Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, January 12
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Roz (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Please shed some positive light on our dear Pistons. They are looking and playing bad. Any glimmers of hope you can share?
Langlois: The way the season came together and the ruggedness of the early schedule – nine of their first 10 opponents were 2011 playoff teams and the Pistons’ strength of schedule has been No. 1 in the league – couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for the Pistons. Progress isn’t going to be measured in wins and losses at this point, Roz. But hope? I think you start with Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, not only two young players with high ceilings but two rock-solid citizens whose passion for the game and to be the best at the game is going to carrying them – and, ultimately, the Pistons – a long way. Jonas Jerebko is a guy that every coach in the league would love to have on his roster, no matter if his role ultimately is as a starter or coming off the bench. Austin Daye is struggling now, but his offensive versatility and scoring potential is going to resurface eventually. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva haven’t met the expectations of Pistons fans, but both can still be positive contributors. Gordon, in particular, had too long a history of consistent and high-level production to believe otherwise. Tayshaun Prince is going to play better. He only recently felt close to 100 percent after starting the season with an aching knee. Rodney Stuckey is a guy I think will benefit most from having Lawrence Frank as Pistons coach. Frank himself is reason for hope. The structure he’s brought to the equation has had a steadying effect. As I’ve written before, when the Lions went from 0-16 to 10-6 in the playoffs in the span of three years, there was a point where progress was being made but it wasn’t being revealed by the win-loss record. The Pistons are passing through that phase now. It might take a few more weeks or a few months, even, before the evidence is plain. But I maintain this team, by season’s end, will be in a better place. Hope that helps.
Tiko (Detroit): It’s clear we are missing size down low and Andre Drummond would be the perfect fit next to Monroe. I believe it’s time we get the No. 1 pick, assuming we finish with one of the five or six worst records.
Langlois: Really early on a lot of fronts to start talking about the draft, Tiko. First, I’m not going to pencil the Pistons in as a top-10 draft team based on what we’ve seen so far, for reasons I mentioned in my answer to Roz above. Second, we don’t know if Drummond is going to be in the draft or not; for what it’s worth, he said recently that he would like to spend another year at UConn, which doesn’t mean much at this point, either. Third, there is a long, long way to go in the evaluation process. If he declares for the draft at season’s end, NBA front offices – all of whom will have seen him play a handful of games in person and every game on tape – will then go into overdrive probing everything else about him and getting him to their training centers for individual workouts. Drummond is on everyone’s radar, but so are at least a half-dozen other big men who might turn out to be just as good or better pros.
John (Hexham, England): If Knight is the Pistons’ future starter at point guard, and I think he is, I can’t see Stuckey and Gordon co-existing at shooting guard unless Gordon is willing to go back to his off-the-bench role. Does one have to go in a trade or do you think there is some other way around this?
Langlois: I don’t think the current situation constitutes nearly the same quandary as the Pistons faced the last two years, John, simply because Stuckey’s ability to play point guard – even some small forward, if the matchups warrant it – leaves Gordon plenty of opportunities, whether it’s starting or off the bench, to do what he does best. When Gordon and Rip Hamilton were teammates, the only way to give them both enough time was to use Hamilton at small forward for a significant portion of the game. It was workable, but Hamilton began to become injury prone and playing him against small forwards who routinely outweighed him by 25 pounds or more seemed to invite injury. With a three-guard rotation that even has a more limited role for Will Bynum as the fourth guard, there should be enough minutes to go around for Stuckey, Knight and Gordon.
Joel (Windsor, Ontario): Can you explain the new amnesty clause? I’m under the impression a team has the ability to dump one player’s contract that was signed under the old CBA. If so, do you think the Pistons would consider using it on Charlie Villanueva?
Langlois: You’re right, Joel. Any contract signed prior to July 1, 2011 is eligible to fall under the amnesty clause of the new CBA for the life of the CBA. There was a one-week window prior to the start of the regular season when teams could exercise the amnesty clause for this season. There will be similar windows in future years. Because that window won’t occur until the off-season, the Pistons and other teams have no motivation to make that decision now. So much can happen between now and then. Joe Dumars and the front office will consider every tool the CBA allows to better position themselves for the future; the amnesty clause is just one of those tools.
George (Grand Haven, Mich.): The Pistons need to get younger and more athletic. That is why I don’t understand the thinking behind keeping Tayshaun or Big Ben. The way Washington is playing, could the Pistons trade for McGee?
Langlois: Except for the handful of teams with legitimate chances to win the NBA title, every team in the league would like to get younger and more athletic – well, toss out the teams who are young and athletic and miserable. Washington counts as one of those. My guess is everyone on Washington’s roster, with the likely exception of John Wall and the possible exception of Jan Vesely, is up for grabs. The question becomes who the Pistons have Washington would want in exchange for McGee. Rule out Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight because they aren’t being traded unless it involves a star with good years left coming back. Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko and Tayshaun Prince can’t be traded until March 1.
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