True Blue Pistons - June 2011
Kyle Singler vs. Kevin Love is to Oregon what Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird was to the world. In a smaller state that produces relatively few blue-chip basketball players, Singler and Love dominated the stage for their entire high school careers in the Pacific Northwest.
They met as both juniors and seniors for the state championship, Love’s Lake Oswego team winning in 2006, 59-57, and Singler’s South Medford squad coming back to win the following year when both were seniors, 58-54.
They were McDonald’s All-American teammates – both among the winning West’s five double-figures scorers on a loaded roster that also included Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and Michael Beasley – and recruited by all of America’s elite basketball programs. Singler and Love thought about joining forces, but ultimately landed about as far as they could get from each other – Love heading to UCLA and Singler to the opposite coast to play for Duke.
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011
There was a reason the Pistons and Brandon Knight were never linked in the weeks between the May 17 lottery and the June 23 NBA draft: Knight was never supposed to be available with the No. 8 pick.
Only when Charlotte made the three-way trade with Milwaukee and Sacramento to land the No. 7 pick a few hours before the draft began did it dawn on the Pistons’ front office that Knight, indeed, could fall to them in the same way Greg Monroe unexpectedly was available with the No. 7 pick a year ago.
And for whatever it means for Knight’s future success, understand this: Joe Dumars and his staff were every bit as thrilled with this year’s turn of events as last year’s.
Posted Monday, June 27, 2011
Brandon Knight was the point guard who followed Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall through the John Calipari pipeline and led Kentucky to the Final Four as a freshman. Kyle Singler spent four years at one of college basketball’s Cadillac programs, Duke, and it seemed like all of his 148 career games were on national television.
Pretty safe to say Pistons fans had some familiarity with their top two picks in the 2012 draft.
Vernon Macklin? That’s another story. For someone who spent two years apiece at two other high-profile college programs – first Georgetown, then Florida – Macklin comes to the Pistons as something of a blank page.
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011
Brandon Knight might have felt compelled to explain his low-key reaction to being picked by the Pistons – interpreted in some corners as disappointment– to some. So he did, saying at his introductory press conference Saturday that, “I reacted that way because I’m a serious guy. That’s always been my nature. I always am calm and collected.”
In the back of the room, Greg Monroe smiled – barely. From one serious guy to another. Knight didn’t need to explain anything to Monroe. A year ago, when he was drafted, Monroe didn’t exactly do back flips on his way to shaking hands with David Stern.
Posted Friday, June 24, 2011
In another lifetime, Jack McCloskey added Joe Dumars with his No. 1 pick to an already stacked backcourt. Isiah Thomas was by then, 1985, a perennial All-Star. Steady John Long, in the middle of a 14-year career, was his running mate, a deadly spot-up shooter. And Vinnie Johnson was establishing himself as the best sixth man of his generation.
So where was Dumars going to fit? He started out as the No. 4 guard, getting spotty minutes on Chuck Daly’s bench. But with the Pistons a little too much up and down in February, Daly made the switch. Joe D became the starter, essentially flipping roles with Long, and the rest of the story is revealed in the banners adorning The Palace’s rafters and the plaque bearing his name in Springfield.
Nobody’s enshrining Brandon Knight just yet, but the larger point is that you milk the draft for the best available talent and sort out the roster down the road. So let’s start with that point...
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011
The Pistons spent the weeks leading to the NBA draft last year convinced Greg Monroe would fall just out of their reach, until learning less than 24 hours before it that he would indeed be available to them.
They barely got a 24-second shot clock notice that Brandon Knight would similarly slip unexpectedly into their laps.
Who is Brandon Knight? The fourth straight point guard recruited by John Calipari who left for the NBA after one year. The first three: Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. If Knight takes the baton from that relay team and matches their splits, the Pistons will have done very well for themselves in the 2012 draft.
The Pistons went into the night focused on big men – primarily on the belief that would represent the value of the draft when it got around to them. But when six straight big men were picked after Kyrie Irving went No. 1 to Cleveland – Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely and Bismack Biyombo – the Pistons couldn’t pass on Knight, a player they believed would go no lower than No. 5.
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011
After a season filled with drama and conflict, the Pistons doubled down on character in Thursday’s draft, following their first-round pick of Brandon Knight by grabbing Duke’s Kyle Singler early in the second round.
“It was reflected in the picks,” Pistons vice president Scott Perry said of the value the Pistons placed on citizenship. “Character was obviously of utmost importance to us and I think you win with character. That’s what this organization has historically done. To get two guys, such high-class individuals where we were able to get them (and) both kind of slid into our range. Going into the day, we probably didn’t expect either one would be at either of those picks.”
The Pistons finished the draft by taking Florida’s Vernon Macklin at 52, another player Perry said exuded selflessness. Macklin, 6-foot-10, played two years at Georgetown but saw little time because he was behind Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, then transferred to Florida where he averaged 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a senior and began stirring the interest of NBA scouts with a new-found scoring flair during the NCAA tournament.
The Pistons went into the draft, Perry said, looking to add a big man, a small forward and a point guard. The surprise was the order, taking Knight in the lottery and a big man with their last pick. But the common denominator with all three is that their talent was matched by their character.
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2011
If you’re old enough to remember the NBA draft being televised on USA with old St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca declaring every pick a great fit and potential Hall of Famer, welcome back. We’ve come full circle.
Back then, you’d sit in front of the TV with your dog-earred copy of Street & Smith’s college basketball yearbook with only a vague idea of which players would be picked in the first round. In 1985, Joe Dumars was not only unknown to most NBA fans, Pistons owner Bill Davidson and minority partner Oscar Feldman had no idea who he was when GM Jack McCloskey picked him – right after Dallas had spent the previous two picks on 14 feet worth of bust, Uwe Blab and Bill Wennington, who were prominently featured in Street & Smith’s.
Today, thanks to the mushrooming of Internet blogs and social media, the circumstances are 180 degrees different but the result is pretty much the same: We have no idea what’s going to happen in Thursday’s draft. It’s not for lack of information, necessarily, but information overload. What’s lacking is credible information, or at least an Angie’s List to rate sources worth believing.
Posted Monday, June 20, 2011
A huge 24 hours on tap for the Pistons. Workouts Monday and Tuesday with a very interesting and perhaps influential meeting scheduled Monday night between Joe Dumars and Bismack Biyombo.
Those are close to the final pieces that will determine which player Joe D opts to take with the No. 8 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. The Pistons know Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams will be gone when they pick. It’s almost as certain that Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight will be off the board. I suspect they’re holding out some hope that Jonas Valanciunas or Jan Vesely might be available to them – not saying they’d lunge at either player, but they’d definitely draw consideration – though the odds are against it.
So that’s six players with odds ranging from definitely gone to less than 50-50 to be available. Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard are wild cards. If they both go ahead of the Pistons – Walker could be in play at picks 3, 5 and 7; Leonard at picks 6 and 7 – then one of Vesely and Valanciunas will still be likely on the board. I’d peg Walker as a 50-50 and Leonard as likely to still be available.
And then there’s Jimmer Fredette. Nobody in the top seven is talking about him except Sacramento, where Fredette makes sense from both roster and public relations standpoints.
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011
The draft picture remains murky with just a week remaining until it takes place, but a vague outline is at least starting to take shape following last weekend’s Eurocamp – a more critical piece of the puzzle than ever before because of the number of international players likely to go in the lottery – and the clues that last-minute workout schedules can provide.
What does it all mean for the Pistons, sitting with the No. 8 pick?
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2011
In the summer of 2002, Joe Dumars faced a critical decision two years into his run as Pistons president. The franchise was positioned to take a significant next step after he’d stabilized a shaky situation and begun reworking a roster filled with mismatched parts.
The Pistons needed an upgrade at point guard, most glaringly. Chucky Atkins had served them well as part of the package received from Orlando in the Grant Hill sign and trade, but Atkins was the prototypical backup point guard, giving up too much size most nights to give the Pistons a chance to dig in defensively.
The free-agent options boiled down to three players, all of whom had strengths and flaws: Travis Best, Jeff McInnis and Chauncey Billups. It was far from the no-brainer then that it seems today.
Posted Monday, June 13, 2011
The NBA Finals ended before the Stanley Cup was passed out, the NBA draft is as unreadable as ever with only 10 days to go until decision day, the Pistons still have a “vacant” sign on the head coach’s office door and at least half of the NBA’s top executives are out of touch today as they jet back from Italy with the Eurocamp winding down.
Random thoughts on all of that stuff:
Posted Friday, June 10, 2011
I’m confused why LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are confused that America seems united in its desire to see the Miami Heat go up in flames. If they were trying to be unlikeable, they couldn’t do it any better.
What exactly were they thinking while hamming it up for TV cameras, leaving Thursday morning’s shootaround faking coughs and smirking – a clear slap at Dirk Nowitzki’s illness that forced him to play through a high fever in Dallas’ Game 4 win on Tuesday?
That was a rhetorical question, by the way. The only possible answer is, “They weren’t.” Just as somebody might have wanted to coach them before they took the stage that gaudy Friday night in Miami last July and LeBron uttered words that could wind up haunting him even more than “taking my talents to South Beach.”
Posted Thursday, June 9, 2011
Not many NBA drafts offer up intrigue with the very first pick. The 2007 draft – Greg Oden or Kevin Durant? – was a memorable exception. Last year’s draft didn’t have a whole lot of intrigue by the time draft day rolled around until the sixth pick, when Golden State went for Ekpe Udoh and left Greg Monroe for the Pistons.
This year’s draft starts at No. 2.
Unless Kyrie Irving completely blows his individual workout for Cleveland or sabotages his interview – the way Isiah Thomas deliberately gave Dallas a negative impression to facilitate his delivery to the Pistons with the No. 2 pick in 1981 – he’s going to the Cavs.
Posted Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Let’s see: Mike Woodson, Kelvin Sampson, Mark Jackson (nope: gone), Mike Budenholzer, Don Newman, Bill Laimbeer, Dwane Casey … am I missing anyone?
That’s the list – the rumored list, it should be emphasized – to replace John Kuester as Pistons head coach. I touched on many of those names in Monday’s Mailbag, but let’s acknowledge that the names that surface early in coaching searches consist of three types: unemployed former head coaches who still carry cachet; coaches with a link to the organization doing the search; assistant coaches considered by consensus to be ready for a shot at running their own show.
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2011
There is a rarely a perfect time for a coaching change, but there is almost always a time when the necessity for change is unmistakably clear. That time had come for the Pistons, Tom Gores and Joe Dumars concluded, on John Kuester’s watch. I don’t suspect anyone who’s followed the Pistons closely the past two seasons would argue any differently with much conviction. Not any more.
Gores, upon his introduction as Pistons owner last week, said Kuester deserved the courtesy of a conversation with him before any decision was made. Gores’ business empire was built, according to those who know the world of private equity investment, because the Platinum Equity team he founded and leads employs a truly unique business model that learns the nuts and bolts first, then acts surgically and decisively.
He promised swift action on several fronts and that’s what he delivered with Sunday’s decision to let go of Kuester with one year left on his contract. There will be tougher decisions ahead, to be sure. This one seemed inevitable not long into a second season that began with a series of wrenching losses, one more numbing and frustrating than the last.
Posted Friday, June 3, 2011
TV ratings for the 2011 NBA playoffs have spiked, a phenomenon anecdotally credited to Pat Riley’s sales pitch that wed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade. And all those casual fans new to the NBA could be forgiven for believing the fail-safe way to build an NBA champion is through free agency.
And maybe it is – when the stars align themselves the way they did for Miami last summer, anyway. But that was a once-a-millenium moon shot under conditions most NBA cities can’t replicate. You’ll notice the three lead actors, all free agents at the same time, chose not to set up stage in Toronto or Cleveland, but Miami.
For however much home-state Pistons fans love Michigan, we will all admit – proudly, in the majority of instances – that Detroit holds much more in common with Cleveland and Toronto than with Miami.
So waiting for those stars – superstars, in fact – to align themselves over the Detroit skyline is not likely to be the game plan Joe Dumars and Tom Gores discuss when they get together Friday morning to launch the new era, the Tom Gores era, of Pistons basketball.
Posted Thursday, June 2, 2011
Before Karen Davidson handed the keys to Tom Gores, she left Pistons fans with this by way of what they should expect from the man who assumes the mantle of ownership her late husband held for 35 years: “Tom Gores has, and Bill had, the same qualities of hard work, dedication and vision, and I look forward to seeing Tom carry out his legacy.”
Nearly an hour later, as Gores’ introductory press conference at The Palace was nearing its end, somebody asked the new owner about the need to be mistake-free in getting the Pistons back on track.
“I think we can afford mistakes,” Gores answered, politely turning the question on its ear. “Look, we’re going to make mistakes. The key is to not sit in your missteps. I want our folks and our leaders to not be afraid. Now, I don’t want you sitting with that mistake for a long time. I don’t want you to get set in whatever decisions you made. If it was wrong, the next day, change it.”
They were words Joe Dumars had heard before – from Bill Davidson. Change is coming to the Pistons. Gores left little room for misinterpretation on that score. And Dumars is ready to enjoin his new owner in making it happen.
“Starting tomorrow,” Gores said, “we’re going to go full speed ahead, talking about every single detail, giving everybody every single chance to say why they want to be a part of the Pistons. We’re going to listen. We’re going to be very thorough. But we’ll be fast.”
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2011
News that the NBA unanimously approved the transfer of Pistons ownership to Tom Gores doesn’t generate the headlines of LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach or cause the same stir as Shaquille O’Neal calling it quits.
But don’t assume that the amount of newsprint or cyberspace devoted to those stories relative to this one defines their impact. Any pro sports team caught in the transition of ownership faces unique challenges, not the least of them the perception that their business grinds to a halt. Even when that doesn’t match the reality, the effects can be significant.
Whatever the effects were for the Pistons – and even Joe Dumars can’t know what deals other GMs didn’t bother to propose because of the inherent perceptions of a team in ownership transition – those days are behind the Pistons now.