True Blue Pistons - April 2013
Mike Abdenour is good at barking orders and establishing timelines for athletes in their recovery from physical setbacks, but he’s got some work to do at following instructions and adhering to timelines others set for his recovery.
He’s back at work this week after 32 days off – he could give you the minutes and seconds breakdown if you give him a chance to update the standings – and doesn’t plan on going away again anytime soon. He’d have been back a lot sooner, if he’d had his way. Like five days after the March 24 heart attack that sidelined him – doctor’s orders, with an assist to Joe Dumars – for the remainder of the season.
And he’s already making up for lost time, which explains why he recounted his month away while walking briskly on a treadmill inside the Pistons practice facility, attacking his job with a zeal that would bring knowing smiles to the hundreds of paths he’s crossed during his nearly four decades with the Pistons.
Posted Monday, April 29, 2013
The NBA deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the June draft passed at midnight Sunday with fewer than a handful of players who mattered still waffling. Adreian Payne and Isaiah Austin decided to stay in school at Michigan State and Baylor, while Andre Roberson chose to leave Colorado for the NBA.
None of those decisions will affect the Pistons with respect to their lottery pick. The only player considered a probable top-five pick who chose not to enter the draft is Marcus Smart, the Big 12 Player of the Year who announced his intention to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season.
What does it mean for the Pistons?
Posted Friday, April 26, 2013
For as long as Greg Monroe had to envision the product of his pairing with Andre Drummond, for as much as he prepared for the switch to power forward to accommodate Drummond’s ascension to the starting lineup, nothing was more instructive – or more encouraging – than experiencing the reality for the season’s final 10 games.
“It’s an unofficial attachment when it comes to big men playing together,” he told me this week. “You have to know where each other is on the court – spacing, movement. Learning where he’s going to be and his habits was the key this year as far as us moving forward. Summertime, we’ll work out. Once the season starts back up, we’ll get more acclimated. But I think we played very well and I think we’ll only get better with time.
“The plan is for us to move forward playing together, so I have to be as comfortable playing with him as anybody could be.”
Posted Thursday, April 25, 2013
George David’s first draft as Pistons assistant general manager isn’t much different for him than the past several as personnel director. He’s added some duties outside of draft prep in his new role, but he remains the central figure in the run-up to draft night for the Pistons – the guy who directs the scouting staff, puts the draft board together and makes sure Joe Dumars sees every viable candidate for their No. 1 pick in person.
The decisions on draft night are Joe D’s. Making sure he is as well-prepared to make those decisions is perhaps the best way to describe David’s draft role.
As such, he goes by the Boy Scout creed: always be prepared. So when the Pistons were awarded the second-round clip of the Los Angeles Clippers that once seemed unlikely, it was a nice bonus but not something that caught David unprepared.
The Pistons will be picking from one extreme to the other in the June 27 draft – a top-10 pick, a bottom-10 pick and one very near the middle.
Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Greg Monroe doesn’t know who’ll be filling out the lineup card next season, but he’s fairly certain whoever it is will pencil him in next to Andre Drummond at center.
Back in the gym to get in some weight-lifting under Arnie Kander’s supervision on Tuesday, less than a week after his third season wrapped up, Monroe will prepare this off-season to come back with a game more suited to power forward than center.
He’ll split his summer similarly to a year ago – back home in Louisiana for a month, then off to Georgetown for a summer session in the classroom with plenty of ex-Hoyas available to partner up in the gym, then set up shop in Auburn Hills alongside a core of teammates in the weeks leading up to the start of training camp.
Posted Monday, April 22, 2013
It barely registered a blip on the Richter scale of Pistons fandom, but there were a few high fives around the executive offices late Friday afternoon when the Pistons won both of the NBA draft tiebreakers that involved them.
One puts them ahead of Washington in the lottery pecking order, the other gives them a bonus late second-round pick. Assistant general manager George David wasn’t in position to exchange any of those high fives – he was in Portland along with scouting director Doug Ash at the Nike Hoop Summit – but it’s safe to say he cracked a smile.
The tiebreaker win with Washington gives the Pistons a slightly better chance to draw a top-three pick, but the bigger benefit is being slotted one spot ahead of the Wizards.
Posted Friday, April 19, 2013
For a franchise that hasn’t gotten many breaks lately, the Pistons got two Friday afternoon – perhaps an omen that better fortune lies ahead. They won both tiebreakers that involved them for determining lottery position and draft order.
As a result, the Pistons will go into the May 21 lottery in the No. 7 spot. They’ll pick ahead of Washington, with which they shared a 29-52 record, if neither team moves into the top three for the June 27 draft. Washington will thus pick ahead of the Pistons in the second round, which means the Pistons will have the 38th pick. They will also choose 56th as a result of the Los Angeles Clippers winning their tiebreaker with Memphis.
The Pistons were in a similar spot going into the 2010 draft, when they tied with Philadelphia for the sixth spot but lost the tiebreaker. Philadelphia wound up drawing the No. 2 pick and the Pistons picked seventh, selecting Greg Monroe.
Posted Friday, April 19, 2013
In an increasingly polarized world where there is no patience for nuanced positions, we sort coaches into two bins: dictators or pushovers, often coded as “a player’s coach.”
Except the best coaches rise above those labels. Chuck Daly, the best coach in Pistons history, certainly did.
If he were available, Joe Dumars would hire him. Alas, he’s not. So the search goes on.
As it will for roughly a quarter of the league, perhaps a third, in the days and weeks ahead. Philadelphia will be looking for its fifth coach since 2006 with Doug Collins’ departure. Milwaukee might be looking for its fifth, depending on what happens with Jim Boylan. Minnesota could be on the hunt for its sixth coach in that time if Rick Adelman walks away, as he’s said he’s considered. Phoenix will be looking for its fifth coach if Lindsey Hunter isn’t retained.
Posted Thursday, April 18, 2013
Tom Gores made good on his word to thoroughly but “very, very quickly” make the tough decisions necessary for the future of the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons on Thursday fired coach Lawrence Frank, less than 24 hours after what Frank described as a “very tough, very turbulent” season came to an end with a loss at Brooklyn.
“We thank Lawrence for his hard work and dedication, but we feel it is in the best interest of the franchise to make a change at this time,” Joe Dumars, president of basketball operations, said in a prepared statement released by the team. “Decisions like this are never easy and we wish Lawrence well in the future.”
Posted Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Their four-game winning streak came to an end in the season finale. Now the Pistons wait on word whether the Lawrence Frank era ended in Brooklyn, as well.
The Pistons fell 103-99 to the Nets, finishing a season Frank described after the game as “a very tough season, both personally and professionally.” He now awaits a decision on his future with the franchise after owner Tom Gores, while attending Monday’s home finale, promised a swift review of team leadership.
Asked whether he was optimistic about his chances to return, Frank said, “I think very realistic. Tom and I have very honest dialog. We’ll just kind of see how it plays out. You go into it eyes wide open. We both have mutual respect for each other, so we’ll figure it out.”
Frank thanked the players for staying the course, his coaching and support staffs in the locker room after the game, which left the Pistons with a 29-53 record. The Pistons went 25-41 in his lockout-shortened first season.
Posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The cap space Joe Dumars carved out for the looming off-season creates a gaping opportunity to upgrade the Pistons’ talent base. Given the success rate the Pistons have had in the previous three lotteries, adding another top-10 pick likely means a fourth building block will be secured in June. But the greatest source of optimism for a great leap forward in 2013-14 lies in the potency, individually but particularly in the collective, of the Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond tandem.
The Pistons have now had roughly 10 percent of an NBA season – nine games with only Wednesday’s season finale at Brooklyn remaining – to gauge the effectiveness of Monroe and Drummond together.
Ten percent is an amply sufficient sample size to paint an accurate portrayal of the situation as it exists – precise polling can be done with far less of a slice – but it’s still not a lot to go on when projecting the future.
Posted Monday, April 15, 2013
When Tom Gores spoke before the Pistons’ home finale about his excitement for the future, he wasn’t solely referencing the cache of cap space the franchise will take into the July free agency period. He also had in mind the young nucleus built in the first two years of his stewardship.
A few hours later, he might have been feeling even more optimistic about that young nucleus.
Even with Andre Drummond playing on a testy right ankle, the one he sprained three nights earlier and made him a game-time decision for Monday’s home finale, the Pistons gave their owner a glimpse of what might be with a 109-101 win over Philadelphia.
Greg Monroe racked up his 36th double-double by the first minute of the second half and finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds. Brandon Knight’s bounce fueled a 33-21 third-quarter advantage that put the Pistons squarely in control. Rookie small forwards Kyle Singler (16 points) and Khris Middleton combined for a high-efficiency job sharing role, contributing 26 points and seven rebounds on 10 of 18 shooting.
Drummond didn’t dent the stat sheet with quite the same authority as he’s done frequently since returning from injury nine games ago, accumulating two quick fouls that likely further inhibited his aggressiveness on top of the ankle injury. But he flashed his athleticism and havoc-inducing defensive presence often enough in the second half, when he grabbed five rebounds and added two steals in addition to altering or dissuading several shots.
Posted Monday, April 15, 2013
Tom Gores understands the coming off-season presents the Pistons with an opportunity for a magnitude of change that might not come around again for several years. To ensure those personnel decisions are made with all due consideration, Gores will make the decisions he needs to make soon, he said before Monday’s home finale.
“We’re assessing everything fast,” Gores said when asked if he had a timeline in mind for decisions on the futures of team leadership. “It’s a very important time, a critical time for the franchise. We’re fortunate enough to have a good young group of people, so we’ll do it fast, like we did when we came in and bought the team. We’re going to do this very, very quickly, but thoroughly.”
Gores said he met with president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and head coach Lawrence Frank on Sunday.
“I expected better results,” he said. “I met with Joe and Lawrence yesterday and let them know that. They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.”
Posted Sunday, April 14, 2013
The front office that scouted Khris Middleton for three college seasons and saw him hold his own against NBA players in summer camp pickup games wasn’t fazed by his performances in Orlando’s Summer League. But the coaching staff that didn’t have that history with him? Well …
“In Summer League, look, there were a lot of questions,” Lawrence Frank said as the season headed to its final week with Middleton now in the rotation as Kyle Singler’s backup. “Part of it is him getting healthy with his knee. I think he has a lot more confidence in his legs. A lot of work he’s put into his game. He’s very studious. He knows that he has to continue to work and get stronger. He’s in the weight room. He watches film every day. At the end of practice, he’s working on his individual skills, one on one.”
When Joe Dumars huddles his inner circle at season’s end and plots a future that includes the opening that an estimated $25 million or more in cap space this summer provides, he’ll write the names of his last three No. 1 draft choices in ink: Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond. He’ll have Kyle Singler on that list, too, and now Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko have grown into the class of young veterans, both putting strong finishing kicks onto disappointing seasons.
Posted Friday, April 12, 2013
Charlotte stumbled to the league’s worst season ever a year ago by winning percentage, going 7-59 and praying with every loss for the payoff that never came. They wanted Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, as did all teams that landed in the lottery. But the Bobcats came up with the No. 2 pick instead. They could have taken Andre Drummond.
And that possibility could well haunt the franchise for years. Drummond gave the Bobcats a glimpse into what might have been on Friday, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds, just as he likely turned Cleveland wistful two nights earlier with a 29-point, 11-rebound outing for passing on him with the No. 4 pick.
“He puts a presence on the offensive boards,” Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap said before Friday’s 113-93 Pistons win, their third straight. “It’s like there’s a piece of meat on the tip of the rim and he’s going after that sucker like a hound dog that hasn’t been fed for seven days. Defensively, he’s just a good athlete who covers a lot of mistakes at the rim and he’s willing to leave his man to block shots, take charges. I think he’s gritty.”
Drummond’s numbers might have been better, but he left the game just 2:40 after returning in the fourth quarter when he stepped on Bismack Biyombo’s foot and rolled his right ankle. He said X-rays revealed nothing more serious than a sprain and felt he’d be ready for the season’s final two games, Monday vs. Philadelphia at The Palace and Wednesday’s finale at Brooklyn. The team called him day to day.
Posted Thursday, April 11, 2013
About 20 minutes before tipoff of Wednesday’s game at Cleveland, Cavs TV analyst Austin Carr, doing a live in-arena interview to preview the Pistons-Cavs game, proclaimed Cleveland shooting guard Dion Waiters “the best rookie in the Eastern Conference.”
Perked my ears up a little bit. Fans in Washington (Bradley Beal) and Charlotte (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) would probably object, but fans in Detroit – perhaps the only place where Andre Drummond’s impact is fully appreciated – surely would.
But, OK. Waiters has been pretty good, scoring almost 15 points a game despite low shooting percentages, and Carr, a Notre Dame legend who averaged 38 points a game as a junior and senior 40-plus years ago, is likely inclined to value scoring above all else.
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013
CLEVELAND – Andre Drummond diligently practices his free throws every day, despite what his 34 percent success rate in an otherwise revelatory rookie season might suggest. He just usually doesn’t get to practice them with 14,000 onlookers. But when Cleveland coach Byron Scott dragged out the Hack-a-Dre strategy with a little more than five minutes left in Wednesday’s fourth quarter, Drummond took a philosophical approach.
“I got a chance to work on my free throws today. That’s how I look at it,” the rookie said after scoring nine points in 17 attempts at the line as part of a career-best 29-point outburst in a 111-104 Pistons win that swept the four-game season series from Cleveland. “I just got a chance to work at it. Now I know I can do it, so there’s no excuse not to do it again next game. The more and more they foul me, the more and more I got confidence. I just said to myself, ‘You get the next one.’ If I missed one, ‘You get the next one.’ I was focused. That’s what I call it. I was focused.”
Seven times in a span of nine possessions over 3:15, Cleveland players mugged Drummond. He split the pair on the first six trips and made both on the final one.
Posted Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Lawrence Frank admits he comes at this from the perspective of a man who dreamed of being a coach the way other kids hope to become an astronaut or movie star. Outsiders making sweeping assumptions and proclamations armed with a fraction of the proprietary knowledge the coach possesses drive him a little crazy.
And when he hears the rumblings directed at Michigan coach John Beilein after Monday’s championship game loss to Louisville in one of the most competitive and entertaining title games of its era, he bristles.
When Michigan’s national player of the year, Trey Burke, picked up his second foul before the mid-point of the first half, Beilein put him on the bench. He left him there for the rest of the half as freshman backup Spike Albrecht’s shooting allowed Michigan to build a double-digit lead with 17 first-half points. Louisville wound up cutting Michigan’s halftime lead to one when Luke Hancock drilled four 3-pointers in the final two minutes.
As a rookie, Jonas Jerebko left little doubt that no one could possibly have more fun than he derived from playing basketball. When his stints on the court ended, he’d come to the bench with red cheeks that more often than not matched red floor burns on his knees and elbows.
The Pistons weren’t abundantly talented that season, 2009-10, but with Jerebko starting in place of an injured Tayshaun Prince, they put together a five-game November winning streak with a starting five that consisted of two players making the veteran minimum – Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace – plus Jason Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey and the second-round rookie from Sweden. Together, they were earning less than $10 million, a sum dwarfed by more than 70 individual NBA players that season.
That Jonas Jerebko wasn’t much in evidence this season. Of course, any Jonas Jerebko wasn’t much in evidence over a 28-game span from late November to late January in which he played in just six minutes of one game.
Posted Sunday, April 7, 2013
In a season filled with too many near-misses and nights lamented for the lack of the one or two plays that weren’t made, the Pistons might not look back more fondly at any game than the 99-85 win over Chicago in Game 78.
It was made doubly satisfying for the way it obliterated the burden of the 18-game losing streak the Pistons dragged into the game at Chicago’s hands, symbolically washed away in the chest bump Andre Drummond and Jonas Jerebko shared when Drummond charged off the bench to meet Jerebko near mid-court after the Swede’s dunk put the Pistons up 14 with seven minutes to play and forced a Chicago timeout.
“We hadn’t beaten them since Andre was born,” Lawrence Frank grinned. “That’s a long time – 18 straight times. Not that we know the date – Dec. 23, 2008.”
Posted Saturday, April 6, 2013
When the Pistons look back at a season that will vex them, one of the most perplexing elements of it will be their road performance against Western Conference teams. Saturday was their last shot to get a win against the West and they gave themselves a chance they haven’t often had in their previous 14 such games. But their inability to hang on to the basketball – on their offensive end for the first 59 minutes and at Minnesota’s end in the final 60 seconds – cost them in a 107-101 loss.
The Pistons were within a point after Brandon Knight’s 3-pointer made it 102-101, but couldn’t corral an offensive rebound with 20 seconds left that went off Andre Drummond’s fingers. Forced to foul, they failed to grab Luke Ridnour’s miss on the second attempt, allowing him to make it a four-point game when they were again forced to foul with 15 seconds to go.
They lost a key jump ball also in the last few minutes with Andre Drummond up against point guard Ricky Rubio, and Brandon Knight – who played a gutty game, scoring 25 points after tossing away the protective mask for his broken nose five minutes into the game – fouled Rubio on a desperation 3-pointer at a time Rubio was 0 of 11.
Posted Friday, April 5, 2013
The four horsemen of Brandon Knight’s apocalyptic season: plantar fasciitis, hyperextended knee, sprained ankle, broken nose. For all of that, he’s missed seven games: three with the knee, four with the ankle.
“It’s always something,” he said, palming the hard plastic face mask he abhors but has been ordered to wear for the remainder of the season, “but normally it’s one thing. My entire college season, it was tendinitis. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many minor things added together at one time.”
They’ve all converged down the stretch of the season, too, with the plantar fasciitis that first flared last summer causing him stabbing pain again now. On Thursday, when the Pistons returned from their three-game road trip and before they headed back out to Minnesota on Friday, Knight and teammate Corey Maggette had their broken noses reset.
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013
The pairing of Andre Drummond with Greg Monroe, an experiment less than a week in the making, opens the door to a world of possibilities for the Pistons. It also poses a number of questions, the answers to which are only in the infancy of being formed.
The Pistons are getting a taste of how teams are going to defend them, though Lawrence Frank says the young pair hasn’t yet risen to the level that they become the focus of opposition defensive schemes. But in the minutiae that makes up a game plan, teams are deciding who guards Monroe and who guards Drummond, and how they can force Frank into having to choose one or the other late in games – or take his chances that a mismatch on one end of the floor will play to his advantage more than a mismatch on the opposite end will inflict damage.
“It’s all about combinations,” Frank said. “If they’re more worried about Andre’s rolls, they’ll probably use their best pick-and-roll defender on Andre. If they’re worried about Greg’s postups, they’ll put their better postup defender on Greg.”
So Monroe isn’t going to automatically be able to go against power forwards over whom he might have a significant size and strength advantage. Teams might still guard Monroe with their center and let their power forward take his chances against Drummond, whose strengths are offensive rebounding and finishing lob dunks off pick-and-roll plays – not posting up.
Posted Wednesday, April 3, 2013
BOSTON – Lawrence Frank struck gold with an unlikely lineup to win Monday at Toronto and nearly did it again with a new mix Wednesday at Boston. Down 18 midway through the third quarter, the Pistons came within three minutes by the midway mark in the fourth.
But for miserable 3-point shooting numbers and a half-dozen turnovers in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pistons would have left Boston with a five-game winning streak over the Celtics and a comeback for the ages. Instead, they sat in a locker room with dumbfounded looks as the reality of some staggering shooting numbers sunk in.
“Two for 17?” Jonas Jerebko repeated when he heard Charlie Villanueva’s shooting numbers. Nobody takes more 3-pointers as a percentage of his shots than Villanueva and there’s nobody the Pistons would rather have taking them, either, but he missed all eight of his shots from distance against the Celtics, including two in the final minute – one for the lead, one for a last-possession tie.
“Charlie’s a shooter. He’s going to keep shooting it. Two for 17 – we could have won by 10. But the ball didn’t bounce our way. We got great looks. We shared the ball. I’m happy with the way we played. We had some unfortunate missed ones.”
Posted Tuesday, April 2, 2013
There could not have been a more intimidating NBA roster on which Jason Maxiell would attempt to make an impression than the 2005-06 Pistons. They were coming off back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, beating the vaunted Lakers in the 2004 “five-game sweep” and pushing the equally star-laden San Antonio Spurs to seven grinding games into late June the next season.
A few days later, the Pistons used the 26th pick of the 2005 draft to select Maxiell, a conventionally undersized post player even by the standards of college basketball. But the Pistons saw in him a certain fearlessness and toughness they instinctively viewed as a fit for grooming behind Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace and the player Joe Dumars would sign days later as a free agent, Antonio McDyess.
All three of those veterans could spot a phony a mile away. No rookie, no matter how decorated or hyped upon arrival, would win an ounce of their respect until it was earned.
It speaks volumes that all three quickly took Maxiell under their collective wing because they saw in him a kindred spirit, a player who believed the only NBA currency that mattered was tied to work ethic, selflessness and team success.
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013
TORONTO – When the halftime buzzer sounded at Air Canada Centre, Jose Calderon headed to the locker room. The wrong locker room. The one he called home for the first seven-plus seasons of his NBA career.
“I went to the wrong tunnel,” Calderon grinned sheepishly after the game. “But they called me out really quick. It was just like three or four steps. That’s all.”
Those were the only three or four missteps of Calderon’s homecoming, which the Pistons made a triumphant one by putting up 33 fourth-quarter points with a group that probably hadn’t logged two meaningful minutes together all season.
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013
Save for an ankle injury that cost him a mid-March game at Utah, Jason Maxiell started all of the Pistons’ first 72 games this season – until the last one he played, last Friday, when Andre Drummond returned from a back injury.
That will stand as Maxiell’s last game of the season, the Pistons announced on Monday – and it could be the last game of his eight-year run with the franchise that made him its 2005 first-round pick. Maxiell, a pending free agent whose return is questionable with Drummond and Greg Monroe established as the starting frontcourt of the future, will miss the season’s final eight games after undergoing surgery to repair a detached retina.
“You feel horrible for Jason,” Lawrence Frank said before Monday’s game at Toronto. “He’s a very, very professional guy. You know exactly what you’re going to get every day. You hate to see any of your guys get injured and especially like that, where your season is over.”