Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons

Stick a fork in them: Detroit Pistons

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What. A. Trainwreck.

That the Pistons managed to stave off elimination until Friday night when the Pacers win finally put them in the ground is a strange fact in and of itself. You’re tempted to give them a modicum of credit for being in the picture this long. But to do so would be to ignore their salary, their play, and the disastrous off-court shenanigans bandied about like a soap opera. The Pistons didn’t slump to the finish. They were dragged there by the momentum of their own faceplant at full-speed.

It began as one of those seasons where you want to believe. After all, the lottery squad the year before was formed in the face of so many injuries, you had to believe there was no way they would repeat that performance. But alas, though the injuries were better, the results were not. On top of Charlie Villanueva continuing to embody the worst parts of his game and very little of the good, Ben Gordon posted career lows in points, assists, and steals. And the bottoming out was not due to the logjam at guard for the Pistons. His per-36 numbers were equally bad. It’s mind-boggling but true, Gordon is 27, and should be entering his prime. But for whatever reason, it’s not working.

That “whatever the reason” could very well be the coach. If you ask most of the veterans on the Pistons, they’d probably say the same. Rip Hamilton was at the head of what was termed a “player’s mutiny” by the media in a mass sleep-in as Hamilton could neither get time on the floor nor a buy-out he’d agree to (versus a buyout, or even a reasonable one, both of which were available). The veterans did little to hide their disdain for head coach John Kuester in front of reporters or behind the curtain. Kuester’s continued employment remains perplexing to the degree it’s largely attributed to the drawn-out sale process that has dragged through three of the four annual seasons with no end in sight.

But through all of these disasters, there were some bright spots. Particularly Austin Daye and Greg Monroe. Daye showed an efficient combination of wing abilities and Monroe showed everything you want to see out of a young center. Touch, tenacity, improvement, and rebounds. Rodney Stuckey remains a polarizing figure they’ll have to unwind, but maybe under new leadership, he can get back on track. (“Back on track” is an interesting phrase since he led the team in points, assists, and PER. Things are complicated on this team, have we mentioned that?”)

This season has been a forgettable one for the Pistons, but unlikely a lot of teams, there’s some hope there. Perhaps a true youth movement is in order, once ownership is worked out. But for this year, stick a fork in them. They’re done.

Oh, and Chris Wilcox played pretty well, surprisingly.

Jimmy Butler: I didn’t move Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah from Bulls

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Joakim Noah #13, Derrick Rose #1 and Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls react during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bulls 99-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Jimmy Butler said of the Derrick Rose trade, “It had to be one of us.”

Butler also says not blame him for the Bulls losing Rose — or Joakim Noah, who’s also headed to the Knicks.

Jimmy Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

I can believe Butler didn’t directly urge Chicago to trade Rose, but Butler’s presence matters.

Rose and Butler clearly didn’t ideally mesh on the court, and there might have been off-court issues, too. If it weren’t for Butler, the Bulls might have kept Rose.

Noah is a little different, because it seems he, more than the team, was ready for a breakup. Still, that might have also had to do with Butler.

Butler is trying to grow into a leader, a natural progression for someone who became his team’s best player. But that was awkward with the Bulls’ previous leaders — Rose and Noah — still in the locker room. There’s no simple solution, though moving on without Rose and Noah will clear that cloud.

So — without other information — it’s too much to “blame” Butler for Rose’s and Noah’s departures. But Rose and Noah moving from Chicago to New York can still be ascribed to Butler.

It might not have been something asked for directly. It’s just the reality of the situation.

Dwyane Wade: “It’s Jimmy Butler’s team”

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Dwyane Wade is back in sweet home, Chicago.

Wade met with the media for the first time and talked about the pairing of himself and Rajon Rondo with the Bulls’ existing star in Jimmy Butler — Wade used the term “three alphas” more than once. But he also was clear about whose team this was going to be on the court.

“We’re not going to go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes.”

Wade added that he would not be a Bull if Jimmy Butler had not personally called him and asked him to come.

Wade took that cue from Shaquille O’Neal when he joined Wade’s Heat team — which eventually led to the Heat’s first title in 2006. The Bulls would love for that kind of result here, although it’s much tougher to see this Chicago roster having anywhere near that kind of impact.

 

LeBron James talked Justin Bieber out of performing at Donald Trump’s nominating convention

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 29: Justin Bieber drinks champagne at the podium during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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With the Republican National Convention being held in Cleveland, you knew there was going to be a LeBron James influence.

It apparently kept Justin Bieber away from Donald Trump and Co.

TMZ

Justin Bieber got a $5 million offer to perform at a Republican event during the GOP Convention, but turned it down after his manager considered quitting and LeBron James urged him to reject it … sources tell TMZ.

That’s a lot of money for a single gig. This either speaks to the power of LeBron’s words — or the embellishment of Bieber’s value.

Watch Bulls’ Dwyane Wade press conference live (video)

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Dwyane Wade playing for a team other than the Heat will be strange.

You can get your first glimpse of that weirdness today, when the Bulls introduce Wade at 3 p.m. Eastern.

If the above video doesn’t load, click here to watch the press conference.