Joe Dumars Q&A - February 17, 2011
KEITH LANGLOIS: We’re about two-thirds of the way through the season. If someone who’d been in hibernation since October called and asked how your season was going, what would you tell them?
JOE DUMARS: A lot of missed opportunities. A lot of nights where we’ve had chances to win games and found ways to lose. That would be what I would describe. Just so far, these first 55, 56 games have been missed opportunity after missed opportunity.
KL: The Rip Hamilton affair – it became public, and I know that is not the way you like to do business. Just the fact it became public, what are your impressions of how it played out?
JD: I briefly spoke on this before and said that over the past 10 years, we’ve always dealt with whatever issues came up internally, and that’s how I want things to continue to be here. To deal with whatever issues you have internally. That should not change going forward.
KL: Let’s talk about the move that triggered Rip’s removal from the rotation, when the lineup change was made and Tracy McGrady became the starting point guard and Rodney Stuckey slid over to the two. Both of those guys will be free agents at the end of the year – Rodney a restricted free agent – but if you’re interested in bringing Tracy back, are you optimistic that will happen or is it too early?
JD: Tracy has been extremely good for us here. And we would like to go forward with him. We really like his play on the floor. But also, just as importantly, we like the person that he is. We like the leadership that he brings. We like the veteran, professional approach that he brings. We like all of those things about Tracy. We would like to go forward with him.
KL: If he does come back, in your mind would he come back No. 1 on your depth chart at point guard?
JD: Not sure yet. We’d just like to have him back. To start assigning positions, a little premature right now. He’s just a guy we would like to have back in our organization going forward.
KL: With Rodney, as I said, a restricted free agent at the end of the season. As we know, the history of restricted free agency is it’s been pretty restrictive. There hasn’t been a lot of movement there, but we don’t know what the new collective bargaining agreement will look like. The CBA aside, do you go into this off-season still intent of bringing Rodney back?
JD: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. There’s no question about that. Rodney is maybe 24 now and he’s a good, young player. We like him. He’ll be a part of our core going forward and we have every intention of re-signing him and going forward with him.
KL: If Tracy, for whatever reason, doesn’t wind up back here, would you still be comfortable with him as your point guard going into next season or has this move to two-guard made you think of him in different terms?
JD: I still think it’s premature to start assigning positions right now. We’re in the middle of February. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to sit here and tell you what positions someone is going to play next year. Here’s what I can say. This kid is a good young player, we really like him and we have every intention of re-signing him. Position wise, we’ll figure that out. Right now, you don’t even know what your roster will look like. It’s way premature right now.
KL: We’ve talked in the past about four young players in particular who are pieces of the nucleus going forward. Rodney is one. Austin, Jonas and Greg Monroe are the other three. I want to talk about each of those guys a little and what you’ve learned about them over the past few months, starting with Jonas. You haven’t seen him play this season, but what have you learned about him while he goes through rehab?
JD: To watch a young kid be forced to learn some patience right now is interesting. As a young kid, patience is the last thing he wants to deal with. He’s had to learn how to be patient, how to just follow Arnie’s direction and not deviate from there. But you can see he’s just chomping at the bit to try to get back. So it’s been interesting to watch him dealing with patience and being young and wanting to come back so quick.We absolutely love Jonas and we look forward to him playing here for a lot of years.
KL: I know the better scenario would have been watching him develop as a second-year player. Is there anything positive that can come out of him having to go through this?
JD: I think this kid had his head on straight from the beginning, but usually when you go through something like this you come to appreciate it even more. Not that he didn’t before, but this can only help him appreciate and embrace the game even more. I think he’s going to come back and you’re going to see him play with the same passion and fire that he played with before.
KL: I know he’s doing more and more things – I watched him before the game the other night get a lot of shots up, get a good sweat going. Would it be a disappointment to you if he wasn’t able to come back and get 10 or 12 games under his belt going into the summer?
JD: No. I wouldn’t be disappointed. It would be great if he could, but I wouldn’t be disappointed. No. 1, I don’t want to rush him back. The last thing we want to do is rush this kid. If he’s not 100 percent, it absolutely makes no sense for Jonas Jerebko to try to play again this year. That being said, we’d like to see him with some movement, getting around on the court, even if it’s not in games, just to see his progress. But from an organizational standpoint – and I’ve had this conversation with Jonas’, with Jonas’ agent, with Arnie Kander, with all the coaches – we will not rush Jonas Jerebko back. It would be great if he can. If he’s healthy enough to do so, we will. But if not – as long as we see him working out and progressing, that will be enough for me.
KL: I imagine Arnie and his agent and everyone else is OK with that. How’s Jonas with it?
JD: Jonas is like a little kid when you take a toy away from him. He wants his toy back. His toy is to get on the floor and play. The grownups understand that, but he’s a young player that wants to play. So he’s saying, hey, I can come back, I can make it back. We’re saying, OK, Jonas, but take your time. We’re not going to rush you back.
KL: Let’s talk about another young player. Austin Daye has in the last several weeks shown not just a willingness to take big shots, but the ability to knock them down in clutch situations. How do you assign a value to that trait?
JD: It’s a special skill to be able to come in games, take big shots and make them. This is another young player that we think has a really bright future. He has shown why we drafted him 15th. He’s a 6-11 guy that’s really skilled, versatile and can really stroke the ball. To have someone who can shoot the ball like that and can make plays, at that size, on the floor is a big plus for us. We’re excited about Austin Daye going forward.
KL: If off-season moves leave open the possibility of Austin as a starter next year, is that something you feel he’s ready to assume?
JD: I always say about a young kid starting, the opportunity can be there, but it’s always up to the young guy to embrace it and make it a reality. So if it’s there for him, it always comes back to the young player. What are you doing to prepare yourself over the summer? Are you getting stronger? Are you getting bigger? And are you ready to step into that position for 82 games, night after night, to step into that position and play. It always falls back on the player and what are you doing to prepare yourself. That’s a conversation that, of course, we will have with him. There’s a possibility you could start next year, so get your body ready for that.