By Ashley Scoby
The Pistons opened their home schedule Wednesday night with a 92-87 win over the Jazz. But before the opening tip, team owner Tom Gores addressed the media and talked about the team’s potential move downtown, his faith in Stan Van Gundy and super agent Arn Tellem. Here are the biggest takeaways from what Gores had to say:
Gores likes Stan Van Gundy … a lot
It’s no secret that the buzz around the Pistons picked up ever since Van Gundy took the reins as head coach and president of basketball operations. He got the team through a miserable season last year (which started 5-23), then rebuilt half the roster. Gores has made it clear that Van Gundy has a flexible budget to work with. And it says plenty that Van Gundy pulled out of the Warriors’ head coaching search so that he could take this role in Detroit.
“The biggest thing I believe in is what Stan is doing,” Gores said. “You know the tough year we had last year. We moved a lot of players around and we need a reset. … I expect this team to be a championship team. This is why we’re here.”
Gores also spoke highly of the culture that Van Gundy has been building during his time in Detroit.
“I give so much credit to Stan Van Gundy,” Gores said. “I can speak about culture; we can speak about chemistry. But that has to get done every day, and that has to get done on the floor, and it’s not speeches. It’s really kind of walking the talk. I feel like right now my vision is able to walk the talk because of the people on the ground.”
To Gores, Andre Drummond delaying his contract negotiations has been a long time coming
One of those guys on the ground is Drummond, who announced earlier this month he was delaying contract extension talks until next year. That decision cleared cap space for the summer, and builds the bridge for the Pistons to potentially bring more talent onboard if Drummond decides to stick around.
The decision was largely lauded for being a mature one by Drummond (he’ll also eventually probably make more money by delaying negotiations). But according to Gores, a large part of why Drummond did what he did had to do with the relationship they’ve built over the years.
“The outcome I think is just a matter of the trust we had with each other,” Gores said. “Andre’s smart enough to know that we need some cap space, and in order to build this team, we’ve got to leave room to build this team. I’m not really surprised because I’ve always believed in Andre’s big-picture thinking.”
The Palace’s recent facelift doesn’t necessarily make it a permanent home for the team
The Palace of Auburn Hills doesn’t look like a building that opened in 1988. Gores poured millions of dollars into facility renovations, and the building looks brand new. The facelift has quieted talks of the team moving to downtown Detroit. But according to Gores, that’s not a safe assumption to make. He and Tellem, who was hired in the offseason at least partially to explore the idea of a downtown move, are still gravitating towards that possibility.
Until then, Gores says, going to a game at the Palace might as well be an enjoyable experience for fans.
“I think you’ve just got to respect the home you’re in,” Gores said. “Whatever home you’re living in, you should make it the best possible. I’ve always believed that, and so I don’t rule out downtown, but right now, this is our home. … We want to do everything 100 percent. Whatever the future holds, we’ll see what happens, but the fact is, tonight there are kids and parents and fans and everybody else here, and we should provide the best possible experience.”
Gores also had high praises for Tellem, who is spearheading the downtown movement. The fact that the Pistons were able to hire the former agent to begin with made waves within the league.
“Most of the owners were wondering how the heck did we get Arn,” Gores said of the rest of the NBA owners. “He lives in great weather. He’s probably the most renowned NBA agent ever. He knows everybody in basketball. And we convinced him to come to Detroit.”
Patience with progress
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Pistons’ franchise didn’t slide downhill in a day. It takes time to build a playoff contender in any league, especially in the NBA where teams are limited by a salary cap. But with Van Gundy at the helm, Gores feels that the organization is headed in the right direction.
Patience is key, as long as visible progress is being made.
“When I look at what Stan has done in just, what? A year and a half. He’s making so much progress,” Gores said. “There’s something special going on, and I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect for us, but there’s something special going on. As long as all the right things are happening, and I believe they are, I’m very patient.”