First of all this is long overdue. I've been dealing with some internet issues that are still getting worked out, but I managed to find some decent connection for the time being.
Everyone knows the Pistons are in a rebuilding phase, but everyone also knows that Dumars' plan, as it has been all along, is to transition the Pistons as quickly as possible without having to go through the complete mid-90s lull the Pistons went through back when Dumars was a player/retired.
It doesn't appear that ESPN knows, nor does it seem that they have any idea what the Pistons have done this off-season to try and avenge for what was an utter disaster of a season in 2008-2009 -- still a playoff season, mind you. In their pre-season projections, ESPN has the Pistons finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Some of you might not be shocked, but I was. When I was first sent the link via Twitter, the Eastern Conference wasn't mentioned. All I saw was, "Pistons picked 10th by ESPN's panelists." My initial reaction was, "That might be a little lofty, but okay," presuming it was out of the entire NBA.
And that's reasonable in my opinion.
As I mentioned, last season was a disaster. Once Billups was traded, team chemistry and overall drive to win was a sporadic mess. A reasonable person would believe that creating a team full of younger, very talented players, who are more willing to work together to reach the ultimate goal would perform better. Not to mention this new group will be playing under a much more experienced head coach who has learned from within some of the best winning systems, including the Pistons firsthand in 2004.
Yet, ESPN doesn't seem to think Detroit will improve from their enriching off-season. In fact, they are predicting Detroit to get worse, as they predict the Pistons to win just 38 games. Ironically, the team edging out the Pistons, ESPN predicts is former-Pistons head coach, Flip Saunders, and the Washington Wizards.
I understand that there will undoubtably be a learning curve for this fresh faced team, and maybe I'm blinded by the success over the past nine seasons, but I can't possibly fathom an Eastern Conference playoffs prediction without involving Detroit. If the Pistons hadn't gone out and picked up the top two free agents at their respective positions this off-season, fired Curry and subsequently hire a very experienced coach, and shore up a couple other holes, I'd understand fully.
However, Detroit was a playoff team that needed to do damage this off-season to an aging, uninspired bunch. They got younger, motivated, just as talented, in my opinion, and all of a sudden that makes them on the outside looking in? I don't see the reasoning behind that.
If this is ruffling my feathers, you better believe this ESPN pre-season projection will be highlighted and up on the Pistons bulletin board all season, serving as a constant reminder that people aren't buying into what the Pistons and Joe Dumars bought into this past summer. Simply put, I think it's safe to say that we're going to have the hungriest team since the old crew was brought in back in the early 2000s.
Is this something you agree with or are you leaning toward the ESPN side of things? Please share all your thoughts.
(H/T to Brgulker for the link)