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Archive for the tag “Detroit Pistons”

Return To Sender

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

It was the chance for a fresh start and a new city. Donatas Motiejunas, Macus Thornton and Joel Anthony were getting ready to play for their new teams (Joel Anthony was traded to the Sixers with a second round pick after he was traded to the Rockets). It was going to be interesting to see how each piece fit where they ended up. But unfortunately, all three of these players will be returning to their former teams. The trade that was going to further shape the Pistons fell through once Motiejunas was not able to pass a physical due to his continued recovery from back surgery. The 7’ power forward had back surgery this past offseason and has had multiple setbacks trying to recover. Needless to say, he has not been on the court much at all this season. And the likelihood is he will not see the court at all this year either.

Joel Anthony will be returning to a team that will have a chance to make the playoffs this year. The Pistons still made one solid trade in getting forward Tobias Harris and it will be interesting to see if they can integrate him into what they do. The result of that trade getting voided is that Anthony goes back to ninth in the Eastern Conference instead of the last place team in the NBA. But you have to wonder what he feels like going back to the Pistons. After all, he has to look in the face of the guy who tried to trade him for the rest of the season potentially. There has to be some uneasy tension there. Many will say that Anthony has to be professional about it, but privately he has to wonder why he has to stay somewhere that the coach/president of basketball operations does not want him. Whether he thinks that or not, Anthony really has survived in the NBA longer than many thought he would. And to be truthful, there were a ton of people that forgot he was in the NBA anymore. After he was no longer a member of the Miami Heat, it seemed like his career went into oblivion. But there he stands and there he is, still getting a game check from the Pistons each time he is there on the bench or in uniform. And for that, he has to be thankful.

As far as Motiejunas, he has to feel some sort of way. He is a productive player when he is healthy, but he was given up despite the potential he has. He is still very young and is a very skilled young big man. So he has to be keeping his focus on getting healthy for either the rest of the season or the offseason. After all, the cap is going up and someone will take a chance on him provided he can pass a physical the next time. But one thing he and Thornton have to go back to is something they probably dread. The feeling in that locker room has to be uncomfortable. With the firing of head coach Kevin McHale early in the season and the team’s stars reportedly both trying to get each other traded, that has to be something that feels more like a circus than a basketball team. In Detroit, at least the feeling there was that they were building something. Motiejunas and Thornton would have been very good pieces on a Pistons team that was going to look like the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic team. But alas, all that is now a dream that Thornton and Motiejunas will have to just imagine for now. They are stuck in Houston for right now. And they both probably realize that the toxic environment there could lead to an interesting offseason. An offseason that could end up with both of them gone anyway.

Anthony is probably the more relieved of the bunch. He gets to stay with a team that could be on the rise. While Motiejunas and Thornton go back to somewhere they would probably like to escape. And meanwhile, that protected 2016 1st round pick the Rockets received in this trade gets returned to its sender. The reshaping of the team in Houston fell flat on its face as the Rockets were not able to move anyone via trade at all. And the NBA’s greatest drama team will continue to go on like an episode of The Haves and Have Nots, with Howard and Harden as the leading actors.

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The Detroit Pistons Get A 2008-2009 Orlando Magic Makeover

(photo courtesy of Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)

The Detroit Pistons have been measurably better this season. They are in contention for the playoffs and had seemingly found an identity with players like point guard Reggie Jackson and big man Andre Drummond. But even with those two, there was no assurances that this team would make it far. And going into the trade deadline, the Pistons were a team that could have been a buyer or a seller. They had some pieces that people were interested in with backup point guard Brandon Jennings and even forward Marcus Morris. But they also had players that they desired that were on the trade market. The onus was on head of basketball operations/head coach Stan Van Gundy to make it happen. Would he help his team get better or would he continue to stay the course with what he had while potentially dumping Jennings for something that would not help this team. Well, the trade deadline has come and gone and the Pistons appeared to be more buyers than sellers. And with that, they now are looking just like a team that Van Gundy coached in his past. The Detroit Pistons are now resembling a team that Van Gundy took to the NBA Finals once before, the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic.

The first move in this makeover that Van Gundy started was to move Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic for the services of Tobias Harris. The Pistons gave up a good backup point guard and a stretch forward in Ilyasova, but the move also gave the Pistons something they did not have. Harris was not doing as well in the system that Scott Skiles had in Orlando. But in Van Gundy’s system, he will be likely matched up with forward Marcus Morris in the frontcourt. Both of these guys can handle the basketball, shoot the three and make plays at the rim. But what Harris does better than Morris is make plays. His playmaking skills fit great on this team. What made the Orlando Magic so tough that season was the play of forward Hedo Turkoglu, who was handling the ball and making plays while shooting at an excellent clip from the three-point line. Harris is essentially filling that role on this team and with he and Marcus Morris, they both are the new Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu for Van Gundy. And with Harris handling the ball more, the Pistons just freed up point guard Reggie Jackson even more. But that was not the only move the Pistons made that allowed them to remake themselves.

The next move the Pistons made just made them even more versatile. The Pistons traded away seldom-used big man Joel Anthony to the Houston Rockets along with a top-eight protected first round pick. In return, the Pistons received versatile forward Donatas Montiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton. For a piece that was rarely used, the Pistons received two players that can definitely help Detroit. With Montiejunas, the Pistons get a big man with size that can shoot the three as well. Combine him with forward Anthony Tolliver coming off the bench, you now have two forwards with size and shooting ability that can stretch the floor coming off the bench. But the bonus in this trade has to be guard Marcus Thornton. The veteran guard can get hot at any time. And when he does, he can carry your team for stretches at a time. And he, along with Montiejunas, can spread the floor. Imagine these guys paired with Harris and Jackson at the helm making plays. That could be dangerous.

All these new pieces going along with the old pieces makes this team a dangerous threat because of the style they will be able to play. They now have pieces that can spread the floor and let Drummond have the entire paint to himself, just like Dwight Howard did when they went to the NBA Finals. Drummond will essentially be the new Dwight Howard (in a good way) for Van Gundy. And if someone is to help off their man to help their big against Drummond, then the Pistons can make them pay with the collection of shooters they have now. And also, the pick-and-roll offense is now even more dangerous because not only can they use Jackson and Drummond together, but they now can use Drummond with Harris like that. The onus will now be on the team’s stars to make it happen. But with what they have now, the Pistons are now armed to make a run in the Eastern Conference. And Van Gundy now has a team he thinks can make it happen. Not bad for a guy that inherited a team that was in such disarray when he got there in 2014.

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The Tobias Harris Trade: What It Means For Orlando And Detroit

(photo courtesy of Brace Hammelgarn/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Brace Hammelgarn/USA Today Sports)

The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching. Many fans are anticipating big moves while others are expecting all talk and no player movement to really speak of. Well, to those that that were expecting something unexpected, it happened on Tuesday. The Orlando Magic traded forward Tobias Harris to Detroit for the services of point guard Brandon Jennings and forward Ersan Ilyasova. The trade of Harris was something that no one really expected, especially since the Magic signed him to a four-year, $64 million dollar contract as a restricted free agent. But nonetheless, the Magic felt it was what they needed to do in moving him. And for the Detroit Pistons, they felt they needed to make one more move to strengthen their team while losing another piece. But what essentially does Harris bring to the Pistons? And what does the combination of Jennings and Ilysova mean for the Magic?

The Pistons have been starting Marcus Morris and Ilysova at the forward spots all season long. And to the credit of both, they have played pretty well. But both are not really considered playmakers at the position. And with both at 26 and 28 respectively, the chances of them both developing into a playmaker is not very high. Tobias is having a bit of a down season this year (averaging his lowest points per game as a member of the Magic at 13.7 points per game). But even with that, he is still shooting better than both of these guys are at the forward position. And in addition to shooting the ball better, Harris is much better playmaker in transition and in the halfcourt offense than Morris and Ilysova. Before the addition of Harris, all the playmaking with the Pistons fell on the shoulders of Reggie Jackson. And although he is having a career year, Jackson will be worn out with the scoring and playmaking duties he has to shoulder each game. Harris alleviates that to an extent and can also allow Jackson to play off the ball some because of Harris’ vision on the court. Another good thing that comes with Harris is the versatility of the frontcourt of the Pistons is still maintained. Harris can play the small and power forward positions and that will allow him to play alongside talented rookie Stanley Johnson at times. The Pistons definitely upgraded their team with this move and also increased their expectations. And with veteran point guard Steve Blake there in Detroit, the Pistons could afford to move Brandon Jennings without fear of a huge dropoff.

In Orlando, it seems that Scott Skiles taking over has had an effect on this team. They are playing harder every night and you can see the improvements. But along with the improvements, you can also see who does and does not fit the system that Skiles wants in Orlando. Harris, unfortunately, just didn’t seem to fit what Skiles wanted despite efficient numbers. With them moving Harris, it now opens up more of a youth movement at the forward position. The Magic drafted Mario Hezonja this past NBA Draft and the rookie has been solid in limited minutes off the bench. The Magic looked like they were going nowhere with their current status quo, so they may as well allow Hezonja to get better and that requires more playing time. With Harris out of the way, look for more lineups with Hezonja and second-year player Aaron Gordon at the forward spots. In acquiring Ilysova and Jennings, the Magic get two veteran players that can be solid for them off the bench. The Magic have been backing up second-year point guard Elfrid Payton with Shabazz Napier. Jennings is an immediate upgrade over Napier and brings along some veteran experience that can help Payton grow on the court. He also is a former player for Skiles in Milwaukee. It should be interesting to see how they get along now. But along with his experience, Jennings also brings along an expiring contract at the end of the year ($8.3 million off the books at the end of the season). If the Magic are able to pull off the rumored trade of backup big man Channing Frye to the Los Angeles Clippers for Lance Stephenson(whom they will reportedly buy out if they acquire him), this is where things could get even more interesting for Orlando. The Frye trade and subsequent cut of Stephenson would give them an additional $9 million more in salary cap freed up going into the summer of 2016. Add that additional $17 million to the cap going up exponentially next year and the Magic will have money, young players and options. One of those options will reportedly be re-signing young guard Evan Fournier, who will be a restricted free agent. But even with that, they will still have money to burn on upgrades to their team. As far as Ilysova, he is there for one reason and one reason along: shooting. He is a former Scott Skiles player from his Milwaukee days (like Jennings) and Skiles knows how to get the best out of him, as Ilysova had two of his best seasons under Skiles. With him coming in off the bench, the Orlando Magic now have more firepower when going to their subs.

Both teams got what they wanted out of this one. The Magic got some cap space, options and a backup point guard. The Pistons got another playmaker and an upgrade at the forward spot. No true winner can be determined in this trade until we see how all players fit (or don’t fit) into their new teams. But on the surface, the Pistons committed highway robbery with this trade.

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A Thankful Goodbye To David Stern

David Stern February 1st marks David Stern’s last day as the commissioner of the NBA. And for some fans, they are rejoicing his exit. I’m sure Laker fans remember the voided trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers or when the Pelicans landed the first pick in the draft after the league took over ownership of the team for a while. Or who can forget the suspensions that he dropped on the Pacers team after Ron Artest went into the stands versus the Detroit Pistons? All of these things have left a bad taste in some fans’ mouths. But for all the negative that some perceive he did, you have to admit that Stern definitely took the league to another level under his ownership.

When Stern first took over thirty years ago, then NBA was not a very visible league at all. There was not a huge television deal for the NBA in place. In fact, games during the weekdays were tape-delayed and some were worried about the league’s stability. But Stern had some ideas to make some things happen. He has always said the players make the league, so he took that chance and got some deals with some television channels to showcase the player live. Stern’s gamble paid off and produced for him and the NBA. Who can forget the NBA on NBC back in the day:

Stern would eventually move on from this deal and create the NBA network along with other deals with ESPN and Turner Sports that total up to around $930 million annually. The league, under his care, has grown to one of the most profitable around. All thanks to his vision and his ability to turn his vision into a reality.

With the growth of the NBA and the revenues, Stern also grew the salaries of the players. When Stern first started as commissioner, the average salary of a player was only about six figures. The salary for Michael Jordan his rookie season was only $550,000. Fast forward to Jordan’s last year in Chicago and he was making an astounding $33 million for only one season. That is just one example of the growth of salaries, but the average salary for players has now reached over $5 million. Stern, even though some perceive him as a tyrant, has made the players richer than they ever were in the past. Honestly, players today should thank him for all the money he has helped them make. He helped players make money they and their families could live off of for a long time (if they spend it wisely that is).

All in all, Stern may have had some bad moments, but he also helped grow the NBA as a whole. And if it wasn’t for him, who knows where the league would be. He has been a master of marketing. I would like to personally thank him for all he has done and I think the league, players and fans should thank him for all he has done also. Next stop for Stern is the Basketball Hall of Fame.

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The Buzz Is Back, But Are The Detroit Pistons?

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons

  The Detroit Pistons were a team that was down and out after the 2012-2013 season. The team that was expected to at least be a little bit better this past year continued to slump. But the bright light heading into this offseason was the money the Pistons had available. The only question was who the Pistons would go get. Well, after adding point guard Chauncey Billups, forward Josh Smith along with re-signing backup point guard Will Bynum and bringing in Italian sharpshooter Luigi Datome, plenty thought the Pistons were done trying to add to their team. But little did we know that another trade was about to go down to shake this team up just a little bit more. The Pistons agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks that will bring point guard Brandon Jennings to Detroit for Brandon Knight, forward Khris Middleton and center Slava Kravtsov. Immediately, the Pistons made yet another addition that has some folks even more excited than when Josh Smith signed. But before the Pistons are crowned the darkhorse in the East, there are a couple things, or should I say players, that really concern me about this team.

  Some view Jennings, who signed a three-year, $24 million-dollar deal in his trade to Detroit, as an upgrade from Brandon Knight and talent-wise, that is true. Jennings is definitely an explosive player and he can carry a team offensively at times with his scoring. But he is also shoots a lot to get those points. And while there are a few point guards that shoot the ball a lot in today’s NBA, they all shoot a better percentage than Jennings (career 39.4% shooter). Along with that, he isn’t exactly known as a distributor of the basketball. Heading to Detroit, he must find the balance of getting his points and making his teammates lives easier on the court. Hopefully under the tutelage of veteran Chauncey Billups and head coach Mo Cheeks they can finally get Brandon to understand the balance that’s needed to make this team better under his leadership at point guard. This is certainly going to be something to watch next season.

  Another big player to watch is the aforementioned Josh Smith. The former Atlanta Hawks big man was looking for a big deal this offseason and ended up landing that big contract in Detroit. He, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond combine to make a really physically gifted frontcourt. But beyond the athletic gifts, how do these three fit on the basketball court together presuming all three start this year? Defensively, Smith will have to guard small forwards in the NBA. Some matchups will be better for him than others, but for the most part, he has been guarding power forwards all his career. Will he be able to make the adjustments to guarding small forwards more? It should be interesting to see how the first matchup with LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony goes head-to-head. Heck, in his own division it will be interesting to see if he can keep up with Luol Deng of the Bulls and Paul George of the Pacers. Offensively, Smith is more of a mid-range shooter. But with this team and the pieces at power forward and center, Smith has to shoot more to spread the floor. And after seeing Smith shoot three after three in Atlanta, it’s very scary to think about him potentially shooting three’s more. And it is a downright mortifying thought when you think about the 28% career clip that he shoots from three. How the Pistons use these three talented big men is definitely going to be something to watch.

  With what the Pistons have, the best option would be to run because I can see their halfcourt offense being interestingly bad with the new pieces. Even with the new additions, the best that I can see this team doing is 7th or 8th in the East. And with that finish, that means an early exit again for the Pistons. For Joe Dumars’ sake, he better hope this works out. He has made blunder after blunder starting with the trade of Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson and the signing of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Only time will tell if the signing of Smith and the trade for Jennings will resurrect the reputation he once had as one of the best front office guys in the NBA. If it doesn’t he may be getting his pink slip pretty soon.

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