Joe Dumars Q&A - December 16, 2010

Conducted Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Pistons president Joe Dumars sat down with editor Keith Langlois on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the 2010-11 season to date in a three-part conversation that will conclude Friday on Part I dealt with the disappointing start to the season. Here’s Part II:

KEITH LANGLOIS: When we talked before the season you said that, based on your experience, 20 games into the season was when GMs got more serious about talking trade. Dec. 15 has arrived now, which means free agents that signed last summer are in play. Have you sensed in the last few weeks more activity?

JOE DUMARS: No question. The phone calls have picked up over the last week. Probably Dec. 10, the last five or six days, the phone calls have picked up. Just as you suspect, the first 20 games, Dec. 15, all of that kind of coincides. The activity picks up. Yeah, the phone calls have certainly picked up a lot more from when you and I talked in September.

KL: Is it fair to say you’re still active?

JD: As always, 10 straight years, I’ve been on that phone. Even when we were in the championship days and going to the Finals, we maintained our position on that phone with teams around the league.

KL: Do you feel more of an urgency to try to do something because of the 8-18 start?

JD: Absolutely. You feel more of an urgency when you see gaps in your team. Even before we started off 8-18, we talked about the gaps we needed to fill. I knew going in we had holes to fill and then when you get off to a rough start, it magnifies it even more. You stay on that phone anyway, regardless of your position, but when you’re struggling, you look even more. You may even double up or triple up on your phone calls, trying to fill those holes.

KL: The other thing you said after the summer, when no trades were made, was that the only trades available to you would have been, at best, lateral moves. Are you in a position today where you say I’m more willing to make a lateral move just on the 50-50 chance it might work?

JD: We have to get better. We’re 8 and 18. We have to get better. I still believe making lateral moves, especially when you’re struggling like we have been, is not the answer. The answer for me is to either fill the holes that you have or get better at whatever position you’re moving. But to move someone out, to bring a guy in who’s basically the same player, that doesn’t make the Detroit Pistons better. On the chance that maybe this guy will change some things, you rarely see that. Unless it’s just a problem guy on your team and you have to move him out here. And we don’t have any problem guys on our team. We have good guys here.

KL: Let’s talk about some individual players here. Tracy McGrady – when you signed him, you were hoping for the best and he’s shown flashes of playing very well here. Do you have a sense of what the next few months hold for Tracy?

JD: If he continues at the pace he’s on right now, I think we’re going to be pleased with him at the end of 82 games. I think people who have watched him from training camp to right now have seen definite improvement. In his movement, in his ability to get off the floor, in his ability to put it on the floor and get into the lane – all of that has gotten better over the first 20, 25 games. Interestingly enough, Tracy is the one that said it was going to take about 20 games for him to be fully healthy and he was almost dead on the mark with that. Over the last couple of weeks, everybody has seen – wow, Tracy has really started to pick it up. The other thing I want to touch on with Tracy, besides just how physically he’s looking on the floor, is the guy has been exceptional off the floor. Just in terms of a bright guy, good teammate, positive guy, he’s been exceptional for us. We’ve been really pleased with his personality on the team.

KL: One thing that has struck me about him is when a player has been at that level, the measuring stick for fans, at least, is are they scoring a lot of points. I think Tracy understands you have enough scorers on this team and what they might lack is another playmaker, so he’s been content to fill that role without feeling the urgency to score to prove he’s back.

JD: That’s a great point you make. We don’t sit here and judge him on, wow, Tracy had a great game last night because he had 16 points. He’s had some great games where he’s had six points, but he fed everybody on that second team, got them into a great rhythm, got them easy shots. And we’ve come out of games where Tracy’s had six points and we’ve said, wow, McGrady was really good tonight. You’re right – fans have seen him score so much, so when they say Tracy had his best game of the season last night, not necessarily to us. There have been other games where he had 10 points but distributed the ball and got us into the flow.

KL: I thought he was good against Atlanta even before he hit the four 3-pointers.

JD: Absolutely, he was. He was.

KL: Let’s talk about Greg Monroe, who has come a long way since the start of the season. When I looked at him in Summer League, that’s kind of what I expected. I didn’t expect a guy who was going to come in and blow the doors off right away because he doesn’t have that one outstanding skill but he does everything pretty well. Have you seen from him that this is a guy who is going to get better for a long time?

JD: Yes. Right now, for us, that’s the biggest attribute of Greg Monroe, as we look at him. We look at him and we go, man, this kid is going to get better and better and better. He’s smart, has an incredible IQ on the floor, he has a great feel for the game, he knows where to be, he’s a great teammate. The most impressive thing that he’s done to date is he figured out really quickly how much harder he had to play to be effective. For a young guy, a rookie to figure that out somewhere in the first 15 to 20 game, is the most impressive thing that he’s done for us, as a staff, as we look at him – change how hard he had to play. He picked it up. That tells you right there that a guy who is going to get better. If you figure that out in the first 10 to 15 games, we like that.

KL: I saw him in a handful of games at Georgetown and all the scouting reports on him talked about his offensive skill level. I’ve been surprised more by the way he’s held up defensively and how he’s shown as a strong rebounder. You saw him much more in the scouting process. Has his progress in those areas surprised you?

JD: Here’s why it’s not always easy to judge what a guy is going to do when he gets to the NBA. Offensively, you could watch him at Georgetown and see great IQ, great feel for the game, knows where everybody is all the time. Adequate scorer. Rebounded the ball, nine, 10 rebounds a game. We always looked at him and said he’ll be able to rebound in this league. Defensively, in college he was never playing against 6-10, 6-11, 7-foot NBA-caliber centers. There was no Amare Stoudemire in college, there was no Josh Smith, whoever he’s been playing against. So you didn’t know, because you never saw it. A lot of times they might have been in zone. I remember seeing them play against Marquette and he was guarding Lazar Hayward, who’s 6-5. So when he blocked Lazar Hayward’s shot, it doesn’t tell you how he’s going to hold up against Amare Stoudemire in the NBA. That’s the tough part. So to answer your question, we have been – I don’t want to say surprised – but we have been pleased with the way he’s picked up defensively.