|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 7-13 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | -3Monroe was the guy we keep asking him to be early on. He demanded the ball early and often, worked mismatches, and put the team on his back, getting Detroit out to an early 13 point lead. Then he kinda stopped doing that and the Cavs slowly but surely came back and won the game.
Also, Thompson beat him for a ton of putbacks down the stretch.
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 40 MIN | 7-15 FG | 3-6 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -7Smith’s play wasn’t always perfect, but he was hustling harder than anybody and didn’t wind up with a bad line. I’ll take it.|
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 41 MIN | 2-9 FG | 8-8 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -3Singler’s work at the stripe was nice, but his team could have used a couple more of his shots falling. Especially when you acount for the fact that several of his trips to the line had and-1 potential. And his airball from about 10 feet was just ugly.But I can’t complain too much when his counterpart, who is a better player, goes 0-9 for four points.|
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 7-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 17 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +4Drummond grabbed 10 offensive boards. That’s amazing. Unfortunately, he had a couple boneheaded plays late, most notably his goaltend to give the Cavs a tie with 5 minutes remaining. That ball didn’t look like it was on its way in.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 36 MIN | 3-14 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -3Jennings was laying bricks tonight. And his awful defense was a big part of Thompson’s huge night. Jennings kept letting Irving past, a Piston big would help, Irving would miss the shot (most of his misses were due to the big men, not Jennings), and they’d be out of possession to rebound allowing Tristan to soar in for the put back. Jennings earned as much credit for this loss as anyone.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +2So Jerebko is a legit part of the rotation now? He did well enough in this one, I guess.|
|Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -3Bynum’s defense was possibly even worse than Jennings’. But at least he was hitting some of his shots.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 9 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | 0KCP is barely playing these days and the level of his play fits that. So it’s a chicken-and-egg question. Is his role diminishing because he is stinking it up, or does he need lots of minutes in order to play well?|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 12 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | -7Stuckey comes into the game to score. He shot 1-5 and turned it over three times. If the other PGs weren’t playing poorly in this one, I would believe that Stuckey entering the game was the difference between a win and a loss.|
Loyer isn’t magical. Now that we have that cleared up, his coaching looked comparable to the win over the Spurs but seemed less effective. The Pistons got progressively less aggressive as the game went on. Loyer should have found a way to prevent that.
- Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (19-33) at Detroit Pistons (22-29)
- Date: February 12, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Detroit
What to look for
Apparently, firing someone does wonders.
The Pistons (who just replaced coach Maurice Cheeks with John Loyer) and Cavaliers (who just replaced general manager Chris Grant with David Griffin) are the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams, both riding three-game winning streaks. No team outside Houston has a long winning streak – though the lowly Magic are also at three games.
So, obviously a modest three-game winning streak means only so much. (Though don’t tell that to these teams.)
Like the Pistons, the Cavaliers are still fighting for a playoff spot with no indications they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline. In fact, Griffin said they’ll be buyers.
They’ve already gotten a boost lately from No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, who even had 19 points on 3-on-3 3-point shooting with 10 rebounds yesterday. So, don’t be alarmed if the player already labeled by some as history’s biggest bust has some success and the Pistons. It wouldn’t necessarily be an indictment of Detroit.
“I kind of took this as a two-game increment, do the best we can do for these two games, get our guys focused, make a few changes, and then kind of start fresh again,” Loyer said Tuesday. “Whether then we go on a five-game increment, I haven’t really thought much about it. There’s a broader picture of things that we’ve got to cover and go over and add to the package. But most of that is going to be done after the break and we’ll spend time on the break working on that.”
The Pistons have a crucial challenge after the All-Star break, a back-to-back with the Bobcats. That will go a long way toward determining their postseason fate, and I look forward to seeing how Loyer approaches it.
For now, hopefully Detroit can win its eighth straight over Cleveland – which would match a record by either team in the all-time series – and keep a fellow playoff challenger at bay.
Read about the Cavaliers
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.
The problem, as the Pistons knew last fall, is that Monroe’s agent is David Falk. He has gotten the price he said he’d get for his clients for two decades — and he says the price for Monroe will be a max contract.
Yet the Pistons aren’t going to move Monroe unless it’s a blockbuster deal. Offering just expiring contracts won’t get it done. The hope in Detroit is that Monroe’s situation is resolved in similar fashion to how Oklahoma City eventually worked out a four-year, $49 million contract with Serge Ibaka before he hit free agency. (The Thunder had the obvious advantage of having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as lures to play with through the meat of Ibaka’s career.)
If Falk finds a team ready to give Monroe the max or something close to it, expect Detroit to match the offer sheet and worry about the money later.
I hope this is true. I don’t want the Pistons to trade Greg Monroe for anything less than prime return. If they keep him past the trade deadline, I want them to match any offer for him.
But understand, this could also be posturing.
The Pistons must prepare to give Monroe a max contract or trade him, but that doesn’t mean they can’t try to pay him less. If they scare off other suitors, maybe Monroe will accept less than a max deal.
Before it gets to that point, maybe the Pistons boost their trade offers by insisting they want to keep him. Some interested teams might be waiting for him to hit free agency, or maybe they think the Pistons will dump him to elevate Josh Smith further.
My hunch is Aldridge’s report is accurate.
For one, he’s an excellent reporter with strong sources across the country. He can dig past the smokescreens teams put up.
I also probably just want to believe it’s true.
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 7-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +15
Just an all-around strong game on both ends of the floor. Remember when Monroe looked engaged offensively and defensively early in the season? That two-way enthusiasm returned tonight. It almost seemed as if Monroe has a fresh start.
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 38 MIN | 4-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +9
Smith had a very impressive fastbreak dunk, but otherwise, he settled for too many jumpers. On a night so many of his teammates played passionately, Smith, who generally plays hard, faded into the background a bit. His defense was strong, though.
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 32 MIN | 3-11 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +16
It’s not Singler’s fault, but he’s a step slow defending shooting guards, and the Spurs took advantage. A cold shooting night doesn’t help either.
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 26 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +5
Drummond was blocking shots with such ease, he was directing his rejections toward his teammates – even off the backboard once – to start fastbreaks. That’s some next-level defense (and offense).
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 32 MIN | 8-18 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +15
Jennings tuned cold in the fourth quarter, shooting 0-for-4, as the offense stalled. But before that, he played with great flare. Jennings took some wild shots – and made them – while still keeping his teammates involved.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 10 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0
Jerebko, to his credit, played within himself. He’s getting comfortable in the rotation and not pressing. But if Jerebko playing within himself means so little production, maybe Luigi Datome deserves another chance at playing time.
|Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 16 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -6
John Loyer’s most notable change was Bynum’s return to the rotation. Bynum and Maurice Cheeks feuded against the Magic, and then Cheeks benched Bynum for the last two games. Well, Cheeks is gone now, so Bynum is back.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -3
The Spurs’ sophisticated offense challenged Caldwell-Pope defensively, and he shot a woeful 1-for-5 on 3-pointers. Yet, Caldwell-Pope still salvaged a decent game. That’s no easy feat for a rookie who’s skillset has been limited for most of the season and a real credit to Caldwell-Pope’s competitiveness.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 7-13 FG | 6-8 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | -6
Stuckey was especially aggressive with the ball in his hands tonight. At times, he he definitely veered over the line of remaining in control, but that mindset helped him much more than it hurt him.
I have little idea what to make of Loyer after only one game, but I quite enjoyed watching him coach. I wrote about him at ESPN. An excerpt:
Silverio Acosta said he dialed 911 after he heard a loud boom around 2 a.m. at his home off Gaskins Rd. near Peppertree Dr.
When Acosta went outside to see what happened, he found pieces of his fence, which butts up to Gaskins Rd., scattered throughout his yard.
“It was dark, but it’s clear from here I saw one person trying to fight to get out of the car,” Acosta said.
That’s when Acosta said he saw a man pick up and smash pieces of wood against the fence “because he was angry.”
Police said the SUV, which was left at the accident scene, took out a 20-foot section of the fence.
Multiple police sources told CBS 6 News that the vehicle belongs to former NBA All-Star Ben Wallace.
Henrico police, who are investigating the wreck as a felony hit-and-run, would not confirm on the record that the vehicle belongs to Wallace.
Acosta said he would not have recognized Wallace since he is not a basketball fan. He said the man was very tall, but admitted that he could not see the fleeing driver’s face.
- Teams: San Antonio Spurs (37-14) at Detroit Pistons (21-29)
- Date: February 10, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons are heading in vastly different directions this season, and one could say this was to be expected. Both respective franchises have operated in contrasting ways over the last few years, and well, only one team has benefitted from it all: the Spurs.
Gregg Popovich has been the head coach of San Antonio since the 1996-97 season, whereas the Pistons will unveil their 11th coach in the same timeframe tonight. What’s more, the Spurs defeated the Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals and have kept the same core of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
San Antonio opted to keep their aging roster and simply tweak around it to ensure they remained competitive. Since meeting Detroit in the finals, Duncan and Co. have captured another title, lost in the title round and been to two conference finals.
On the flip side, Detroit was bounced from three consecutive conference finals and then blew up the roster. They managed a postseason berth in 2008-09 thanks to Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace, but LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers swept them out of the first round.
The Pistons have not been back to the postseason since. Detroit was supposed to bounce back in 2013-14 with its new and improved roster featuring the newly acquired Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, but things have not gone exactly as planned.
The Pistons are one game out of the eighth spot, but they hardly look like a team with an opportunity to win a playoff game or even provide any type of competition in the postseason should they make it.
San Antonio on the other hand has been a model of consistency since these teams met in the finals, and figure to continue being the envy of almost every other franchise for another year or two.
Consider this little nugget: The Spurs practically have as many road wins (19) as the Pistons’ total amount of victories (21) this year. The Pistons franchise is heading on a different path…again.
They fired Maurice Cheeks, and now must wait to see what the results will be with another headman steering the ship. Fair or not, it would appear as though Detroit is simply hitting the reset button, and that the same decisions will get made over and over again by the front office.
Interestingly enough, San Antonio evolved in concert with the league’s changes while Detroit did… we are not quite sure. In a nutshell, those are your two basketball clubs that will face off tonight.
Read about the Spurs
Assistant coach Max Trakh is no longer with the #Pistons
With Trakh gone (fired? resigned?) and John Loyer the head coach, the Pistons are down two assistants.
What’s one level beneath an NBA on-bench assistant coach? A player-development coach.
You know who’s a player-development coach? That’s right, Rasheed Wallace.
Rasheed is going to be a front-bench assistant, moving up from his second-row seat as a player-development coach.
:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
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. Maurice Cheeks has been fired, and it only took 50 games for him to join Pistons’ lore as one of the many Joe Dumars‘ casualties. Did Cheeks get a fair shake?
Dan Feldman: Yes, but only because he had eight seasons prior to this one. Cheeks had an established record as an NBA head coach, and it wasn’t pretty. I understand hoping he’d used his years since the 76ers fired him to improve significantly, but 50 games were enough to show he hadn’t. The Pistons were wrong to hire Cheeks in the first place, so he got more than a fair shake (and a few million dollars, too).
Brady Fredericksen: Probably not. This team is flawed, but Cheeks seemed to start figuring them out. The struggles with ill-fitting personnel weren’t his fault, and he’s had the Pistons playing at a .500-level over their last 14 games. That’s not bad, considering the rest of the season’s up-and-down nature. The firing is a low-risk decision, though. Say John Loyer is a dandy coach? Good for the Pistons, they’ve finally found a good coach and will have likely earned a playoff berth. Say Loyer is a terrible coach? Darn, the Pistons went into a tailspin and fell completely apart, keeping their draft pick. I think it’s a win-win (or is it lose-lose? I dunno?) situation.
Tim Thielke: Yes, for most coaches, 50 games would not qualify as a fair shake. Nor would it for Cheeks if he had underachieved with mediocrity. But he did a horrendous job. There is a lot of talent on this roster and he managed to consistently minimize it. Worst of all, he started with mediocrity before falling off. So it’s not like he was just taking some time to figure out how to use this eclectic bunch.
2. What does the timing of Cheeks’ firing tell you about the Pistons?
Dan Feldman: Tom Gores is only so vested in the franchise’s success. However much sense it made to fire Cheeks on Sunday, it made even more sense two days prior, before the Pistons went on a two-game win streak. There’s clearly a lag in the Pistons receiving and implementing Gores’ directions. But I get that. The Pistons are one of his many business interests and not the most substantial investment in the portfolio. He’s not required to monitor this team as rigidly as its hardcore fans.
Brady Fredericksen: Dumars isn’t the guy calling the shots. This has impatient-owner-trying-to-be-proactive written all over it. I’ve said it before, but I have no idea if Goes knows anything about basketball. He’s been more in to being an NBA owner than I expected, and he seems like he wants this team to work. That’s nice, but the fact that Loyer is apparently getting a tryout the rest of the season tells me that Gores doesn’t want Dumars hiring another coach. Does that mean Dumars’ goose is cooked? No, but it sure does feel like that.
Tim Thielke: That I don’t understand the decision making processes going on there. Firing Cheeks would have made just as much sense a dozen games ago. Why did they wait until now and not until after the season? I I had to guess a narrative for it, they finally concluded within the past month that Cheeks was an awful head coach but that they were too far in the hole to make anything but tanking a good strategy. A couple recent wins made them think this season could be turned around after all, so they got rid of him.
3. We’ve yet to see what John Loyer has to offer, but does getting rid of Cheeks in the middle of the season improve the Pistons’ playoff chances?
Dan Feldman: Yes. Firing a coach midseason usually leads to improvement. Obviously, there’s something going wrong when a coach is fired, and there’s a chance any change in those situations could be productive. Plus, a coaching change under these circumstances is likely to energize everyone – especially the players, who must have known they were consistently getting sent into each game without a coach capable of adequately preparing them. There’s a chance Loyer is even less cut out for the job than Cheeks, but even if they’re exactly equally capable, that likely means the Pistons will fare better under Loyer.
Brady Fredericksen: Sure? Loyer might be a really great find, and having a new voice may be what the Pistons need. He is apparently well-liked by the players, and while it sounds minor, that’s actually a huge deal. The Pistons players haven’t liked a coach since, what, Larry Brown?
Tim Thielke: I don’t know much about how good Loyer is or how the players felt about Cheeks. If they deemed him incompetent, I’d have to assume there’d be a a short term bump in their performance just from having a new guy call the shots. Coaching changes often have that effect. So I’ll guess yes although I’m not assuming Loyer is an upgrade until I see supporting evidence.
The Detroit Pistons have been down this road before. Too many times, in fact.
But this trip is different, the backseat driver now behind the wheel and all pretenses of status quo dropped.
Look back at the official press releases for the hiring and firing of the Pistons’ last half dozen coaches:
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the team has named Larry Brown as head coach, signing him to a multi-year contract.
Detroit Pistons’ President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars relieved Larry Brown of his coaching duties, it was announced today.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the team has named Flip Saunders as head coach, signing him to a multi-year contract.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that Flip Saunders will not return next season as the team’s head coach.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the team has named Michael Curry as head coach, signing him to a multi-year contract.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that Michael Curry will not return next season as the team’s head coach.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the team has named John Kuester as head coach, signing him to a multi-year contract.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that John Kuester will not return next season as the team’s head coach.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that Lawrence Frank will not return as the team’s head coach.
Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the club has named Maurice Cheeks as head coach, signing him to a multi-year contract.
The Detroit Pistons announced today that Maurice Cheeks has been relieved of his head coaching duties.
Notice the pattern? In every posted press release – it seems the one announcing Frank’s hiring, which occurred during the lockout, has been lost to history – “Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars” is the subject.
Conspicuously, “The Detroit Pistons,” not “Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars,” fired Maurice Cheeks. Whether the change to the boilerplate language was deliberate or not, the alteration speaks to what is becoming increasingly true in Auburn Hills:
The Pistons aren’t Dumars, and Dumars isn’t the Pistons. Not anymore.
If you want to understand the crux of the situation, these two sentences from the initial report on the firing will cover you. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Owner Tom Gores had become increasingly impatient with Cheeks, and sources with knowledge of his plans say that he had been pushing for a change in the coaching staff.
Eight different coaches have been replaced under Dumars’ run as GM, but league sources told Yahoo Sports he had been an advocate of giving Cheeks more time as coach – especially in light of back-to-back victories over the weekend.
Gores wanted to fire Cheeks, and Dumars wanted to give the coach more time.
The scenario’s end was both uncomplicated and predictable.
Gores owns the Pistons, and that gives him absolute power to control the franchise’s personnel. Some of that responsibility falls on Dumars, but only to the extent Gores defers it.
Now, it seems the only thing Gores is deferring is removing Dumars as the Pistons’ general manager – and that delay might not last long.
Maurice Cheeks’ firing justified
The Pistons put a bad coach in position to fail, and he failed.
The sad reality is the Pistons would have been better off firing Cheeks at literally any point after hiring him. Two minutes, two months and even after his two-game win streak. Getting too caught up in the timing or the roster issues only misses the matter at hand.
Cheeks is a bad NBA head coach. Any hope that he’d improved enough since the Trail Blazers and 76ers had long gone out the window. It had became so painfully obvious Cheeks couldn’t handle the job, the Pistons fired him after just 50 games – giving him the shortest tenure in franchise history aside from a couple interim coaches.
In fact, it’s been eight years since any non-interim NBA coach has had such a short run with his team.
In the last 20 years, just five coaches had been fired during their first season with a team: Terry Porter (28-23 with the 2008-09 Phoenix Suns), Bob Weiss (13-17 with the 2005-06 Seattle SuperSonics), Randy Ayers (21-31 with the 2003-04 Philadelphia 76ers), Gar Heard (14-30 with the 1999-00 Washington Wizards), Don Nelson (34-25 with the 1995-96 New York Knicks).
Honestly, I was surprised the list was so long. But four of the five coaches had something in common: Their team had a winning season the year prior to their arrival.
Cheeks – who took over a team that went 29-53 last season – certainly didn’t share the pressure of preserving a winner. Maybe the Pistons were too impatient, but more likely, Cheeks performed just that terribly.
Interestingly, the other exception might soon soon share a common thread with Cheeks.
Heard was fired just 10 days after Michael Jordan became the Wizards’ president of basketball operations. New executives typically want to hire their own coach.
In Washington, the front-office domino fell first. In Detroit, the head coach changed first. I suspect the result will be the same either way: A total overhaul.
Joe Dumars, Tom Gores never clicked together
Right now, how much does Gores regret retaining Dumars in the first place?
In Gores’ first season, the Pistons rushed to re-sign players already acquired by Dumars with presumption a new coach, Lawrence Frank, would fix everything. The Pistons flopped to a 25-41 record.
Well, 2013-14 is here, and the Pistons are only marginally better.
The assumption all along was that Dumars must make the playoffs to keep his job. Now, I’m not sure even that will be enough. Gores so publicly undercutting Dumars clearly bodes poorly for No. 4.
But if Gores wanted to fire Dumars now too, he could have. The owner, for whatever reason, granted a stay of execution. Though it’s possible Gores wants to give Dumars the dignity of completing his contract or just can’t hire his desired replacement until the offseason, I choose to believe that means Dumars has a chance – not matter how slim – to keep his job beyond this year.
When the Pistons hired Cheeks, I wrote the move would likely end Dumars’ stint as general manager. Cheeks had already proven himself beneath the caliber of a good NBA head coach, and apparently needing a playoff berth to get a new contract, Dumars seemed to have tied his fate to the wrong coach.
Now, Dumars’ best chance is that hindsight makes Cheeks look like the worst coach of all time.
If interim coach John Loyer can somehow blend the Pistons’ mismatching talents and boost the Pistons soundly into the playoffs, that would give credit to the roster Dumars assembled. Dumars might still fall considerably short in hiring coaches, but if Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups are actually the caliber of players Dumars hoped them to be when acquiring them, that would at least complicate Gores’ pending decision. Is a general manager who can form a strong team of players but can’t hire a good coach to lead them worth keeping? With a plan to fix the coaching-search process, maybe. General managers who can form a strong team of players – regardless of any other shortcomings – are a valuable commodity.
That is an extreme longshot, though. Smith, Jennings and Billups could be used better, but raising their contributions into job-saving territory won’t be easy.
I can’t imagine Gores, after the disappointments of the last three years, is searching for reasons to keep Dumars – though I doubt he’d find any, anyway.
Joe Dumars’ day of reckoning will come
The Pistons have bigger problems than Cheeks, but Cheeks was the problem they fixed now.
Cheeks’ firing should put to rest any suggestions of tanking. Gores did not want to tank and does not want to tank. Period. If he did, he would have kept the overmatched Cheeks.
This is about re-configuring on the fly and making another run at a playoff berth that is, somehow, still very attainable. In the 2013-14 Eastern Conference, it was neither too early nor too late to fire Cheeks.
And if tanking was never organizational goal, as much as the Pistons’ in-season decisions comically suggested otherwise, Dumars will not be let off the hook. Dumars built this failed roster that hastened, but didn’t cause, Cheeks’ demise. Dumars, unlike previously, led last summer’s coaching search and signed off on Cheeks. Even if Dumars preferred a different coach – and circumstantial evidence suggests he would have hired Nate McMillan – every general manager must work under his boss’s direction, and Dumars made Cheeks the Gores-approved hire when there certainly would have been better coaches who appeased the owner.
Not that appeasing the owner is easy for Dumars, who thrived under the ever-present but rarely interfering Bill Davidson. Gores is certainly not Bill Davidson.
Gores bought the Pistons for $420 million. Last month, his company, Platinum Equity, purchased a majority share of a company valued at $583 million. The month prior, Platinum Equity bought a company for $1.1 billion.
That’s why he’s not around The Palace more often. Still in the prime of his career, Gores has other professional priorities with even more money on the line.
But from time to time, he swoops in, making changes as he sees fit. His last visit meant the coach changed. His next visit might mean the general manager changes.
Gores has earned the right to be impulsive, and maybe Cheeks’ firing came on whim. However, a thorough analysis would have led to the same result.
Dumars too could be cast out for either reason. It’s up to Gores.
It’s all up to Gores.