Pistons Mailbag - Monday, January 31, 2011

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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Johnnie (Kissimmee, Fla.): I see it time after time – the Pistons get bad calls on them or no calls for them. When will this stop? It’s not a fair game when so-called superstars get al the calls going their way. If they are so good, why do they need help from the officials?

Langlois: The NBA would vigorously deny this is the case, Johnnie. The Pistons had two calls go horribly wrong for them in the final 10 seconds of Friday’s loss at Miami, but neither one involved a superstar. Eddie House got a call against Ben Gordon – Gordon is the more accomplished player – and James Jones got the benefit of doubt when he clearly made contact with Austin Daye as Daye was attempting the lead-changing dunk with 2.7 seconds left. Superstars almost always have the ball in their hands when a game is in the balance and they are usually accomplished at beating the first defender, which creates situations that almost always require a referee’s decision. I think it’s overgeneralizing to see superstars are favored in those moments. It probably varies from official to official, but great players achieve greatness because more often than not they force defenses to foul to stop them.

Jens (Cologne, Germany): Those were two tough calls to end the Miami game. In my opinion, the second one was worse. Is video evidence just being used for “last touch” or “shot released in time” calls or can it be used for foul calls? Could there also be a challenge like in football?

Langlois: Replay has been gradually expanded since inception. It’s now used, in addition to the examples you cite, for things like determining if a shot was taken inside or beyond the 3-point arc and reviewing whether a foul was flagrant and, if so, to what degree. My mother asked me the same thing after the Miami game, Jens: If they can review plays in football, she wanted to know, why couldn’t they have looked at those two calls? Fair point, except that in football, they don’t really review calls on holding or pass interference, just possession and boundary issues and the like. If the NBA ever goes to a challenge system, my guess is that it won’t involve anything to do with block-charge or foul or not a foul. Maybe for goaltending or three seconds calls or things of that order on a limited basis.

Slayer (Macomb Twp., Mich.): Does the visiting team have the opportunity to view the home team’s final starting lineup and thus have the ability to alter their starting lineup to exploit matchups?

Langlois: There is no real protocol. Teams hand their starting lineup to the arena’s PA announcer, but they’re under no formal obligation to comply. The coach can send whatever five players he wants out to start the game – and change the lineup at the first dead ball.

Jessica (Detroit): Why doesn’t somebody with the Pistons, either John Kuester or Joe Dumars, sit down with Rip Hamilton and talk to him about why he’s not playing? Rip has suggested that he sees it as a lack of respect. Doesn’t he deserve better after all he’s done for the Pistons?

Langlois: It isn’t accurate to say that no one has talked to Rip, Jessica, despite the perpetuation of that portrayal. Rip has been quoted as saying that no one has told him anything. If that’s true in the strictest technical sense, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the reality. He had not responded to requests to talk, by both Joe Dumars and John Kuester, as of late last week, since being taken out of the rotation. He has been given many chances to sit down and talk about his current situation. He had taken part in conversations with Joe D, at least, in between the times he was removed from the starting lineup and the recent move to take him out of the rotation. Dumars has had numerous conversations, as well, with Rip’s agent, Leon Rose, who has been apprised of the situation on a regular basis. I’m not sure what more should be expected of reasonable adults. For anyone to suggest the decision to take him out of the lineup was done for any reason other than pure basketball considerations, I’m not buying that for a second. Dumars has repeatedly said playing time is something that he entrusts to his coach. Kuester surely knows the NBA is unforgiving for coaches who don’t win. He would do nothing that would run counter to maximizing his team’s chances to win games. If he thought starting Rip or continuing to give him significant minutes off the bench would help, he’d do it. He did it for 37 games, after which time the Pistons were 12-25. I think it would be hard to make the case Hamilton had been playing well or to contend the team hasn’t played better since recent lineup change were made. It doesn’t mean Rip’s career is in demise or he can’t return to the rotation, or even the starting lineup, with the Pistons. One injury can change everything. Had he not been afflicted with the flu last week, there’s a chance he would have been back in the rotation when the Pistons went to Miami and New York over the weekend.

Al (Wolverine Lake, Mich.): I saw that Forbes came out with its list of estimates for the value of NBA teams and that the Pistons were No. 13, valued at $360 million. Will that help or hurt negotiations to sell the team?

Langlois: It will have absolutely zero effect. The Forbes estimates are an educated guess, but they are ultimately just a guess. Any group that expressed interest in purchasing the Pistons has infinitely greater knowledge of the true value of the franchise than Forbes could possibly have. Prospective buyers have seen every intimate detail of the books, remember. It’s naďve in the extreme to think that a prospective investor who has had the advantage of teams of accountants and lawyers poring over every detail of a franchise’s financials would be swayed by a magazine’s attempt to gauge the value of all 30 NBA teams without even a tiny percentage of the same resources at their disposal. To some extent, I’m convinced that Forbes’ estimate of the Pistons’ franchise value this year was informed by reports, based on sketchy information of ongoing negotiations, of what was being bid for the franchise through the process of the sale. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Mavs owner Mark Cuban said last week of the recent Forbes estimates. “That’s just useless. There’s nothing more useless than what Forbes does. It’s worthless, it’s meaningless and worthless.”

Joel (Amherstburg, Ontario): What team do you expect Tracy McGrady to choose to play for when he becomes a free agent? Do the Pistons offer him a sizable contract, realizing he is their best playmaker?

Langlois: It’s pure guesswork on everybody’s part at this point, Joel. The only thing we can say with certainty is that both parties are interested in extending the relationship. The Pistons can do nothing at this point to retain him – they cannot extend his contract; only contracts of four years or more in duration are eligible to be extended – and they will have no advantage over any other team once he becomes a free agent, whenever the new collective bargaining agreement is signed. And the new CBA will go a long way in dictating the Pistons’ summer. So will whatever transpires at the trade deadline. If the Pistons move long-term contracts and take back expiring deals and go into the summer significantly under whatever the new salary-cap figure becomes, then they’ll have to sign McGrady and anybody else who they desire as a free agent with however much they have under the cap. If they don’t move a long-term deal and go into the summer over, at or not significantly under the cap, then they might actually have a better chance to retain McGrady. Why? Because then they would have the mid-level exception to offer him – assuming such a mechanism still exists in the new CBA. They wouldn’t have the money to pursue a high-profile free agent under that scenario, but they would have the wherewithal to retain McGrady – assuming the bidding for him doesn’t exceed the MLE. Bottom line, there will be great uncertainty about every team’s off-season capabilities until a new CBA is signed.

Mike (Sarnia, Ontario): I just heard Jason Williams is going to be a free agent or he will be traded. What are the odds the Pistons will sign him?

Langlois: Roughly zero. The Pistons have a full roster. Signing Williams would mean waiving someone. There’s little incentive to do so for a player who is near the end of his career and probably doesn’t have a lot to offer at this point.

Odeh (Dearborn Heights, Mich.): Is it time to attach Rip Hamilton’s contract to one of our young talents to force teams to consider a trade? I’m sure if we dangle Jonas Jerebko or Austin Daye along with Rip, it might entice teams to pull the trigger for cap relief in return.

Langlois: Purely my guess, Odeh, but I think we’re a long way from that point. I’d be fairly stunned if something like that were to happen by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Ted (Madison Heights, Mich.): It’s been difficult to watch the Pistons until recently. Lately, they’ve been fun to watch again. I love Daye’s shooting stroke and Monroe continues to improve. We know what we have in Jonas. But Charlie V concerns me. Do you see him remaining with the Pistons for the length of his five-year contract?

Langlois: Really impossible to project that far into the future, Ted, but I think it’s fair to say the front office is not dissatisfied with Villanueva nor actively looking to trade him. That said, if a trade offer came to them from a team looking for Villanueva’s skill set – and big men who can step away from the basket and shoot comfortably beyond the 3-point line have become an increasingly coveted commodity in the last five years or so – and Joe Dumars thought it would make the team better, he’d be open to pulling the trigger. He told me as recently as last month that when he’s talking to his peers around the league, it’s clear that Charlie V would have considerable trade value.

John (Sterling Heights, Mich.): The only spot on the roster that I think lacks production is power forward. The Pistons need to get an underrated, quality big man like Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies are trying to save money and the Pistons could give up expiring contracts. Are they any possibilities here?

Langlois: Not sure anybody would consider Randolph underrated, John. People might have questioned his decisions in the past, but nobody has ever really doubted his talent. The guy is one of the most certain 20 and 10 guys in the league (20 and 20, some nights) and those are the equivalent of baseball’s left-handed starting pitcher. No one is certain what Memphis’ intent is with Randolph, though there have been rumors management is shopping O.J. Mayo to avoid having to make a big-money offer to retain him as a restricted free agent, thereby opening enough room in their budget to keep not only Randolph but Marc Gasol, as well. I’m not hearing any reports yet that Randolph is being shopped, but stay tuned – the trade deadline is just a little more than three weeks away and teams will start showing their cards in the next few weeks.

Randy (Flint, Mich.): I thought a big man would be the Pistons’ biggest need, but I’m having second thoughts. With Monroe coming along faster than expected and Jerebko returning soon, could a true point guard be a greater need? Has McGrady said if he enjoys playing the point? If he doesn’t re-sign, is there a true point guard option in the upcoming class of free agents?

Langlois: The free agent class of point guards is underwhelming. Among the most prominent names are T.J. Ford, Carlos Arroyo, Sebastian Telfair and Earl Watson with Mo Williams and Leandro Barbosa holding options to become free agents. Given that, if the Pistons intend to address that position, trade is likely the best option. The only slam-dunk lottery pick among college points is Duke’s Kyrie Irving, who might not enter the draft after missing most of the season with a foot injury. McGrady is fine with playing the point and the Pistons can get away with it because of Stuckey’s ability to guard both backcourt spots to give McGrady the most favorable matchup.