PistonPowered Mailbag: Pistons fans DEMAND Gigi Datome

The majority of questions I received early this week for the mailbag revolved around intriguing Pistons rookie and international hoops veteran Luigi Datome and why he wasn’t in the rotation yet. Obviously, those questions were posed before last night’s loss to Indiana, where Datome got a crack at some early minutes. I received six questions (or, in some cases, outright pleas for Maurice Cheeks to play him), but in the interest of not subjecting everyone to Datome overkill, I’m only going to answer a couple this week. Still though — thanks for all of the questions that have been coming in and remember to keep submitting them to patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes.

First thing’s first, though. It seems my column Monday about my first experience taking my son to a Pistons game offended at least one from the inked/goateed sect of our readership. That was certainly not my intent, but here’s a tweet that was sent to Dan Feldman after my column ran:

First, apologies to Feldman for costing you a follower, but it’s likely not the first time and, fingers crossed, certainly not the last time I’ll alienate a reader. But as for the point C. Max was making? I wasn’t generalizing solely based on looks. I was generalizing based on a combination of looks (I forgot to add the Tapout shirt one of them was wearing to the description too, a major oversight on my part) AND loutish behavior. For example, I could conclude from a C. Max tweet suggesting that Josh Smith shooting a lot of threes is OK because Kevin Love and James Harden do that J. Max doesn’t know much about basketball, specifically that he doesn’t know why it’s generally bad for a career 28 percent 3-point shooter (and 25 percent so far this year) to take a lot of threes and it’s generally good that career 35 percent or betters shooters take them. Now, that would be a generalization because I really don’t know C. Max or his overall knowledge of the game, but it’s a somewhat informed generalization because I did witness at least one crazy, nonsensical tweet.

I have nothing against tattooed folks and, I suppose, some people can pull off the neatly trimmed goatee look. I’m not one to judge. I was not trying to offend. But the collective body of work of the duo sitting next to me — acting drunk and surly, shouting swear words at professional athletes and looking like they enjoyed a good fistfight — was enough for me, as a typically reclusive individual, to have at least a bit of wariness about asking them to stop saying fuck so much. As I wrote, it was an anti-climactic ending and they were reasonable people who didn’t react by putting me in the triangle choke.

So … what was the point of writing this again? Oh yeah … to remind C. Max that, although there are ways to defend Josh Smith’s tendency to launch threes, comparing his shooting to that of Kevin Love and James Harden is not a winning argument. I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson here.

Also, I love all of our readers.* Although I occasionally make jokes about the fashion sense/appearance of others, it is always done in a playful way. I’ve made my own unfortunate facial hair/jewelry decisions in the past. I have no room to talk. I would never dream of talking someone out of dramatically storming off in a huff to read content elsewhere — I’m a huge fan of dramatically announcing your intention to quit doing something oblivious to the fact that no one cares about your personal reading/following decisions. But if you think that throwaway line in a story meant to illustrate how even boorish, stereotypical sports fans couldn’t ruin an entertaining in-arena experience was some sort of egregious generalization, well, … you better have a fainting couch ready for when you’re confronted with an actual harmful generalization. Now, on to basketball questions.

* – Most of our readers.

You think we need Rudy Gay? We need a shooter & play maker in that starting 5! Harrison Barnes/Jeff Green? What about trading for & developing Perry Jones III? Mr. Hoffa Woods on Twitter

Wow, second straight week that a Rudy Gay question makes it into the mailbag. I’ll start there — no, I don’t think Gay helps the Pistons with their critical issue on offense, which is a lack of perimeter shooting. In fact, he probably further complicates things. He shot 41 percent last year and he’s off to an awful start this year at 32 percent. His 3-point shooting for his career has been pedestrian at best and terrible the last few seasons (not Josh Smith terrible, but still not good). Gay is a ball-dominant, volume scorer and I wouldn’t be willing to part with any of the Monroe/Smith/Drummond group to get him. I think both Monroe and Smith are more functional playmakers.

Now, Harrison Barnes is an intriguing name. If the Pistons do decide to move Monroe at some point, Golden State is an interesting match. A package that includes Monroe and expiring contracts for Barnes (or Klay Thompson, though I don’t know if GS would consider that) and David Lee is at least worth not hanging up immediately. I’m not saying I’d do that trade for sure, but I think there are justifications for each side to do it. Monroe’s passing would be a fantastic fit with all of the shooters in Golden State and Barnes is a great prospect on a rookie deal who would fill a position of need.

Jeff Green’s off to a great start this season after a nice return last season (his 39 percent 3-point shooting last year and 40 percent so far this year are particularly appealing). He’s also getting to the line a reasonable amount this season. It would likely take Monroe as a starting point to get him. As for Perry Jones III, I wouldn’t say that him developing into a functional, useful NBA player is impossible, but I would say that the Pistons are not exactly the optimum organization for being patient with raw, young talent. Cheeks has a definite preference for veterans and the Pistons have had a mixed success rate with player development during Joe Dumars’ tenure as team president. Unless the asking price for Jones III was very cheap (like OKC giving him away for a future second rounder or something), I don’t know that he’d be worth gambling on. There’s a very small likelihood that he pans out. He’s looked lost every time he’s seen the court for them.

Having watched all games during the first week of play, it has surprised me to see Luigi Datome still having not played any meaningful minutes (0:16 vs the Wizards). I understand he missed the entire preseason, and there may are some questions about his ability to adjust to the pace of the NBA game, especially on the defensive end. However from all recent accounts from the media and fellow players, the man can shoot the ball lights out. I feel that his shooting could be very helpful in the second half when the Pistons seem to start getting a bit sloppy and start rushing things. My feeling is that he could be a great complementary piece to slowing down the offense, hammering the interior with 2 of the bigs, and serve as the perfect complement on the wing to knock down uncontested 3s. My question is why have we not seen any of him on the court as of yet? I think every Piston fan is dying to see what this guy is made of, and it seems like a shame to waste such an intriguing prospect and instead settling on playing guys like Jerebko who, although has not played horribly thus far , we all kind of know what we’re going to get at this point. – Chris

It does appear that Datome is going to see minutes ahead of Jerebko for the moment, although he’ll need to shoot significantly better than his 1-for-7 performance last night to keep that spot. I honestly expect that backup forward spot to be in flux most of the season. The Pistons have several options to get minutes there, and none of those options are particularly ideal. It was also kind of a revolving door last season.

With Datome, all that is going to matter is shooting. In his game recap, Dan mentioned that Datome’s defense of Luis Scola was stellar, despite being undersized. That’s nice, and frankly expected considering his international experience, but it ultimately doesn’t matter much. Jerebko can play competent enough defense against backup frontcourt players. Datome is only going to separate himself if he provides offense, which Jerebko doesn’t — Jerebko’s spot-up game hasn’t developed much and he’s a train wreck whenever he tries to take people off the dribble or do too much, which is what got him benched last year.

I think Datome will get a few games to try to win that rotation spot. If he doesn’t, it will be on to the next one, which means … *shudder* … probably a Charlie Villaneuva sighting. So, please, Luigi, please win that spot. I wouldn’t count out Josh Harrellson, either. He might have to wait for Villanueva to flame out, but he’s a decent shooter who has played competently in very limited NBA minutes. Tony Mitchell is probably buried on the bench until next season considering Cheeks’ preference to not play rookies, but if the Pistons really do struggle to find good minutes at that spot, Mitchell will have to get a look by default at some point.

Seems like we had an all-athletic team with Josh, Drummond, KCP, Mitchell. I’d like to know if Cheeks is a perfect fit to our group. To me, it seems like George Karl should’ve been hired to take over L-Frank. We lost against Indy tonight. I’m not happy with the way we played on both sides of the floor. Our defense didn’t stop George at all, like there was no resistance. This is Smith’s job isn’t it? We played better against the other bigs, but not that good against their Backcourt. I expect our team to win this game. This is doable. But we need a better coach. – Dominik

To be perfectly honest, no, I don’t think Cheeks is anything more than a seat-warmer until the Pistons get good enough to hire a more accomplished coach. In the past, Joe Dumars has made comments suggesting that he doesn’t think a coach matters all that much if the team isn’t very good — and that philosophy would certainly explain his last couple of hires. I don’t necessarily disagree with it, either — Phil Jackson could’ve coached those rosters the last four years and they still would’ve been lottery teams. So if your talent level isn’t where it needs to be, it doesn’t make sense to spend huge money on a bigger name coach.

Now, this season, the talent level has obviously improved. The Pistons are competitive but not contenders. With another move or two, they could be positioned to vault into the upper-echelon on NBA teams, and when that happens, I think you’ll see another coaching change. It would surprise me if Cheeks lasts more than two seasons. So who would replace him? George Karl would be really interesting from an offensive perspective and Lionel Hollins had great success with a large frontcourt and very little perimeter shooting Memphis, so it’s conceivable he could make sense of this Pistons roster. Those are two “name” guys who would probably be at the top of my list.

As for last night, yeah, there’s not much to say about the defensive performance. It should be noted that Paul George is really, really good and could be in the conversation with James Harden for best shooting guard in the league right now, so guarding him is no easy task. He has to get most of the credit for that performance — he’s really hard to defend no matter who you throw at him. But yes, I agree with you — with Smith, Rodney Stuckey, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and even Kyle Singler, the Pistons have some perimeter guys all capable of giving some different looks defensively and nothing they tried with George worked.

How long will it be before we see Mitchell or Datome on the court? Jerebko is play is uninspiring. KCP’s absence also worries me. Do you believe Cheeks ‘veterans first’ mentality could be a detriment to us trying to build up a young team. Or will it pay dividends once we trade Stuckey this year? Maybe its just me, but I feel that these young kids might be inefficient, but they cant be much worse than what we’re seeing – Jason

I addressed the first part a bit above, but to recap, now that Datome is in the rotation, I think we’ll see that continue for a few games. If he doesn’t play well, I think we’ll see, in order, Villanueva, Harrellson, then Mitchell. It’s possible Cheeks could just go back to Jerebko too, who hasn’t played awful, but he doesn’t really bring the offense the second unit could use.

I share your concerns about Caldwell-Pope and Cheeks’ mentality. I praised Cheeks for going back to Caldwell-Pope in the second half vs. Memphis after he’d made a few mistakes in the first half. I’d like to take that praise back now. Caldwell-Pope followed up his best performance as a pro with a DNP-CD. That’s straight out of the Kuester-Frank Manual of How to Handle Young Players. If Cheeks keeps it up, he’ll soon be reading the Kuester-Frank follow-up edition, “How to landing an assistant coaching job after you get fired.”

Whether Caldwell-Pope’s shaky shooting comes around or not, the Pistons need his size, athleticism and defensive ability in their backcourt. Will Bynum is possibly the worst defensive player in the league. Chauncey Billups is too old to play defense. Stuckey has only occasionally played interested defense in his career. Caldwell-Pope was drafted in the lottery largely because scouts noticed how consistently he defended. So he better play or the Pistons better be prepared to get shredded every time they play a team with a decent shooting guard.


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