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Thread: LLTP: Pistons Mailbag Playoff Edition 5.29.08

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    LLTP: Pistons Mailbag Playoff Edition 5.29.08



    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Eric (Greensboro, N.C.): I’m really tired of the officiating in this series. The ticky-tack fouls are ridiculous and I think the Pistons are being treated unfairly. But I still think they’ll win this series and take on the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

    Langlois: Tough blow in Game 5, Eric. If Ray Allen hadn’t hit that jump shot after Stuckey’s triple cut it to one point at a time in the game the Celtics looked ready to fold, they probably win and close out the series in Game 6. The danger for the Pistons now is trying to win two games in one. They can’t win Game 7 before taking care of business at home. As for the officiating, I thought it was a real factor in Game 5 on a night the Pistons were the far better team. As for Game 6, nothing more than the few calls each way that balanced each other out.


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    Kevin (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.): I noticed Rip held his elbow and was taken out in the final minute of Game 5. Is there anything wrong with him?

    Langlois: The early word from last night was it looked like a hyperextension. We’ll find out more later today but probably won’t have any idea how it’s going to affect him until Game 6 starts. It didn’t look like much on the replay – the trouble is it’s his shooting arm and the shot is a delicate mechanism. If there’s a twinge of pain upon extension, that could mess with his stroke just enough to make Hamilton a non-factor offensively – and that would be a monumental obstacle.


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    Charles (Hazel Park, Mich.): Game 5 … wow, an NBA classic. For games 6 and 7, I’d like to see Prince down on the block more when Rasheed Wallace is up top setting screens because of Prince’s length. I’d also like to see more of the Pistons going small with Stuckey, Rip and Billups on the perimeter.

    Langlois: The Pistons went small after McDyess fouled out last night, but that’s a lineup combination – Prince at the four with Stuckey, Billups and Hamilton – that I’ve thought they might try for a while now. You have to pick your spots for it, obviously, because you don’t want to have Prince getting overpowered by traditional power forwards in the post, but it presents some matchup problems at the other end, too.


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    Ric (Porter Ranch, Calif.): I’m not disappointed with the way the Pistons tried to come back, but I am upset that if it’s obvious they can play that way then why don’t they do it all the time? McDyess had some missed coverages on Perkins or maybe it was Pierce breaking down the Pistons. Please give me a sense of wisdom that we can still win this series.

    Langlois: Perkins got free most often because Wallace – McDyess was guarding Garnett most of the night – was leaving him to act as a help defender at the first sign of trouble. I thought Wallace overreacted in many cases, giving Perkins easy lanes for offensive rebounds or open spots for teammates to find him as Wallace drifted off of him to eliminate even the threat of dribble penetration by Pierce or Rondo. History says the Celtics have about an 83 percent chance to win the series, but I wouldn’t make too much of that stat right now. The Pistons know they can win in Boston – and, more importantly, Boston knows the Pistons can beat them there, too.


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    Tim (Chicago): I noticed Tayshaun Prince passing up some wide-open shots. Is there a reason for this?

    Langlois: He definitely passed up two or three in Game 5 that he would take most of the time, Tim. Can’t get inside his head, but I think he’s feeling the effects of guarding the primary playmaker for Philadelphia (Andre Igoudala) over six tough games, then the same type of playmaking forward (Hedo Turkoglu) against Orlando for five more games, and then getting a heavy dose of Boston’s version (Paul Pierce) in this series. His shooting has fallen off and he hasn’t been in a rhythm for a few weeks now. He has to fight through it and give the Pistons at least the threat of scoring from inside 20 feet.


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    Kevin (Indianapolis): Now that it is apparent that the Jarvis Hayes experiment is not the short-term solution at the backup three spot, would the Pistons ever consider signing Ron Artest, assuming he opts out of his final year?

    Langlois: A long shot on at least three fronts that come to mind, Kevin. No. 1, Artest isn’t a backup and wouldn’t play for backup money. No. 2, his personality has been toxic in every locker room he’s ever inhabited, usually sooner rather than later, and Joe Dumars runs screaming from those players – you probably know better than most, given your Indianapolis base. No. 3, the fact he instigated the most infamous player-fan altercation in NBA history at The Palace would be enough even if the first two items weren’t issues.


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    Kirk (Lubbock, Texas): Why are the Pistons wearing the black patches?

    Langlois: To honor ex-scout Will Robinson, for whom the Pistons’ locker room at The Palace is named, who died during the Pistons’ first-round series with Philadelphia. Robinson was the first African-American to coach at a Division I college, was a legendary coach in the Detroit high school ranks before that and was the man Jack McCloskey most trusted with talent evaluation when he was assembling the Bad Boys.


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    Elle (Phoenix): I’ve always wondered how it’s decided who gets to guard whom? For example, during Game 2 of the Boston series, Flip switched Rip onto Rondo instead of having Chauncey guard Rondo. What if Doc Rivers wanted Rondo to continue guarding Billups?

    Langlois: He did – and Rondo did. Players can match up defensively however their coach wants them to – they’re not beholden to honor the other team’s defensive assignments. Many coaches, however, will concede the more preferable matchup in order to avoid exposing his team to lapses in coverage in transition. In other words, if A guards X and B guards Y for Team Red, the coach for Team Blue might decide to have X guard A and Y guard B even though he’d prefer the matchups be reversed just so that X and Y can stay with their man in the transition from offense to defense so that openings aren’t created in the time it takes them to find each other’s man.


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    Erges (Kelo, Albania): Are the Pistons getting the second-round pick from Minnesota? They have Miami’s No. 1 pick. Also, I’ve heard the Pistons have promised D.J. White that they’ll draft him in the first round. Why not draft Bill Walker, who could play minutes behind Tayshaun Prince or J.J. Hickson, who is still young and athletic?

    Langlois: No. Minnesota has informed the Pistons that it is keeping its second-rounder this year, the No. 34 pick in the draft. The Timberwolves also have the No. 31 pick, the first of the second round, from the Mark Blount-Ricky Davis trade with Miami earlier this season.


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    Alec (Detroit): I’m curious about what seems to be inconsistency in media coverage of the Pistons vs. coverage of other teams. The stock criticism of the Pistons is their inability to get up for every game. I think it’s fair, but I didn’t hear much following Game 4 of Boston’s inability to match the Pistons’ intensity.

    Langlois: You’ve hit on an important point, Alec. It strikes me as ludicrous that the team that’s been the most consistent winner in the NBA over the past six years this side of San Antonio is consistently ripped for lack of … take your pick: focus, intensity, effort, energy … after every loss, yet they keep winning 50-plus games and getting to the conference finals without – and this point was raised by ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy early in the Boston series – one Hall of Famer, or certain Hall of Famer, at least, on the roster. Think about that. In an era dominated essentially by two players – Tim Duncan has four of the last nine NBA titles, Shaquille O’Neal has four of the last nine NBA titles and the Detroit Pistons have the other one – the Pistons have been the hallmark of consistency and instead of being lauded for it, it’s often used against them for what they didn’t achieve. Remarkable. Do the Pistons sometimes come up short of a fine edge? Sure. Everybody does. Because they’re without that sure-fire Hall of Famer, you could argue they have a lesser margin for error on those nights when the sizzle isn’t there. Instead, critics fall back on what you aptly call it – the “stock criticism.”


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    Steven (Southaven, Miss.): With the Lakers up 3-1 and possibly advancing soon, will they have an advantage over the team that comes out of the East?

    Langlois: Not much, if any, Steven. The NBA set the definitive Finals schedule last night – it will start next Thursday, a week from today. So if the Pistons win the next two games, they’ll still have three days off between games – and they’ll get to spend all those nights at home, too, because they would host the first two games. That’s a lot different than winning Game 7 on Sunday and opening the Finals two days later.


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    Joyce (Huntington Woods, Mich.): Why are there Adidas T-shirts declaring Boston the 2008 Eastern Conference champions? It has the NBA Finals logo on it, as well. Is there a comparable T-shirt already printed for the Pistons?

    Langlois: Not sure what you saw or where you saw it, Joyce – it could be a knockoff. As they say, check for the NBA hologram to assure authenticity. Whenever a team goes into a potential series-clinching game, there will already be a limited number of shirts and hats declaring them the champion at the ready for the postgame celebration. Any team that hosts a Game 7 with a chance to win will also print up a limited number of items for fans to buy on their way out of the building. If their team loses, they swallow the cost and destroy the evidence – or, at least, they’re supposed to. A few bootleg erroneous items always seem to escape.


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    Richard (Las Vegas): I was unfortunate enough to be sitting next to George Wendt of “Cheers” at a bar in Seattle when Bird flipped it to D.J. Monday, I was in a Hooters in Salt Lake City enjoying two TVs – on the left, the Red Wings; on the right, the Pistons – Chauncey draining the 3 for the KO punch, Dice and Maxey working the body, Rip like James Coburn in the Magnificent Seven with energy left over. They are fighting like champions.

    Langlois: George Wendt wound up serving as an honorary coach during one of Isiah’s charity basketball games at The Palace when the building was very new and “Cheers” was in its prime-time heyday. True story – at one point, Chuck Daly hollered to no one in particular, “Hey, Norm wants a beer!” Wait … there’s a Hooters in Salt Lake City?


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    Michael (Sydney, Australia): Can you tell me how many times the No. 1 seeds have progressed to the NBA Finals in the last six years? I’m thinking that it will be a stat that could be in favor of the Pistons this year.

    Langlois: Once in each conference, Michael. The San Antonio Spurs were the No. 1 seed in 2003 and beat New Jersey in the NBA Finals and the Nets were the No. 1 seed in 2002 and got beat by the Lakers in the Finals. No top seed in either conference has made it to the Finals in the past four seasons.


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    Ron (Warren, Mich.): If Milwaukee or Portland were shopping Charlie Villanueva or Channing Frye, would this year’s 29th pick be enough to swap for either of those guys? I believe the Pistons need to secure some athletic frontcourt depth for the future in addition to Maxiell, Johnson and Samb.

    Langlois: Good question, Ron. I doubt the 29th pick would get you a young 7-footer, but you never know. Of course, salary-cap regulations would make a straight-up trade like that impossible, anyway. I’m pretty sure both Villanueva and Frye are available. Milwaukee has Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian ahead of Villanueva and a hole at small forward. The Bucks would probably love to package Villanueva with Michael Redd for salary-cap relief and would do it for little more than expiring contracts and draft picks, I’m guessing. Frye doesn’t have much of a future in Portland behind Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, but from afar he doesn’t seem like a Joe Dumars-type player – good guy, not a lot of fire in him that I can see. Three young big men gives the Pistons a pretty nice hedge against the future already, but I think it’s one of two likely target areas for their No. 1 pick, the other being someone with size and athleticism to use behind Tayshaun Prince.


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    Don (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): I’m confused why it says “1957-58 to 2007-2008 50 Seasons” on The Palace court. Isn’t it really the 51st season? This stuff keeps me up at night.

    Langlois: Rest well, Don. You are correct – we started this season-long celebration in the fall of 2007, which marked the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s relocation to Detroit in the fall of 1957. So this is technically the 51st season, but we’re marking it as the 50th anniversary in Detroit. Sort of like one year after you were married, you celebrate your first wedding anniversary as you embark on your second year of marriage. I once heard that in the Western hemisphere, a baby is 1 year old 365 days after his birth, but in some Eastern cultures a baby is 1 on the day he is born and turns 2 365 days later – now that’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.


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    Ryan (Battle Creek, Mich.): I’m sick and tired of some fans complaining about lack of effort. The only solution is to start over? Are you serious? Great job, Pistons, from top to bottom.

    Langlois: I get a little weary of it myself, Ryan. I can understand fans getting frustrated, but I can’t recall a team that so consistently gets ripped for lack of effort after every loss. Let’s try putting it in terms that maybe runners could understand. Some days you hit the road thinking you’re feeling great and in for an exhilarating run – 15 minutes later, you still don’t have your second wind and you wished you’d taken the 3-mile route instead of the 6-mile route. Other days, you’re feeling under the weather and certain you won’t have the endurance, and 30 minutes into it you’re running on air and in that happy place where brilliant ideas – or they seem brilliant at the time, anyway – come flooding into your head. People talk about the Pistons “flipping the switch” when, in fact, the opposite is true. If they had a switch, they could flip it, if only it were that easy.


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    Joe (Clinton Twp., Mich.): Are there any scenarios that would lead Joe Dumars to consider dealing both Chauncey and Rip?

    Langlois: There are scenarios that would lead any GM to consider trading anyone on his roster, Joe. Who’s the biggest name in sports today? For argument’s sake, let’s throw out LeBron James. A local legend who probably doubled the value of the Cleveland Cavaliers the moment the lottery fell the way it did in 2003. Would the Cavs trade him? At the right price, you bet. (Thinks to himself: What could that possibly be? Hmmm – the Lakers call up and say here’s Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and three No. 1 picks with no lottery protection.) What would it take to pry Billups and Hamilton from the Pistons? One proven star with plenty of years left in his prime, one or two young players with promise and a couple of No. 1 picks? I don’t know. But Dumars always says he keeps an open mind about everything, so, yeah, there are scenarios that would make anything possible.


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    Jake (Warren, Mich.): Out of all the big-name free agents set to hit the market, who is the one the Pistons should try to sign the hardest?

    Langlois: Antawn Jamison is the biggest name hitting the market among unrestricted free agents and I don’t see the Pistons making a play for him. The other big names – guys like Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Josh Smith, Luol Deng and Andre Igoudala – are either restricted free agents or hold the right to opt out of their contracts. Don’t expect any of those guys to wind up here, either. The Pistons could use some or all of their mid-level exception this summer and the way the market has trended the past few summers, that should be enough to get a player good enough to crack the rotation. But that determination won’t be made until after the draft and maybe not until after the first wave of free agency takes place.


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    Gil (Charlotte, N.C.): I wonder why certain players get consistently open. There isn’t a very good reason for the Celtics to leave McDyess open for so many shots. Nor is there a good reason why Perkins or Brown get so many open shots for Boston. Why do teams make the decision that certain players can just be left open?

    Langlois: It starts more on the other side of the equation – which players can’t be left open? It explains why Steve Kerr, John Paxson and Craig Hodges got elevated to minor celebrity status in Chicago all those years with Michael Jordan. Teams would rather take their chances with great shooters from 3-point range than Michael Jordan getting one-on-one coverage to the basket. The Pistons are far more likely to go to Rasheed Wallace early in the shot clock than to McDyess. With Garnett consumed by guarding Wallace from the post to the perimeter, that limits Garnett’s effectiveness as the great help defender he is. So if the Pistons attack quickly in the shot clock and get good player and ball movement, somebody should come open – and, often, that’s McDyess, because his man is going to be hedging into the paint to help as Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are cutting to the basket or posting up their defenders. That’s often Garnett’s role – but not when he’s guarding Wallace 20 feet from the rim.


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    Marcus (Trotwood, Ohio): I know you maintain that NBA games are officiated fairly, but there was definitely something odd about Game 4. I got four calls from colleagues during the game about the officiating – you think that game was fair?

    Langlois: It wasn’t the NBA’s finest hour, Marcus, but I didn’t see anything there that would lead me to conclude that the officials huddled before the game and decided Boston was going to win or got a memo from the league office to let the Celtics shoot 39 free throws. Games like that happen. There were a lot of borderline calls that went against the Pistons. Usually those things come close to evening out over 48 minutes, but every now and then it seems to pile up at one end of the court. The encouraging thing is that the Pistons survived it by playing terrific defense and not letting their emotions get the better of them.


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    Luca (Milano, Italy): I was really impressed by Jason Maxiell’s block on KG. I think Maxiell can become a player like Ben Wallace on defense but with a much better offensive game. What’s your opinion?

    Langlois: Maxiell definitely has developed a greater ability to score than Wallace, but Wallace was one of the most limited offensive players in the game even in his heyday. But the man was a legitimate All-Star and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year because for about a five-year stretch he was the most versatile big man defender in the game. Maxiell is a solid defender with a flair for the dramatic as a shot-blocker, but he’s a long way from Wallace’s prime defensively – which is no knock on Maxiell, because almost everybody is a long way from Wallace’s prime defensively.
    Find a new slant.

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    Minnesota has informed the Pistons that it is keeping its second-rounder this year, the No. 34 pick in the draft. The Timberwolves also have the No. 31 pick, the first of the second round, from the Mark Blount-Ricky Davis trade with Miami earlier this season.
    Find a new slant.

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