October 2006 - Archive | Mailbag Homepage
Monday, October 30, 2006
Kristin: Is there any chance Larry Brown will be coming back soon? I haven’t seen any real defense since he left. And where can I find a Hunter jersey?
Langlois: The second one’s easy, Kristin – Lindsey Hunter jerseys are freshly arrived and go on sale during Opening Week, a bargain at $43. As for the first: Larry Brown will coach the Pistons right after Elvis comes back and eats 7-Eleven out of coney dogs. But if you were disappointed in last season’s defense, blame it on the NBA rulesmakers. It’s a different game than it was three and four years ago. LB wouldn’t have any much luck than Flip Saunders at returning the Pistons to the team that nobody could dent for 70 points.
Phil (Ishpeming): With the departure of Ben Wallace, are there any regrets over trading Darko?
Langlois: Regrets? They’ve had a few. (Oops. Sorry. Lapsed into Sinatra, Phil, because I know you’re such a fan.) Joe Dumars doesn’t deal in regret. He made his decision on Darko – right or wrong, he determined that it wasn’t going to happen for him here. For all the talk about patience, Darko ran out of it. He showed at the World Championships this summer that he has a future in the NBA, but the consensus is that his total package is never going to quite match what he tantalizes you with in individual workouts.
John (Saline): Any chance the Pistons will go after Jalen Rose now that the Knicks have cut him?
Langlois: I wouldn’t think so, John. I’m sure the Pistons would be a team on Rose’s short list, but there’s really no place for him on this roster. Joe Dumars and Flip Saunders are committed to giving Carlos Delfino an honest shot at proving himself this season, and adding Rose would essentially put him in the same position as a year ago, when he fought Mo Evans for the last spot in the rotation. Maybe in a few months, if Rose is biding his time and looking for the perfect situation, and Delfino continues to struggle with his jump shot, it would be a consideration.
Glynnis (Plymouth): How much zone do you think the Pistons will play this season?
Langlois: Flip Saunders won’t be pinned down on it, but I did ask him last week if he envisions going into every game with the intent to play at least some zone defense. His answer: Yup. On the day he was hired, I asked him about the zone – and he was very enthusiastic about employing it with this team — because I’ve long felt the Pistons had the perfect personnel for zone with Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton all possessing the wing span and lateral quickness to excel. It also seems to fit Nazr Mohammed’s strengths better than it did Ben Wallace’s. It’ll be interesting. They spent a considerable amount of time working on the zone in today’s practice, if that’s any help.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Lucious: Have the coaches determined the problem with Carlos Delfino’s shooting? Is it mechanics, the need for more practice, or what?
Langlois: Yes, yes and yes. Often after practice, when other players are shooting free throws, Delfino is running around orange traffic cones, simulating a screener, to get to a likely shooting spot on the wing or along the baseline, and taking an endless series of passes from assistant coaches, working on his form. Becoming a great shooter is like becoming a great pitcher or golfer or punter – it’s the ability to repeat the same motion again and again and again. Delfino’s form still needs refining, but there’s no reason he can’t become a very proficient jump shooter. And he needs to. Becoming a perimeter threat is an essential element in allowing Delfino’s multitude of skills to emerge.
Nadine (Clinton Township): So what ever happened to Tony Delk and Alex Acker off last year’s team. Also, what’s happening with last year’s second-round pick, Cheik Samb?
Langlois: We answered the Samb question last week – the Pistons knew he wasn’t NBA ready and are happy to let him season in Spain. He’s an athletic 7-footer with natural shot-blocking skills and a soft touch, but he needs to fill out. As for Delk and Acker, you’d better buy a satellite dish if you hope to see them. They both signed in Greece, Acker with Olympiakos, Delk with Panathinaikos. The Pistons retain NBA rights to Acker.
Craig (Troy): Do you think the Bucks will make the playoffs? I liked the T.J. Ford trade. He could not shut down any of the Pistons during last year’s playoffs.
Langlois: I liked the Ford trade, too, Craig. He doesn’t appear to be the same jet-quick player he was before his back injury, which is the trait that made him special, and Mo Williams is an adequate replacement. Charlie Villanueva has his flaws, but as a big man who’s a natural scorer, he’s a much-coveted commodity. As for the playoffs, the Bucks are one of a handful of teams – Philly, Boston and Orlando among them – that figure to be on the heels of that other handful of teams that come in a notch or two ahead of them. It will all swing on health and chemistry.
Marvin (Richmond, Va.): With the possibility of the Pistons getting Orlando’s No. 1 pick, do you know if they’ll go big, go for a point guard or a wing player?
Langlois: Way too early to even guess at that, Marvin. With the preseason emergence of Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson, though, the Pistons appear to have enviable frontcourt depth. Next spring’s draft is shaping up as one of the best in a long time, so it’s possible, if not likely, that the Pistons will be in position with Orlando’s pick to get someone who could offer immediate help. I would expect Joe Dumars to do what he always does – take the best player there, regardless of position. The draft is too full of mistakes to worry about how a player fits your puzzle. Find good players and make the puzzle fit.
Harries: What did the Pistons do that will get them past Shaq and his 330 pounds in the playoffs? My recommendation would be to sign the Big Show from the WWF to a one-year contract. Let’s see Shaq move 550 pounds.
Langlois: Shaq’s a formidable challenge, Harries, but the more critical question to ponder is this: Can the Big Show guard Dwyane Wade?
Monday, October 23, 2006
Keila: Don’t you think it would be in the Pistons’ best interest to trade Chauncey Billups, seeing that he'll most likely go for the money?
Langlois: If Joe Dumars thought so, Keila, he’d have explored trade options during the summer. But he didn’t. Dumars and Billups have agreed that they won’t discuss Billups’ pending free agency – the All-Star guard can and almost certainly will opt out of the last year of his deal in July – but I wouldn’t expect this to go the way Ben Wallace’s free agency went. There won’t be many teams with the money to make it worthwhile for Billups to leave and the Pistons want him back. I’d expect them to settle on a reasonable contract – somewhere in the neighborhood of four years and $55 to $60 million.
Thomas: Do you think Carlos Delfino has a chance to really be part of this team’s future? Do you think he'll continue to struggle with his jump shot?
Langlois: If the answer to your second question turns out to be “yes,” then the answer to your first question is “not a very big part.” Delfino’s strengths are his ability to create his own shot, his surprising explosiveness, his open-court ability and his knack for getting his hands on loose balls. But in order to be anything more than a spot player, Thomas, he needs to knock down open jump shots with a lot more consistency. He’s 4 of 22 in his last three games. There could be a lot of reasons for that – fatigue from training camp atop a summer spent playing for his national team, for instance, and it’s too early to get overly concerned. But sooner or later, his shot needs to straighten out or he’ll risk losing the minutes the Pistons would like to see him claim.
Howie (Duluth, Minn.): Does recently waived Rick Rickert have a shot to play in the NBA?
Langlois: The short answer, Howie, is yes. You probably watched Rickert play high school basketball in Duluth, so you know he’s got some advanced offensive skills for a big man. He’ll always struggle a little athletically, so he’ll never be a defensive asset. But if he falls into the right situation – playing in a system with a post-up power forward so he can step away from the basket – he can help somebody. The Pistons just had too many big men ahead of him with Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Dale Davis, Nazr Mohammed, Jason Maxiell and young Amir Johnson.
Ralph (Sault Ste. Marie): The Pistons didn’t play very well against Denver. Are they going to struggle against teams playing that up-tempo style?
Langlois: I’d be more inclined to chalk Sunday’s lethargic performance up to restlessness, Ralph. The Pistons are very much eager for the regular season to get here. It was a lousy day outside, the crowd was flat and it just didn’t feel like a game-day atmosphere in a building where the Pistons are accustomed to noise and energy. They know they laid an egg – Chauncey Billups called it “ugly” afterward. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t play with far more intensity in their final two preseason games Tuesday and Wednesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Jason (Clawson): What is the deal with Cheik Samb? Is he going to make the team?
Langlois: Not this year, Jason. The Pistons were happy to leave Samb, a native of Senegal, playing in Spain this season. They swapped Mo Evans to the Lakers on draft night to take Samb with the 51st pick in the draft. He’s 22 and very athletic, but he needs to develop his body – at 7-foot-1, Samb is somewhere around 220 pounds. But the Pistons thought he has a chance to stick someday because he’s a terrific athlete for his size with outstanding shot-blocking potential and a soft shooting touch.
Mike (Alma): Why is Nazr Mohammed the Pistons’ center when Rasheed Wallace is actually taller?
Langlois: Interesting question, Mike. Position designations often mean very little anymore. Depending on the system, power forward and center are interchangeable, as sometimes small forward and shooting guard can be. Terms like “point guard” didn’t even enter the lexicon until the late ’70s. The biggest difference between positions is actually on the defensive end. One of Wallace’s great strengths is his defensive versatility. His lateral quickness and long reach make him a very good pick-and-roll defender. Mohammed is very good around the rim, but he probably wouldn’t be quite as active away from the basket as Wallace, although Mohammed has above-average mobility for his size.
Gregg (Negaunee): Will Blalock has looked good the last two games. What’s his future?
Langlois: Nobody was sure he had one, Gregg, until this week. But he oozes point guard traits. When you’re the last pick in the draft, as Blalock was, you fight for your NBA survival. That said, true point guards are a rare commodity. Blalock demonstrated against Utah and Minnesota that his ballhandling, quickness and strength will allow him to penetrate NBA defenses, and he also flashed the vision to find teammates for open looks once he forces the defense to adjust to his penetration. His mid-range jumper is better than it looked in training camp, too. Blalock is buried behind Chauncey Billups, Flip Murray and Lindsey Hunter at the point, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t hang around the NBA as a valuable backup in a solid career.
Jill (Caledonia): Do you think Jason Maxiell will still be used as much when the regular season starts?
Langlois: As much? He probably won’t get the 22 minutes a game he’s getting now, Jill, but Flip Saunders isn’t going to ignore a guy who’s given the Pistons the kind of production Maxiell has through five preseason games. Part of what makes Maxiell such an intriguing player for the Pistons is that they don’t have another player who both relishes posting up and is effective doing so. If they can get 15 to 20 good minutes a night out of Maxiell – whose uncanny ability to draw fouls should put pressure on the opposition’s interior defenders – it frees up Rasheed Wallace to stray to the perimeter and draw defenders with him.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Rashard (Southfield): Does the rookie point guard, Will Blalock, have a chance to make the roster? He hasn’t been getting many minutes in preseason.
Langlois: He’ll almost certainly be on the roster, Rashard, as the 14th and last player the Pistons keep. You’re allowed 15, but Joe Dumars likes to keep one roster spot open to give him the flexibility to make trades that require taking two players back for one – or three for two – to make the deal work under the salary cap. Or just to sign a good veteran free agent who suddenly becomes available. Expect the Pistons to treat Blalock as they did Amir Johnson a year ago. He’ll spend a good half-season in Detroit, absorbing NBA culture and learning the level of commitment it takes to succeed at this level. Then they’ll send him down to the NBA’s Developmental League to apply his lessons.
Phil (Munising): Have Chicago and Cleveland closed the gap on the Pistons in the Central Division?
Langlois: Expect both teams to be better, Phil. The Bulls made a very bold move in spending $60 million over four years on Ben Wallace, and it remains to be seen if it will pay off in the long run. But, short term, there’s no question Chicago is better for his addition. Big Ben isn’t the only newcomer they’re excited about, either. Rookies Thabo Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas add athleticism and power forward P.J. Brown is a solid old pro who’ll be a nice sidekick for Wallace. Cleveland didn’t do much in the offseason aside from adding David Wesley to replace Flip Murray. Michigan State rookie Shannon Brown has looked pretty good, but what the Cavs really need is a terrific shooter to complement LeBron James’ playmaking ability who’s also a good enough player to stay on the floor in all situations. Michael Redd, pursued in free agency in the summer of 2005, would have been an ideal fit.
Rod (Detroit): How many wins do you think the Pistons will have when the regular season ends?
Langlois: Last year’s 64 is most likely out of reach. If I had to guess, Rod, somewhere around 55 to 60 is realistic. I think the Pistons emerged from last season understanding from top to bottom that the most important thing is to be healthy and fresh – physically and emotionally – when the playoffs arrive. The strong play of the bench this preseason – Flip Murray, Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell, in particular – has given Flip Saunders early confidence that he can sit his starters much more this season. It’s OK for outsiders to guess at a win total, but it would be silly for the Pistons to sit around pondering it. Take each game as it comes and win when the opportunity presents itself without losing sight of the big picture – playing their best basketball in April, May and June.
Janine (Troy): I’ve heard Flip Saunders say Tayshaun Prince will be an All-Star this season. Do you think so?
Langlois: He’s got a real shot this year, Janine, but it’s unusual for any team to have four All-Stars selected. The Pistons were so honored last year because at the break they were the runaway choice as the NBA’s best team. It’s more realistic to think they’ll have two or three players selected this year. It will all come down to how Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Prince stack up against other players at their position in the Eastern Conference. I’d say Billups is the safest bet to be in Las Vegas.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Paul (Mount Pleasant): How have the players adjusted to the zone defense?
Langlois: NBA players who consider themselves above-average defenders – and the Pistons are loaded with such players – at least profess to loathe playing the zone, Paul. It’s a curious thing that only partly reflects their true feelings. Some of it is straight from high school – macho, peer pressure stuff. But nobody on this year’s team is militant anti-zone, the way Ben Wallace was. And – here’s the thing: These Pistons are perfectly staffed to be an excellent zone team. They have a bunch of players who are not only tall for their positions, but also have long wingspans and superb lateral footwork. Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace all fit that profile. They’ll play more zone this year, for certain. Expect them to warm up to playing it as it proves beneficial to winning.
Marie (Howell): How has the team adjusted to changes on the roster and the coaching staff?
Langlois: By all indications, Marie, everyone has embraced the changes enthusiastically. That’s no surprise, either. The changes weren’t drastic – they didn’t affect the core, except for Ben Wallace’s voluntary departure to Chicago as a free agent, a move his teammates understood and one for which they don’t hold the organization at fault. Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton both respect Flip Murray and appreciate what he brings to their backcourt, and Rasheed Wallace has spoken highly of Nazr Mohammed up front. As for the staff changes, Terry Porter and Dave Cowens both have superb playing credentials and both were head coaches in the league. That goes a long way to getting them off on solid footing. Plus, they appear to be excellent teachers. It’s a top-notch staff.
Lindsay (Southfield): What is the biggest area of improvement you’ve seen since training camp opened?
Langlois: Hard to say from a team standpoint, Lindsay, until you can measure the Pistons against other teams. If there’s one area, it would be the ability this team is going to have to not just score in the post (Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Tayshaun Prince, Nazr Mohammed) or from the perimeter (Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Prince, Wallace), but also by breaking down defenses through penetration with the addition of Flip Murray and the expanded role promised to Carlos Delfino.
Mark (Traverse City): Who is primed for a breakout season?
Langlois: If I had to pick just one, Mark, it would be Carlos Delfino. His rookie progress was retarded by two separate knee injuries. Last year he got caught sharing time with Mo Evans, a player the Pistons moved primarily to give Delfino a clear opportunity. Then he went out and had a big summer playing for the Argentine national team and has picked it up from there in training camp, where he at times has been the best player on the floor. After a few spotty shooting days, even his perimeter jumper – the last area of his game that needs polishing – has been falling with regularity. I’d also say that Ronald Dupree looks like a much better player than the first time around as a Piston and that Jason Maxiell could contribute if asked. But both players are going to find minutes hard to come by.
Al (Wolverine Lake): The Pistons put so much emphasis on the regular season last year to make sure they got home-court advantage in the playoffs, then didn’t play very well during the postseason. Is there a different mind-set this year?
Langlois: They’re downplaying it, Al, but the short answer is: yes. The Pistons made a big deal about the best record last year not because they didn’t think they could win a playoff series without the home-court advantage – remember, when they won the NBA title they didn’t have home court against either Indiana or the Lakers – but because they wanted to keep themselves focused and knew the regular season wouldn’t hold their full attention unless they tricked their minds into elevating its importance. Then it became something that fed upon itself as the wins mounted. This year, Flip Saunders is committed to developing his bench – maybe even at the expense of a few extra wins in November or February – so that he has not only more players in which he has confidence come the playoffs, but a fresher group of starters.