Pistons Mailbag - Monday, January 23
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Skip (Blissfield, Mich.): I like Knight and Stuckey as the starting backcourt. Do you think coach Frank will stay with this starting combo?
Langlois: We’ll see, Skip. I got many similar questions after Saturday’s win over Portland, when Knight and Stuckey started and combined for 42 points and produced a win. It probably depends how long Ben Gordon remains out with his shoulder injury, at least in the short term. If Gordon misses significant time, then he’ll probably be eased back into full minutes and it’s easier to do that coming off the bench. If Knight and Stuckey continue to develop strong chemistry, it’s possible Frank considers them a more permanent starting backcourt. One factor that could influence his thinking is Gordon’s history of success coming off the bench in Chicago.
Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Brandon Knight looks great so far – but how about this trade: Knight, Charlie V and Austin Daye to Utah for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors. Then draft Harrison Barnes. A frontcourt of Favors, Monroe and Barnes could be special with Stuckey and Harris in the backcourt plus about $7 million in cap space to bring in a third guard, perhaps O.J. Mayo, if the Pistons use the amnesty provision on Ben Gordon. The bench could be great, too, with Prince, Jerebko, Bynum, and maybe Speights or Jason Thompson.
Langlois: Ryan, I’ll give you this: Your trade proposals are usually at least grounded in reality, and when you keep them to two teams (or even three), I can even follow the logic. There are reports Utah is shopping Harris, who is on an expiring contract. (Which would make it risky for the Pistons to acquire him if they’re interested in him long term, another factor to bear in mind.) It would take something special for the Pistons to consider including Knight in a package, but Favors likely qualifies as worth consideration. His athleticism would nicely complement Monroe, too. And Utah’s affinity for Knight was pretty widely acknowledged during the predraft process last spring. Ultimately, I don’t know that either side would do this, but it would give both teams much to think about. Not sure how the Pistons would add Mayo and one of Speights or Thompson, though. My sense is the Pistons would feel no urgency to do that deal – or any deal involving Knight that wasn’t a clear win for them – until the season plays out. If they wind up in the lottery, they might prefer to keep the known quantities of Monroe and Knight – and if you saw the various segments of my interview with Joe Dumars from last week, you know how highly they regard Knight’s character and potential – and get their Favors-like piece from a draft crop pretty deep in big men.
Jon (Grand Blanc, Mich.): Have the Pistons considered reverting to the teal jerseys yet? I actually kind of liked them. Until we start winning again, these current jerseys are just a painful reminder of better days.
Langlois: Not on Joe D’s watch, Jon. I know your question is in jest, but from a broader perspective, Joe D, working hand in hand with not only Lawrence Frank but new owner Tom Gores and new president Dennis Mannion, wants the Pistons to stand for something, and the Pistons blue and white with red accents represent their roots, the days when the Jack McCloskey-constructed, Chuck Daly-coached team grew into the Bad Boys that established the Pistons, under Bill Davidson, as one of the league’s premier franchises. It was one of the first things Joe D did – ditch the teal, go back to the originals – when Mr. D chose him as Pistons president almost 12 years ago. There is no teal in the Pistons’ future.
Regan (Huntington Woods, Mich.): What’s with the Brandon Knight hype? I understand you can’t give up on a young player, but he certainly hasn’t warranted the hype he’s been given by the organization and the fans. All he’s really done efficiently is shoot 3-pointers and clearly he has no idea how to run an offense. Am I missing something here?
Langlois: He turned 20 less than two months ago, Regan. He spent one year in college and he’s playing the most mentally demanding position in basketball in an era that might be the NBA’s best ever at that position. The “hype” from the organization has been consistently tempered with “he has a lot to learn” type of addendums. But the optimism the organization feels – and that starts with Joe Dumars and his staff and Lawrence Frank and his coaches – is 100 percent genuine. Knight has a terrific set of physical skills, but they fully believe that the thing that will set him apart is his attitude. He’s an extraordinarily diligent worker, he has an obvious passion for the game, he’s impressed his veteran teammates as a team-first player and his competitive fire has caught everyone’s attention.
Scott (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Why has our roster remained relatively consistent despite years of underperformance? The Pistons are clearly suffering from a talent deficit. Will they ever have enough money to address this through free agency or moveable pieces to fix the roster with trades? If not, are we going to have to rely on years of ping-pong balls or watch this team continue to decline?
Langlois: Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Jason Maxiell. That’s the list of players who’ve been with the Pistons continuously since the 2008-09 season, Scott. The Pistons went to six straight conference finals – a streak that only ended in 2009, by the way – and won 50 games or more in seven straight seasons. Let’s not confuse the Pistons with franchises that have been in the lottery for years and still haven’t been able to rebuild the talent base. The Pistons have played their way into the lottery twice in a decade and have Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight – two very attractive building blocks – to show for it. The current hot young team in the league, Oklahoma City, had two higher lottery picks – Kevin Durant at two and Russell Westbrook at five – and still wound up with a top-five pick the next season, where the Thunder took James Harden. So the Pistons are two for two in the lottery and it might be that they need to go three for three in order to really get a foothold on a turnaround. If that’s the price they have to pay for six straight years of legitimate title contention, it should be considered a bargain.
Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Greg Monroe is developing a nice offensive game. But I still see two glaring concerns. He gets a lot of balls swatted away or blocked. And he has a lot of room for improvement with one-on-one defense. Do you think those are learnable skills or is it a lack of physical tools?
Langlois: Monroe has been effective this season, in ways he never had the chance to be a season ago, when receiving the ball on the extended low block or at the elbow and maneuvering to the basket. In the past week, we’ve seen defenses collapsing more than ever on him, an acknowledgment by the opposition that Monroe had become the team’s No. 1 weapon. It will help Monroe when the Pistons start making more perimeter jump shots. In the meantime, Monroe’s history suggests he’ll figure it out and become less prone to having the ball swatted away from him on those moves. As for his defense, I think he’s been at least solid. Sure, he’ll get beat one on one every now and then. Last year, we saw Monroe progress as a defender to the point where over the latter third of the season he emerged as the team’s best pick-and-roll defender, according to a member of last year’s coaching staff. The Pistons are playing pick-and-roll defense a little differently this season and that is an adjustment for everyone. Monroe has all the physical tools he needs to be an exceptional two-way player. I fully expect that’s what he becomes.
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