Pistons Mailbag - Monday, February 28, 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.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

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Alan (Wolverine Lake, Mich.): Is it inevitable that a new team owner is going to pick a new head coach? Will the current coach last until then?

Langlois: Depends entirely on the preferences of whoever the new owner might be, Alan. An owner, of course, is free to exercise control of the franchise in whatever ways he sees fit, subject to reason and the ultimate approval of the commissioner’s office. Most owners entrust the choice of head coach to the head of the team’s basketball operations – the president or the general manager, depending on the organizational flow chart. With the Pistons, Joe Dumars always has chosen whom to hire and when to change coaches, always subject to the approval of ownership. John Kuester’s fate, presumably, is in the hands of Joe D, subject to that same ownership approval. How the pending sale of the franchise affects that approval, of course, is something that perhaps only Dumars and ownership fully grasp.

Randy (Flint, Mich.): Can you give us any insight regarding the sale of the team? It was prematurely reported that the sale was complete. Is it close to being finalized?

Langlois: Negotiations have been and are strictly between current ownership and prospective buyers as brokered by the institution retained to facilitate the transfer of ownership, Randy. The people who work at The Palace and for the Pistons have no more knowledge of the status of negotiations than the fans who come to games, concerts or other events at The Palace. Those who work at The Palace will know when the sale is complete, I suspect, at the same time it becomes public knowledge.

George (Grand Haven, Mich.): No trade deadline deal. No sale of the team. No coach and team unity. Where do the Pistons go from here? They are at risk of totally losing their fans.

Langlois: Where do they go from here? Forward. I don’t mean to be flip, George, only trying to bring a little perspective to the reality of sports: things change. Often in an eye blink. A few years removed from the Teal Era, the Pistons were in the midst of six straight treks to the Eastern Conference finals. Sports is cyclical and the NBA is especially prone to those forces because talent procurement comes from a much narrower band. In baseball, hockey and football, it is the norm to find quality players – and even superstars – in the depths of the draft. Pavel Datsyuk, Albert Pujols, James Harrison – all were either undrafted or late draft picks and rose to elite status in their sport. That simply doesn’t happen in the NBA. Look at this year’s All-Star rosters. Of 25 players (including West replacement player Kevin Love), six (nearly 25 percent) were No. 1 picks; 11 were top-three picks, meaning teams had to win the lottery to get those postions; and 18 – nearly 75 percent – were top-five picks. A whopping 22 of the 25 players were top-10 picks. And of the other three, two were clear outliers – Kobe Bryant, a high school perimeter player taken 13th at a time when GMs were still skeptical of high schoolers, perimeter players especially, making the leap to the NBA; and Manu Ginobili, taken 57th in 1999 at a time international scouting was in its relative infancy and maybe a third of NBA teams were heavily involved in scouting globally. Even the Pistons team that won the 2004 title was loaded with high draft picks. The difference is Joe Dumars had to swing trades for or sign as free agents players like Chauncey Billups (No. 3 pick), Rasheed Wallace (No. 4), Antonio McDyess (No. 2) and Rip Hamilton (No. 7). The Pistons have a solid base of young players in Rodney Stuckey, Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe. It’ll take a few more of those Joe D trades and signings, perhaps, to move them back toward title contention, but those four young players, in particular, give them a shot to make significant progress as soon as next season.

Gary (Middlebury, Ind.): Why don’t the Pistons just waive Rip? He won’t accept a trade, so why not just waive or release him? He doesn’t want to be in Detroit and he doesn’t want to be bought out, so why not release him?

Langlois: He’d get every cent still owed him according to the terms of his contract, Gary. What kind of message would that send? While I concede that it’s possible Hamilton won’t play another game in a Pistons uniform, I disagree with the contention that it would be impossible for him to do so. He’d have some amends to make, of course, but it certainly isn’t inconceivable that he can and would choose to do so.

Ben (Kalamazoo, Mich.): When will Rodney Stuckey, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady, Austin Daye and especially Rip Hamilton issue an apology to the fans? They are not playing Detroit basketball. They are not hard at work. They are making it quite difficult to be a Pistons fan.

Langlois: Yours is a common sentiment, Ben. We received a number of similar comments in Mailbag over the weekend. To be sure, the organization understands it has work to do to reconnect with a fan base that so came to identify with the Pistons over much of the past decade. Austin Daye stood up and took full responsibility for not making the bus on time to Friday’s shootaround in Philadelphia. So did Rodney Stuckey. Daye said he fully apologized to John Kuester and agreed that he deserved the one-game benching. Stuckey spoke similarly. More than apologies, though, what fans are going to want to see – and see it not just sporadically, but consistently – is the type of hustle and intensity they exhibited in their game 24 hours later when they beat Utah. The Pistons have 21 games remaining this season, and while a playoff drive now seems all but officially out of reach, that’s just about enough time to mend many fences and show Pistons fans – as astute as any in the country at appreciating the effort and nuance required for winning basketball – that this is going to be a team worth embracing again.

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