-4 3-pointers against Russia in Italy’s EuroBasket opener, he’s shot just 4-of-16 from beyond the arc, including 1-of-3 today. He might have to prove himself a better shooter from distance, but then again, the Pistons might be so starved for floor spacing that he plays regularly anyway.

Jerebko and Datome are both in the thick of the Pistons’ position battles, and both had a chance to make an impression today. Whose performance rates higher is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholders who matter most, Joe Dumars and George David, are in Slovenia watching.

Pistons will be relevant soon (hopefully, this season) after talent upgrades

Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game previewed the Pistons, and I provided a little insight. An excerpt:

The Pistons are way, way more talented than they were last season. They should be better, too, though perhaps not quite as much as the talent upgrade alone would suggest. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond create a frontcourt with great size, but poor shooting. Brandon Jennings is intriguing, but erratic. The Pistons are on track toward relevance, and if they don’t get there this season, the team is young enough to get there next season.

Maurice Cheeks remains Pistons coach after police investigate domestic dispute

Tammy Stables Battaglia of the Detroit Free Press:

“He’s our head coach, so nothing changes with his status,” Pistons spokesman Kevin Grigg said today. “We are not commenting on the situation.”

When asked this morning for information about a complaint involving Cheeks, Birmingham Police Chief Donald Studt said there is an ongoing investigation, but he would neither confirm nor deny that it involves Cheeks.

“Generally, when domestic violence is alleged, we have to investigate and present a case to the prosecutor’s office,” Studt said.

I don’t know of anyone who suspected the Pistons might fire Maurice Cheeks due to this incident, but in case you were unsure, here you go. The bigger question is how the Pistons handle this once more information comes to light, but that can’t be answered until more information actually comes to light. So far, that hasn’t  happened.

Tom Gores chaperones Andre Drummond on apparent date with Jennette McCurdy

TMZ:

The celebrity relationship born on Twitter is still going strong for "iCarly" star Jennette McCurdy and Detroit Pistons star Andre Drummond … ’cause last night the two went out for a romantic dinner in L.A. and TMZ has the footage.

Tuesday night … it appeared their relationship was still going strong — the two were spotted holding  hands on their way out of Madeo in West Hollywood.

Watching that video, I suddenly shouted, “Hey, that’s Tom Gores!”

Drummond’s relationship with McCurdy started strangely, and now it took just another strange twist. Who has their boss chaperone their date? Who chaperones the date of a employee?