December 2006 - Archive | Mailbag Homepage
Friday, December 29, 2006
Kevin (Lathrup Village): NBA.com’s daily poll for Dec. 22 asked who the star of the previous night was. The four choices were Chauncey Billups and Antawn Jamison, whose teams won, and LeBron James and Kevin Martin, whose teams lost. LeBron won with 31 percent of the votes cast even though the Pistons killed his Cavs that night. Do people even care who wins?
Langlois: You win the Pistons Mailbag question of the week, Kevin. (Unfortunately, there is no prize that attaches itself to that honor, but let me work on it.) No, people do not care, by and large, who wins. It’s a style-over-substance world for many. It’s why even when the Pistons beat the Lakers, Kobe and Shaq still sold more magazines and sneakers. The NBA gets criticism for marketing the game around its individuals and not its teams, but it’s a strategy that merely acknowledges market realities. Nielsen ratings aren’t driven by the Miami Heat but by Dwyane Wade and Shaq. That’s not the NBA’s world. That’s our world.
Allen (Sterling Heights): The Pistons have been hot lately. Should we expect that throughout the season?
Langlois: If they stay healthy, I expect they’ll win 50-plus games, maybe push close to 60 even. There’s nobody in the East that is better positioned to get to the NBA Finals as currently constructed. Can’t ask for more than that. But there probably will be a 10-game stretch where they lose as often as they win somewhere down the road.
Ron: This is a followup to your response to another fan’s question. You said “the likeliest target (at the trade deadline) will be someone who’s proven himself as an instant perimeter scoring threat off the bench.” Would the Pistons consider contacting Houston about Bonzi Wells?
Langlois: Possibly. Wells comes with some baggage, as everyone knows. The reason he might be available in Houston is because he quickly dug himself deeply into Jeff Van Gundy’s doghouse. The Pistons, I’m sure, are monitoring his conditioning and motivation. Trouble is, if Wells gets himself into great shape and plays very well, Houston - without Yao Ming and with Tracy McGrady’s health always a concern - might well want to keep him. Or at least be able to get more than the Pistons have to offer from another contender.
Kristie: I think Antonio should be the fifth starter. I like Nazr, but I don’t understand why Antonio doesn’t want to start.
Langlois: It’s the role in which he’s most comfortable, and it works. Starting McDyess alongside Rasheed Wallace means one of them has to guard the opponent’s true post player to start the game and risk picking up the quick fouls that Mohammed absorbs. I don’t expect it to change. At his best, McDyess provides reliable scoring punch off the bench, something the Pistons don’t have in overabundance. Mohammed wouldn’t seem to offer the same explosiveness.
Andrea (Battle Creek): Loved your article on what Santa was getting each Pistons player. You hit the nail on the head. I especially loved Dale Davis getting a ring, Rasheed’s 10-pack of excused techs and Nazr’s 24 free fouls. I also loved the story on Rip Hamilton’s shopping spree for kids at Dick’s Sporting Goods. He seems to have a good heart. I love all the Pistons, but he’s my favorite. Please congratulate him for me on his double-double earlier this month and tell him I’m doing my best to get all the Pistons into the All-Star game by voting every day.
Langlois: Consider it done, Andrea, and accept their thanks in return for your voting diligence and loyalty.
Reju: How come we don’t see Carlos Delfino attacking the basket? Is it because of his knee injury?
Barbara: I believe if Delfino could get more playing time, he would be a great asset. Do you think it’s possible?
Langlois: Don’t think there are any lingering effects from his 2004 bout with knee problems, Reju. Delfino is very good in the open court, but in the half-court he has a tendency to attack the basket indiscriminately and accumulate charges. He has to find a balance between shooting too many triples and picking his spots to go at the rim. As for more playing time, Barbara, Flip Saunders will have no problem giving Delfino all the time he wants if he keeps producing as he did against the Knicks the other night.
Dick (West Bloomfield): Nice to see the Pistons improving as the year progresses. Do you think the Pistons are a better team than last year, not for the regular season but for the playoffs?
Langlois: They won’t approach last year’s 64 regular-season wins, but I like their chances to be a better team from March 1 on. The Pistons finished the regular season 17-9 last year and struggled to get out of the second round of the playoffs. Last year’s team had no room for improvement. This one still does as Nazr Mohammed settles in, Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell continue to improve and bench players like Dale Davis and Will Blalock find their niches.
Chris (Ankeny, Iowa): I’ve noticed Will Blalock getting more minutes. Being an Iowa State fan I’m excited, but why do you think he’s playing more?
Langlois: Three reasons, Chris: Lindsey Hunter’s out with a sore Achilles tendon, Flip Murray was not effectively getting the Pistons into their offense, and Blalock kept looking better and better - particularly when grouped with the starting unit - in practice as the season went along. At least until Hunter’s return, I’d expect Blalock to get about 10 to 12 minutes a night.
Jennifer (Chicago): You have no idea how hard it is for a mother of four in Chicago to be a Pistons fan. My children subtly hint at my disloyalty to the Bulls. Anyway, I have a big concern: What are the chances to keep Chauncey Billups at the end of the season? Is that on Joe Dumars’ priority list?
Langlois: I don’t believe you, Jennifer - about your children subtly hinting at your disloyalty. I’ve known many Bulls fans in my life, and I haven’t found a subtle one in the bunch. But bully for you for sticking to your guns. As for Joe D’s priority list, getting Billups re-signed is it - as long as it can get done without the long-term diminution of the franchise’s chances of remaining competitive. My hunch? He’ll retire as a Piston when his next contract expires after the 2012 season.
Rishi: Do you think the Pistons being the only team in the Eastern Conference over .600 says something about the Pistons or about the East? Are the Pistons really that much better than everyone else in the East and is the West really that much better than the East?
Langlois: The standings will mean more in another month or so, once schedule quirks and injury inequities balance out a little more. As we’ve said, the Pistons are no worse than as well-positioned as anyone else to win the East. But the West is the far superior conference right now. The gap could narrow as the season unfolds, but it’s more significant today than anyone could have imagined a few months ago.
Tevon: Why do we have Amir Johnson in a suit and not gaining experience in garbage time. Why is Dupree active for games and not Amir? And please don’t say experience.
Langlois: OK, Tevon, I won’t say experience. It’s a numbers game. The Pistons have five big guys ahead of Amir Johnson for two positions (center and power forward) and only four ahead of Dupree at two positions (shooting guard and small forward). Given Flip Murray’s recent struggles - which open minutes for Carlos Delfino behind Rip Hamilton as well as Tayshaun Prince - Dupree would be far more likely to be called upon in situational circumstances. As a perimeter defender for a critical late-game possession, for instance, Dupree holds value. Johnson has no comparable niche right now, even though the Pistons envision him blossoming soon into a rotation player.
Sylvia (Inkster): I haven’t missed watching a game all season and, like all Pistons fans, I love it when they win. But after watching the loss to the Knicks, I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of the team’s effort, drive, heart and tenacity. Once again, they have earned my respect and loyalty. Hats off to Rip, especially, and the entire team for their spectacular play.
Langlois: Effort, drive, heart and tenacity … sure, but what did you think about their will, Sylvia? Just kidding. The Pistons long ago passed the point of consoling themselves with moral victories, but I don’t think they’ll be doing much soul-searching about that loss. It was a fun game that probably will serve them well down the road.
Eric: I would label the Pistons a jump-shooting team. Is there any way we can get a guy with a presence in the middle? And do you think they’ll ever put Dennis Rodman’s name on The Palace floor? I think he deserves it. He was an essential part of the championship teams.
Langlois: The Pistons don’t have the assets - or at least assets they’d be willing to deal - to acquire a scoring big man who would represent an upgrade over Nazr Mohammed or Jason Maxiell. They will remain largely a jump-shooting team. They still hope Flip Murray starts filling the role they envisioned for him - a slashing scorer who creates his own offense. And maybe Carlos Delfino can give them some of that, too. But it’s not very likely any team is going to change its character in the middle of the season unless it swings a deal of Iversonian proportions.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Paul: It’s been fabulous to see Davis and Maxiell contributing off the bench. They need to get 15-20 minutes, even if it cuts into playing time for Nazr and McDyess. Delfino’s been solid on defense but looks like he lacks confidence in his offense – it doesn’t look like he wants the ball sometimes. Blalock looks pretty good, too, though he passes up some shots.
Langlois: Nice observations, Paul. I think Davis and Maxiell are both solidly in the rotation now. There will be nights when Flip Saunders pushes Rasheed Wallace’s minutes around 40, but Davis and Maxiell both have won his confidence now, so I wouldn’t expect it to happen often – especially given Wallace’s lingering ankle problem. Delfino is struggling to find his niche offensively. He’s not really a consistent perimeter shooter, yet almost all of his shot attempts have been outside jumpers. Of his 73 shots through the Cleveland game, 38 came from beyond the arc – easily the most lopsided ratio on the team. Blalock doesn’t have the shooting range he needs to have a chance to become a starting point guard, but he’s a great kid with a humble attitude and a terrific work ethic – the recipe necessary for improvement. My hunch is he’s going to get better and better and be somebody’s starting point guard someday.
Philip: Do the Pistons have a chance to send four players to the All-Star game again – Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace?
Langlois: If you vote often enough – and get enough of your friends to do the same, Philip, they have a chance. But it’s tough to get more than two from any team these days. Remember, there are more teams in the league than available spots. The Pistons got four last year as an acknowledgement of their incredible first four months. Remember, the Pistons were 42-9 at the All-Star break. If I had to guess, Billups is pretty much a lock and Hamilton is better than 50-50. Prince deserves the recognition, but he’s playing the same position as LeBron James and Paul Pierce. The foot injury Pierce suffered this week that will keep him out at least a few weeks will improve Prince’s chances. Emerging young big guys like Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard in the East stiffen the competition for Wallace, whose stats – because of the caliber of his teammates – are going to suffer by comparison.
Marcell (Rotonada West, Fla.): I think your Web site is one the most informative and easiest to navigate in the entire NBA. It’s refreshing to be able to read so much information about the team when you live outside the area. My question is about Carlos Delfino. My wife and I think he’s a wonderful ballhandler but he doesn’t seem to be putting much effort into his shooting. He made some 3’s earlier in the season but lately he’s slacked off. Has he been instructed not to shoot if he doesn’t feel comfortable?
Langlois: We’re pleased you enjoy the site, Marcell, and find it user friendly. We’re trying to make it even more informative and useful for fans no matter what their aim – to keep current with basketball news, to learn of special ticket offers, to see another side of the players or to discover all of the good work the team and the organization does in the communities Pistons fans call home. As for Delfino, there’s no question he’s yet to find his niche offensively. Here’s what I keep waiting to see: Carlos Delfino making three shots in a row. He just can’t get on a roll. I want to see what happens next after he makes three shots in a row.
Frances (Albuquerque, N.M.): If you don’t mind my asking, what happened two years ago between the Pistons and Pacers that everyone keeps referencing. I’ll understand if you don’t answer, but I’m just wondering.
Langlois: What began as an on-court shoving incident between Indiana’s Ron Artest and the Pistons’ Ben Wallace escalated when a fan threw a cup of liquid at Artest, who for some reason decided to lie down on the scorer’s table. Artest reacted by sprinting into the stands and throwing wild punches – at the wrong fan. The situation deteriorated quickly from there and it was a scary 10 minutes with security doing its best to keep players on the court and fans in their seats. Artest wound up being suspended for the rest of the season and many players from both teams were also penalized. To its credit, the NBA reacted swiftly and sternly and instituted a series of steps to ensure tighter security at all NBA arenas. The Knicks-Nuggets scuffle the other night was the most significant episode in the ensuing two years, and it’s likely that it did not further escalate because of the lengths the NBA took in the aftermath of the Pistons-Pacers episode.
Phil (Negaunee): What are Chuck Daly and Jack McCloskey doing these days? Are they working for any other NBA teams?
Langlois: No, Phil, both Daly and McCloskey are enjoying their retirements – Daly in Florida, McCloskey in Georgia. The construction of the teams that would win NBA titles in 1989 and ’90 started when Pistons owner William Davidson handed the reins to McCloskey a decade earlier. Every key component of the champion Bad Boys – from the hiring of Daly as coach, to the drafting of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, to the trades that netted the likes of Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson, Rick Mahorn, Adrian Dantley, James Edwards and Mark Aguirre – traced to McCloskey.
Reju: When will we see Will Blalock and Amir Johnson in the NBA Developmental League?
Langlois: It’s possible neither will spend any time there. The loose plan before the season started was to keep Blalock here for the first 40 or 50 games to learn the NBA ropes and then send him to the D League for a few weeks. That’s what they did with Johnson a year ago. But now that Blalock’s part of the rotation, those plans are on hold. It’s possible Blalock’s fate will be tied to Flip Murray. If Murray can’t force his way into minutes after Lindsey Hunter’s return, then Blalock probably stays here to give Chauncey Billups 10 or 12 minutes off every night. As for Johnson, if the Pistons sent him down it would only be for a brief period.
Paul: We know that AI and KG aren’t coming to Detroit. We also know that Joe D is evaluating the team right now and not entirely thinking about who to trade for or even if he’ll make a trade. That said, what one player do you think the Pistons could actually get that wouldn’t kill their salary structure and would improve the team?
Langlois: Wow, great question, Paul. And an almost impossible one to answer. Until we get within a month or a few weeks, even, of the trade deadline, it’s very difficult to narrow the field – this year, especially. Because the East is still so muddled, nobody really feels they’re out of contention. And many teams who went into the season probably feeling they were in the middle of the pack might believe now that they’re just one added component away from making a move. So there are more buyers than sellers, and far more buyers than in a normal year. Unless that changes, my money would go on the Pistons not doing anything of consequence. But it’s too close to call right now.
Alex: I’ve got seats in section 201 for the Jan. 15 game against the Timberwolves. Do you think those are good seats. And what chance do I have to meet any of the Pistons or Kevin Garnett?
Langlois: Alex, we like to think they’re all good seats at The Palace. You’re in the upper deck, but right at center court, across from the scorer’s table and the player benches. You won’t meet any players up there, most likely, but you’ll be surrounded by lots of loud, loyal Pistons fans. Enjoy the game. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee has become one of the treats of the season.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Kayhan (West Bloomfield): My dad says he thinks the Pistons are playing a psychological game – that they went after every win last year, but this year they’re more relaxed. I kind of beg to differ. What’s your take?
Langlois: My analysis of last year goes like this: After losing in Game 7 of the NBA Finals the previous year, the Pistons talked themselves into the importance of compiling the best record in the league so they’d have every Game 7 at The Palace. It was more a ploy to trick their minds into staying focused on the regular season so they wouldn’t sleepwalk waiting for the playoffs. The Pistons really just wanted to fast forward through the regular season last year but knew they couldn’t. As the wins mounted and they were on that preposterous 70-win pace, they became the biggest game on everybody’s schedule. And they had to get up for every game. That wore on them emotionally and, ultimately, physically, as well. It all caught up to them in the playoffs. This year, they’re focused on not getting caught up in that game. They’ll sacrifice a few regular-season wins if it means getting to mid-April in a better frame of mind.
Paul (New York): Can the Pistons move Sheed to the 5 and play Maxiell at the 4? Nazr is good, but he seems timid and not as aggressive as Maxiell was in the post against the Nets and Sonics.
Langlois: The rotation has changed. Maxiell saw to that with his dynamic weekend. You’ll see Wallace and Maxiell at times in tandem, and Dale Davis has certainly worked himself solidly into the mix, as well. That really means that both Nazr Mohammed and Antonio McDyess are going to have to earn their minutes. I expect Flip Saunders will continue to start Mohammed, who actually has performed about to expectations. If he can eliminate the two quick fouls, he’ll remain an asset. McDyess needs to get out of his shooting slump soon or Maxiell will cut into his minutes more than anyone’s. One reason you won’t see Wallace as the full-time center is that he’s a very good perimeter defender. With the trend toward putting more good shooters together and spreading the floor, that’s an increasingly valuable trait. Plus, Wallace balks at spending too much time inside at either end, and you can’t pigeonhole players in areas beyond their comfort zone.
Lenon (Detroit): Can you do some profile series on the players that talk about their backgrounds, greatest challenges, getting to the NBA, what areas of their game need improvement and what they like most about playing for the Pistons.
Langlois: We’ve done extensive features on several players, Lenon – including Tayshaun Prince, Lindsey Hunter and Jason Maxiell – and, of course, offer regular stories and commentaries on players and issues as they arise and warrant attention. Your suggestion is a very good one. We’ll continue looking for ways to more fully convey all the stories and personalities that make up the Pistons, and feedback from readers like you remains a valuable tool in our planning.
John (Ann Arbor): Can you confirm when the Pistons get the second-round pick from Minnesota as a result of the Dupree trade?
Langlois: I was told it was either this year or next year, John, but your question prompted me to ask Joe Dumars. Joe said that it’s his understanding it has to be conveyed by Minnesota no later than the 2008 draft.
Carolyn: Why aren’t players like Rasheed and Lindsey on the sidelines supporting the team when they’re injured?
Langlois: Injured players often do not travel to road games, Carolyn, because the best environment for their rehabilitation is already established at home. So Lindsey Hunter did not travel to New Jersey last weekend when the Pistons beat the Nets, but Rasheed Wallace did. It’s not at all unusual for injured players to take less than 100 percent involvement. In fact, in some sports – the NFL, most notably – coaches prefer to segregate injured and active players.
Beth (Jackson): What kind of basketball shoes does Tayshaun Prince wear?
Langlois: Tayshaun’s a Nike man, Beth.
Kevin (Detroit): Flip Murray’s decision-making is questionable. Do you think Blalock will eventually come off the bench before Murray, or do you think Joe D will find a guard during the All-Star break?
Langlois: Good question, Kevin. Blalock, for the moment, has become Chauncey Billups’ backup at the point. If he handles that job well, he might keep it even when Lindsey Hunter returns. Hunter’s major contribution to the Pistons is on the defensive end. He can play either position offensively, so if Blalock handles the point – and his penetration ability gives the Pistons another dimension – then Hunter might infringe on Murray’s minutes upon his return. If the Pistons make any trades – and that’s something Joe Dumars is a long way from contemplating – the likeliest target will be someone who’s proven himself as an instant perimeter scoring threat off the bench.
Zee (Dearborn): Can you pass this message along to the players and coaching staff: Stop calling Jason Maxiell “Maxey.” Female fans watch and laugh – hard. It’s really mean.
Langlois: Hey, Zee (tee-hee), if the Pistons can provide you and your girlfriends with a hearty laugh on top of a good basketball game, who’s to complain. And Maxey doesn’t seem to mind being called Maxey, by the way. But if he keeps playing the way he’s playing, the Pistons will be happy to call him whatever he wants.
Angel (Warren): I was just wondering if Rip Hamilton plans on making an appearance at the Pistons’ display at Great Lakes Crossing.
Langlois: The GLC appearances are scheduled at the players’ convenience, Angel, and Rip Hamilton had two days last week where he was involved with charity events for children. The best advice we can give is to keep checking pistons.com – when a player appearance is confirmed, you’ll read about it here first.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Philip (Palmer): With Bill Davidson’s money, would you please convince him – beg him, if necessary – to buy the Detroit Lions from the disastrous ownership of the Ford family?
Langlois: And Joe Dumars is a big football fan, too. Maybe he could take Matt Millen’s job. Seriously, do you think there’s any way he would have done worse than Millen? We could fill up 12 mailbags discussing the various reasons Millen has poisoned the water, but let’s focus on just one area. Look at the resources Millen has invested in the wide receiver position alone – in premium draft picks and free-agent contracts – and look what the Lions have to show for it. All the multimillion-dollar bonuses paid to the likes of Az Hakim (twice), Bill Schroeder and Cory Bradford and the top-10 draft picks spent on Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams, and the Lions were still reduced to using their backup quarterback as their No. 3 receiver in recent games. Shameful. The Lions have two games left against certain playoff teams, Chicago and Dallas, and if they lose them Millen’s six-year record will stand at 23-73 – a staggering 50 games under .500. In a league where they practically legislate parity, it’s stunning that someone could screw up so badly to be 50 games under .500 in a 96-game sample. But it’s stupefying that he still has his job. You’re right, Philip. The Lions deserve far better ownership than the Fords have provided.
Cyle: I’ve been watching the NBA All-Star game for a long time and I’m wondering if it will ever come to The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Langlois: The All-Star game generally is awarded to newer arenas, though The Palace certainly remains one of the most modern, clean and functional arenas in all of sports. The problem with hosting the All-Star game is that the host team really runs the risk of alienating its most loyal fans – there just aren’t many tickets made available to them. The NBA uses the All-Star game to solidify relationships with its corporate partners, who, in turn, like to reward their most successful employees and valued customers by giving them the opportunity to attend the game. Bottom line: Even if The Palace got the All-Star game, there would be very long odds of local fans getting tickets.
Paul (New York): What will it take to keep the Pistons from getting too comfortable with their perimeter game? I know it’s the strength of their game, but it raises concerns, especially for the playoffs. It must be emphasized that you must go to the basket to win a title, especially since Chauncey and Rip are the two best free-throw shooters on the team. Also, what’s the update on Lindsey Hunter’s Achilles tendon?
Langlois: You raise a very good point, Paul, but I’m not sure what they’d do about it. One of the reasons the Pistons signed Flip Murray over the offseason was for his ability to get to the basket. They also hoped Carlos Delfino would provide some of that. Maybe they will starting giving them more as the season unfolds. But Billups and Hamilton are what they are – Billups maybe the best in the league as a stand-still shooter and Hamilton as good as it gets at moving without the ball and then nailing those mid-range jumpers off the catch. If the Pistons can coax a little more low-post play out of Rasheed Wallace and continue to work Jason Maxiell into the rotation, that’s their best bet for getting points around the rim and putting the opponent in foul trouble. As for Lindsey Hunter, I wouldn’t expect to see him until 2007. They’re being cautious with him and can afford to as long as rookie Will Blalock is giving them solid minutes in relief of Billups.
Andrea (Battle Creek): How much responsibility do the coaches take for the brawl between the Nuggets and the Knicks? And why, no matter where an NBA brawl takes place, does the one at The Palace get mentioned so frequently?
Langlois: They don’t have to take any, Andrea. The NBA suspensions just came down as I write this. Carmelo Anthony got whacked 15 games and Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith 10 apiece. Those were the big ones, but the coaches won’t miss any games even though each organization got hit with a $500,000 fine. Now, there’s no question George Karl was rubbing in the blowout by leaving his starters out into the final minutes, and little question he was doing it because the Knicks canned his North Carolina buddy Larry Brown. And Isiah Thomas clearly did not appreciate the insult. But if Isiah ordered Mardy Collins’ hard foul, then shame on him. The way to respond to having your team insulted is to play harder the next time. As for why The Palace brawl is a constant point of reference … well, it’s the most recent major brawl. Until one comes along to exceed it – and as humbling as it was for everyone associated with the Pistons and The Palace, nobody here is hoping an uglier incident takes its place – it will remain the one to which all others are compared.
Alice (Bradenton, Fla.): Where is Bill Laimbeer? I miss his straight talk as Pistons analyst. I recently moved to Florida and don’t always get to see the Detroit telecast on the NBA’s League Pass. Maybe I’ve just missed the games he’s done.
Langlois: No, Alice, you haven’t missed him. Laimbeer decided to limit his duties to coaching the WNBA’s Shock. Greg Kelser is now George Blaha’s permanent TV partner.
Kristie: The schedule is so stupid this year. We don’t play Chicago or Boston until after the first of the year when we’ve played other teams several times.
Langlois: Actually, the Pistons played at Boston in the season’s second game, but your point is well taken. It’s a quirk that the Pistons don’t play division rival Chicago until Jan. 6 and that the Bulls don’t visit The Palace until nearly the end of the season’s fourth month – Feb. 25.
Mikihiro (Tokyo): Is there any way to have more games telecast to Japan?
Langlois: You’d have to take that one up directly with the NBA, Mikihiro. They license games internationally and select which ones will be televised internationally.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Quick note: We print almost everything we get, though the numbers continue to swell. But please try to remember to include your first name and hometown. If you ask a legitimate question and it doesn’t run, it’s probably because you forgot to attach your name to the question.
Dave: Ben, Ben, Ben … give it up about Ben. The same people that search classmates.com for their old high school girlfriends are the ones that can’t get over Ben. She’s gone, he’s gone – get over it! Besides, with 15 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, bring back Mehmet Okur!
Langlois: People search classmates.com for old girlfriends? Hmmm. Have you had any luck, Dave? Hey, people are curious about how this is going to play out – for Ben Wallace, for the Chicago Bulls and for the Pistons. It won’t go away until it’s clear who made the better choice.
Laura (Hudsonville): Every time I watch the Pistons I scan the bench, hoping to see Amir Johnson suited up. Instead of, well … in a suit. When are they actually going to start playing him? He looked so good in preseason.
Langlois: He looked very good in preseason, Laura. But he’s caught in a numbers game right now. Barring injury, I wouldn’t expect to see much of Amir this season – but it’s a long year, so you never know. Next year? I’d be surprised if his strong preseason didn’t factor into Joe Dumars’ offseason planning and I’d expect he’ll be a part of the rotation in 2007-08.
A.J. (Atlanta): I’m tired of seeing KG waste away in Minny and I can’t stand seeing Rasheed fail to utilize his abilities in the paint. Is there any way a trade could be worked out – Sheed, Flip Murray, one of the young guys and a pick?
Langlois: Minnesota doesn’t seem intent on moving Garnett right now. If the Timberwolves do, you’d think they’d want a few moving parts able to contribute immediately and a promising young player or two. Your package might work – but only if Minnesota was appropriately intrigued by the potential of, say, Jason Maxiell. Remember, if the T-wolves put Garnett on the block, they’ll have a laundry list of suitors, almost all of them more desperate to make a splash than the Pistons.
Kim (Maryland): Have the Pistons ever considered hiring a female coach or assistant coach?
Langlois: Not to my knowledge, Kim. But we’ll see it in the NBA before we see it in any other sport.
Alex: Come on, Langlois, Iverson would be perfect for the Pistons. Trade Billups and Flip Murray for him. Think about it – a starting five of Iverson, Hamilton, Prince, Wallace and Mohammed.
Langlois: The contracts of Billups and Flip Murray aren’t even half of what Iverson makes, so you’ll have to find another $10 million in salary to include in that deal. Want to throw Rip Hamilton in while you’re at it?
Tom: The small lineup has usually been great, but in the fourth quarter of the Portland game they had Tayshaun on Zach Randolph. Should have pulled him and had McDyess guarding him. And why are the Pistons and Dallas the only elite teams – Stern’s favorite teams with Rasheed and Cuban – with so many back-to-backs?
Langlois: Randolph’s a tough cover for anybody. Very unorthodox game, very unusual body. Barrel chest allows him to create space to get that quirky shot away. Quick feet make him tough for typical big men. Prince, McDyess and Wallace are all above-average defenders, but nobody’s ideal to guard Randolph. The best way to attack him is mix it up and don’t let him find a comfort zone against anyone. As for the scheduling question – come mid-April, everybody will have played 82 games. And given the way the season has played out so far – the Pistons are 0-7 in games that have not been part of a back-to-back – maybe the NBA did the Pistons a favor by handing them the most back-to-backs.
Maggie (Florida): I’ve been a huge Pistons fan since the ’70s. I can’t believe Joe Dumars likes the way Flip Saunders is coaching. Does he sit down with him and talk about the direction of the team?
Langlois: Pretty much every day, Maggie. Not sure what’s causing your angst with Flip. They won 64 games last season – most in franchise history. The playoff collapse, best anyone can tell, was caused by some combination of the physical and emotional toll of chasing so many regular-season wins while playing the starters hard minutes and the disharmony surrounding Ben Wallace’s unhappiness over … well, who knows? So Joe D and Flip decided over the offseason that they’d stress the improvement and greater use of the bench, and Ben Wallace is no longer around. The Pistons are again showing that they can beat anyone, anywhere. Let’s let the season play out.
Wallace: Why doesn’t Prince get as much publicity as Hamilton and Billups?
Langlois: He hasn’t been around as long and hasn’t yet made the All-Star team, but I don’t see a whole lot of difference in the way they’re profiled, at least around Detroit. Since Prince’s coming out during the 2004 playoffs – the block on Reggie Miller, the accolades he drew during the Finals for checking Kobe Bryant – he’s been front and center as much as any of them.
Mary (Ludington): I am an “old” Pistons fan – old enough to be the mother of any of them. I was sorry to see Ben go, but I think the entire team is stepping up and doing what they need to do. I like to focus on the positive. They may not win another 64 games, but they will be in the playoffs again.
Langlois: Focus on the positive? What kind of fan are you, Mary? Hey, we’re kidding. Just getting to the playoffs won’t satisfy the Pistons, but they’ll be happy to get to the playoffs healthy. They’ll take their chances against anybody after that.
John (Detroit): I think the Pistons are having a good year, but I don’t think Nazr fits their personality. Do you think the Pistons will trade for a better rebounder like Samuel Dalembert or Steven Hunter?
Langlois: Hmmm. Not sure what you’re basing your assessment on, John. Dalembert, statistically, at least, is a marginally better rebounder, averaging one rebound every 3.5 minutes played compared to Mohammed’s one every 3.6. Hunter’s at one every 4.8. But remember two important things about Dalembert – he plays on a far worse team where he’s not competing for rebounds with Rasheed Wallace and his contract runs five more years at more than $50 million. Now that really wouldn’t fit the Pistons’ personality.
Cameron (Paw Paw): I’ve watched almost every Pistons game since ’04 due to the power of the VCR. One thing that’s bugged me is I haven’t seen any footage of Antonio McDyess in his prime.
Langlois: Duly noted, Cameron. And you’re right that the pre-injury McDyess was a breathtaking sight. The guy was a double-double nightmare whose explosion made him a special player. The knee injuries robbed him of some of that, though you still see it in glimpses. He’s also 32 now. Age would have caught up to him a little bit all by itself by now.
Mike: I’m tired of all the stupid questions. I read your Mailbag every Monday and Friday and I’m shocked at some of the questions. AI to the Pistons? Why would we even consider Iverson? And all the stupid Ben Wallace questions. Do we want him back? Wow! So here’s a real question: What trades is Joe Dumars considering before the trade deadline?
Langlois: The Mailbag is the one area of pistons.com that we joyfully turn over to fans. So questions range the spectrum – many are unanswerable, but we run them anyway, just to stir discussion and keep this forum in the hands of Pistons fans. As for what trades … none. Yet. Joe D has said repeatedly that he’s happy with the team as it is, but that he uses this portion of the season to evaluate needs. I’d expect that by mid-January, as he starts to draw conclusions about the Pistons and keeps his ear to the ground regarding other teams as they fall into or out of the postseason chase, he’ll see if he can add a spare part without sacrificing anything of the future. But it’s 50-50 right now that anything gets done.
Cyle: Do you see the Pistons sending Amir Johnson and Will Blalock down to the D-League?
Langlois: When Lindsey Hunter gets back, the Pistons probably will send Blalock down for a few weeks or so. That’s what they did a year ago with Johnson and what Joe Dumars said during the preseason was likely to happen with Blalock. Johnson’s progressed very nicely by staying with the Pistons. Not sure they’ll be sending him down at all this winter.
Frank: To get Delfino more playing time, has there been any thought of playing Prince at the point?
Langlois: Prince is capable of running the offense, but he’d be hard-pressed to guard most point guards for any length of time. And Delfino really has to do more to earn minutes. He’s become too much of a jump shooter, and his jump shot hasn’t been consistent enough for him to be that.
Jennifer (Spring Lake): I’m a Pistons fan. What are the chances I’d ever be able to meet a Pistons player? And do they only come to Grand Rapids once a year?
Langlois: Yes, Jennifer, the Pistons have played one preseason game at Van Andel Arena for the last several years and have already announced they’ll play Denver there next October. As for your chances of meeting a player … probably not very good in Spring Lake. Much better at The Palace.
Jason (Clawson): What is the Pistons’ stance on Randolph Morris out of Kentucky? I heard he can basically be signed as a free agent even though he’s still in college.
Langlois: His is a unique case. Morris applied for the NBA draft two years ago, then changed his mind. The NCAA made him sit out 14 games prior to the 2005-06 season, but eventually restored his eligibility. The NBA has ruled he can’t go through the draft process again. So it could work out to his advantage. The problem is that Morris, an intriguing 7-footer, will be coming out in a draft already deep both overall and in big men. I spoke with one NBA scout passing through Auburn Hills recently who said he didn’t think he’d be a first-rounder in next June’s draft. Because Morris can choose his NBA team, it’s doubtful he’d pick the Pistons given the fact that young players like Jason Maxiell (who had a much more productive college career than Morris) and Amir Johnson (more athletic and versatile) would be ahead of him and they’re finding minutes difficult to come by.
Mary Ann (Birmingham): Can you tell the players to make their appearances at Great Lakes Crossing on the weekends? Can you tell Chauncey to back and tell Rip to go this weekend? People work during the week – that’s unfair!
Langlois: Check the Pistons’ schedule, Mary Ann. They work this weekend. A game in New Jersey Saturday night and one at The Palace at 6 p.m. Sunday. Player appearances are scheduled on their “off” days – which aren’t really off, in most cases, since they’re coming straight from practice.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Beulah: One question – Can we get Iverson?
Pam: What are the chances of AI coming to Detroit? I’ve heard Minnesota, Chicago and Philly talking about a three-team deal with Kevin Garnett going to Chicago.
William (Lafayette, La.): I have been a Pistons fan all my life. I live about an hour from Lake Charles, where Joe D played his college ball. I travel to games against the Spurs, Mavs, Bobcats and Hawks. My question is do you think the Pistons will make a run at Allen Iverson? I think he would fit in with the team. A great scorer and another ballhandler would really help.
Eric (Greensboro, N.C.): What do you think of the Iverson situation? I’ve heard Charlotte is interested, but I don’t think it would be a good fit.
Langlois: No, zero, no and hmmm. Allen Iverson is making $18.2 million this year. That means the Pistons would have to come pretty close to lopping that much in salary off their roster right now. How would they do that and not have a team left behind without the firepower to compete? If they gave Philly both Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups – and they might as well, because Iverson would dominate the basketball anyway – they’d still need to include a $3 million salary in the deal to balance it out. They could package Rasheed Wallace and Billups – does anybody really believe that would make them better? Without disrupting the core group of four virtual All-Stars, it would require the Pistons to package the salaries of Antonio McDyess, Nazr Mohammed, Dale Davis, Lindsey Hunter and Flip Murray – and Joe D would have to throw in a couple of first-round picks, to boot. Plus he’d be on the hook for $42 million to Iverson over the next two seasons. Repeat after me: Allen Iverson WILL NOT be a Detroit Piston.
Cyle: Do you see Grant Hill coming back to the Pistons?
Langlois: Not this season, Cyle. The seven-year contract he signed when he left Detroit – time flies, no? – is up after this season, and he’s left the door open for a return. I’d say the likelier options are Hill re-signing in Orlando or retiring, but it wouldn’t shock me if he chose to finish his career as a valuable bench reserve for a team with a shot to win the title.
Jeff (Grand Rapids): The Pistons have up to four draft picks in what looks to be one of the best draft classes ever for big men. Greg Oden of Ohio State is projected to be the No. 1 pick. Do you think Joe D could work some sort of trade with all the extra picks so we could get Oden?
Langlois: I can’t imagine any team that knows it has a strong likelihood to wind up in the lottery trading the pick away, Jeff. Once the lottery is set, there could be some movement. It’s supposed to be one of the deepest drafts ever, so it’s conceivable Dumars could package his picks and move up a little. But nobody would surrender the No. 1 pick. Remember when Jack McCloskey offered the Lakers his entire roster for the No. 1 pick that became Magic Johnson? The Lakers didn’t bite. And nobody would likely take the bait this year, either. That’s how highly scouts think of Oden, who would have been the top pick last year, as a high school senior, and two years ago, too, when he was a junior. Oden will be an immediate dominator on defense and eventually a force on offense, too. Whoever gets him should have a team ready to compete for championships within two or three years. So, the short answer: No. No way the Pistons get Greg Oden.
David: Love the Pistons and the Web site, but as much as this may rankle you, I won’t go to the site any more when I have to click just below the pretty scantily clad girl to get to your home page. Not good for me, not good for my wife.
Langlois: Well, David, if you’re reading this, then you must have returned. If not, somebody tell David it’s safe to come home. Unless his wife is jealous of Hooper.
Paul: The last time I wrote in to armchair quarterback, you asked why I didn’t have any advice for Rasheed. Well, I do: Tell him to keep doing what he does but to keep the technicals down. He’s right 95 percent of the time, but we need him on the court.
Langlois: I believe that’s a message he’s heard more than once. I’m of the belief that he’s brought the extra scrutiny on himself with a history of ref-baiting over the years, but that he’s gotten hit with some ridiculous calls this year – twice for making the “and one” motion in anticipation of having a foul called on his defender, for instance.
Kristie (Essexville): I keep reading in the newspaper that the Pistons could do better on defense with Ben Wallace. From all the games I’ve seen we’re looking good without Big Ben. Every team has good and bad defensive games.
Langlois: Even Big Ben’s Bulls, Krisitie. There really hasn’t been too much in the media lately about the impact of Wallace’s departure. I think pretty much everybody has come to the conclusion that while it’s hard to make the case that the Pistons are better off without him, signing him to the kind of deal Chicago offered was not in the franchise’s long-term interests. Letting him go gives them the chance to improve. Keeping him would have locked in the roster of a team that showed signs of internal fracturing.
Mikihiro (Tokyo): Did Big Ben hate Flip?
Langlois: By Big Ben’s own admission, he didn’t like playing for him. But he’s had quarrels with every coach. Even his ex-teammates, who understood and supported him, got a chuckle early in the season when Wallace told an ESPN reporter that among his favorite coaches was Rick Carlisle. The two barely spoke in their second and last season together. He got along OK with Larry Brown – who went out of his way to get Wallace involved in the offense – but he famously snapped at Brown once for suggesting the Pistons weren’t playing with enough effort. His beef with Saunders was really rooted in the fact that the league was changing. The rules made it tougher to play the type of defense that turned Wallace into a dominant player and the Pistons into a defensive-oriented team, so Saunders logically made it a point of emphasis to increase the team’s offensive efficiency. Wallace saw his impact on the game diminishing and lashed out at the most convenient target – Flip Saunders.
Ronald (Oxford): Can you explain why the Pistons are sleep walking through the season? After last season they said they would focus on the job to be done, but actions speak louder than words.
Langlois: Sleep walking is a little harsh, don’t you think, Ronald? They’ve had two inexplicable losses (New Orleans and Portland), but every team in the league has a few of those early in the season. They’ve atoned with some really nice road wins (Washington, Dallas, Orlando, the Lakers). They’re about at the quarter-pole of the season with a 13-7 record. Given the schedule they’ve faced so far, that’s pretty good. What made last season so remarkable was that for the first four months the Pistons practically never lost a game they didn’t figure to lose. That sort of predictability just doesn’t happen at the professional level where every team, no matter what their record says, has players capable of winning games single-handedly.
Friday, December 8, 2006
Ashlee (Jackson): As a lifelong Pistons fan, I’m disappointed that many of the games so far that have been on My TV-20 aren’t shown in the Jackson area. I try not to miss a game during the season, either by watching on TV or going to The Palace. Is there anything that can be done to make sure we get the games in Jackson?
Langlois: All Pistons regular-season games are on TV, Ashlee, either over Fox Sports Detroit, My TV-20, WDIV (Channel 4) in Detroit, ESPN or TNT. The void in the Jackson area stems from the fact that the feed for the My TV-20 games in your area is WHTV-My 18 in Lansing, which airs 19 of the 32 games available to it. Lori Harper is the general manager of the station. Phone calls or petitions could very well persuade the station to add the games it chooses not to air.
Sarmad: Why does Flip Saunders choose to play Carlos Delfino only in the first half? Whenever Delfino gets consistent minutes he has contributed. Against Portland, Tayshaun Prince did not have a good game. Why not play Delfino?
Langlois: Delfino faces the same problem most players face. The more they play, the more comfortable and productive they usually become. But bench players have to get it revved up quickly. It’s why the best ones are so valuable. (Ask somebody 30-plus about Vinnie Johnson someday.) Saunders goes to his bench extensively in the second quarter, as do most coaches, because he knows starters can’t regularly play 45 minutes or so. But if need be, they can play in the high 30s to low 40s. So if it’s a close game in the second half – as the Portland game was, as the Dallas game was – most coaches are going to ride the guys who give him a greater sense of security. If Delfino – or any bench player – wants more minutes in the second half, he’ll have to make a greater impact more frequently in the first half to force his coach’s hand.
Chad (East Lansing): How much longer are we going to keep Nazr around? He definitely is not the player we were hoping him to be. There is not much of a career point difference between him and Ben and his rebound numbers are way lower. He needs to step up or the Pistons are going to have a rough year.
Langlois: He might not be the player you were hoping for, Chad, but he’s the player Joe Dumars expected. He signed a five-year deal for $30 million. Check the salaries of big men. Nazr’s getting $6 million a year, Ben Wallace $15 million. If you expected Mohammed to replace his numbers, then Joe D would have been getting the steal of the century. And about the rebounding? Mohammed grabs a rebound every 3.54 minutes, which is better than Wallace’s one per 3.74 minutes. Even factoring in Wallace’s superior defense, Mohammed’s been money better spent so far this season.
Paul G: Can Joe D and Flip Saunders get their bench more intense? I watched the Knicks game and the reserves seemed very timid. What plans, if any, do they have for Jason Maxiell?
Langlois: Intensity and production are the sports equivalent of the chicken and the egg. The bench looks plenty intense when their shots are falling and they’re getting stops, Paul. Jason Maxiell, as Joe Dumars put it to me last week, is a victim of circumstances. Flip Saunders, who says he is considering ways to work Maxiell back into the rotation, turned to Dale Davis for his size and toughness and the Pistons got on a roll. He won’t change what’s working until it stops working.
Shamekia: My birthday is Dec. 26 and I’ll be at The Palace for the game that night against New Jersey. Do you know which players will be available for Fifth Third Photo Night?
Langlois: Sorry, Shamekia, can’t give you a definitive list of which players will be available that night. It’s usually decided much closer to game time based on a variety of factors. But good luck and have a happy birthday at The Palace.
Kara (New Boston): Except for my family and friends, Chauncey Billups is one of my favorite people in life. I’m 13 and in the eighth grade at St. Stephen’s School. I hope to become a great player in the WNBA one day. My friends tell me I have amazing ability, but I’m not sure I believe it myself. I personally think Chauncey Billups is the best player ever in the NBA. I watch the Pistons every single night. I hope I get to meet Chauncey someday.
Langlois: The Pistons love fans like you, Kara. And I’m sure that if you ever get to meet Chauncey, he’ll tell you that the first and most important hurdle to becoming a great player in the WNBA – or a great anything – is to start believing in yourself and then, even more critically, to start investing in yourself the work it takes to realize every ounce of the potential you have within you.
Momin: How much do courtside seats cost?
Langlois: The Palace has a hard-working and dedicated sales staff that would be happy to answer all your questions about the many possibilities regarding season tickets, suites and special ticket packages, Momin. The main number at The Palace of Auburn Hills is (248) 377-0100.
Brad (Westland): My 13-year-old daughter goes to St. Matthew Lutheran School and they could use some decent basketballs. If the Pistons have some worn-out balls, the school could put them to good use.
Langlois: The Pistons, like all NBA teams, are using completely new and different composite basketballs this season. They haven’t worn them out yet, Brad, though based on reaction to the balls leaguewide, I’m sure they’d love to. I’ll pass your note on to the equipment staff in case anything develops.
Benjamin: If Chauncey opts out of his contract, what kind of deal will Joe D offer him?
Langlois: Both sides have agreed not to discuss the matter publicly, Benjamin, but an educated guess you should look to the contract Steve Nash signed with Phoenix in the summer of 2004. Chauncey will be the same age as Nash was when he signs and they’ve both been in the MVP discussion. Adjust for inflation and you’ll get maybe a four-year deal that approaches $60 million. But for Dumars to commit that kind of money, it will require two things: A season from Billups that gives no indication he’s showing signs of age and a reasonable expectation that the Pistons will still be able to compete for titles and have enough roster flexibility if they pay their point guard that kind of cash.
Jaclyn and Heather (Holland): Since the players always wear matching sweatbands, we were wondering who decides what color they wear each game. Our favorite combination is the white sweatband with the blue jersey and we wish they wore that more often. We also think it would be cool if they wore alternate jerseys like the old Bad Boys wore instead of the red ones.
Langlois: Hmmm. Who decides where to plant the yellow tulips and where the purple ones go for the tulip festival, girls? I must admit, I’ve never been one to take note of whether the sweatbands are coordinated or not. I can tell you that the NBA mandates that headbands and sweatbands are their issue and that they must contain team colors. Beyond that, I’ll need to do some investigative reporting to see if the Pistons take turns deciding a color schedule.
Frances (Albuquerque): The Pistons are my team even though I’m originally from New Orleans. What are the tattooes on the players’ arms? And do you think the Pistons can become more aggressive to the rim?
Langlois: Sweatbands, tattooes. I’m going to have to get Mr. Blackwell on speed dial. I’m not a big tattoo guy, either, but Chauncey Billups has the most impressive artwork. On the back of his left upper arm, it reads “No Pain” and on the back of his right upper arm, it reads “No Fame.” Across his back, newly added this summer, is a testament to his family with the names and birthdates of his children in script. Their fame must have cost daddy a lot of pain. Other than that, Rasheed has a swirly design thing – I believe that’s technical tattoo jargon – on his arm that’s also pretty impressive. More aggressive to the rim? They don’t really have many of those types of players, Flip Murray an exception. Carlos Delfino can attack the basket, but hasn’t shown much of that to date.
Joe (Detroit): Do you think the Pistons will make a trade when the deadline comes?
Langlois: Possibly. It’s just way too early to tell. Teams use the first 20 games to two months to gauge where they’re at and we’re still in that window. As the February deadline approaches, those teams that think they’re out of contention will begin to shop players they’d like to move. Those players almost always come at a cost – usually an unfavorable contract comes along with them, or maybe some personal baggage. The East is so muddled right now, it figures that more than a few GMs will be willing to engage in risky deals in hopes of breaking from the pack. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t expect the Pistons to do anything dramatic because it will be a seller’s market. The Pistons like their team and, more critically, Joe Dumars would be far less likely than most of his peers to put the future in peril. But a seemingly minor move for a valuable spare part, yeah, I can see the Pistons doing that.
Kayhan (West Bloomfield): How come we don’t go after a more defensive-minded center? I think we have enough offense. Is Garnett an option still this year?
Langlois: I can’t imagine what the Pistons would have that would entice the Timberwolves. If they trade Garnett, they’re obviously doing it to rebuild. In order to trade for him, it would take a combination of young players with high ceilings and veterans with big contracts to satisfy the salary-cap implications. The Pistons don’t really have either unless they’re also willing to blow it up, and even then there would be many more likely trading partners. As for the defensive-minded center, who might you have in mind? There isn’t a center tree out there where GMs can go in the middle of December and pluck a good one.
Marvin (Richmond, Va.): Two things: I was disturbed to hear Chauncey, our leader, talk about taking a team lightly and letting our guard down. Isn’t that his responsibility? Also, does Flip Saunders have a good “feel” for the game? It was obvious in the Portland game that Zach Randolph was too quick for Rasheed and Dale Davis, so why not put Jason Maxiell in the game?
Langlois: Hey, at least Billups acknowledged the problem. What would really be disturbing if he’d contended that the Pistons played their best and hardest in the loss to Portland. Over 82 games, you’re going to have those games. Good teams are going to be good enough to still win most of them. A handful of them, they’ll lose. That happened to be one of them. As for Flip’s feel for the game, Zach Randolph is a tough cover for everyone these days. That’s why he’s averaging 25 and 10. Maxiell would have been a different look for him, but the rotation Saunders had established had just produced an eight-game winning streak. He gave his core group the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t pay off that night. Hard to argue with the law of averages, though.
Monday, December 4, 2006
John (Petoskey): Is there a Web site where we can track Cheick Samb’s statistics for his team in Spain? And can we get Cheick on Shaq’s diet?
Langlois: Nice question, John. Familiarity with Cheick Samb qualifies you as a true Pistons fan. For the uninitiated, the Pistons obtained the rights to Samb, a 7-foot-1, 22-year-old Senegalese native, on draft night from the Lakers for Maurice Evans. He currently plays for WTC Cornella in the LEB2 league in Spain, a step below Spain’s premier league. The best source I’ve found is eurobasket.com – but it’s a pay site. If you work at it, you can find stats for free on the site, however. Through Cornella’s first 13 games, Samb was shooting 50 percent, averaging 10 points, 7.5 rebounds and two blocks a game. Look for a story on Samb soon on Pistons.com, by the way.
Jacqueline: Your comments about Ben Wallace were harsh and somewhat inaccurate. He’s “cranky,” as you put it, because Mr. Stern has changed the rules of the game and players are more focused on offense instead of defense – and defense wins games. Most of the guys in the league come from the ’hood, and hard-core defense is the way the game is played on the street. This softening of the game only appeals to corporate America and it stinks! Everyone is ready to throw Ben under the bus for one stupid headband incident and it’s getting on my nerves. He still has a lot to offer and doesn’t deserve the treatment he’s getting.
Langlois: Jacqueline, Ben Wallace can play the game any way he wants if he wants to take it back to the street – and if he can find anyone willing to pay him $60 million. But if he’s going to continue to play in the NBA, he’ll have to abide by Commissioner Stern’s rules, and if he’s going to continue to play in Chicago, he’ll have to abide by the Bulls’ rules. I’m not sure about your workplace, but every one I’ve ever experienced has its own set of rules. If I was having a really bad month – and I think we can all agree that November was a really bad month for Big Ben – I don’t think I’d walk into the boss’ office and deliberately break one of his commandments. And I’m a few zeroes short of $60 million.
Megan: If the Pistons had the chance, would they take Big Ben back?
Langlois: Only under the right circumstances, Megan. And with the contract he signed in Chicago, there are no right circumstances. The Pistons weren’t willing to commit that kind of money to him last summer because – as much as they appreciated everything he did for them – they had to suspect that his skills were in decline. It doesn’t mean they thought his value as an NBA player had evaporated, just that Chicago placed a much higher value on him than the Pistons did. They would have him back at the right price, but that’s no longer possible unless all sides mutually agreed to void his contract and make him a free agent again – and as soon as that happens, check hell for icicles.
Kevin (Greencastle, Indiana): Did you see the headline on nba.com the day after the Pistons beat Miami? “Wade’s last-second jumper falls short; Detroit wins.” Even when the Pistons win, it still has to be about Wade and the Heat? Will nba.com ever use the word “team” on any of its pages?
Langlois: It’s a star-driven league, Kevin, amid a star-driven society. The Pistons understand that. It actually helps them – gives them another chip to put on their shoulder, and even they admit that’s when they’re at their best. But you make a very good point. Had the situation been reversed and it had been Chauncey Billups missing that shot, the headline almost certainly would not have led with “Billups misses. …”
Phil (Negaunee): Do the Pistons still fly their own private jet or do they charter?
Langlois: Still fly their own, Phil. The Pistons were pioneers of a trend that’s spread throughout professional sports now, although many teams choose to lease instead of buy.
Eric (Greensboro, N.C.): I don’t understand how the Pistons get up for the Heat and don’t get up for the Bobcats. Do you think they will be ready for Portland, Dallas and Orlando?
Langlois: Charlotte played them pretty tough at The Palace and it was the third game in four nights for the Pistons. It wasn’t all that surprising, really. Do I think they’ll be ready? Sure. They should win the Portland game – no ifs, ands or buts about it. But Dallas and Orlando is a brutal back-to-back. Objectively, if you come out of there with a split you’d have to be delighted.
Dave: What are they saving Nazr for? All the other starters play more than 30 minutes a game and Nazr is usually around 17 to 24. If he played more, he’d provide 12 to 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Langlois: They never intended Nazr Mohammed to be a 30-plus minutes player. In his first eight years in the league, the most he’s averaged was 26 with Atlanta four years ago when he averaged 9.7 points and 7.9 rebounds. And that was for a really bad team.
Momin: Why did Larry Brown leave the Pistons? I like Flip Saunders and think he’s better, but I still wonder why Larry left. And is there any way of getting Ben Wallace back?
Langlois: The chances of getting Ben Wallace back are infinitesimally small, but unfathomably large compared to the chances of Larry Brown working for the Pistons again in our lifetimes. Why did Brown leave? In towns across America, wiser men than I could ever hope to be ask themselves that daily.
Sharryl: When will the Pistons have a lookalike contest? I have a brother who looks just like Rip Hamilton.
Langlois: There’s a Kids Day event coming up – watch for details to be announced soon – that will culminate with them attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Day game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Lookalikes of all five starters will be a part of the day’s activities. The contest is for kids ages 8-14.
Friday, December 1, 2006
Before we dig into Pistons Mailbag, I’ve gotten a number of questions asking how fans attending games can have birthdays recognized on the scoreboard at The Palace of Auburn Hills during games. All it requires is a $50 donation to the Pistons-Palace Foundation. Contact Tim Dameron at email@example.com to provide details.
We’ve also been hit with questions about why Bill Laimbeer is no longer serving as TV analyst. Nothing dramatic. It was strictly Laimbeer’s decision. Between his duties as Shock coach and the desire to spend time with his family – his daughter plays basketball at Syracuse – Bill decided to pull back from the time and travel demands the TV job entailed.
One more constant question is how to get fan mail to players. Please understand that the volume of mail players receive makes it extremely difficult to facilitate responses. But all mail directed to team personnel can be sent to Five Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326.
On with the questions …
Randy (New York): I love the new Mailbag feature. But I have an unusual question for you. I was born in New York and grew up watching the Knicks of Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Larry Johnson. But I’ve been living in Michigan for 13 years and currently attend the University of Michigan. I’ve now been a Pistons season-ticket holder for three years and get teased by my friends who know I’m also a Knicks fan. With the Knicks-Pistons game coming up Friday, do you suggest I root for the team I grew up watching or support the team I now watch 82 times a year – not counting playoffs, which the Knicks haven’t been a part of in a while.
Langlois: Excellent question, Weedhopper! I suggest you follow your heart, and if you’re invested enough now to watch the Pistons 82 times a year, I think your heart has already decided for you. Hey, if marriage is no longer a long-term commitment – and if Pam Anderson and Kid Rock couldn’t make it, those crazy kids, what hope is there for the rest of us? – then you can root like crazy for the Pistons until your Knicks give you a reason to pay attention to them again. That will be whenever they dig themselves out from all the bad contracts they’ve assumed, which will be … how old are you, anyway?
Larry: I’m a little disappointed to the start of the season and think Flip Saunders isn’t the coach we need. The starters still play too much. Jason Maxiell should not be riding the bench. Saunders was supposed to improve the offense – it hasn’t improved by much. It’s time for Bill Laimbeer to take over.
Langlois: Only one team in the East has a better record, Larry, and Orlando’s long-term viability remains to be seen. The bench has been instrumental in the seven-game winning streak. Saunders has done a terrific job picking his spots for veterans Lindsey Hunter and Dale Davis; Carlos Delfino needs to do it over a longer stretch, but he’s been very good the past few games and might be finding his niche; Antonio McDyess, as expected, is returning to form; and Flip Murray’s put back-to-back good ones together. Maxiell is just caught up in the numbers game right now. Nothing he’s done has dissatisfied the Pistons, there’s just no room for him at the moment with Davis forcing his way into the lineup. As for the offense … I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. There was cause for concern about their defense in the first two weeks, but those worries are ebbing. If you expect the Pistons to hold teams under 70 points again, forget it. But it has nothing to do with Flip Saunders. That NBA doesn’t exist anymore. (And aren’t you glad?)
Brent: Why didn’t the Pistons go after Bonzi Wells? I still think we could use another scorer off the bench. And what’s going on with Shane Battier. Is he going to end up here?
Langlois: Bonzi didn’t come to training camp in shape, Brent, so Jeff Van Gundy sat him down. He played 15 minutes in Houston’s first 14 games. No question he’s an impact player if his mind is into it, but the guy comes with some baggage. That doesn’t necessarily scare the Pistons away – Joe Dumars has stocked the locker room with enough quality people to absorb the occasional loose cannon. But you only take those gambles on home-run hitters. As for Battier, there’s not a better team guy in the league. And he’s on record as saying he’d love to finish his career in Detroit. But there’s no fit for him right now. It stands to reason the Pistons would love to add him to their core – what NBA team wouldn’t? – but Houston views him as the perfect complement to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, which is why the Rockets gave up a lottery pick and Stromile Swift to get him last June.
Cody (Alpena): When Big Ben was in Detroit, I always suspected he was a bit crazy. He confirmed my suspicions by leaving a city where he was a basketball god. My question: Has any player ever let down a city more than Ben by taking the money elsewhere?
Langlois: Look at it this way, Cody – maybe he did Detroit a huge favor by leaving. You think the Bulls aren’t already a little green around the gills contemplating the next four years? There are two issues at play. Best case, the current headband flap – a textbook tip of the iceberg scenario – fades away and Ben Wallace and Scott Skiles get along famously. Even then, does Big Ben still have the physical skills to influence play on a nightly basis anymore? Isn’t that what a $60 million contract implies? If he’d signed a lesser deal to stay in Detroit – $12 million a year instead of $15 million – the Pistons, given the big contracts they’ve recently awarded Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton and the one Chauncey Billups is in line to get – would be financially hamstrung.
Justin (Howell): Why do the Pistons wear their red jerseys so rarely? My friends and I like them best.
Langlois: Pistons Royal Blue is the team’s official road jersey. The red ones are worn on a limited basis and almost always on the road. The next two times you and your friends get to see red are Dec. 16 at New Jersey and Dec. 27 at New York.
Juan (Valencia, Spain): Is Nazr Mohammed the ideal center for the Pistons? I see his scoring totals on the Internet but I don’t see the games. Without Ben Wallace, I think the Pistons are just an average team.
Langlois: Bill Russell, circa 1965, is the ideal center for this team, Juan. Failing that, Joe Dumars did the best he could this offseason to get a guy who would provide 25 solid minutes a night on a contract that wouldn’t limit his ability to reshape the team if need be. The Pistons don’t regret that signing at all. Nazr has shown enough of what they wanted – offensive rebounding and the ability to stick the occasional jump shot often enough to make defenses play him honestly – to make them believe that, as he gets more familiar with his surroundings, he’ll be a net asset.
Paul (Tokyo, Japan): From the Land of the Rising Sun, it warms my heart to see our boys on a winning streak. I left Detroit four months ago but can’t wait to return for the championship in June. I never quite understood the reason behind keeping Dale Davis, but his recent aggressiveness has me re-evaluating his value. But I’m wondering about Nazr Mohammed. What if the Pistons tried to trade or release him. Wouldn’t that free up money to re-sign Chauncey Billups?
Langlois: Paul, ancient Japanese proverb: Smart man questions Joe Dumars once, but foolish man questions him twice. If he was right about Davis, what makes you think he’s wrong about Mohammed? Give it a little time. Maybe your expectations were out of proportion, but the Pistons believe they’re going to get what they wanted out of him. You can’t look at it as Mohammed giving them the same contribution – or even a different combination of contributions that adds up to the same level of contribution – that Ben Wallace did. He’s being paid about 40 percent of Big Ben’s money on an annual basis. The rest of that money the Pistons are spreading out – and they expect the other 60 percent of Ben’s contributions to be spread out proportionally, as well.
Jacqueline: What’s the big deal with Ben or any player who wants to wear a headband? Why are people painting it as an act of defiance? Maybe it was an act of negligence on the part of management to not spell out the dos and don’ts in his contract.
Langlois: It was an act of defiance, Jacqueline, pure and simple. And Ben Wallace knew that. It was a calculated move designed to force a confrontation over a much larger issue: Ben Wallace wants to be treated like the centerpiece of the franchise. He wants to dictate how they play defense, he wants to have a role in the offense (sound familiar?) and he wants to play more minutes than anybody else. It might be a petty rule, but every team has a few of them. NBA players are provided for like 99.9 percent of the population could not imagine, and the tradeoff for that is adhering to a set of organizational rules not uncommon to any workplace. With the Bulls, not wearing a headband is one of them. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like an undue sacrifice on Ben’s part. But that’s just me.
Shavone: I am a big Pistons fan and especially a Rip Hamilton fan. I just wanted to know why he cut his hair and what motivated him to take a big step like that?
Langlois: Hmmm. If I remember correctly, he said during training camp that he “wanted to try something new.” As for me, I generally take a big step like getting my hair cut every six weeks or so.
Chad (Atlanta): I’m tired of every reporter asking the Pistons how they’ll adjust without Ben. I am waiting for one player to tell a reporter that they don’t live in the past. But I think Nazr should be getting double-digit rebounds a game. When you’re 6-11, you should get at least 10 rebounds a game.
Langlois: Doesn’t work that way, Chad. There are only so many rebounds to go around, and only so many minutes available to get them. By the way, check out this stat: For the season, Mohammed is averaging one rebound ever 3.3 minutes and Wallace one every 3.6.
Juanita: Ever since Rasheed Wallace has been watching his mouth, he’s been playing outstanding basketball. I heard his wife had a talk with him regarding his behavior. Is this true?
Langlois: If she didn’t, she’d be the first wife in history, wouldn’t you say? (And don’t think we don’t appreciate it!) You probably heard Flip Saunders jokingly say Rasheed’s wife probably told him to quit shipping so much money to the NBA. He’s a charitable guy, but it’s nice to choose your own charities. At any rate, his play has picked up significantly since the first week. Could be that he’s over the distraction of the “zero-tolerance” policy, could be (as Saunders has suggested) that he’s worked himself into shape, could be a product of adjusting to life after Ben Wallace.
Me-Ann (Birmingham): How can I join the Bowling for Kids fundraiser?
Langlois: Contact Paul Hickey at (248) 377-8674 of the community relations department at Palace Sports & Entertainment, Me-Ann.