NBA AM: Playoffs Or Bust For New-Look Pistons
Fans of the Detroit Pistons haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years. After an impressive run by the franchise from 2002 to 2009, which included a championship, two trips to the NBA Finals and six Eastern Conference Finals appearances, the club hasn’t reached the playoffs the past four seasons. To say the Pistons needed a huge summer to reverse their recent fortunes at the start of the offseason would have been a huge understatement.
There are three primary ways NBA teams can improve – the annual draft, free agency and the trade market. The Pistons were active on all three of these fronts this summer and there is a growing optimism from its fan base that the team should also be in the playoff mix next season.
The Pistons drafted guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft and followed up the selection adding promising players Tony Mitchell and Peyton Silva in the second round.
On the free agency front, Detroit hauled in one of the top five players on the market in summer by signing veteran forward Josh Smith to a four-year $54 million deal. The team also added veteran guard and former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups on a two-year deal.
Lastly, the Pistons likely ended their summer of moves by acquiring free agent guard Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. As part of the agreement, Jennings was awarded a three-year $24 million contract.
Detroit also added a new head coach this summer, bringing in league veteran Maurice Cheeks to run the show from the sidelines. Cheeks will be the third head coach to grace the sidelines for the team since 2010.
Despite the solid moves, on paper this summer, it is safe to say president of basketball operations Joe Dumars’ job is on the line and breaking the playoff drought with a strong season may be the only thing to salvage it.
Pistons owner Tom Gores has remained consistent in his public messaging that his goal for the franchise is a playoff trip in 2014. Here is a Gores quote from an interview with Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press that took place in early July.
“I want to see solid progress, but I’m not shying away from the fact that we need to find our way to the playoffs. I don’t want to shy away from that. I think that should always be something that we strive for. We’ve got some really, really good pieces and I think we’ve come a long way since we got the team. Remember, we bought it in the lockout season. Last year was first real year and we’ve made a lot of progress, I think, as ownership in building a good core of young folks. We’ve got room to make some moves. I don’t want to shy away from making the playoffs because we really should. It’s going to be hard for me to enter any season not expecting that.”
The above quote from Gores was given before the signing of Smith and the trade for Jennings, so there’s no reason to believe this set of expectations hasn’t been solidified after the summer of additions.
The future is much brighter in Detroit than in years past and it’s hard to envision the team which also boasts promising bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond not becoming a playoff fixture in the next few years. However, it appears Dumars may not have years of leeway to watch his vision for the club to unfold.
For Dumars’ job security, the 2014 campaign is likely playoffs or bust.
Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni Questions Dwight Howard’s Decision To Bolt In Free Agency
All-Star center Dwight Howard entered the summer as arguably the biggest free agent name available on the market and his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers in order to join the Houston Rockets sent ripples throughout the entire league.
“It’s hard for me to sit here and criticize or even to understand why he left a place like L.A.,” D’Antoni told ESPN Los Angeles radio. “That’s kind of mind-boggling a little bit, but that’s in his DNA and what he wants to do.
“You can debate it all you want. Only Dwight knows. Obviously he didn’t think he would be as happy here as he will be in Houston. That might be the case and he had to make that decision. There will be a lot of speculation, we tried it, it didn’t work out and we go forward. So be it. You hate it. Dwight’s one of the better centers in the league and it would have been a long-term thing, but I looked at it like, ‘OK, you don’t have Dwight but you got Pau [Gasol].’ So, we’ll see. In the short run, we’ll see what happens. In the long run, obviously 10 years from now Dwight might still be playing and maybe Pau is retired, but everybody has got to do [what's best for them].”
Howard signed a four-year $88 million deal with Houston, leaving the Lakers’ five-year $118 million offer on the table. The nine-year veteran averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds on 58 percent shooting in 76 contests during his lone season in Los Angeles.
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HOOPSWORLD 2013 NBA Summer League Coverage
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