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Joe Dumars reportedly tired of criticism, nearly done as Pistons’ general manager

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

sources do not expect Dumars to stay in the position much longer—either he’ll step down or owner Tom Gores will go in a new direction. Dumars, one source said, is weary of the criticism he has received in trying to rebuild the Pistons after constructing a franchise that went to the Eastern Conference Finals six years in a row (2003-2008). The criticism, the source said, fails to account for a dismal Detroit economy and restraints placed on Dumars while the franchise was up for sale and ultimately changed ownership hands.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Phil Jackson blames Joe Dumars for Pistons hiring Maurice Cheeks

Phil Jackson, in a Q&A with Sam Amick of USA Today:

Q: With that in mind, the natural question is what does that mean going forward? That was a unique situation, but do you see opportunity elsewhere that you like?

A: There are a few (opportunities), but I shouldn’t name them. It wouldn’t be right to talk about it, name anything. But yeah, there are some. There are winners and losers in the NBA, and a lot of people are trying to reclaim their position or change their culture or whatever. So yeah, there is. I’ve had conversations. Some of them are feelers. "Are you interested?" type of thing. I did go out to Detroit last year and sit with (Pistons President) Joe (Dumars). I guess we weren’t successful, but I really encouraged (Pistons owner) Tom Gores that the general manager has to be able to pick his coach so they can win it together. And Joe wanted Maurice, so it didn’t work out, unfortunately for Maurice. I developed a relationship with the owner, who lives in LA. We have conversations.

Q: So is that still an ongoing relationship?

A: I’m just like an adviser, an unpaid adviser. So far, my advice hasn’t been too great (laughs).

Q: Well at least they’re not wasting their money on you…

A: Tom is a generous guy, but I really don’t want to make him feel like it’s more than it is. It’s a professional kind of opinion that I have. But I like their chances as they go forward. They had some curious free agent (selections) but I like their young guys. (Andre) Drummond is good.

Phil Jackson, advising in the Pistons’ last coaching search, didn’t get his apparent choice of Brian Shaw. But it’s interesting Jackson, if you take him at his word, told Tom Gores it was important Joe Dumars get to pick his own coach.

Obviously, that coach, Maurice Cheeks, failed in Detroit – and if Jackson’s re-telling of events is accurate, Dumars deserves blame for hiring Cheeks. Jackson also deserves credit for understanding how a functional franchise runs best, even if his own place at the table undermined the Pistons’ cohesiveness.

It sounds like Jackson is still filling his role as unpaid advisor. I wonder how Jackson will will fit in Gores’ plans this offseason.

Jackson is unproven as a general manager, though I’d strongly consider taking a chance on him in that role. But first I’d push for him to also coach for a couple years, groom his replacement and then slide into a solely front-office position.

Chauncey Billups pondering retirement

Chauncey Billups, via David Mayo of MLive:

“It all kind of depends how this feels and how things are with the knee,” he said.  “If the knee is fine, then sure, absolutely, I would like to come back.  If it’s not, I don’t want to come back and do this.  It’s tough to do this, especially on a team when we’re not a winning team at this stage.”

Billups said he hopes to return but he has to “just kind of see.”

“I’m not gonna rush back.  I do just want to get it better.  But I hope so,” he said, when asked if the objective is to return this year.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Tom Gores’ spokesman: Pistons not interested in hiring Isiah Thomas

David Mayo of MLive:

A spokesman for Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores called a report that the team is wooing Isiah Thomas as its next general manager "absolutely false."

"He is not a candidate for any job with the Pistons," Barnhill wrote about Thomas.

Mark Barnhill, a partner in Gores’ Platinum Equity, wrote in an email to MLive that he and Gores had dinner with Thomas a couple weeks ago in Los Angeles but the upcoming Bad Boys reunion "was the sole topic.  Period."

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Tom Gores reportedly considering making Isiah Thomas general manager

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

“Gores is definitely looking at Isiah to replace Joe,” one league source said.

What [Gores] knows about pro basketball you can probably fit in a thimble, and he loves his stars. That goes for current ones (Josh Smith, who is said to have a direct pipeline to Gores) and former ones (there’s none bigger in the Motor City than Thomas, who led the Pistons to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990).

Lawrence has reported a surprising amount of Pistons news, so maybe he knows something here.

If Josh Smith has a “direct pipeline” to Gores, that’s certainly interesting. Gores seems close with Andre Drummond, but you can see why the owner would also want the input of the company’s highest-paid employee. Based on Smith’s poor on-court decision-making, that seems dangerous – especially if Gores’ basketball knowledge is as meager as Lawrence implies. But Gores isn’t necessarily relying on Smith. Open communication is a good thing.

As far as the big news of this report, you can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Should Pistons buy out Charlie Villanueva?

For the Charlie Villanueva to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster – the whole point of these buyouts – the Pistons must waive him by the end of the day Saturday.

Villanueva, for his part, said he’s interested in a buyout. Via David Mayo of MLive:

“I want to play.  If it’s not here, then I’m still young, I’ve still got a lot of years of playing left.  I just want to play,” he said.

“It’s hard because I love this game, I’m very passionate about this game, so it’s hard not to let my frustration out,” he said.  “But you’ve just got to come to grips with it.  They made their decision.  It is what it is.  So there’s nothing I can do about it.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  It doesn’t matter what I do in practice.  It doesn’t matter what kind of work I put in.  It doesn’t matter.”

At this point, I don’t care whether or not the Pistons buy out Villanueva. He’s remained generally patient through these five years, the prime of his career washed away as now four coaches have marginalized him. If he wants to try to land a playing job with a different team, the Pistons should have the decency to consider letting him.

Of course, Villanueva is culpable in his own demise. He’s a score-only player who sometimes seems more concerned with whether he looks fluid rather than whether he’s productive. Each offseason, he hypes his renewed dedication. Each season, the results underwhelm.

There’s no guarantee Villanueva would get picked up, but that risk should be his to take — if he and the Pistons reach a suitable settlement. Villanueva will surely have to return some money in exchange for his freedom, and the Pistons should assess the market to avoid Villanueva going to a team competing with Detroit for a playoff berth (no matter how slim the Pistons’ chances are).*

*Unless the Pistons are tanking. Then maybe they should want Villanueva to join an Eastern Conference playoff contender. Then again, maybe Villanueva would sabotage that team. In that case, they should buy him out if they think he’ll sign with a competing team.

This is just getting too complicated. Buy him out if the money is right. Don’t worry about where he goes.

Finally, not to dig up the past — aw, heck, I’m totally going to dig up the past. The Pistons should have amnestied this guy when they had the chance. Really, they should have amnestied Ben Gordon, but they were too cheap or foolish or some combination of the two to do that. But amnestying Villanueva would have been better than amnestying neither.

Getting ridding of him now won’t undo that mistake. The Pistons can no longer trade him. There’s no indication they’ll play him. They almost certainly won’t re-sign him.

Like I said, I don’t care whether or not they buy him out. The Pistons’ and Villanueva’s long overdo separation will happen soon enough, either way.

Did Chauncey Billups support Josh Smith’s bid to get Maurice Cheeks fired?

Peter Vecsey:

Source reveals Cheeks was doomed when Josh went 2 Dumars & wanted Mo fired & Billups went w him.

Trust Vecsey at your own peril.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Josh Smith on the block, but Pistons seek more than expiring contract(s)

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

Other teams say Pistons indeed shopping Josh Smith, but demanding more than just dead expirings.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk, and I covered my thoughts on a Josh Smith trade here earlier.

Josh Smith ranks No. 9 on Bill Simmons’ worst-contract list

Bill Simmons of Grantland ranked the NBA’s worst contracts, and Josh Smith placed No. 9:

Lessons from Detroit’s Josh signing include: Don’t put Josh and Brandon Jennings on the same team unless you’re trying to win a sulking contest; don’t put Josh with a new coach on a two-year contract; don’t play Josh at the 3; don’t assume you’ll be good defensively if you play two big guys with Josh; don’t sign Josh to a contract that doesn’t include a mandatory $10,000 fine every time he takes a 3; and don’t overpay someone whose departure from his previous team inspired fans to react as if you shot $100 bills out of a T-shirt cannon at them.

And after saying all of that … you know what? I spent 30 minutes on YouTube recently watching old Oak Hill highlights with Josh and best buddy Rajon Rondo while wondering if the Celtics should deal Jeff Green and Keith Bogans’s expiring deal for him. You know what frightens me? I think I’d be excited if this happened! My God, Josh Smith is my Atrocious GM Kryptonite!

Sign me up for that trade in a heartbeat. Heck, I I’d consider Josh Smith and Jonas Jerebko for Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace (No. 2 on Simmons’ list).

Smith is 28, and while I don’t believe he’s over the hill, players age faster than most people realize. Smith is likely past his athletic peak, and even if he might remain athletic enough for several more years, that’s a scary thought for a player who’s so reliant on his physical skills.

What are the odds Smith makes this worst contract list again next season? He could rebound, but if forced to choose, I’d bet on him taking a spot again.

As poignant as his Smith analysis was, Simmons really nailed this:

Of the 10 teams that kept their amnesties, reasons range from “Billy King saved our ass from using it” (Atlanta) to “we never needed the help” (Boston, San Antonio, Chicago) to “we wish some of our current guys were eligible” (Sacramento, New Orleans, Memphis) to “we’re generally confused and probably misunderstood how it worked” (Detroit) to “we’re too freaking cheap” (Utah, Oklahoma City).

I’m pretty that’s a joke, but offer a better a better explanation for why the Pistons didn’t amnesty Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva. You can’t.

OK, it’s probably “we’re too freaking cheap,” but even that explanation can’t totally be separated from the Pistons seeming confused.

Pistons spoke to Cavaliers about Luol Deng

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Cavaliers have had conversations with several teams, including Dallas, Detroit and Indiana about Deng, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Nevertheless, there’s no traction on a deal and no team seems inclined to give up valuable assets for a player who could walk away in free agency.

Could the Pistons use a small forward who plays strong defense and shoots adequately from outside? Absolutely.

But, if they’re not willing to surrender Greg Monroe, the Pistons don’t have the ammo to get Luol Deng. (And I wouldn’t trade Monroe for Deng, anyway.)

Get those Josh Smith-for Deng trades out of your mind, too. No way Cleveland does that.

At best, this is the Pistons doing their due diligence. At worst, it’s a leaked report to create the illusion there’s a chance Joe Dumars even has the power to make a trade of that magnitude.

Neither scenario points to Deng becoming a Piston.