Pistons Mailbag - Monday, March 19, 2012 - Page 2

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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Jonathan (Gwinn, Mich.): I read that the Pistons almost landed Chris Kaman but New Orleans’ counterproposal asked for the Pistons’ unprotected lottery pick. I think Joe Dumars was right to turn down that deal, although Kaman or Carl Landry would be a great fit. The article, though, made it seem the Pistons wouldn’t be able to afford Kaman in free agency. Is that true?

Langlois: It depends, Jonathan. Will Kaman want more than the mid-level exception? At this point in his career, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that he’ll be offered more than that. There is also the possibility for the Pistons to create cap space by exercising the amnesty clause. Kaman, a Michigan native, has expressed interest in the past in returning to play for the Pistons. The Pistons have a need for frontcourt size and depth. The safest bet of the off-season is that Kaman and the Pistons will at least gauge the other’s interest.

Edward (Detroit): I love the progress the Pistons are making. Do you think they are building a championship team? Teams are becoming more star heavy, especially in the East. The Pistons have never relied on a star player. I just don’t know if we can compete with Chicago and Derrick Rose, Miami with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, New York with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, Orlando with Dwight Howard, etc. It looks like it will be a couple of years before the Pistons can compete for championships.

Langlois: They’ve taken the first few critical steps, Edward. Before you can build a champion, you have to build a playoff contender. (Barring aberrations like Miami gutting the roster and signing three All-Stars in one off-season, which might never again occur.) The Pistons have at least three or four young pieces in place and they are in good position to add another few this summer. That puts them within range of making a few other moves that give them a shot at real playoff contention next season. There are no guarantees, though, that because you’ve taken positive initial steps it will end with a championship. For every story that ends with champagne celebrations and parades, there are ones like Utah or Phoenix or New York a generation ago that came close so many times but never made it past the finish line. The good news is that there is real hope for the Pistons after hitting big on draft picks like Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight and, by all indications, landing the right coach to instill a level of fundamentals as their foundation. Now it’s a matter of finding the right parts to plug in around them, hopefully landing another one of equal impact in this year’s draft.

Clinton (East Lansing, Mich.): Why would Portland fire Nate McMillan? The Blazers are constantly dealing with injuries to their star players, they are constantly getting new players and McMillan is constantly taking them to winning records in a brutal Western Conference. I think it was a dumb move, though I think the rebuilding they’ve undertaken is smart.

Langlois: McMillan is widely acknowledged as one of the top handful of coaches in the NBA. He can afford to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to jump back in because, rest assured, there will be no shortage of opportunities awaiting him. I think he’s terrific. Whatever the issues are in Portland – and there are issues, as the musical chairs being played at the general manager’s position screams – McMillan was the least of them. All of that said, when a team is making 40-point deficits routine, as was becoming the case in Portland, it’s very difficult to resist the notion to change voices. It doesn’t mean Portland will be better off in the long run for that move, but the present was becoming intolerable.

David (Potomac, Md.): Given the second unit’s offensive struggles and Ben Gordon’s limited range as a defender, what are your thoughts on playing Jonas at small forward, Charlie Villanueva at power forward and either Gordon or Damien Wilkins at shooting guard depending on defensive matchups. I give Lawrence Frank credit for consistency, but it seems there is room for some experimentation.

Langlois: There have been a handful of games over the last few weeks that have swung on the start of the second quarter. It’s cut both ways. Because the Pistons have generally been playing much better for weeks now, Frank probably is reluctant to mess with a rotation that, by and large, seems to work. Frank talks about 18 statistical categories where improvement has been made. They still have 21 games left, so that opens the door for a number of possibilities for Frank as the need arises. Maybe Austin Daye gets another shot at winning the backup small forward spot. Maybe, as you suggest, Charlie Villanueva works his way back into the rotation by Jerebko being moved to small forward. But any second-unit tinkering that cuts Gordon’s role isn’t very likely to make that group better offensively.

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