Joe Dumars Q&A - December 17, 2010
KEITH LANGLOIS: Austin Daye had a terrific summer, looked really good in the preseason, opened the season as a starter and as of today it looks like he’s out of the rotation. Does that at all change your enthusiasm for his future?
JOE DUMARS: Not one bit. He is at the top of our list in terms of young guys that we feel very good about going forward with in the future. He has a couple of pretty good veteran guys playing ahead of him right now in Prince and Tracy McGrady. But when you’re an organization and you have a young asset as an organization, and because he’s not playing at the time, you don’t get down on him. You feel really good about it, because you know there is going to be a point here where this guy is going to be on the floor. And he’s shown enough early on that we feel really good about what to expect from him in the future.
KL: I’m sure it’s disappointing for him right now to not be playing. When something like that happens to a player, do you watch to see how he responds?
JD: Of course you do. You watch it and you watch it closely. But when Austin first was taken out of the rotation, he and I met here on a Saturday morning, about 9:30 one Saturday morning and spent about an hour and a half here talking. And I said to him, Austin, other than your physical abilities on the court – shoot the ball and do the things that you do – the No. 1 thing that we like about you is your spirit. The kind of spirit you have. You’re such a positive, fun, good kid. And you’re not a kid that is moping and complaining and a negative spirit. And I said to him, don’t ever lose that. Don’t ever lose that spirit that you have. Besides just basketball, that’s what we love about you the most. So Austin Daye going through this? Austin will be OK. Because he has a great spirit about himself.
KL: What are your hopes for Jonas Jerebko for the rest of the season? Do you hope he can come back with at least enough time left that he can go into the summer feeling he’s back to where he left off?
JD: I really, really hope for that for Jonas’ sake. Because Jonas wants to come back so badly. We won’t force him back. We won’t rush him back. I’ve told Jonas that before I let him back on the court, he and I are going to have to have a shooting contest or something. He’s going to have to beat me in something to get back on the court. But in all seriousness, it does us no good to rush Jonas Jerebko back and take any chances with this kid. I know he wants to come back as soon as possible. If he’s healthy, if he’s cleared, if the doctors say it’s OK, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But another young asset that we love in this organization. Another guy who has an incredible spirit about himself. Another guy that we look at as a core piece going forward. I don’t want to jeopardize that.
KL: Do you ever allow yourself to think if he hadn’t gotten hurt how the kind of spunk he shows might have prevented a few of those losses?
JD: I think it’s inevitable that you look out there some nights and say, wow, we could really use Jonas’ energy tonight. When Jonas went down, we all said we’re going to miss this kid being on the floor with the stuff that he does. Part of the holes that you’ve seen – not all of them, but part of them – Jonas could have filled some of those holes for us.
KL: After last season, when injuries tore through the roster from opening night on, what were you thinking flying back from Miami when you kind of suspected this was a serious injury suffered in the first quarter of the first preseason game?
JD: Really, I was thinking, I thought we had paid our penance the year before and I just kind of shook my head and laughed and said, well, I guess we have some more penance to pay here. I was just blown away. Sitting in the training room after the preseason game and listening to the doctors and Arnie say he has a torn Achilles and is probably out for the season. It was just a surreal moment, coming off the previous year where you were just decimated with injuries. It was a tough moment for all of us.
KL: Let’s talk about Charlie V. I thought the Atlanta game might have been as well as he’s played since he’s been here. Scoring aside, the rebounds he grabbed, he was grabbing them in traffic. Defensively, he had a couple of important steals in the fourth quarter when you pulled away. Do you look at Charlie now and say you’re even more sure that he’s one of those young pieces that you want going forward.
JD: Yeah, we really like Charlie, and we learned to like him even more watching the work he put in this summer. When nobody else was in the gym, this kid was in the gym. To see it carry over into the season is great for management, because you point to that. You can always go back to that with him and say the work that you put in has a direct correlation to how you’re playing right now. Charlie is a young guy in his mid 20s. I can say this – without going into a whole lot of detail – he has tremendous value around the league with other teams calling. For him to bounce back and not only score like he has this year, but play the way he’s played, with the type of energy. A much better defensive effort, much better rebounding effort, much better hustle effort – those are the things you want to see when you bring in a young guy.
KL: Talk about a guy who puts a lot of time in the gym, Ben Gordon is known around the league as the ultimate gym rat. He hasn’t had the type of success in his second year here that Charlie’s had. Is there any concern with you that he’s not the player you thought you got when you signed him?
JD: There’s no question to me that he’s a heck of a player. It just manifested itself here at this point, but I don’t doubt the kid at all. He just hasn’t found his niche here in Detroit yet, but in terms of him as a player, the kid’s a heck of a player. Charlie has probably turned the corner a little bit more than him, but Charlie’s at a position where we don’t have a dominant scorer like Rip has been for so long for us here. So the transition is probably a little easier for Charlie than it has been for Ben, but we’ll figure it out – he’ll figure it out. The kid’s still a heck of a good player and another player that has real good value around this league.
KL: When we talked after last season about Rodney Stuckey, you said you told him that he’s been good but sometimes good isn’t good enough. Talk about the progress you’ve seen in him this year coming off of last year.
JD: Proud of Rodney Stuckey. Rodney Stuckey is leading us in scoring and leading us in assists and, to me, leading us in attacking. He’s our No. 1 attacker. And that’s what you have to be if you’re going to have the ball in your hands the dominant amount of time you’re on the court. This kid is averaging 17 points and almost six assists a game and if you look around, especially in the Eastern Conference, he ranks right up there at the top with those guys who are your point guards in the Eastern Conference. We’re really happy with the progress Stuckey has made. We think he’s taken another step this year. Stuck has taken heed. The days of him deferring are long gone. And we like the direction that he’s headed in.
KL: Finally, what are your expectations for the final two-thirds of the season? Did they change based on the win over Atlanta?
JD: They never have changed. There has been disappointment along the way, but the expectations never have changed. And here are the expectations. We continue to view ourselves as a deep team, a team that can go nine or 10 deep easily, and a team that’s not dependent on one or two guys to carry us, and to try to beat you with numbers – the amount of people we can put on the floor and hurt you at different times. That’s what I’m saying about the Atlanta game. Greg Monroe played well for a stretch, Rip played well for a stretch and Tayshaun did his thing. Stuckey stepped up and Tracy McGrady got going, Charlie was our leading scorer. The goal is for us to continue to try to win in a way where our depth can show itself on a nightly basis. That’s the goal for the next two-thirds of the season.
KL: So even though you’ve dug yourselves a little bit of a hole, the playoffs are still within reach?
JD: Of course. You have so many games left. So many things can happen. We hope that we can get on a little spurt here. I don’t spend a whole lot of time watching the standings. I just watch us, to see how we’re playing. Because if we start playing well, I don’t need to worry about the standings. That’ll take care of itself. I just focus on us and how we’re playing. That’s what my whole focus is – watching us and doing whatever I can to help us play more consistent basketball.