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.  

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.