Tom Gores has officially been named owner of the Detroit Pistons.
The sale was approved by the Board of Governor’s prior to the first game of the NBA Finals on Tuesday. For Pistons fans it’s a relief. A sale that Karen Davidson hoped to have completed before training camp last season has finally been consummated after more than eight excruciating months.
So what does this mean for the team? It means two seasons of stasis are over. Excluding the draft, the most significant moves the Pistons have made since August 2009 in terms of infusing a team in transition with new blood has been the signings of Ben Wallace and Tracy McGrady. That is a roughly $1.5 million commitment in 09-10 and a $3 million obligation in 10-11. And there is a strong likelihood that McGrady will move on and Wallace will retire.
Of course, the Pistons had just come off the signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. And while no one would tell you that those signings have worked out I can assure you that GM Joe Dumars and co. never viewed those two as the final pieces to a contending puzzle, but instead as solid pieces to build around. No building could be done because Davidson effectively closed the purse strings. It’s been reported that Avery Johnson (and perhaps Doug Collins?) could not be hired because she didn’t want to make the salary commitment when she knew the team was going to be sold. No mid level exception money was used and trades could never take on more salary than was leaving, which makes it hard to trade disgruntled veterans such as Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.
So what can we expect going forward? First, I think the team will fire John Kuester in short order. There appears to be some controversy regarding the team already making that decision, but really both sides just need to part ways. I’m sure both sides WANT to part ways. Second, the team needs to find a new coach and hopefully Gored will open his wallet to attract the best candidate available. A Rick Adelman perhaps, or giving a former head coach a second chance such as a Dwayne Casey or a Mike Woodson.
Third, determine a plan going forward and stick to it. Gores and Dumars need to decide if they want to play for the playoffs next year or strip the team down and start from scratch. If playing for next year they must be banking on addition by subtraction in that getting rid of Hamilton will help improve Gordon’s effectiveness. But even if that is the case it is obvious what glaring holes this team has. The team needs a presence in the paint — one that can block shots and defend the rim. Jonas Jerebko will be health next year, which will help, but he is a guy suited to come off the bench and I wouldn’t want to rely on a starting frontcourt of Monroe and Jerebko to anchor this team’s hopefully improved defense. Getting an appropriate complement to Greg Monroe must be the team’s highest priority, personnel wise.
Fourth, the organization needs to understand how to proceed going forward in the face of a lockout and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement environment. If there is a lockout then the need to trade Hamilton greatly diminishes. The final year of his contract is only partially guaranteed, so the Pistons and Hamilton can part ways for “only” $9 million. The team also has an asset with the No. 8 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Even in a weak draft it still has value. There has already been speculation that the team is looking to dump the pick to the Cavaliers if they are willing to take Hamilton off their hands.
Just for fun, let’s assume that Hamilton’s contract is in play as are the sign-and-trade options of Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince. In that case, there are some intriguing targets the Pistons could zero in on. Of course, the odds of any of those three things happening are not good, but it’s fun to speculate. Possible free agents such as Greg Oden, Marc Gasol, David West, Thaddeus Young or DeAndre Jordan. Could you take a flyer on Andray Blatche or Andris Biedrins if you’re desperate?
It really all comes down to what kind of statement Tom Gores wants to make. Does he want to make a splash, as most new owners do? Does he want to be patient and build through the draft ala the Oklahoma City Thunder? Does Dumars already have several dominoes lined up and he is just waiting for the new owner to give his blessing and start pushing them over? I have no idea, but for the first time in several months at least I’m excited about what lies ahead.