May 2008 - Archive | Mailbag Homepage
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Eric (Greensboro, N.C.): I’m really tired of the officiating in this series. The ticky-tack fouls are ridiculous and I think the Pistons are being treated unfairly. But I still think they’ll win this series and take on the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Langlois: Tough blow in Game 5, Eric. If Ray Allen hadn’t hit that jump shot after Stuckey’s triple cut it to one point at a time in the game the Celtics looked ready to fold, they probably win and close out the series in Game 6. The danger for the Pistons now is trying to win two games in one. They can’t win Game 7 before taking care of business at home. As for the officiating, I thought it was a real factor in Game 5 on a night the Pistons were the far better team. As for Game 6, nothing more than the few calls each way that balanced each other out.
Kevin (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.): I noticed Rip held his elbow and was taken out in the final minute of Game 5. Is there anything wrong with him?
Langlois: The early word from last night was it looked like a hyperextension. We’ll find out more later today but probably won’t have any idea how it’s going to affect him until Game 6 starts. It didn’t look like much on the replay – the trouble is it’s his shooting arm and the shot is a delicate mechanism. If there’s a twinge of pain upon extension, that could mess with his stroke just enough to make Hamilton a non-factor offensively – and that would be a monumental obstacle.
Charles (Hazel Park, Mich.): Game 5 … wow, an NBA classic. For games 6 and 7, I’d like to see Prince down on the block more when Rasheed Wallace is up top setting screens because of Prince’s length. I’d also like to see more of the Pistons going small with Stuckey, Rip and Billups on the perimeter.
Langlois: The Pistons went small after McDyess fouled out last night, but that’s a lineup combination – Prince at the four with Stuckey, Billups and Hamilton – that I’ve thought they might try for a while now. You have to pick your spots for it, obviously, because you don’t want to have Prince getting overpowered by traditional power forwards in the post, but it presents some matchup problems at the other end, too.
Ric (Porter Ranch, Calif.): I’m not disappointed with the way the Pistons tried to come back, but I am upset that if it’s obvious they can play that way then why don’t they do it all the time? McDyess had some missed coverages on Perkins or maybe it was Pierce breaking down the Pistons. Please give me a sense of wisdom that we can still win this series.
Langlois: Perkins got free most often because Wallace – McDyess was guarding Garnett most of the night – was leaving him to act as a help defender at the first sign of trouble. I thought Wallace overreacted in many cases, giving Perkins easy lanes for offensive rebounds or open spots for teammates to find him as Wallace drifted off of him to eliminate even the threat of dribble penetration by Pierce or Rondo. History says the Celtics have about an 83 percent chance to win the series, but I wouldn’t make too much of that stat right now. The Pistons know they can win in Boston – and, more importantly, Boston knows the Pistons can beat them there, too.
Tim (Chicago): I noticed Tayshaun Prince passing up some wide-open shots. Is there a reason for this?
Langlois: He definitely passed up two or three in Game 5 that he would take most of the time, Tim. Can’t get inside his head, but I think he’s feeling the effects of guarding the primary playmaker for Philadelphia (Andre Igoudala) over six tough games, then the same type of playmaking forward (Hedo Turkoglu) against Orlando for five more games, and then getting a heavy dose of Boston’s version (Paul Pierce) in this series. His shooting has fallen off and he hasn’t been in a rhythm for a few weeks now. He has to fight through it and give the Pistons at least the threat of scoring from inside 20 feet.
Kevin (Indianapolis): Now that it is apparent that the Jarvis Hayes experiment is not the short-term solution at the backup three spot, would the Pistons ever consider signing Ron Artest, assuming he opts out of his final year?
Langlois: A long shot on at least three fronts that come to mind, Kevin. No. 1, Artest isn’t a backup and wouldn’t play for backup money. No. 2, his personality has been toxic in every locker room he’s ever inhabited, usually sooner rather than later, and Joe Dumars runs screaming from those players – you probably know better than most, given your Indianapolis base. No. 3, the fact he instigated the most infamous player-fan altercation in NBA history at The Palace would be enough even if the first two items weren’t issues.
Kirk (Lubbock, Texas): Why are the Pistons wearing the black patches?
Langlois: To honor ex-scout Will Robinson, for whom the Pistons’ locker room at The Palace is named, who died during the Pistons’ first-round series with Philadelphia. Robinson was the first African-American to coach at a Division I college, was a legendary coach in the Detroit high school ranks before that and was the man Jack McCloskey most trusted with talent evaluation when he was assembling the Bad Boys.
Elle (Phoenix): I’ve always wondered how it’s decided who gets to guard whom? For example, during Game 2 of the Boston series, Flip switched Rip onto Rondo instead of having Chauncey guard Rondo. What if Doc Rivers wanted Rondo to continue guarding Billups?
Langlois: He did – and Rondo did. Players can match up defensively however their coach wants them to – they’re not beholden to honor the other team’s defensive assignments. Many coaches, however, will concede the more preferable matchup in order to avoid exposing his team to lapses in coverage in transition. In other words, if A guards X and B guards Y for Team Red, the coach for Team Blue might decide to have X guard A and Y guard B even though he’d prefer the matchups be reversed just so that X and Y can stay with their man in the transition from offense to defense so that openings aren’t created in the time it takes them to find each other’s man.
Erges (Kelo, Albania): Are the Pistons getting the second-round pick from Minnesota? They have Miami’s No. 1 pick. Also, I’ve heard the Pistons have promised D.J. White that they’ll draft him in the first round. Why not draft Bill Walker, who could play minutes behind Tayshaun Prince or J.J. Hickson, who is still young and athletic?
Langlois: No. Minnesota has informed the Pistons that it is keeping its second-rounder this year, the No. 34 pick in the draft. The Timberwolves also have the No. 31 pick, the first of the second round, from the Mark Blount-Ricky Davis trade with Miami earlier this season.
Alec (Detroit): I’m curious about what seems to be inconsistency in media coverage of the Pistons vs. coverage of other teams. The stock criticism of the Pistons is their inability to get up for every game. I think it’s fair, but I didn’t hear much following Game 4 of Boston’s inability to match the Pistons’ intensity.
Langlois: You’ve hit on an important point, Alec. It strikes me as ludicrous that the team that’s been the most consistent winner in the NBA over the past six years this side of San Antonio is consistently ripped for lack of … take your pick: focus, intensity, effort, energy … after every loss, yet they keep winning 50-plus games and getting to the conference finals without – and this point was raised by ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy early in the Boston series – one Hall of Famer, or certain Hall of Famer, at least, on the roster. Think about that. In an era dominated essentially by two players – Tim Duncan has four of the last nine NBA titles, Shaquille O’Neal has four of the last nine NBA titles and the Detroit Pistons have the other one – the Pistons have been the hallmark of consistency and instead of being lauded for it, it’s often used against them for what they didn’t achieve. Remarkable. Do the Pistons sometimes come up short of a fine edge? Sure. Everybody does. Because they’re without that sure-fire Hall of Famer, you could argue they have a lesser margin for error on those nights when the sizzle isn’t there. Instead, critics fall back on what you aptly call it – the “stock criticism.”
Steven (Southaven, Miss.): With the Lakers up 3-1 and possibly advancing soon, will they have an advantage over the team that comes out of the East?
Langlois: Not much, if any, Steven. The NBA set the definitive Finals schedule last night – it will start next Thursday, a week from today. So if the Pistons win the next two games, they’ll still have three days off between games – and they’ll get to spend all those nights at home, too, because they would host the first two games. That’s a lot different than winning Game 7 on Sunday and opening the Finals two days later.
Joyce (Huntington Woods, Mich.): Why are there Adidas T-shirts declaring Boston the 2008 Eastern Conference champions? It has the NBA Finals logo on it, as well. Is there a comparable T-shirt already printed for the Pistons?
Langlois: Not sure what you saw or where you saw it, Joyce – it could be a knockoff. As they say, check for the NBA hologram to assure authenticity. Whenever a team goes into a potential series-clinching game, there will already be a limited number of shirts and hats declaring them the champion at the ready for the postgame celebration. Any team that hosts a Game 7 with a chance to win will also print up a limited number of items for fans to buy on their way out of the building. If their team loses, they swallow the cost and destroy the evidence – or, at least, they’re supposed to. A few bootleg erroneous items always seem to escape.
Richard (Las Vegas): I was unfortunate enough to be sitting next to George Wendt of “Cheers” at a bar in Seattle when Bird flipped it to D.J. Monday, I was in a Hooters in Salt Lake City enjoying two TVs – on the left, the Red Wings; on the right, the Pistons – Chauncey draining the 3 for the KO punch, Dice and Maxey working the body, Rip like James Coburn in the Magnificent Seven with energy left over. They are fighting like champions.
Langlois: George Wendt wound up serving as an honorary coach during one of Isiah’s charity basketball games at The Palace when the building was very new and “Cheers” was in its prime-time heyday. True story – at one point, Chuck Daly hollered to no one in particular, “Hey, Norm wants a beer!” Wait … there’s a Hooters in Salt Lake City?
Michael (Sydney, Australia): Can you tell me how many times the No. 1 seeds have progressed to the NBA Finals in the last six years? I’m thinking that it will be a stat that could be in favor of the Pistons this year.
Langlois: Once in each conference, Michael. The San Antonio Spurs were the No. 1 seed in 2003 and beat New Jersey in the NBA Finals and the Nets were the No. 1 seed in 2002 and got beat by the Lakers in the Finals. No top seed in either conference has made it to the Finals in the past four seasons.
Ron (Warren, Mich.): If Milwaukee or Portland were shopping Charlie Villanueva or Channing Frye, would this year’s 29th pick be enough to swap for either of those guys? I believe the Pistons need to secure some athletic frontcourt depth for the future in addition to Maxiell, Johnson and Samb.
Langlois: Good question, Ron. I doubt the 29th pick would get you a young 7-footer, but you never know. Of course, salary-cap regulations would make a straight-up trade like that impossible, anyway. I’m pretty sure both Villanueva and Frye are available. Milwaukee has Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian ahead of Villanueva and a hole at small forward. The Bucks would probably love to package Villanueva with Michael Redd for salary-cap relief and would do it for little more than expiring contracts and draft picks, I’m guessing. Frye doesn’t have much of a future in Portland behind Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, but from afar he doesn’t seem like a Joe Dumars-type player – good guy, not a lot of fire in him that I can see. Three young big men gives the Pistons a pretty nice hedge against the future already, but I think it’s one of two likely target areas for their No. 1 pick, the other being someone with size and athleticism to use behind Tayshaun Prince.
Don (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): I’m confused why it says “1957-58 to 2007-2008 50 Seasons” on The Palace court. Isn’t it really the 51st season? This stuff keeps me up at night.
Langlois: Rest well, Don. You are correct – we started this season-long celebration in the fall of 2007, which marked the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s relocation to Detroit in the fall of 1957. So this is technically the 51st season, but we’re marking it as the 50th anniversary in Detroit. Sort of like one year after you were married, you celebrate your first wedding anniversary as you embark on your second year of marriage. I once heard that in the Western hemisphere, a baby is 1 year old 365 days after his birth, but in some Eastern cultures a baby is 1 on the day he is born and turns 2 365 days later – now that’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.
Ryan (Battle Creek, Mich.): I’m sick and tired of some fans complaining about lack of effort. The only solution is to start over? Are you serious? Great job, Pistons, from top to bottom.
Langlois: I get a little weary of it myself, Ryan. I can understand fans getting frustrated, but I can’t recall a team that so consistently gets ripped for lack of effort after every loss. Let’s try putting it in terms that maybe runners could understand. Some days you hit the road thinking you’re feeling great and in for an exhilarating run – 15 minutes later, you still don’t have your second wind and you wished you’d taken the 3-mile route instead of the 6-mile route. Other days, you’re feeling under the weather and certain you won’t have the endurance, and 30 minutes into it you’re running on air and in that happy place where brilliant ideas – or they seem brilliant at the time, anyway – come flooding into your head. People talk about the Pistons “flipping the switch” when, in fact, the opposite is true. If they had a switch, they could flip it, if only it were that easy.
Joe (Clinton Twp., Mich.): Are there any scenarios that would lead Joe Dumars to consider dealing both Chauncey and Rip?
Langlois: There are scenarios that would lead any GM to consider trading anyone on his roster, Joe. Who’s the biggest name in sports today? For argument’s sake, let’s throw out LeBron James. A local legend who probably doubled the value of the Cleveland Cavaliers the moment the lottery fell the way it did in 2003. Would the Cavs trade him? At the right price, you bet. (Thinks to himself: What could that possibly be? Hmmm – the Lakers call up and say here’s Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and three No. 1 picks with no lottery protection.) What would it take to pry Billups and Hamilton from the Pistons? One proven star with plenty of years left in his prime, one or two young players with promise and a couple of No. 1 picks? I don’t know. But Dumars always says he keeps an open mind about everything, so, yeah, there are scenarios that would make anything possible.
Jake (Warren, Mich.): Out of all the big-name free agents set to hit the market, who is the one the Pistons should try to sign the hardest?
Langlois: Antawn Jamison is the biggest name hitting the market among unrestricted free agents and I don’t see the Pistons making a play for him. The other big names – guys like Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Josh Smith, Luol Deng and Andre Igoudala – are either restricted free agents or hold the right to opt out of their contracts. Don’t expect any of those guys to wind up here, either. The Pistons could use some or all of their mid-level exception this summer and the way the market has trended the past few summers, that should be enough to get a player good enough to crack the rotation. But that determination won’t be made until after the draft and maybe not until after the first wave of free agency takes place.
Gil (Charlotte, N.C.): I wonder why certain players get consistently open. There isn’t a very good reason for the Celtics to leave McDyess open for so many shots. Nor is there a good reason why Perkins or Brown get so many open shots for Boston. Why do teams make the decision that certain players can just be left open?
Langlois: It starts more on the other side of the equation – which players can’t be left open? It explains why Steve Kerr, John Paxson and Craig Hodges got elevated to minor celebrity status in Chicago all those years with Michael Jordan. Teams would rather take their chances with great shooters from 3-point range than Michael Jordan getting one-on-one coverage to the basket. The Pistons are far more likely to go to Rasheed Wallace early in the shot clock than to McDyess. With Garnett consumed by guarding Wallace from the post to the perimeter, that limits Garnett’s effectiveness as the great help defender he is. So if the Pistons attack quickly in the shot clock and get good player and ball movement, somebody should come open – and, often, that’s McDyess, because his man is going to be hedging into the paint to help as Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are cutting to the basket or posting up their defenders. That’s often Garnett’s role – but not when he’s guarding Wallace 20 feet from the rim.
Marcus (Trotwood, Ohio): I know you maintain that NBA games are officiated fairly, but there was definitely something odd about Game 4. I got four calls from colleagues during the game about the officiating – you think that game was fair?
Langlois: It wasn’t the NBA’s finest hour, Marcus, but I didn’t see anything there that would lead me to conclude that the officials huddled before the game and decided Boston was going to win or got a memo from the league office to let the Celtics shoot 39 free throws. Games like that happen. There were a lot of borderline calls that went against the Pistons. Usually those things come close to evening out over 48 minutes, but every now and then it seems to pile up at one end of the court. The encouraging thing is that the Pistons survived it by playing terrific defense and not letting their emotions get the better of them.
Luca (Milano, Italy): I was really impressed by Jason Maxiell’s block on KG. I think Maxiell can become a player like Ben Wallace on defense but with a much better offensive game. What’s your opinion?
Langlois: Maxiell definitely has developed a greater ability to score than Wallace, but Wallace was one of the most limited offensive players in the game even in his heyday. But the man was a legitimate All-Star and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year because for about a five-year stretch he was the most versatile big man defender in the game. Maxiell is a solid defender with a flair for the dramatic as a shot-blocker, but he’s a long way from Wallace’s prime defensively – which is no knock on Maxiell, because almost everybody is a long way from Wallace’s prime defensively.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Nathan (Bay City, Mich.): Flip Saunders and Chauncey Billups need to talk. Billups needs to be humble enough while nursing his injury to play behind Rodney Stuckey, who’s on a roll.
Langlois: Humility isn’t Billups’ problem. If he doesn’t feel right for Game 4 tonight, I think everyone concerned will do what they have to do – which will mean lots of Rodney Stuckey. We might get a hint of their thought process when they release the active roster an hour before tipoff – if Juan Dixon is active, it could mean that there’s concern about Billups.
Donna (Midland, Mich.): I might be the only person that doesn’t like the Whiteout. It seems to me teams have done this ever since Miami won the championship. It looks blah and I can’t see how it energizes the crowd for a home-court advantage.
Langlois: I can’t speak to how it looked on TV, but in the arena it was pretty striking – a very bright building. But unless you’re suggesting that the brightness threw off Pistons shooters, I don’t think it had any effect on the outcome. White T-shirts or not, that was a very energetic crowd early – until Boston took them out of it.
Heidi (Troy, Mich.): I’m sick of watching this Pistons team take nights off, especially in the playoffs. Have they learned nothing from being eliminated in the conference finals how many times now?
Langlois: Heidi, they lost Game 3 and no one is going to pretend they played well – but it’s just wrong to say they lost because they didn’t play hard. They didn’t play very smart, that’s for sure, but I’d have a far easier time arguing the case that they lost because they wanted it too much than not enough – they had too much adrenaline flowing early, missing jump shots they normally make, then started playing frantically, gambling instead of sticking with the defensive game plan. Those aren’t the characteristics of a team that “took the night off.” The Pistons won 59 games during the regular season, second-most in the league – if they were taking nights off this season, then other teams must have been taking leaves of absence.
Tim (Negaunee, Mich.): Being a Pistons fan for a very long time and trying to be loyal to the current starters, but I feel strongly that if the Pistons lose this series Joe D needs to move them for younger players and start over. There is no explanation for them to come out so flat and unfocused considering what they had just accomplished in Boston and what is at stake.
Langlois: Your sentiments are representative of quite a few Mailbag entries, Tim – a loss like Game 3 frustrates the fan base. I understand that. I think you are more precise than a lot of fans – the ones like Heidi of Troy, for instance, who called it “taking the night off” – when you call it “flat” and “unfocused.” Maybe I’m parsing a little too much here, but I think there’s a significant difference between “focus” and “effort.” As I said, the Pistons played badly in Game 3, but it wasn’t because they didn’t care – that’s ridiculous. Focus means that no matter what happens, you stay disciplined and adhere to your core philosophies and strengths, not start flailing away and trying to make great individual plays, not gambling on defense and starting a chain reaction of similar risks by your teammates that lead to easy baskets. That’s what the Pistons did in Game 3 – for as remarkably calm and poised as they can be in big moments, like down the stretch of Game 2 on the road, they can turn around and allow themselves to be distracted and taken out of their game. But it’s Joe Dumars’ job to see the big picture – and the big picture is still pretty good. Be careful when you start talking about tearing what he’s built apart and starting over. Lots of teams start over – and then find themselves starting over again every two or three years.
Ardrella (Detroit): Will Flip Saunders seriously consider playing more of the bench players. Jarvis Hayes is pretty good with the 3-pointer. Can he play more?
Langlois: You adjust within reason with what you have to work with as a series unfolds, Ardrella. But you have to be careful. Making radical changes after one loss probably has a greater chance of backfiring than success. For one thing, unless they’re sold convincingly to the players, drastic changes will send the signal that the coaches doubt the players who’ve gotten them to this point. That can do more damage than the potential upside of the change.
Gil (Charlotte, N.C.): Tayshaun Prince is the NBA’s version of Derek Jeter. He’s not considered the best at his position, but any team in the league would love to have him and he’s clutch – not just scoring clutch, but clutch in every way.
Langlois: Not a bad analogy, Gil. I was thinking about this the other day – to say Prince is a “versatile” player doesn’t do it justice. Prince’s versatility has versatility. By that I mean that some players are versatile scorers. And Prince is that. He can shoot 3-pointers, he can take it off the dribble from the wing, he can post up. Some players are versatile defenders. Prince is that. He can guard pretty much everybody except overpowering post players. Some players are versatile offensively, aside from scoring. Prince is that. The Pistons use him to bring the ball up court and to run the offense when Chauncey Billups is unavailable or needs a breather. Hardly anybody in the game can do all of those things, though. Kobe Bryant comes to mind. Which is pretty nice company.
Luca (Brescia, Italy): I’m an Italian Pistons fan. For you, which teams will go to the Finals?
Langlois: Ah, Brescia … never been there, but my wife will kill me if we don’t get there soon. Luca, it’s the best NBA final four in a long, long time, and no combination of teams would surprise me. San Antonio looked dead in the water in its two losses in Los Angeles, then blew out the Lakers in Game 3. So that’s still very much a series. And if the Pistons hold home court in Game 4, they’ll go back to Boston confident they can win another one there.
Richard (Las Vegas): Game 2 was the art of pro basketball at its highest level. Don’t you just love it? After the game, Garnett studying the state sheets, looking for a clue, or an edge. Pierce concluding “Stuckey was the X-factor.” Lucky us.
Langlois: Touche, Richard. Game 2 stands out in my mind as one of the very best playoff games I’ve seen in a long time – then Game 3 was the polar opposite. The way both teams responded with big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter against two elite defenses was astounding. I, too, was struck by Garnett staring at the stat sheet, as if a revelation would come to him if he stared at it long enough. It must have happened, because the Celtics had every answer in Game 3.
Steven (Southaven, Miss.): Do you think Jason Maxiell is the best player for the Pistons to use on Paul Pierce?
Langlois: No. There’s a reason Tayshaun Prince is playing more minutes than any of his teammates – Pierce is the best option on Pierce. Lindsey Hunter gives up a lot of size, but in short bursts he ties up Pierce by getting in his face and harassing him relentlessly. I think Arron Afflalo would be an option. But Maxiell shouldn’t be exposed by trying to defend such a creative off-the-dribble scorer. Maxiell has above average footwork and lateral quickness for a big man, but should never be expected to guard one of the NBA’s premier slashers.
Shawn (Mt. Rainier, Md.): The Pistons seem to have a very bright future with the young guns they have on the bench. The problem I see is their inability to get high-percentage shots in the paint. What are your thoughts?
Langlois: If you’re looking down the road, Rodney Stuckey’s emergence is going to help. He’ll be one of the top five point guards in the league at getting into the paint. Amir Johnson has a quirky post game, but I think he’ll be highly effective with a little more experience. Jason Maxiell should continue to get better and provide some inside punch. I think points in the paint is a little misunderstood – fast-break layups count as points in the paint – and perhaps even a little overrated. A team that executes and produces a large number of high-percentage open jumpers and plays great defense to create scoring opportunities can win consistently. It’s great to have a low-post scoring monster, but they’re few and far between.
Joe (Saginaw, Mich.): On the biggest stage imaginable, Rodney Stuckey is showing the pundits what Joe Dumars saw in him last summer and Pistons fans have been seeing of late. I feel Stuckey could supplant Chauncey in the starting rotation within the next year or two. What do you think?
Langlois: Barring injury, it sure won’t happen next year, Joe, unless Dumars does something really bold and dramatic in the off-season. Stuckey’s good enough to start for many, many NBA teams and the Pistons would be perfectly comfortable with him in that role. But there is plenty of room for three top-flight guards. The Pistons don’t have to look too far for a profound example – Isiah, Joe D and Vinnie. With Rip Hamilton’s ability to defend most small forwards, the opportunity is there to get all three on the court at the same time. I think next year you’ll even see times when the Pistons go small with all three of those players and Tayshaun Prince on the floor.
Cameron (Paw Paw, Mich.): When a team watches tape from the previous game, what are they seeing? Is it a recording or a broadcast? Or is it void of announcers, theme music and commercials?
Langlois: The Pistons tape games off of satellite feeds, so they have the actual telecast available to them, but they’re not interested in the announcers or the halftime shows. They also contract with a service that provides tapes – mostly of college games for scouting and evaluation purposes. They have a video coordinator and an assistant who splice and edit tape to suit the coaches’ and players’ needs. They’ll put together segments, five minutes or so in length, tailored to each players’ individual matchup – the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of the other team’s players. Coaches might request, for instance, tape of every variation a certain team uses in pick-and-roll situations, or how they defend the post. It’s come a long way over the last 20 years or so. Much more sophisticated today. It’s one reason scoring is so much more difficult these days – everybody knows everybody’s playbook and tendencies.
Keith (Ocala, Fla.): Just moved from Detroit, but I will always be a Pistons fan. When a team has time off, why do people expect that they will be well-rested and play well, then when they lose argue that the time off kept them out of sync?
Langlois: Assume you’re referring to the extended layoff the Pistons had heading into Game 1. I don’t think anyone predicted with any degree of confidence that the Pistons would play well in Game 1, only that the rest would, on balance, be good for them. And I think it was. The Pistons got their split out of the first two games in Boston. I’m not sure that would have been accomplished if they’d had to go seven games with Orlando, which could have easily happened with Chauncey Billups unavailable to them. That’s another reason I and others thought the week off was good for the Pistons – it gave them that much more time to get Billups healthy without having to play a game without him.
Bilal (Hartford, Conn.): I’ve been reading your responses and I’ve noticed you never seem to disagree with the Pistons’ front office? Have they ever done anything that you thought was questionable?
Langlois: It’s easy to pick out mistakes in retrospect, Bilal. Joe Dumars has obviously made personnel errors. It’s the nature of the business. What I’ve come to greatly admire about him – and you’re be surprised how rare this is – is that he is able to distance himself emotionally from his draft picks or trade acquisitions and cut his losses before they compound themselves. You can say he’s made three draft mistakes, though I contend that taking Mateen Cleaves in one of the worst drafts in NBA history wasn’t really a gaffe. But he turned Cleaves into Jon Barry and a No. 1 pick. He turned Rodney White into a No. 1 pick he used to acquire Rasheed Wallace. And he turned Darko Milicic into the pick he used to pick up Rodney Stuckey. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about staying a step ahead of your mistakes. Who’s done it any better? San Antonio – but that’s a front office that started with the gift of Tim Duncan.
Curtis (Lansing): ESPN’s first mock draft has Detroit taking Chris Douglas-Roberts. If they got him, a backcourt of Billups, Hamilton, Stuckey and Afflalo with Prince and Douglas-Roberts and maybe Herrmann manning the three, the Pistons would be looking pretty good on the perimeter going forward.
Langlois: I wrote about that last week in my blog. I think it’s probably less than 50-50 than Douglas-Roberts will be available to them, and I don’t know what the Pistons think about him, but I think that would be a very interesting addition. I see some Rip Hamilton in Douglas-Roberts, both in his non-stop motor and the obvious desire to win he possesses. Joe Dumars called Hamilton a stone-cold warrior last week. I think there’s some of that in Douglas-Roberts. And the Pistons will know everything they need to know about him from Durand “Speedy” Walker – now serving as a Pistons scout and the man who coached Douglas-Roberts on his Detroit AAU team, The Family.
Lochlann (France): Would the Pistons be able to get Nicholas Batum in the draft?
Langlois: Most early projections have him going a little higher than 29th, so I doubt he’d be there. I know they were impressed with Batum a year ago when he played in the Nike Challenge in Memphis. Very athletic wing player with a high ceiling.
Roy (Northstar, Mich.): Regarding the foul on Rip Hamilton that was called a flagrant one upon review, can you explain the rule toward reviewing plays. I can understand upgrading a flagrant one to a flagrant two, but a play that is called a normal foul being reviewed confuses me.
Langlois: Anything and everything is open to review from the league office. It doesn’t matter if a play isn’t called a foul at all. In fact, you can go back to the 1987 Eastern Conference finals between the Pistons and Celtics. Remember the vicious blindside punch Robert Parrish threw at Bill Laimbeer under the basket? It wasn’t even called a foul during the game because it happened behind the play and the officials never saw it. But the league reviewed it and Parrish was suspended for Game 6.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Huffern (Valencia, Philippines): Is Jarvis Hayes capable of guarding Paul Pierce if given the chance?
Langlois: Based on the fact he didn’t see the floor in Game 1, the evidence suggests the Pistons have their doubts, Huffern. Pierce is a tough cover for anybody. Even Tayshaun Prince had trouble keeping Pierce in front of him on a few one-on-one drives without Kevin Garnett screens factoring into the equation. I wonder if Flip Saunders wouldn’t go with Arron Afflalo over Hayes at some point, despite the Pistons’ struggles to score, on the chance that Afflalo’s tough defense might help the Pistons score some points in transition or early offense.
Matthew (Fostoria, Ohio): No panic! The Pistons did a good job in Game 1 for not having played for a week and going against a Boston team undefeated at home in the playoffs. I think Game 2 will be a different story. We just more production from Chauncey. What are your thoughts?
Langlois: I thought Billups looked a lot better when he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter – a nice blow-by of Rondo for a layup, an assertive jumper coming around a screen, another penetration move to draw a foul. That was the best sign coming out of the game that Game 2 will be a little different, as I wrote in my blog on Wednesday. They need more than just that, of course. The Pistons settled for too many long jump shots in Game 1. Only when they attacked the basket in the second quarter – when Rodney Stuckey and Lindsey Hunter were the backcourt tandem – did they put the Celtics back on their heels.
Mark (Adelaide, South Australia): Disappointing Game 1 result. Let’s hope they pull it together on Thursday as I am taking a holiday day to watch the game. Maybe Stuckey should get a few more minutes?
Langlois: A holiday day? Australia sounds like my kind of place, Mark – either that or you better hope your boss isn’t a Pistons fan and sorting through the Mailbag. I think it’s possible Stuckey does get more minutes. He was one of their three best players in Game 1. It doesn’t have to come at Billups’ expense, either. I think what you’re going to see is Flip Saunders essentially look at the three perimeter positions as being shared by four players – Stuckey, Billups, Hamilton and Prince. Prince is going to get more minutes than the others, probably, because they want him guarding Paul Pierce as much as possible. But Hamilton could be used increasingly as Prince’s backup, maybe up to 10 minutes or so a game, with Stuckey filling in during those 10 minutes for Hamilton, for 10 minutes more while Hamilton sits and for 10 minutes more while Billups rests. Lindsey Hunter would be the change-of-pace option in the mix. It will fluctuate, naturally, on a game-to-game basis, but as long as Stuckey keeps showing well, they’ll figure out ways to get him more minutes.
James (Chicago): Should Rasheed retire after this season? He doesn’t look very good, especially at crunch time.
Langlois: If you’re going to base career decisions on one performance, a lot of careers wouldn’t have gotten off the ground, James. It’s fair to say Orlando wishes Wallace would have retired after the first round – chances are pretty good the Magic would be lining up against Boston right now. If Boston didn’t think he presented a major challenge, why would they have the Defensive Player of the Year guarding him – at least until he picked up two first-half fouls, when they quickly switched Kendrick Perkins on to him – even though it was Antonio McDyess who kept the Pistons in the game with his shooting in the first half?
Ryan (Indianapolis): The Pistons’ most glaring weakness is the lack of consistent penetration that forces defenses to rotate and prevents them from setting up. Most of Detroit’s offense is jump shots and nothing comes easily.
Langlois: Stuckey gives them a different dynamic. That’s why I’ve thought all along he was going to be important against either Cleveland or Boston (or San Antonio, if it comes to that) – teams that are great at protecting the basket. But the Pistons are what they are. They lack the elite slasher – Kobe, Wade, LeBron, Pierce. Most NBA teams do, by the way. Most NBA teams, by necessity, are jump shooting teams. The Pistons do it better than most because they can put five credible threats on the floor at one time – not many can – and they are also blessed with good passers, ballhandlers and decision-makers, so their jump shots are usually of a higher quality than other teams must take.
D.J. (Lawrence, Mass.): Do you think it’s a good idea to start Stuckey and have Billups come off the bench since he does not look 100 percent?
Langlois: Only as an act of desperation, D.J., and losing the first game of a seven-game series at the other team’s building doesn’t qualify. Why risk changing the roles two people played for months? If Billups and the medical staff says he’s good to go, then you put him back in the role he’s accustomed to playing. Billups has to play better than he did in Game 1 for the Pistons to win the series, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. Why complicate matters by putting him in a completely foreign position?
Nima (Windsor): Do you feel Boston was favored by the referees in Game 1? I saw more than one no-call. And what did you think about Rasheed’s late 3-point miss? He should drive to the basket and dunk more instead of taking the turnaround jump shot.
Langlois: Boston probably didn’t think it was getting a favorable whistle at halftime, when the Pistons had shot 17 free throws to its seven. I don’t think the Pistons have much of a quibble with the Game 1 officials. Rasheed Wallace got called for a foul once when it looked like he clearly had cleanly blocked Kendrick Perkins. There was one cheapie called on Theo Ratliff for jostling someone – it might have been Kevin Garnett – as they were jockeying in the lane. But nothing that changed the tenor of the game. I had no problem with Rasheed’s late 3 – he had a good look at that one and the Pistons were down six at the time. If he makes that one, it would have been real interesting. Those baseline turnarounds he takes, those are very, very difficult shots. He makes a higher percentage than anybody I can imagine, but they’re still tough shots. I’d rather see him taking triples or posting on the right block and shooting over his left shoulder more often.
Sam (St. Louis, Mo.): Do you see Afflalo getting more playing time in the next few games to stop Boston’s dribble penetration? His size and smarts can guard Allen, Posey, House and maybe Pierce.
Langlois: It’s possible, Sam. I think the scenario I just laid out is more likely to be tried first – more minutes for Stuckey with Hamilton becoming, in effect, Prince’s primary backup – but Afflalo’s proven defensive prowess, his poise and his competitiveness will earn him consideration if other options fail.
Ardrella (Detroit): Despite the Game 1 loss, I still feel the Pistons will win the series. But they did look sluggish.
Langlois: No surprise, really, that the Pistons looked a half-step behind the play all night. The surprise was that Boston had as much hop in its step after playing a really demanding Game 7 two days earlier. I figured adrenaline would carry Boston early and the Pistons just had to withstand the initial rally and not get blown out. They managed that after falling behind 8-0 and took the lead late in the second quarter. Down one at halftime, I thought the third quarter was their opening. Instead, they turned the ball over seven times and put themselves in an uphill fight. Yet I, too, think they can come out of that game knowing it was their failure to capitalize, not Boston’s superiority, that led to the outcome.
Donna (Southfield): Do you think Joe Dumars would trade up in the second round, either by trading future second-rounders – we have a lot – or maybe buying a draft pick from the Blazers or Timberwolves. It’s a deep draft and it might be worthwhile to pick a foreign big guy or small forward in the second round.
Langlois: The Pistons are going to be drafting 29th in the first round and they already have a pretty deep, talented roster. They’d have to really like two players of roughly equal ability in order to spend future assets to add two players in this year’s draft class – which, though strong, does feature what is considered a weak international crop, whereas next year’s international group is supposed to be better. It’s possible, though not likely, that Minnesota will convey the second-rounder it owes the Pistons this year. The T-wolves have the first pick in the second round, via Miami, and their own pick, the 34th overall, so they might want to send that pick to the Pistons this year.
Joe (Center Line, Mich.): On ESPN.com it says there might be a blockbuster trade between the Nets and Nuggets involving Carmelo Anthony. Do you know anything about that?
Langlois: It seems the Nuggets are willing to listen on Anthony, though indications are that it was New Jersey that initiated discussion. Richard Jefferson and the Nets’ lottery pick would be the primary ammunition on New Jersey’s end, though it surely would involve some young players like Marcus Williams, as well, while Marcus Camby has also been mentioned going the other way. It sounds like it’s going to be a pretty active summer around the NBA with several teams who missed the playoffs or went out in the first round looking to do something dramatic.
Patrick (Paramaribo, Suriname): Against good teams in the regular season the Pistons often won after a quick first-quarter punchout. Against the best defensive team in Boston, it will be another story. What is Flip’s Plan B?
Langlois: I don’t think Plan A is ever “let’s kill ’em in the first quarter and coast” – nice if it happens, but not exactly a blueprint for championships. The Pistons fully expect most playoff games at this point to come down to the last five minutes and bank on their execution and poise to win it for them.
Thomas (Boyne City, Mich.): I think Tayshaun Prince is the best on-ball defender in basketball and gets better when facing All-Star-caliber players like Tracy McGrady, Andre Igoudala and Paul Pierce. I think Tay will shut down Pierce. What do you think?
Langlois: Over a seven-game series, Pierce is going to win some, Prince is going to win some. Pierce has the ball in his hands too much, is too clever off the dribble and has too many weapons around him to be fully throttled. The hope is that he doesn’t have any 41-point games in him, or even any 30-point games in him, and that Prince can keep Pierce in front of him well enough so that his teammates don’t have to leave their man to cut off his penetration and create openings for the likes of P.J. Brown, Leon Powe and Glen Davis. You’d have to give Game 1 to Pierce.
Joel (Cadillac, Mich.): How long is a 20-second timeout? How long is a full timeout?
Langlois: How long is a 20-second timeout? Is that a trick question? It’s supposed to be 20 seconds, Joel. Sometimes it takes that long for the referees to confer with the official scorer to see if a mandatory full timeout is due – there are two of those in every first and third quarters and three in every second and fourth quarters – so the 20 seconds sometimes becomes 30 or 40, depending on when the officials start the clock ticking. Full timeouts are 100 seconds, but once the two or three mandatory timeouts per quarter are fulfilled, they become 60 seconds.
Roscoe (Detroit): Do you think it will be a major problem if Rasheed Wallace gets in early foul trouble while guarding Kevin Garnett and if so what will the Pistons do?
Langlois: If Wallace picks up a quick foul on Garnett, look for Antonio McDyess to slide over and guard him on the next possession. They’ll trade off, depending on whose foul situation is more favorable. If they both get in foul trouble, Theo Ratliff is an option. So is Amir Johnson. The Pistons obviously would prefer Wallace to be available for up to 40 minutes a game against Garnett, but the Pistons have more and better options than just about anybody else in the league.
Mikai (Detroit): Don’t you think the key to the series is if Ray Allen can keep up with Rip Hamilton and can Chauncey Billups get to the line and keep Boston in foul trouble and the Pistons in the penalty?
Langlois: If Hamilton can run Allen ragged on the offensive end, it makes sense that it will be tougher for Allen to come out of his shooting funk on the other end. It’s always beneficial to get the other team in early foul trouble and especially so for the Pistons because they shoot free throws so well. But there are a dozen things you could also label keys to the series – limiting turnovers, denying Boston offensive rebounds, good shot selection to prevent Boston transition, bench contributions, closing out quarters, etc.
Santiago (West Bloomfield, Mich.): I watch “SportsCenter” every day and visit NBA.com and the Pistons seem to get downplayed. Everybody predicts Boston and the Lakers as NBA Finals opponents. What gives?
Langlois: There are two different things at work here. One is public sentiment and the other is hard analysis. ESPN.com polled its reporters who regularly cover the NBA and a majority picked the Pistons to win the series. There’s no question there’s strong public sentiment for the nostalgia and star power of a Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals, but that won’t have anything to do with who wins the series.
Nancy (Oregon, Ohio): I recently flew from Detroit Metro to Florida and asked at the gate if they ever see the Pistons and the answer was no. Do they have their own plane and does it fly out of Metro or another airport?
Langlois: The Pistons have their own plane – Roundball Two. They started the trend more than 20 years ago and it’s revolutionized the way the NBA does business, allowing for greater scheduling flexibility and improving the quality of play, theoretically, at least, by drastically reducing the hassles and time involved in commercial air travel. More teams actually lease planes than buy them outright, but no teams fly commercial. Roundball Two docks at Metro and sometimes the Pistons fly out of there, sometimes they fly out of Oakland-Pontiac, which is more convenient to The Palace.
Ryan (Battle Creek, Mich.): If the Pistons only come away with one ring from six straight trips to the conference finals, will it be considered a failure?
Langlois: Compared to what? There’s only one NBA team with a better history over that time than the Pistons, San Antonio. If the Pistons are a failure, then the NBA is littered with 29 failures. Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on that one, but I’d argue strongly that it’s flawed logic to characterize a six-year span with one title and two NBA Finals appearances – with the chance over the next month to make it two and three – as anything close to a failure.
Nate (Houston): Why do you think Dwyane Wade has gone down so much? Is he getting old or did he just not do well this season?
Langlois: No mystery, Nate. He was coming off shoulder and knee surgeries that prevented him from playing last summer. The knee is the more worrisome of the two. It clearly cost Wade the quickness and explosion that made him the force he had become. I don’t know that he’ll ever get all of that back, but at 26 he has a better chance at a full recovery than someone in his 30s.
Jack (Conroe, Texas): Will the Pistons be looking at Robert McKiver with the 59th pick? With Hunter retiring and Dixon a free agent, he’d make a great third string point guard.
Langlois: The Pistons are probably looking at a pool of 30 or 40 players with the 59th pick, ranging from college seniors like McKiver to freshmen who declared a year or two too early to young international prospects they can let grow overseas for a year or two. I doubt point guard is going to be a priority for them, but if they see someone they really like there as a point guard, they’d take him. I have no insight into their view of McKiver, who played well for Houston the past two years, other than that they’re aware of him.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Elmer (Jersey City, N.J.): What do you think the Pistons can exploit vs. Boston aside from the Celtics hopefully being exhausted after two seven-game series? Do you believe Detroit has the better bench?
Langlois: Boston won’t be any more vulnerable to get beat at home than in Game 1. That’s a pretty quick turnaround off a tough seven-game series and the Celtics have to be a little shaken by getting pushed to the limit by both Atlanta and Cleveland. I think the Pistons have a better bench mostly because the Celtics don’t have anyone as dynamic as Rodney Stuckey, but Boston’s bench isn’t bad. The thing about it right now is Doc Rivers still hasn’t figured out his rotation.
Eric (Greensboro, N.C.): I think Rasheed Wallace will be the X-factor in the conference finals because of his ability to go outside and Rodney Stuckey could be the Daniel Gibson of this year’s conference finals. What do you think?
Langlois: No question the Wallace-Kevin Garnett matchup will be critical, as will the Tayshaun Prince-Paul Pierce matchup and the Rip Hamilton-Ray Allen pairing. If the Pistons can prevent any of Boston’s big three – though Allen is playing himself out of that grouping with a pedestrian postseason performance so far – from breaking out like Pierce did in Sunday’s Game 7 win over Cleveland, they’ll position themselves favorably to win the series. Stuckey won’t be like Gibson in one important respect – he won’t sneak up on anybody, but he could play a critical role by bringing points off the bench in a series where points coming from anywhere will be precious.
Edgar (Philippines): Do you think we can contain Kevin Garnett like we did Dwight Howard? Pierce is going to have his hands full on both ends because of Prince and Allen will too because of Hamilton, so we need to attack KG and make him defend.
Langlois: He’s the Defensive Player of the Year, so you’re going to have to pick your spots with him. He’ll guard Wallace, presumably, most of the time, which means it would help the Pistons if Wallace commands attention on every possession. Where Garnett is most valuable to a defense is when he’s coming across the lane to disrupt the shots of people other than his man or completely blowing up pick-and-roll defenses.
Richard (Las Vegas): It’s a good thing Chauncey is back in uniform. Uncle Junior wants his suits back.
Langlois: “Sopranos” reference. Bada-bing! Actually, I’m told the epaulet look Chauncey was sporting is now tres chic. Probably would be something Christopher would wear – you know, if Tony hadn’t grabbed his schnozz and held on for dear life.
Blossom (West Palm Beach, Fla.): Will the Pistons hand out T-shirts for all fans at a playoff game? I was at Game 4 in Cleveland and they did that for the fans. As a Pistons fan, I was very impressed.
Langlois: Timely question, Blossom. The organization listened to the public and decided it was the right time to do it – so for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, that’s Saturday night, all fans will get a white T-shirt.
Larry (West Bloomfield, Mich.): Why do you think very few teams are winning on the road in the playoffs this year?
Langlois: I’d need to see it happen a few more years before I’d read too much into it, but Flip Saunders said he thinks the playoffs are more physical this year than he can ever recall and he says that generally benefits the home team. He also said he thinks the home crowds have been more influential than ever. Sounds plausible to me.
Milton (Richmond, Va.): What is Joe Dumars’ obsession with combo guards? As of now we have four on the team and I understand the staff has been eyeing Chris Lofton. What’s wrong with a pure point guard who is going to create for others and make the team better?
Langlois: If I were to ask you, Marvin, to name me all the “pure” point guards in the NBA, my guess is you’d be able to come up with about five names – Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul … and … who? Dumars has nothing against that type of player, but if you’re going to wait for Magic Johnson to fall into your lap you’ll be waiting a long time. I think Dumars has a predisposition to bigger guards, all else being equal, and it’s pretty hard to argue with the success he’s had in signing Chauncey Billups as a free agent and drafting Rodney Stuckey. As for Lofton, I have no insight into what the staff thinks of him. I know they scouted him this year, but they’ve scouted dozens of players.
Russell (Sydney, Australia): Who will the Pistons take with the 29th pick in the draft? I’m hoping it’s Australian center Nathan Jawai. Most mock drafts have Memphis choosing him with the 28th pick. Do you think they will? Also, what is happening with Rip Hamilton?
Langlois: That might be a little high for him – most information I’ve seen about him has him going in the second round, but who knows? It’s still early in the evaluation process – the individual workouts will go a long way in determining his status. Big men have a better chance of rising in the draft. Nothing’s happening with Hamilton. He has the right to opt out of his contract in 2009. I wouldn’t expect anything to happen until that time.
Leon (San Diego): Are the Pistons ever going to get somebody to replace that hole at center they’ve had ever since Ben Wallace left. With all due respect to McDyess, I feel the Pistons could do better.
Langlois: McDyess has been a life saver at various times this season. His defense is severely underrated. He’s a very good rebounder. And when he’s knocking down that 17-footer from the elbows and the baseline, he’s terrific. The Pistons would have been in real trouble in the Orlando series without McDyess chasing down offensive rebounds in the fourth quarters of games 4 and 5. No question that McDyess is a more valuable player right now than Wallace.
John (Macomb Twp., Mich.): I’ve noticed the Pistons are the only team in the playoffs that has an alternate jersey but hasn’t worn it yet. Why?
Langlois: They leave it up to the players and coaching staff and they’ve stuck with the traditional road blue. Simple as that.
Chris (Royal Oak, Mich.): I’ve heard that a team can go over the salary cap when signing their own free agents. I understand it can be done with restricted free agents, but what about our unrestricted free agents.
Langlois: As long as a team holds that player’s Bird rights, yes. That’s how the Pistons signed Chauncey Billups last year. On the other hand, Chris Webber was a free agent last season but the Pistons did not own his Bird rights. If they had signed Webber, it would have had to have been for all or a part of the mid-level exception (roughly $5.8 million) but not more than that. A team has Bird rights to a player, without getting into the messy details, once he’s been on the team a specific length of time.
Nick (Clinton Twp., Mich.): With Billups coming off his injury, do you think Stuckey will get more minutes?
Langlois: He’ll probably get the opportunity for more minutes. It’ll be up to him to play well enough to keep getting them. Veteran starters are the only players whose minutes are close to assured. But Stuckey’s play against Orlando surely has Flip Saunders thinking of lineup combinations and situations where he can get more out of him. It will also depend on the opponent and what they do. But Saunders said after the Orlando series that teams like Boston and Cleveland that play such physical, disruptive defense can take teams out of their offense and that requires someone who can create his own play – which is Stuckey’s specialty.
Shawn (Mount Rainier, Md.): I think Rodney Stuckey and Amir Johnson have the potential to be very special, although Stuckey has problems finishing at the rim. I don’t see this as a problem if Flip uses Amir in combination with him to produce results like those of Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler. What are the chances we’ll see that talented combination more in the future?
Langlois: Excellent – as long as by the “future” you mean next year and beyond. I wouldn’t expect to see much of Amir in this postseason, but, trust me, the front office is thrilled at the progress he showed this year and believes as strongly as ever in his future. Stuckey’s problems finishing were to be expected, Shawn. He’ll adjust – in fact, he’s already well on the way. He’ll finish with greater frequency because he’ll know when to stop short. He did it once and scored on a short banker in Game 6’s fourth quarter against Orlando when Dwight Howard was waiting on him.
Kevin (Greencastle, Ind.): I’ve noticed that Tayshaun Prince hasn’t had a single-digit scoring game yet in the playoffs. That’s 15 games in double figures. Do you think he’ll keep it up in the conference finals?
Langlois: He’ll spend most of his time guarding Paul Pierce, so he’ll be bearing the brunt of the load on the defensive end, as usual. But it’s not like he’s been able to coast in the first two rounds – both Andre Igoudala and Hedo Turkoglu were focal points for their teams’ offenses, too. The difference now is going to be the Celtics play excellent team defense and are more physical than either Philadelphia or Orlando, so points are going to come more grudgingly all the way around, not just for Prince.
Mike (Los Angeles): I can’t believe the Pistons gave the Suns permission to interview Terry Porter during the playoffs. Porter should be totally focused on the Pistons now and not spending his time and energy on a possible head coaching job with the Suns or any other team.
Langlois: The interview took place while the Pistons were waiting for the Cleveland-Boston series to end. It took place at a time when the Pistons knew they were going to have a minimum of four, and possible six, days off between games. If the interview took two hours out of his day – and didn’t interfere with a practice or coaches’ meeting, which it didn’t – what’s the harm? If Porter had spent two hours watching a movie or reading a magazine, would that have been an unacceptable diversion? One of the reasons the Pistons are widely respected and emulated around the league is their reputation for treating people well and not standing in the way of career advancement. That comes back to them tenfold – when they have an opening, the best candidates clamor for a chance to interview. Should Dumars not have let John Hammond interview for the Milwaukee GM job while the season was ongoing?
Phillip (Detroit): Do the Pistons get Minnesota’s second-round pick this year? I think that pick could be better than the usual player available there.
Langlois: Maybe, not likely. I’ll refer you to Mailbag FAQ for the details.
Joe (Troy, Mich.): What position do you think Joe Dumars is going to look for in the draft? Are there any players he has his eyes on.
Langlois: More than ever, he told me, he’s just looking for the best fit, regardless of position – someone with talent, high character and a team-first attitude. He might be looking at someone who can fit behind Tayshaun Prince at small forward or another young big man with both Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess set to turn 34 before next season tips off. But his focus right now is the playoffs. The scouting staff has done the bulk of their work by this point and they’re just at the point of scheduling individual workouts for early June and right up until the draft.
David (Auckland, New Zealand): Why was the Mark Aguirre-Adrian Dantley trade controversial? He seemed a perfect fit to me.
Langlois: Controversial because the Pistons were cruising along with a 32-13 record at the time the trade was made in February 1989. From the outside, it didn’t seem like they needed any fixing. Inside, Chuck Daly was worried that the offense was bogging down too much when the ball went to Dantley in the post. Aguirre could post up but was also better able to step outside and knock down jump shots. Plus, it was a way to make better use of Dennis Rodman off the bench. Many felt there were serious chemistry issues festering between Dantley on one side and Isiah Thomas on the other.
Art (Mission Viejo, Calif.): I’ve noticed a strong sense of urgency from this team from day one this season to get back to the Finals. What is the one major factor among many that has changed the mind-set of this team I love so much?
Langlois: If I had to take a shot at it, Art, I’d say a subconscious recognition that you only get so many grabs at the golden ring and this particular group might not have too many more left. As Rasheed Wallace said before the playoffs began, “We ain’t gettin’ any younger.”
Randy (Spring Valley, N.Y.): After a couple of years when some or maybe all of the starting lineup retires, who would you think Joe D will try to keep from the Zoo Crew other than Stuckey and Maxiell.
Langlois: Amir Johnson, Arron Afflalo and Cheikh Samb. He’d love to keep all five together and keep adding young pieces to go with them, plus get the most out of the veterans he has left and supplement with other trades and free-agent acquisitions.
Maria (Dearborn, Mich.): Flip Saunders said it right after the Game 5 win over Orlando – this team is a family and they make the fans of Detroit proud. I’ve been in other NBA arenas and heard fans say about the Pistons that it’s an awesome group of men. Joe Dumars has done a great job putting this team together. To Antonio McDyess and his family, as a season-ticket holder, you have the deepest sympathy and prayers of all of Detroit.
Langlois: Thanks for the message, Maria. Well put.
Alex (Saginaw): What do you think about keeping Lindsey Hunter active for the conference finals? His performance hasn’t been spectacular, but his defense and experience can prove to be quite useful.
Langlois: I’m guessing he will be, Alex, for a couple of reasons. First, the Pistons have to protect themselves in case Chauncey Billups aggravates his hamstring injury, however slight the chance of that might be. Second, Hunter played extremely well when the Pistons won at Boston in December, coming up with key plays at both ends. Eddie House jumped over Sam Cassell in Boston’s rotation by the end of the Cleveland series and it was House that Hunter harassed into costly turnovers in that December win.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Travis (Chicago): McDyess is making a case for being the team’s MVP. Where would we be without his hustle and defensive intensity the past two games? Also, any concerns about Rodney Stuckey’s defense considering Jameer Nelson manipulated him by getting Stuckey in early foul trouble and driving the lane for easy baskets?
Langlois: In the Dumars era, there’s never been a clear consensus about who the Pistons’ MVP really was. And you can easily make the case for at least all four of the core holdover starters. Yet nobody was more critical to the Game 5 win than two other players, McDyess and Stuckey. It goes to what Joe Dumars has preached since he took the job – winning with quality depth. He reiterated that in the Q&A we did on Wednesday. As for Stuckey’s defense, I see it as an absolute strength. Nelson takes a lot of criticism, but he’s a pretty decent little player. You can take advantage of his defensively, but his strength and quickness allows him to get to the basket. But one of the two early fouls Stuckey picked up in Game 5 came in transition. And Nelson needed to shoot extremely well – 6 of 7 overall, 2 of 3 from the 3-point line, and I know at least one of those was when the Pistons got caught in rotation and Stuckey wasn’t even guarding him – to score 14 points. Flip Saunders has said all along that for as much as he thinks about Stuckey’s game offensively, his defense is ahead of his offense.
Michael (Sydney, Australia): Great Q&A with Joe Dumars. I believe he and you were right about Stuckey all along and all those fans who were doubters should now be believers.
Langlois: It’s hard for me to believe that he lasted until 15th in last year’s draft, his small-school background at Eastern Washington aside. There’s nothing not to like about Stuckey. If he’d had character issues, you could understand it, but everyone spoke glowingly of him. Wait until he develops a more consistent 20-foot stroke – he will – gets a little more familiar with the league and soaks up the type of experience a point guard requires to grow into his job.
Walt (Oak Park): I hope this doesn’t sound like a conspiracy theory, but now that the Pistons are going to the conference finals for the sixth straight year do you suppose the referees will call more fouls on Detroit and less on the opponent like they’ve done the past four years? The Pistons either get LeBron James (the poster boy of 2007 before losing in the Finals) or Boston’s big three (the poster boys of this year).
Langlois: LeBron has maybe replaced Shaq as the most difficult player in the league to officiate because of his strength and explosive driving ability. He creates contact and almost forces a call to be made on every play – and he’s going to win his share, at least, of the calls. But the Pistons can’t go in thinking that way. I think it played a role in the frustration they felt last year when things weren’t going their way in the Cleveland series and it eventually consumed them.
Patti (Iowa): Sometimes our guys have a tendency not to play well with more than a few days of rest and it looks like they’ll have about a week off now. Is this something they have talked about and how might they correct it?
Langlois: I talked about that with Joe Dumars in the Q&A we did Wednesday and he said he’s not concerned – the opening-round loss to Philly in Game 2 got his team’s attention, he feels they’re locked in and mindful of last year’s experience, plus he feels the rest will do Chauncey Billups’ hamstring and Antonio McDyess’ slight ankle sprain good.
Richard (Las Vegas): The Pistons just used 12 guys in a competitive second-round elimination game. How about those apples?
Langlois: You’re right, Richard – and they wound up using 14 players, all but Cheikh Samb, at some point in the Orlando series when a game was on the line. That was another thing Joe Dumars talked about in our Wednesday Q&A.
Bob (Detroit): As I watched the third quarter of Game 5, Marv Albert made several negative comments about the crowd. I’ve noticed this lack of noise throughout the playoffs. How do you feel about the crowd noise at The Palace and how it compares to other NBA arenas.
Langlois: I thought it was Dick Stockton doing the game, but I might have been mistaken. At any rate, though I must confess that after being in so many arenas for so many games over the years and concentrating on getting my job done I often filter the crowd and background noise out almost completely, I thought the crowds have been pretty enthused this postseason. Sometimes the first few minutes of the third quarter are notably quieter because fans are filtering back to their seats from the concourses. But I distinctly remember The Palace being a pretty raucous place in Game 5’s fourth quarter, early when the Pistons came from behind to take the lead and later as the game tightened up.
Sunday (Lagos, Nigeria): I love watching Pistons games but I often can’t because it’s on very late at night here, but I’m so happy you guys are winning.
Langlois: No real comment to that except … Lagos, Nigeria! Pistons Nation’s roots spread! Glad you’re a fan.
Jason (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I’m torn on who I’d rather face in the conference finals. Boston’s road troubles make me confident we could steal home-court advantage in ine of the first two games, but I wouldn’t want the Celtics of the regular season to emerge. I don’t feel the Cavs are anywhere near the Pistons as a team, but that was true last year, too. Do you think the Pistons would rather get revenge on the Cavs and would that be a better matchup than the Celtics?
Langlois: If you put it to a private vote of the Pistons, I think the winner would be “I don’t care.” I’m serious. I think the overwhelming sentiment for the Pistons is just to win. Boston having home-court advantage might be the tiebreaker for them, but they’re not intimidated by any road setting. Would wanting to avenge last year’s loss to Cleveland drive them? Not as much as winning a title and they have to beat whoever finds themselves on the other side of the bracket to do so. As for matchups, flip a coin. Boston presents a number of problems, but whether they add up to the one huge problem Cleveland presents, I’m not sure.
Chris (Nellis AFB, Nevada): Do you think there is any credibility to claims the NBA wants a Lakers-Celtics series? I just think it’s sad that outside the state of Michigan, the Pistons get no respect.
Langlois: I don’t think there’s any secret that ABC, which has the rights to the NBA Finals, would love a Lakers-Celtics Finals. Reports have quoted network executives anonymously as saying as much. And there’s no doubt that what’s good for the NBA’s broadcast partners is, in many ways but not necessarily all ways, good for the NBA. But I think it’s wrong to take that to its conclusion and say the NBA would ever attempt to influence the outcome of games. I just don’t believe that. David Stern has been vigilant about maintaining not only the integrity of the game, but the appearance of integrity. It’s just not worth it to the league to risk its future through the manipulation of the process. If that were the case, the small-market San Antonio Spurs, panned at least as much as the Pistons by the critics for being “boring,” would not have won four nine NBA titles in their current run.
Alec (Ypsilanti, Mich.): With Mike D’Antoni going to New York and the Suns being eliminated early in the playoffs, could you see Shaq coming to Detroit in the off-season?
Langlois: Ummm, no. Shaq is still going to make $20 million next year. That means the Pistons would have to ship out at least $16 million in contracts to make the deal work. I’m not sure how you do that and come close to getting equal value back in return for a guy who’s very near the end of his career.
David (Flint, Mich.): Could you tell me why we got rid of Mehmet Okur? Imagine what the Pistons could be accomplishing right now?
Langlois: They didn’t exactly get rid of him. They essentially lost him to a loophole that’s since been closed – the same way Golden State lost Gilbert Arenas. Second-round draft picks, as Okur and Arenas were, became unrestricted free agents after their two-year contracts were up, and because they were only with the team for two seasons, that meant the original team didn’t have Bird Rights – the ability to go over the salary cap to match any offer. So when Utah offered more than the mid-level exception, the Pistons’ hands were tied. If Okur wanted to take far less money, he could have stayed in Detroit. He wasn’t about to do that, of course, especially when the Pistons at the time had both Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace plus Darko Milicic about to head into his second season. The counter move that summer by Joe Dumars was to sign Antonio McDyess, which has worked out very well. But the Pistons weren’t happy to see a talented young 7-footer get away while they were powerless to do anything about it.
Jarell (Detroit): Why does Rodney Stuckey get in so much foul trouble when he doesn’t play that many minutes?
Langlois: It’s not terribly unusual for young players to find themselves in foul trouble, Jarell. That said, Stuckey hasn’t been one to accumulate fouls in bunches on a consistent basis this season. He averaged one foul roughly every 9.5 minutes he was on the floor. When you’re playing about 20 minutes a game, that means you’re not going to be in foul trouble very often. Lindsey Hunter, for example, picked up one foul every 7.1 minutes this season. Players who come off the bench don’t have to be as careful about accumulating fouls. Stuckey will learn and adjust.
Gil (Charlotte, N.C.): The whole situation with the clock mistake in Game 2 has really annoyed me. Every time something like this happens, talk about using instant replay comes up. Why are so few people willing to accept the game is played by humans, managed by humans and has rules enforced by humans. That incident will be the thing that is remembered from this series and not that Orlando’s game plan didn’t seem to involve Dwight Howard.
Langlois: What disappointed me about it was when the NBA released its statement the next day that Chauncey Billups’ 3-point basket would not have counted if the clock had functioned properly, it was reported everywhere that the NBA said the shot should not have counted. Those are two different things. No, the shot would not have counted had the clock functioned properly. But had the clock been working properly, Rodney Stuckey would not have passed the ball back to Billups. He did so because he saw four-point-something on the clock and passed to an open – and proficient – 3-point shooter. Still, I don’t think people are going to dwell on that into the future – not when the series ended in five games.
Shaun (Lansing, Mich.): Not much of a question, but more like a thanks for all the great articles, recaps and Pistons information you provide. I don’t know what I’d do at work all day if I didn’t have your in-depth coverage to read every day.
Langlois: Get back to work, Shaun – Michigan’s economy can’t handle the down time. But thanks for the kind words.
Del (Alto, Mich.): Sportswriters often emphasize the difference between regular-season and postseason basketball, going from a different opponent every night to a best-of-seven series. Why not seed teams in each conference and sometime around mid-season have a five-game series – not best of five. This would enliven the regular season and give teams a chance to work on playoff focus and adjustments.
Langlois: You might have the germ of an idea there, but there’d be lots of opposition. Teams like to have the opportunity to market games far in advance. I’m not sure if you’re suggesting playing crossover games – the No. 1 seed in the East plays the No. 1 seed in the West, and so on, but it seems to me that there would be a handful of pretty attractive matchups but a lot of them that would be very tough sells – the Minnesota Timberwolves playing five games against the Charlotte Bobcats or the Memphis Grizzlies playing five against the Milwaukee Bucks in February? Ugggh.
Pat (Ocoee, Fla.): I don’t understand why the media keep saying the Celtics have the best defense when it’s the Pistons who gave up the least amount of points per game.
Langlois: For most of the regular season, Boston led the league in points allowed and percentage field-goal defense. The Pistons wound up allowing 90.1 points a game to finish first in that department to Boston’s 90.3; Boston led in percentage defense with Houston second and the Pistons third. Boston led in 3-point percentage defense with the Pistons second.
Prasad (Los Angeles): Is Cheikh Samb’s brother Mamadou expected to be in the next NBA draft?
Langlois: He turns 19 this calendar year, which made him eligible to apply for the draft, but he did not. He apparently had a so-so year in Spain and hasn’t had the growth spurt many expected he’d have, still listed at 6-foot-10. Mamadou won’t become automatically eligible for the draft until 2011, so he has plenty of time to work on his game in Europe.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I read somewhere once that the rule in talk radio was that for every one person compelled to call in and go on the air, there are 100 merely content to listen. So I’m applying that to the level of response I got to the most recent Mailbag when, in answering a reader who felt the Pistons were destined to be done in by the Chauncey Billups injury, I wrote, “Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” And then I implored her to invoke the fighting spirit of Bluto – the John Belushi’s “Animal House” character who used that line to rally his frat brothers when they were resigned to be decertified by college administration for repeated transgressions. So … yeah, I am fully aware it was the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor. But thanks for the history lesson, anyway, readers. On with Mailbag …
John (Macomb Township, Mich.): Would you sit Chauncey Billups for Game 5? My thinking is the Pistons should be able to take care of business without him at home after already doing so on the road. I assume the Cavs-Celtics series will go at least six and probably seven. That would give him ample time to be fully recovered for the start of the conference finals.
Langlois: Good plan … except what happens if he sits and the Pistons lose Game 5? That might start them on a slippery slope to elimination. With the momentum of a road win, Orlando would like its chances of winning Game 6 back at home – then taking a two-game winning streak to The Palace for Game 7. I say you base the decision on one thing only – whether Billups feels like he could play well enough to be an asset. If he can – and as long as the medical staff says there is zero risk of worsening the injury, as they’ve maintained so far – then you play him the second he says he can go.
Treva (Toledo, Ohio): I understand the Magic are frustrated about their loss Saturday, but don’t play the “physical play” card to the refs. Van Gundy is talking about how physical the Pistons were with Dwight Howard. Orlando was up 15 at home in the third quarter with very little from Howard, then Orlando got cocky and took some ill-advised shots. Dwight needs to develop another shot besides dunking.
Langlois: Physical play should play to Howard’s advantage. He’s the biggest, youngest, strongest guy out there. I’m not sure where Van Gundy is going with that one. But you’re right that Howard desperately needs to develop something approaching a reliable low-post move. To have a force like him and not be able to throw the ball into him late in tight games is a waste of an enormous talent. Then there’s also the fact that he doesn’t make his free throws. He could be the most dominant player in the league if he could only figure out a signature low-post move.
Kevin (Clio, Mich.): I’m a big fan of Rodney Stuckey and see him being a star. But shouldn’t he change his number – it’s Ben Wallace’s number and they might raise that to the rafters for Big Ben. He did win four Defensive Player of the Year awards and led us to an NBA championship.
Langlois: Maybe when Stuckey’s done, they’ll raise No. 3 to the rafters twice – once for Wallace, once for Stuckey. It could happen.
Richard (Las Vegas): Willis Reed, Bill Bridges, Rick Mahorn, Otis Thorpe, Al Attles, Ricky Sobers, Calvin Murphy, Bill Cartwright, Jim Luscutoff, Cliff Hagen. Did I forget anyone? All-time tough guys. Add Antonio McDyess.
Langlois: Ricky Sobers – good call. I think I’d put Buck Williams on and take Bill Cartwright off.
Matthew (Fostoria, Ohio): What are the chances of the Pistons signing Grant Hill next season for a one-year deal to come off the bench?
Langlois: He’s under contract for next season to Phoenix. After that, who knows? My guess is retirement.
Sam (St. Louis): Jarvis Hayes was used in Game 4 instead of Arron Afflalo or Walter Herrmann. Did Flip think the offensive boost was more important with Chauncey Billups out? The third-quarter comeback was done with defense, something both Afflalo and Herrmann play well.
Langlois: Hayes played all of 4:13, Sam, but you’re right – without Billups, when Flip Saunders went to his bench to rest either Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince, he felt he needed a bigger scoring threat on the floor than Afflalo provides. It was a good sign that Hayes knocked down his first 3-point try after basically being out of the rotation since early in the Philadelphia series.
Charlotte (Brooklyn, N.Y.): What a fantastic game on Saturday. The Pistons are the best team in the world. They’re taking care of business without Chauncey. Thanks for making my Mother’s Day weekend extra special.
Langlois: Nice touch, Charlotte.
Marcus (St. Joseph, Mo.): Why does Flip continue to play Walter Herrmann instead of Amir Johnson? He is a much better athlete and would give us a better matchup against the more athletic big guys.
Langlois: Wrong question. If you’ve got a quibble with who’s playing instead of Amir, it should be Theo Ratliff. They’re using Herrmann to guard one of Orlando’s two hybrid forwards, Hedo Turkoglu or Rashard Lewis, out on the perimeter. They’ve never asked Amir to guard a perimeter player yet. And even if you think Amir is savvy enough and athletic enough to figure it out, it’s a pretty risky time to find out.
Mia (Detroit): What are the chances of getting Ben Wallace back on our team? Playing with the Bulls he showed a sense of unhappiness and now playing with Cleveland he looks really unhappy. We need Ben. When he was with Detroit, we had the best rebounder in the game. Now he doesn’t hustle for the ball as much as he did with us.
Langlois: I don’t think it has anything to do with the jersey he’s wearing, Mia, and everything to do with the fact that the process that we saw taking hold when he was still with the Pistons – a guy who was losing a little bit of that raw explosive power that separated him from the field – has been accelerated with age since leaving. He’s not getting to as many loose balls not because he’s fat and sassy for signing a $60 million contract, but because his legs won’t take him where his mind tells him to go nearly as fast as it once did. If he came to the Pistons now, he’d be a role player – with the highest salary on the team. At best, he’d be fighting Jason Maxiell for minutes. Pretty awkward situation all around.
Kristie (Windsor, Ontario): Could you please tell me the real story behind Chris Webber? Where is he? What is his injury? And where did he go so quickly?
Langlois: The real story? There’s no conspiracy theory on this one. Webber’s knee had had enough. He came back with Golden State at mid-season, played in nine games, averaged 14 minutes, 3.9 points and 3.6 rebounds but couldn’t move anymore. He called it quits before the season ended and has signed on with TNT as a studio analyst.
Mohib (Memphis, Tenn.): Is there a chance of drafting Chris Lofton? If he hadn’t had cancer last season, he would’ve had a better season than he did as a junior and would have been a candidate for Player of the Year. I would love to see him rain 3-pointers all day for the Pistons.
Langlois: Much will depend on how well Lofton plays when he goes through individual workouts. I know the Pistons are well aware of him. Jeff Weltman, who left with John Hammond to be Milwaukee’s assistant GM, scouted him very early last season, so he’s been on their radar for a long time. And he certainly passes the character test that Joe Dumars values so highly. If Lofton tests out well, he would definitely be a candidate to be a late first-rounder, which is where the Pistons will be selecting. The trouble is, the Pistons have a pretty crowded backcourt and might be more inclined to draft big, all things being equal.
Kevin (Bloomfield Hills): What do you think the chances are of the league doing something to limit or penalize flopping, as Jeff Van Gundy recommends. It seems like everyone is flopping. As a basketball junkie, that really irritates me.
Langlois: I’d stop short of calling personal fouls for flopping. But I’d like to see the league make it a point of emphasis next year. If a guy clearly flops – and somebody like Anderson Varejao does it two or three times a game – you could call a foul on him not for the flop itself but for the impact his sprawling to the floor has on the path of the ballhandler. Or you could make it a non-call, which would by itself help discourage flopping. If it gets into a guy’s head that there’ll be no benefit to him – and, in fact, by going to the ground and making his team play defense 4-on-5 – by flopping, he’ll be apt to stay upright next time. This really is in the hands of the officials. I’m surprised they fall for it as often as they do. The bottom line is that floppers have been rewarded for their acting ability and referees haven’t done a very good job of figuring them out. I think it’s the one area where NBA officials need to come the farthest.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Cat (Springport, Mich.): Keith, say something encouraging to me this morning to get me out of my “it’s over” mood. I know the Pistons have what it takes to win even without our No. 1, but we cannot have another game like last night
Langlois: Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Fill yourself with the fighting spirit of Bluto on this one, Cat. I’m not trying to patronize anyone here – if Chauncey Billups can’t play for the rest of this series, and I think with a hamstring injury you have to allow for that possibility, that makes it a much more even fight. The difficulty Orlando had in limiting Billups’ impact was probably the biggest edge the Pistons had over Orlando. But Rodney Stuckey presents Orlando with many of the same problems Billups does – he’s a load for their guards to handle. The Magic tried to limit Jameer Nelson’s exposure to him, guarding Stuckey with physical shooting guard Keith Bogans, but that meant guarding Rip Hamilton with Keyon Dooling or Nelson. Flip Saunders will come up with something in the next two days to exploit the advantages he has. And the worst that can happen is the Pistons come back to The Palace even with a best two-of-three scenario, just as they did against Philadelphia. If you’re worried about what that might mean to the next round, consider: Even if the Pistons are pushed to Game 7 by Orlando, they would get two full days off before opening the conference finals, in all likelihood, because a Boston-Cleveland Game 7 isn’t scheduled until May 19, one day after the scheduled Game 7 of Detroit-Orlando.
Ron (Silver Spring, Md.): What is the status of Chauncey Billups for Game 4 on Saturday?
Langlois: I’m guessing there won’t be a final word on that until about 3:30 p.m. Saturday when teams are required to submit their active list for the game. They’ll be giving him treatment continuously up until then, hoping to have him available even if on a limited basis. My best guess would be that they’ll err on the side of caution and hold him out unless he’s close to 100 percent. Even if there wasn’t the risk of further injuring the hamstring, a half-speed Billups isn’t going to do for the Pistons what a full-speed Rodney Stuckey and Juan Dixon or Lindsey Hunter could.
Aldi (Detroit): Why is Reggie Miller doing TV analysis for Pistons games when he clearly is not a fan of the Pistons. All he does is put them down.
Langlois: Reggie’s assigned by TNT regardless of what teams are playing. The battles the Pistons had with Indiana, both early in Miller’s career with Chuck Daly’s Bad Boys and late when the Pistons again won a championship, aside, I think he’s always been pretty respectful of them. I don’t sense any anti-Pistons sentiment from Miller, who’s always been an extremely bright and personable guy. I’m sure there are Orlando fans wondering what Reggie Miller has against their team, too.
Paul (Zeeland): My son asked the other day why some players are listed taller than they really are. Is there a system the NBA follows or is it up to the players to submit their heights? Also, I want to know when players are put on the inactive list, can they be activated at any time?
Langlois: Take listed heights with a grain of salt. Generally, players who are considered undersized for their positions add 2 inches or so to their listed height and some big men have an aversion to being listed as 7-footers so ask the team to list them at 6-foot-11. I don’t think Rodney Stuckey is a full 6-foot-5, but when the Pistons played Minnesota he towered over Randy Foye, listed at 6-foot-4. My guess is Foye is really about 6-1 or 6-2 and Stuckey about 6-4. Charles Barkley was listed at 6-6 in his day but was probably about 6-4. Jason Maxiell is listed at 6-7 … probably not. But Kevin Garnett is listed at 6-11 and most people think he’s 7-1. I think Rasheed Wallace is probably a legit 7-footer. When the Pistons went to get their official measurements to start training camp this year, the device they use to measure players’ heights was broken, so they just went with last year’s heights or what the rookies gave them. As for the inactive list, teams must submit a list of 12, from the roster of up to 15, 90 minutes before tipoff. That’s a chance from a few years ago, when there was a 12-man roster and an “injured list” that required teams to concoct phantom injuries – “back spasms” was a particular favorite – to make any roster shuffles. The active list can change from game to game, during the regular season and the playoffs both.
Jody (Canton, Mich.): Our assist total of 12 in Game 3 needs to be better. A few more passes and some of the bad shots we are taking and missing might translate into points. And the Magic shot 11 of 24 from the 3-point line. That has hurt us in all three games. I know they are the best, but we can defend better than that, can’t we?
Langlois: The assist total is going to take a hit when your All-Star point guard goes down four minutes into the game, Jody. I thought Rip Hamilton tried to take too much onto his shoulders and Rasheed Wallace looked for the knockout 3-pointer a little too often as a response to losing Billups. As for the 3-pointers, it didn’t hurt too much in Game 1 when Orlando went 2 for 15 or in the fourth quarter of Game 2 when the Magic went 1 of 9. The Pistons were No. 2 in the league this season in defending the 3-point shot, but Orlando made more than anybody – so there will be stretches during this series when one side or the other dominates, but you’d expect that over seven games the Magic will shoot it a little worse than they did during the regular season but the Pistons will yield a higher percentage than they did against the NBA at large.
Jerry (Canton, Mich.): After seeing the Celtics go to seven games with Atlanta and almost losing to Cleveland when LeBron didn’t even show up in Game 1, I can’t help but wonder are the Hawks and Cavs really that good or is Boston just really overrated?
Langlois: It was surprising that Boston played without much poise in losing three tight games on the road against Atlanta. It wasn’t terribly surprising that Cleveland found a way to make Game 1 close. The Cavs aren’t a pretty team but they are built for playoff success – a physical frontline that defends and rebounds, and a guy who can win games by himself in the last five minutes. The Celtics are finding out what the Pistons have learned over the last five or six years – the playoffs are significantly different than the regular season. That said, the only thing that really matters is figuring out how to survive each opponent. It doesn’t matter if you sweep with four routs or go seven and win four squeakers – win and advance, then figure out the next opponent. If the Pistons wind up playing Boston in the conference finals, they won’t look at the Celtics as being any less formidable because the Celts struggled in the first two rounds.
Ric (Porter Ranch, Calif.): From your previous blog, Rashard Lewis is the anti-Maxiell, but so far he has been the X-factor in this series. When Afflalo or Herrmann guard him, he’s smart enough to take it to the basket or shoot over them due to his height advantage. Could Amir Johnson be the missing link? Doesn’t he have the speed to stop Lewis off the dribble and contest his 3-point shot?
Langlois: If Afflalo’s guarded Lewis, I’ve missed it. Maybe he got caught against him in transition or off a pick and roll. Herrmann is a legitimate option against Lewis. He’s a tough cover for Rasheed Wallace, one of the most versatile defensive big men in the league, and part of the reason Wallace found himself in foul trouble in Game 3. You’re right that Johnson has the physical tools for the matchup, but guarding on the perimeter is something Amir just hasn’t done. And the playoffs is a tough place to learn. Let me anticipate reader response to that one: “So why didn’t Flip give Amir more time against players like Lewis during the regular season so he’d be ready?” Well, there aren’t more than a handful of 6-foot-10 guys in the league like Lewis – really, there’s hardly anybody that big who shoots the three that well and that often and is an exclusively perimeter player – so you really only learn to guard Lewis by guarding Lewis. And now isn’t the time to practice unless it’s a last resort.
Josh (Lansing): Why isn’t Flip playing Hunter or Dixon but is playing Stuckey even though he turns the ball over. He does have his moments, but then he turns around and makes mistakes. I would like to see Hunter and Dixon get a chance.
Langlois: Stuckey gives them the best chance to win, period. He’s been better than solid defensively and his strength and size give him advantages over opposing point guards he can exploit. Stuckey averaged one turnover every 13.8 minutes this season, Dixon one every 12.3 minutes and Hunter one every 16.5, though Hunter’s sample size is so small as to be relatively insignificant. Hunter also was a .344 shooter this season and when the Pistons used him early in the Philadelphia series, the offense didn’t function very smoothly. That said, if Billups can’t play Saturday or beyond, one of those two guys is not just going to be active, but probably will find himself playing a pretty important role.
Paul (Essexville, Mich.): One final thing about the end of the third quarter clock on TNT’s broadcasters saying the person running the clock was not employed by the Pistons but was from Minnesota. So unless he’s Flip’s best friend from his college days, you can’t blame the Pistons – end of story.
Langlois: They’re right for as far as they took it, Paul. The NBA assigns neutral clock operators from organizations not in the playoffs. But even the operator wasn’t at fault for the clock snafu. The clock stops on the officials’ whistles – and, apparently, one of the three officials working the game exhaled into his whistle forcefully enough to fool the system into stopping the clock.
Cheryl (Newaygo): Where was all the crying in the Philadelphia series when the shot clock started while the ball was still out of bounds and the Pistons got hit with a 24-second violation?
Langlois: Good point, Cheryl. Of course, the Pistons won that game. Had they lost by a point or two, I’m guessing it would have been every bit the controversy that this became.
Robbie (Rochester, Mich.): What do you think the Pistons do in the draft? Other than maybe a solid backup to spell Tayshaun Prince or an interior defender, is there a quick fix or an outstanding prospect the Pistons could get?
Langlois: Talked to both Joe Dumars and personnel director George David in general terms about the draft and both said that for the first time, they’re going into the draft completely focused on taking the best player regardless of position. The Pistons are pretty evenly stocked. I suppose a backup small forward would be the most obvious need with both Jarvis Hayes and Walter Herrmann pending free agents, though Herrmann will be restricted. Realistically, it’s not likely the Pistons are going to find someone at 29 who can crack next year’s rotation. Last year’s draft was generally considered a little stronger and the Pistons found Arron Afflalo at 27. But Afflalo was viewed as NBA-ready defensively, so it’s not such a surprise that he’s found a niche as a rookie. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons took an international prospect who could be something of a boom-or-bust pick and might stay stashed overseas for another year or two.
Doug (Livonia, Mich.): Why is it that former Pistons star Eddie Miles is so forgotten? It was a shame that Miles – “The Man with the Golden Arm” – was ignored as a member of the Pistons All-Time Team. A blog on NBA.com lists the top 100 Pistons of all-time and has Fennis Dembo and Brooke Steppe but not Eddie Miles.
Langlois: I know nothing about the NBA.com list, Doug, but there’s no way Miles should be missing from that list. I was not a part of the group that made the final decision on the All-Time Pistons team of 30, but I was part of a preliminary discussion and I can assure you that Miles was on the list for consideration and received significant support. There’s no doubt that Miles’ candidacy was hurt by the fact that he played so long ago, at a time before the NBA became widely popular, and by playing on mostly losing teams. But his numbers – a 17.8 scoring average in seven seasons with the Pistons – certainly suggest he would have been a valuable player in any era.
Treva (Toledo, Ohio): The Pistons are playing really well right now. They seem to play better when they don’t have as many days off.
Langlois: Players are creatures of habit. It’s rare during the regular season to have three days off between games, but when it happened the Pistons often come back a little sluggishly. This series features two situations with two days off between games, if it goes to seven games, but that shouldn’t be enough to throw the Pistons out of rhythm. The real danger, I suppose, is if they end this series in four or five games and have to wait around while Cleveland and Boston – which won’t play their Game 3 until after the Pistons and Magic have played Game 4 – take it to the limit. But, hey, it beats the alternative of losing and going home for the summer.
Derek (Southfield, Mich.): It’s interesting to monitor the coaches’ adjustments from game to game. In Game 2, did Rip just have an off night or did Orlando adjust to slow him down?
Langlois: Ask Orlando and they’ll say they got more physical with him on the perimeter and did a better job of staying with him coming around picks. Ask the Pistons and they’ll say Hamilton was rushing things and playing too anxiously. There might be a measure of truth to both.
Adam (Elkton, Mich.): Jason Maxiell’s thunder dunks and hard play really raise the energy level of the crowd and the guys coming off the bench. What do you think – starter next season?
Langlois: Impossible to say at this point. Seven games is a pretty small sample size. But it’s like Flip Saunders says – no need to think about changing as long as it’s working. If there are no significant roster changes over the summer, I think starting Maxiell is something Joe Dumars and Saunders will consider from every angle. They put McDyess in the starting lineup this year because they no longer wanted to put the burden of being the energy guy off the bench on him. But if Maxiell can provide consistent scoring and rebounding as a starter, then the leading role he takes in setting a tone might be best utilized in the starting lineup to help prevent sluggish starts. And they might decide that at 34 – the age McDyess will be when next season starts – that the 29 minutes a game he played this season is a little too much. Nothing will be decided until the playoffs play out and the draft and free agency and possible trades reshape the roster, but I’d say the chances are much higher today than two weeks ago because of the way Maxiell individually and the Pistons as a team have responded.
Rusty (Flint, Mich.): Have you noticed other teams have their fans in team-colored T-shirts? How about that for the faithful Pistons fans who’ve sold out every game? Good idea?
Langlois: It’s been proposed and considered strongly, Rusty. The argument has basically come down to allowing fans to wear what they want – if that’s a Rasheed Wallace or Chauncey Billups jersey or their lucky T-shirt or a business suit. There’s no right or wrong on this one and I’m sure it will be considered again. It’s nice that the Pistons, working on a sixth straight trip to the conference finals, can make it an annual debate.
Stephen (Bozeman, Mont.): I watched Rodney Stuckey play in college and he tore up my not-very-good college team. He reminds me a lot of Dwyane Wade with the instinct to get the ball to the basket and ability to make circus layups. I got chills watching Stuckey, Afflalo and Maxiell in Game 2 frustrating the Magic at both ends. I’m not saying our bench could carry the team, but it’s going to be exciting in years to come if we can keep the guys together.
Langlois: That’s the fascinating subplot with the Pistons – teams who’ve had the type of sustained success they’ve had aren’t supposed to have so many promising young players. After Tuesday’s practice, young big men Amir Johnson and Cheikh Samb were going at each other one-on-one in the post, both of them flashing their shot-blocking and shot-making ability. It’s pretty intriguing to imagine them playing together three or four years down the road when they’ve both matured.
Donna (Southfield, Mich.): There are a couple of teams out there calling for less youth and more vets – Portland and Atlanta come to mind. Do you see potential for trades happening with them this summer? Would Joe consider trading for a lottery pick or another first-rounder? Seems to me it’s an opportunity to get younger in a deep draft.
Langlois: Portland was reportedly very active at the trade deadline, attempting to package a few good players for one better player. The Blazers will get deeper this summer with another lottery pick and the expectation that last year’s first-rounder, Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez, will join the team. Atlanta has decisions to make on a few restricted free agents, Josh Smith and Josh Childress. Dumars will consider any and all possibilities. Of course he’d be interested in getting younger, but not at the expense of compromising his chances to win a title next season, necessarily. Teams very rarely trade lottery choices. It’s tough to balance the value of a lottery pick and still make the deal work under the salary-cap. Let’s say they sent Jason Maxiell to Portland for its lottery pick. The Blazers would have to send something close to Maxiell’s 2008-09 salary back in the deal – somebody like Jarrett Jack, for instance.
Kartik (Ashburn, Va.): I always felt Jarvis Hayes was too inconsistent and Walter Herrmann should have gotten more of a chance. But I fail to understand how Jarvis gets benched after playing maybe 10 minutes of playoff basketball.
Langlois: Andre Igoudala was a tough matchup for him in the first series. The Pistons went into that series hoping to spot him against Rodney Carney, but Carney got squeezed out of Philly’s rotation early in the series. When they used him against Igoudala in Game 3 – the nightmare game – he picked up two quick fouls and that was pretty much that. Orlando presents different issues. Because Hedo Turkoglu often acts as Orlando’s de facto point guard and is such an adept ballhandler and initiates pick-and-roll plays so effectively, Tayshaun Prince’s quicker feet are the preferred option. Herrmann is also pretty comfortable playing perimeter defense and is a better size matchup for Rashard Lewis.
Bryan (Remus): I think Billups needs to be more offensive minded with his height and strength advantage over Jameer Nelson. What adjustments will the Magic make to the Pistons’ defense against Howard?
Langlois: Billups took 33 shots over the first two games of the series, most on the team, before going down early in Game 3. Over the course of the season, he was essentially tied for third in shot attempts with Rasheed Wallace, behind Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. He attempted 11.2 shots a game during the season, so in the first two games he was already taking almost 50 percent more shots than he took during the season. Not sure it’s wise to tilt the offense even more heavily toward him. The best adjustment Orlando could make would be Howard dominating his man so the Pistons would be forced to double-team him more often. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has said that Detroit singles Howard more than any team in the league. Until he makes them pay more dearly for that tactic, there’s not a lot of adjustments to be done.
Tyler (Ogden, Utah): What is the possibility of the Pistons getting Maurice Evans back?
Langlois: He’s a free agent at the end of the year, but it’s pretty unlikely he’d come here. He’s the same player the Pistons traded to the Lakers for a late second-round pick two years ago. He’s starting in Orlando. I’d have to assume his first choice is to re-up with the Magic, who don’t have a better alternative and aren’t likely to acquire one. If he can get starter’s money in Orlando, why come here when his best-case scenario would be limited backup minutes behind Tayshaun Prince?
Steven (Southaven, Miss.): Which team in the Western Conference would be toughest for the Pistons in the NBA Finals?
Langlois: Their struggles against Utah are pretty well-documented, so that would be a logical answer. But the Lakers are the most complete team in the West, so that’s my vote.
Andrea (Battle Creek): I enjoyed the article “Balancing Act” from Joe Dumars. Joe has the rare wisdom to not get caught up in the “everyone’s making a move, so I have to, also” frenzy. Joe did a wonderful job putting this team together. You don’t read or hear about them getting into trouble with the law or doing idiotic tings. You do hear from coaches on other teams about how well they get along and socialize together on the road. I might be biased, but I think the NBA commercials that say “Where Amazing Happens” can just feature the Pistons and stop right there.
Langlois: The article to which you refer, Andrea, appears in the recent issue of Courtside Quarterly, distributed to Pistons season-ticket holders. In it, he talks about the balancing act of keeping the Pistons competitive in the present while maintaining enough assets to remain in championship contention into the future. Glad you liked it.
Monday, May 5, 2008
David (Modesto, Calif.): Is it possible that Hayes sits out this series and they use a combination of Walter Herrmann and Arron Afflalo to rest Tayshaun Prince and use Juan Dixon for instant offense off the bench?
Langlois: Dixon wasn’t active in Game 1 and hasn’t been active yet in the playoffs. I don’t think Hayes is going to be deactivated. Orlando used zone defenses against Toronto and might break them out against the Pistons. If so, my guess is the Pistons are going to want Hayes available. But it looks like Afflalo is going to have a more defined role in this series because he matches up well with Orlando’s wing players – Keith Bogans and Mo Evans, primarily, and he can also guard Keyon Dooling off the bench.
Tyler (Houston): In this game, no person is safe from getting canned. But do you think the one person is safe is Joe Dumars?
Langlois: You know the phrase “never say never.” Well, in this case, you can say never.
David (Detroit): Will the Pistons win the NBA championship this year and if not, how long before a championship is out of reach for them?
Langlois: You would take “field” over any particular team left standing, David. So I can’t tell you the Pistons will win. But put it this way: There’s not a team that they can’t beat in a seven-game series. As for when their window closes, Joe Dumars would tell you he doesn’t and can’t think that way. He sees it as his job to keep finding ways to have the Pistons in the championship hunt every year.
Darren (Greensboro, N.C.): Who do you think Detroit has a better chance of beating in the Eastern Conference finals and in how many games?
Langlois: Despite Boston’s struggles with Atlanta in the opening round, the Celtics are a more complete and dangerous opponent than Cleveland. I expect that series, though, to be pretty tightly contested. The Cavs will do their best to make it a physical, grinding series, hoping to keep it close so that LeBron James can win it for them in the final five minutes. The Pistons are the best bet to make it to the conference finals, but whoever they draw when they get there will be a tough team.
Jody (Canton): In the playoffs, I’ve noticed that our losses usually happen after a slow start. With Maxiell starting since McDyess broke his nose, the energy Maxiell is supposed to bring off the bench is better used to get us started on the right foot. I don’t know if Maxiell should get more minutes than McDyess, but Jason should be first in line at the dinner table.
Langlois: They’re essentially job sharing, Jody. Right now it’s working with Maxiell as the starter and McDyess coming off the bench, so there’s little likelihood that anything will change until they stop winning with that combination. Flip Saunders likes the intensity Maxiell brings to the starting unit and the increased scorer’s mentality McDyess seems to have coming off the bench.
Joe (Charleston, Ill.): What’s the plan for our bigs? It seems anybody not guarded by Howard would go right to the post. McDyess spent more time down there than he ever has and Maxiell was a beast, but Rasheed mostly hung on the perimeter. Was this by design?
Langlois: McDyess and Maxiell did most of their scoring from 15 feet. Howard started the game guarding Maxiell with Rasheed matched up against Rashard Lewis. Logic says you make Howard guard farther from the basket. I don’t think Wallace spent an inordinate amount of time floating in Game 1. But the Pistons get themselves in trouble when they deviate too much from what they do best in the interest of trying to exploit a perceived matchup advantage. So, by and large, they’re going to do what they do no matter what the other guy does. That means you’re going to see Rasheed Wallace picking and popping to the 3-point line, because his perimeter shooting is a valuable weapon.
Danny (Wharton, N.J.): Would you agree that Chauncey and Rip form the best backcourt in the NBA? Billups is an amazing point guard and has great leadership skills. And Rip is one of the top shooters in the NBA and can shoot from anywhere.
Langlois: There’s a reason they’ve both been to three straight All-Star games, Danny. No other NBA backcourt has a streak of one going. So that’s a pretty easy call.
Rob (Troy, Mich.): Are the Pistons expecting to receive the second-round pick they are owed from Minnesota this year?
Langlois: No. Minnesota has until June 1 to let them know, but the Pistons expect the Timberwolves to keep the pick this year, which means they will have to give it to them next year. If it happens that way, the Pistons would go into the season with three second-round picks this year – their own, Minnesota’s and Toronto’s from the Carlos Delfino trade. The Pistons don’t expect to hear from Minnesota until the last day or two, but they’re banking on Minnesota keeping the pick because it will be so high in the second round in a year of a pretty deep draft.
Adam (East Lansing): Maxiell was a beast on Saturday. One writer compared him to Barkley after the game. Do you think Maxiell could use Barkley as a model and try to improve his ballhandling, passing and jumper in the off-season.
Langlois: It’s a comparison that was made extensively earlier in Maxiell’s career, when he first revealed one or two traits similar to Barkley – they’re both undersized power players with explosive strength. But Flip Saunders rightly downplayed the comparison. Barkley came to the NBA with a pretty diverse skill set and it became quickly apparent he was a future Hall of Famer. Maxiell has a bright future as a member of the rotation, and he’ll leave no stone unturned to make himself as complete a player as he can, but it’s not very likely he’ll ever approach Barkley’s ball skills.
T.J. (Rochester Hills): Please tell me the Pistons have already called the league to complain about that technical on Rasheed in Game 1. That has to be rescinded. It was McDyess who had words with Turkoglu. Rasheed said one thing to Turkoglu in a calm manner and was given a tech.
Langlois: Joe Dumars more than likely made the phone call, but it’s even more likely he won’t get any satisfaction. Technicals aren’t rescinded very often and Monty McCutchen made the call pretty emphatically. I didn’t see Rasheed do anything to warrant the technical, but I can’t tell you for sure what he said, either.
Jasper (Manila, Philippines): We can Tayshaun Prince can score, but I don’t see plays that are created just for him. All I see are isolations when he has a smaller defender. Do you think they should create more plays for him? Do you think Joe Dumars will try to keep Prince in Detroit or at some point will he let him go?
Langlois: He’s under contract through 2011 at a reasonable salary, Jasper, so he’s not going to be let go, that’s for sure. Is it possible he could be used in trade? Anything’s possible. Joe D has made it clear that he’ll consider every possibility to improve the roster. Flip Saunders talked with Prince before the playoffs began about being more assertive offensively. The Pistons call plays that create the opportunity for more than one player to score. They’re predicated on ball and player movement that create openings for scorers based on how the defense reacts. So within a game, assuming the Pistons are executing properly, they all will get plenty of opportunities to score. It’s up to them to make quick and good decisions after that.
Rollins (Detroit): Why doesn’t Amir play in the playoffs? He can jump out of the gym, has proven he can block shots and rebounds. At the very least he can give up a foul or two. Do we live and die with our starters even when they aren’t producing? It’s called a team and we should change something that is not working.
Langlois: But what exactly isn’t working, Rollins? The Pistons have won four in a row and been more than a little impressive in doing so. Against Orlando and Dwight Howard, the Pistons like Theo Ratliff’s savvy and strength a little more than they like Amir’s youth and athleticism. That’s no knock on Amir – who just turned 21 last week, by the way. If they hadn’t signed Ratliff late in the season, they’d be OK with Amir as their No. 4 big man. And they remain as high on his future as ever. When he got chances this season, he was highly productive. The Pistons picked up Ratliff with a few players in mind for the playoffs – Howard, Kevin Garnett and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, foremost. Based on what Ratliff gave them in Game 1, it looks like a great signing.
Josh (Mount Pleasant, Mich.): Charles Barkley said after we finished the first round that the Pistons are going to have to double Dwight Howard. But Rasheed owned Howard this season. They beat us with their perimeter guys. After Rasheed’s domination, please say we are not doubling him often?
Langlois: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after Game 1 the Pistons double Howard less than any other NBA team. They can get away with it because they are deep in very good or better one-on-one frontcourt defenders – Wallace, McDyess and Ratliff can all hold their own and the surprise of Game 1 was the Pistons entrusting Maxiell to guard Howard from the start. The key, as Flip Saunders sees it, is giving Howard different looks – keeping him guessing if a double team is coming, and from where – and keeping fresh bodies on him. It will be interesting in Game 2 to see what adjustments Orlando makes – Van Gundy said after Game 1 it was on him to figure out ways to put his scorers in position to score.
Denise (Pontiac, Mich.): Can the roster be changed for the next round? There were some valuable players not playing in the Philadelphia series. Dixon’s offense was needed more than Hunter’s defense.
Langlois: Just like in the regular season, the 12-man active roster is culled from the 15-man roster on a game-by-game basis. So Walter Herrmann was activated for Game 1 and Lindsey Hunter deactivated, but that could be changed at any point in the series.
Joe (Wyandotte, Mich.): What were those black stripes on the Pistons’ jerseys?
Langlois: Armbands in memory of Will Robinson, the longtime Pistons scout and legendary Detroit high school coach – who became the first Division I college basketball African-American head coach – who died last week at 96.
Joe (Birmingham): Why doesn’t Flip Saunders use Lindsey Hunter, a proven veteran who has shown he can make a valuable contribution to the team. I think he has made a mistake by going with the rookies.
Langlois: It’s not a black-and-white call, it’s a tough one. But Arron Afflalo is not only a terrific defensive player, as Hunter is, but a more versatile one because of his size. And in this series, Afflalo’s size is a perfect counter to Orlando’s Keith Bogans and Mo Evans. Bogans was 12 of 14 from the 3-point line against the Pistons during the regular season. When Orlando goes to their bench, they often feature a lineup with both of those players on the floor at the same time. I’m not sure where Hunter’s minutes would come from in this series. You know Billups and Hamilton are going to play at least 70 minutes, probably closer to 80. And Stuckey is going to get 15 or so. That doesn’t leave much room for Hunter, especially with Afflalo having a clearer role.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Adam (Rochester Hills): Chauncey has been struggling so far in the playoffs, his field-goal percentage is down and his turnovers are up. Our early playoff exits in the past have been linked to his performances. Is this a foreshadowing of things to come. He struggles with long, athletic defenders. If we meet Boston in the conference finals, does Rondo present this problem?
Langlois: He didn’t play very well in the games the Pistons lost, but even though his numbers weren’t much in the Game 2 win, I thought he did a fine job managing the game. He was very good, as they all were, in the second half of the Game 4 win. And he was terrific in Game 5. As for Rondo – he’s athletic, but he’s not long. Rondo has unusually long arms for a man his size, but he’s probably 2 inches shorter than his listed height of 6-foot-1. Rondo has had some good moments against the Pistons this year, but Billups has won more than his share of battles.
Curtis (Lansing, Mich.): I know it’s a little premature seeing that Flip is still here, but assuming he leaves Dallas, would Avery Johnson be a good fit in Detroit?
Langlois: A little premature? I’d say that’s a lot premature, although since you submitted this question Johnson has been fired. But the New York Post has you beat – they reported the other day that Knicks president Donnie Walsh is focusing on four coaches who at the time had teams in the playoffs – Saunders, Johnson, Mike D’Antoni and Sam Mitchell, should any of them get fired. Ah, the New York Post.
Matt (Kalamazoo, Mich.): It’s probably too early to discuss off-season plans, but what do you think about trying to use our mid-level exception on Josh Childress? He would give us the consistency behind Prince I didn’t see from Jarvis this year. Atlanta might match, but they have a lot invested in Joe Johnson and Josh Smith is going to command top dollar as well. I think it would be worth a shot.
Langlois: The Pistons have quite a bit invested in the two positions where Childress would play, too – Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince’s contracts. I can’t see Atlanta letting Childress walk for MLE money. But his free agency will be one of the most-watched of the summer.
Harsh (Rochester): What’s worse – losing like the Pistons did, due to turnovers and overconfidence, or losing back-to-back, highly contested games like the Celtics did?
Langlois: You’re splitting hairs at the NBA level when you talk about “better” losses. I will say this, though: I think the fact the Celtics lost two straight to Atlanta took some pressure off the Pistons. Before that, they were playing the one real eyebrow-raising series. But Philly was a very hot team coming down the stretch, going 22-12, while Atlanta just sort of meandered into the playoffs against the one team that was dominant from wire to wire over the NBA season. That was everybody’s best guess for likeliest sweep of the playoffs. So, all of a sudden, the Pistons are off the hook – and the Celtics are on it. I still think Boston wins the series, but it should serve as a reminder to everyone – Pistons fans, more than most – that there just isn’t the huge gap between NBA teams that most assume.
Andre (Detroit): Who has a younger team – Boston or Detroit? And who will be the biggest free agent this off-season?
Langlois: The core of both teams is 30-plus, Andre. The Celtics have two young starters in Rondo and Perkins, but they’re both complementary players, nothing more, though Rondo has the potential to become something more than that. Allen, Pierce and Garnett are all 30 or over. So are Billups, Hamilton, Wallace and McDyess for the Pistons. Prince, 28, is the only starter for either team who would be considered among the league’s best at his position who is under 30. But the Pistons have a better core of young players with Amir Johnson, Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo, Jason Maxiell and Cheikh Samb. Boston also has Glen Davis and Leon Powe, but the Pistons’ group has a higher ceiling. Of the big-name free agents this off-season, most of them fall under the category of “early-termination option” free agents – which means they have the right to opt out of their contracts. Elton Brand, Shawn Marion and Gilbert Arenas are among them. I doubt any of them go anywhere. The biggest true free agent probably will be Antawn Jamison.
Brook (Kalkaska): I live in northern Lower Michigan and let me tell you how frustrating it is knowing that there are Pistons playoff games on but we aren’t getting them televised here. Why is that the games that are not nationally televised are only on if you live south of Big Rapids?
Langlois: Brook, that one is pretty much out of the Pistons’ hands. Call your local TV stations and complain. All playoff games are available on national TV, though it’s true that many cable companies do not offer NBA TV, which has carried some Pistons playoff games this postseason. They are also available on the Pistons’ television network, but there are some areas of the state that aren’t covered. If yours is one of them, it’s because the stations in your area have chosen not to become part of the Pistons’ network. If it’s any comfort, that shouldn’t be a problem next season when all local Pistons telecasts will shift to FSN Detroit, which has virtual blanket coverage of Michigan.
Keith (Greensboro, N.C.): The Pistons appear to be able to turn the switch on and off. Do you think that could be detrimental to their 2008 championship hopes?
Langlois: If they could really turn it off and on, it wouldn’t be detrimental at all. They’d simply turn it on when they needed to. I don’t buy the whole “on/off” argument. The Pistons are more vulnerable to longer periods of drought because they rely on the product of the sum of their parts, not on one irresistible force – a superstar player who is going to get fouled and shoot a lot of free throws and command double teams that open things up for teammates. When the Pistons are humming, they’re truly a joy to watch. And when they’re not, it can be painful – like it was in Game 3. But I don’t chalk Game 3 up to overconfidence or a lackadaisical attitude. The Pistons have to be the aggressor and they weren’t that night. Is that a lack of willpower? I don’t know. Too deep for me.
Steve (West Bloomfield): During Game 2, the shot clock started before the Pistons even inbounded the ball. It didn’t really change the outcome of the game, but if that had happened at the end of the game, would they be able to check the shot clock? Or would they review it the next day? That’s two or three points taken away.
Langlois: The Pistons clearly were wronged on that one, Steve. Tayshaun Prince took the pass, put it on the floor once or twice and shot – the whole thing didn’t take more than two seconds, certainly less than three, and there were five seconds left on the shot clock when the ball was inbounded. Referee Steve Javie came over to the scorer’s table when the Pistons loudly complained, but I’m not sure exactly what he was checking for because he wasn’t there very long and he awarded Philadelphia possession. If it’s any comfort, Flip Saunders looked equally confused at the explanation – or lack of explanation. If it had happened at the end of a game and it cost somebody the game, you can bet there would have been reverberations from here to NBA headquarters.
Pam (Spartanburg, S.C.): Do you have any idea why the guys don’t seem all that interested in getting rebounds? The opportunities they let slip out of their hands are getting too many to keep track of.
Langlois: Hmmm. No idea what you’re referring to there, Pam. Through the first four games, Philly had outrebounded the Pistons by a whopping three rebounds and they both grabbed 34 in Game 5. Philly was tied for No. 3 in rebounding in the league this year – as a measure of percentage of rebounds obtained – and the Pistons were No. 5. So you’re talking about two teams among the league’s top 20 percent in rebounding, and they’re virtually even through 240 minutes of basketball.
Devin (San Antonio): I can’t wait until Detroit and Boston meet in the conference finals. It probably will be the most anticipated playoff matchup. How do you think it will play out?
Langlois: Ask me again if and when both teams emerge from their second-round series – assuming the Pistons emerge from their first-round series.
Alex (Troy): I know you probably hate off-the-wall trade ideas, but just for kicks, what do you think about these: Chauncey, Rip, the rights to Acker and Cheikh Samb for Kobe Bryant; and Tayshaun, McDyess, Rasheed and Amir for LeBron James.
Langlois: The Lakers aren’t trading Kobe – with the blossoming of Bynum and the addition of Gasol, they’ve got the pieces in place to be title favorites for the next five years with him. And for marketing purposes first and competitive purposes second, the Cavs almost certainly wouldn’t trade James unless he told them unequivocally that he would opt out of his contract and leave as a free agent in two years.
Celest (Orangeburg, S.C.): If the Pistons don’t reach the NBA Finals this year, will most of the team be split up? And are Chauncey and McDyess guaranteed to stay because of their recent contract extensions? I can’t lost the two of them. I could learn to deal with not having the others, but not those two.
Langlois: As I’ve maintained all along, Joe Dumars is going to weigh what happens in these playoffs heavily before plotting an off-season course of action, so it’s foolish to speculate on what might happen. If they lost a tough series to a 65-win Boston team, it wouldn’t seem prudent to split up most of the team, would it? But if they lose in the first round and Joe D senses significant change is in order, then I’d expect him to attempt to do something fairly dramatic. My guess is that Billups and McDyess are likely to be back.
David (Lawrenceburg, Ky.): The Philly fans booed Chauncey whenever he touched the ball? What’s the history there?
Langlois: None, that anybody knows of. We asked Billups that at practice on Monday and he had no idea, either. He said he takes it as a sign of respect when he gets booed on the road, but it wasn’t like he said anything to rile up the Philly crowd or took a cheap shot at anybody.
Marvin (Richmond, Va.): Do you think Flip might activate Walter Herrmann for the Orlando series to possibly match up with Hedo Turkoglu since Arron Afflalo is too small and Jarvis Hayes isn’t a top-notch defender?
Langlois: It’s an interesting option to have in hand, Marvin. I don’t think they’ll be inclined to change the active roster to start the series, but it’s possible they’ll tinker with it as the series progresses – assuming the Pistons take care of business against Philadelphia and actually hook up with Orlando. You’re right that the forward pairing of Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis poses matchup problems because of their size, but in Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace the Pistons have two long, versatile defenders who’ll spend the majority of their time guarding them. If the Pistons continue to bring Antonio McDyess off the bench, however, the real question is going to be how Jason Maxiell matches up to anyone in Orlando’s starting lineup. Dwight Howard is simply too big for Maxiell to guard on anything approaching a consistent basis and Lewis and Turkoglu both take him away from his defensive comfort zone.
William (Houston): I know there’s a significant disparity in the records, but after all the talk about the West being so much deeper, do you think Detroit and Boston might rather have played Dallas and Denver than the young, athletic, scrappy teams they’re playing now.
Langlois: I think the Pistons would have rather played Toronto and Boston would have rather New Jersey or Indiana sneaked into the No. 8 spot ahead of Atlanta. You’re right – they’re both young and athletic, and they’ve also played with a certain fearlessness that’s been surprising. Dallas and Denver were hugely disappointing playoff teams. Do I think the Pistons and Celtics would have dismissed them as easily as New Orleans and the Lakers did? Yeah, I do.
Alex (Flint): When you have a 21-point lead going into the fourth quarter, why would Flip wait until a little under three minutes left to take the starters out. Play the bench all year so they can play in the playoffs and then he still doesn’t play them many minutes?
Langlois: Game 5 of a 2-2 series is no time to take chances. The starters had played so well – and none of them played more than the 39 minutes played by Jason Maxiell, who, let’s remember, is a bench player starting in the pinch, so it’s not like they were overextended in Game 5. Jarvis Hayes’ minutes have suffered, mostly because Philly is playing Andre Igoudala 40-plus minutes a game and Hayes struggles with his exceptional quickness. Rodney Stuckey has had his struggles, too. The idea of playing them so much during the regular season was to get them as prepared as possible for any and all postseason situations. But you can’t afford to live with mistakes and non-productivity for long in the playoffs – or you won’t be in the playoffs for long. Cut Flip a little slack here – Prince is averaging 38 minutes a game and he leads the Pistons. That’s hardly a killer pace. Hamilton is at 37, Billups and Wallace at 35. Look around the league – those numbers are low for All-Star-caliber players.
Mark (Adelaide, South Australia): I like McDyess as a starter because he gives the Pistons a better scoring option with his mid-range jumper. Do you think Amir Johnson will get more playing time next season?
Langlois: There are plusses and minuses to having McDyess in either role, starting or coming off the bench. He can handle either. Less certain right now is Maxiell’s ability to play starter’s minutes no matter the opposition. It’s fine against Philadelphia, but as I mentioned above, it’s a little murky when you consider Orlando. Johnson, logically, figures to get more minutes next season. But unless somebody ahead of him gets traded, he’s still likely to be No. 4 in the pecking order. So I wouldn’t expect him to go from 12 minutes a game to 24 or 30.
Maurice (Hampton, Va.): Are the Pistons going to get a young power forward or small forward because that’s what we need right now? Are there any players on the free agent list that Joe Dumars will try to get this summer? Do you know where Dwyane Wade might go?
Langlois: With the 29th pick in the draft, I don’t expect the Pistons to get immediate help. A player with a solid future, probably, but not someone who’ll crack the rotation next season, in all likelihood. The best chance to pick up a useful part will be in free agency. Dumars will have his mid-level exception at his discretion without going over the luxury-tax threshhold and I expect he’ll explore the market after the first wave of free agency washes ashore. Wade isn’t going anywhere for at least a few years.
Gil (Charlotte, N.C.): I understand that rosters shorten in the playoffs and I even understand the logic behind it. But I don’t understand why the bench isn’t playing more against the 76ers. I don’t see how a guy like Amir Johnson wouldn’t be a great antidote to this Philly team. I remember against Orlando a few years ago when trust was finally put into Tayshaun Prince and he blossomed. I know it’s not the same situation, but it’s time to get him out there and let him play.
Langlois: I agree up to a point, but the Pistons turned to Prince out of desperation. They were down 3-1 and they had no one who could physically match up with Tracy McGrady. Their starting small forward was Michael Curry, who was maybe 6-foot-4 and at the end of his career. Prince had played four years at college basketball’s highest level. Here’s the thing: If there was one Philly frontcourt player absolutely killing the Pistons and it was a physical matchup that begged for Johnson’s length and athleticism, they would have turned to him. Aside from Samuel Dalembert in Game 3, that really hasn’t been the case, unless you want to go with Reggie Evans – whose bulk and savvy clearly would have been an odd fit for Johnson.
Jack (Houston): Watching the Pistons championship DVD recently, I think one of the reasons for Detroit’s failure in the playoffs beginning in 2006 in Miami is the loss of Ben Wallace. Numbers have not suffered, but could it be that he was the last locker-room leader and kept the Pistons focused?
Langlois: But Wallace was on the team that lost to Miami in 2006. Do I think the Pistons lack leadership? No. Wallace was certainly part of the leadership group when he was here, but it was never a one-man deal.