Joe Dumars is not known as the most candid or insightful interview subject. He will always answer the questions, and will dole out interesting, complete thoughts. The Problem is he is so smart and well spoken that he can go on for several hundred words on a specific topic, bringing up interesting points and owning the issue, and at the end you realize he didn't really say anything at all.
It's no knock on him. His role as head of the Detroit Pistons does not require him to divulge anything to the media or the fans. His role is to run his team and get victories. But as the victories have become more infrequent, the criticism of his comments have become much more frequent.
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News was able to sit down with Dumars and talk about a wide range of subjects, from rebuilding, to personnel mistakes, to the team boycott, to his recent struggles in his personal life. (I guess that explains why one of the big Detroit sports columnists found himself at the Palace during the Lakers game and had the good fortune of writing up a piece on an electrifying overtime victory).
About rebuilding through drafts and trades:
A. I'm talking both. And my mind is also on the summertime and free agency. I look at trades strictly from the standpoint of, if the guy doesn't fit here long-term, or the acquisition doesn't help us long-term - like a one-year guy who can give you cap space - then we don't need to do it.
On Rodney Stuckey and his growth, or lack thereof:
A. I see a guy who's having his best year right now. Sometimes you have to be patient and stick with a guy who has that kind of talent. He's 25, and when he didn't blossom after the first couple years, the answer for me wasn't, OK, let's just get rid of him. I can't allow whatever's being said outside these walls to influence what I know about building a team. It's easy for other people to say discard him, because they don't have to replace him. I gotta replace him.
On Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva:
A. Listen, for us to get better, we're gonna need those guys to play at the level they came in the door. You have your best-laid plans, and you want it to work out. And we're hoping these guys can still show the very reason we went out and signed them.
And I will note that in the interview he does nothing to distance himself from the fact that the team is fully prepared to use the amnesty clause when and if it makes sense to do so.
On the team boycott last season against former head coach John Kuester and other personnel issues:
A. It tears away at you because it's not who you are and what you believe in. I hated it because this is not what we're about, not what I'm about.
You fight your way through it. Here's what you don't do, though: We've been through some great times for so long, you don't grab your coat and your hat and leave when things get tough. It would've been fraudulent of me to throw my hands up (slaps his hands together) and say, oh well, we had a great run, here's a couple tough years, I'm gonna walk away. No, you don't do that.
A. You have to protect your culture and your environment from any cracks. The cracks were there and we probably should've jumped on them quicker than we did. When you see things going on in your culture that have never happened before, put an end to it immediately.
And on his own personal struggles after losing two brothers in the span of six months.
A. Yes, and they're the two brothers (Mark and Dan) that were next to me, two years older and four years older, and they passed away totally unexpectedly.
You asked about people questioning me and if that bothers me, and over the past two years, your perspective on life changes. You truly learn to just focus on what's important. I don't let myself get buried in negativity anymore. That's what happens when you lose people - you end up saying it's not worth it.
So with all that said, do I know more about the Joe Dumars Philosophy? Probably not anything that I didn't already know. But the interview is a good reminder that when challenged on certain issues (the re-signing of Tay, the Stuckey point guard experiment, lack of moves) there are understandable, logical reasons behind the move.
There are arguments against everything he says in the interview, and that is fine. People are allowed to disagree. I know JDIAFI is a popular little piece of shorthand around these parts, but it is obviously untrue. Dumars has made plenty of good moves and plenty of bad moves. Unfortunately, the way the NBA and most professional sports leagues are set up, the bad moves often times set you back much further than any good moves bring you forward.
So we have a team in the Pistons that is still struggling to compete after a few years of mediocrity. But it's obvious that the organization has a plan and a philosophy going forward, and Dumars and company are going to try and make the moves necessary to turn this thing around.
Now we just need to find a taker for Gordon and/or Villanueva. He does specifically mention the appeal of a one-year guy that brings cap space, after all ...