It's all on you now, Tom Gores

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Pistons owner is out of scapegoats and excuses. It is now time to prove that he can be the owner this team needs and deserves.

Joe Dumars is gone. Maurice Cheeks is gone. Lawrence Frank and John Kuester have joined them. Ben Gordon is no more. Soon John Loyer and Charlie Villanueva will be distant memories.

It's truly your team now, Tom Gores.

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Since buying the Detroit Pistons in 2011, the California venture capitalist and Michigan native has been through an odd mix of maintaining the highest of profiles and also being a largely absentee landlord.

He's not around the Pistons in person as much as many other owners, but when he is there he certainly makes his presence felt.

He sits courtside next to Kid Rock. He hurls T-shirts into the crowd. He pumps his fists to the music while the stadium is at 40 percent of capacity. He spends millions of dollars on renovations to the Palace of Auburn Hills and brings in musical acts to perform at halftime.

But there is still a sense that he has yet to make his mark. That he hasn't really put an imprint on his team.

There is no evidence that he plans on simply flipping this storied franchise just as callously as people flip houses on TV. Unfortunately, there is also not enough evidence that he has the temperament, wisdom and patience needed to be a successful professional franchise owner.


The caricature since the moment he bought the team is that he is simply using the team just as any of the other properties in the Platinum Equity portfolio. Buy low, sell high and all else be damned. He has mixed sincere statements of commitment to the players, organization and city of Detroit, with misguided and bold proclamations of the team's talent. He's talked about patience and youth while also tossing out playoff mandates. Mistakes have certainly been made.

There is no evidence that he plans on simply flipping this storied franchise just as callously as people flip houses on TV. Unfortunately, there is also not enough evidence that he has the temperament, wisdom and patience needed to be a successful professional franchise owner.

However, we are certainly about to find out just what kind of basketball mind Gores has.

It could be argued that the firing of Maurice Cheeks was the first true basketball move Gores has made as the owner of the Detroit Pistons.


He has made decisions and signed off on moves - firing Kuester, retaining Dumars, trading Gordon, hiring and firing Frank among them. But it seems he has taken a largely hands-off approach personnel-wise and put his faith in Dumars to run the show. Knowing what you don't know and letting the basketball people make the basketball decisions.

The firing of Cheeks was either the move of an ignorant, impatient owner that is seeking instant gratification or a signal that the new owner has a stronger confidence in his ability to take a look at the landscape of his team and know that something isn't working. He knew that something was wrong and he made a bold, controversial decision to do something about it.

Gores has to use that stronger sense of confidence while also realizing that it's not his job to be a basketball expert. He has to be smart enough and patient enough to find the right person to put a plan in place to get his team working again; back to the playoffs and into the model, enviable franchise it once was.

And even if he owns the team for another 30 years he might never have a better chance to do it as this one.

The team has key building blocks going forward in Greg Monroe and especially Andre Drummond. Drummond is the true superstar in the making that every franchise wants to build around. And he is the kind of superstar that could attract another star to join him. With the right moves the team could find a Robin to his Batman, or maybe even a Batman to his Robin.

But it will take deft personnel and cap management, a solid coaching staff and personnel up and down the franchise to ensure that Drummond reaches his potential and the team is alluring enough to convince another star to join the Motor City tradition.

And in Monroe the team has a 16-point, 10-rebound young big man with the kind of quality low-post game that can work in a grinding playoff battle. And even if you don't see a long-term future for him in Detroit, at the very worse he is an extremely valuable trade commodity.

One thing is clear - there is no way Jennings and Smith can return to the team next season.


The team also has rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, already an NBA-quality wing defender whose offensive game needs plenty of seasoning and second-year forward Kyle Singler who looks like he could be the quality, consistent scorer off the bench every playoff team needs.

And the franchise will have yet another lottery pick. The salve to the open wound of another lost season. If the Pistons get lucky, they can choose a difference maker in the top three. If the Pistons don't get lucky, they will have to be extremely smart and make a smart pick or smart trade at Nos. 7 or 8.

Unfortunately, the team also has two giant, expensive question marks in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. It is up to Gores to evaluate the future these two players have in the organization, and he, his talent evaluators and any GM prospects will have to be brutally honest on what should be done going forward. Neither has much trade value at the moment while both could be much more successful on a team - whether it is the Pistons or somewhere else - with a different roster construction.

One thing is clear - there is no way Jennings and Smith can return to the team next season. The Pistons might be able to live with Smith if he is a starting or reserve power forward surrounded by shooters and is the fourth offensive option. And Detroit might be able to live with Jennings if he has elite perimeter shooting surrounding him. Enough shooting that he trusts in his skillful passing to create offense more than he trusts his off-balance jumper.

But the team can't succeed with both. At least one must go and that decision is on Gores. And more specifically that decision is on the person Gores taps as general manager in the coming weeks or months.

This is the move that will cement his legacy. This is the move that means you're either on the right path with your franchise cornerstone in Drummond or you're mired in mediocrity and disappointment and are forced to trade him in five or six years. The latest Cleveland, Denver or New Orleans forced to regroup and take what you can get after burning your bridges with LeBron, Carmelo or Paul.

The time is now to step up, Mr. Gores. It's time for the fanbase to give him an ownership mandate. You are in possession of one of the crown jewels of professional basketball. You have a committed fanbase that comes out in droves when there is a quality product on the floor. Your organization has three championships and more finals appearances than all but four other teams. You have the true superstar you need to chart the path forward. In short, you have no excuses and no scapegoats.

Don't screw this GM search up. The fans are counting on you.

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