As NBA uniform combos explode, so does Pistons packing list
SALT LAKE CITY – Kay Felder isn’t on the six-city, 12-day Pistons road trip. But his uniform is.
Six of them, in fact.
And that’s nothing. Andre Drummond has about a dozen uniforms. It would be more, but Pistons equipment manager John Coumoundouros didn’t have to pack the Association edition uniforms – what used to be the traditional home whites – on the franchise’s longest road trip in years.
Long gone are the days when a player was responsible for his own gear and all he had to worry about when a team hit the road was a uniform top and a bottom. Old-timers tell stories of showering in their uniform after a road game to get the sweat out and then hanging it to dry in their hotel room for the morning flight – commercial – to the next city.
Now the Pistons have four uniform types and an infinite number of color-coded uniform components – three different shooting shirts, two different warmups, tights not only in four colors but of various lengths, multiple socks and arm sleeves among them.
For their six-game trip, the Pistons will wear their Icon edition uniforms – the traditional royal blue road set – in Utah, Portland and Phoenix. They’ll wear their City edition uniforms – the navy blue set with “Motor City” emblazoned on the jersey – in Denver and Sacramento. And they’ll wear their Statement edition – gray – to wrap up the trip in Houston next Thursday.
When they went on a three-city trip west in October, Coumoundouros only had to pack one uniform – ironically enough, the Association set, the whites the Pistons for many years would only wear at home.
NBA uniforms have become a fascinating growth industry over the last decade and it exploded this year with the switch from Adidas to Nike.
“It’s insane,” Coumoundouros said of the changes he’s seen since starting as a team attendant in 2002 and working his way up the flow chart until becoming equipment manager and traveling with the team in 2011. “It’s very complex. It went from one warmup top and two different jerseys and that’s it and all we had was white socks. Maybe six, seven years ago we started using white socks and black socks. This year, Nike went all out. Now we have royal blue socks and the Statement socks which are royal blue and red.”
Consider the preparation and packing simply to supply the variety of tights for a trip of this nature. For the City edition uniform, the Pistons can wear only navy tights. But if they’re wearing the Icon or Statement uniforms, they could wear either royal blue or red tights, though everyone on the team must wear the same color of uniform accessories. They also have white tights to wear with the Icon uniforms. Each player has to have multiple sets of tights in every color and in every length.
“The complications come with the tights because say one guy has a bruised quad and we make a pad for him. We use custom pads – that has to be for all tights across the board,” Coumoundouros said. “I’ll press that pad on and sew around it and do whatever we need to do, but I’ll have to do it for all of them. Or if we go from Phoenix to Minnesota, say, and a guy who normally wears three-quarters length wants full length.”
With the Pistons wearing their Icon edition three times over the six-game trip, Coumoundouros has five Andre Drummond jerseys in that edition alone. Drummond – like Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson – likes to change uniforms at halftime, so he needs at least two for every game.
“I have about 12 jerseys for Andre on this trip just in case of theft, damage, stains, blood,” he said.
He also packed two sets of the Icon, City and Statement uniforms for the team’s two-way players, Felder and Reggie Hearn, just in case the Pistons decide to call them up from the Grand Rapids Drive at any point.
Because he had to pack all but the Association uniforms for this trip, Coumoundouros also had to pack both sets of warmups. One features a navy blue bottom with a royal blue top for use with the Icon and Association uniforms, then a gray set of warmups for the Statement and City editions. Then factor in the three shooting shirts that accompany the warmups in various combinations.
In his second year on the job, Coumoundouros forgot to pack something fairly essential – the basketballs – for a Summer League practice in Orlando.
“It was an all-time embarrassing moment,” he grinned. “I still think about it every time I’m loading the plane.”
On the drive from the Pistons practice facility in Auburn Hills to the airport, he goes over his mental checklist to make sure everything is in tow.
“I’ll be constantly thinking of something we missed, but I always refer back to, ‘Do we have uniforms, practice gear and shoes?’ Do we have the basics so when the ball tips off, we have enough to play with. We do a lot of extra stuff to keep the players comfortable, but if we can get the guys on the floor, we’re OK.”