You thought the Pistons missed the playoffs? Not at PistonPowered.
We’re honoring the 10th anniversary of the 2004 NBA championship team by examining each postseason game on the corresponding 2014 date. We’ll look back at Detroit’s performances, detail our memories of that time and provide insight from the players and coaches who were Goin’ to Work every single night.
So, stick with us this “offseason.” I have a hunch these Pistons will be playing into June.
|Chauncey Billups, PG 34 MIN | 4-15 FG |3-4 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTSThis wasn’t Chauncey’s best game. He missed a ton of shots as he was sometimes prone to do. But he still got the better of his Milwaukee counterparts, most notably by logging six assists and no turnovers to Damon Jones’ and Brevin Knight’s combined ten assists and five turnovers.|
|Richard Hamilton, SG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 11-12 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTSHow do you score efficiently when shooting 5-13? By getting to the line a dozen times. He also led the team in assists and steals as the Pistons set a playoff game franchise record for the latter.||
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 36 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTSThe diminutive Prince grabbed five offensive boards to nearly match the entire Milwaukee team’s seven. he was a major part of the reason that the Pistons dominated the Bucks on the glass in spite of having eleven more misses for the Bucks to grab.||
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 28 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTSSheed anchored the defense more than Ben in this one and he did a phenomenal job. The Bucks were the fourth highest scoring team in the league and tops in the East. So Detroit allowed them 82 points, slightly below an average Pistons opponent.||
|Ben Wallace, C 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTSWallace contributed significant offense in this one. Besides five offensive rebounds of his own, he outscored every Buck. Ben also had three steals (two of which led to immediate fast break points) and drew at least three charges.|
|Corliss Williamson, PF 20 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTSCorliss brought enough offense off the bench to keep the Bucks from having any hope of sneaking back into this game when Detroit’s A team wasn’t on the floor.||
|Lindsey Hunter, PG 17 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTSEarly in the second quarter, the Pistons stole the ball on three of four Milwaukee possessions, all leading to fast break baskets. Hunter was the pickpocket for two of those. Even though he wasn’t credited with either basket or assist, he was the primary cause of those points. Not bad for seven minutes of action.|
|Mehmet Okur, C 9 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTSSee Williamson, Corliss.|
|Mike James, PG 10 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTSJames’ play was completely unremarkable. But since he was really only on the floor to give Billups a breather, that’s not so terrible.|
|Elden Campbell, C 5 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTSCampbell was a stereotypical no-offense big body in the paint. So I’m not sure why he attempted a shot virtually every time he touched the ball.|
|Darvin Ham, SF 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSHam literally did nothing in this game. He dodged an F by playing so few minutes.|
|Darko Milicic, C 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTSThe human victory cigar didn’t have an opportunity to make an impression one way or the other.|
|Larry Brown, Head Coach
Brown didn’t have to do much more than roll the ball out in this one. But credit where it’s due for preparing his tam to defensively suffocate Milwaukee in what steadily turned int an easy blowout.
Claiming vindication very early
The Pistons opened the 2004 NBA Playoffs with a thrashing of the Milwaukee Bucks that was so thorough, it was hard not to imagine them as a title contender. For NBA fans who were unfamiliar with them, their dominant Game 1 effort against Milwaukee put their suffocating defense, which had been brutalizing opponents post-Rasheed Wallace-trade, on full display. For me, it was vindication. At the time, I was a student at Oakland University in my second or third senior year (Maybe fourth? I lost count.) I was helping a friend (who would go on to become Paul Kampe of the Oakland Press) as an on-air "talent" for a sports show he was producing despite the fact that I had no interest in seeing myself on TV ever, I had even less charisma than I have now and I was in a phase where I was making some of the most unfortunate facial hair choices in history. Also, the show was about Detroit sports, and the only team I really followed enough to have expertise on was the Pistons, so three out of the four segments of each episode were pretty light on content from my end.
Anyway, the episodes aren’t all online, but you can get a taste with this clip. One of the things I remain proudest of in my short broadcasting career was my adamant stance (despite being mocked by other panelists on the show) that the Pistons defense that season made them legitimate threats to beat anyone and win the title. Game one against the Bucks was a vindication of all of my ‘Pistons as title contenders’ proclamations. The defense? It not only held the Bucks to 82 points, the Pistons only allowed Milwaukee’s main offensive threat, sharp-shooting Michael Redd, to 10 field goal attempts and one three-point attempt. Ben Wallace, who the casual fan only thought of as a defensive specialist/role player and not one of the elite, game-changing stars in the league? He had 17 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals and a block. And the team’s offense, which critics felt may not be able to score enough? They put up 102 points with six players all reaching double figures and all, at times, serving as focal points of the offense. This was a championship team.
OK, so maybe I shouldn’t have celebrated and claimed vindication so much after one win over a Bucks roster that, looking back, I can’t figure out how they won 20 games, let alone made the playoffs. But for a team like the Pistons that most weren’t yet taking seriously as a title contender, the fact that they opened the playoffs in 2004 with a performance that was not only dominant, it answered every possible question a critic could have about them was a very positive sign going forward.
From the frontlines
When Pistons games began, Mike James and Lindsey Hunter went to work.
Though neither started, they always sat next to each other on the bench and strategized. They examined opposing guards, looking for weaknesses.
That way, when they entered the game, the Pitbulls were ready to pounce.
Hunter and James, acquired midseason from the Celtics in the Rasheed Wallace trade, were both small guards looking for roles in Detroit. Together, they found one as an ultra-aggressive, trapping, defensive terror.
“Larry Brown wasn’t accepting Lindsey and I coming in the game shooting all the balls,” James said. “We already had two shooters in Chauncey and Rip. They were already shooting all the balls.
“So, we understood that in order for us to get points, we had to get steals. So, we just became ball-hawking defenders, and we fed off each other. It wasn’t like individually we were good defensive players, but together collectively, we were even better because we were able to read each other.”
Since, I’ve never seen anything quite like the tandem. Opposing guards actually looked scared to face these two. Reaching the NBA takes so much basketball experience and competence, it’s rare players at this level outwardly panic. But Hunter and James struck fear with their tenacity.
Perhaps, their high-water mark during the playoff run came in Game 1 against the Bucks. Hunter and James might not have been at their absolute best – though I wouldn’t definitively claim they weren’t – but the entire team followed their lead.
Detroit set a franchise playoff record with 14 steals. Five of them, including three by Hunter and one by James, came in the fewer than eight minutes James and Hunter shared the court.
“Our goal was to be just defensive maniacs,” James said. “…We were just hungry little dogs trying to get steals. All we wanted was the ball. We didn’t want nothing else but the ball.”
At some point during the season, James and Hunter picked up the nickname “Pitbulls” or, occasionally, “Palace Pitbulls.” James still remembers the sounds of growling dogs playing through the speakers when they entered games.
I can’t think of a more-fitting moniker. Through sheer determination, James and Hunter impacted games together, truly exceeding the sum of their parts.
Their cohesion extended to a deep friendship off the court. They pranked each other – Hunter pouring popcorn into James’ car, James hiding Hunters’ car – and as they grew closer, so did their families.
Hunter now serves as an assistant coach with the Warriors, and James, who plays for the Bulls, wants to follow his friend into the profession when his playing career ends.
Ten years ago, the seeds of that path were fertilized as they scouted opposing guards from the Pistons’ bench. Between James and Hunter, much more than a career arc was forged.
“That’s my boy to this day,” James said of Hunter. “We were the Pitbulls.”
Don’t overreact to one win, but man, that was encouraging.
The Pistons’ 26-point victory was the largest in any team’s playoff opener in three years. Detroit absolutely began its postseason on the right foot. Seriously, that couldn’t have gone any better.
Still, The Pistons hadn’t swept a playoff series in 14 years, dating back to a 1990.
Let cautious optimism rule the day.
With two days off before Game 2, the Bucks have a chance to regroup. Detroit, on the other hand, can stay loose and confident.
There’s no saying with certainty how this series will unfold, but did you see the New Jersey Nets – Detroit’s potential second-round opponent – pound the Knicks by 24 points the day prior? It would be nice to end this Bucks series quickly and rest before facing the Nets, who swept the Pistons in last season’s conference finals.
They haven’t changed one bit. Stubborn. Cocky. Proud. Entertaining. The Bad Boys in their modern form are still all those things, and that will become apparent to everyone tonight when the 30-for-30 “Bad Boys” airs at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
The documentary, which I saw a not fully edited version of, is directed like an oral history as none of the members of the team appear together on camera during their respective interviews and reflections. The forum is a haven for honesty but also ambiguity. Answers to “Did Isiah Thomas demand that Adrian Dantley be traded for Mark Aguirre”? and “Who led the walkout off the court versus the Chicago Bulls?” receive perspective and reflection but never a straight answer. The interviews probe for answers, at times being so direct that it appears they are attempting to drive a wedge between former teammates who emphatically described themselves as a family and nothing less. If the producers were looking for an informer to give them the absolute truth, they didn’t find one.
Dantley expresses his perspective on the trade with a feverish accusation that borders violence, but his perspective can’t be affirmed by others re-telling their version of the events. Fingers are pointed for the walkout versus the Bulls, but singular responsibility is never relegated and only the collective act is remembered. It’s a post-modern narrative that is sorely lacking in today’s NBA, as agent and “source” leaks, despite strict media availability, have made the league more transparent and divisive at the same time. The documentary provides few answers, like the ones we are accustomed to today, but plenty of commentary, perspective and, for just a brief moment, remorse.
The remorse stems from Isiah Thomas, who reiterated that in hindsight, they shouldn’t have walked off the court versus the Bulls. This isn’t a revelation from a man who has had two decades to reflect on an act that he has been ridiculed for countless times, but is contradictory to the feelings he expressed earlier when discussing the “reverse racism” incident with Larry Bird. Thomas appears genuine, open and honest through the documentary, which offers little reason to question his story, but you still feel as if there’s a veil either covering something or sharing too much in each of those incidents. This feeling is our own because other than Dantley, Thomas is universally adored by his former teammates who independently protect him throughout the documentary as if they were still on the court battling the bruising Boston Celtics team of the 1980s.
If Thomas is the intellectual challenge of the documentary, then Bill Laimbeer is the heart and Rick Mahorn the soul. Laimbeer admits to little wrong-doing, and his smugness suggests he wouldn’t change anything about how that era in Pistons history played out both on and off the court. It’s apparent throughout the documentary that Laimbeer was integral to the team’s identity and that remains his persona to this day.
Mahorn was not on the second Pistons championship team and his feelings about his absence are devastating as for the first time in the film, a member of that Pistons era let’s their guard down in a moment of vulnerability and emotion. Mahorn’s reaction to leaving the team was my greatest takeaway from the film as it ensures that hardness isn’t immune to love.
The documentary depicts the rise and fall of the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s and how the myth of the “Bad Boys” became an attitude and on-court persona. It became a metaphor they could rely on like a vilified and despised Ubuntu. At one point, Thomas is asked to reflect on the Bad Boys mentality and with a picture-perfect Isiah smile, he explains:
"We wanted to crush you mentally. We wanted your whole city to shake when we walked through the door. We wanted the fans to feel fear."
Nearly 25 years later, chances are you will still feel all those things tonight. They haven’t changed so there’s no reason to believe that our thoughts and feelings about them will. Even in old age, the Bad Boys are still the Bad Boys and our position on them is exclusively dependent only our respective geographies.
Hill, though, has told people close to him he won’t consider a front-office position this close to retirement, but down the line when his children get older, he would consider it.
Monroe was asked if the Pistons had good locker-room chemistry this season, which ended Wednesday with a 112-111 loss at Oklahoma City.
"Honestly, I would say no," he answered.
Pressed for what the problem was, Monroe retreated.
"I will answer the question," he said, "but I wouldn’t go further than that."
"I don’t really like to say things that are controversial, even though sometimes it may be needed," he said. "But I don’t think it’s beneficial. I believe, as a team, we should be able to talk. But in this platform, I don’t think some stuff should be said, even though some people always choose to do it."
“I’ve censored myself, just because of the whole, so much speculation and so much stuff going on,” Monroe said. “I just tried to make sure I was as productive as possible. That I kept a straight head and kept it as positive as possible.”
With the Kings’ loss to the Suns last night, the Pistons’ lottery odds are now set. They’ll have have the No. 8 seed in the lottery – and because their first-round pick goes to Charlotte unless it falls in the top eight – there are only four possible picks they can land: 1, 2, 3 and 8.
- No. 1: 2.8%
- No. 2: 3.3%
- No. 3: 3.9%
- No. 8: 72.4%
- Lose pick:
|Greg Monroe, PF 38 MIN | 9-19 FG | 4-9 FT | 8 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | -7The shooting percentage wasn’t pretty, but the rest of Monroe’s game screamed PAY ME tonight. He’s at his best when the offense is run through him, and from the third quarter on he controlled the game. The Pistons really had no point guard tonight, and Monroe showed how capable a playmaker he can be when he’s not suffocated in the paint by opposing defenses. It’s weird to think that this could be his last game in a Pistons uniform.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 38 MIN | 6-9 FG | 6-6 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -7The good? Singler scored 20 points on just nine attempts.
The bad? Kevin Durant treated him like a folding chair in the fourth quarter.Singler has solidified the fact that he can be a very valuable role player off the bench with his play this season. He’s just so overwhelmed defensively as a big-minute starter.
|Andre Drummond, C 28 MIN | 9-16 FG | 4-8 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | +9Detroit’s lead really didn’t start to dwindle until Drummond fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. Drummond was active all night with his usual array of put-backs and hustle plays. He opened the game with a few nice hook shots, too. If he can come back next season with one — that’s it — post move, watch out.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG 34 MIN | 2-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 8 TO | 6 PTS | -1The best point guard on the roster tonight was Peyton Siva, and it wasn’t close. Jennings’ hailmary shot at the buzzer may have been thisclose to dropping, but he played a completely discombobulated game otherwise. The seven assists is nice, but the eight turnovers and 2-for-9 shooting were not.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 44 MIN | 11-19 FG | 3-5 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 30 PTS | +6Meet Kentavious Confidence-Pope. Tonight’s effort was easily the best game of Caldwell-Pope’s rookie year. You know how he’s usually timid and indecisive? He knew exactly what he wanted tonight, and looked confident on offense and defense where he gave Russell Westbrook fits. I can’t give him an A+ because he kind of forced that late Monroe turnover by not committing to his cut, but this was absolutely the best way for the rookie to enter his first offseason as a pro.|
|Tony Mitchell, PF 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4Mitchell and the other young players got a taste of first-half action tonight, but Mitchell looked a bit scrambled in his six minutes of work. He grabbed a board and moved his feet on defense, but offensively it seemed like he was just floating and setting random screens.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 25 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -5I have no idea why Jerebko would be dribbling the ball in the final seconds of a one-point game, but alas, he was dribbling and losing the ball late tonight. Jerebko may have his limitations, but he usually provides energy when he’s on the floor — it’s just he also still tries to do too much at times.|
|Luigi Datome, SF 9 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +3When Datome hits the floor, chances are he’s hoisting a shot soon after he touches it. He didn’t shoot well tonight, but his effort was admirable and he crashed the boards very well. I’m really rooting for him to find his jumper and be a factor next season.|
|Peyton Siva, PG 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -7Remember how I said Siva played a better game than Jennings tonight? He did, but it wasn’t by much. Siva is a caretaker when he’s on the floor. He’s not going to create a ton of easy looks, and he’ll occasionally make a shot, but he’s just kind of a guy who can bring the ball up court well. If he had a consistent 3-point shot… well, let’s talk when that’s a thing.|
This is how Loyer should have been coaching games all month long. Give the young guys a chance when the game is in the balance? Check. Try to get Caldwell-Pope engaged by running plays for him and seeing what he’s capable of? Check. Play Monroe and Drummond together? Check. I know Loyer has been coaching to win — which makes perfect sense for an interim coach aspiring to eventually become full time head coach — but even through all the tanking and all the losing, this was a loss that actually hurt. It would have been great to play spoilers and bump the Thunder down to the No. 3 seed out West. It’d be fun to do so despite a huge night from Durant. It’d be fun to beat a title contender to end the year. But, instead, the team choked away a fourth-quarter lead and ended the season in the most 2013-14 Pistons way possible.Good riddance.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (29-52) at Oklahoma City Thunder (58-23)
- Date: April 16, 2014
- Time: 8:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
Game 82 folks.
This failed Detroit Pistons season ends tonight. All the free-agency plans from last season have led to…the lottery. The franchise will have to rebuild once more and try to field a competitive team this summer.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before any of this takes place, there’s the OKC Thunder to deal with.
It appears as though the league will crown Kevin Durant as the league MVP at some point during the spring, and it will be a well-deserved award. Over the course of the year, KD has averaged 31.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 50.4 percent shooting from the floor and 39.3 percent from long range.
The ridiculous efficiency prompted a post where yours truly openly wondered whether Durant is the greatest perimeter scorer since Michael Jordan. Durant is certainly in that stratosphere as he gets ready to secure his fourth scoring title in seven seasons.
For those worried that head coach Scott Brooks might rest his superstar tonight, it appears as though it won’t be the case per ESPN.com. The Thunder want the No. 2 seed, and a victory tonight clinches it.
In the event OKC were to lose, and that the Los Angeles Clippers defeat the Portland Trail Blazers, LAC would get the second seed by virtue of a superior conference record.
Doc Rivers has already announced his plans to sit Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick in the finale, which gives OKC the inside track. Still, the Thunder’s best shot is to determine their own fate with a win.
Hence, we should get a good game tonight.
Read about the Thunder
Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. I know the list is huge, but with the Pistons season officially over after tonight, what was the biggest negative to come out of the 2013-14 season?
Dan Feldman: I made the mistake of reading Tim’s answer before writing my own, and now I don’t have an original thought. I agree wholeheartedly with him.
Brady Fredericksen: The final result. There are plenty of negatives, but the fact that this team could only muster 29 wins this season is the real joke. The Hawks lost 20 of 26 games at one point and this team couldn’t even muster a push to get back into the realistic playoff picture. They were armed with one of the least-effective offenses around and played as much defense as those of you reading this at home. The fact that this team, with as much ill-fitting talent as it has, was so putrid is the biggest downer for me.
Tim Thielke: The most likely answer is the decline of Josh Smith‘s value. I still think Smith is fairly paid for a player of his ability and he would live up to the contract with many rosters, but he could no longer be traded under that evaluation. He is now a semi-albatross.
2. Don’t list everything at once, but which negative was the most painful to see?
Dan Feldman: Joe Dumars getting forced out. It was absolutely the right move. I just wish it hadn’t come to that. Dumars is great – as a Piston and person – and I wanted to see him pull it together. Unfortunately, he never did.
Brady Fredericksen: How Joe Dumars struck out on every acquisition this summer. For most of the Pistons stretch of futility, we’ve seen the same core group of guys. This season, Dumars finally made moves and completely revamped the team by getting rid of eight guys. The resulting acquisitions were three complete flops — the "shooters" in Luigi Datome and Chauncey Billups and, of course, Josh Smith — and one enigma in Brandon Jennings. I’m not going to call Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a strike out yet, but I also wouldn’t use the word "good" to describe him, either.
Tim Thielke: The fact that the Pistons had two different coaches and neither was willing to try staggering the Smith/Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond frontcourt. Seriously, most fans could come up with that strategy within seconds of hearing who was on this team, but two different NBA head coaches couldn’t give it a shot? I’d understand if what they did was at least sort of working and they didn’t want to take a risk that may blow their playoff berth. But the game plan was clearly in shambles. It was time to experiment.
3. What was the biggest negative from the season?
Dan Feldman: Chauncey Billups not getting the sendoff I hoped to see. The Pistons might be best off in the long run with this losing season – if they keep their draft pick – but I wished Billups could have gotten the fond farewell he deserved.
Brady Fredericksen: Everything Smith had to deal with. I’m not absolving him of anything, but he was put in the crappiest situation of all — even if it was by his own cash-driven doing. I don’t think Smith actually thinks he’s a good 3-point shooter and I don’t think Smith thinks he’s a good perimeter player. I think this season has probably humbled him because, to be honest, he was terrible for most of it. He played for two coaches who had no idea what to do with him, Drummond and Monroe and he had two frontcourt mates who are either too young or too limited to play in such an odd-fitting lineup. From my interactions and from what I’ve read, Smith isn’t a bad guy. I still think he’s a good player, but I think it’s tough for any good player to go from 7-8 years of playing with good, smart teams to playing with a bad, not-so-smart one. Smith was bad, but I think the general fans’ idea that he’s like a Charlie Villanueva clone is unfair.
Tim Thielke: The fact that I had to go back to rooting for Pistons’ losses. I didn’t expect the Pistons to be anything spectacular this season. But there was enough talent on the roster that I was expecting a season in which I’d be hoping for every game to be a win. Instead, the Pistons were clearly not going to make the playoffs with almost 30 games remaining. And then they still didn’t trot out the prospects for extended minutes.
Pistons vowing broad search for Joe Dumars’ successor, but two names already in circulation to be on their list: Scott Perry and Grant Hill
Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. It’s obviously been a rough season for both the Pistons and their fans, but what has been the biggest positive to come out of the 2013-14 season?
Dan Feldman: Andre Drummond producing near All-Star levels. Drummond appeared to be on this track as a rookie, but sometimes, players can’t maintain their production in larger minutes. Drummond did, and that gives the Pistons legitimate hope they have a superstar in the making.
Brady Fredericksen: Drummond doing Drummond things. It gives you hope, which fans haven’t had much of over the past five years. That’s something, right?
Tim Thielke: We can’t know yet because the most likely answer is whoever the Pistons take in the first round. However, that pick could yet be lost or a total bust.
2. Are there any hidden positives that may not make themselves known until later on?
Dan Feldman: Brandon Jennings‘ development as a passer. If you’ve been reading carefully lately, I often refers to Joe Dumars‘ major free agent busts as only Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Smith. I’m not ready to lump in Jennings. A three-year, $24 million contract just isn’t that bad for a starting-caliber point guard, which Jennings is, even if he’s on the low end of the range. This season, Jennings averaged more assists than ever and did so with a career-best assist-to-turnover ratio. His shot selection and shooting were out of whack, but maybe, just maybe, he can put it all together a little better next season.
Brady Fredericksen: They didn’t play themselves out of the lottery’s top eight. There couldn’t have been a worse way for this dumpster-fire season to end than if the Pistons did enough to play themselves into that true danger zone. It’s well known that the Pistons tend to put together meaningless winning streaks to end the year, and luckily they bucked the trend this year. Now, they still aren’t guaranteed to keep the pick, but seriously, if they’d played themselves out of the top eight it’d rank near the top of Detroit’s most futile sports moments — somewhere behind the 2003 Tigers and the 2008 Lions.
Tim Thielke: Sure, Smith/Monroe/Drummond could develop a surprising amount of chemistry, become a devastating frontcourt, and attribute it to working through the kinks this year. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
3. You’re drawing for straws here, I know, but what the best moment of the year?
Dan Feldman: Assuming we’re talking about moments during only the regular season and not the extended season, which would include the lottery: Pistons firing Maurice Cheeks. More than anything, that gave me faith the franchise would move quickly to fix its mistakes. The Pistons have been going nowhere slowly for years. Cheeks’ firing was a refreshing sign they’re going… well, maybe still nowhere, but at least they’re doing it more quickly.
Brady Fredericksen: December 7, 2013. That was the last time the Pistons were .500, and they actually were fun and exciting and everything looked so promising — even though they were a blah 10-10. They’d just pounded the Bulls and beaten the Heat on the road, and it really felt like the team was on the way up. Of course, everything came crashing down soon after, but we’ll always have December 7th.
Tim Thielke: Probably when the Pistons beat the Spurs in John Loyer’s debut. That game produced a brief moment of hope that this team might actually be good with the right coach. Granted, that’s still true, but ti didn’t take long to discover Loyer’s not the right coach.