Pistons Mailbag - March 26, 2014
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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.
Louis (Detroit): I am excited about Friday’s Bad Boys reunion. They’re still my favorite team. It got me thinking about how some of those players became Pistons. How did the Pistons get Bill Laimbeer?
Langlois: Jack McCloskey traded for Laimbeer just minutes before the trade deadline in February 1982. You can read more about it here. We’ve already posted a ton of material on the Bad Boys and more is coming in the next few days. A big part of it was a 10-part series I wrote a few years ago on the 10 moves Jack McCloskey made to build the Bad Boys. Laimbeer was one of the first and one of the shrewdest moves McCloskey made. The headliner in the deal that brought Laimbeer to the Pistons was thought to be Kenny Carr. And McCloskey liked Carr, but the real motivation for the deal from his perspective was Laimbeer. He quickly flipped Carr to Portland for a No. 1 pick.
Michael (@Michaelptrain23): Why does Greg Monroe get hammered all the time and get no calls and neither Mo Cheeks nor John Loyer works the refs for his big man?
Langlois: Probably every big man who takes the ball to the basket with the regularity Monroe does feels like he doesn’t get half the calls he deserves. For all the carping fans do about officials, the difficulty of seeing through the tangle of bodies and flailing arms at speeds beyond the ability of the human eye to decipher with unimpeachable accuracy in real time is incredible. I see the Pistons 82 times a year, so my perspective is skewed. As, I would guess, happens to most fans who watch the Pistons predominantly and no other team to nearly the same degree. Sure, Monroe probably gets fouled at least once every game without the call being made, but my guess is most teams have a player who feels similarly. As to a coach arguing for his player, you can’t possibly tell by watching games on TV about the level of interplay between a coach and the officials. At home games, I’m seated about 15 to 20 feet from where Loyer prowls the sidelines and I can’t say I hear much of what he discusses with officials over the din of the crowd. Coaches – just like players – really have to be judicious in making their stands with officials. Just my opinion, but I’ve long thought a coach who spends half his night bantering with officials is planting the seed with his team that there’s a built-in excuse to fail: They’re out to get us. A well-timed barb is one thing, but a constant diatribe is counterproductive. It very likely is distracting the coach from doing his job, quite possibly providing the team a reason to expect failure and – oh, by the way – giving the official a reason to stick it to you at the next opportunity.
Shawn (Garden Grove, Calif.): Do you think the Pistons would draft someone like Randle, Vonleh or Gordon if they thought they were the best player available by a sizable amount?
Langlois: Well, sure. It seems reasonable to guess that Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon – all freshmen power forwards at high-profile college programs who entered college already prominently on the NBA radar – are going to at least start the draft process as top-10 prospects if they all decide to enter the draft. (Vonleh announced Sunday night he was; Gordon and Randle’s seasons are ongoing.) What doesn’t seem likely at this point? That any of them are going to be the best player available “by a sizable amount.” At least not by a consensus opinion. One team or another might see a clear separation between one and the other two – and everybody else available when their time to pick comes – but it at least appears at this point that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s going to be a very interesting evaluation with those three, as I mentioned in an impromptu Twitter chat that broke out Sunday night as I was watching Gordon play for Arizona as Vonleh announced his intention. As for the Pistons, power forward wouldn’t seem to be high on their list of needs. Then again, Greg Monroe is a pending restricted free agent and the draft comes before July 1, so Monroe’s situation will not be resolved by the time the Pistons need to make a choice on draft night. (Assuming they retain their No. 1 pick by finishing somewhere in the top eight on May 20 when the lottery is held; otherwise, the pick goes to Charlotte.) I would expect them to make a wing shooter the priority, but if there isn’t a player who fits that description good enough to be drafted in the top eight, and if they see star qualities in one of those three power forwards, then you take the best player and sort out the roster fit. If Aaron Gordon is available, for instance, and your evaluation of him says he’s the second coming of Blake Griffin, then you don’t take a shooter who might turn out to be, say, Jimmer Fredette just because you need shooting. Because if the guy you take doesn’t leave any bigger imprint in his first three or four years than Fredette has made, you still have a gaping roster need on the perimeter and you passed on a superstar.
Johnathan (@Johnathan_Hill): It’s looking like we might get to keep the draft pick. If Smart or Ennis comes to town, do you think Jennings gets traded?
Langlois: Not necessarily, Johnathan. I’m still of the belief that Marcus Smart is going to be gone by the time the Pistons would pick, unless they pull a top-three pick, if they don’t have to send their first-rounder to Charlotte. I haven’t seen all that much of Tyler Ennis to have a solid opinion of him. I know he’s lauded for his feel for the game and his general embrace of being a point guard. Physically, I guess I’d have some doubts about his ability to have an immediate NBA impact. (Scouts wondered a year ago about his Syracuse predecessor, too, but Michael Carter-Williams, though worrisomely thin, was incredibly rangy.) Nevertheless, drafting a point guard wouldn’t necessarily mean Jennings would have to go. You’d probably look to convert a strength into bolstering other areas, and having three point guards – Will Bynum’s deal has another year to run, remember – would make for a crowded spot. But the Pistons would still have a modest dollar total invested into their point guards, given the rookie pay scale and the relatively reasonable deals both Jennings and Bynum hold. So they wouldn’t have to deal from weakness – forced by cap economics – if they were to draft a point guard. And that would give them the luxury of time to determine what direction to take.
Tony (@NickleOff): The Bad Boys were disliked by everyone but Pistons fans. The current team is disliked by Pistons fans. How can Joe D make this team likeable? They’re the opposite of the Bad Boys. Bad shot selection. No defense. No cohesiveness.
Langlois: Fans like winning teams, Tony. Fans, in general, don’t find losers endearing. (Chicago Cubs fans the outlier.) The rest is all decoration. Fans especially aren’t drawn to losing teams that fail to meet expectations. This Pistons team did and nobody would run from that assessment. How you make them likeable is to undergo a thorough evaluation of why they underperformed and take steps to correct the problem. Come back next year and win more games. You’ll be surprised how much you like them then.
Ken (Dharamsala, India): It looks more and more like Mo Cheeks was not the major reason for the Pistons’ woeful play. Rather, the Pistons have woeful talent. Joe knew many of the key players of the 2004 championship team. He played against them. Do you think he is too far removed from the game to make wise personnel decisions? Do you think maybe now Tom Gores is reassessing Pistons talent?
Langlois: I don’t think they have woeful talent, Ken. I think the talent base is a long way past woeful. The product has been disappointing. No argument there. The whole hasn’t come close to equaling the sum of its parts. In a word, that’s what has come to be known as “chemistry.” And the Pistons never found it this year, for whatever reason. Ultimately, that falls on the head coach. I think it’s probably unfair to lay that at Loyer’s feet, given the circumstances under which he took over. Given some off-season roster tweaking, I think John Loyer could indeed be the right coach for this team, but that will be a decision management will make when the season ends. As for Joe D being too far removed from his playing days to be an effective executive any longer, it’s a fair question to raise but unlikely to hold any validity. Sure, when he put the 2004 title team together, he had a different perspective, perhaps. Just as all people do, he brought what he had to the job every day. And at that time, one of his best attributes was his proximity to his playing days and what they provided him regarding knowledge of NBA personnel. I won’t pretend to speak for Joe Dumars, but I’m sure he would contend that whatever has been lost as that proximity wanes has been more than made up for by the experience he’s gained on the job. What I have come to appreciate over the years is the depth of respect Dumars fosters around the game. That goes for current players far too young to remember the Bad Boys or any of his playing career, too. I’ve been amazed – and this speaks to a pervasiveness of available video of his era that wasn’t true of the generation that preceded him – at how versed in Bad Boys history young players coming into the league still are today. It also goes for his peers, coaches and player agents, a powerful lobby. Personnel mistakes are the nature of the business. Jerry West – among the rare few like Joe D who is universally revered by all those factions – once said if you were right 51 percent of the time in personnel decisions, you were doing pretty well. It’s a hit or miss game. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva didn’t work out. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings are getting unfairly lumped with them. They haven’t experienced appreciably more team success, but they’ve been more productive individually. Too soon to close the book on their Pistons chapters. And Joe D’s draft record is very good. Those who say it isn’t are either skewing the facts or have no feel for NBA draft context.