Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, November 1, 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.

Editor’s note: You can now submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Our best players are supposed to have their best games on big nights. Rodney Stuckey was disappointing against Houston in the season opener. When he came back after the layoff last year, he missed a lot of layups. It might have been rust and fitness then, but what’s the deal now?

Langlois: One game is a really small sample size, Chris. Stuckey missed a couple of shots early and then went a long spell without finding many shots available. His struggles stood out even more because Houston’s James Harden was playing at such a high level. I think we’ll see Stuckey playing more like he did in February of last season more nights this season than like he did last night, as long as he stays free of debilitating injuries.

Jason (Canton, Mich.): How many games will Frank give this starting lineup if they aren’t producing before a change is made? Something’s not right with this unit. They don’t start games with any energy and also come out of halftime lethargically.

Langlois: He set his starting lineup based on a month’s worth of training camp practices and eight preseason games. I don’t see him making any knee-jerk moves because of a loss in the season opener. He said last year that while performance counts most, you have to give lineup combinations a reasonable sample size before making judgments. I think it’s possible he’ll also make some allowances for the fact the Pistons play six straight games on the road now. It’s possible they’re going to get beat up a few times on this road trip – which finishes with four games in five nights and then sees Oklahoma City come to The Palace for a game that tips off not much more than 48 hours after they land. That might not be the best time to be introducing changes to the lineup.

Henry (Honolulu): Any signs of extending Austin Daye’s contract? If not, which team do you think is interested in him for next year or will he be out of a job in the NBA?

Langlois: The deadline passed at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Henry, without an extension. That was not unexpected. Daye did not have the type of preseason he or the Pistons expected, but I don’t think that was a significant factor. To pick up his option would have meant about a $4 million obligation for next season. That would be a tough call unless you were absolutely certain Daye would be among your top six or seven players. It would be an even tougher call for a team looking at having significant cap space next summer, which the Pistons are. Daye will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013. The Pistons had two players who were picked ahead of him in the 2009 draft – Jonny Flynn and Terrence Williams – in training camp on make-good deals. They were eventually cut and have yet to get picked up by any other team. That’s another reminder of how tough it is to find a spot on an NBA roster. Daye will have to regain his shooting stroke, whether that’s this season with the Pistons when his shot at playing time comes, in Summer League next year or down the road in some other capacity.

Preston (Ortonville, Mich.): Why don’t the Pistons wear the red alternate jerseys any more? Could they go back to wearing them?

Langlois: Under previous management, plans were put in place to wear an alternate jersey – not necessarily the red ones – for the 2013-14 NBA season, Preston. I’m sure new management has had significant internal review and communications on the matter – they’re a bold and progressive group, as is evident by the in-arena game presentation last season and, especially, in Wednesday’s season opener – and will make a decision at the appropriate time.

Karl (East Lansing, Mich.): In your last Mailbag, you were talking about backup quarterbacks and making sure they prove themselves before making the switch. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Monroe, Knight and Stuckey all come off the bench before they started?

Langlois: It took Monroe about half his rookie season to move into the starting lineup. He didn’t play in his first two games. Knight got thrown into the starting lineup a few weeks into his rookie season because of injuries to both Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon. Stuckey came to a team that had an All-Star backcourt, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, but he quickly became an important part of the rotation even though he missed his first 27 games with a broken hand. It’s important to remember that no matter how ready a rookie might be to play, his path might be blocked by a veteran. Knight wouldn’t have started so soon had he come to the Pistons with Billups, Hamilton and Stuckey all ahead of him. It’s also important to remember that all three of those players you cited came to the Pistons as more fundamentally polished players than Drummond. Stuckey was three years removed from high school, Monroe two. Knight, like Drummond, had just one year of college basketball, but he quarterbacked Kentucky to the Final Four and had been recognized as one of the top 10 players in his age group since junior high. Drummond was always coveted more for his potential than his production as a prep player. The Pistons are more convinced today than in June that Drummond will realize his vast potential someday, but they’re realistic about the need for patience with the process.

Rickey (San Diego): I recall you mentioning that if we make significant moves with cap space next summer it would most likely be via the trade route. I took a glance at some of the upcoming free agents and most of the marquee names are in pretty comfortable situations. Just wondering what it would take for us to lure a superstar like Chris Paul to Detroit, for example.

Langlois: We’re going to have to see what the ripple effects of the new collective bargaining agreement are with regard to free agency, Rickey. It seems as if teams – especially those not located in the handful of glamour markets – are being more proactive than previously in dealing with free agents before they have the option to leave without compensation coming to the original franchise. The new CBA might make that more difficult, though, since the length of extensions is limited and players can maximize their payday by taking it out to free agency. Paul forced his way out of New Orleans and agreed to waive his opt-out last year with the Clippers, so they are clearly in the driver’s seat for him and have an attractive, competitive team in place around him. With the Lakers now bulked up with the Dwight Howard addition, it’s possible Paul will be leery of second-banana status in his own city and look elsewhere, but I wouldn’t bank on it. It’s fun to look at the list of pending free agents, but I stand by my belief that the cap space the Pistons create is more likely to be put to use in more creative ways than flat-out signing big-name free agents. But “more likely” doesn’t rule out that route, either, if the right fit is out there.

Dawn (Allendale, Mich.): I agree with bringing Andre Drummond off the bench. He’s less likely to accumulate fouls right away, a la Jonas. Regarding Jonas, my first thought is that he shouldn’t risk injury playing for his national team. Watching preseason games, he looks ready to go. Do you foresee enough playing time for him to take a big jump forward? I love his energy and fearlessness.

Langlois: You nailed his two most endearing qualities, Dawn: energy and fearlessness. They’re contagious qualities, too, that inspire teammates to ratchet up their effort levels. I’ve always believed that to be the case. Basketball players are going to play basketball in their off-seasons. They’ll focus mostly on individual skills work, but they occasionally require putting those drills into practice to satisfy both their curiosity and their competitive fire. Whether it’s with their national team and televised across continents or in the private gym of their personal trainer against other NBA players, they’re going to play basketball and that inherently risks injury. When the experience challenges a player in ways he isn’t challenged during the NBA season, on balance there are more positives than negatives that come out of it. As for Drummond coming off the bench, not getting into early foul trouble is just one of the many valid reasons for taking that tack in the early going.

James (Detroit): If the Pistons want Drummond to expand offensively, Joe needs to suggest this kid get with Olajuwon in the off-season. Several people have talked about how Olajuwon has helped develop Kobe, Dwight and LeBron, to name a few. No knock on Roy Rogers, but this guy was not an offensive player. I have watched film of Olajuwon teaching the post – it’s awesome?

Langlois: Lawrence Frank keeps his mind wide open to learning opportunities, James. When he conducted the search to fill out his staff, one of the essential qualities he sought was “lifelong learner.” This isn’t a guy with a provincial bone in his body. It was Frank who enabled the Greg Monroe sessions in Los Angeles last summer with Kevin Love because he admired the pace with which Love went about his business. I think it’s a question of first things first with Drummond. They are giving him a sound fundamental base first. He just turned 19 in August. I’m sure they will have his summers mapped out and will give him a short list of things to focus on each summer. You can’t become great at everything in one off-season. There will be a time and a place for Drummond to concentrate extensively on sophisticated post moves. When that time comes, I suspect Frank will very carefully map out a plan he sees as most beneficial to hasten his development.

Eric (Livonia, Mich.): Now that Jeremy Lamb has been traded to OKC, do you see him being the plans for them? The Pistons need help with their shooting. With Sefalosha, Martin and Lamb all at shooting guard for OKC, any chance the Pistons could trade for Lamb?

Langlois: I can’t speak for OKC’s plans for Lamb, but I’d be more than mildly surprised if he wasn’t a significantly compelling reason they dealt with Houston. They have a rookie with a high offensive ceiling and several seasons of cost control on a payroll stretched thin by the huge deals doled out to Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. If he can approximate what Harden gave them – a potent scoring punch off the bench who can carry the offense for stretches while Durant and Westbrook sit – then by next season, after Martin and his expiring contract are elsewhere, they’ll be leaning on Lamb heavily.

Tim (Battle Creek, Mich.): Don’t you think that without Drummond starting we are pretty much the same team from last year with porous interior defense and guards that get to the rim over and over?

Langlois: The same starting five – a unit which showed significant defensive improvement over the months last season, remember, as they became more familiar with Lawrence Frank’s defensive tenets. But the same team? The bench could look significantly different and Drummond figures to be a big part of that. Kyle Singler and Kim English both had very impressive debuts. That’s three rookies in the rotation. Corey Maggette could be a factor, too, when he returns from injury.