Pistons Mailbag - October 2, 2013
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Editor’s note: You can now submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle.
Calvin (Potterville, Mich.): I hate the idea of a trade this early to start the season, but could a trade of Stuckey for Arron Afflalo work or even happen? A starting shooting guard for us with range and defense.
Langlois: Their salaries are close enough to make it a go under CBA parameters, Calvin. Whether either side would have the necessary motivation to make such a deal is the great unknown. Maurice Cheeks certainly appears to be a believer in Stuckey’s talent, for what that’s worth and keeping in mind that deals often are consummated without the consent of the head coach. I think Orlando would be sufficiently motivated to do that deal based on its rebuilding status and the value toward that end of taking on Stuckey’s expiring contract over Afflalo’s deal, which with a player option for the 2015-16 season has two additional seasons to run. Afflalo did not have a good season last year, so if the Pistons were doing the deal strictly because they believed it a talent upgrade – and taking on two additional years would be a tacit admission of that belief – then it would be a tough sell based on recent evidence. Which, of course, is why that deal (and many others) simply would be unlikely to occur at this point of the NBA calendar. The Pistons have to plan for the certainty that Greg Monroe’s next contract will include a big salary boost. They currently have more than enough cap room to accommodate that and still retain flexibility. This trade would pretty much eliminate their flexibility.
Chuck (@idgachuck): Will the Pistons bring along KCP slowly like they did with Drummond last year? I hope not.
Langlois: I’ll make the same contention with KCP I made with Drummond last year, Chuck: He’ll play as much or as little as the coaches believe he deserves to play. Coaches never do any favors to young players by granting them playing time before they deserve it. And to the degree you could make the case that last year’s Pistons were a postseason long shot and therefore could lean toward player development over winning games, they certainly aren’t going into this season with that mind-set. They intend to make the postseason. Maurice Cheeks can divvy up playing time at shooting guard among Rodney Stuckey, Chauncey Billups and Kyle Singler if he chooses, so there’s not a need to rush Caldwell-Pope into the lineup if he’s not ready. On the other hand, I have zero reservations that if Cheeks sees Caldwell-Pope offering something others cannot, he won’t have any qualms about playing him because of his age or rookie status.
Chris (@Be_Cool_Fool): Who’s our two?
Langlois: See above. Until I see reason to believe otherwise, Rodney Stuckey is the best bet to take the most minutes at that position, whether starting or coming off the bench. But Chauncey Billups, Kyle Singler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope give the Pistons options. And don’t dismiss the possibility that Cheeks will line up with two point guards – Billups-Jennings, Jennings-Bynum, Billups-Bynum, even rookie Peyton Siva if the opportunity for him presents itself – at times.
Sam (Kalamazoo, Mich.): I was of the mind-set that the Pistons should trade Greg Monroe until I checked his stats from last season. He’s almost statistically identical (a little better, actually) to DeMarcus Cousins, who just received a four-year max contract. I think the Pistons are sitting on a gold mine in Monroe. Hopefully Josh Smith can mold his game to small forward successfully? More importantly, do we have enough money to sign Monroe when his contract runs out?
Langlois: The Pistons’ salary cap is relatively clean, Sam. There are no concerns at all that the Pistons could be backed into a corner by a “poison pill” restricted offer sheet – the kind Houston used last summer to grab away Omer Asik from Chicago and Jeremy Lin from New York, front-loaded contracts that force their original teams to commit to paying stiff luxury taxes or allow a coveted player to get away for nothing in return.
Sebastian (San Marcos, Texas): With the new high-profile additions to the roster and the fact Drummond’s stock is clearly on the rise, what do you think are the chances that the Pistons will see more air time on ESPN or NBA-TV? For what it’s worth, USA Today ranked the Pistons as the sixth most watchable team in the league recently.
Langlois: There is some flexibility built in to the national TV schedules announced in early August when the NBA schedule was released, Sebastian. If the Pistons get off to a good start and are drawing national attention, sure, they could be adding national TV dates. If they have a strong season and make some noise in the playoffs, they could see a dramatic spike in appearances next season. There are usually eight or 10 teams that dominate the national TV games and those teams, beyond projecting as playoff teams, invariably feature a perennial All-Star or two. If the Pistons land a player or two on this year’s All-Star team – in Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, they have four possibilities – it raises the profile of the organization and increases their national appeal.
Jasper (Manila, Philippines): If we have a good season and Monroe and Drummond get max deals or close to it, will we still be able to retain them both or even the current roster that we have?
Langlois: First-world problems, Jasper. There is a school of thought that the last CBA will make it virtually impossible for teams to amass more than two max-level players. Oklahoma City traded James Harden last season out of its desire to avoid long-term luxury tax consequences. Indiana over the past year has committed max deals to Roy Hibbert (four years) and Paul George (five) and almost certainly will lose Danny Granger to free agency next summer if he isn’t first traded. If Monroe and Drummond prove worthy of getting the maximum, the Pistons will be challenged as other teams in a similar position would be to field a title contender around them. But that sure beats the alternative.
Ken (Dharamsala, India): The trouble with having a 48-inch vertical leap is that you must come down. Gravity is tough on knees and other body parts. Even the young Pistons have mentioned having tendinitis. What do Arnie Kander and Pistons players do to strengthen knees and bodies for a season of jumping and coming down hard?
Langlois: Good question, Ken. I don’t know exactly what precautions Arnie Kander takes to reduce the stress on knees, only that he’s acutely aware of it. He seems to wave a magic wand and make knee tendinitis disappear. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope reported having an issue with knee tendinitis during his time in Orlando for Summer League in July. Kander spent a few sessions with him in the hotel’s makeshift weight room and made it go away. Nobody’s more attuned to a body’s frailties and needs than he is.
Jake (@JRobinson_11): How will Mo Cheeks work Gigi into the rotation? Do you think he has what it takes to be productive in the NBA?
Langlois: As Cheeks has said about every question of that nature, that will play itself out. On paper, it would appear there should be about 30 minutes available at small forward behind Josh Smith, who is going to play a substantial amount of time at power forward. That could easily mean room for both Datome and Kyle Singler (who might also play some shooting guard) in the rotation. You never know how a European transplant will make the transition, Jake, but as Joe Dumars told me recently, Datome is a 25-year-old who’s played a lot of big-time basketball, including a pretty impressive stint as the leader of his Italian national team at the recently completed EuroBasket. He’s not coming here as a teenager drafted on potential.
Jannon (Melbourne, Australia): Just wanted to ask about the TV scheduling for preseason games. How many, if any, are going to be telecast? Also, how do you think Cousins’ extension affects Monroe and the Pistons’ future cap situation?
Langlois: Fox Sports Detroit will air the final two Pistons preseason games, home games against Washington (Oct. 22) and Minnesota (Oct. 24). You never know how coaches approach individual preseason games, but it’s more likely that the last few preseason games will feature a rotation that approximates what he intends for the regular season. And the Pistons will open the regular season on Oct. 30 against Washington, so there might be some individual matchups that bear watching, as well. As for the impact of Cousins’ extension on Monroe, it might give Monroe’s agent a little more ammunition but I don’t think he really needed it. If Monroe hits restricted free agency, as his agent has publicly declared is the likeliest outcome, we’ll see what happens. But you can bet the Pistons are prepared for the possibility that Monroe will generate interest and draw a very attractive four-year proposal from a suitor.
Kevin (@kfsanders): What’s your impression of the team’s energy and excitement for this season based off of all you’ve seen so far?
Langlois: If there’s not energy and excitement on the first day of training camp, Kevin, you’re probably in for a long season. That said, there’s no reason to believe that the universal sentiment I’ve heard from players as to their respect for Maurice Cheeks is anything but genuine. Everybody I’ve talked to – and that’s everybody on the roster now, including a pleasant exchange with Gigi Datome, who just got to the United States over the weekend after his extended EuroBasket run – has talked about how invigorated they sense everyone is by the injection of talent and the vibe given off so far by the coaching staff. The test, of course, comes when the first hints of adversity arrive – dealing with injuries, losses once the regular season starts, playing time as hard choices about the rotation are made. But everybody’s going into the season with their eyes wide open and in the best possible frame of mind.
Phil (Waterford Twp., Mich.): A lot of NBA experts and analysts seem to not like the Pistons’ chances of making the playoffs this year. Why do you think this is? Lack of team chemistry? Too much uncertainty?
Langlois: “Experts” is used pretty loosely these days, Phil, so I’m not sure of the credibility of the prognostications you’ve seen. I think most people who follow the NBA closely readily acknowledge the Pistons have upgraded their talent base significantly. I can appreciate that it’s not easy to predict without any reservation that the Pistons are due for a huge advancement in the record simply because no one will really know how well the parts can be put together until the evidence starts to trickle in. The folks who are projecting 50-plus wins for the Pistons – yeah, there are a few of those out there, too – obviously are building in an anticipated leap in contributions from Andre Drummond and confident that the new coaching staff over time will find the right mix of players to maximize the talent now in place. Rosters with lesser talent but also less upheaval might offer more certainty to other “experts.” I don’t get caught up much in prognostications. They go out the window on Oct. 30. So much of what we think we know gets rendered meaningless from that point forward. As training camp wound down last season, Slava Kravtsov seemed the likelier option at center behind Greg Monroe than Drummond did. Kim English was the first player off the bench in the first game. Even when the regular season arrives, things change.