Kurt Helin

Looking back: Detroit Piston’s Top 10 plays of last season

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The last post on this site focused on the future of the Pistons — that owner Tom Gores is willing to pay to win and keep this young core together.

Time to look back at the bright moments from that core from last season — the Detroit Pistons top 10 plays.

Those Pistons made the playoffs last year and took a step forward, and most pundits and fans (myself included) expect another one next season. Maybe into the top four in the East, maybe into the second round of the playoffs. We’ll see if they can get that far, but this is a program on the rise, one that certainly had a fun last season.

Pistons’ owner Gores willing to pay tax to lock up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made our list of top five guys likely to get an extension to his rookie contract this summer. The main reason — Stan Van Gundy likes him. He fits what SVG wants to do — Caldwell-Pope is a quality defender who averaged 14.5 points per game last season (although not efficiently).

The question is money — the Pistons have the fourth highest payroll in the NBA this season and have a lot of that money locked up for future years. Pay Caldwell-Pope and the Pistons could pay the tax.

Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press asked owner Tom Gores how he feels about that.

“Look, if we weren’t building a core, there’s really no point in paying the luxury tax. Because we are building a core, would I do it? Yeah, absolutely. This is a tremendous team. If you go down the line, player by player, and especially our young folks, these are real players. You look at KCP as a very diverse player. He keeps working at his game and you look at his improvement and just like anybody else, he will improve in other areas. Part of Stan’s coaching philosophy obviously is defense. So you say go into the luxury tax for nothing, then that would be silly because then we’re putting the franchise behind. But given that we have such a good core, if that’s what it took, and we feel we’ve made such progress this year, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it because we want to keep getting better.”

That the owner is willing to pay to win should make Pistons’ fans happy. If you read the entire Q&A, you can also see how badly Goes wants to win. It’s all part of the bright future in the Motor City.

As for an extension, I’m not sold KCP is a max player, if the two sides reach a deal it would be for a little under the max. The question is can the two sides agree on a number?

If not, next summer Caldwell-Pope becomes a restricted free agent and one another team could try to poach (especially if his progress continues). For the Pistons, do they want to risk letting the market set his value? For Caldwell-Pope, does he want to take the risk (injury and other) of betting on himself and turning down a good deal to plan on a better one down the line? Some players, Jimmy Butler for example, have made that bet and succeeded, but if Caldwell-Pope wants to stay in Detroit, he’ll need to think about all the options.

DeAndre Jordan with the seated bank shot from the bench at USA practice

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That’s just like Tim Duncan would have done it — the glass is your friend.

DeAndre Jordan is in Rio — he had 7 points, 7 rebounds, and was a +17 in the USA opening win against China — and when not taking pictures with gymnasts he is throwing in bank shots from the bench during practice.

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I know you’re all now going to make free throw jokes in the comments, at least try to be creative when picking the low hanging fruit.

Have 20 minutes to watch the best crossovers of last season? You know you do.

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The fine folks at NBA.com compiled a video of the 100 best crossovers from last season.

While we can debate if all of them are true crossovers, they are great plays and someone took the time to put them all in one place for us to watch. The least we could do is watch them.

Tom Thibodeau thinks Team USA’s defense is good, could be better

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In its first outing of the Rio Olympics, Team USA held China to 38 percent shooting, 29 percent from three, forced 24 turnovers, and generally made every made bucket by China require an impressive shot from one of their skill players. The USA cruised to the win because of that defense.

Tom Thibodeau thought it was okay.

The never-pleased coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was barking out defensive assignments during the game and said this to Marc Stein of ESPN after the contest.

“Every night you want the bar set high,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s a lot of things we did well, but I’m sure there are things that we could do a little bit better. And that’s what we want to keep our focus on.”

When a helpful reporter followed up by suggesting that the Americans had to have registered at least an “8 and a half” with the way they tormented China in a 119-62 rout, Thibodeau shot back: “I wish I had a professor in school like you.”

The USA’s first couple games of the Olympics are against teams they dominated in the exhibition run-up to Rio — first China, next a Venezuela team without a single NBA player on the roster.

But they will have tougher games coming up in the group play stage — France a team considered a medal contender before the games, and Australia, the team that beat France handily Saturday — and that’s when they will need their defense. Those teams have good talent (not the depth of it the USA has, but they have good players). You know Thibadeau will go into the film session saying “you got away with this against China, but do that against France and they will score easily.” That drive is what makes him so good.

But from a fan’s perspective, I’m not too worried about Team USA’s prospects in these games, and nothing in a 57-point win will have me feeling otherwise.