True Blue Pistons - May 2012

About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined Pistons.com as the web site editor on October 2, 2006. Langlois, who brings over 27 years of professional sports journalism experience to Palace Sports & Entertainment, serves as Pistons.com's official beat writer and covers the team on a daily basis.

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Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Pistons to Pick 9th

Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank might have briefly fantasized about the impact that adding Anthony Davis to their young core would have had on the Pistons, but the 1.7 percent chance of it becoming reality steered their preparation for 2012-13 and beyond in other directions.

The Pistons will pick No. 9 in the June 28 draft after the lottery played to form. Other than New Orleans jumping from No. 4 to No. 1 – pushing Charlotte, Washington and Cleveland down a spot apiece – there was no disruption in the 1-14 order. That means they’ll go into overdrive starting now to set up individual workouts for the candidates who fall within that range – with the emphasis on big men, considered the strength of the 2012 draft.

“I think the depth from the bigs this year is a little deeper, so just from a depth standpoint it probably gives you more of a chance,” Dumars said by phone from New York, where the lottery was held. “It’s going to come down to who that guy is - those guys coming in to work out and sitting down to interview to see if any of those guys are a fit for you.”

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Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For a franchise that’s had pretty lousy lottery luck the past two seasons, the Pistons have enjoyed tremendous fortune on draft night. This year, their hearts probably won’t be pounding through their chests as David Stern pulls the envelopes out of the drum Wednesday night in New York to set the 2012 NBA draft order.

If they hit the home run and beat their 1.7 percent odds of landing the No. 1 pick, great. But those odds are so long – significantly worse even than their 4.3 and 2.8 percent chances of the past two seasons – that nobody holds out much hope the Pistons will be game planning around Anthony Davis next season.

Getting the No. 2 or No. 3 pick would be nice, but probably wouldn’t stir the same jubilation it would have in either 2010 or 2011 – and, ironically enough, the results turned out arguably better for the Pistons in landing Greg Monroe with the No. 7 pick and Brandon Knight at No. 8.

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Posted Friday, May 25, 2012

Brandon Knight logged three-plus hours in the gym Thursday and would have stretched it out even longer but for a commitment to spend an hour at the Lake Orion Hollywood Market to sign autographs. He rushed out of the gym without showering to make it in time and he was back at it Friday morning, planning on a four-hour session this time.

So you can believe his response when you ask if he plans on lugging any lucky charms with him to New York for next week’s NBA draft lottery drawing – the Pistons will have Knight on stage representing them – and he shakes his head.

“I don’t believe in luck – I believe in hard work,” he said.

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Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012

With the lottery a week away, there isn’t much we know for certain except this: Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick. It doesn’t matter which of the 12 teams draw the lucky combination – both New Orleans and Portland have two lottery picks, unless Brooklyn draws into the top three, in which case the Nets keep their pick instead of sending it to the Trail Blazers – Davis will be first to shake David Stern’s hand on June 28.

After that, the most definitive thing you can say about the lottery is that the next three players off the board in some order are likely to be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Thomas Robinson.

The Pistons go into the May 30 lottery more certain than the past two years to stay where they are or slide back one spot. From the No. 7 spot in 2010, they had an 83.1 percent chance to pick seventh or eighth; from the No. 8 spot in 2011, they had an 89.2 percent chance to pick eighth or ninth; and from the No. 9 spot this year, they have a 93.5 percent chance to pick ninth or 10th.

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Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brandon Knight showed the Pistons enough in his rookie season to infuse Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank with the confidence that he belongs on the marquee with Greg Monroe as pillars of the franchise’s future. His progress might have been obscured by the team’s 4-20 start that meant they got almost zero national exposure, but apparently NBA head coaches were paying attention: Knight was named to the league’s All-Rookie first team on Tuesday.

That might register as a mild surprise, given that Monroe was curiously relegated to second-team status a year ago and Knight finished eighth in Rookie of the Year balloting released last week.

But coaches are going to be swayed by more than statistics, not that Knight has to apologize for rookie averages of 12.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds a game or his showings in the more arcane categories.

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Posted Monday, May 21, 2012

If the question is whether Jonas Jerebko’s 2011-12 NBA season was affected by his October 2010 Achilles tendon tear, the answer is no … and yes.

Because even though the tendon itself was completely healed by the time the Pistons gathered for a belated training camp in December, the time spent rehabbing the injury robbed Jerebko of an off-season to work on both his body and his game.

So this summer, it’s full speed ahead on both counts.

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Posted Friday, May 18, 2012

As Ben Wallace weighs his future, Vernon Macklin sweats and strains to ensure his own. If he gets it right, he hopes it turns out the way it did for the guy who came out of Virginia Union, near Macklin’s native Portsmouth, undrafted in 1996. Not that the Pistons rookie envisions four Defensive Player of the Year trophies or multiple All-Star berths ahead of him, necessarily, just that in Wallace he found the inspiration to see his path to a long and enriching NBA career.

“I had one of my cousins call me and ask, ‘Did you learn that since you got to the NBA or did you have that?’ ” Macklin said this week, talking about the eye-popping numbers he put up in the D-League: 14.5 points, 14.3 rebounds in 10 games.

“I was like, ‘Honestly, I don’t know. I just know it was one day I saw a lot of the things Ben Wallace was doing. When the shots went up, he’d either hit you or get to the ball quicker than you.’ He’s got the mentality that when the shot goes up, now it’s you vs. me. I’d never had that mentality.”

And now he does. There’s no more concise way to describe how Macklin went from a so-so college rebounder – he averaged 5.4 a game as a Florida senior – to a dominant one in the D-League in a category that scouts say, along with blocked shots, most reliably translates from one level to the next.

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Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Whatever else Rodney Stuckey took away from his exit interview with Lawrence Frank at season’s end, this is what he most took to heart: “What he is demanding a lot more from me is being vocal with the guys and stepping up and being a leader. It’s my time – time for me to be a leader.”

Stuckey is taking the leadership ball and running with it. He returned to Seattle for a brief time to oversee the remodeling of his home there, but he’s been back in Michigan for the past week and is hitting it hard already at the practice facility. After a three-hour workout Wednesday, he talked about the positive feelings the Pistons took out of the 2011-12 season and the anticipation already building for 2012-13.

“We went away with a lot of vibe,” he said. “Our team chemistry is off the chain. Each and every guy gets along. We never had any of that drama in the locker room where guys are mad at one another. We all get along. That’s good.

“But after the season, we knew we took some good steps from 4 and 20 – we were playing some good basketball at times – but we’ve got to build on that. Hopefully, guys come in in shape and ready to work.”

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Posted Monday, May 14, 2012

The Pistons went into the 20010 and ’11 draft lotteries situated in the No. 7 slot and things played to form both years. There is an 82.1 percent chance of drafting either seventh or eighth in that circumstance and that’s what happened.

From the No. 7 position, a team’s odds to stay seventh are 59.9 percent and the next most likely option is to get pushed down one spot to No. 8, a 23.2 percent chance. The Pistons drafted Greg Monroe from the seventh spot in 2010 and Brandon Knight from the eighth spot in 2011 when Cleveland – drafting with the Clippers’ pick and the 2.8 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick – vaulted over them to earn the right to land presumptive Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.

This time around, the odds are even more certain, at 93.5 percent, that the Pistons will stay where they are or get bumped one slot at the May 30 draft lottery. Should they move from ninth to 10th this year, it isn’t likely to cause nearly as much heartburn as it might have the past few. The Pistons see this as a deeper draft.

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Posted Friday, May 11, 2012

It’s the 10-year anniversary of Joe Dumars’ triumphant summer – the one that two years later made it possible for a summer of triumph. The seeds for the 2004 NBA title were sown in a three-month span of the 2002 off-season, when Joe D first grabbed Tayshaun Prince in the draft, then signed Chauncey Billups as a free agent and finished up by swapping Jerry Stackhouse for Rip Hamilton.

That was a Triple Crown summer – Joe D hit a home run in the draft, another in free agency and completed the cycle by swatting a third out of the park via trade. Prince, Billups and Hamilton joined Ben Wallace, and less than 18 months later came the trade for Rasheed Wallace that completed a remarkable starting five and led to the second great era of Pistons basketball.

Because the Pistons won that 2004 title without a certified superstar – only Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace had so much as made All-Star game appearances at that point, two apiece – it became accepted that Dumars was focused on that particular path to championships.

It’s a foolhardy notion, one Dumars again brushed aside recently.

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Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When Joe Dumars was asked the day after the 2011-12 season ended if the coming off-season would be his most important, he gave the answer I fully expected he would: “Every one of ’em is. You wake up today and it’s the off-season for us. We’ll be totally committed to, ‘How do we add to this team to make it better and how can we take this next step?’ ”

Of course, the right answer might have begun with, “Off-season? What off-season?” Increasingly, for executives, coaches and players, there is that part of the season when games are scheduled and that part of the season when you put in the work to make sure you still have a next season in your future.

Chief NBA decision makers are rarely in a position to take a summer to kick back. Even when you’re sitting on a nucleus poised to contend for the NBA title, there is critical tweaking required that can prove painstaking. When you only need one or two pieces, it is essential to consider every possibility to make sure they are the most ideal one or two pieces. You don’t want to squander the elusive window of opportunity because your complementary pieces were less than complementary.

But I also understood the questioner’s intent.

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Posted Monday, May 7, 2012

In conjuring historical comparisons for Ben Wallace, it becomes necessary to scratch far beneath the surface. There just aren’t many historical comparisons for a 6-foot-8 guy with Wallace’s resume as a defender, rebounder and shot-blocker.

So Lawrence Frank went completely off the board, reaching into another sport for an intriguing parallel to the NBA’s four-time Defensive Player of the Year.

“Ben was like the Lawrence Taylor of the NBA,” Frank said. “You had to think about ways to keep Ben off the weak side of the floor. If he was on the weak side, like Lawrence Taylor as a weakside linebacker, they were going to pursue and block that shot. You had to tweak a lot of things you do because of him.”

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Posted Friday, May 4, 2012

Joe Dumars goes into the off-season looking to strike whenever and wherever opportunities arise to bolster his roster. Lawrence Frank will appreciate whatever improvements he manages, but he’s not banking on the cavalry arriving.

“From a coaching standpoint, the No. 1 way you improve is within,” Frank said upon wrapping up his first season as Pistons coach. “You can’t look outside for help because you never know. Joe will tackle that in regard to the draft, free agency. But if you’re always looking on the outside to get better, you’re never going to get better. We’ve got to get our own guys better.

“In this league, it’s been proven. Regardless of your years of experience, there’s always room for growth, whether it’s adding parts to your game. It always starts with your body in terms of strength and conditioning. We have a fair number of young players who haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”

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Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Pistons’ shot at a playoff berth in Lawrence Frank’s first season was all but officially doomed by the team’s 4-20 start. To a segment of their fan base, from that point on the season became more about accumulating lottery odds than pushing the individual development of franchise cornerstones like Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, watching Frank’s progress in coalescing the Pistons defensively in a manner he strongly believes is the foundation for championships or, you know, winning games.

On talk radio, in the Twitterverse and – as I can personally and emphatically attest – in Pistons Mailbag’s inbox, a hue and cry arose as the Pistons went 21-21 down the stretch to push their odds of winding up with Anthony Davis from “unlikely” to “extreme long shot.”

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