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.
“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.
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."
“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.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (23-35) at Houston Rockets (39-19)
- Date: March 1, 2014
- Time: 8:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons will be on the road tonight to take on what might be a Houston Rockets team flying under the radar.
The Rockets are currently seeded fifth in the Western Conference standings, and it would appear that not much is expected from them in terms of big picture. On a recent episode of the Dan LeBatard show, Steve Kerr offered the opinion that Houston simply did not have what it takes to win the title this year.
Those aren’t necessarily harsh words given that the list of teams with a legitimate shot at capturing the Larry O’Brien trophy is fairly small. It’s worth noting that the TNT analyst also mentioned he felt Houston could potentially get to the Western Conference finals.
That is still an accomplishment in itself, and it says a lot about the type of team Houston has. Kevin McHale’s group is just about five games out of the top spot in west, and within striking distance of getting home court advantage in the first-two rounds of the playoffs.
The Rockets were defeated in their most recent contest by the Los Angeles Clippers, but still won eight of 10 games in February. Their success last month was due to the stellar play of James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Harden averaged 27.9 points and 5.3 assists per game in February on 47.7 percent field-goal shooting. An argument could be made that Howard has actually been better. He is on pace to play the second-least amount of minutes per game of his career, and yet, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has been a handful.
Last month, Howard produced 22.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on a sizzling 65.5 percent shooting from the floor. What’s more, he posted a plus-minus rating of plus-16.
As the Pistons can attest, Howard is a terror on the interior. When Detroit hosted Houston in December, the former Orlando Magic player dropped 35 points and 19 rebounds at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Howard was simply unstoppable in the low-post area where he tortured the Pistons’ frontline. Have a look at exhibit A:
He added a few more damaging moves. Have a look:
It’s worth noting that Houston struggled through the early portion of the season to find ways to get the ball to Howard on the move. Whether in the pick-and-roll or through lobs, Rockets players simply could not complete pinpoint passes to the big man, and it resulted in turnovers.
Houston has since improved on this front and is a bit more judicious when attempting to deliver the ball to the center. Thus, the Rockets might play things a little different tonight against Detroit.
Still, in the event their offense gets a bit out of sync, they will have the threat of the post-up to throw at Detroit.
Read about the Rockets
At 23-35, the Pistons are 3.5 games out of playoff position, 1.5 games ahead of the NBA’s eighth-worst record and two games ahead of the league’s seventh-worst record.
The Pistons could settle for the NBA’s eighth-worst record and an 82.4% chance of keeping their pick after the lottery. But the seventh-worst record would go much further, upping those odds to 98.1%.
Neither trying to make the playoffs nor tanking successfully will be easy, but tanking is more likely to work.
The eighth-place Atlanta Hawks are on pace to win 37 games. To match that, the Pistons must finish 14-10. Detroit hasn’t had a 24-game streak that strong since 2008-09.
I’m not against the Pistons making the playoffs, even though I believe keeping the pick would be more beneficial to their future. You can’t always look to the future, though.
After four years in the lottery, a postseason berth justifies itself.
But I just don’t believe that the Pistons will make the playoffs, and finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference carries no more satisfaction than finishing 11th. It would just mean losing a valuable asset.
I often hear a few common oppositions to tanking:
1. The Pistons need veterans, not another young player. They’re already too young.
I guess Warren Buffett is too rich, Beyonce too attractive and Terence Tao too smart.
Being young is not a problem. It’s a strength. And it’s not as if getting a higher pick will stop the Pistons from signing a decent veteran with their cap space this summer.
But know how teams like Detroit get really valuable veterans? Drafting them. Seventeen of this season’s 25 All-Stars are playing for their first team.
2. If the Pistons keep their pick this year, they could send Charlotte an even more valuable selection later. The pick is only top-one protected in 2015 and unprotected in 2016.
I’ll take that chance.
With Drummond (20), Monroe (23), Brandon Jennings (24), Kyle Singler (25), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20) and even Josh Smith (28) forming the Pistons’ core, substantial internal improvements already are likely. Because the Pistons would know they’ll almost certainly lose the pick next year, they’d also focus on building for the present — making a surge forward in 2014-15 even more likely.
3. Tanking isn’t guaranteed to work. Even the NBA’s worst team gets only a 25% chance at the top pick, and draft picks bust all the time.
Show me a plan that is guaranteed to work, and I’ll support that one instead.
The Pistons don’t need the No. 1 pick to justify tanking. They just need a top-eight pick, allowing them to get one more talented rookie before the players already on the roster improve to the point that picking so high is impossible.
Speaking of the players, this should have nothing to do with them.
The decision to tank should come from the top, owner Tom Gores. Gores can bypass team president Joe Dumars, an apparent lame duck who historically has opposed tanking, and address coach John Loyer directly. The coach doesn’t have to like it, but if his boss wants it, Loyer must execute the plan.
The players, though, should always be called upon to play their hardest. Their effort and development should not suffer.
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.
|Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 3-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -10
Monroe played mostly meekly, typically unable to establish good post position or beat Spurs for rebounds. But Monroe wasn’t completely passive. When he challenged San Antonio, he found success. If only he did that more often tonight. In a twist, Monroe asserted himself much more defensively, using his quick hands to get a few steals.
|Josh Smith, SF 43 MIN | 10-19 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | -18
Smith was EVERYWHERE early. Early in the second quarter, Smith’s line was: 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, one turnover. After that: four points on 2-of-8 shooting, one rebound, zero assists zero steals, two turnovers. To start the contest, Smith fearlessly sought to impact the game on both ends – and he did. Turns out you can’t rely on Smith when he’s unafraid to take jumpers and gamble defensively.
|Kyle Singler, SF 34 MIN | 7-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -8
Singler cut well to get a couple baskets, and he also made a couple jumpers off a single dribble. He’s a real master of creating room to shoot. Still playing shooting guard, Singler had trouble defending the Spurs quicker guards.
|Andre Drummond, C 40 MIN | 7-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 17 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -11
Drummond wasn’t quite as good as his numbers, yielding a couple hustle plays to the Spurs. But his ability to get putbacks is so darn valuable. I really don’t think enough people understand how important that skill is. Drummond, often singlehandedly, turns a bad offensive possession into a good one. On the other end, he prevents opponents from doing the same.
|Brandon Jennings, PG 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -13
Jennings didn’t play in the second half due to a sore toe. Before leaving the game, he took a backseat to Smith and didn’t do much when behind the wheel himself.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3
Jerebko played the last few minutes of the third quarter, and though he showed good defensive energy, he looked a little lost.
|Tony Mitchell, PF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3
Played the final 46 seconds and did nothing
|Luigi Datome, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3
Played the final 46 seconds and did nothing
|Peyton Siva, PG 1 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +3
On the Pistons’ final possession, Siva pushed the ball upcourt and made a 3-pointer. That ought to be good for his confidence.
|Will Bynum, PG 31 MIN | 9-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +3
Starting the second half for Jennings, Bynum wasn’t shy about getting his own offense. He was more effective than not, but not overly so. Offensively and defensively, Bynum played at his usual levels, just with more volume.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 11 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +4
A corner 3, a mid-range jumper off the dribble and impressive defensive effort – Caldwell-Pope excelled in his first-half run. In the second half, he did little more than miss a few shots.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 31 MIN | 6-13 FG | 5-5 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | -3
Contract-Year Rodney Stuckey hunted his own shot in the first half, but he scored efficiently, so I didn’t mind. Asked to initiate the offense a bit more in the second half without Jennings, Stuckey was a bit shakier.
The Pistons’ rotation players gave up down 13 points in the final two minutes. Did Loyer empty the bench to send a message?
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (23-34) at San Antonio Spurs (40-16)
- Date: February 26, 2014
- Time: 8:30 p.m.
- Television: FS Detroit Plus
What to look for
The San Antonio Spurs are one of the best teams in the league because of their talent coupled with their coaching staff. Gregg Popovich continues to “cheat the system” that is called the 82-game regular season.
The Spurs rest starters throughout the campaign by having them miss games or simply resting during large portions of any given contest. This was on full display when San Antonio and the Detroit Pistons met a few weeks ago.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan played a combined 43 minutes on their way to a loss. Despite the low-minute count for their top players, the Spurs still produced 100 points on 52.4 percent shooting.
San Antonio continues to be arguably the most diverse offense in the league because they rely on movement more than the average NBA team. The Spurs will go to isolations every now and then, but that is mostly by design.
For the most part, every look they obtain is the product of screens, floor spacing, drive and kicks and pick-and-rolls. And even when those “fail”, they will go to post-ups for easy scores or to attract double teams.
The Spurs are fascinating from this standpoint because they can seemingly plug just about any player in their system and score at a high clip. The secret to their formula is so simple that it sounds silly to be honest: Players get open shots from spots where they are proficient at making them.
Even though Popovich’s star players have missed a few games here and there, the Spurs still boast a top-10 offense because of their motion offense. Tonight’s contest might be a tad different in comparison to the last head-to-head matchup between the teams.
San Antonio hasn’t played since last Friday and as a result, the coaching staff might be inclined to ride their starters a little more tonight, especially at home. Detroit will have to play at a high level tonight to ensure they have a chance to steal the game late.