Joe Dumars Q&A - December 15, 2010

Conducted Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Pistons president Joe Dumars sat down with editor Keith Langlois on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the 2010-11 season to date in a three-part interview that will continue through Friday on Here’s Part I of their conversation:

KEITH LANGLOIS: Let’s start with a question I asked some of the players after the win over Atlanta. Was that the type of performance you envisioned when you put the roster together?

JOE DUMARS: Yes. When you put the roster together, you envision that particular team playing a certain style and a certain way. That changes based on your roster. With this particular roster, the idea is to have depth; the idea is to be able to go to your bench and have little to no dropoff. When you see a game like the Atlanta game, you sit there and you say that’s how this team is supposed to play. That’s the game plan right there – to be able to go nine or 10 deep and to be able to sustain for 48 minutes.

KL: The followup to that is a simple question and I suspect not a simple answer. Why in your mind has that type of performance been elusive?

JD: Tough answer. The Atlanta game is how it’s supposed to work. When we have these lulls and these droughts, when we have games where we don’t close out the fourth quarter like we’ve done so many times this year, you sit there and you look for answers. I can’t give you a simple answer why that is, but the Atlanta game is – if you just look at that – that is the game plan of how we’re supposed to play.

KL: When we sat down before the season started you said you saw a team that was versatile, that was deep and that could contend for the playoffs if the chemistry developed. Are you seeing signs of chemistry – the Atlanta game I guess would at least be a hopeful sign.

JD: You see signs all year, when you’re up 20 in Chicago and you’re up 25 against Toronto and you’re up 20-something here against Atlanta, you’re seeing spurts – yes, that’s it. When you don’t close the games out, that becomes frustrating, because you’re seeing the signs throughout the game. When you go and compete and give yourselves a chance to win on a nightly basis, it’s disappointing. Because you’re seeing enough signs to know, we’re good enough to get up on these guys – in Dallas, different places, where we’ve been up and just didn’t close the game. That’s what we have to focus on and concentrate on.

KL: In your position, is chemistry something that’s pretty much out of your hands once the season starts, other than making personnel moves?

JD: Other than doing moves, that’s the only thing from a standpoint of impacting your team from a personnel standpoint. But beyond that is constantly meeting with your players and talking about chemistry, the interaction on how you guys need to come together. You still do that. That’s a big part of your job. Just making moves is not the answer all the time. Think about it – if you make a move in the middle of the season, you bring in a couple of new guys, you move out a couple of guys, their chemistry is going to have to be good, as well, with the team. And you’re going to have to address that. If you want to address the chemistry, it’s not just well, trade these two, bring these two in and the chemistry is going to be great. Chemistry is something that has to be worked. It’s an ongoing thing.

KL: You say you’ve had conversations with players. Do you sense that they’re frustrated or are they hopeful this season can be turned around?

JD: What I’ve detected over the last week or so is that these guys are really sick of losing games they know they should have won. We’ve literally just handed back at least a half-dozen games. So I think these guys are just tired of losing like that and I think they’re willing to accept whatever responsibility and sacrifice whatever they have to sacrifice in order to turn it around and that’s a good sign with your team.

KL: Teams lose double-digit leads all the time, but the Toronto game was at the extreme end of that. It also seems like that was the type of game, the results could go one of two ways – either it crushes a team’s spirit or they respond. Do you take encouragement from the way they responded in their next game?

JD: Absolutely. You’re absolutely right – devastating losses like that can send your team in either direction. My hope is that you and I can sit here a month from now, two months from now, and point back to the Toronto game and say that’s where our season turned around. After that loss, you hope that was rock bottom and you’re bouncing back.

KL: When you look at NBA statistics, the Pistons are in the bottom third in rebounding and most defensive stats. Coming into the season, you said the one thing you lacked was that big guy to stick in the middle. So is that something you have to accept or do you say, no, we can still be at least an average defensive team?

JD: I expect more from us defensively. Let’s say you bring in a 7-foot defensive presence. He doesn’t solve all of our defensive issues. We have to make a better effort on defense. As a group, we have to do better. Placing one 7-footer at the back of your defense is not going to change how you defend guys. You still have to get there, face to face, and defend a guy and make a hell of an effort to stop guys. Because guys are too good. I still hold to the fact that more of a defensive presence is needed. It doesn’t mean you don’t play defense in the meantime. We have to play better defense.

KL: How about offensively? The offense has been inconsistent, I guess would be the best way to say it. Some games, some quarters really good, the next quarter not so much. Is the offensive inconsistency more puzzling to you?

JD: We knew going into the season that we were going to have to hang our hat a little more on offense than defense. So disappointing is the word I would use, offensively, that we haven’t been more consistent. The way the league is now, you have to score points. The days of 65 to 68 are pretty much over. You’ve got to score points. And when we have these quarters where we have major droughts, it just puts us in a hole and makes it that much tougher to fight back out.

KL: John Kuester has said often that he talks with you daily. In those conversations, has he solicited your advice on the rotation and ways to narrow it a little bit?

JD: Here’s what we do with a conversation like that. Q will tell me what he’s planning to do. He’ll run it by me. If he asks my opinion, I’ll give it to him. But I’m very careful to allow the coach to make his decisions. It’s not my job. I can’t make that decision. I trust that the coaching staff is going to make the right decision. He’ll fill me in on when he’s going to make some changes, but like I always tell Q, at the end of the day you have final say on rotations, minutes – I have to defer to the coaches on that. That’s what I do. But he certainly keeps me informed on what they’re doing.

KL: Tracy McGrady said after the Atlanta game that he thought the fact that the rotation was a little tighter was a contributing factor in the way you played. Rip has said that it’s tough for him and Ben Gordon to get into a rhythm when sometimes they sit for a quarter at a time. Do you buy into that – that a shorter rotation is better for your scorers or your players that are used to playing more minutes?

JD: I know this – when you’re on the court for longer stretches and you have more of a chance to get into a rhythm, it certainly helps you. Especially as a scorer. When Q said he was going to shorten the rotation, my response was, great. I support whatever you do and I really support this. To shorten the rotation and get the results, like I said, I hope we can look back at this and say when we lost the Toronto game and we came back and shortened the rotation, hopefully we can look back and say that’s when we turned things around.


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