Detroit sports has hit an unbelievable lull. We have one contending team in the Lions, incompetent coaching runs amok, there’s aging superstars on one team, and zero superstars on the others. Any honest Detroit sports fan will tell you there’s been better days.
For a moment at least, it looked as if the city’s basketball team, the Detroit Pistons were aspiring to rise out of the mediocrity they have found themselves in for the better part of a decade. This got me in particular very excited because I am a basketball junkie. I know the Pistons are far form being the most popular team in the city, but they are my team. I’m one of the sycophants that got hyped up over a first round sweep in the team’s first playoff appearance in seven years. There seemed to be legitimate progress being made with a young nucleus that was returning all of their starters.
So where did that go? The players are the same, so is the coach; point guard Reggie Jackson missed the first 21 games of the season, but the Pistons have looked worse since his return. In fact, they haven’t even managed to win two games in a row in the 16 games Jackson has been back. I don’t want to pin this all on Reggie though, that would be patently unfair. The biggest problem with the Pistons is that Jackson’s poor play isn’t their only problem.
They don’t play hard, causing head coach and President of Basketball Operations, Stan Van Gundy, to publicly blast the team on more than one occassion. They severely lack leadership. They either don’t try on defense, or just straight up can’t defend. They have nobody that’s a threat on the perimeter, a staple of successful Stan Van Gundy teams in the past, and their best player has been Jon Leuer, who we will get to a little bit later.
Speaking of the great Stan Van Gundy, there is mounting evidence to suggest that he has lost this team. While a fabolous coach, many have questioned whether or not his blunt, straight-shooter approach is rubbing his players the wrong way. If his criticisms were kept behind closed doors it would be one thing, but Van Gundy has constantly aired out his grievances with the team to the media. One suggestion is simple: the players play better and Van Gundy won’t have anything t0 criticize. The second suggestion is something DSN’s Paul Rochon wrote about back on December 21st: Maybe it’s time for Stan Van to pack up a U-Haul.
Perhaps I would be a little more on board with the ladder option if the Pistons had any players that looked like they were deserving of coming back next year.
- Andre Drummond might be the most useless superstar in the league. He can dominate when he wants to, and maybe a big part of his immaturity and lack of focus stems from the fact that he’s only 23. But… Drummond is also a five-year vet and one would think if a guy has any sort of competitive fire in him, five years of getting bullied by any good center you face would piss a person off.
- Reggie Jackson hasn’t looked good at all since coming back, and while some rust should be expected from a guy who missed 21 games, what’s infinitely more concerning is that the team doesn’t seem to be rallying around him or his return. I mentioned it earlier, but it really is an amazing stat. The Pistons haven’t won back-to-back games since Reggie has comeback. You know how hard it is to NOT win back-to-back games in the NBA? You basically have to be the Brooklyn Nets, who the Pistons have already lost to this year by the way.
- Tobias Harris has been fine. He’s regressed a little bit from last season in three point percentage, rebounding, and assists, but for the most part he’s right where he’s been at statistically while in Detroit. However, neither he nor Marcus Morris is a good defender, which is why a guy like Paul George feasts on the Pistons every chance he gets.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a bright spot this year, which is difficult for me to say as the President of the ‘Don’t you dare offer KCP the max’ fan club. He’s having the best season of his career so far tohugh. He’s shooting the ball better, finally becoming a threat from deep at just under 39%, and is still a stingy defender. With that being said, he’s still not worth $20 million dollars, not by a longshot.
- Marcus Morris hasn;t had a good year to say the least. Virtually all of his numbers except free throw % are down from last year, and he hasn’t looked the same since Reggie Jackson’s return. That could be in part because Morris is becoming frustrated with his role in Detroit. He thinks he deserves more touches, but Jackson is a ball-dominant point guard whose first option is always pick-and-roll with Drummond.
- Jon Leuer has been awesome, but he’s still Jon Leuer. And if he is going to be your best player on a night-in night-out basis, you’re going to find yourself drafting very high in the lottery.
- Ish Smith has looked so-so in his roll. He kept the Pistons afloat during Reggie Jackson’s absence and he’s a good facilitator but the liability in his game is jumpshot, which is a problem. He’s shooting 26% from three and 69% from the free throw line. Those numbers are well below the standard for even a below average shooter.
- Stanley ‘Dog house’ Johnson hasn’t seen nearly as much of the floor this year, and when he has he hasn’t been good. As bad as Ish Smith’s shooting has been, Johnson’s has been even worse, and he has shown an almost purposeful lack of effort this year. To have such great energy and determination as a rookie and then just turn off any sense of urgency is something that I don’t I have seen before. A sophomore slump is different. Teams figure out your game, you’re less of a mystery, that’s all fine. Stanley just isn’t playing hard, or playing well, and his severe reduction in minutes is proof of that.
The Pistons so far this year have been a complete embarassment. Sitting at 16-21 through 37 games is worse than the entire world thought they would do. The good news is there’s still half a season left to turn it around, and despite being the basketball equivalent to projectile vomit, they’re only two and half games back of the Bulls for the final playoff spot in the atrocious Eastern Conference.
The bad news, of course, is that the Pistons suck and even if every team ahead of them played only .500 ball the rest of the year, the Pistons would still need to string together the foreign concept of consecutive wins in order to make the playoffs.