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Pistons present themselves as Eastern Conference heavyweights with Dwane Casey


DETROIT – Pistons spokesman Mark Barnhill, introducing new coach Dwane Casey, said he tucked his notes for today’s press conference into his jacket pocket. Then, as he pulled them out, he discovered an old Pistons playoff ticket in the same pocket.

“It’s a bit of an omen and a bit of a challenge,” Barnhill said.

The ticket was for the Pistons’ best playoff performance in a decade.

“No pressure,” Casey said.

Actually, really, no pressure.

Detroit lost by only two points in Game 4 of the 2016 first round, getting swept by the Cavaliers in the game Barnhill referred to. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in the last 10 years and reached the postseason only twice in that span. A two-point loss was their best result.

They’re starving for only moderate success. The 59 wins and second-round loss that got Casey fired by the Raptors? That’d be a dream season in Detroit. Even just making the playoffs next year would be welcomed.

“Our time is now,” Casey said. “…The talent level on the roster is there.”

It better be.

The Pistons are too close to the luxury-tax line to use most of the mid-level exception. They surrendered their first-round pick in the Blake Griffin trade. They’re left with only the No. 42 pick in the second round.

“Whatever player we get, that would be great. But we don’t need another one,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “Like, we’re good. That’s why Dwane is here.”

That and $35 million.

The Pistons presented Casey with a favorable contract, a front-office head he knows (more on that later) and a solid roster. Detroit is probably better off trying to win now, because the alternative would be even trickier to pull off. With so many highly paid players stained by losing, the Pistons can’t easily switch paths and rebuild. Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are close enough to their primes that the present should be the priority, even if this team maxes at pretty good.

Yet, Detroit’s brass couldn’t help but raise expectations even further.

“We have three very – we have a great roster – but very special players,” Gores said of Griffin, Drummond and Jackson.

That’s an overstatement. Besides, how much noise can Detroit make with the Celtics and 76ers rising the Raptors still hanging around?

“I feel very comfortable that we’ll have a product that will compete with the teams that you just said,” Gores’ advisor, Ed Stefanski, said. “We have to win games, as Tom said. But you don’t usually get to an organization and have three core guys like we have.”

Again, they’re talking about Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

Griffin hasn’t made an All-Star team in three years, a drought players rarely escape. Drummond is a borderline All-Star in the East (and a tough fit with Griffin). Jackson has only once even sniffed the All-Star discussion.

Casey also praised those three – and Detroit’s last three first-round picks: Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard. Johnson particularly drew attention from Casey, whose Raptors got swept by LeBron James‘ Cavaliers the last two years and lost the most lopsided six-game series in NBA history to Cleveland the previous year.

“Somebody said, ‘Well, what happened to Toronto in the playoffs? ‘Well, I said, ‘It’s about matchups,'” Casey said. “And Stanley Johnson is the best match up for 23 in Cleveland that there is, physically.”

Maybe Casey, with his strong record of player development, will help Johnson eventually compete at those high levels.

“We’re not developing,” Casey said. “We’re not two or three years away. We want to win right now.”

The Pistons are so confident in their current roster, they haven’t even hired a general manager or equivalent. For now, Stefanski – advisor to the owner with the title of “senior executive” – is running the show. It sounds as if that could continue for a while.

“We could make Ed GM tomorrow,” Gores said. “That’s easy. If you guys want a title, that’s kind of easy.

“That’s not the point. The point is we’re building an organization, not around one person, but around what our vision is.”

Stefanski said, no matter how the front office is assembled, Casey will report to him. And Stefanski will report to Gores.

After giving Stan Van Gundy massive control, the Pistons are dispersing power.

Casey is a good coach, and he’ll help. Stefanski has plenty to prove as a front-office head. Gores is still learning as an owner, a failed experiment (keeping Joe Dumars) and unfulfilling tenure (Van Gundy’s) behind him. The roster is solid, though unexciting, when healthy.

They’re now all in it together, awaiting a chance to deliver. Considering how modest external expectations are, maybe they will.

But as the Pistons overstate their standing, it gets harder to take them seriously.

What do Pistons look like under Dwane Casey? Expect more Blake Griffin

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Once Blake Griffin was traded to Detroit last February at the deadline, Stan Van Gundy put the ball in his hands a lot — a 29.8 percent usage rate. Griffin was handed the ball in the post a lot (especially the high post) and the Pistons averaged an impressive 105 points per possession from those plays (stats via Synergy Sports). Griffin, as he has tended to in recent years, took too many midrangers and didn’t get to the rim as much as the coaching staff would like, but was efficient in isolation, and also showed promise as a playmaker.

Expect to see more of that with Dwane Casey as coach.

Casey was officially hired by the Pistons Monday as their new head coach — the best the Pistons could have made. Once they made the move for Griffin to pair with Andre Drummond (and eventually a healthy Reggie Jackson) this became a team about winning now and making the postseason. Casey has gotten the most out of a team in that space the past several years in Toronto, he should put the Pistons in better positions to succeed.

How? More Griffin. That’s what Casey said on ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith Show:

“We’re going to empower Griffin to expand his game, a lot like DeMar DeRozan in Toronto. Expand his game out to the 3-point line, have some point-forward responsibilities with the basketball out on the floor bringing it down. Because he’s more than just a back-down, post-up player….

“They have a good team, they have a good roster and a very dynamic owner in Tom Gores, who is doing a lot of things for the city of Detroit.”

More Griffin is a start, some high low game with Drummond, or Griffin working off the ball as Jackson and Drummond run pick-and-rolls. There’s a lot of potential there.

Beyond that, Casey is going to need to get more out of Detroit’s younger players such as Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard. Player development is going to matter for a capped out team.

Most of all, Casey needs to stop in every church he passes by and pray/light a candle — maybe sacrifice a live rooster if needed — that Jackson and Griffin can stay healthy for most of a season. Same with the rest of the Pistons. Healthy this is a playoff team and a pretty good one in Detroit, but’s a roster loaded with players who have long injury histories.

Casey is expected to meet with most of the team soon in Los Angeles and lay out his plans. He will get the most out of this roster, whatever pieces he has. We’ll see if that’s enough.

Pistons announce Dwane Casey as head coach

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Ever since John Beilein withdrew from the search, it appeared extremely likely the Pistons would tab Dwane Casey as their next coach.

Now, they have.

Casey is a win-now coach for a win-now roster. The Raptors fired him after years of strong regular seasons then disappointing postseasons. Who really deserved blame for those playoff flameouts? Maybe Casey. Maybe Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Maybe LeBron James. Many people were probably at least somewhat culpable, but Casey took the fall.

He’s a good coach who implements a sound defense, develops young players and has improved his offensive style.

Casey will take over a Detroit team starving for the type of success Toronto deemed no longer good enough. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in 10 years and reached the postseason only twice in that span.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are stars, though a somewhat awkward fit. Reggie Jackson getting healthy could put a 39-43 team over the top and into the playoffs.

Good thing, because Detroit lacks the salary-cap flexibility to upgrade the roster significantly. The Pistons also already traded their first-round pick (in the Griffin deal).

Detroit is hiring Casey before a president or general manager, as fired Stan Van Gundy both ran the front office and served as head coach. Ed Stefanski, advisor to owner Tom Gores, is apparently running the show for now. Will the new president or general manager – whichever title is given – want to hire his own coach? Picking the coach first often brings complications.

The Pistons aren’t immune from those. Their process since dumping Van Gundy has revealed organizational issues.

But at least they have a good coach now.

Report: Dwane Casey looks like Pistons’ next coach, John Beilein pulls out

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From the start, as soon as Ed Stefanski was brought in to guide the process to hire a new coach in Detroit to replace Stan Van Gundy, Dwane Casey was the guy to beat. There were plenty of other guys interviewed, but Casey was setting the pace in this race.

It looks like he will get the job — Casey met with ownership, while his major rival for the job pulled out of consideration. Reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Reading the tea leaves, it’s all over but the final handshake.

Casey seems the logical fit in Detroit. This is a team built to make the playoffs and make a little noise now with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and (*knock on wood*) a healthy Reggie Jackson. Casey lifted the Raptors up every year he was there, getting the team to defend and play to its strengths, leading to the greatest run of success in franchise history. Casey did everything right except beat LeBron James in the playoffs (and he joins a long line of coaches in that category). In Detroit, Casey will get as much out of this team as possible.

Expect this news to come down soon.

Report: Pistons narrow coaching search to Dwane Casey, John Beilein

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Since Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons parted ways, owner Tom Gores brought in Ed Stefanski from Memphis to be a senior advisor and with that has come an unusual simultaneous coach and general manager search.

The coaching search seems to be narrowing, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Casey was considered the frontrunner from the start. The former Raptors coach — just voted Coach of the Year by his peers — makes a lot of sense for a Pistons team looking to win now with Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and point guard Reggie Jackson. Casey had the Raptors taking steps forward every year, the best run of play in franchise history, they could just not get over the LeBron James hump and that cost him his job.

Beilein is the University of Michigan coach who has taken that team to the NCAA title game twice. He has a great offensive mind, and he has the right temperament to be an NBA coach. The question, as it is with a lot of college coaches coming up, is can Beilein check his ego at the door? In college the coach has the power, in the NBA that belongs to star players, and not every coach can adjust to that dynamic.