Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores has tried to have a sunny outlook about his team, even in the face of difficult starts and losing seasons. Like most NBA team owners, he’s seeking success in the standings and playoff appearances as proof that things are headed in the right direction.
At halftime of last night’s 126-112 road loss to the LA Clippers, Gores sounded as though he’s perhaps ready to seek a new direction with the franchise in terms of its players. Granted, injuries — including one to star forward Blake Griffin, who has missed 17 of Detroit’s 35 games — have played a part in the Pistons’ 12-23 start. But Gores is also aware that those maladies aren’t the only reason for Detroit’s mark, too.
“We’ve had a hard time with health and everything else like that and we thought we could manage (injuries) a little better,” Gores said at halftime, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not winning, and the record is the record, so we just have to keep plugging away.”
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 6 and Gores said Thursday that he and team executives will look to assess the state of the team in the coming month.
“Well, we have to look at everything because we’re not winning, so you’re not winning, to me, you have to assess everything. I think anybody would want to do that,” Gores said. “And probably in the next month or so, we’re going to get together as an organization and just discuss things.”
In the loss to the Clippers, the Pistons were without Griffin, guards Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard and forward Markieff Morris.
“Well, it’s very hard to filter through that and it’s been unfortunate. We expected to manage minutes and all of that stuff for our players but we’ve had some bad luck, but other teams had bad luck, too, and you’ve got to work through it,” Gores said. “I just think injuries happen. We’ve had more than our share this year, but we have to build a team that can handle it.”
Griffin missed the first 10 games of the season and has been off all season, averaging 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He still has two years and $76 million left on his deal, but Gores indicated there’s no plan of how to move forward with Griffin for the rest of 2019-20.
“No, we’re not that far, and we’re just going to assess it in the next week or so,” he said. “He’s a trooper. If he could play, you know he’d be playing, so I think we just give him a few days of rest and see what happens.”
Center Andre Drummond has a player option for 2020-21 and has alluded to the fact he may enter free agency. Gores said Thursday the Pistons value Drummond, but will leave that option decision up to him.
“Andre is going to have to make his choice — I mean Andre is a great player,” Gores said. “So, we’ll just see. All these things are unknowns and it’s kind of difficult to filter through all this little bit of health bad luck.”
Detroit has yet to win more than two games in a row in 2019-20 and has lost nine of its last 11 games. Already, the Pistons have had two separate losing streaks of five games and rank 24th in Defensive Rating, 26th in opponent points off turnovers and 25th in opponent points in the paint. Despite those struggles, the Pistons are 11th in the Eastern Conference and are just 3 1/2 games behind the Orlando Magic for the No. 8 seed.
The Pistons have made the playoffs only twice in 10 years after advancing at least to the Eastern Conference finals six straight years (2003-08), winning the 2004 NBA title and falling a victory short of repeating as champions in 2005.
Detroit missed the playoffs the final five seasons of Joe Dumars’ tenure as team president, and Gores — who took over as owner in 2011 — eventually brought Stan Van Gundy in, giving him authority in the front office in addition to his coaching duties.
Van Gundy served as Pistons coach and team president, but has was relieved of both roles by the team in May of 2018 after compiling a 152-176 record. Two months later, the Pistons hired Dwane Casey as coach shortly after he was let go as coach of the Toronto Raptors.
The Pistons acquired Griffin during the Van Gundy regime and the forward had a bounce-back season in 2018-19. He was an All-NBA third team selection and, under Casey, led Detroit back to the playoffs (where it lost 4-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round). Griffin a career-best 24.5 ppg last season, along with 7.5 rpg and 5.4 apg.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.