The prospects for resumption of the NBA season and how the Pistons will be affected are among the topics of conversation in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Janet (Hamtramck, Mich.): It was truly heartbreaking for those who saw what happened to George Floyd. The entire sports world reacted accordingly, including coach Dwane Casey. We have to do something as a country to stop police brutality. We are the “United States” and we need to represent the country as we are all united, all together, with different race and religions. Please shed some light on this topic.
Langlois: Casey put out a powerful, eloquent statement. His perspective is worth your time. So is the statement put out by Pistons owner Tom Gores, who vowed the Pistons as an organization would become even more involved in grass-roots community efforts and to promote social justice. There is no “stick to sports” counterargument to this because there is no compartmentalization possible when an issue so clearly relevant to players who make up approximately three-fourths of the NBA – and, thus, to the NBA itself – is as pervasive as racism clearly is. Racism’s corrosive impact seeps into every element of society. There’s no escaping it, so maybe this time – finally – there’s no avoiding the full-on confrontation of it as a society. The NBA sets the pace for professional sports in empowering its players and supporting the cause of racial equality while calling out intolerance. Sports provide great entertainment and escape, but beyond that our teams provide platforms that weaponize powerful tools for community enrichment – and the Pistons (and many NBA teams) honor that responsibility consistently. It’s only one branch of a tree that needs constant nourishment to flower, but it’s a starting point. The response to Floyd’s death – on the heels of too many before it to document – has been overwhelming, creating more of an opportunity for real change than we’ve had in forever in this country, saddled as it is by an abysmal track record on racial inequality. Maybe it’s the graphic nature of the video of his death, maybe it’s the desperation of a nation where 40 million have recently lost their jobs, maybe it’s a response to inadquate national leadership and probably it’s all of those things and many more. Shame on us if we don’t seize on the collective power of the majority’s disgust with the status quo and insist on legitimate change this time.
Bill Blasky (@bill_blasky): I think the biggest question is the GM search. Any news on candidates or if initial discussions have been held? Seems like they’d want someone on board before the draft and free agency starts.
Langlois: I assume that when the NBA decides on a course of action to complete the 2019-20 season – a decision expected to come this week – that it also will have target dates for the draft and free agency. I wouldn’t expect those things to happen until after the scheduled date for the NBA Finals and it was reported this week that Oct. 12 is the latest possible date for the Finals to end, which means it won’t be much before that, a week at most, for the earliest possible date. If that’s the case, then the Pistons will have plenty of time to sort out their front office, which is now without assistant general manager Malik Rose, who this week accepted a job working for the league office.
Brandon Kerr (@SFHCommish_1): I think Wes Unseld (who died earlier this week) was Rick Mahorn’s mentor in becoming a Bad Boy, wasn’t he?
Langlois: Indeed. Mahorn was drafted by Washington in the second round in 1980 and was a rookie during the final season of Unseld’s career with the Bullets. He was a mentor to Mahorn in every way. In a 1989 Sports Illustrated article written by Ralph Wiley that centered on Mahorn, here’s what Unseld said about him: “He has endeared himself to me. Ninety-nine percent of the guys don’t want the job Rick has. A lot of people have problems with the way he plays. I have no problem with it. If you come in there weak, Rick will make you pay.” Unseld was universally respected by NBA players of his day and all who came to know him in his post-playing days as a Bullets coach and executive and all-around ambassador for the NBA. Unseld, the No. 2 pick in the 1968 draft, was both Rookie of the Year and MVP in 1969 when he averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds for the Bullets, with whom he spent all of his 13-year career. Only the great Wilt Chamberlain in addition to Unseld held both awards simultaneously.
Robert (Westland, Mich.): It’s looking like the plan to have 22 teams go to Orlando is the favorite to be adopted by the NBA. How will the Pistons be affected if they’re not included in the group of teams that will resume the season?
Langlois: To be determined is the short answer. If the Pistons aren’t included among the teams called to resume the NBA season and the season runs into October, then it’s conceivable the Pistons will go more than nine months between games, assuming the 2020-21 season doesn’t start until late December. You can bet the front office and coaching staff already have begun discussing ways to combat the effects of that extended layoff. In particular, I imagine they’ll be focused on how to approach player development with their host of young players – Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas, Jordan Bone, Louis King, Donta Hall – under contract or team control, at least, beyond the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. (Christian Wood, for one example, wouldn’t count because he’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, though the NBA will need to determine the status of such players on the assumption that free agency will be delayed until the belated conclusion of the 2019-20 season.) In a typical off-season, Pistons coaches would coordinate with players, most of whom have off-season training bases and employ personal trainers, and be available to them for skills work. I imagine – once restrictions on such contact is possible, at least – they’ll tailor off-season workouts for individual players once there is some clarity as to how – and how long – the off-season will unfold. It’s unprecedented to go for more than nine months without a game and nobody really knows what the effects might be. But it’s an opportunity for innovation and experimentation and the franchises that make the best of it will be that much farther ahead when we come out on the other side of the pandemic that forced the suspension of the NBA season on March 11.