According to the Free Press, Fred Hoiberg flew into Detroit Tuesday evening in order to meet with the Pistons. Flip Saunders coached Hoiberg, an 6-5 guard who used to be one of the best three-point shooters in the league, for two years in Minnesota, but he hasn't played this season since undergoing offseason surgery.
Big deal, right? Players undergo surgery all the time. What did he have, a messed up knee? Umm, not quite:
Here's his health report, as we know it: During an exam last summer, doctors spotted an aneurysm in Hoiberg's aortic root. He underwent emergency surgery on June 28, but collapsed at home on July 6. That's when doctors implanted a pacemaker.
Can you think of a player in any sport that had a pacemaker? I can't. Maybe it's happened and I just haven't heard about it, but it certainly seems like a risk. But Hoiberg's situation may not be as bad as it sounds:
In December, after an echocardiogram, doctors turned down Hoiberg's pacemaker, letting his natural heartbeat take over. That was a good sign. He also met with doctors in January, at which time they still hadn't cleared him for NBA play, according to a story by the Associated Press.
In that story, Hoiberg said, "They didn't say yes, but they didn't say no."
I'm not going to pass judgement on whether he should play -- that's a potentially murky moral situation that I'm going to completely gloss over for now -- but I do wonder if the Pistons actually need him. There's plenty more after the jump:
Before we wonder how he's going to get playing time, let's consider how he's going to get on the team in the first place. After signing Tony Delk, the Pistons have a full roster, so signing another player will mean releasing someone else. And even though Delk is the new guy, I doubt the "last hired, first fired" theory applies here -- the two guys I see being on the bubble have to be Alex Acker and Kelvin Cato.
Acker was literally the last player selected by any team in the 2005 NBA Draft, and he only made the team back in October when the Pistons traded Ronald Dupree. At the time, the Pistons were looking for point guard depth, what with Lindsey Hunter sidelined for the start of the year recovering from ankle surgery. But even though Hunter's return was delayed, Hunter actually played his first game of the season a week before Acker did. Obviously the rookie is not that important to the short-term health of the club, and as much as I'd like to see this veteran squad develop young players, it would likely take at least a couple of seasons before Acker could be capable of serving as Chauncey Billups' primary backup (and even that might be a little generous).
Cato, on the other hand, is nothing more than a wide body we hope to throw in Shaq's path come the playoffs, and his only long-term value is the fact that his expensive salary comes off the books at the end of this season. Hopefully he'll help out on the boards when he's in the game, but he's basically just a bigger Dale Davis, only not quite as good.
So even though Acker might actually have a future and Cato isn't much better than a 6-foot-11 sack of doorknobs, the answer is clear: if we sign Hoiberg, Acker is most likely canned.
But here's the rub: even if getting him on the roster isn't overly difficult, where does he fit into Flip's rotation? (OK, you got me, Flip doesn't actually have a rotation, but you get my drift...) Unfortunately, I think it would probably come at the expense of Carlos Delfino... just like the arrival of Tony Delk did. Are you getting the feeling that everything on this site comes back to Delfino? I swear it's not intentional.
Delfino may not be quite the spot-up three-point shooter that Hoiberg is, but he's a tough defensive player and certainly more athletic. And given the number of threes that Chauncey, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton are taking this year, I'm not convinced a long-ball specialist will be what puts this team over the top.
Maybe this post was all for nothing -- maybe after meeting, the Pistons and Hoiberg will decide this isn't a good fit, or the health risk is too big to ignore. But in any case, I think that developing the team's young players -- both Acker down on the farm and Delfino here in the big leagues -- is one of the most important keys to success, both this year and beyond.
(In other news, aren't you excited the Pistons actually return to the court tonight? This long layoff since Saturday's game was no doubt appreciated by the players but left fans like you and I with nothing to do by over-analyze the possibility of a minor roster change. I mean, 800 words on Fred Hoiberg? Come on... I need to get a grip.)
Hoiberg ponders return to NBA [Detroit Free Press]