Pistons roundtable

UPDATE: Drew Sharp’s responses are now included.

I had the idea to bring together some different points of views on the Pistons. Luckily, a few people even helped me out, so I didn’t have to make up multiple personalities. Here’s the panel:

Everyone answered the same five questions, and each person had a customized sixth question. Without further ado, here are the responses:

1. How far do you see the Pistons going this year (some answers came before the playoff seeding was set)?

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: You are who you are after 82 games, and the Pistons are just an average team this season. So, even if they should happen to move up to No. 7, which is doubtful, it’s going to one and done for them.

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: I see them winning one more game. Cleveland is just a lot better than the Pistons, and hotter, with more confidence, a better homecourt advantage, the best player in the world … probably enough reasons there. It’s a shame the Pistons blew that game to Chicago in the season’s final week. As we’ve seen, Boston and Orlando are much more vulnerable than Cleveland.

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: They’re not getting past Cleveland in the first round. That’s hardly a profound declaration, but the Cavaliers are now what the Pistons once were — an extraordinarily confident and talented team that capable of turning up the intensity at a second’s notice. Provided that LeBron James remains in Cleveland beyond next summer when he’s eligible for free agency, the Cavaliers should place a vise-lock grip on the Central Division championship for at least the next four or five years.

Greg Johnson, The Grand Rapids Press: I’m seeing a first-round exit. The team has not finished games, and LeBron James is a finisher.

Dave Dial, Full Court Press: With the Pistons facing the best team in the NBA in the first-round, it’s hard to see them getting past the Cavaliers. Although this Piston team is not incapable of winning the series, they would have to play like they have not played almost the entire 2009 season. Head coach Michael Curry will have to come up with a game plan designed to beat the Cavs, and the players would have to buy into that game plan, something that seems unlikely based on what has transpired so far this season.

If the Pistons did beat Cleveland in the first round, it would make a season full of disappointments and frustrations a lot easier to take for a lot of Piston fans. However unlikely that scenario is, it’s not impossible.

Matt Watson, Detroit Bad Boys: As much as I’d like to pretend that they can shock the world with an upset, it’s not going to happen. This is a proud team, so I’ll give them one win, but this playoff run won’t go past five games.

Zack Slabotsky, Count That Baby And A Foul: I wrote a prediction column on my own site, but for now I’ll say that I do not expect to see Rodney Stuckey emulate the Dikembe Mutombo pose.

Brian Packey, Motown String Music: Everyone has been saying, “it’s not a matter of how far do you think the Pistons will go, it’s a matter of how many games do you think they will squeeze out in round one, if any.”  I think that’s fair given they play Lebron/Cleveland, the No. 1 seed who have lost just two games at home all season.  People knock the Pistons because of their record, yet I see this team as predominantly the same that helped lead them to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals.  Now, if I was a betting man, I probably wouldn’t put anything on them making it past Cleveland, but then again, I would never bet against my own team either.  That being said, if the Pistons play the type of basketball they played the five games before Miami (minus the final six minutes of the Bulls game), I think they are more than capable of making this a very competitive series.  Unfortunately, Cleveland is still 39-1 at home this season with their normal starters in the lineup and the glory of having home court advantage is they get to play one more game there in a seven game series.  I might get slapped in the face for this somewhat bold call, but Cavs in SEVEN.

Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation: Don’t mean to take the easy way out but it’s hard to say.  It depends who they draw in the first round and if they continue the momentum they’ve been building recently.  If I had to put money on it I’d say they’d be out in the second round.  That’s better than a few weeks ago when I didn’t believe their was a playoff team that they could beat in a 7 game series.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Sunday.

At this point, what can the Pistons do to avoid a sweep? LeBron is too good, and Tayshaun Prince’s defense has fallen too far.

Cleveland could always have a letdown, allowing Detroit to steal a game. But I wouldn’t expect that from a team that had the focus to win 66 games in the regular season.

2. How well do you think the Pistons handled the Allen Iverson situation? What’s his future in the league?

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: The Pistons handled the Allen Iverson situation better than Allen Iverson. The guy basically quit on them, after playing poorly and destroying the team’s chemistry for four months. He came here saying he would do whatever it took to win a championship. The only thing the Pistons asked him to do, after it was clear his skills had diminished and they couldn’t win with him starting, was to come off the bench — and he couldn’t do it. The Pistons let him use the sore back as it exit strategy, but he left because he wasn’t playing well and he couldn’t handle coming off the bench. The thing about it, though, is that Joe Dumars never had any delusions about Iverson. If he caught lightning in a bottle and had a great run, great. But more important, and the reason Dumars made the trade, was for Iverson’s expiring $22 million contract. The cap space will be Iverson’s legacy in Detroit.

As for Iverson’s future, somebody will sign him. He won’t make nearly as much money, nor will he get more than a two-year deal (you would have to be crazy to sign him for more), but he can still sell tickets. And in this economy, that’s pretty significant.

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: I understand the trade, which may yet pay dividends. But the Pistons botched virtually everything AFTER the trade, from giving Iverson Chauncey Billups’s uniform number to letting him dominate the ball at
the end of games to benching Rip Hamilton in favor of Iverson. The thing they did right was tell him to go away.

I don’t know what Iverson’s future holds. I’m sure some teams will want him — perhaps Charlotte and Larry Brown. But I can’t see why any good team would want him after this season. He is no longer worth the trouble. His athleticism has declined but he still thinks he is a star. It’s not a winning combination.

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: Iverson gets the brunt of the blame for the problems but his teammates were just as much at fault. Iverson has unique talents. He must have the ball in his hands constantly to fully utilize those skills. But that was the antithesis of the Pistons’ non-superstar, every-player-is-equal mantra from the previous five years. Some compromises had to be made, but Iverson’s teammates refused to balance their offensive needs to pacify Iverson’s skills. Iverson wasn’t changing because, in his mind, he was destined for the Hall of Fame regardless of what happened in Detroit and he thought the others should acquiesce to him. It was a battle between two stubborn rams continually butting heads.

Iverson still has a future in this league, but he must decide what he wants out of the remaining time in his career. If he wants a world championship, he must accept a lesser role off the bench on a very good team at a greatly reduced salary.
Couldn’t you see him coming off the bench — and thriving — for Cleveland next season?

Greg Johnson, The Grand Rapids Press: I think the salary cap help he will provide made it worth the risk, and the risk didn’t work. There was no reason to push the issue with Iverson. He has lost a step. He can’t finish at the basket. He never has fit into a team, only tried to make them fit to his game. The Pistons handled it as well as they could once the mistake to bring him in was made.

Dave Dial, Full Court Press: Very poorly. From Joe Dumars, coach Curry, the Piston core players to Allen Iverson, the situation was handled very poorly. In the end, most of the blame can be directed at Iverson himself. The way he reacted before he was banished for the season was inexcusable. He hurt himself more than anyone else and tarnished his image throughout the league. Did he have cause to be upset? Sure, but his reaction didn’t help the situation and he cost himself a lot of money in the summer.

If Joe Dumars and Michael Curry thought that Allen Iverson could come in and run the Piston offense like Chauncey Billups did, then they have not watched Iverson play throughout his career. What seemed like endless lineup changes over the last season, one thing did not change, Curry continued to run a slow paced, half-court offense that Allen Iverson did not fit into. So everyone can share in the blame for the Iverson experiment not working out, but Allen’s reaction to the situation will cost him.

Which brings us to Iverson’s future in the NBA. Allen will find a team that wants him to play for them, whether that team is a playoff contender or trying to fill up seats. One year removed from his best all-around season, there will be several team executives believing that Iverson still has plenty in the tank the next few seasons. I could see him going to New York, Phoenix or even back to Philadelphia. Though Iverson would be hard pressed to get a contract for more than 3 years or over the Med-Level Exception, he will get contract offers.

Matt Watson, Detroit Bad Boys: I think the team bent over backwards trying to get him to fit in, and they did an admirable job allowing him to save face by covering for his absence and not publicly second-guessing his injury.

I was a proponent of bringing Iverson off the bench early in the year, so it was frustrating to watch the team try every lineup combination possible before giving it a shot. In hindsight, though, I suspect the coaching staff knew all along how Iverson would react, so it makes sense now why they waited so long. And once the team realized his nightly complaints about his role were a distraction, they severed ties, wisely preventing it from becoming an issue anymore.

As for his future, I have no idea. Part of me thinks he’s too proud to accept what will likely be a 75% pay cut, but another part of me thinks he’s too proud to be pushed out of the game. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s not going to find a team willing to hand over the reins and build around him, which means even if he signs another contract, he won’t be happy very long.

Zack Slabotsky, Count That Baby And A Foul: I would have sent Iverson to the bench far more quickly than the Pistons did. Aside from that, I have no major complaints with how they handled him. As I explained here, Iverson is no longer a good NBA player. Handling him differently would not have changed this, although reducing his minutes would have added to the Piston win total. As far as his future in the league goes, I expect a team to sign him this summer, only to regret the signing by December. I see him out of the league by the end of next season at the latest.

Brian Packey, Motown String Music: I think the Pistons handled the A.I. situation about as well as they possibly could.  There were only a couple instances where Iverson publicly complained about his role on the team and it reached newspaper headlines.  And, if you recall, the Pistons squashed those rather quickly.  All along I predicted that the back injury to Iverson was a Detroit Lions/Jon Kitna-like cover up and while we may not know the real truth, I think the Pistons took advantage of an opportunity to let Iverson back into the shadows with some dignity and in turn, let the Pistons move on without him.  The trade was a high risk/high reward type deal (in addition to the money it’ll free up) and obviously, the high risk part shined through.  Everyone has their theories, but I think the Pistons handled the Iverson situation as best as they possibly could given the performance of the team while he was on the court.

As for Iverson’s future, I definitely don’t think he’s done.  If he’s in fact healthy some team is definitely going to want him.  He just didn’t fit in with Detroit’s style.  Him signing elsewhere depends on the market for him.  I think A.I. is going to have to compromise again with a new team, where he might have to agree to sign for less if the team gives him more minutes.  Or possibly even vice versa if the team can afford it.

Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation: Very commendable.  They did what was best for the team and let Iverson save face, although we know it wasn’t the back issue that ended Iverson’s days in Detroit.

One of two options for Iverson.  Concedes to the needs of a contender or stat pad on a bad team.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: I still believe the trade was the right move. Detroit didn’t have the Chauncey Billups that Denver does. The move home reinvigorated him.

And he is getting old. Better to make the deal a year too early than get stuck with Billups a year too late.

Iverson will have a chance somewhere. He’s talented, not ridiculously old and can sell tickets. But I suspect whoever signs him will regret it.

3. What do you see as Michael Curry’s future with the team?

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: Solid. This is Joe Dumars’ guy, and he knows he put Curry in a tough spot this season by trading Billups and bringing AI in. Curry has made a lot of mistakes. He was pretty naive early on and overly confident and head strong in some of his beliefs. But he’s been humbled, he’s learned lessons and has grown more in one season than any coach I’ve seen, I’ve been watching coaches come and go here for 15 years. Curry’s going to be OK.

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: I expect him back. I don’t think Curry had a good year this year, but dropping Iverson in his lap a week into the season, in exchange for the team’s glue and spiritual leader, is tough on a rookie coach. I’d like to see Curry get a full season with a more functional roster. I believe Pistons management understands this is not all Mike’s fault.

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: Curry is the season’s other scapegoat, but the Iverson-for-Chauncey Billups trade not even one week into the season placed the rookie head coach in a no-win situation. His primary responsibilities this season was developing second-year point guard Rodney Stuckey and finding reliable players off the bench. You cannot judge Curry as a success or failure right now because of the bizarre circumstances at the start of the season. Let’s see what he does next season before we cast judgments.

Greg Johnson, The Grand Rapids Press: I’m thinking he will stick around and learn on the job. Joe Dumars knew he was bringing in a rookie coach, who would have to learn about being a head coach on the job. He isn’t going to dump him for what he set him up to do, unless a name comes along that Joe really wants — like he did when Larry Brown became available. Never say never.

Dave Dial, Full Court Press: With the Pistons making the playoffs, I think Curry ensured himself a chance to start next season as Piston head coach. The only way Joe Dumars would have thought about firing Curry after the season is if Detroit failed to make the playoffs, and even then it would seem that Joe would still go into next season with Curry.

Saying that, Curry’s future with the Detroit Pistons is still tenuous at best. His erratic coaching schemes, substitution and lineup patterns and inability to form any kind of cohesive unit ensure that he will not last long in this league if he does not get better. Losing Chauncey Billups and replacing him with Allen Iverson should not have meant the Pistons dropped from the #2 seed and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance to the #8 seed and a probable first-round exit.

There are other factors, but Curry has to take most of the blame for this free-fall. Which reflects back to Curry’s boss, Joe Dumars. Putting a rookie head coach into the situation Curry was put into was almost ensuring a chaotic season. If Rasheed Wallace and other Pistons wouldn’t give Flip Saunders the trust and respect during the NBA playoffs, did Joe believe they would listen to a rookie head coach who has never held that position before? Which is one reason why Joe will give Curry a chance with a restructured Piston team next season, but Curry’s leash will be short.

Matt Watson, Detroit Bad Boys: For better or worse, he’ll get another year to prove himself. He’s not a great coach by any stretch, but this was his rookie year, so he should be better with a bit more experience. Plus, I’m guessing Joe Dumars probably won’t pull the rug out from under him again by trading his best player the first week of the season.

Zack Slabotsky, Count That Baby And A Foul: Curry will almost definitely be back next year. If the Pistons show progress next season, he will earn a prolonged stay in Detroit. If not, I think Dumars will assess the coaching situation at the end of next season.

Brian Packey, Motown String Music: There are so many grumblings about Michael Curry’s ineptness as head coach and people crying out that he should be gone for someone like Avery Johnson this off-season.  With all due respect, I couldn’t disagree more with those people.  This is Curry’s first year on the job and he was thrown into a terribly awkward situation two games into his first season when Joe Dumars traded his star team-player point guard away for A.I.-guy, “the answer.”  Curry, for the talent he had, managed to play a full career as an NBA journeyman, he was president of the NBA’s Player Association, and served as Vice President in the NBDL.  This tells you he’s managed to hold important leadership positions before.  In addition, throughout those years, Curry has been known as incredibly hard working and a people’s person.  What makes you think, given his history of hard work and dedication to succeed and this season’s circumstances, he should be gone after just one year? I think it would be highly unfair and I think there’s a better chance of Allen Iverson suiting up in the playoffs (zero) than Curry getting fired after this year.

Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation: I can’t see Curry getting much run as head coach if he continues to underachieve with a quality roster and is so wishy washy with lineups and rotations.  Better coaches have gotten their walking papers here for less.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: There’s no doubt. Curry has done a poor job this year. But it’s only his first season, so he could still improve.

Dealing with the Iverson trade was certainly a large challenge. But better coaches could have handled it.

Curry has been groomed by Dumars for this job. I’m concerned to a degree he will give Curry more leeway because of this. Dumars has cut ties with Billups, Ben Wallace, Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle, though. And he definitely had strong ties with those guys.

4. If you were Detroit’s coach, how would you adjust the rotation?

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: He can’t adjust it any more. He has tweaked the rotation all season, mostly because of the trade and injuries. Just these past few games has he settled on what appears to be the best rotation and he is wisely sticking to it and letting it stabilize. Will Bynum, Kwame Brown and Jason Maxiell are going to be the primary bench players in the playoffs behind the starters — Wallace, McDyess, Prince, Hamilton and Stuckey. No need to change it.

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: At this point there is only so much the coach can do. Playoffs are about exploiting matchups, so Curry has to play it game by game.

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: They were too small up front this season. Kwame Brown played a little more consistently later in the season, but Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson haven’t progressed as many believed this season. Maxiell is strictly a reserve, somebody who could provide a spark off the bench. But I would like to see Johnson play more at his more natural position — small forward. They’ve played him too much at power forward because of the lack of frontcourt size and he was too easily overmatched. I’m not ready just yet to concede that Johnson is a bust

Greg Johnson, The Grand Rapids Press: I wouldn’t adjust the rotation beyond going heavier minutes for the veterans. It’s now or never, so earn the money.

Dave Dial, Full Court Press: Now, or during the season? During the season I would have had Allen Iverson, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace starting with Amir Johnson starting most games. Kwame Brown would have started, or have come in early, against teams that started true centers. Then I would have brought in a second unit of Stuckey, Bynum, McDyess and whoever didn’t start in Amir Johnson or Kwame Brown. Situational subs would have been Afflalo, Maxiell and Hermann. One of Curry’s biggest problems was his failure to find a eight or nine man rotation and stick to it. It’s tough for players to develop a cohesive unit if the players keep changing places. The disappearance of Amir Johnson in the Pistons rotation is puzzling, he has the highest On/Off the court numbers of any Detroit Piston regular, meaning when he is on the court, the Pistons score more points than their opponents.

If you mean now, against the Cavaliers in the first-round, then I would say that Curry has his hands full. His best bet is to look at the matchups and pit the best Piston player to counter the effectiveness of the Cavaliers starting and second unit. That’s going to be a tough job, especially when the Pistons are going to have to develop their game plan that revolves around stopping LeBron James. It’s a difficult task, but if I were coach I would look into putting in a pressure, trapping defense. Of course I have even less experience that Curry does in coaching a NBA playoff team, so take that for what it’s worth.

Matt Watson, Detroit Bad Boys: I’d find at least 5-10 minutes a game for Amir Johnson, and I’d run at least a few plays a game specifically for him. Even when he’s played this year he’s usually been a forgotten man on offense, and now he’s about to enter the final year of his contract and we still don’t have a clue what his ceiling is. I’ve lowered my expectations for Amir, but I don’t see why he can’t be a productive rotation player.

Also, it seems like the Pistons have lost at least 3-4 games this year by sticking with Rodney Stuckey in the fourth quarter instead of riding Will Bynum. I know Stuckey is supposed to be a future cornerstone, but actually earning and fighting for minutes is a good thing.

Also (and this isn’t really tweaking the rotation so much as the offensive game plan), I’d insist that guys like Afflalo and Herrmann get more touches in the corners. If you’re going to play at an extremely slow pace like the Pistons do, you need to be efficient with your possessions, and ignoring the three-point shot like the Pistons did for long stretches this year is begging for trouble. In fact, I no longer care that Rasheed Wallace camps out behind the line — despite what some fans think, he’s hardly automatic in the post anymore.

Zack Slabotsky, Count That Baby And A Foul: I would give a big chunk of Jason Maxiell’s minutes to Amir Johnson. I don’t buy the hype with Maxiell, but I have prime seats on Johnson’s bandwagon. Johnson is very good defensively, while Maxiell is a liability, even if no one else is willing to admit as much. Maxiell may be a smarter defender, but as the cliché goes, “you can’t teach size.” Aside from that, I’m fairly pleased with the current rotation.

Brian Packey, Motown String Music: If I were Detroit’s coach, I would play Walter Herrman 30 minutes a game because I think he’s fun to watch.  Seriously, the rotation is tough to analyze as it often depends on the opponent.  That’s probably a cop out, but it’s true too.  I wouldn’t mess with the rotation we had during our recent three-game winning streak.  I think Will Bynum and Aaron Afflalo get just enough minutes to the point where they are maximized.  Jason Maxiell should see 15-20 minutes a night with Kwame Brown seeing maybe 20+.  Against the Cavs in the first round, I think it’ll be important to rotate accordingly with the Cavs.  Timing up the rests coach gives the players will be underrated keys to winning games.  I also think the Pistons are going to have to rotate often as I have a feeling it’s going to be a very physical series, with a lots of fouls.

Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation: Maxiell would get more consistent minutes.  He’s a monster on the offensive boards and the Pistons need all the tries at scoring the ball they can get.  I like him paired with Dice or Sheed.

With the emergence of Bynum I’d also keep a shorter leash on Stuckey who’s had his struggles at the point.

Bynum has game changing abilities being able to get into the lane like he does.  He also does a great job at getting great looks for guys like Walter Herrmann and Kwame Brown.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: I’d give Tayshaun Prince some minutes at guard. His defense has fallen off, and there’s no point of forcing him to guard LeBron. He just can’t do it anymore.

But his offense has been more consistent than ever before. Without the burden of covering LeBron, his offense should be better than it was in game one.

5. What’s a realistic off-season plan for the Pistons?

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: It’s a huge off-season for Dumars. He can vindicate himself for the Billups trade by upgrading the frontcourt with the cap space. That’s the plan. He’s not trying to wait until 2010 to spend the money. He wants to rebuild the frontcourt this summer, and he can do either by trade (there will be a lot of teams looking to shed payroll, and Dumars is in a position to take on somebody else’s salary drain. The Clippers got Marcus Camby for draft picks last summer, Dumars is in position to work the same type of deal this summer), or he can do it through free agency (Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, David Lee). In addition to landing a quality big or two, I expect the Pistons also to take a run at Ben Gordon.

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: I expect them to be very active and try to land a big man, perhaps Utah’s Carlos Boozer, who can opt out of his deal. They might try to swing a trade, too. I never, ever count out Joe Dumars when it comes to improving his team.

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: The best plan would be using their salary cap space to orchestrate a trade with either Toronto or Phoenix for Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire who are one year away from free agency. Those teams must make a trade this summer if they’re certain that they cannot sign Bosh and Stoudemire beyond next season because they would have greatly reduced trade value if they wait until the trading deadline next February.

But they’re more likely looking at Plan B, perhaps adding Carlos Boozer and Ben Gordon as free agents this summer.

Greg Johnson, The Grand Rapids Press: Realistic is to do something with the money, as Dumars has said he will do. This team is not going to sell next year, and it is a huge gamble to wait on free agency for another year. A trade, free agent, all manners of things should be tried.

Dave Dial, Full Court Press: Joe Dumars has to have an overall strategy going into the off-season. With the way the Pistons performed this season, he can’t believe that just by subtracting the outgoing free agents and adding one big name free agent, the Pistons are going to be much better next season. Joe has to envision a team he wants, players that fit a style of play his coach will implement, and try to piece together those players to form that team. There will be plenty of opportunities for Joe to restructure the Pistons over the summer. With the cap flexibility he has obtained, along with the economic conditions that have put some teams in dire straights, Dumars will be able to make trades while also luring a free agent to Detroit.

Realistically, Joe could contact teams like New Orleans, Washington and Philadelphia and try to make a trade for one of their players that taking up too much of their cap space, forcing those teams into luxury tax territory. If Joe can send one of his expiring contracts(Kwame Brown, Amir Johnson) to one of those teams for players like Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler or Elton Brand(if healthy), then Dumars could move to trying to sign one of the free agents that will be available in the summer.

If Carlos Boozer does opt out, Dumars may try to focus on bringing him to Detroit. Of course just adding Boozer, while losing Rasheed Wallace and McDyess, won’t elevate the Pistons into contenders for the Title next season. Which is why Joe has to also look to make at least one trade also. If you pair Boozer in the frontcourt with someone like Tyson Chandler or a healthy Elton Brand, the Pistons frontcourt is suddenly a strength.

Matt Watson, Detroit Bad Boys: Both the salary cap and luxury tax threshold will fall due to declining league revenues next year. With so many teams already facing a money crunch, I think we’ll see more more deals like we did last summer when the Nuggets dumped Marcus Camby for a draft pick — when you’re under the salary cap, you don’t have to match salaries, and only the Thunder will have more space than the Pistons. Knowing that, the best course of action is probably "wait and see which teams are panicking."

In terms of free agents, there aren’t any marquee unrestricted guys that jump out at me. If Carlos Boozer opts out, I’d feel him out, but I don’t think he’s a max contract type player. Same goes for Mehmet Okur. There are a handful of restricted free agents I like (Paul Millsap, David Lee), but it’s pretty difficult to pry them away from their original team without drastically overpaying.

I’m guessing they’ll try to re-sign Rasheed Wallace to a modest two-year deal; same with Antonio McDyess, though I can see him doing some serious soul-searching in regards to signing with a ready-made contender.

Zack Slabotsky, Count That Baby And A Foul: This is not new news, but the Pistons need to find a replacement for Rasheed Wallace. It remains to be seen if Joe Dumars will attempt to do that this summer or in 2010. I think that decision largely hinges on the team’s chances of landing Chris Bosh. If Dumars thinks the Pistons can get Bosh in 2010, he should consider bringing Wallace back on a one-year deal. If not, Dumars needs to try to make a splash while other teams are cutting costs.

Brian Packey, Motown String Music: They will have to make a decision with Sheed (which I think will be "see ya"), deciding if they want to spend their money this summer or wait for the big names in 2010.  I think they will probably try to improve with the draft first and foremost and depending on who falls to them at 15, that will impact the rest of their summer spending.  Someone brought up an interesting trade idea, too.  Rip for Bosh this off season and then lock up Bosh long term before he’s a free agent after next season.  I don’t know how feasible that is, or if Toronto would ever do that, but I was intrigued by the idea of it. 

Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation: They’ve got money, time to go shopping.  Carlos Boozer anyone?  Or see if Toronto wants to get something for Bosh instead of just letting him walk in 2010.

I don’t think we’ll have Rasheed back just because he’s going to have better offer$ from contenders looking to add that missing piece.

Have to pick up Bynum’s option.  See if we can get Dice to give it another go because it’s obvious he can still help this team.

I think Joe may also want to see what he can get for Amir.  He’s just not realizing his potential here.  It’d be in the best interest of him and the team to give him a different look at helping a team.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The first concern is adding a top big man. That could Carlos Boozer in free agency or trading for someone like Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler and/or Antawn Jamison . I include the “and” because if the Pistons lose Antonio McDyess, who will be a free agent, they’ll need another.

Detroit also needs to add a 3-point shooter, especially considering what Rodney Stuckey could open up for him if the point guard takes the next step. Without Billups, the Pistons really struggled on the perimeter this year.

Which Piston player has been the best to talk to since you’ve been covering the team (how long is that)? Who is the best on this year’s team?

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: I’ve been covering the team for 15 years and actually have been blessed with some great talkers — Grant Hill, Allan Houston, Bison Dele, Terry Mills, Rick Mahorn, Jerry Stackhouse, Ben Wallace, Antonio McDyess — to pick the best is really tough. But, since it’s freshest in my mind, the best, most sincere, straight-forward, thoughtful and available win, lose or draw player I’ve covered was Chauncey Billups.

As for this year, well, I miss Chauncey. My go-to guys, for the most part, have been McDyess and Rip Hamilton.

How does the access the Pistons give you compare to other teams you cover?

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: I find the Pistons to be pretty accommodating and accessible, though
obviously some players are happier to talk to the media than others.

What’s the most interesting that has happened to you or you’ve seen happen while covering the Pistons?

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: I guess my most memorable moment covering the Pistons was Dennis Rodman wiping me out behind the press table when he dove for a loose ball late in a game against Chicago in 1990. He shattered my computer and knocked me to the floor. I was momentarily dazed, but I do recall hearing Bill Laimbeer congratulating me for "taking one for the team."

How long have you covered the team, and what are the behind-the-scenes differences that stand out to you between then and now?

Greg Johnson, The Grand Rapids Press: I’ve covered the Pistons since 1985 on a fairly regular basis as a back-up beat writer and or columnist. Not much has changed in access in that time, in part because a lot of the same people are still around. Maybe the players are even more private personally. It leaves me with the impression that there are not as many interesting characters on the team as there were in the early days of my coverage.

What is your favorite memory from the Dick Vitale years?

Dave Dial, Full Court Press: My favorite memory is my first real memory as a Detroit Piston fan. Dick Vitale seemed so energetic on the sidelines, and when the Pistons seemed full of Detroit-area players with Vitale as coach, it really seemed like a Detroit team.Terry Tyler, Terry Duerod, John Long and Greg Kelser were fun to root for as a kid. The flamboyant Dick Vitale roaming the sidelines with those players is my favorite Dick Vitale memory. My second favorite is when he was fired. That Bob McAdoo trade was horrible.

What has surprised you the most about covering the team since you got credentials?

Matt Watson, Detroit Bad Boys:

You know how professional athletes are often depicted as selfish, aloof and hard to deal with? Having dealt with players from every team in the league, the stereotype rarely applies in the NBA. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, and some players don’t go out of the way to make life easy for reporters with a strict deadline (especially after a loss), but if you have the patience, the majority of guys I’ve dealt with realize that it’s part of their job to make sure that I can do my job. 

(At least, for the most part — Detroit’s starters do an amazing job avoiding the locker room during the 45-minute window the media has access before games, and those that are around generally don’t talk until after the game. But younger guys and bench players? They’ll give you as much as you need.)

It’s also strange talking to specific players I used to root against, and then realizing whatever negative persona I imagined them having didn’t fit. Case in point: Richard Jefferson. I despised him as a fan dating back to when the Nets/Pistons rivalry was relevant. But after talking to him for an article last year, I realized he was about as professional as they come. You can’t help but look at guys in a different light after interacting with them like that.

You gave Richard Hamilton a "C" in your midseason grade, in part, because he struggled without Chauncey Billups. How have you seen Hamilton improve throughout the year?

Zack Slabotsky, Count That Baby And A Foul: This sounds obvious, but RIP is effective when he plays shooting guard alongside a point guard. Michael Curry experimented with two lineups – one with Iverson, a shooting guard, playing point guard and another with Hamilton at small forward – that made it difficult for RIP to excel. Hamilton returned to form once the lineup situation was rectified.

As the newest Pistons blog around, what do you want to offer that isn’t available anywhere else?

Brian Packey, Motown String Music: First and foremost, I’m no different than any other one of the Detroit Pistons blogs in that I want to be able to offer up-to-date news and analysis on what’s happening with our Detroit Pistons.  That being said, every blog has their own style, set up, or voice in their writing and I just hope I can provide a little more pizzazz.

Also, SB Nation is great in that it allows fans to get directly involved with the blog through comments, FanPosts, and FanShots.  I’d like Motown String Music to be the blog where every fan can feel comfortable going to on a daily basis to post their thoughts, link to relevant material, and be heard by the rest of the Pistons fan base.   In the end, I’d like it to be more of an interactive Pistons community rather than just a blog.

I want to thank everyone who participated. I’d also love to see your responses to these questions in the comments.

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