Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, August 2, 2012

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.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

Master (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I keep hearing chatter about the 1992 Dream Team vs. the current group of Olympians. I can’t believe there’s any discussion at all. In fact, I would be willing to bet you could make a team of players from 1992 who weren’t on the Dream Team and still beat this current group. I’d start with the likes of Isiah, Rodman, Olajuwon and Shaq. Thoughts?

Langlois: You raise an excellent point, Master, about the talent that didn’t make the Dream Team. Throw Joe Dumars into the mix, too. (And Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Tim Hardaway, Glen Rice, Derrick Coleman, Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson, Larry Johnson, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, et al.) Olajuwon, though, did not become a United States citizen until 1993, so he wouldn’t have been eligible to compete for a Dream Team berth in 1992. I’d take the Dream Team in a seven-game series, for certain, but beyond that, it’s just too hard to compare given the changes that have taken place in the game and the way the rest of the world has caught up to the United States over the past two decades. To be sure, the gap between the current Olympians and the Dream Team isn’t the real story; the real story is how much the rest of the world has closed the gap. The Dream Team would have been challenged – not defeated, but pushed harder – by the current crop of Olympic opponents just as the 2012 team will be. But, yeah, in a winner-take-all game, I’d pick the Dream Team by eight to 12 points.

Matt (Marion, N.Y.): You’ve talked about the potential for the Pistons to be involved in a three-team trade or in the market for a starting-caliber free agent next year. Any thoughts on a player or position the Pistons could target?

Langlois: That process will evolve over the course of the 2012-13 season, Matt. I’m sure Joe Dumars and his staff have scanned the list of NBA players who will be free agents next summer, and they probably have a loose list of players in mind they like and believe would be good fits. They also will have studied with great interest the salary-cap situations of every team, particularly those teams with pending free agents that interest them. But that situation is so very fluid, much depending on how the seasons of the prospective free agents’ own teams unfold and what moves they make between now and then. The front office will monitor all of it, of course, and everything they learn and conclude as the season plays out will help inform their decisions as July 1, 2013 draws near.

Sam (Ann Arbor, Mich.): I used to love the Pistons. I remember when we got Rasheed and won the championship. Then the NBA changed the rules on how teams could defend because the Pistons were too good. Realistically, how long before we win a playoff series? I’m a fair-weather fan. How long before I buy cable again and start going to games and paying $60 for nose-bleed tickets?

Langlois: Your question inspired a blog, Sam. But you really need to check out ticket prices. You can get a full season-ticket package in The Palace’s lower bowl for $999 – that’s $25 a game for a seat that won’t cause any nasal distress.

Darrell (Detroit): Given the tremendous amount of depth at each position, could the Pistons gain a strategic advantage by using all 12 players to run a full-court press to bolster their already improving defensive play and tire out opposing teams with less depth and athleticism?

Langlois: Teams apply pressure strategically in the NBA, Darrell. Unlike college basketball, where a team might have only a few really adept ballhandlers on the floor, most NBA teams will dice up full-court pressure if it’s overused. In spots, it can be tremendously effective. A coach who finds a comfort level with a 10- or 11-man rotation would be more open to extending pressure upcourt more consistently than a coach with an eight- or nine-man rotation would be. When Hubie Brown was in Memphis, for example, he did a great deal of pressing and trapping because he routinely went deep into his bench. I think Lawrence Frank would follow a similar course if he develops sufficient trust in enough players to employ such a system. I think for the Pistons to go that route this season, though, they would really need to add one more tough, versatile defensive-minded guard with the size to play both backcourt spots. As of today, the Pistons only have Will Bynum at point guard and Kim English at shooting guard behind Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey. If they had to steal minutes from other players at guard, you’d be talking about Austin Daye, Corey Maggette, Khris Middleton or perhaps Tayshaun Prince. None of those players would be likely candidates to be pressing upcourt.

Gary (Dallas): No matter how Andre Drummond develops this year, is there any way you see the Pistons trying to bring in Bill Laimbeer to coach the big guys or would they be more likely to bring in Patrick Ewing if they get the chance to do so? I’ve wondered if Laimbeer not being involved with the organization had something to do with Joe D – not suggesting a feud, but because he might be too familiar with Laimbeer.

Langlois: Two issues here, Gary. Lawrence Frank has the largest coaching staff in Pistons history. He has a history with Roy Rogers, whom he hired out of the D-League to his staff in New Jersey and steered to Boston two seasons ago when Frank landed there with Doc Rivers. Rogers is the primary Pistons big man coach, a role Frank wanted to fill so he’d have someone on staff who could be a true hands-on coach of big men. I’ve watched Rogers every day so far this week working with Drummond, and Rogers is putting his body on Drummond as Drummond receives passes in the low post and works on a few specific moves they’ve focused on so far. Rogers also has Charles Klask, who spent tons of time working with Vernon Macklin last year and helped him tremendously, working alongside him. And Brian Hill, longtime NBA head coach and assistant, is also involved in working with big men. It doesn’t mean they’re opposed to all outside influences – the Pistons will send three of their players to longtime NBA assistant coach Tim Grgurich’s camp in Las Vegas next week – but it’s not necessarily a more-the-merrier mentality when it comes to instruction. You can assume Frank and Rogers have consulted on the agenda for how to best groom Drummond. Rogers and Drummond have already established a relationship. Bringing in another voice now – never mind what it might do to undermine that relationship – runs the real risk of sending conflicting messages or overloading Drummond with too much too soon. As for the Dumars-Laimbeer relationship, Dumars has profound respect for Laimbeer. It was Dumars who made Laimbeer a legitimate candidate for the Pistons job last summer, when he interviewed twice along with the other finalists for the position. This is me speculating: After hiring two first-time coaches (Michael Curry, John Kuester) most recently, Dumars leaned toward the track record of Frank, who by all accounts presented himself extremely well during the interview process that included Pistons ownership.

Ryan (Ypsilanti, Mich.): I hear Patrick Ewing is looking for another job. Could the Pistons give him one? I think he did a great job with Dwight Howard. Maybe he could do the same with Andre Drummond.

Langlois: See above. I received similar questions about Hakeem Olajuwon. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help outside the organization if it fits a certain need. But right now, my view is it’s important Pistons coaches work as closely with their own newcomers as possible to establish a trust with them and indoctrinate them into the Frank way of conducting their business and soaking up the daily messages he delivers about what it means to be a Piston. If there is refinement down the road that they feel is best served by bringing in an outsider for specific skills instruction, great.

And one more …

Eric (Phenix City, Ala.): If Ben Wallace retires, do you see the Pistons hiring him as an assistant coach?

Langlois: The first necessary ingredient would be Wallace expressing an interest in coaching. To date, he has been pretty clear that he doesn’t see that in his future. He wouldn’t be the first to say so and then change his mind, of course. Current Pistons assistant Roy Rogers planned to go into real estate after his playing days were finished. Sitting in a class one day, he had an epiphany: He wanted to stay in the game and decided coaching was his destiny. Ben Wallace has talked about his desire to go to law school. Maybe sitting in a classroom will have a similar effect on him. We’ll see.

Clark (Santa Cruz, Calif.): David Aldridge wrote about Tim Grgurich’s camp in a recent column on NBA.com. He mentioned some Pistons players likely would be attending. Do you know which players went?

Langlois: The camp is next week, Clark. Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond all will be attending. My guess is Lawrence Frank, who is scheduled to be an instructor and has long participated, was instrumental in landing three spots to the coveted Grgurich camp, which usually has about 30 or so players in attendance. It’s unique among the NBA player experience. Many NBA coaches and assistants participate, without pay, and players receive intense and focused instruction in morning station work and then during afternoon and evening scrimmages. The players have to cover their own travel and lodging expenses and no media or agents are permitted to observe. I’ll catch up to the three players after the camp to see how they felt they benefitted from attending.

Jason (Detroit): Can an unrestricted free agent sign a one-year deal with a luxury taxpaying team of his choice and subsequently sign a maximum contract the following year? Essentially, the player would sacrifice a year of market-level salary to ensure he plays with the team of his choosing. Is this legal under the current CBA?

Langlois: No. It was never intended to be, either, but Portland and Phoenix exploited the loophole years ago after the NBA came up with the so-called “Bird rights” that allowed Boston to go over the cap to retain Larry Bird – the rule that enables teams to retain their own star players by signing them to contracts regardless of their cap situation. Portland signed Chris Dudley in 1993 to such a below-market deal and Phoenix did the same in 1994 with Danny Manning, both then using their “Bird rights” a year later to allow their teams to go over the cap to retain them. The NBA closed the loophole in the 1995 collective bargaining agreement, requiring a player to be with a team for three years to have full Bird rights and two years for “early Bird rights.” If a player is traded to a team, his Bird rights accompany him. (The Pistons, for example, had Rasheed Wallace’s Bird rights in the summer of 2004 when he became a free agent after acquiring him that February.) But it is no longer permissible for a team to sign a free agent to a one-year deal and then go over the cap by using “Bird rights” to retain him without regard to the cap the following year.

Edd (Waldport, Oregon): Any chance the Pistons haven’t signed Middleton yet because they are considering encouraging him to play in Europe, a la Kyle Singler?

Langlois: Nothing’s changed, from all appearances, Edd. Pistons management has maintained since draft night that it is their intention to have Middleton on the 2012-13 roster. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room in negotiations for second-rounders, barring unusual circumstances that don’t apply in the Middleton case, so there is no reason to believe there is a negotiations impasse, either. About the only issue that ever comes up in second-round negotiations is the amount of guaranteed money. Typically, the first year is fully guaranteed and the second either isn’t, is partially guaranteed, or contains an off-season date at which time the team must either commit or not commit to a guaranteed second year. Middleton is due to arrive into Auburn Hills soon to begin working out at the team’s practice facility.