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Tom Gores focused on current Pistons, not trade deadline

David Mayo of MLive:

Asked specifically if he was panicked over the job performances of president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, who is in the final year of his contract, and/or first-year head coach Maurice Cheeks, Gores replied, "Right now I’m patient, but I want to make sure we make adjustments if we have to make adjustments."

"We’ve been focused really on the individual players," he said. "The fact is, we’re better than our record and I think we just have to make our players the best they can be. We have to focus on them. So we’re not focused on deadline or anything like that. We’re just focused on getting the guys better and preparing them."

"I’m not satisfied … our job is to make sure that the players are working at their maximum," he said. "So I’m not satisfied with the job I’m doing, I’m not satisfied with the job anybody’s doing right now, including myself.

"We have to get better and these young men work really, really hard. I feel like our job is to make sure that they are at their maximum and I don’t think they’re at their maximum."

"We’re not that far out," Gores said. "I think it’s frustrating because we’re better than our record. At the same time, there’s a lot of hope right now. I see a lot of possibilities. We have to come together. We have to jell.

"I don’t think you could say our team and our players don’t work hard. I think they work hard. So we just have to figure out how to work together."

"I actually don’t think we have done our best job to make sure they’re working at 100 percent," he said. "We have great young players. These are guys that need a lot of preparation. These are young men."

Approximately 90 percent of all NBA teams and 100 percent of losing NBA teams believe they’re better than their record. That type optimism gets few of them anywhere.

We’re 46 games through the season with just 36 games remaining. How much more is there to learn about this current group of players? As I’ve said all along, I expect the Pistons to make more internal in-season improvements than the average team – and I believe that will be true for the rest of the season, too. They have a lot of talent that hasn’t fit well immediately and could fit together a little better with more time.

But how much better?

The Pistons’ problems, both predicted and not, are very real. They’re 19-27 and even if their pieces mesh better the rest of the year, it’s difficult to see it getting better to the point the Pistons even near preseason predictions.

Gores should be frustrated, and he should be considering franchise-altering moves before the deadline. It’s not feasible to fire Joe Dumars now, and firing Maurice Cheeks is also probably a non-starter. But trades should be explored that put the team on a different course.

I don’t know what deals are available, so I wouldn’t say for certain the Pistons should make a trade. They definitely shouldn’t make a trade just for the sake of doing so. But it seems Gores is much more convinced than I am that this might be the roster to proceed with.

If nothing helpful emerges before the trade deadline, I can accept that. But if I were in Gores’ shoes, I’d be doing as much as possible to take advantage of these two-and-a-half weeks before Feb. 20. There’s a small window to improve via trade. Don’t squander it. After it closes, internal improvements can become the focus once again.

These Pistons – general manager, coach and players – aren’t working. I think they need more than just time for that to change significantly.

20-10 games for everyone! (at least Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Kyle Singler)

Philadelphia 76ers 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
113 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 29 MIN | 8-10 FG | 5-9 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 21 PTS | +26

Monroe was the offensive hub tonight he could be many nights. The ball went through him, and he either got a good shot or found a teammate for one. Why don’t the Pistons put Monroe in this role more often? Perhaps fueled by his expand offensive responsibility, he had a little extra pep in his step defensively. The results on that end weren’t perfect, but when Monroe is using his quick hands to get steals, his fundamental defensive issues matter a heck of a lot less.

Josh Smith, SF 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-5 FT | 9 REB | 7 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 9 PTS | +25

Late in the second half, Smith got a steal and then tried to bring the ball upcourt himself. Against only mild defensive pressure, he lost control of his dribble out of bounds. This is a player who does not know his limits. But his talents are so diverse, he can still positively impact the game.

Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 10-11 FG | 2-5 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 5 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +15

Offensively and defensively, Drummond was a beast – and he makes it look so easy. It’s not reasonable to expect him ever to produce like this every night, but watching him actually do it, somehow it seems possible.

Brandon Jennings, PG 37 MIN | 6-17 FG | 6-7 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +27

Jennings – as he does from time to time – found trouble. (Or, if you prefer, trouble found him.) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fouled Evan Turner on a drive late in the first half. As Turner continued past the baseline under the basket, he blindly threw the ball back toward the court. At best, he was trying to keep the ball in bounds in case the foul wasn’t called. At worst, he was carelessly tossing the ball into a crowd. Either way, the ball hit Caldwell-Pope in the face. Jennings ran to scoop up the ball and chucked it at Turner’s legs. Jennings got a technical foul, but he was lucky not to be ejected. Expect the NBA office to look at that one again. I like that Jennings stuck up for his teammate, but he could have done that verbally rather than physically. As for Jennings’ play, he got as easy of a 20 points as someone shooting 35 percent can get. Thanks to the effectiveness and increased role for Detroit’s frontline, Jennings could just hang back, attempt way more shots than anyone else on the team and pad his scoring numbers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 21 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +14

Caldwell-Pope was aggressive early, probably even a little too shot-happy. But he got going midway through the third quarter, scoring and defending at an elite level for a short stretch.

Josh Harrellson, PF 13 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Harrellson was much more ineffective than helpful, even if he had a couple OK moments.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -11

Any interest in using your limited minutes to make a rotation case? No? OK, whatever.

Charlie Villanueva, PF 6 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -10

What about you? No? Alright. No skin off my back.

Luigi Datome, SF 7 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -11

I understand that it’s not easy to come in cold as a shooter, but Datome played seven minutes – his most action in more than a month – and he still couldn’t get warm enough to make a single shot? Maybe Datome would perform better in regular role, but there’s just no way to give him one.

Kyle Singler, SF 35 MIN | 6-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +5

Singler gave the Pistons three players with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game for the first time since 1997, when Grant Hill, Bison Dele and Lindsey Hunter (!) did it in a win over the Suns. Obviously, Monroe and Drummond were too impactful inside for the 76ers. But I really think the Pistons could have started Singler as a stretch center in place of either of those two and still won. Philadelphia is awful inside, and the absence of Michael Carter-Williams removed some of their best counters for offsetting that.

Will Bynum, PG 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -3

Bynum was moderately helpful off the bench, focusing on passing until garbage time. Then, he looked for his own shot a bit more.

Rodney Stuckey, SG 9 MIN | 0-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | +7

Stuckey left the game during the second quarter with dizziness and didn’t return. He had a scary incident a few years ago due to something similar, but he turned out fine. Hopefully, that’s the case again. Encouragingly, the concern level tonight never even approach the previous case. Before leaving the game, Stuckey was off.

Maurice Cheeks

Sometimes, less is more. The Pistons didn’t do anything fancy. They just gave the biggest responsibilities to their best players against a bad team, and it worked beautifully.

Pistons reportedly want to trade Josh Smith, not Greg Monroe

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com this week that the Pistons have been telling teams with Monroe interest that the restricted free agent-to-be — no matter what you’ve heard — is not available.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could — and "could” is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.

Tentative hooray? Tentative hooray.

A lot can change before the trade deadline – and this could just be posturing, anyway – but I really want the Pistons to build around Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. I believe those two can be key pieces on a very successful team.

It’s just difficult to envision that very successful team also including Josh Smith.

For one, Smith is five years older than Monroe and eight years older than Drummond. In the time it will take Drummond and Monroe to hit their primes, Smith , 28, will be heading over the hill.

Secondly, Smith has been a disastrous fit with Monroe and Drummond so far. I haven’t totally given up on the lineup’s potential – the talent is there – but the odds of those three ever consistently playing well together are already low and only falling. As Smith ages and his athleticism wanes, he’ll become an even poorer fit at small forward.

I’m not against trading Monroe. He’s certainly not as important to the Pistons’ future as Drummond. I just believe it will be difficult to get fair value for Monroe, and I’m definitely against trading him just to make the current roster fit a little better. I’d rather show patience and give the Pistons a chance to reconstruct the roster around those two – something they probably should have been more focused on doing sooner.

As for a Smith trade, you can read read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Andre Drummond snubbed for 2014 NBA All-Star Game

Andre Drummond, as expected, did not make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

I would have taken Drummond over Paul Millsap, DeMar DeRozan and Joe Johnson, so that makes Drummond a snub to me.

But since Drummond’s stock was highest, a few other East frontcourt players came on strong and Drummond drifted a bit. Simply, he didn’t do enough to make himself an obvious choice, and the Pistons’ 18-27 record didn’t get him any second looks.

That’s not fair to Drummond, who shouldn’t be held solely responsible for Detroit’s struggles when it comes to an individual honor. Yet, that’s the reality of the system.

In the long run, tonight won’t make a blip on Drummond’s resume. Bigger things are in his future, and snubs in his early years will fade into nothingness.

Drummond is just 20 years old. He’ll become an All-Star soon enough.

Here are all the players with at least 5.2 win shares – the total Drummond already has this year – in a season when they were 20 or younger:

  • LeBron James
  • Magic Johnson
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Chris Paul
  • Adrian Dantley
  • Dwight Howard
  • Kevin Durant
  • Chris Webber
  • Tony Parker
  • Elton Brand
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • John Drew
  • Chris Bosh
  • Joe Smith
  • Andris Biedrins
  • Tracy McGrady
  • Greg Monroe
  • Luol Deng
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Carl Braun
  • Amar’e Stoudemire
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Anthony Davis
  • Brook Lopez
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Kevin Love
  • Stephon Marbury
  • Mike Miller

Of those 33 players, 25 became All-Stars.

Drummond, not even at the All-Star break, has already put himself in special company. As this season continues, he’ll separate himself even further from that group and show just how special he is.

He doesn’t need an All-Star berth to do that.

Pistons-Hawks game rescheduled for April 8

The postponed Pistons-Hawks game has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta.

That adds another tough game to what’s already a difficult April slate for the Pistons:

  • at Pacers
  • at Nets
  • vs. Celtics
  • at Hawks
  • at Cavaliers
  • at Bulls
  • vs. Raptors
  • at Thunder

Unless the Pistons are tanking by then. Then, the April schedule looks pretty good. Just have to figure out how to lose to the Celtics and Cavaliers.

Andre Drummond makes Rising Stars Challenge

Update: I participated in a Rising Stars Challenge mock draft on ProBasketballTalk, where you can see how high Andre Drummond went. I also tried to get Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the mock game.

Andre Drummond was selected for the Rising Stars Challenge, a game for first- and second-year players that will be played Friday, Feb. 14 during All-Star Weekend. Drummond, who still has an outside chance of making the All-Star game, was an obvious inclusion.

The other eligible Pistons – Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva and Luigi Datome – aren’t surprising omissions, though Caldwell-Pope and Singler at least could have made arguments.

Aside from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Singler is the top vote-getter from last year’s All-Rookie team not selected. But John Henson and Mason Plumlee are much bigger snubs among second-year players, who reserved half the 18 spots in the All-Star-weekend game.

That leaves nine spots slotted for rookies, and Caldwell-Pope was the No. 8 pick in the draft, so…. Yeah, the Pistons don’t really have much to feel bad about here. The No. 1 (Anthony Bennett), No. 3 (Otto Porter), No. 4 (Cody Zeller), No. 5 (Alex Len), No. 6 (Nerlens Noel) and No. 7 (Ben McLemore) picks also didn’t make it. This has been a really awful year for highly drafted rookies making an immediate impact.

Here’s a full pool of players:

  • Andre Drummond
  • Anthony Davis
  • Bradley Beal
  • Damian Lillard
  • Dion Waiters
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Jared Sullinger
  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Kelly Olynyk
  • Mason Plumlee
  • Michael Carter-Williams
  • Pero Antic
  • Steven Adams
  • Terrence Jones
  • Tim Hardaway, Jr.
  • Trey Burke
  • Victor Oladipo

Teams will be drafted Thursday, Feb. 6 on TNT, though it hasn’t been announced who will be the general managers this year.

Pistons-Hawks game postponed

Tonight’s Pistons-Hawks game has been postponed due to the winter storm in Atlanta. The Pistons couldn’t fly into Atlanta, and there are dangerous road conditions in the area.

There’s no word on when the game will be made up, but both teams are off tomorrow. However, that would mean the Hawks play three straight days. When the NBA rescheduled the Spurs-Timberwolves game, the league didn’t make either team play a back-to-back-to-back. That leaves three possible makeup dates:

  • Feb. 28
  • April 7
  • April 8

Phillips Arena looks clear all three days, so each seems viable.

Josh Smith is NBA’s most-destructive shooter

Josh Smith is the NBA’s most-harmful shooter.

Nine years ago, John Hollinger developed a formula to show which players hurt their teams most by shooting on a per-minute basis. He called it “Brick Index,” and here’s the formula:

Brick Index = (([NBA average TS%] – TS%) x (FGA + (FTA x 0.44))) / (Min/40)

Tom Haberstroh revisited that formula, writing about Smith’s struggles in greater detail, and here’s what it reveals for this season:

Smith’s Brick Index not only leads the NBA by a wide margin, it’s historically bad. Per Haberstroh, it’s the fourth-worst in the last 15 years. It ranks ahead of a Michael Jordan season, though, so that’s cool, I guess.

Brandon Jennings is No. 7 on the 2014 list, making the Pistons the only team with two players with such high Brick Indexes.

Smith and Jennings are obviously shooting terribly, and that’s the No. 1 reason they’re on this list. But Maurice Cheeks’ insistence on making those two – rather than, say, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond – the focal point of Detroit’s offense raises their Brick Index. Shooting poorly is one key to a high Brick Index. Shooting a lot is the other.

The fifth member of Detroit’s starting lineup, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, also appears on the above list at No. 21. He’s shot so poorly that even his limited role doesn’t save him. His biggest problem is he almost never gets to the free-throw line, just 1.2 attempts per 36 minutes, and failing to pad his scoring efficiency from the charite stripe. But Caldwell-Pope is one of four rookies in the Brick Index top 25, so his struggles are somewhat excusable.

On a related note, I know some of you certainly noticed Trey Burke ranks No. 8. But his Brick Index ranks behind Rookie of the Year favorite Michael Carter-Williams’. Though their Brick Indexes were better, 2013 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard and 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving also had issues with inefficiency. Putting a rookie point guard on a bad team into a huge role is just asking for trouble.

Know what else is asking for trouble? Putting Smith on your team, period.

Just imagine how much worse this would be if Smith weren’t shooting more smartly.

Coach benches best player, who shows frustration but won’t talk about it

Andre Drummond got benched twice in the Pistons’ loss to the Mavericks on Sunday.

What gives?

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Drummond didn’t want to speak to the media after the game. He was clearly bothered by what happened.

Maurice Cheeks, via David Mayo of MLive:

“It was about his play, just about his play,” Cheeks said of the quick hook. “He went right back in. It’s a learning experience to do what we’re trying to do out of a timeout (actually halftime), and I don’t think he did it right. We took him out, we put him right back in.”

“He just had a bad game,” Cheeks said. “The guy’s 20 years old. We’re not going to expect him to be like a machine every night, to go get 18, 19 rebounds. He’s 20 years old. He didn’t have a good game.”

I tried to sort through what happened at ProBasketballTalk.

Greg Monroe: Trade rumors affect me

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Monroe, 23, has admitted the talk has affected him.

“It does, to be honest. We’re still trying to get things right, here,” he said. “To see that stuff … I just focus on what we’re doing here. I’m here. If that changes, then I’ll move forward. If it never does, I’ll focus on playing these games and trying to win these games.”

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.