I would love to be the one that spins this recent four game skid into a positive light
I would love to have a fresh, ice-cold batch of blue and red Pistons Kool-Aid ready to serve.
I would love to point out that this is a long season, and that we as fans must exercise something that is excruciatingly painful and risky for our psyches: patience.
I can’t do any of that though. The team we follow and love has not given me enough evidence of these silver linings existing for an attempt to spin the team into a positive light. Instead, we fans have been subjected to what I can only describe as the bottom falling out on the Detroit Pistons.
“What the hell is going on with the Pistons?” is a text message I have gotten repeatedly over the past week. A question that has a multi-faceted and extremely subjective answer depending on whom you ask. There are a lot of different directions I could go in with a particular answer.
I could riff on the struggles of a returning Reggie Jackson. How he has been searching for the explosive drives he possessed last season. I could talk about how the team had adjusted to Ish Smith’s hyper-distribution style of play. I could talk about how Reggie is quite the opposite and how he may be prioritizing that search for his game over being the point guard we need him to be, a dynamic drive and dish position that walks an impossibly tight line of scorer and facilitator.
I could also talk about Andre Drummond’s struggles. How he’s also been pressing on the offensive end, continuing to look lost with his low post game, and his confusion in finding defenses adjust to his bread-and-butter of lobs and offensive boards. I could also point out that these offensive issues might be why his defensive rating for the past four games is 121.3 per NBA stats, with a net rating of -26.6.
I could also point out that Marcus and Tobias have been slumping, both attempting fewer shots per game (Marcus about four less than his 12 average and Tobias two less than his 13 average). For Tobias, the effect on the defensive end has been especially noticeable, where his defensive rating is even worse than Drummond’s at 130.1.
I could also say what fellow DBB writer Ben Gulker continues shouting from the rooftops, that we are playing with an abysmal bench and zero backup shooting guard. Outside of Ish Smith and Jon Leuer, the bench has struggled to pick up the slack, particularly Stanley Johnson and Darrun Hilliard.
I could say any one or a combination of these points, and I would be on the path towards explaining this team’s issues. The problem with all these points are that they simply feel like excuses.
I’ve been struggling to figure out why this recent run of shitty performances have been so frustrating. I think part of it is because we’re veering off what we as fans believe is the linear trajectory of success: build team, make the playoffs, advance in playoffs, steps toward championship team. It’s a formula we’re familiar with, and have seen at work in countless champions (most notably the 1989, 1990 Bad Boys and the 2004 Pistons).
The other part is that we’ve seen the possibilities of ways that this team can be successful.
They competed and played the eventual NBA Champions hard as hell in the first round last year. I would comfortably say harder and more competitive than anyone else in the East (Sorry Toronto, but Cleveland gave you those two wins). Anyone who dismisses the series as an easy Cleveland sweep clearly wasn’t watching. We swallowed that early exit a little bit easier because you could see where this team was heading.
Now? The team's performance these past four games is a cruel joke compared to what we saw in April, and those were four losses in a row as well.
I have tickets to Friday night’s Golden State game. Me and my five brothers who are all back in town for the holidays are going to head out to the Palace on Friday and it’s a night I’ve been looking forward to since the season started. Last year’s rout of Golden State on Ben Wallace night was one of my favorite memories ever at the Palace and I was hyped for the opportunity to see Act 2.
Now I’m terrified. I’m scared of sitting there amongst a packed house, with many fans who will be giving this team their first chance of the year. I’m terrified of being blown out by Golden State and seeing these people immediately give up on our team. Even as I am writing this, I’m hearing the complaints walking through the concourse. I can already hear the Detroit sports radio talking heads taking their first shots at a team that they quite honestly give less time to than their ramblings on idiotic Sunday night drama series.
See, being a Pistons fan in Detroit is like living in a super remote, small city. Because it’s small, you feel this need to act as an ambassador and hype man to the outside world. “It’s great! There's hardly any traffic! Our mayor Stan is really entertaining. There’s a lot of young people moving here. We got some really cool bars open now, you really should come visit!.”
This Golden State game is like your friends all finally caving in and deciding to visit. The problem is, there’s the possibility of a tornado during their time in town, and next thing you know, all your visitors are gone and saying “Yo, that place kind of sucked. I’m just going to keep going to Comerica, Ford Field, and the Joe for my entertainment and eventual disappointment.”
Look, we as Pistons know where we stand. Especially all of you reading this on DBB. This is probably why we keep this team on a shorter leash than anyone else. I mean the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 and people are still JUICED about that franchise, myself included, buying season tickets and packing their games. Can you stop and think about this for a second? THAT’S INSANE. DO YOU REALIZE HOW DEAD THE PALACE WOULD BE IF THE PISTONS HADN’T WON A PLAYOFF SERIES SINCE THE 90s??
You might be saying to yourself, “Why the hell is he ranting about this? What does this have to do with their four game skid?” and you’re right, the piece has kind of gone off the rails by this point, but I think these are things the Pistons franchise and players need to understand. That we’re overreacting because of this chip on our shoulder and that it comes from a good place. That we want more people to follow and love this team like we do, and that we, more than any other Detroit fan base, have this uphill battle to make that happen. And when the team continues to get blown out by double digits, and appear lifeless on the court, we feel that our efforts are not being reciprocated.
This is why the four game skid and recent team turmoil has hit us harder. Because out of anyone, we should be the ones to find a way spin this slump into a positive light. And we can’t.