Pistons Mailbag - July 29, 2020

Free agency, the Pistons leading the way in NBA diversity hiring and the dietary needs of today’s players are among an eclectic list of items atop this week’s Pistons Mailbag menu.

Todd (Grandville, Mich.): I would love to see the Pistons offer a max deal to force the Pelicans’ hand on Brandon Ingram. Do you think he could be in play?

Langlois: Short answer: no. Unless New Orleans knows something the rest of us do not, it would be a major surprise if the Pelicans don’t lock up Ingram immediately in free agency. The wild card, of course, is whether teams will be reluctant to enter into that level of commitment amid the economic cloud caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer to that should come very soon after free agency opens on Oct. 18.

Kool (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Is it too early to label Khyri Thomas a bust and why aren’t the Pistons celebrated for having a minority coach/general manager combo?

Langlois: It’s a given that the Pistons will pick up the third years of Bruce Brown’s and Svi Mykhailiuk’s contracts but no such certainty exists with regard to Thomas. You can make the case either way. The Pistons will have a ton of cap space and Thomas, even in his third year, will still come cheap ($1.67 million). On the other hand, the front office might determine that the flexibility created by having the open roster spot would be more valuable as they enter into free agency and trade season. It’s a tough evaluation simply because injuries have prevented Thomas from entering a great deal into evidence. Dwane Casey loves his tenacity, defensive length and basketball IQ and Thomas has the potential to be a 40 percent 3-point shooter. The Pistons will have bigger decisions to make this off-season, but maybe none that cause more deliberation. As for the Pistons having people of color in leadership roles – Dwane Casey as coach, Troy Weaver as general manager – it's true that it makes them unique in the moment, but the NBA in general always draws high marks for its hiring diversity. The University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports last week came out with its report card and gave the NBA marks well above its peers in other sports, including a grade of A-plus for its racial diversity hiring. “The NBA has found a way to continue to lead the way when it comes to diverse and inclusive hiring amongst men’s professional sports leagues,” wrote Richard Lapchick, longtime director of the project. So the Pistons lead the way in the NBA, but the NBA in general is the industry leader.

Ahmed (San Antonio): NBA players take their diet and exercise seriously to maintain a good weight and remain in great shape to perform well in the game. When the team is on the road, how do players eat when they do not have their personal chef with them – or do players take their personal chef with them on the road? What do Pistons players do on the road?

Langlois: Sometimes players with exceptional stature have some personal assistants travel with them or meet them at road stops – a personal trainer or a private security guard, for instance. Not sure I ever recall a personal chef traveling, but it’s probably happened. Not every player – in fact, a distinct minority of players – hires a personal chef, but teams overwhelmingly now will have nutritionists either on staff or retainer to shape a team’s dietary plan for group meals that occur on team planes, before or after games at the arena and at team hotels. Healthy eating has become widespread in the NBA. A lot of elite college players arrive to the NBA with eating habits not far out of whack with most college students – fried foods, fast foods, convenient foods. Most see how veterans have adapted their diets and within their first few seasons have eschewed much of their dietary past. You don’t see NBA players scarfing pizza, cheeseburgers or fried chicken very often. On the road, teams most often provide meals for teams in hotel conference rooms, buffet style, which likely will have to be amended whenever it’s safe to resume a typical NBA season that involves travel to the 28 cities teams call home. Those buffets are heavy on healthy options – entrees always include fish and chicken (grilled, baked or broiled, not fried) but not always beef, for instance, and carbs are scarce while fruit and vegetable options are plentiful.

Christopher (White Lake Twp., Mich.): Other than Christian Wood, Langston Galloway and Svi Mykhailiuk, I don’t see why we need to waste good cap space on the other free agents we have. For once, we can actually spend some good money on good players like Fred VanVleet, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Davis Bertans. What do you think?

Langlois: The Pistons have five free agents: Christian Wood, Langston Galloway, John Henson, Brandon Knight and Jordan McRae. Mykhailiuk only becomes a free agent if the Pistons don’t pick up the third-year option on his contract, which is highly unlikely. VanVleet will be the top point guard on the market and won’t come cheap. The Pistons will have to decide if committing major long-term money to any player is the way they want to go in their first off-season since acknowledging a rebuilding phase. Bogdanovic, to be clear, is Sacramento’s 27-year-old Serbian native who averaged 14.5 points in his third season, not Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic, a 31-year-old Bosnian native coming off his sixth NBA season. Utah’s Bogdanovic, who averaged 20.2 points before his season ended with wrist surgery, will not be a free agent this summer. As for Bertans, he’s an elite shooter but I don’t see the Pistons pouring resources into a stretch-four type of player when they’ve got Blake Griffin and Sekou Doumbouya at power forward and Christian Wood, their own pending free agent, who also can play that position. If the Pistons invest their cap space in free agents – as opposed to using that space to park other teams’ shedded contracts in exchange for draft capital – I would wager that point guard would be the priority.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): What are Pistons players and coaches doing right now to prepare for the 2021 season? How much interaction between coaches and players is allowed by the league in these strange pandemic times?

Langlois: The Pistons new practice facility, the Pistons Performance Center, is open and available to those players who’ve made Detroit their off-season base in this most extended of off-seasons. A number of them have been working out there under the strict protocols in place, limiting players to one-on-one workouts with coaches. The Pistons, including new general manager Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey, have pushed for the NBA to allow some level of basketball activity on a team scale for the eight franchises excluded from the Orlando bubble.

Roosevelt (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands): Why didn’t the Pistons re-sign Andre Drummond? I believe he would have re-signed as he’s about to re-sign with Cleveland. We just let a walking double-double walk. What does this mean for Blake Griffin? He must think the Pistons aren’t trying to win.

Langlois: They traded Drummond ahead of his being able to exercise his player option for 2020-21 at $29 million. At the time of the trade, keep in mind, the NBA wasn’t shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic uncertainty that resulted from the suspension of the season – and the resumption without fans, which might be the blueprint for at least the start of next season, as well – made it inevitable that Drummond was going to opt in. The Pistons didn’t make the case that they were a better team by trading away Drummond for a future second-round pick, but they were saying, in effect, that they would rather bet on being a better team by not committing a quarter of their salary cap to a center in an age when the value of centers has been debased. Time will tell if they made the right call, but it’s clear that most teams feel similarly about roster construction in this era. It won’t be fair to evaluate the decision until we see how the front office commits the cap space that would have been allocated to Drummond. As for Griffin, he spoke last month about his rehabilitation from January knee surgery and his anticipation of returning to the court: “Basketball in general always gets me excited and I’ll be very excited when it’s time to come back and even go to training camp and do all those things. This is a coaching staff and a team and support staff I really enjoy being around. When you come to work every day and you have great people on your team – a great coach and a great support staff – it’s just fun to be around that. We have a lot of decisions to make this summer and a lot of changes will probably be made. I look forward to that and look forward to whatever role they ask me to play.” That doesn’t sound like a player no longer invested in his team’s interests.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): Shoot, it looks like the Pistons should have drafted Bol Bol instead of Devidas Sirvydis.

Langlois: Your comment arrived based on one Denver scrimmage that I would credibly compare to a Summer League game. And if I’ve learned one thing in the past few decades, it’s temper your impressions – good, bad or indifferent – of anything that happens in Summer League. Bol was considered a top-10 talent before his freshman season at Oregon, but two things – a foot injury that has proven problematic for big men in the past and questions about his makeup – caused him to tumble to the middle of the second round. If it turns out the Pistons missed on Bol, they’ll be in good company.

Leon (Grayling, Mich.): Any chance Troy Weaver might pursue some current or former members of the OKC Thunder? I was thinking particularly of Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant.

Langlois: He valued them once, presumably, so anything is possible. But Weaver’s been in the NBA for more than a decade and has a working knowledge of every player in the league. I don’t think he’ll be any more apt to pursue former Oklahoma City players other than the fact that there’s a built-in degree of comfort with them – and also a window into whatever warts they might possess.

@PrimeCut32: Any indications from the organization concerning moving Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin?

Langlois: Zero, but it’s hardly the type of thing an organization announces. Logic says Griffin isn’t going anywhere – not while he’s still owed $76 million over the next two years – when potential trade partners aren’t sure about the status of his left knee. Rose would have a more immediate market given the far more modest contract, but the Pistons need somebody to play point guard next season and at this point he’s the only one on the roster. If the Pistons bolster the position before the start of the season and Rose is healthy and productive nearing the trade deadline, then it becomes something to watch.

Shannon (@Squirrely_Shann): Do you think this team can compete for a top-five spot in the East within three or four years?

Langlois: “Can?” Sure. But there might not be anybody other than Sekou Doumbouya who rates as 50-50 or better to still be on the roster three years from now. The Pistons have publicly acknowledged they’re entering a rebuilding phase, though Troy Weaver made clear that doesn’t necessarily mean what it is commonly understood to mean. It’s not the time frame you provided that makes it impossible to project; it’s the fact we have zero idea who’ll be on the roster at that time. The outcome depends entirely on the moves – draft picks, free-agent signings, trades – the front office makes over that time.

HooperFan (@hooperFan1): Is the second bubble for Delete Eight teams still a possibility? I haven’t heard anything on it for a while.

Langlois: I think the NBA has been preoccupied making sure the Orlando bubble gets off the ground without incident before committing to a second bubble – or whatever is viewed as most advantageous and practical to permit the eight teams not part of the Orlando relaunch some type of team activity. A recent Charlotte Observer report claimed the league was still actively discussing plans for a bubble-like environment for the eight excluded teams and cited August as the likely time frame. That means a plan would have to be put forth very soon.

Malachi Cash (@malachicash): Do we really have to put up with a Jumpman logo on Pistons jerseys? Seriously, this is some B.S.

Langlois: The Jumpman logo will adorn every NBA team’s Statement Edition jerseys. For the Pistons, that’s the light gray version. So, yes, Pistons fans still holding animus toward Michael Jordan and the Bulls are going to have to grit their teeth on nights the gray uniforms are worn. But it’s a tiny logo. You won’t have to grit too hard.

Bravo (@AlhamadaniBravo): What is your big board for the NBA draft?

Langlois: At present, my NBA draft board is a small board. A teeny, tiny, little board. We’ll start to inflate it sometime in September, I would expect. Looking forward to that.