DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on Detroit Pistons, struggling teams and more

David Aldridge

New this season: Little Caesars Arena Link! From Quintin Reed:

As a Pistons fan, is it ok to declare this the era of unbridled optimism? Should they return to form, who gets moved first?

Most teams are approaching the one-eighth pole of the regular season. Let’s not make playoff plans just yet in Detroit. Having said that, the Pistons do look better so far this season. Andre Drummond’s significant improvement so far from the foul line — 75 percent so far this season after shooting 38.6 percent from there last season — could be a game-changer if he sustains anything close to it over 82 games. Coach Stan Van Gundy could not play Drummond down the stretch last season, such was his understandable fear of Hack-a-Drummond in the last few minutes of games. If that’s no longer going to be an effective game-ending strategy for Pistons’ opponents, Detroit’s chances in close games should improve dramatically. I’d think you’d want the guy ranked first last season in Defensive Rating on the floor when it matters.

If, though, Detroit regress to the mean in the next few weeks, I don’t think it’s any secret the Pistons wouldn’t be averse to moving Reggie Jackson for the right offer (peep Schuhmann’s preseason work on Detroit’s deficits last season with Drummond and Jackson on the floor together. Whether that was, in Jackson’s case, a reported discussion of a deal (and denied by Van Gundy) last week for Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix, is up for debate. Detroit seemed fine offensively at least for large chunks of last season with Ish Smith (3.1 win shares in 2016-17) running the point, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to give Jackson away.

Playing at a fast Clip. From Terry Tanis:

… I am personally concerned about the Cavs and the Clippers. The Cavs are not where they should be right now with all that firepower. I don’t know if the Clippers are able to maintain their excellence straight into and during the playoffs. What do you think, sir?

If LeBron plays anywhere near like he did Friday night in D.C., and Isaiah Thomas gets back into fighting trim, the Cavs are still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. As for as the Clippers, it’s fair to be skeptical about their long-term prospects, but I do think they’ll make the playoffs this season — as long as Blake Griffin stays healthy. His abilities as a scorer and playmaker are such that he can lift them to a top eight spot. But his history with injuries gives me pause to think he can remain in one piece for a full season; he hasn’t made 80 games since the 2013-14 campaign. If he’s out there on the regular, and Milos Teodosic returns from his foot injury in due course, L.A. has enough.

A fair, rational request that will almost certainly never be granted. From Nicholas Gloumakoff:

There’s been a thought rolling around in my head since last season. We all know about the league’s huge TV deal and the increase in the cap and the huge player contracts. Owners, players, coaches, staff and everyone associated with the league is making insane amounts of money. And why is the league making this money? Because of the fans. Without us there’s nothing.

So when does our time come? When does the league finally say: “Hey, our profit margins are criminal, it’s time to give back”? Ticket prices go up every year, gear becomes more expensive and last year I paid $200 for NBA League Pass and the service worked so poorly I ended up only watching games on TNT and ESPN. I don’t want to get into some huge monologue about corporate greed or anything, but it’d be nice if I didn’t have to pay $6 for a bottle of water at the game. Do you think the day ever comes where the fans get a break?

I wish, Nicholas. But in three decades I’ve never seen a team that went from awful to great in rapid fashion lower the price of anything in its building as a “thank you” to its loyal fans. It’s almost always been the exact opposite: ratchet up the prices as much as possible while we have a great product (scarcity) that people will pay top dollar to see. (The price point is almost always spot on, by the way.) And while the league shares best practices among its teams, I doubt it could or would want to mandate individual markets to give back. It is, still, a business.

Send your questions, comments and outcomes more satisfying than a tiny primate outsmarting a determined predator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE7ffm1e32Q&feature=youtu.be&a= to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

MVP WATCH

(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)

1) James Harden (36.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 10 apg, .524 FG, .814 FT): Sixth game with 50 or more points since joining Rockets following career-high 56-point effort in Sunday’s win over Utah.

2) LeBron James (38.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 10 apg, .644 FG, .950 FT): Fastest player ever to 29,000 career points after dropping a Heinz 57 on the Wiz Friday.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo (23.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, .474 FG, .933 FT): Teams doing better at building a wall in front of the Freak to make him into more of a jump shooter. He’ll adjust. The great ones always do.

4) DeMarcus Cousins (23 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 6 apg, .408 FG, .893 FT): Made a “business decision” on Friday not to contest Dennis Smith’s dunkage in Dallas.

5) Kevin Durant (22.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, .595 FG, 1.000 FT): Smack down the Clips again, chill after with DeAndre.

BY THE NUMBERS

13 — Consecutive times the Blazers have beaten the Lakers, a streak dating back to March 3, 2014, after Portland defeated L.A. in Portland on Thursday on Damian Lillard’s last-second, tie-breaking three-pointer.

283 — Consecutive games, per ESPN Stats and Info, that the Clippers have lost when trailing by 20 or more points entering the fourth quarter. Los Angeles erased a 25-point fourth quarter deficit at home Sunday against the Heat and took a one-point lead in the final minute before falling 114-111.

1,156 Career coaching victories for Gregg Popovich, who passed Phil Jackson Sunday for sixth place on the all-time victories list. Popovich is now 19 wins behind fifth-place George Karl and 54 behind fourth-place Pat Riley.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) It was a pleasure to work Portland-Lakers Thursday and see two teams that, throughout the game, actually played through their big men and let them shoot and score in the post. Jusuf Nurkic scored 28 points for the Blazers; Brook Lopez had 27 for L.A. They scored on pick and roll dives, fadeaways, hooks and the occasional drop step. The world did not start spinning in the opposite direction. Cows did not begin singing opera. There were still 40 three-pointers taken in the game, including Damian Lillard’s game-winner. It is possible, it seems, for centers to still contribute offensively in this league without having to go behind the arc.

2) Every once in a great while, things work out exactly how you thought they would. I thought Dwight Howard’s remaining skills — rebounding, post defense, rim protection, screen setting and rolling — would be good ones in Charlotte, where Steve Clifford expects exertion on both ends of the floor. And so far, Howard has been outstanding for the Bugs, who are trying to weather injury to Nicolas Batum and work Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back into the lineup.

3) Good reads: B/R’s Howard Beck on Nikola Jokic and BANG’s Mark Medina on the story behind “Popovich/Kerr 2020”.

4) The World Series was incredible theatre, incredible drama and incredible baseball. Kudos to both the champion Astros and the Dodgers for seven amazing games.

NOT FEELIN’ …

1) If you don’t understand Draymond Green’s issue with the word “owner” in the context of today’s pro player protests, you’re being willfully ignorant. No one begrudges Mark Cuban or anyone else whose intelligence, hard work and perseverance over a lifetime have left them in position to have enough capital to buy and then run a sports franchise. Nor does Green. To suggest that he and others uncomfortable with the word “owner” are doing so is unfair. How many times do you hear fans say ‘well, he/she owns the team; they can trade/fire/sign whoever they want?’ I’ve said that a few thousand times myself over the years. Yet I’m also sensitive to the argument that the right of the franchise owner to make those decisions connotes control over the player/person that is being signed/traded/fired, etc. And that has historic overtones in a nation where some still won’t acknowledge the Civil War was fought over slavery. Recall what the late Dorothy Ewing, Patrick Ewing’s mother, said to John Thompson, Jr., when the then-Hoyas coach was in the Ewing home to get the teenage boy’s parents to sign the letter of intent that would commit Patrick Ewing to Georgetown. Thompson recalled in Sports Illustrated, years later: “I asked her to sign. She looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Thompson, you sign for land. You don’t sign for people.’ ” Everyone who works has a boss. You do, I do. (My boss is named Tara. She’s cool.) Now, how would you feel if someone said you have an owner instead of a boss? “Pete, this is Sam, your owner.” That’s a different relationship. And that’s all that Green was trying to say.

2) I’m so damned tired of your thoughts and prayers. It’s time for those who have power and influence to do something about this mass murder madness! Don’t give me “what about Chicago?” in response. Do something. Try something. Try anything. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Nothing is worth than your doing nothing, tragedy after tragedy. This is not “the cost of freedom.” This is insanity.

3) So sad to read this, but hopefully, as Breanna Stewart hopes, someone else will be spared the horrific abuse she suffered as a result of her speaking out.

4) For all the caterwauling about lower NFL ratings, maybe the reason pro football’s numbers are down this year is not because of backlash against player protests, but because so many high-profile stars — Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Odell Beckham, Jr., David Johnson, Andrew Luck and, last Thursday, Houston Texans rookie sensation quarterback Deshaun Watson — have suffered serious injuries and been out of action for large chunks of the season.

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MORE MORNING TIP: Young Lakers see bright future | DA’s Top 15 Rankings | What’s next for Okafor, Sixers? | Q&A: C.J. McCollum

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Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here andfollow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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