November 2006 - Archive | Mailbag Homepage
Monday, November 27, 2006
Michael (Memphis): I have heard rumors that Allen Iverson got offered to the Pistons. Is this true?
Martha: I have been reading a lot of Pistons talk about a possible trade to get Allen Iverson. Is there any truth to that rumor?
Dave: Look at what Miami did two years ago to bring in Shaq, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams. Why wouldn’t Joe D make a move and go get Allen Iverson?
Langlois: Philly tried hard to move Allen Iverson over the offseason. They thought they had a deal done with Boston, and when that fell through they thought maybe the Pistons would be looking to make a splash after coming up short of a title despite winning 64 games during the season. I’m sure Sixers management takes note of every struggling team to see if they have interest in making a bold move for one of the NBA’s most compelling figures – and a guy who generates ticket sales like few others can. But given his salary and his age – and the fact that the only way Allen Iverson helps is by getting 20-plus shots a night – it’s tough to see how the Pistons swing a trade that doesn’t gut the roster and reduce them to a team that basically would look like the one Iverson plays for now. Joe Dumars has always made moves based on winning NBA titles, now and in the future, and there’s very little case to be made that obtaining Iverson advances those objectives.
Nikkie (Charlotte, N.C.): What happened with the technical foul about five games ago where the referee first called it against the bench but it was later assigned to Rasheed Wallace?
Langlois: The Pistons successfully lobbied the league to have the technical rescinded, Nikkie. Referee Leon Wood, when asked by Flip Saunders who it was on as he flashed the technical sign, said “all of ’em.” Officially, it was hung on Wallace. But by the next morning, it had been rescinded. That means Wallace’s technical total for the season is four – all accumulated in the first three games of the season. He’s been T-free for 11 games now.
Mikihiro (Tokyo, Japan): Do the players have any time to visit pistons.com?
Langlois: They all say they do, Mikihiro, but then I haven’t met anyone yet who says they don’t love watching public television, either. We’ve put a lot of time and resources into making pistons.com not only the source of choice for Pistons news, but a reader-friendly Web site that’s easily navigable.
Barbara: Do you think Ben Wallace thought the grass looked greener on the Chicago side until he got over there and found out there ain’t no grass?
Langlois: Both the Bulls and Ben Wallace appear to regret their marriage, a union that cost far more than Tom and Katie’s. But they’re absolutely stuck with each other now. A Ben Wallace that plays 20 minutes without scoring a point, grabbing a rebound or blocking a shot – as he did in Chicago’s Friday night loss to Philadelphia – wouldn’t be attractive to other teams if he were making $5 million a year, never mind $15 million. So they can’t trade him and they can’t afford not to play him. I suppose they could fire Scott Skiles and hope a new coach lets him wear a headband and the headband will make the old Ben Wallace appear … but that’s a lot of faith to rest in a $5 strip of fabric, don’t you think?
Earlene (Bahamas): The Pistons are my team even though everyone here is crazy for the Heat. I need to give Rasheed his props for adjusting to the technical foul rule. Nazr is going to be fine when he adjusts. Please let Tayshaun, Chauncey, Rip, Sheed, Nazr, Lindsey, Antonio and all the rest know that I am their No. 1 fan and promotions agent here in the Bahamas. And when will Jason Maxiell get some playing time?
Langlois: Another Mailbag first – the Bahamas! Jason Maxiell started training camp on the outside looking in, then forced his way into the rotation with a dynamic preseason. But when the Pistons stumbled to a 3-5 record – through no fault of Maxiell’s – Flip Saunders went groping for answers and struck upon something that seems to work. Dale Davis has moved ahead of Maxiell for now. But the Pistons haven’t forgotten Maxiell’s preseason. He’s considered a valuable future asset now.
Phil (Negaunee): I see Fred McLeod is now doing Cleveland Cavaliers games. Does he know something we don’t?
Langlois: He knows the difference between a full-time job and a part-time one, Phil. The Cavs could offer Fred the chance to do all of their TV games. But the Pistons have George Blaha as their Ernie Harwell. When Fred left, the Pistons decided to have George do all of their TV games, including the ones on Fox Sports Detroit that Fred would do when George would do radio.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Lester: I am a big Pistons fan and I am wondering how to become a ball boy.
Langlois: You can enter to win the Tim Horton’s Ball Kids Package, Lester, by signing up on-line at pistons.com. Go to the “Interactive” link and then find the “On-line Contests” page and you’ll be all set. Good luck!
Sercey (Bedford, Ind.): I watched the Bulls get beat by the Lakers the other night and Ben Wallace looked very unhappy. You could see it all over his face when Smush Parker dunked on him that he made a big mistake leaving the Pistons for an extra $10 million.
Langlois: Sercey, Ben Wallace is going to look unhappy after he gets dunked on no matter how many zeroes are attacked to his paycheck. He’s an enormously proud man who takes enormous pride in the things that have delivered four NBA Defensive Player of the Year statues to his mantle.
Angela: I am an avid Pistons fan and I love Nazr. But I think we could use a little more aggression out of the center position so I vote we take C-Webb off of Philly’s hands. I also think Jason Maxiell should be our sixth man – he’s a beast. I know Joe D knows what he’s doing. I think people counted us out way too soon.
Langlois: You’re right to put your trust in Joe Dumars, Angela, which means there is zero chance of Chris Webber coming to the Pistons. He’s making $20.7 million this year and is due $22.3 million next season – and his surgically repaired knee has limited his movement so badly that he’s become a part-time player for the 76ers. As for Maxiell, he’s being squeezed out of the rotation now, but I still think he makes an impact this season – somehow, some way.
Peter: All of the articles on pistons.com are stupid. The current poll question is what is your favorite Pistons color. Why don’t the writers start writing about something fans care about, like what the Pistons are going to do without Ben Wallace and how are they even going to make the playoffs this season.
Langlois: Peter, Peter, Peter. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to use the word “stupid.” You get a timeout, Peter. OK. Feeling better? Now I’ll answer your question. Hey, I’ll concede that choosing between red, white and blue isn’t like choosing a college or a spouse or a tax-sheltered annuity, but I don’t believe I’ve gone a day since training camp opened without typing the words “Ben” and “Wallace” consecutively. “What’s wrong with the Pistons?” has been addressed practically hourly. You paint with a very broad brush, Peter – in red, white and blue!
Tom: I’m playing armchair quarterback. Give Dupree a shot for the energy he brings. I like Delfino – he plays good defense and rebounds well – but it doesn’t look like he wants the ball. Tell Chauncey to get him involved. They need to get Nazr going early in games. Murray forces too much; he needs to ease up. Tell McDyess no more weights; it’s affected his shooting. One more thing: I know they’ll adjust to losing Ben and the rules changes, but they have to keep their focus now and win ’em one game at a time before they get to the playoffs.
Langlois: What? No advice for Rasheed?
Rowena (Cebu, Philippines): I just miss the times when Ben Wallace was still part of the Pistons. I'm super disappointed. But my loyalty remains with the Pistons. Is there a chance for the Pistons to visit Cebu?
Langlois: Think of it this way, Rowena. If Ben Wallace were still playing with the Pistons, then somebody – Chauncey Billups, perhaps – would not be playing with them next year. They couldn’t afford to keep that team intact and still give themselves a chance to win future titles.
Jeff (Perrysburg, Ohio): In response to your “Catch 22” blog, how healthy is Antonio? He seems to be laboring when he’s running downcourt.
Langlois: If he’s hurt, he hasn’t said a word to anyone. He turned his ankle slightly last week. Maybe that’s what you noticed. He definitely came to camp bulkier in the upper body from working on the weights over the summer. He didn’t do as much aerobic conditioning because he tries to keep the stress off his surgically repaired knee in the offseason. He’s playing better lately.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Note to Jacob of Rockford who last week asked if he could get a Will Blalock jersey for his Iowa State alumnus father. Custom jerseys with any name and number will soon be available at The Palace Locker Room store at (248) 377-8750. A more expensive option would be to order a custom jersey through the NBA’s on-line store (store.nba.com). Delivery takes four to six weeks. We here at Mailbag Central thank Palace employee Laura Satkiewicz for the information.
Mikihiro (Tokyo): How come the Pistons started out lazy for a couple of days? I know they can do better than that! Do you think it was big damage for the Pistons to give out Ben Wallace?
Langlois: You’ve come the farthest, Mikihiro, so you go first. Lazy might be a little strong. I’ll try “lethargic” and hope it doesn’t get lost in translation. Sure, it hurt the Pistons to lose Ben Wallace, but in a league governed by a salary cap, every transaction must be viewed in the bigger picture. And there’s no question that if the Pistons had given Big Ben the contract he got from Chicago, it would have wreaked dire consequences on their future rosters. It remains to be seen if the moves they made in the short term to address his departure will allow them to compete for titles in the short term, but retaining Wallace would have negatively affected their odds long term.
Alex: How many minutes do you think the starters should be playing a game so that when the playoffs get here they are not worn down. I think they shouldn’t have to play more than 32.
Langlois: Chauncey Billups threw out 34 as close to ideal. Flip Saunders is wrestling with minutes. As much as he’d love to give out more minutes to his bench as he carries out the organizational goal of developing the young players sitting there, he also has come to believe that his starters – who have struggled to get in a groove in the early going – need minutes to find their rhythm.
Syed (Canton): What’s going on with the Pistons? I know we lost Ben, but life goes on. Can you shed some light on the issue of why the Pistons are losing?
Langlois: As a college coach once told me, those other guys give out scholarships, too. It’s a highly competitive league, Syed, engineered to be so by the salary cap. If money were no obstacle, the Pistons would have happily overspent on Ben Wallace. But if signing Wallace last summer when wear on his tread was clearly evident meant losing Chauncey Billups next summer, would you have done it?
Dan (Davison): As a longtime Pistons fan, I’m not sure about Flip Saunders. He’s stated over and over that the starters are playing “with no energy.” I think he should replace “energy” with “defense.” Am I missing the big picture?
Langlois: I don’t think you’re missing the big picture at all, Dan. I just don’t think the big picture has emerged yet. The Pistons have played 10 games. It might take another month or so before we have a handle on how this shakes out. Beating two solid playoff teams, Washington and Houston, on consecutive nights could be the outline of that big picture forming.
Heather (Mount Pleasant): I love the Pistons, especially Carlos Delfino. I notice he hasn’t been getting much playing time lately. Does Flip Saunders expect to play him more and is Delfino working on his game?
Langlois: The Pistons have never had to worry about Delfino’s work ethic. He loves to play. He hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start he or the team wanted. He needs a breakout game. It would help if he’d get a few baskets in transition or start taking it to the basket more. Right now he’s been reduced to a 3-point shooter, and he’s not a great perimeter shooter.
Amanda (Ohio): I have been watching Jason Maxiell since his first day at Cincinnati. I think he could put the Pistons back on top. Why don’t they give him more playing time?
Langlois: As encouraged as the Pistons were by Maxiell’s preseason, he’s still the No. 4 big man behind Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Nazr Mohammed. And consistent minutes are usually available only to the top three big guys. Maxiell’s going to have to be productive in the spot minutes available to him now – 10 or 12 a game, probably – in order to work his way into a bigger role.
Thomas (Detroit): What’s with all this talk about Chauncey Billups leaving the Pistons at the end of the year?
Langlois: It’s possible, but don’t lose any sleep over it, Thomas. Billups can and most likely will opt out of his contract at the end of the season. He and Joe Dumars have agreed to not discuss the matter publicly until then. There is speculation that Milwaukee, which will have a large amount of money available under the salary cap, will target Billups. Keep this in mind: Much of how this plays out will be determined by how the Pistons’ season plays out. If Joe D’s postseason assessment is that the core group here has exhausted its championship potential, he might not believe it wise to reinvest huge money in a point guard who’ll be 31 when next season starts.
Megan: If I was at a Pistons game and asked a player if I could get my picture taken with him, could I?
Langlois: There are five Fifth Third Bank Photo Nights scheduled, Megan – all of them on Tuesdays: Dec. 5 (Portland), Dec. 26 (New Jersey), Feb. 6 (Boston), March 20 (Philadelphia) and April 17 (Toronto). Four players will be available at each game for photo purposes.
Dawn (Huntington, Indiana): Can anyone in the Pistons’ organization now admit that one man can and did make a difference?
Langlois: You’ve got us, Dawn. We must now admit that “ER” was never the same after George Clooney left. Oh, wait. You mean Ben Wallace? Look, the guy was at the heart of what the Pistons accomplished over the last six seasons, but the Pistons have no regrets about their approach to re-signing him. They went as high as they could reasonably go without being recklessly irresponsible with their future. We’ve urged caution assessing the Pistons based on a few weeks’ worth of games, and we’ll do the same with what’s going on in Chicago. But the Bulls are 3-7 and Ben Wallace’s numbers are about what they were when he was playing 24 minutes a game with Orlando before he became a Piston. The guy’s averaging 5.5 points and 9.7 rebounds. He’s on pace to block 131 shots – he blocked 130 in Orlando as a part-timer.
Tyrone: Does the new ball affect how players shoot and dribble?
Langlois: Depends on who you ask, Tyrone. Most players say they preferred the old ball, but a few are on record as liking this one better. The area I’ve noticed a difference is how shots react after hitting the rim. Shooters seem to be getting much kinder bounces this year.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Allison (Phoenix): How many backup masks does the trainer keep for Rip? How many does he travel with on the road? Do they ever need to be replaced or refitted?
Langlois: Rip’s mask seems to be a source of endless fascination. We here at Mailbag Central did not anticipate this level of fervor for schnozz protection. But we promise: One of these days, we’ll do the most thorough mask story ever written.
Jacob (Rockford): Will you be selling Will Blalock jerseys? My dad is an Iowa State grad and I want to get him one for Christmas.
Langlois: Sorry, Jacob. There are no immediate plans to stock Will Blalock jerseys. Maybe next Christmas. Dad’s going to have to stick with his mustard-stained Fred Hoiberg jersey until then.
Andy (Dayton, Ohio): I waited 36 hours outside a Best Buy in the rain and cold for a new Playstation 3 that I am willing to sell. I wanted to give the Pistons first dibs before I put it on e-bay because I am a big fan, even though I am an Ohio native. Please get in contact with me by e-mail if anyone is interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Langlois: Pistons and Pistons fans will get first dibs, Andy. One question: Does Playstation 3 know which way we should bet the Michigan-Ohio State game?
Elizabeth: I have noticed that Tony Delk’s name is not on the Pistons’ roster. What happened to him?
Langlois: Tony Delk was not offered a contract by the Pistons when he became a free agent in July and signed with Panathinaikos in Greece. Delk is currently averaging 12.2 points in about 22 minutes a game for the team, which is 4-0 and in first place in the Euroleague Group B.
Tom: A few things. How is Acker doing in Europe? Second, it’s been a more difficult start than I expected. If the Pistons don’t turn it around, who would you anticipate being traded?
Langlois: Acker’s playing in Greece and doing very well. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.5 steals a game for Olympiacos, which is off to a 4-0 start in the Euroleague Group A. The Pistons retain his rights. It’s way too early to speculate about trade possibilities. Joe Dumars assembled a team he thinks still has a chance to compete for the title. It’s not very likely he’s written off that chance because of a wobbly first two weeks.
Sherry: What do you think explains the lack of energy?
Langlois: A combination of things, Sherry. Uncertainty, for one. Not knowing exactly what to expect from everyone else. Ben Wallace was the backbone of the defense. He was excellent at roaming away from the rim to be the second man in a trap, but also exceptionally good at recovering to get back in the lane and protect the basket. Take that away and everyone else has a huge adjustment period. And when you’re adjusting, and uncertain, you’re not going to appear very confident or decisive. That’s where the Pistons are at.
Alexander: Why is Flip still playing the starters so much? Don’t you think he should play Maxiell and Amir Johnson more?
Langlois: Everybody always wants the backup quarterback, right, Alex? Saunders sees these guys for a couple of hours every day, head to head. If Maxiell and Johnson looked like his two best big men, or if he saw enough to think more minutes from them would help, he’d play them. Or maybe you think Larry Brown’s example of getting paid millions to not coach has caught on with other coaches and they’re coaching to get fired. Look, the Pistons were greatly encouraged by the play of both in preseason and they fully believe they have bright NBA futures. They’re just not ready to move them ahead of Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess or Nazr Mohammed just yet.
John (Petoskey): That suffocating zone we laid on Kobe & Co., was a work of art as beautiful as any Thomas Kinkaide painting. What will it take to make that kind of defense a habit?
Langlois: Oh, John, Mailbagger of Light. You wouldn’t happen to run one of those toney little Petoskey galleries, would you? Trying to push a little excess Kinkaide inventory? I suspect the reason Saunders went to the zone so early and used it so liberally against the Lakers is he had little reason to fear Phil Jackson’s team had the means to exploit it – plus it must have been fun to mess with the Zen Master’s mystical triangle offense. The Lakers have very few offensive weapons – and very suspect perimeter shooting apart from Kobe Bryant, who snoozed through three quarters – so the zone was a no-lose gamble that night. I think as soon as the Pistons snap out of their malaise and start playing man-to-man more assertively, Saunders will feel more comfortable switching out of it to employ the zone more frequently.
James: Isn’t it sad to see the Pistons in a state of decline? There is no presence in the middle. There’s no swagger.
Langlois: Easy, James. They’re 3-5 with half their games on a rough West Coast trip. You’d worry about them if they were swaggering right about now. They know they’re not playing very well. That’s the first step. Give it another few weeks, at least.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Dick (West Bloomfield): The league needs to give players some latitude in questioning calls. How about this? Give them five seconds, two seconds – whatever, just something, then a warning and then a technical if another word. Allowing no interaction is akin to the parent that answers a dispute with "because I said so.” Just makes a bad situation worse.
Langlois: You’re absolutely right, Dick. The NBA says it will allow “heat of the moment” reactions, but that’s exactly what earned Rasheed Wallace, Nazr Mohammed and Chauncey Billups technical fouls on their West Coast swing. David Stern is right to want to curtail over-the-top reactions and all the lobbying after every call, but what we’ve seen so far is way too heavy-handed.
Nicole (Detroit): It’s time for Flip to put McDyess or Maxiell in the starting lineup for Mohammed.
Langlois: Mohammed has been everything the Pistons hoped he’d be, Nicole. He’s got a decent 12-foot jumper, a back-to-the-basket game, he hits the offensive glass and he’s a solid defender. A lot to like there. But as I wrote in my blog last Thursday, starting Maxiell is one option worth considering just to see if his relentless energy would help the Pistons break out of their habit of sluggish starts.
Marvin (Richmond, Va.): With Dice shooting 27 percent and Nazr shooting 58 percent, why is Nazr not in there in the fourth quarter finishing games.
Langlois: Hmmm. Perhaps I should put you in touch with Nicole, Marvin. Look, don’t make too much of shooting percentages after five games. It’s like batting averages in April. A three-hit game and you go from south of the Mendoza Line to the chase for the batting title. You always want to have your best players on the floor at the end of games, and Antonio McDyess at the top of his game is a very good player.
Garth (North Wilkesboro, N.C.): I’m an eighth-grader who had to have surgery on my nose recently. I made my middle school basketball team but I’m having difficulty with my nose guard. I’ve looked everywhere on line for something similar to what Richard Hamilton wears to protect his nose. Where can I get one?
Langlois: Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour told me to talk to the physician who performed your surgery, Garth. The Pistons have Hamilton’s masks custom-made by someone in the Detroit area. They cost about $1,000 apiece. Hope that helps.
Alex (Flint): Why did Flip play Dale Davis against the Lakers but not Jason Maxiell or Amir Johnson?
Langlois: Didn’t get a chance to ask Flip specifically about not using Maxiell in the Lakers game, but my hunch is things were going so well with the zone defense they were using and Maxiell might not be an effective zone defender just yet.
Thomas: Why did Flip only use Carlos Delfino for about 11 minutes against the Lakers? How would you rate his performance so far?
Langlois: See above. As for Delfino so far, I’d give him a C. He’s been OK, certainly shooting the 3-ball better than in preseason. He needs to start putting it on the floor more often, though. That plays to his strengths.
Jim (Jackson): This is probably wishful thinking, but it seems like Ben Wallace isn’t getting the same amount of playing time in Chicago and sometimes isn’t on the floor at game’s end. If he’s unhappy, do you think the Pistons would entertain a trade to bring him back?
Langlois: Not unless the NBA adopts different rules regarding the salary cap. No way they could take on his $15 million annual average without gutting the roster. The Ben Wallace page has turned.
Tyrone: How come Flip Saunders won’t play Amir Johnson?
Langlois: The Pistons think Amir has a very bright future – watch for a story on him on pistons.com in the coming days – but right now there are too many players ahead of him who give them a better chance to win games.
Sherry: I know it’s still early, but what is going on? Like Flip says, you can’t coach effort and that is what we’re not getting night in and night out.
Langlois: The Here’s what’s going on, Sherry: It’s still early, the Pistons have had a tough early schedule, Rip Hamilton has missed two games and they’re still – and understandably – searching for their equilibrium in the wake of Ben Wallace’s departure. Look around the league. A lot of teams with great expectations (Miami, Phoenix, Dallas) are also struggling.
Shimane (Tokyo): I have been a big Pistons fan for a couple of years. I especially like Rasheed Wallace. I sent a fan letter but did not get a reply. I think Rasheed is No. 1.
Langlois: Here in America, we always blame it on the U.S. Postal Service.
Jeremy (West Bloomfield): I am a die-hard Lindsey Hunter fan and was wondering why he is getting so few minutes. Without Ben, the Pistons need Lindsey’s defense.
Langlois: Flip Saunders fully appreciates what Hunter brings in the areas of defense and changing tempo. He’s also mindful to not overburden a 35-year-old point guard. He’ll pick his spots for Hunter.
Kent: It sure seems like the Pistons could use 6-foot-11 Rick Rickert off the bench. The guy can rebound and shoot and it seemed like he had good chemistry with the team. I say Joe should bring him back.
Langlois: Rickert’s got a chance to stick with somebody someday, Kent, because he’s got a fairly polished offensive game, but he’s a little overwhelmed athletically at the NBA level.
Andrea (Battle Creek): What’s up the zero-tolerance policy? Aren’t players and coaches allowed to discuss calls with refs? How can you play a game to win almost every night in cities across the country – getting booed while working your tail off – and not get emotional when the wrong call is made?
Langlois: Philosophically, what David Stern is attempting makes sense. Realistically, to expect the culture of the game to change overnight on the issuing of an edict is naïve and potentially harmful to the product.
Cari (Michigan): Do the Pistons have a “nutrition guide” saying when and what they can eat?
Langlois: Nothing that formal, Cari. They’ll tailor a diet to anyone’s needs if a player asks for information. Today’s professional athletes generally take far greater care of their bodies and watch what they put into them than athletes of yesterday. There’s so much more money at stake today, they’d be foolish to not do so.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Kevin (Lathrup Village): What’s with all these reports of Billups heading to Milwaukee? It may sound bogus, but remember that people said the same thing about Chicago and Ben. Do you think winning a championship would change his mind?
Langlois: Who knows how both sides will think in eight months? Right now, I’d say the odds of Billups staying are 80-20. Milwaukee is the team that will have cap space and might make point guard its top priority, but the Bucks are a long way from making that determination, too. Billups has sunk some pretty deep roots here and is immensely popular, but we thought the same thing a year ago. Unlike the Wallace situation, however, there is no rift between Billups and Flip Saunders – quite the contrary.
Barbara: Do the Pistons have an official orthopedic surgeon?
Langlois: Dr. Robert Teitge’s been the man for years.
Mark: I knew the Pistons were going to miss Ben, but what do you think about Nazr? Out of Duncan’s shadow, I think he could have a big season.
Langlois: Nazr Mohammed has been everything the Pistons hoped he’d be so far. He’s giving them very good numbers for the minutes he’s playing (9.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks in 21 minutes) and, more important than the stats, he’s providing the threat of offense that should open things up for others.
James (Chicago): My brother is a season-ticket holder as are many of our friends. I would say die-hard fans are starting to see the window of opportunity closing and the loss of Ben Wallace did not help. I live in Chicago and you can feel the excitement and energy that the Wallace signing has brought. I encourage the Pistons organization to strive to bring back the energy and excitement. This is not just about winning, but winning championships.
Langlois: Winning begets excitement, James, not the other way around. If the Bulls don’t start winning more than they’re losing, the excitement of signing Ben Wallace will rapidly dissipate. How excited do you suppose Bulls fans were when Big Ben scored two points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked one shot in a 19-point loss to Cleveland on Thursday night? Conversely, if the Pistons show they’re still among the NBA’s elite teams without him, their fans will embrace them every bit as much as they did while he was here.
Paul (New York City): I’ve been a Pistons fan since the late ’90s even though I live in New York. Here’s what I want to know: How will the Pistons deal with Rasheed Wallace’s verbal abuse of officials under the new rules, and will Chauncey Billups take on more of a leadership role this season?
Langlois: You picked a tough time to jump on the bandwagon there, Paul. As for Rasheed, for now they’re pretty much leaving him to sort it out. For the record, they say they’re confident he’ll adjust. It’s a frustrating situation for all, as you might imagine, and the application has been wildly uneven. As for Billups, I doubt he’ll really take on a greater leadership role. The Pistons are a pretty self-sufficient team that doesn’t require a lot of internal policing. He is who he is, and that’s good enough.
Emily: Are all Pistons games this season only going to be aired on the local Detroit channels? I don’t get the channel and I really want to watch Pistons games.
Langlois: The Pistons have no control over which games the NBA’s national TV outlets – ESPN, TNT and ABC – air. But you’ll get plenty of chances to see them, Emily. The Pistons will be on ESPN 14 times, including tonight’s game against the Lakers, plus six times on TNT and five times on ABC.
Sherry: Where is the D – defense – in the D – Detroit? We have to clog the middle and quit letting teams have free rein in the paint. The East is no joke this year, but I still believe the Pistons are the team to beat.
Langlois: Every time the other team scores a layup this season, Sherry, somebody’s going to say, “Wouldn’t have happened if Ben were still around.” I seem to recall Miami scoring a few layups in winning the Eastern Conference finals, however. As often as not, when the Pistons surrender a layup the fault starts with the perimeter defense that allowed penetration. Ben cleaned up a lot of mistakes, and they’ll miss him in that area. Everyone concedes that much. The Pistons are betting that they’ll make up for his absence in other ways, and be better at certain other components of the game, and make better use of the money they would have spent on him to ensure a brighter future.
John (Petoskey): Why has an extra front-end page been added to the Web site? It’s an extra click and an annoyance.
Langlois: Sorry, John. Most people have had a favorable reaction to the eye-catching addition. You’ve got to admit, as annoyances go, that one extra click doesn’t rank up there with traffic jams and political ads, though. I’m a substance-over-style guy myself, but I timed it: Took me 0.75 seconds to click on. I can live with that.
Jerry (New York): The starting five matches up well against anyone, but the bench is weak. It was the bench that made the difference when they won the championship. Without more talent in the backup positions, they aren't going to the finals. Any hints that Joe is looking to trade for a superior small forward and a superior shooting guard? (Does he honestly think Delfino can shoot?) And when is the trade deadline?
Langlois: The trade deadline falls in February, which should give the Pistons plenty of time to decide if they’re comfortable with their bench. Delfino’s given them cause for encouragement so far in the regular season after shooting erratically in preseason – tired legs, he said. The bench looks like it’s significantly upgraded over last year, when Flip Saunders lost faith in Carlos Arroyo and Lindsey Hunter was hurt.
Phil (Negaunee): Joey Crawford, Ken Mauer, Steve Javie – who pays 75 bucks to watch these control freaks ruin an NBA game? Give it to ‘em, ’Sheed!
Langlois: My heart’s with you, Phil. Alas, the only thing ‘Sheed will be giving them is his paycheck if he keeps racking up technical fouls at the rate of one a game.
Josh (Novi): Why is Rip not considered the best player on the team by the media? I hear everybody talk about Chauncey. But Rip is the leading scorer and his shooting percentage is outstanding for a two-guard.
Langlois: If you ask four different media members who the Pistons’ MVP was, you might get four different answers. Chauncey Billups is quoted more because he agrees to talk to the media more than anyone on the team. He was considered the team leader, along with Ben Wallace, for his first four years in Detroit. He’s the point guard, a position that lends itself to leadership. But I don’t think anyone in the media undervalues Hamilton’s contributions to the whole.
Chaundra: First David Stern tells players how to dress and now how to act? Basketball is a game of emotions. Not to give him any ideas, but perhaps he should start building robots to play the game. What’s next – no bald heads, beards or cornrows?
Langlois: I think the “zero-tolerance” controversy – dubbed so by the players, denied by the league – will cool as the season plays out. I don’t know that it’s anything as formal as a league directive to crack the whip early and then back off, but as a practical matter I think most officials will let this thing find its own equilibrium. (And a few others are going to be delighted to flex their muscle three or four times a game.) The Pistons have to get past it. They can’t give in to the notion that the league has singled them out.
Lloyd (Detroit): When are the Pistons going to get rid of Rasheed Wallace? He puts his personal whining above the team. They need him, but he’s likely to get ejected at any time.
Langlois: Joe Dumars won’t keep anybody he feels puts personal agendas above team goals. Wallace has been accused of many things, but never that. That said, there’s no denying that he must modify his demeanor or risk the prospect of multiple ejections and eventually suspensions that will most definitely affect the Pistons’ record, their playoff seeding and ultimately their title chances. But you don’t get rid of him to eliminate that problem. You only trade players to improve your team. And given everything Wallace brings to the table, that wouldn’t be easy in the middle of a season.
Monday, November 6, 2006
Alex: Why in the opener against Milwaukee did Flip Saunders play his starters so much. Why did it take Rasheed Wallace to get ejected to use Jason Maxiell and why didn’t he use Amir Johnson?
Langlois: Milwaukee’s starters played about six more minutes combined than Detroit’s. Rip Hamilton played the most at 38:25, 10 seconds more than Milwaukee’s Michael Redd played. At that, I’m guessing Saunders would have played his bench more liberally if the Pistons hadn’t spent most of the game six to 10 points behind – close enough that a good two-minute stretch could have won the game for them. He wanted his best players on the floor to make that possible. On other nights, the bench will get more play. They got about 78 minutes that night and Saunders mentioned 90 to 100 during preseason as his target. It bears monitoring.
Brian: I’ve watched the Pistons for 20 years – I know done when I see done, and Rasheed Wallace is done. There is no real fire left in him. Joe Dumars should trade him now, quickly, before it becomes clear to everyone else. It’s not just one game, I saw it clearly midway through last year and throughout the playoffs.
Langlois: Darn it, Brian, you just let the secret out of the bag. Hey – we’re kidding. Rasheed Wallace is 32, no spring chicken but hardly old for a big man with no serious injury history and without a lot of weight to carry. As for “no real fire” left – now you’re kidding, right? Fire? This is a guy whose major challenge is how to channel his emotions, not how to generate them. You’re right that his play tailed off later in the season and in the playoffs, although I’ll maintain it was nagging injuries and not age or disinterest at the root of it. I’ll still wonder what might have happened in the playoffs if No. 36 hadn’t rolled his ankle in Game 3 at Cleveland. And he showed in the Friday-Saturday wins over Boston and Memphis how important he is – and how talented. The guy isn’t in great shape right now. He admits it. But trade him now? When the Pistons still believe they have a shot to win the title? That would be an enormous risk.
Ariel (Valencia Bukidnon, Philippines): I’m a die-hard Pistons fan from the Philippines. My question is do you think it’s clear to all parties – players, coaching staff and management – if their main focus this season is on being an offensive team or a defensive team? I think the change last season from defense to offense made the team suffer a bit. Do they bring back the old winning formula – defense?
Langlois: It’s far too simple to say they used to focus on defense and now they stress offense, Ariel. Before I go any further, though, I have many questions for you: Where does NBA basketball rank in the Filipino sports pecking order? Who are the most popular NBA teams there? Most popular players? Are you able to watch games on TV? OK, back to your question. The Pistons understand the need to play well at both ends of the floor. But the way the rules have shifted to take away some of the aspects of the game that once gave them an edge defensively means they were forced to seek ways to be more efficient at that end of the court. Joe Dumars correctly assumed it was going to be increasingly difficult to win games scoring 85 points.
Nards (Manila, Philippines): We want you to know there are a lot of Pistons fans here in Manila. (Apparently so, Nards. See above.) We were disappointed with Ben Wallace’s departure, but look forward to successful adjustments. Please tell Joe Dumars not to trade Chauncey Billups. We believe he and Rip Hamilton are the pillars of the team. As long as the four remaining All-Stars – yes, Tayshaun Prince included – continue to stay together, the Larry O’Brien Trophy should be just around the corner.
Langlois: Relax, Nards. Chauncey Billups is not going to be traded. He probably will become a free agent next July – he has the right to opt out of the one year left on his contract. Billups and Dumars have agreed that they will not publicly discuss the situation until the season ends, but chances are pretty good he’s staying put. That said, two teams in the Eastern Conference will have the money to make a run at him – Orlando and Milwaukee. There is speculation that Orlando will choose to pursue Vince Carter, since it seems happy with young Jameer Nelson at point guard. Milwaukee might be another matter. The Bucks traded T.J. Ford last summer and have handed his job to Maurice Williams. How well he plays this season will play a large role in determining how the Bucks prioritize their free-agent spending.
Friday, November 3, 2006
Marcos (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): Hi! I'm a Brazilian Pistons fan and my questions are: As the NBA has been recently "going international,” do you see any chances of the Pistons playing in Brazil in the near future? What do you think of Nene's big deal signed with the Nuggets this offseason?
Langlois: Maybe Argentina, if Carlos Delfino proves he’s here to stay. Is that close enough for you, Marcos? I think you go to Paraguay and turn left. Or maybe it’s Uruguay and turn right. I’m sure if you ask the players, they’d love to spend a week in Rio right around Carnaval. Seriously, given the game’s growth in South America, it’s a possibility whenever the economies catch up. For the same reasons the best South American players go to Europe or come to the NBA, the league has explored other markets first. But in the interests of furthering the game’s globalization, I’m sure David Stern is considering all possibilities, including sending a few teams south of the equator for training camp and a preseason game or two. As for Nene’s big deal, it proves one thing: Big men in the NBA are the equivalent of left-handed pitchers in baseball. If you’ve got a pulse, you’ll get a contract. Nene has terrific potential, and the Nuggets knew they couldn’t afford to let him realize it on somebody else’s watch.
Jennifer (Warren): Is the front office expecting as many sellouts at The Palace as last season considering the disappointing end in the playoffs?
Langlois: The front office – and everyone else in the organization – understands that, overwhelmingly, the biggest lure is a winning team. If this team gives its many fans reason to believe it can compete for a championship, everything else falls into place. That said, everyone is also keenly aware of the many other components involved in making an evening at The Palace of Auburn Hills so thoroughly enjoyable, convenient, safe and comfortable that people of all ages and backgrounds will want to experience it many times over.
Weston: Do you believe that there is any chance for Amir Johnson to receive a consistent dose of playing time during the regular season. I personally have seen a lot of improvement – he averaged 7.7 points a game in under 12 minutes in preseason play – and think he’s ready to get out of D-League and into the NBA.
Langlois: Consistent dose? Only if injuries strike. He has too many bodies ahead of him – Rasheed Wallace, Nazr Mohammed, Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell, for certain, and Dale Davis, probably. But Johnson is well ahead of where the Pistons imagined a 19-year-old who was the 60th pick in the draft just 16 months ago would be. He definitely has a bright NBA future, and the Pistons will go forward considering him a valuable asset for theirs.
Katlynn: Where can you get a Carlos Delfino Pistons jersey?
Sheronda: The roster looks really good. Is there a chance that the bench players will get in the rotation during the regular season? Also, will it be possible to purchase a "Will Blalock 8" jersey?
Langlois: Delfino jerseys are currently available in the team store at The Palace. They will be available on-line soon at The Palace Locker Room. We get a lot of these questions, so here’s the roundup: The jerseys of nine Pistons are available – the four returning starters plus Nazr Mohammed, Flip Murray, Carlos Delfino, Lindsey Hunter and Jason Maxiell.
Arnesia (Baltimore): I have been a Pistons fan for a very long time. I currently live in Baltimore, but I enjoy the Pistons as if I was a resident of the city. My question is now that Ben is gone will this change the motivation the team has?
Langlois: Well, Arnesia, before the clunker of a home opener, I suspected Ben’s departure would change the motivation – because the players were getting a little weary of hearing how his loss had doomed them. After giving up so many easy baskets to Milwaukee, they’re really going to hear it. Check back with me after the weekend games against Boston and Memphis – and ship some crabcakes our way!
Freda: Why is it that the Pistons have the most back to back game in the league?
Langlois: Conspiracy theory? Nah. Coincidence, more than anything. The league puts its schedule together based on a lot of variables – what the TV networks want, what the teams tell them they prefer for home games, arena availability and simple logistics among them. When all is said and done, everybody plays 82 games over the same span of weeks. All of the schedules are demanding, but at least the Pistons have many relatively short flights. Teams in places like Denver, Portland, Seattle and Utah are always a few hours from almost anywhere.