About time, too. Tom Gores (from Genesee, incidentally) has agreed to buy the Detroit Pistons. The deal still has to approved by the NBA, but it looks like the deal will close by the end of June.
When I last wrote, Carmelo was still a Nugget, and the Pistons faithful were hoping to land a couple players and maybe a draft pick while unloading Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince. Of course, this didn’t happen, and I have to wonder whether or not the state of limbo the team was in kept Joe Dumars from making any moves. Fans and players were left disappointed.
And that’s when an ugly season got even uglier.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the player “rebellion,” because much of the drama played out publicly. In fact I just have one question: How does a coach continue to play players who quit on him and laugh at him and openly mock him on the sideline and in the press? Does Kuester have no spine at all? (I guess that’s two questions, but still).
After that, no one could take this team seriously, not even the players. The Pistons have limped to the finish line, putting up a fight only occasionally. Hopefully the impending sale will lift the pall that has fallen over this once-proud franchise.
In keeping with that spirit of hopefulness, here’s a few things that went well for the Pistons this season:
—Greg Monroe: Any list of positives from this Pistons season has to begin with the development of Greg Monroe. Early in the season, he looked like a bust, though anyone who knows about basketball knows that the first month of the season is not enough time to judge a player. By January, he was a mainstay in the starting lineup, averaging 10 points and 9 boards that month. Post All-Star Break, his numbers are very impressive: 14 points, 10 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block per game with 59% shooting from the field. Pretty impressive. He’s been the third-best rookie in the NBA behind Griffin and Wall, and he looks to be a piece to build around for the Pistons. It’s not all good, however: Monroe, while a nice player, has limitations, and I don’t foresee him getting markedly better as his career progresses. I still think his closest NBA parallel is/was Udonis Haslem, but we’re thinking positive, right? He has the potential to be a Brad Miller-type player, and if you scoff at that, remember that Miller was an All-Star twice for the Kings.
—Chris Wilcox: Chris looked like a disaster in his limited time with the Pistons, which puzzled me because I always thought he was a good player. He averaged 14 and 8 for Seattle in 05-06, and is still only 28 years old. Recently, however, he’s looked really good in his still-limited playing time. He finishes with authority, plays decent defense, and generally looks like a serviceable backup NBA center/power forward. Which, when considering how bad he looked early in the year, is a reason to celebrate.
—The Ongoing Awesomeness of George Blaha: As usual. One of the best in the business.
And…that’s all I can think of. So, what do we have to look forward to next year?
—The Return of Jonas Jerebko: He’s one of those players that every good team needs, sort of like Trevor Ariza when he helped the Lakers win the title. Jonas can guard positions 1-4, rebound and shoot, and he’ll help take some of the rebounding load off of Monroe’s shoulders.
—The Arrival of a Coach who can Stick to a Rotation and Play his Best Players the Most Minutes and Not Leave his Best Scorers on the Bench all the Time: One could only hope.
—The Departure of Rip, Tayshaun, and Ben Wallace: I highly doubt that any will be back. I say that I’m looking forward to it, but it’s definitely going to be a bittersweet moment. I want the team to move on, but at the same time, those guys are our last ties to the magical 03-04 team. I guess I’ll have to watch my DVD of that season whenever I want to relive those days.
Indeed, the end of this season marks the end of an era. Tom Gores is the owner of the team, not Bill Davidson. Everyone from the championship team will be gone. The entire state of the NBA will look different under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This season will be forgotten, just like all the bad ones are, once the next season tips off. All we, as Pistons fans, have to do is look towards the future, and I have to say, the future looks bright. Sort of.
Let’s take a spin around the NBA:
–Once Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer got healthy, the Bulls exploded. I believe I read that they are 23-6 with their starting lineup healthy. They look to have the top seed in the Eastern Conference locked down. I watched their thorough beatdown of the Celtics on Thursday and was extremely impressed. Derrick Rose made five plays that made me come out of my seat. Is he the MVP this year? Maybe.
–Speaking of the Celtics, I get why Danny Ainge traded Perkins. It made sense. The team got younger and more athletic, and now they can also play small with Jeff Green at power forward, a position he played very capably with Oklahoma City. However, the Celtics were so close as a team that Ainge had to know this would wreck the locker room and destroy the chemistry. The Celtics are in a funk, and I think they miss Perkins’ presence in the locker room. What I really don’t understand is why this is happening when Perkins had been injured for most of the year. They know how to play without him. Still, don’t count them out. They went 27-27 to finish the year last year, and they went to game 7 of the Finals.
–Miami is still a three-man band, the addition of Mike Bibby notwithstanding. They won’t get past Chicago or Boston, and Orlando could get them too, should Dwight Howard go all 2001 Shaquille O’Neal on them.
–New York needed more time with Amare and Carmelo to be truly considered a factor this playoffs season; as we saw early in the year with the Heat, stars need to adjust to playing with one another. Also, is D’Antoni a good coach?
–The West is wide open. The Spurs have the best record in the league, the Lakers are red-hot, the Thunder got better by adding Perkins, and even the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers will be tough outs. Who will make it to the Finals?
Here are my end of the season awards and playoff predictions:
MVP–Dirk Nowitzki. I know Rose gets all the publicity, but Dallas would be nowhere without Dirk. I mean, Dirk is that whole team. They have two scorers (one of whom comes off the bench) and have still managed to win over 50 games and take the third seed in the west.
Defensive Player of the Year:Dwight Howard. I gave Tony Allen of the Grizzlies some consideration, and really, he’s the best on-ball defender I’ve seen in a long time. But Dwight gets it for keeping Orlando as one of the best defensive teams in the league despite having no other good defenders on the team.
Most Improved Player: LOTS of candidates here, but Kevin Love gets the slight edge over Lamarcus Aldridge. You know about the rebounds, but did you know that Love also shoots over 40% from 3-point land?
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin. Nothing more needs to be said.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry. Again, one of only two offensive options on a 50 win team. That makes him the choice here.
Coach of the Year: George Karl. I neglected the Nuggets earlier, but I won’t now: this team is fun to watch and a nightmare to match up against. They play hard on both ends of the court, and you never know who is going to hurt you the most on any given night. They played well despite the situation with Carmelo, and once they got rid of him, the new pieces meshed instantly to form a team that no one wants to play, especially in Denver. What is this a reflection of? Their coach.
Western Conference Champion: The Thunder. They’re ready. With Perkins, they match up with every team including LA, and they have the ultimate trump card with Durant (sorry, Kobe fans).
Eastern Conference Champion: The Bulls. They have the personnel and the heart necessary to win the East. They are consistently good when the starters are in the game, and the bench is so good defensively that they won’t lose much when Rose or Boozer are out. In fact, it is their defense that will carry them past Miami or Boston into the NBA Finals.
Finals Winner: The Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC has the best player in the series with Durant, and the Westbrook-Rose matchup is a wash. The Thunder are even longer and tougher than the Bulls with Ibaka and Perkins anchoring the frontline. All told, the Thunder take this year’s NBA Title.