The future isn't so bright for the Pistons

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NBA_gordon1_250.jpgThe Detroit Pistons are in a heap of trouble. They may have the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft, but they’re also locked into a roster that was good enough to tie for 13th in the Eastern Conference this season. There will be some growth with some of the younger players on the roster (Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, and Austin Daye, mainly), but with no Piston expected to make a significant jump any time soon, Joe Dumars had better hope that he doesn’t botch this year’s lottery pick. Or, as they say in NBA circles, “He had better not Milicic it.”

That’s a bit of pressure to produce with a decent (but not surefire) pick, but Dumars deserves no sympathy for the position that he and his team are in this summer. Remember, Joe D constructed this team with his bare hands. It was he that traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson and struck out on the Darko pick.

On the bright side for Pistons fans, Dumars thinks he has identified the problem. From the Associated Press:

“Any time you don’t have the season you expect, there is going to be
disappointment,” Dumars, the president of basketball operations, said
Tuesday in his annual postseason meeting with the media. “This is the
first time in a decade that we’ve had a season like this, and we
learned a lot from the experience.”

Dumars won two championships as a player on teams that were built
around defense and hard work, then built the 2004 title winners in the
same mold, but didn’t see that intensity this year.

“We had some
slippage in terms of the toughness and grit that we’ve had for the last
10 years,” Dumars said. “We drifted some from what we were when we were
successful.”

That’s an interesting response. What Dumars diagnoses as a lack of toughness, I call “signing Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon and paying them a combined $95.7 million over the next four seasons.” To-may-to, to-mah-to, really. Also, being 21st in the league in offense and 26th in defense last season (in terms of points and points allowed per 100 possessions)? Probably not helping, and only tangentially related to toughness.

Detroit could theoretically have an opening to improve in 2011-2012 after the Pistons shed Tayshaun Prince’s $11 million contract, but even then they’re looking at $45 million in guaranteed salary. That number doesn’t include an extended Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum (a free agent this year), Jonas Jerebko, DaJuan Summers, or anyone capable of playing center. The financial outlook doesn’t look any better in 2012-2013 either, as the Pistons have no notable salary coming off the books prior to that season.

Things could be pretty bad for quite some time in Detroit if the roster is left to develop organically. With the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft, the Pistons are slated to select someone in the general vicinity of Cole Aldrich (according to Draft Express) or possibly DeMarcus Cousins (according to NBADraft.net). Either one of those players would be very helpful, but they’re not bringing the Pistons out of the basement.

I’m glad Dumars has “toughness” as his talking point, because he’ll have plenty of time to practice and repeat it over the next three seasons.  

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.