Sign of Respect

Kanter’s agent says Joe D’s status gives Pistons right to interview him

Joe Dumars' front office moves during his time with the Pistons has gained him the respect of his colleagues as well as prospective players.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
It managed to remain a tightly held secret until it didn’t much matter anymore, but late in the draft process last year the Pistons flew DeMarcus Cousins into town for a workout and sit-down with Joe Dumars even though all sides understood it was a long shot the massive Kentucky freshman would slide all the way to the Pistons at No. 7.

Some teams not only don’t try to conceal the slate of players they bring in for interviews and workouts, they freely announce the schedule and invite media to meet them and ask questions.

The Pistons, like most teams, are more guarded with that information. But the secrecy over the Cousins workout was at least as much to protect the player’s interests. His camp granted a workout to the Pistons but didn’t want everyone past the point they believed Cousins merited selection – and in his case, that was the top five – to think similar requests would be granted to them.

It was a measure of the respect Joe D engenders in those circles, a status reaffirmed within the past week when Enes Kanter’s agent, Max Ergul, spoke with SI.com’s Sam Amick about why he granted interviews to some teams seemingly out of range of his client but not to others, some even in the top 10.

“I think coach (Gregg) Popovich has an opinion that really matters,” Ergul explained. “If Joe Dumars or Pop calls me, or Mitch (Kupchak, GM of the Lakers), and asks for an interview, I’m not going to deny that. They may or may not get him, but I will give them their seniority. They are the guys who earned it.”

The Pistons rarely pass on an opportunity to better get to know players of all skill ranges. The Portsmouth Invitational, held every April for lower-tier NBA prospects, doesn’t hold nearly the sway it once did.

But the Pistons scout it heavily and are among the minority of NBA teams that actually set up interviews with players there. Last week at the Chicago draft combine, Jimmy Butler of Marquette lit up when I asked him about the Pistons and said they were one of the few teams in Portsmouth who took the time to talk to him.

So getting to know a Cousins or a Kanter just a little better even if there is little chance of acquiring them via the draft serves as a valuable resource for the Pistons in informing their decisions down the road.

Look at the makeup of the 2004 title team the Pistons built. Only Tayshaun Prince among their starters was a Pistons draft choice. Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups were free-agent signings; Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton were acquired in trade. The more you know about the players you’re acquiring – and committing precious resources to – the better your chance to assess what players will be the right fits for your roster and your culture when trade or free agency avenues put them within your reach.

So if Max Ergul follows up on his vow to make Enes Kanter available to the Pistons, it’s a pretty safe bet the Pistons take him up on the offer. You just might not hear about it.

  • A word about the process of interviews at the Chicago draft combine. Understand that while the teams can submit requests for interviews – each team has 18 interview slots available to them – the NBA sets the interview schedule. So when Marcus Morris, for one example, expressed some level of concern last week in Chicago that he had yet to speak to the Pistons or have an interview arranged, don’t assume it was because the Pistons didn’t ask to meet with him. The list of possibilities for the Pistons at No. 8 is a pretty long one, but Morris is on it. He’s one of the nine candidates we will profile as possibilities at No. 8 as part of the 15-part draft series begun Monday on Pistons.com with a look at Kentucky’s Brandon Knight.