Tom Gores built a business empire by digging into the numbers that allowed him to see opportunity where others saw failed businesses. So while the ultimate number that matters with his basketball team – a 19-27 record – has caused him frustration for a season that began with playoff expectations, he also understands that the numbers say his Detroit Pistons field the NBA’s youngest starting five.
“We’re not that far out,” he said after Saturday’s 113-97 win over Philadelphia left the Pistons one-half game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “I think it’s frustrating because we’re better than our record. At the same time, there’s a lot of hope right now. I see a lot of possibilities. We have to come together. We have to gel. I don’t think you could say our team and our players don’t work hard. I think they work hard. So we just have to figure out how to work together.”
Gores watched as young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe dominated Philadelphia’s frontcourt, combining to make 18 of 21 shots, score 43 points and grab 26 rebounds despite playing well under their normal minutes allotment. He also saw rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, like Drummond only 20, spark a third-quarter rally when the Pistons put the hammer down, outscoring the 76ers 36-21.
It’s that young core – the Pistons average age among their starters is 23 years – that allows Gores to maintain a measure of patience despite the inconsistencies that have dogged them over the season’s first 46 games. The Feb. 20 trade deadline looms and the Pistons have the assets necessary to be active if management decides an opportunity to improve roster balance presents itself. But Gores downplayed the expectation that major moves are pending.
“We’ve been focused really on the individual players,” he said. “The fact is, we’re better than our record and I think we just have to make our players the best they can be. We have to focus on them. So we’re not focused on the deadline or anything like that. We’re just focused on getting the guys better and preparing them.”
Gores has vowed to do whatever is deemed necessary to return the Pistons to NBA title contention. Now in his third season of ownership, the record doesn’t indicate the progress he’d hoped to see by this point. So he and his inner circle are poring over the details of their season the way they might when exploring the virtues of a potential business deal to determine where improvements can be made.
“We’re doing a lot of homework,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of stuff. Our main job is to make sure that all of our players, our guys, are at their maximum.”
And right now, Gores sees a team where the whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts – not unusual for a young team, let alone one that has undergone the number of changes the Pistons have with four new starters and eight new players on the roster, plus a new coaching staff.
“I just know we’ve got work to do,” Gores said. “I know we have work to do, so I’m not taken aback. We literally are focused on how do we make our players the best, because I actually don’t think we have done our best job to make sure they’re working at 100 percent. We have great young players. These are guys that need a lot of preparation. These are young men.”