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4-on-3: Sorting through to the Pistons quiet trade deadline

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. The Pistons not-so-surprisingly didn’t make a move at the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday. Does this tell you anything about the state of the franchise?

Dan Feldman: In itself, no. Maybe the Pistons were aggressively — and quietly — negotiating trades that just didn’t get done. Or maybe Tom Gores has stripped Joe Dumars‘ power, including the ability to make trades. I suspect the truth sits somewhere between, but where on the spectrum it falls would mean a lot of different things.

Patrick Hayes: Not anything that we didn’t already know — the only assets the team has that others would be really interested in giving up good value for (Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe) were likely not available. And the players that the Pistons would probably be open to moving (Josh Smith, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko, etc.) probably weren’t appealing enough to any suitors to give up anything remotely valuable in exchange. As for the state of the franchise, the Pistons are a bad team suffering the consequences of several years of mismanagement. We already knew that before the trade deadline.

Brady Fredericksen: That the team knows minor deals wouldn’t fix them. There were probably opportunities to shuffle minor pieces around, but outside of trading Smith, there probably weren’t any deals that would help push the Pistons ahead of the apparently far superior Bobcats. They don’t need to make moves for the sake of making moves, especially when they’ve made, what, one good move (last season’s Prince-Calderon trade) in the past four years?

Jameson Draper: This tells me that the franchise isn’t going for the playoffs this year. If they were, they would probably make a couple small moves to put them into better position. They didn’t, and it looks like this season is another lost one.

2. It’s rumored that the Pistons wanted more than just empty expiring contracts for Smith — smart strategy to hold off on moving him?

Dan Feldman: First of all, I’d be fairly surprised if the Pistons actually got any offers of only expiring contracts for him. So, keeping him probably was smart. I don’t want to repeat the Ben Gordon mistake and deal a valuable asset just to dump a contract. The Pistons aren’t in a position where that makes sense.

Patrick Hayes: Pretend you’re Dumars. You’re on the verge of failing to deliver on a mandate to make the playoffs, coming off of back-to-back blowout losses to the Charlotte Bobcats, having your hand-picked coach fired 50 games into the job and for the second time in less than five years, watching two major, expensive acquisitions flop. Would you (again, pretending you’re Dumars, not a person who can objectively see the summer of 2013 for the failure it was) follow up that awful recent track record by essentially giving away Smith for nothing but an expiring contract? It would be admitting less than a year into the Smith signing that you failed yet again. Also, I think it’s a stretch to assume an expiring deal was even on the table for Smith. Maybe the Pistons leaking that they wouldn’t take just an expiring for Smith was their subtle way of saying, “SOMEONE PLEASE OFFER US AN EXPIRING DEAL!”

Brady Fredericksen: Smart. First, I don’t think Dumars will be back next season, so why would ownership allow a potentially lame-duck GM to make more moves? Secondly, Smith has been a trainwreck this season, but he isn’t a bad player. He has a PER of 12.2 at small forward, but a very good rating of 19.9 at power forward. His contract is big, but there are a lot of inferior players with terrible contracts. Smith could be a big trade chip when the draft rolls around for whoever’s in charge.

Jameson Draper: I think so, only because I think any moves at this point would be kind of pointless, and it kind of is like Dumars admitting his errors, which he would never ever do.

3. This is going to be who the Pistons are the rest of the way, what’s the outlook for the final 28 games?

Dan Feldman: The Bobcats are on pace to win 37 games. To best that — remember Charlotte has the tiebreaker — the Pistons would have to go 16-12. They haven’t done that well in a 28-game stretch since one that began in 2008! The outlook? Dim.

Patrick Hayes: It’s bad, bordering on disaster. We all know what disaster is — missing the playoffs AND not being bad enough to keep their lottery pick, which is top-eight protected. I think we can all agree that we HATE THE DISASTER OPTION SO MUCH. But let’s not pretend either of the non-disaster options are all that great. Making the playoffs only to get destroyed by Miami or Indiana brings them a couple of home playoff games worth of revenue, but based on attendance and waning fan interest do you think those playoff games are selling out? And if they miss the playoffs and keep their lottery pick? Sure, that gives the promise of hopefully getting another impact player in the draft. But at the end of the day, it’s another trip to the lottery and a likely reset button/rebuilding effort if there are major regime changes in the offseason, so who knows how long it could be before  the Pistons are a relevant franchise again?

Brady Fredericksen: We’ll see the same inconsistencies. These guys are who they are, they’ve been together for over 50 games — the adjustment period is over — and they’re not going to magically change their style of play. They won’t flame out quite like they did last season, which could be a huge problem. In order to 100 percent keep their pick, they’ll have to finish in the league’s bottom five. If the playoffs are unlikely, their best hope is that Cleveland passes them (likely) and the Knicks get hot and do the same (ditto) before they’re battling with true tanking teams. It’s an uphill climb no matter what direction they go — fitting, considering how much of a struggle the last five seasons have been.

Jameson Draper: Poor. I said in the last 3-on-3 that the Pistons would not make the playoffs if they lost both games after the break to the Bobcats, and that’s exactly what they did. The Bobcats are a “playoff” team and are several games under .500. This Pistons squad can’t match up with THAT? Yeah, no way they’re a playoff team.

Do the Pistons have a plan for Greg Monroe this summer? They better

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons not making a move at the trade deadline probably was OK.

Unless it was an utter disaster.

Sure, it would have been nice if the Pistons unloaded Josh Smith or got value for the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey or Charlie Villanueva. But missing those opportunities won’t cost the team in the long run. This summer, Smith’s contract will be shorter and more tradable, and Stuckey and Villanueva will come off the books and offer enough salary cap room to add an impact player.

But not trading Greg Monroe? If that was a mistake, it’s irreversible.

Hopefully, it wasn’t a mistake.

For the record, I wanted the Pistons to keep Monroe. I believe he can play with Andre Drummond (though with Smith at small forward), and I like Monroe’s efficiency-based skill set. He obviously needs work defensively, and he’s not a great athlete. But at 23, he likely hasn’t peaked.

However, as I’ve said since the extension deadline passed in October, the Pistons should keep Monroe past the trade deadline only if they’re willing to give him a max contract this summer.

Now, I wonder how certain the Pistons are about Monroe. Did they decide they’d pay him max money if necessary? Or does Gores just want the team to make that choice when he sees fit, regardless of how big a bind the timing puts the team in? This was the last chance to trade Monroe in a non-sign-and-trade, so deferring the decision would only mean fewer options.

Complicating matters, the Pistons might have a new general manager when Monroe hits free agency. After Gores stepped in to fire Cheeks, Joe Dumars might not carry the same power within the organization anymore. Could he even trade Monroe if he wanted to?

Hopefully, someone in the front office who will remain there this summer — even if it’s Gores himself — drove the decision to keep Monroe and did so for all the right reasons. This would be simpler if the Pistons had a more stable general manager, someone executing a multiyear plan. If they don’t, though, the responsibility falls to Gores to ensure that the long term is accounted for.

If the Pistons made a conscious choice to keep Monroe because they’re willing to give him a max contract, we’re fine here. But if they’re just delaying their assessment of Monroe’s value, they’re asking for trouble this summer.

Pistons stand pat at NBA trade deadline

Not surprisingly, the Pistons kept relatively quiet during Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

Detroit’s silence at the deadline should have been expected. There were Josh Smith rumors floating about, and there were murmurs of minor deals — Will Bynum for Jerryd Bayless — but no small trade was going to make this dysfunctional roster much better.

It’s not flashy, but by keeping Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva means the Pistons will have over $16 million in cap space this summer — which will be beneficial to whoever’s in charge.

The issue is who makes the next move. This is a franchise that just fired Maurice Cheeks after 50 games on the job, and that move alone says a lot about owner Tom Gores — and probably more about how the Pistons would handle business at the deadline.

Joe Dumars is in the last year of his contract, and the fact that his coach was fired so quickly says, I think, a lot about how he’s viewed by ownership; there weren’t going to be any more mistakes made.

It appears Gores was the one who wouldn’t allow Dumars to spend more money on a mid-season replacement like Lionel Hollins, so why allow him to make more of a mess before his contract runs out this summer?

From everything we’ve seen, it looks like Dumars tried to wiggle out of his latest mistake (Smith), albeit to no avail.

Now, you just have to wonder if it was his last trade deadline in Detroit.

Al Jefferson, Bobcats pound the Pistons for a second-straight night

Detroit Pistons 98 FinalRecap | Box Score 116 Charlotte Bobcats
Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 5-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -26You ever seen a kids’ basketball game? You know, one where everyone is huddled in the paint and there’s no room to do anything? That must be how Greg Monroe feels every night. He struggled mightily, missing his first nine shots of the night. He wasn’t bad in his stint defensively against Al Jefferson late, though.

Josh Smith, SF 41 MIN | 7-18 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -26He padded his stats late in the game, but he struggled right alongside Monroe. Both struggled with the interior demon known as Bismack Biyombo (five blocks) and Smith couldn’t keep up with the Bobcats’ supastar stretch-four, Josh McRoberts (three 3-pointers).

Kyle Singler, SF 29 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -20He’s solid, he’s steady and he did what he’s out there to do. Singler made both of his early 3-point attempts, he didn’t get burnt too horribly on defense and that’s about it. He is what he is, and his 3-point ability helps the starting five.

Andre Drummond, C 33 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -12Do you think Drummond will wake up late tonight in a cold sweat thinking about the awful things Al Jefferson has done to him the past two nights? Drummond’s a great young player, but his weaknesses as a post defender have been totally exposed in these last two games — albeit against arguably the craftiest post scorer in the NBA.

Brandon Jennings, PG 35 MIN | 7-18 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -17He let his emotions get the best of him late in the game, collecting a pair of technicals and an early trip to the locker room, but he was decent otherwise with six assists and just two turnovers. Kemba Walker piled up 24 points, 16 assists against him, but he only shot 8-for-20.

Tony Mitchell, PF 1 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2Mitchell came in and made an effort play, grabbing an offensive rebound. The only problem was Jeff Adrien blocked his put-back.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +4There haven’t been many personnel differences between Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer — except the sudden emergence of Jerebko. It’s tough to watch him play these days. He was such a fun, grimy player when the Pistons drafted him in 2009. Hopefully he realizes that he should rebound and defend, not float around and shoot long-2s.

Luigi Datome, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2His beard and pony tail looked stylish, as always.

Will Bynum, PG 21 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -2Solid night’s work from Bynum, who has been the other player revived by Loyer. Bynum worked well against Walker, he didn’t fare too poorly on his wild drives to the basket, and his eight-assist, two-turnover night is a refreshing reminder of what he’s capable of on a good night.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4Poor kid did absolutely nothing but stand around and run up and down the court for three minutes. I don’t know that he’s hit a wall physically, but it sure as heck looks like he has mentally.

Rodney Stuckey, SG 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +1Who knows if Stuckey (or Jerebko or Bynum or Smith or Monroe) will be Pistons by 3 p.m. on Thursday, but Stuckey rebounded nicely from a nightmarish 1-for-11 night against the Bobcats on Tuesday. If this loss means the Pistons are changing course from playoffs to lottery, getting rid of Stuckey’s production would jumpstart the tanking.

John Loyer
It’s funny, against San Antonio and Cleveland, Loyer had the Pistons playing defense. They were legitimately trying and having some success forcing turnovers and generating offense off of that. But against the Bobcats it’s been absolutely the opposite. Charlotte is legitimately a good defense, so the frustration created by that may have an affect on the Pistons’ defensive effort, but watching both of these defenses is like night and day. Loyer can only do so much — he’s an interim coach for a reason — but he hasn’t looked a whole lot better than Cheeks four games, and three losses, into his tryout period.

Pistons face Eastern Conference’s toughest remaining schedule

3-on-3: How big are these Bobcats games?

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. Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Pistons will have a big two-game set against the Charlotte Bobcats — a team they’re chasing for the East’s final playoff spot. How big are these two games?

Dan Feldman: As big as a mid-February back-to-back can get. Not only will these two games essentially count double as the Pistons try to make up ground in the playoff race, they could determine the Detroit’s direction as a franchise. I expect the Pistons to stay the course regardless before Thursday’s trade deadline, but if they’re pondering a move — buying or selling — these two games could make the difference.

Patrick Hayes: In a normal playoff race, they’d be huge. But this year in the East? I’m not convinced. Of course the Pistons would feel much better about their chances if they come out of this with a sweep, but I’m not fully convinced the Bobcats organization wants to make the playoffs that badly — seeing a team like Cleveland surge past them, meaning they’d get two lottery picks if Detroit doesn’t get bad enough to finish in the top eight wouldn’t be a bad scenario for the team as it gets set to launch its re-brand next season. The Pistons could falter in one or both games and still likely have plenty of opportunities to gain ground in the race for the eighth seed later on.

Jameson Draper: These are big games. Not necessarily because of the actual standings and playoff spot, but it will kind of set the tone for the second half of the season and it will give us a good view of where John Loyer‘s new team is headed for the next couple of months.

2. Aside from two games in the standings, what can the Pistons gain from sweeping the Bobcats?

Dan Feldman: For one, they’d get the tiebreaker over Charlotte. Only a sweep would win it, because the Pistons lost to the Bobcats in December in the first game of the three-game series. More so, they would hopefully get a renewed sense of purpose while putting their opponent in a crisis of confidence. But that depends how the games go. The Pistons would have just a half game lead, and there’s no logical reason for Charlotte to panic no matter what happens. The Pistons have the hardest remaining schedule (based on opponents’ combined winning percentage) in the Eastern Conference, and they have the third-highest percentage of remaining games on the road.

Patrick Hayes: Well, hopefully a two-game sweep of the Bobcats wouldn’t give the Pistons too much confidence, considering it is still the Bobcats after all. But they would gain ground in the playoff race, they would own the tie-breaker  and they would start the post-All-Star stretch run with a bit of positive momentum.

Jameson Draper: They can gain experience and confidence. Sweep the Bobcats? You just swept a playoff team. Not only will that give them the confidence needed to go out and beat other better teams, but it will give them experience as to what they’ll need to do to get a win.

3. What kind of impact might it have on the Pistons if they go the other direction and get swept at the hands of the more consistent Bobcats?

Dan Feldman: That would put the Pistons 2.5 games out of playoff position 114 days into the season. While that might not seem like much, it is. In the previous 10 years, nine teams have been between two and three games out that far into the season. Eight of them missed the playoffs. It wouldn’t be impossible for the Pistons to come back, but it would be an uphill battle.

Patrick Hayes: I don’t think it will have any. With Maurice Cheeks‘ firing, the goal is still pretty clearly making the playoffs. Falling 2.5 games out of eighth place would certainly be a setback, but come on … it’s the still the Bobcats, a team that has only made the playoffs once in its franchise’s existence. Charlotte is improved, but as I said above, they have incentive to both make and miss the playoffs. Making them gives the team positive momentum and a proof point that they’re young talent is improving heading into the big Charlotte Hornets relaunch last year. But missing while hoping the Pistons also miss but don’t get too terrible would potentially give them two lottery picks in a great draft to add even more to their improving young core ahead of next season. This is not a traditional playoff race, so I expect the Pistons to have plenty of chances to get back in it even if they falter.

Jameson Draper:  I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m going to anyway. If they get swept by the Bobcats, the Pistons will not make the playoffs. That will set the tone negatively for the second half of the season and wipe away all confidence they might have gained from their little winning streak last week.

3-on-3: Future Pistons All-Stars

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. Andre Drummond will make at least five All-Star Games in his career.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Fact. I feel a little uncomfortable picking any player whose never made an All-Star Game to make five, but Drummond is just that promising. And really, he’s on an OK track. Of the 120 five-time All-Stars in NBA history, just fewer than half made an All-Star Game in their first two seasons. Two-thirds, though, made one by their third season, so Drummond better get going.

Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Fact. For Drummond, getting to the first one will be the hardest part. The Pistons can help him achieve that by, you know, not being the least interesting team in the league and not underachieving, hopefully starting next season. Drummond’s game is so productive and so exciting and crowd-pleasing that once he gets a little attention, it’s pretty easy to see he’s going to be a fixture in All-Star games.

Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press: Fact. Let’s face it; Drummond is probably playing at an All-Star level right now. Averages of 13.1 points, 13 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots definitely look the part. In February, those averages jump to 16.1, 14.7 and 2.3, and he leads the NBA with 5.4 offensive rebounds per game. And since this is for you stat heads, he is grabbing nearly 18% of available offensive rebounds and has a PER of 22.4. Looks like a perennial All-Star to me – as long as he keeps improving and his teams are competitive.

2. Fact or Fiction: Greg Monroe will make an All-Star Game in his career.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Fiction. The crop of quality big men has grown in the last few years, and Monroe has not progressed as greatly as hoped – pushing him down the pecking order just a little bit. Still, he’s in the fringe range, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ultimately became an All-Star. Playing for a better team, especially if he remains in the Eastern Conference, would help his case. And yes, that team could be the Pistons.

Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Fact. Monroe’s already been decently close once, back before the East did away with the center position. He doesn’t have the athletic advantages Drummond has that draw attention to his game, but Monroe is an efficient offensive player, a strong rebounder and it’s not a stretch to envision him putting up All-Star numbers for a season or three on a more balanced roster down the road.

Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press: Fiction. I think there is room for growth here. Those that think Moose has reached his ceiling are goofy. But I am beginning to wonder if Monroe will ever be the main or second option on a good team. If he’s just a very good No. 3, don’t see him making an All-Star team.

3. Fact or Fiction: A current Piston besides Drummond and Monroe will make a future All-Star Game in his career.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Fiction. The only current Piston who has ever been an All-Star is Chauncey Billups, and he’s definitely not making it back. Josh Smith’s best days are behind him, and he never made it in his prime, though I can’t completely rule out a late breakthrough. Brandon Jennings has the talent to work his way onto the periphery of the All-Star discussion and is young enough to do so, but considering he’s not even in the discussion at this point, that seems like a longshot. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, because his age creates high variance for future career arcs, might have the best chance. I just don’t see him reaching that level, though.

Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered: Fiction. There are only three real candidates, and all have issues. Josh Smith is not getting younger, he has yet to make one and he’s having a poor season. Time is running out for him. Brandon Jennings is certainly dynamic enough to envision as an All-Star if he ever figures out how to play under control, but the East is pretty loaded with young star guards — Derrick Rose when healthy, Kyrie Irving and John Wall are all significantly better than Jennings right now and all are also still young enough that improvement is not out of the question (with a major caveat being the impact of Rose’s injuries as an unknown). My wildcard would be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He hasn’t played very well this season and he’s falling further and further down the rotation, but his defense has shown great potential and if his three-point shooting ever comes around as advertised, he’ll be a legit three and D scoring wing in a conference where the shooting guard position is largely unproven behind the aging Dwyane Wade. KCP is truly a longshot, but there’s still a slim chance he could develop into an Arron Afflalo-type player. Afflalo didn’t make the team this year, but his numbers are certainly All-Star worthy. He represents a nice best-case for KCP.

Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press: Fiction. Too many great point guards for Brandon Jennings too make it. If Josh Smith didn’t make it in earlier seasons with the Hawks, it’s probably not happening in the future. The only other guy with a shot would be rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. I think he will be a good player in the future, but nothing close to an All-Star.

3-on-3: Pondering the trade deadline

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. The NBA’s trade deadline is just six days away, and the question is simple: Do you think the Pistons will make a trade this week?

Dan Feldman: No. For one, I’m not convinced what trades Joe Dumars is even authorized to make. He apparently can’t choose who coaches the team the rest of the season. Also, Tom Gores’ last interview suggests he likes this roster, at least for now.

Brady Fredericksen: I do, but I also do not. After the whole coaching-debacle, I’m not sure Gores is even going to give Dumars enough leeway to make a hail mary of a deal at the deadline. At the same time, they almost have to do something. This team’s ability to shoot has gone from being funny joke to sad reality. With big, fat expiring deals from Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva, there has to be some sort of bad-contract-for-bad-contract trade out there.

Tim Thielke: If I had to put a number on it, I’d consider the odds less than 50 percent, but more likely than most seasons.

2. Is there one Pistons player that you feel has the greatest chance of being traded?

Dan Feldman: Stuckey. Because he’s been reasonably productive and has an expiring contract, he could be helpful in a trade whether the Pistons are buying or selling. For the same reasons, he’d appeal to the most teams.

Brady Fredericksen: Stuckey. I don’t think they necessarily want to trade him or Greg Monroe for that matter, but Stuckey is a valuable trade chip for two reasons. In the final year of his contract, he’s been the NBA’s most consistent bench scorer, and he’s got that $7.5 million expiring deal. If a true contender acquires him, they can sit back, benefit from his contract year surge and then watch all that money melt away this summer.

Tim Thielke: Monroe or Josh Smith has to be the most likely because they and Andre Drummond have the most value to another team relative to how much they have to Detroit. And I just can’t see Dumars trading Drummond even if a great offer came along.

3. If the Pistons were to make a trade in hopes of getting over the hump of mediocrity, who is a player they should target?

Dan Feldman: Trevor Ariza. I totally stole this idea from Patrick, but how about Stuckey for Ariza? The Pistons need a wing shooter, and the Wizards need a backup guard capable of playing the point. Both have expiring contracts, so this would totally be about re-configuring rosters to fit better.

Brady Fredericksen: I’ll admit that I play around with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine way too much. If reports of the Pistons being locked into keeping Monroe are true, the guy I think would make sense for them to target is Eric Gordon. He’s injury prone, yes, and he’s vastly overpaid, but he’s only 25 and he’s the king of shot-creating guard the Pistons need. What if New Orleans took a Smith for Gordon deal? It seems farfetched, but they’d be exchanging bad contracts and getting a player who fits very well on paper with Anthony Davis.

Tim Thielke: Definitely a shooter. But which depends on who they’re planning on giving up. Going after someone on a tanking team makes sense because they don’t mind getting worse. That includes Gordon, OJ Mayo, Arron Afflalo, Jeff Green, Ben McLemore, and Alec Burks among others.

Pistons firing coaches isn’t their problem

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons fire too many coaches like doctors remove too many tumors.

The extraction isn’t the problem.

Of course, doctors don’t hire tumors, so the analogy is as imperfect as a Maurice Cheeks playing rotation. But the Pistons’ issue isn’t firing coaches too frequently.

It’s too frequently getting to the position where firing a coach makes sense.

Detroit has fired eight coaches since Joe Dumars became general manager in 2000 — more than any other NBA team in that span. It’s easy to point to that number and say the Pistons are too impatient, too unforgiving.

But in the moment of those firings, the Pistons usually have been right.

There are two lessons here, one from the first half of Dumars’ tenure and one from the second half.

As the second half shows, hiring a good coach is imperative. If you don’t have one of those, you’re just biding time until you figure out what you do have.

But as the first half shows, that’s not enough. Even good coaches need front-office support, a general manager who’s committed to helping them reach both the players and owners.

Lately, the Pistons haven’t supported their bad coaches. It’s an awful combination doomed to failure.

The only thing the Pistons have done consistently right with their coaches is fire them.

3-on-3: Figuring out John Loyer

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.  John Loyer‘s debut as interim coach came in a big win over the Spurs. Should we take anything from this?

Dan Feldman: That Loyer is comfortable as head coach. It’s far too early to say whether he has the communication and strategic skills necessary to succeed as a head coach, but he’s no shrinking violet in the head chair. That’s a step in the right direction.

Brady Fredericksen: Not yet. There was going to be a bounce in the Pistons step with a new voice leading them, so I think it’s half Loyer and half just not having to deal with Maurice Cheeks. Beating the Spurs is beating the Spurs though, and while there weren’t any huge, visible differences, it’s still refreshing to see the team rise up against a good (albeit injured) team.

Tim Thielke: Yes, he had a good start in his first game. We should weigh that first game just as heavily as any other one game. That’s to say that it counts, but not for much.

2. What was the biggest difference between Loyer and Cheeks?

Dan Feldman: So far, that Will Bynum re-joined the rotation. The defensive schemes looked the exact same, and the offense was similar enough. But Loyer had only one day to prepare. I wouldn’t be surprised if Loyer makes bigger changes soon.

Brady Fredericksen: LOYER DOESN’T SEEM TO POSSESS AN INSIDE VOICE! It felt like the Pistons’ offensive emphasis was to play through Greg Monroe and not Josh Smith. The offense looked good that way, too. The only other difference was the tempo and subsequent ball movement. This is a group that plays well when they’re on the break, and the amount of running and passing we saw on Monday was probably better than anything they’ve done in the last month or so. They also turned in their best first-half defensive performance — holding the Spurs to 48 points in the first half — since a Jan. 7 loss at New York.

Tim Thielke: The visible difference from that one game was how active he was on the sideline. But most differences in sets, rotations, strategies, philosophies, etc. (you know, things much more important than whether you sit or stand during a game) will have to be revealed over time.

3. What is the one thing that Loyer is going to have to focus on if the Pistons are going to turn a corner and make his impressive debut more than just a one-game flash?

Dan Feldman: Making Monroe a successful defender. Monroe is not a great defender, but his weaknesses are minimized when he’s engaged and the system doesn’t ask too much of him. Monday, he was engaged in a way he hadn’t been under Cheeks since early in the season. The next step is more often putting Monroe in position to succeed. Monroe could be the key piece that swings the Pistons from bad to good defensively.

Brady Fredericksen: Consistency. Wins over the Spurs, Heat and Pacers have shown us that the Pistons are capable of beating anyone on any given night. The problem is losses to the Jazz, Bucks and Magic show they’re also capable of being beaten on any night, too. Loyer needs to find a way to keep up the intensity, and the fact that he’s mentioned effort a ton in his week on the job is good. If the Pistons can find a little consistency, they can make a move starting with five winnable games — the Cavaliers, twice against the Bobcats and one against Atlanta — in the next two weeks.

Tim Thielke: As I’ve been carping on all year, emphasizing each player’s strengths, not weaknesses. There is a lot of talent on the roster, but as we all know, it doesn’t fit together in a traditional manner. To make this set of guys work, Loyer will have to get each of them to do what he is good at instead of what his position typically demands.