Just when the Pistons opened for business again, they might have to close up shop for an extended period. That would kill the momentum that has been building since Tom Gores received final approval to purchase the franchise in early June.
An extended labor squabble would arguably affect the Pistons more than any other team. They have spent the better part of two seasons basically sitting on their hands while Karen Davidson, the widow of longtime owner Bill Davidson, sought a buyer. There are plenty of personnel decisions regarding players and coaches that must be made prior to next season.
They have a handful of free agents, including leading scorer Rodney Stuckey, longtime starter Tayshaun Prince and former perennial All-Star Tracy McGrady. They have a logjam in the backcourt, a situation complicated further by the selection of Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight with the No. 8 overall pick. They must add a rotation player, if not a starter, to their depth-challenged frontcourt.
Oh, and they also need to hire a head coach and a supporting staff.
Gores has already shown he’ll be a hands-on owner. He was in the “war room” when president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and his front-office staff made their draft picks. Gores has also been actively involved in the coaching search.
The Pistons can hire a new coach any time they want and they’ve taken their time evaluating candidates. Ex-head coaches Mike Woodson and Lawrence Frank, as well as highly regarded assistants from other teams (Kelvin Sampson, Patrick Ewing and former “Bad Boy” Bill Laimbeer) have come in for interviews.
What they can’t do is resolve all the question marks concerning the roster until a new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out. They want a frontcourt partner for last year’s rookie sensation Greg Monroe and will have to find that player through free agency or a trade.
They have to decide whether they’re comfortable with Austin Daye and second-round pick Kyle Singler as their 1-2 punch at small forward. If not, they could decide to re-sign Prince or acquire another veteran to fortify that position.
The backcourt, particularly at shooting guard, is an even bigger mess. They tried unsuccessfully last season to trade Richard Hamilton, who still has two years left on his contract. Ben Gordon has underperformed since they gave him a lavish 5-year contract two years ago. Rodney Stuckey would seemingly move to shooting guard with the addition of Knight, unless Stuckey receives an offer sheet as a restricted free agent that the Pistons don’t match.
Ideally, the Pistons’ new coach and his staff would get quality time this summer learning the roster and developing young players like Monroe, Knight, Daye and Jonas Jerebko. Instead, those learning sessions might be reduced to an abbreviated training camp if there’s an extended lockout.
Meanwhile, the Pistons’ decision-makers face the prospect of returning to their familiar pose: Helplessly watching and waiting for something out of their control to be resolved.
For a team that lost its first five games and never had a winning streak longer than three games, there were no special moments on the court. The best thing that happened came less than a week before the season ended, when Tom Gores and his company, Platinum Equity, reached a definitive agreement to purchase the team and its assets from Karen Davidson, widow of long-time owner Bill Davidson. There was a palpable sense of relief and excitement at The Palace when the announcement was made, with the expectation that the sale will be approved by the league’s Board of Governors and the front office can finally take bold action to improve the roster.
Public embarrassments were commonplace but nothing made the franchise look worse than the infamous shoot-around boycott in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, though no player would ever admit publicly there was one. Only six players showed up for the shoot-around and that’s all Kuester and assistant coach Brian Hill — who took over after Kuester was ejected late in the first half — used in the game. McGrady and Stuckey, among others, were seen laughing on the bench after Kuester’s ejection, making the players look even more unprofessional. Any pretense that they were still aiming for a playoff spot was vanquished that night.
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