Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Status Quo Yet Again

The last thing that I wanted to see the Pistons do this summer was stay put. Just the thought of seeing the same team suit up for another dead-end run at an NBA Championship made me nauseous. I sensed early in the summer that Joe Dumars was going to be hesitant to make any majors moves. The only player that would return fair value in a trade is Rip Hamilton and I have a feeling that’s a move that Dumars hasn’t even begun to contemplate. Without a willingness to trade RIP, all big moves became impossible and the Pistons stayed put. I also had a pretty good idea that the Pistons (led by Dumars) would swear off playing with complacency which is something we’ve heard before each of the last three seasons. It’s for those reasons that I cannot muster up even the slightest bit of enthusiasm for the 2007-08 season. It’s not that I can’t take the losing. As a Detroit fan, I’ve seen all sorts of losing. I just can’t take a team being masqueraded around as a title contender when it’s so obviously the contrary. It’s an insult to Pistons fans to keep feeding them the same line about this being a championship team that just needs to play harder. The truth is that the Pistons weren’t good enough/didn’t play hard enough in 2005 when they lost the Spurs, or in 2006 when they lost to the Heat, or in 2007 when they lost to the Cavs. The Pistons weren't even good enough to be one of the worst NBA Finals teams on record with homecourt advantage last season. The team has been going downhill ever-so-slightly since they won the NBA Championship in 2004. It’s been an agonizingly slow—and sometimes not so obvious—deterioration. Staying put over the summer only ensured another step backwards in 2008.

The die-hards and a good portion of the media will buy into this team once again. That happens every off-season. It happened entering last season and was only proven to be somewhat true by an unforeseen bit of good fortune. The Pistons mini-run in ’07 was predicated mostly on the fact that they got Chris Webber for free midway through the season. Had that not happened, there is no telling how the Pistons would have finished out the season. I doubt they would have won the Eastern Conference regular season Championship with Nazr Mohammed in the starting lineup and I’m not so sure they get past Chicago in the playoffs. Webber wasn’t the end-all but he made the team more difficult to defend and made the Pistons appear to be a lot better than they actually were. The Pistons probably won’t have Webber next year which isn’t a huge loss but it will only make the decline more obvious. The addition of Webber only proved to be a one-year delay on when it would become obvious that the Pistons need major changes. It’s obvious to many people already but evidently it isn’t obvious to enough people, yet.

I can understand arguments that revolve around the idea that you can’t just make a move just for the sake of making a move. You can’t force something that doesn’t help your team. Regardless of the availability of impact players, the truth remains that the Pistons will not get back to competing for NBA Championships until they bring in a superstar who can do things that the current cast can’t. I’m not suggesting that the Pistons can’t win, in part, with the players on their roster. Virtually every player on the current roster would be a valuable piece to any championship-caliber team. The problem is that the Pistons aren’t a championship-caliber team. They are a team full of supporting pieces. The Pistons need a player who can score at will. They need somebody that can go off irrespective of how the team is performing. They need someone who is an impossible match-up. There were plenty of players involved in trade rumors this summer that fit that bill including; Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, and Zach Randolph. Those are the types of players that the Pistons don’t have. Each of those players can initiate their own shot and make things excruciating for a defense. Obviously there is a big range in caliber amongst those players (i.e. Kobe is much more effective than Ray Allen) but they are all the type of player that the Pistons are missing. I’m not so sure that Ray Allen is the difference between the Pistons making the NBA Finals or not but I’m pretty sure that most of them are. I’m also not suggesting that the Pistons could’ve just gone out and traded for any of those players. Their respective teams may have been asking for more than the Pistons had. I’m merely stating that without the addition of a player of that caliber, the Pistons will continue to fade into “bolivian.”(seriously. check out some of those quotes!) Every year that Joe D waits to make a move is a year wasted for Pistons fans. A GM’s job is to realize when your team is getting better and when its best days are behind it. Joe D has to know that the Pistons are the latter. I’m guessing he is trying not to get fleeced in a deal but the time will come when he has to make a sizeable move. I’m just distraught that it couldn’t have been before this next season. I know the die-hards will willingly take in the Pistons product regardless of the situation but I can’t watch this team on a nightly basis play the same “play when I feel like playing” game while being portrayed as serious threats to the NBA Championship.

I like all of the Pistons players individually. Sure, there are some I like more than others but, for the most part, they are a collection of good basketball players. I just don’t like them together. If I can get into the mindset that the sole purpose of the 2007-08 season is to allow Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey to get experience, then I might be able to handle it. Unfortunately, none of those players are in the top six of the rotation which makes their potential for growth negligible despite claims by the Pistons that more minutes will be up for grabs. I will even go as far as to say that I am looking forward to the Lions season more so than the Pistons. At least with the Lions you know what you are getting. I can’t deal with the impending disappointment masked as a championship run. At least the Lions are universally known as a team that can’t get it done.

I have no doubt in Joe D’s ability to put a winning product on the court. It’s just that waiting at least one more year to see things move in a positive direction is a long time to stomach considering I grew tired of the product two years ago. His two draft picks have the potential to be serviceable NBA players at a minimum and could end up being even better than that. Re-signing Billups without overpaying was absolutely the right move. Losing out on Grant Hill wasn’t Joe D’s fault. I think at this point I would even choose to play for Phoenix over Detroit at half the price. Short of a trade, Joe D made all the right moves this summer. Unfortunately, a trade was the only thing that would change the inevitable outcome of the 2007-08 season.


Anonymous said...

I am not that frustrated with the team. I remember all those years when they wore the Teal. Guy slike Terry Mills were our leading scoreres. There was no future then. At least there is a little bit now. A GM's job is to field a championship team yes - but it is also to put people in the seats and to transition the team into a winning future. This team as we know it is done. I think Joe is trying to do something that typically doesn't happen - keep the team winning while building for the future. Usually you are losing when you are building. I agree the window has closed for this group, but at least they can threaten. It is not like Miami (who has fallen off the map). They always hype the drafted guys and I will be happy if one of them turns out OK. As far as trades, who would Joe have gottne? Kobe would have costed way too much. KG - maybe we could have gottne him but we would have had to give up draft picks and front court guys. Ray Allen is older now and Rip is more effective (to me). I would have liked to get a younger front court guy like Zach Randolph but who would we have traded for him? Joe D is in a sticky spot and has to wait it out and see what develops. I would never compare the Pistons and the Lions. The Lions have been terrible and a laughingstock. The Pistons have had their problems but they have been competitive and won 3 titles in their history (at least since the 80's).

Jake said...


Thanks for the comments. I actually agree with pretty much everything you said with the exception of Miami being irrelevant now. Shaq or Wade was hurt the entire season. That team never got a chance to gel. Wade was a shell of himself in the playoffs. If I had to put money on one team coming out of the Eastern Conference next season, it would be Miami. I don’t want to put money on any team but they would be my choice if I had to. The East is going to be terrible.

I want to clarify something from my post. I certainly was not comparing the Lions organization to the Pistons organization. I was comparing my desire to watch each team next season. If you gave me a choice of watching zero pistons games and all of the Lions games or vice versa, I would choose to watch the Lions simply for the “not knowing what to expect” factor. I could just throw in a tape of last season and mentally reduce the quality of play by 5-10% and I wouldn’t even have to watch the Pistons at all. That’s all I’m saying.

Take care!


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