A new season begins tonight, and with it a countdown. Pistons fans have waited many months for Detroit Basketball, but tonight it will be replaced by a new wait for the impending revelation of a Monroe/Drummond frontcourt. The question of when Andre Drummond will start and when Greg Monroe will slide to power forward has been a top discussion all summer, and it will remain a top discussion until Lawrence Frank gives Detroit fans an answer. The pairing is inevitable. When it happens, it might make for the most exciting Pistons frontcourt since Rasheed and Ben, Bill and Dennis. If you're like me, you're watching it as the top storyline of the season.
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Houston Rockets: 0 - 0 (0 home - 0 away)
Detroit Pistons: 0 - 0 (0 home - 0 away) UNDEFEATED!!!
At this time last season, the Rockets featured a starting lineup with Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Luis Scola and Jordan Hill. Tonight, the completely new-look Rockets features Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik. How does one acquire the most hyped player in 2011-12, a top 3 shooting guard, a beastly-productive 7-foot center and four promising rookies in one off-season? It's really simple, actually-- stockpile picks and prospects while maintaining cap flexibility.
That cap flexibility gave Rockets GM Daryl Morey a chance to punk New York and Chicago by providing lop-sided offer sheets to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik that the Knicks and Bulls could not match. Had they tried to match, they would have paid tens of millions in luxury tax once those salaries jumped from $5M/yr to $15M/yr. Sure, Lin and Asik are not worth $15M/yr, but if you average their deals out across the three year term, they're making about $8M/yr. a piece. If they don't work out, Morey is only on the hook for three years and he'll have two max-level expiring deals to shop to those same luxury tax teams that he punked in the first place. In a word, brilliant. It's hard to see a scenario where the Rockets lose here even if his new players underperform.
Then there's Morey's most recent acquisitions, having picked up James Harden, Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook by shipping out Kevin Martin, some 2013 first rounders and assorted second rounders. Morey publicly explained his strategy this summer-- to stockpile a bunch of assets and picks with the aim of swinging them for a star player. In James Harden, Morey now has that.
You might want to pencil in Morey as Executive of the Year. If the Rockets make the playoffs, that award might just be a lock.
Fortunately for the Pistons, if you want to pick a time of year to play this new look team, it's right at the beginning when growing pains are still in effect. Harden hasn't played a single game with the Rockets yet, and if it takes this young team a month or two to really gel, Detroit has a chance to open up the season with a win.
Keys to the Game
Perimeter Defense / Passing Lanes - Jeremy Lin is a turnover machine, and tonight will be the first NBA game he has played with James Harden. Force the issue here, stay active in passing lanes and the perimeter when Lin/Harden look to drive. The more Houston is forced into turnovers, the more Detroit can get out in transition and pick up easy
baskets Drummond Alley-Oops.
Keep Asik Out of the Box - In limited minutes behind Noah in Chicago and in steady burn during the preseason in Houston, Asik has been a rebounding machine. Greg Monroe should work to keep Asik away from the glass on defense and Drummond should do what he does on the offensive boards. If Detroit can limit Houston's second chance opportunities and push those aforementioned turnovers, this game could fall to the Pistons.
Feed the Moose / Start the Bull / Free the Swede - You're going to hear this refrain quite often until these wishes are fulfilled. Greg Monroe deserves to be the #1 or #2 option on offense alongside Rodney Stuckey. Andre Drummond earned himself a starter's role in the preseason, and the countdown begins now until he receives his prize. As Tayshaun Prince continues his expected decline, more reasons arise to start Jonas Jerebko at small forward. Do this, Larry Frank.
Question of the Game
How much playing time will Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond see in tandem on opening night, and how effective can they be? The story of the season starts in a matter of hours...