Will Mrs. D spend money? Will it matter?

Karen Davidson has been in the news a bit this week (here, here and here), although it seems all the articles are actually just using quotes stockpiled from a single promotional appearance.

I think fans have been justifiable curious about what her management style will be following her husband's passing; specifically, whether she'll be willing to keep the purse strings open should the team fall on hard times, both economically and in the standings. Not to be an alarmist, but the general tone of her comments seem to suggest she's watching a close eye on the bottom line.

From the Detroit News:

"I've been to Vegas -- but it wasn't for fun, it was for business," Davidson said Wednesday of the Pistons' summer league. "I've been to ownership meetings. It's a different world for someone who has an economic interest in it, (from) someone who is just sitting there next to the one with the economic interest."

From MLive (emphasis mine):

When the free agency period began, Karen Davidson said she was in contact with Joe Dumars (Detroit's president of basketball operations) about once a week.

"During the trade times, we texted," Davidson said, smiling. "You all know Joe. He's probably got callouses on his fingers (from texting all the time). God bless him. He knows his basketball, every little quirk that has to do with the contracts. Lucky for me, it's a low cap year. Next year will probably be even lower."

Davidson also discussed the steady rumors about the WNBA folding.

"I don't know," she said while donning a white Detroit Shock basketball cap. "That's too bad, because as a woman, I love the whole idea of it. But it's in the summer time. It's tough to bring people in, particularly in Michigan. We have a limited spring/summer. But it's great basketball."

However, she added, "I hope they keep it together. But it is an expensive undertaking for the league and the owners. We'll see."

I like the idea of the WNBA ... but apparently not enough to actually make it out to a game (and the Shock are one of the most successful WNBA franchises ever). So, sure, I completely understand where she's coming -- and yet, I'm somewhat shocked (no pun intended) to see her be so glib about its future.

From the day the league was introduced, all I've ever seen from David Stern and ownership has been unwavering support for the league, even as it's been stuck in "pet project" mode and a financial drain for (I'm guessing) almost all teams involved for quite some time. Either way, it's the WNBA -- can't pretend to get too hot and bothered over its future in Detroit.

But "Lucky for me it's a low cap year?" Most teams view the salary cap as a nuisance, especially as it falls and puts teams even closer to the luxury tax. Mrs. D, though, seems to appreciate a falling cap as a sign of cost certainty.

Maybe I'm nitpicking or reading too much between the lines, but unless you're the Portland Trail Blazers, though, teams generally have to pay to win, which includes bravely marching into tax territory to even have a shot at the NBA title. The Pistons have always been reluctant to pay the tax, even when they've spent years stuck in the ECF, so it's probably safe to say that won't be a possibility now.

Of course, it won't even be an issue in the near future considering the Pistons are carrying four rookies (and two veterans making the league minimum) into the season. Yes, when you go young there's always room for upside if a couple of the youngsters pan out, but when you're talking about the No. 15, 35 and 39 picks from a weak draft and the 59th pick from the year before, the bar is significantly lowered. Historically speaking, it'll be a huge success if two of those second-rounders earn a second contract, let alone a rotation spot.

If Dumars didn't think that his roster last November, which finished just two games shy of the NBA Finals, was capable of taking the next step, he certainly can't believe that this year's version will get any closer. In other words, enjoy Rip Hamilton while you can; as the team's highest-paid (and most redundant) player, he's so close to being traded he probably won't even bother unpacking his suitcases when he returns from the first road trip.

As for the second-highest paid player? No offense, Tayshaun, but when you tank as badly as you have in the postseason the last few years, it can't possibly be a coincidence that all four rookies being brought on can play your position. Auditions for your job will be held daily; as soon as one of your new teammates looks remotely passable as an NBA starter, you'll join Rip on the block, if you're not already there.

There's a lot of chatter from fans who want to believe last year was the low point and the team is already on the rise, but I'm not yet convinced, mostly because I can't take for granted the roster won't see continued upheaval in the next six months. As I see it, this year isn't about competing, it's about preparing for the future with the pieces already on hand and flipping assets for pieces still needed -- and there are a LOT still needed. (Do you know how many power forwards and centers are guaranteed to be under contract next season? Only Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell; Chris Wilcox has a player option, but if he proves to be worth a damn he'll likely be one and done.)

That's not to say I won't have fun cheering or following the team in the meantime -- to be honest, guessing when, where and why the other shoe will drop adds 100 times more drama than looking down my nose and wondering who the Pistons will face in the conference finals.

But this will take some time; there's no quick fix on the horizon, especially with an owner who's a novice at writing checks and a ticket-buying fan base that leads the nation in unemployment. Trying to imagine when the Pistons might seriously contend again requires looking several years into the future, which is absolutely pointless given how quickly the competitive landscape changes from year to year due to free agency (will LBJ make the Knicks relevant?), the draft (is John Wall the next CP3?) and random brawls that lead to the dismantling of your team (hi, Indiana!). Enjoy the ride, but be warned: it'll be like riding a rollercoaster in the dark, never knowing if you're headed up, down or straight ahead until after you stop moving.

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