Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, November 8, 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.

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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.

Jeremy (Macomb Twp., Mich.): In your next interview with coach Frank, could you ask why we are not seeing minutes with Monroe and Drummond together? That is supposed to be the plan eventually, right? Unless there is the idea to trade two power forwards before the deadline, the fan base just does not understand. Most of us are beyond excited about drafting Drummond and we are all wondering the same thing.

Langlois: It’s a question he’s been asked and has answered in various forms since early in the preseason, Jeremy. In some cases, it’s about matchups. He intended to play them together some against both Phoenix and the Lakers, but then Maxiell and Jerebko both played very well against the Suns. Against the Lakers, the game simply got out of hand too quickly. Yes, that’s the plan – eventually. Look at the roster. Maxiell is a free agent. Next year, you could very easily see the four-man frontcourt rotation be Monroe, Drummond, Jerebko and Slava Kravtsov. We are five games into this season with 77 remaining. Pretty sure we’ll see Monroe and Drummond sharing the floor if Drummond continues on the current path that sees him starting to make more impact plays than mental gaffes.

Ryan (Cincinnati): It’s safe to say the Pistons have been disappointing so far. What I am trying to get is the mind-set of other Pistons fans who feel like starting a 19-year-old rookie is going to improve our situation. Maxiell is the only starter playing well. To bench him would be absurd. On another note, if we are talking about accountability I wouldn’t mind seeing Knight and Stuckey come off the bench for a game or two.

Langlois: It’s not difficult to understand how the “start Drummond now” sentiment bubbles up, Ryan. It’s at the very essence of being a fan: Everybody wants to see the new kid. Of course, that enthusiasm wanes quickly and consistently if the new kid is thrown into the fire before he’s ready and his flaws are soon exposed. To the argument that “he can only get better if he plays,” Lawrence Frank is as keenly aware and as firmly on board with the organization’s timeline for the future as anyone. He understands that the Pistons aren’t a title contender right now and that Drummond holds a key to when and whether they will be. So he’s balancing what’s best for all concerned – the team and the player. It should also be noted that Maxiell – as you assert – is playing well and deserves his minutes, whether it comes in a starting role or otherwise. Beyond that, I think doing anything to diminish Maxiell’s role based on anything other than merit would be a keen blow to chemistry. Within that locker room, no one is better liked or more highly respected than Maxiell.

Mike (Ann Arbor, Mich.): How many disappointed seasons do you think we, as Pistons fans, have to suffer before we see any signs we are trying to get into position to compete for a playoff spot?

Langlois: Depends what kind of signs you’re looking for, Mike. The Pistons have taken the long view, attempting to build a team that can compete for championships in the future, not for the No. 8 playoff seed this season. That doesn’t mean they’re not actively interested in competing for a playoff berth this season, only that their endgame isn’t being one of 16 but being No. 1. While those objectives, of course, aren’t mutually exclusive, they can at times be at conflict. As an organization – ownership to management to coaching staff – the Pistons have decided they’re not going to take shortcuts. But they are getting close to the point – after hitting, they feel, on three straight lottery picks – where there is the foundation of a future contender in place. Once they’re confident that’s where they are – and I can’t tell you if that will be at some point during this season, or at season’s end, or at some other point – then you’ll see them making some bolder moves that can vault a team a step or two ahead at a time.

Clark (Santa Cruz, Calif.): Lawrence Frank’s last two seasons as a head coach have had pretty horrendous starts and this one – although still early – is headed in that direction. Is this just a coincidence or something we should be worried about?

Langlois: I’m sure he’d resist excuses, but there were some pretty compelling reasons for the 2009 start in New Jersey (a roster stripped of future liabilities in advance of the sale of the franchise) and the 2011 start with the Pistons (new coach, lockout). This year, I think any team that was in the lottery the preceding season and faced with seven of its first eight games on the road would be challenged. Of their first five games, they’ve put themselves in position to win all but Sunday’s loss to the Lakers. Nobody’s happy to be 0-5, but road games are always tough for young teams and the Pistons have played four of their five on the road so far.

D.J. (Hayward, Calif.): As one of the few remaining Pistons fans in the Bay Area, it’s disturbing the Pistons can’t find the right kind of talent to put a better team on the floor. We are trying to rebuild around the nos. 7, 8 and 9 players in the draft and holding onto players well past their prime. Someone like Memo is let go and becomes an All-Star, but the Pistons hold on to Jason Maxiell. A much better shooter and scorer in J.R. Smith bounces around, but Rodney Stuckey is still a starter? Changes need to be made.

Langlois: Frustration is a fan’s birthright, D.J., but the last thing you should want as a fan is a management team that makes knee-jerk reactions based on extraordinarily small sample sizes rather than staying the course with a plan they’ve spent months – and, really, from the larger perspective, more than two years now – putting in place. Those nos. 7, 8 and 9 picks – Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond – are at the center of their future. Now it’s about giving them time to develop and mesh and surrounding them with the right parts. That won’t happen in a heartbeat. The slow start is disappointing, sure, but the schedule set up to make that a distinct possibility. Over the course of time, the schedule will even out. (And not to debate you point by point, but please understand that Mehmet Okur could not be retained under the rules in place at the time. The Pistons could not go over the mid-level exception to sign him, unless they had more than the MLE in cap space, and Utah bid more than the Pistons were able to match by the bylaws of the CBA at the time, since amended and commonly known as the Arenas rule. The only way the Pistons could have retained Okur was to rescind their Bird rights to Rasheed Wallace. Coming off the 2004 title, that would have been a ludicrous decision.)

Jake (Belleville, Mich.): I think the Stuckey experiment has run its course. We have given him plenty of time to show he can be a go-to guy. Even though it’s only a few games into the season, I say we look for a trade. We moved Billups early in the season, so it’s not unprecedented. What do you think the chances are for a trade that sends Stuckey and Maggette to Memphis for Rudy Gay and Tony Allen or any piece that fits financially?

Langlois: Memphis isn’t trading its scoring leader and its defensive ace, Jake, unless it’s a blockbuster that enhances its chances at a playoff run now. That’s a non-starter. The caveat: Memphis just changed ownership and we can’t know what the intent of Robert Pera is just yet. Nobody with the Pistons has characterized Stuckey as the go-to guy. They think he can be a very productive starter, one of the 10 best at his position in the league and potentially someone who can challenge for an All-Star berth if he plays at the level he did last season when healthy. Lawrence Frank has been very explicit about saying the Pistons aren’t a team that has one player who’ll go out and get 25 points every night, but one that will have different players take the lead on different nights.

Courtney (Upland, Calif.): How would Kenyon Martin fit in with the current Pistons? It sounds like he is desperate to play and I think his determination could rub off on some of our guys.

Langlois: Lawrence Frank holds Martin in high esteem, Courtney; remember, he coached him in New Jersey and speaks highly of his competitiveness. And while I think any team would benefit from the sheer toughness – not to mention high-level post defense (see: last spring’s playoff series vs. Memphis) – Martin provides, the truth is he probably is looking at teams that fall within a fairly narrow set of parameters at this point of his career. Word on the street also says he wants something more than a minimum contract or chances are he would have agreed to terms long ago. My guess is he’ll stay on the sidelines until a situation develops – a contender that suffers a frontcourt injury, perhaps, or a team on the cusp of something bigger looking for that one additional piece to buttress its run – and then sign for something above the minimum a few months into the season.

Vince (Windsor, Ontario): I’m confused. Prince says the ball has to get into Stuckey’s hands more and let him make plays. Jerebko says the second unit is playing well because of ball movement. What’s the answer: individual, one-on-one play or ball movement and team play?

Langlois: No confusion necessary, Vince. There’s no conflict there. Stuckey needs the ball in his hands to make plays. It doesn’t mean once it gets in his hands, everyone else stops playing. As a general rule, a player has about three seconds to shoot it, pass it or make a move. If the ball gets to Stuckey and he violates that rule, the Pistons won’t be helped. But there’s no doubt that he’s as capable as anyone on the team of making something good happen when the ball gets to him.

Omar (Beirut, Lebanon): Just wanted to hear your thoughts about adding a 3-point shooter to the Pistons. I know they got some good spot-up shooters in the draft, but coach Frank seems reluctant to play them. Having a good shooter will help open the floor for our penetrating guards and developing frontcourt.

Langlois: The three perimeter rookies – Kim English and Khris Middleton especially, but Kyle Singler to a degree, as well – have given indications that they could be factors in helping the Pistons in an area they need it, perimeter shooting. But they have veterans ahead of them, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey, who have a track record and aren’t going to be displaced without serious deliberation. Prince and Stuckey might not win any 3-point shooting contests with the younger players, but their strengths in other areas give the coaching staff more confidence in their ability to contribute to wins at this time, Omar. But Lawrence Frank is vigilant in his insistence that performance matters most. And if performance dictates otherwise, then change will follow. Perfect example: Wednesday night at Sacramento, Singler played the last 14 straight minutes of a tight game while Prince sat until the final few minutes when both played.

J.R. (Lucena, Philippines): Is it safe to say one of the objectives of the Pistons for 2012-13 is to evaluate all of the players on their roster to see who should stay or go before the team spends its salary cap dollars for next season?

Langlois: I think that’s safe to say in pretty much any season for any team, J.R. Of course, there are a handful of teams – those with a legitimate chance to win the title in any given year – that are focused strictly on the ultimate goal. But even that doesn’t stop them from evaluating everyone on the roster, even if they get limited opportunities to conduct that evaluation in games. Coaches and personnel executives still observe and interact with players on a daily basis and get to judge not only their basketball and athletic potentials but also their work habits and their intent.