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Conversations with DBB: Aris Kafadogias and Christopher Daniels

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Our last (for now) in the series we started this summer.

This is the final Conversation for now, was a really great series and I really appreciate everyone who participated. We’ll look at doing more if there’s interest next summer. This last one took place over 3+ months from late July until just this last week.

Aris Kafadogias:

Christopher Hi!

I'm writing just to get in touch and see how this DBB conversation works. When you've got time please fill me in on the details.

Cheers

Christopher Daniels:

So Aris! I seem to remember reading that you are from and/or live in Greece. How did you become a Pistons fan from all the way over there?

Aris Kafadogias:

Christopher Hi!

Sorry, once again for replying so late. I just now found some time to write and I also read the DBB conversation between BBF and Lazarus Jackson, so I got an idea of how it works. I promise I’ll reply much faster from now on that I took care of some of the work I left behind while I was on vacation.

So, about me, I’ll give you the long version…

I was born and raised in Greece, but right now I’m living in Vienna, Austria doing my PhD. I’m 30 years old and I’m a Pistons’ fan since 2004, the year I graduated high school and began my university studies. I decided to become a Pistons’ fan for various reasons. When I was a kid I was actually a Lakers’ fan, but not so much fan of the team, more like a Shaquille O'Neal fan, I was an O’Neal fan since his days with the Magic. However, as the Lakers kept winning I grew to dislike them more and more. I couldn’t understand the dynamics with Shaq and Kobe then, but even to a 15-year-old it seemed odd and out of sorts. As regards sports fandom, basketball was for me then just a footnote. I was a football (soccer) fan as most Europeans and I was a pretty good tennis player as well. So basketball was just another sport. I used to play tennis next to a basketball court, so I would go play basketball occasionally, but it wasn’t my thing. I’m also somewhat short, so I wasn’t that good at it anyway. This began to change in 2002, when I dropped tennis in order to focus on my studies and for various reasons not worth mentioning I also stopped following football. When I finished high school I had a lot of free time, but I also moved to Athens so I couldn’t get back to tennis, because I didn’t know my way around in the big city. So, I decided to get more into basketball, which was also easier to follow.

The Greek basketball team I supported was Panathinaikos, a team based in Athens and a very successful one in Europe that has won many Euroleague championships. The years 2004-2010 were also a golden age for Greek basketball. We won the European championship in 2005 and we placed 2nd in the world championship in 2006, after beating the Krzyzewski-Lebron team in the semifinal. So basketball was, and still is, rather popular in Greece. This was also the time when the NBA tried to internationalize the game and to form ties with teams in Europe, China and South America. Panathinaikos actually had a close relationship with the Pistons and the coaches would often attend the Pistons’ training camp. Joe Dumars also came by a couple of times and, as he mentioned in his podcast with Woj earlier this year, he still remains in contact with those coaches, even though they are no longer with Panathinaikos. So, the ties were there already. However, what pushed me to become a fan was the going-to-work crew. The 2004 finals were the first NBA finals that I could watch and I loved the way the Pistons played. They played a slow, calculated, defense-first style of basketball that resembled the basketball I knew here in Europe. By then, I also hated the Lakers, who were the overwhelming favorites and naturally rooted for the underdog. Even though the Pistons played a style that resembled how the game was being played in Europe, they did it on a whole other level. The defense they played against Indiana, and the Prince block specifically, were the most amazing things I’d ever seen on a basketball court. I loved the tenacity and the passion, with which they played. I became a fan right then and there. Another factor that influenced me greatly was my favorite Piston back then: Rasheed Wallace. His personality and his game was something totally outside the European player’s archetype, something totally new for me. For me, he epitomized what athletes should be: funny, flashy, cocky, and able to back it all up in the game (it also helped that I had no idea about the jail Blazers and all that stuff then…). From that point on, I became a Pistons fan and still am to this day.

In 2010 I also joined the DBB community. If it wasn’t for DBB I might have not kept supporting the team. The community was great, it helped me enjoy every part of the basketball season, the games, the off-season, the fucking summer league. I found a place to share my thoughts, to argue and to learn a lot about the game and how to analyze it. I believe that in the community we helped each other go through the Iverson-Gordon-Smith years. We came for the team and we stayed for the people. It’s nice that we finally get to each other on a more personal level.

So, what about you? How did you become a Pistons’ fan and how did you get involved with DBB?

Cheers,

Aris Kafadogias

Christopher Daniels:

Hi again Aris, and this time sorry for me late reply! Summer is busy.

So I became a Pistons fan by a much shorter route. I was born in Detroit in 1974 (which makes me about 12 years older than you). My first love in sports was the Detroit Tigers. I was 10 when they won their last World Series and had become a fan a few years prior as they were drawing a lot of excitement. I really loved getting to know all of the players, "Sweet" Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell being two of my favorites. I remember getting the newspaper and concocting some sort of weird rankings system by adding up teams stats to come up with my own rankings. I used to pour over the details of each player's stats in minute detail. I'm surprised I didn't end up being a statistician of some sort.

After the Tigers won in '84 they gradually weakened as a team just as the Pistons were starting to come into their own. They became my new love. I don't remember being as into stats but I was much more involved emotionally. A lot of that had to do with me getting a chance to meet Isiah Thomas - who is and will always be my favorite Piston - in 1986.

Isiah was the spokesperson for Detroit Edison who was the major electrical company of the time. They sponsored a Safety Poster Contest and the first year I won Isiah presented the winner with awards. I remember I was so excited to meet him but also because I won a double cassette player. Back then a double cassette player was pretty high tech because could copy tapes or even better make mixed tapes for the teenage ladies (which i was too much of a nerd to do for a few years). So meeting him as well as watching the Pistons, especially in the playoffs, were what really cemented my love for the Pistons. The playoffs from '86 - '91 were incredibly intense. I'm sure you've watching some highlights but I don't think the NBA will ever allow that type of intensity, especially on the defensive end. Most games between Detroit and Boston featured multiple plays that would've drawn suspensions today that were only fouls. I hated, HATED the Celtics. I remember crying after the famous Larry Bird inbounds steal in '87. The team was so UGLY. I remember feeling sick every time Kevin McHale raised the ball over his head and you could see all of that long armpit hair hanging down from those skinny boney arms. I cried again after they lost in the Finals to the Lakers the following year. I remember being in awe in Game 6 watching Isiah score 25 in a quarter on a bad ankle. That would never happen today, coaches I don't think will allow it. But man, what a performance. Better than anything else I've seen by one player.

As far as DBB, I became a member in 2010, when I was living in Frankfurt, Germany. I lived in Europe for 13 years (I'm back in Detroit now) and actually completely lost touch with basketball. I'm ashamed and saddened to admit this but I missed the 2004 Championship and all of the years that lead up to it. After the Pistons faded from the Bad Boys years I lost interest and it was only until my mom and dad told me that they had won that the spark was rekindled. It's kind of sad really although I did get to be a part of the years after when the Going to Work team was still a top tier team. I didn't have any real chance to watch the games, I only read ESPN and watched highlight until 2010 until I got League Pass. RIght around then I started following DBB and became a member. I still remember I was called a troll after my first comment. I did the typical which was to read the comments section and not realize what diehard fans were there and I said something like "If you were a REAL fan you'd give them a break...bla bla bla". My avatar was a troll doll for quite awhile and my signature was "I smell a troll".

I started contributing almost two summers ago when Packey put out a request for new contributors in the offseason. I had been doing Photoshops in the comments thread off and on for a while and a had just prior done this one which got a lot of rec's:

Just after that Packey sent the request and some guys in the comment thread recommended I apply (I believe the Boourns was the most vocal...correct me on that Boo). I've had a lot of fun since. It's been really cool being "behind the scenes" and getting to see the inner workings. It's really impressive. I started doing a lot of Photoshop/humor posts but have switched it up a bit recently because the Photoshop work could be pretty intense (I sometimes spent 6-8 hours on one). I hope to get back into more of that this year though.

That's really cool to hear about the connection between Panathinaikos and the Pistons, I had never heard. Also the connection between the European style and Going to Work style..makes total sense. Do you still follow Euroleague? I sort of did a little when I was in Barcelona but have no clue now.

So what are you doing your PhD in? Also, you said Rasheed was your favorite Piston back then. Who is now?

Chris

P.s. no rush on getting back..whenever you have time

Aris Kafadogias: Wow, I’d swear you were younger than me!!! I guess too much studying makes one think older than he is…

I loved the picture with Isiah. I guess your fandom runs far deeper than mine, though I also like that we fill each other’s timeline in following the Pistons, with you missing out on the 2004 team and me starting to get into the Pistons at the time. What we also have in common, is the fact that essentially other sports brought us into basketball and the Pistons. For you it was baseball, and for me it was football, though in an indirect way.

I also hate Boston, I fucking hate it that they feel that everything is set up for them to win. I didn’t need the McHale-armpit detail though…

To answer your questions, I’m doing my PhD in 18th-century Austrian History. I research the consumption patterns of the Viennese in the second half of the century, but I don’t think the details are of much interest to anyone in DBB.

Rasheed was my favorite player back then, but I don’t think I have one now. I really enjoyed SAWG for those magnificent games in the PSE, and if he’d stayed healthy, he’d probably be my favorite now. I don’t know why, but I tend to like swaggy guys with a flare (the Photoshop is awesome BTW).

I followed Euroleague closely when I lived in Greece (until 2014). Back then European basketball was more substantial for me since I could talk about it with others and also go see Panathinaikos in person, and believe me this is nothing like you ever experienced (just a sample here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtWbTZbfkI8). Since I left Greece my interest faded away a bit. I could no longer go watch games and in Austria basketball in basically nonexistent, so there is no one to talk hoops with. Nowadays I only watch some Panathinaikos games and the final four. I found time to watch more NBA though and not just the Pistons as I did in the past.

What I mostly wanted to focus on in our conversation is our experience with DBB and the community in general. It’s amazing that we got into DBB at the same time. I guess the league had a good idea to expand its audience with league-pass, because that’s also when I first bought it. I believe we are both part of new generation of fans that enjoys the game in a totally different way, essentially taking over a large part of team coverage and co-/remaking sport content.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we joined in during the dark years. And I also feel that the community in general was a bit livelier back then. I think we need the community more when the team is down, so we can vent our frustration, find emotional support, and try to keep our fandom alive. That’s true for me at least.

Was it also like that for you when you joined in? Did your perception of the community change when you became a contributor? Do you feel the community has changed since 2010? If yes, in what way?

Cheers,

Aris

Christopher Daniels:

Hi Aris!

Thanks for the compliment of thinking I was younger than you! I try to keep as young as heart as possible, I hope to seem young even when i'm 80. My sort of way of looking at it is to try to take life less seriously as often as possible.

One more question on your PhD...how do you come to want to study that being from Greece? DId something about Austria draw you in? I think something like that to study would be weirdly fascinating, especially doing it while living in Vienna. I visited Vienna once, in the late 1990's. Very beautiful city, I love the art and design of the early 1900's: Klimt, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner's Postparkasse, the Secession Building...All really worth checking out if you by chance haven't, especially considering some of that started in the period you're studying.

That video clip of Panathinaikos is INSANE!!! The only thing close I've ever experienced was watching football/soccer. I lived in Barcelona and got really into it after having absolutely zero interest in the US. The fans are so amazing. I remember really getting into it when a friend took me to his local pub and when Barça scored this little old grandma was jumping around like a little kid hugging everyone. I was hooked. But much like you once I moved I gradually lost interest. But man what a time, watching Ronaldinho at the height of his powers and watching Messi slowly but surely take the World's Best Player mantle. My favorite game was probably this one, where Ronaldinho scored two amazing goals in El Classico vs Madrid in Madrid and the Madrid fans actually gave him a standing ovation...how amazing is that?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LlOUiDeidU

As for your question of my view of DBB since when I joined I would agree that the comment sections were or seemed quite a bit more lively. I agree that it probably had a lot to do with sort of pent of frustration and a need to vent it. I also think there were some regulars who challenged people a lot more and in more detail. Mike Payne for example, and his point by point take downs of people's arguments for one was something that I think kept things on the somewhat aggressive side and sparked a lot of back and forth debates. I think that still happens but not as frequently. I also think we have some very effective "peacemakers" in the regular commenters like Merwinly who tend to try to put out fires rather than fan the flames or in some cases straight up pour gasoline on the fire like MFMP did. We also seem to not have as many interesting trolls as we used to...we all remember the New Gulks in town guy. Annoying but added some intrigue no doubt.

The difference for me once I started contributing posts was that I became a much more infrequent member of the comments section. With the outlet of creating content I was less likely and had also less time to spend in the comments. Once the season starts I'm going to try to devote more time in there for sure.

I guess a good question for you would be how would you like to see DBB evolve? Do you have any kind of content you like to see more of? Less of? Do you have any suggestions for getting the comments to return to a bit livelier state?

On the team side, do you have a player you're most excited to watch this season, one you're hoping will most help the team? Conversely, do you have a player you're most nervous about going into the season?

Tschüss!

Chris

Aris Kafadogias:

Hi Christopher!

First of all, I agree with your approach on life 100%. Secondly, Ronaldinho in his prime was one of the few football players that I kept watching games of occasionally, after I mostly gave up on football (the other three being Luis Figo, Michael Owen and Steven Gerard). I watched that game and his performance was awesome. So, we agree on that as well.

As regards my PhD, I don’t have a clear answer, outside of the specifics of the field, of why I chose Vienna as the spatial reference point of my research. In my Master’s degree studies I became fascinated with the history of everyday life, material culture and consumption, but I didn’t want to confine myself in the borders of my country as most people do due to obstacles, such as language, knowledge of the field etc. So in my Master’s degree I followed the direction of Early Modern and Modern European History and I decided to specialize in the history of everyday life and material culture. Vienna at the time had a relatively unused corpus of historical sources on the subject, so it seemed like a good research field for me. I also had some ties to the city, as I did a student exchange program there 10 years ago, and also two of my supervisors in Athens had lived and studied there, and therefore had the necessary connections and knew the right people that could supervise my research.

I’ve been to the places you mentioned and seen the works of Schiele and Klimt of course, but unlike you I’m mostly fascinated with the older side of the city, the old inner city, which keeps traces of the baroque and 18th-century architecture, like the narrow streets, the paving and the buildings (and the smell of horse shit, which is a stunningly true-to-the-theme feature still). I study an era, when all the great, imposing buildings of the Ring Straße, like the Neuburg, the Rathaus, or the parliament building didn’t exist, and truth be told, I kind of prefer it that way. For me Vienna was great up to 1848, but then it lost some of its character.

Regarding DBB, it has evolved a lot over the years and I don’t believe I or anyone else can make it evolve a certain way, this will be a result of the different accumulation of personalities, writers and commentators, that’ll continue to reshape it. I don’t really have anything new I would add. I made some suggestions when DBB expanded, like the weekly collection of Pistons related news, like rankings etc. or the dialog with other SB nation sites, which I’m happy to see have been adopted. The coverage is at an all time high in my opinion, you all do a terrific job, and there’s nothing I’d change there. If I remember correctly there have been some complaints in the past about the marginalization of fanposts. I also think fanposts should be featured more prominently. It’ll help the community a lot, if someone who has devoted time and effort to write a fanpost sees his/her work recognized and debated in the community. There have also been some great fanposts over the years as well. I can recall for example Canadiangirlfriend’s fanpost on Smith’s shooting selection from both forward positions, which made it to the mainstream media, if I’m not mistaken. The comments will fluctuate according to many variables like the personalities in the community, the performance of the team, controversial decisions by SVB, etc. In short, it’s out of anyone’s control, except perhaps SVB’s, because if they sign another Josh Smith type player, the community will catch fire again. I guess having competent management is drawback for DBB… Jokes aside, I believe that SVG has had a profound impact on the community and it’s easy to spot a divide between SVG supporters and SVG “haters”, which brings any debate in the comments to a halt. I think that’s sometimes kind of a problem for the comment sections that I don’t really know how to solve. I just hope the team gets to a point where the community is lively debating who our third point guard should be in case we need him for the finals, because we deserve some success after the dark years. If it goes the other way, we’ll get to test my theory and see if the community will once again remain the sole reason we follow this shitty (as in “go shitty team, go!” DBB staple) team.

I’m not that high on the team as currently constructed, but I’ve preached patience in the comments and that’s what I’m doing. I’m willing to give them a pass for last season and see where it goes this year. The answer to your first questions is, of course, BOBAN. I’m really excited to see what he’ll do with more minutes, and if he’ll eventually replace Drummond in the starting line-up. Conversely, the answer to your second question is Andre Drummond. This is a make or break year for him, as far as his Pistons’ career is concerned. I’m not that worried about Jackson, I can see him bounce back to at least being a somewhat effective starting point guard, he’s done that before, and I believe he can do it again.

What do you think the impact of SVG has been on the community? Do you agree on my take on the issue? As regards the team, what are your choices for players you’re most excited or nervous about this season? Do you agree that we should be patient with this team, at least until the deadline, or do you want to break it up as soon as possible?

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Aris

Christopher Daniels:

Hi Aris!

Sorry for the long delay in writing back, I can be quite a procrastinator at times, once I don't do something once it goes in the "I need to get to get to that pile" which exists in its own time vacuum.

Thanks for talking more about your studies and reasoning behind choosing them. I can relate a bit to your fascination with the older history of Vienna through one experience I had there: I visited the catacombs beneath the main cathedral there and saw piles and piles of skulls and bones from what if I remember correctly were victims of the plague and man was that a memorable experience. I also was there for a solar eclipse in 1998 I believe and that was very memorable as well. Seeing hundreds of people out in the streets and on balconies all looking up in silence was amazing.

As far as SVG and his effect on the DBB community I agree in that his competency has cooled the fire that was regularly stoked by Lawrence Frank, Mo Cheeks, John Kuester and Michael Curry's ineptitude. It was so easy to get fired up by their lack of coaching skill where SVG is good enough both as a coach and president that it's hard to get too many people aboard the "down with SVG" train.

As for players I'm most nervous about I'd definitely have to say Dre and Reggie by a mile. If they play like they could we could be a 4-5 seed but if they don't, and I tend to think this is more likely, we could be out of the playoffs again and we could have real problems trying to move on from them and getting any value at all. I'd wait until at least the deadline but by then if neither have played well we could be in serious trouble. The market for point guards is so weak because there are so many good ones out there and the market for traditional big men is probably the weakest its ever been as everyone wants stretch 5's these days so we could be royally screwed.

Which players are you most excited and/or nervous about? What do you see as best case/worst case for the team this year? If they miss the playoffs again do you think SVB should be removed or restructured and see SVG either lose his coaching or presidency or both?

Chris

Aris Kafadogias:

Hi Christopher!

What a turnaround!

Last week we were both VERY nervous about Drummond and now it’s more like: “can he sustain this type of energy?” As I noted in my previous e-mail, I wasn’t all that worried about Jackson, he has bounced back before and I was optimistic he could do it again, as he has so far demonstrated. Boban though is so far a letdown, but it’s early so I’m by no means giving up on him.

As far as the best and worst case scenario, right now the team hasn’t even allowed me to consider anything less than a 4-5 seed. If they play like that all year, there might be an even bigger surprise in store for us, though I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’ll stop right there.

SVG has done a great job this far. I wanted to see Boban more, but I didn’t even expect to see Ellenson or Kennard, so I’m happy. I don’t think this 11-man rotation will last, but if he remains versatile with his line-up options I’ll b happy. The main knock on him as a coach has been his stubbornness in his rotation and his inability to make adjustments. This year his rotation has been more fluid and he made a game-changing adjustment with Tolliver last night.

I’m really impressed both by the players and by SVG the coach so far. Some things I’ve noticed:

  1. Energetic Drummond running the floor and being first man every time down, even on back-to-back. This kind of effort resonates and has real value to the team. Drummond running and sucking in the defense generates a lot of open shots that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
  2. Passing Drummond handing the ball to Bradley and Johnson, and even skipping some passes to the corners and to cutters is miles better than last year’s black hole Drummond taking an awful hook from 15 feet.
  3. Johnson’s defense is impressive. His close-outs have been superb so far.
  4. Morris and KCP leaving meant that Harris would get more shots. He has been an all-star so far, and if he keeps this up he’ll be at the all-star game for sure.
  5. Ellenson and Kennard have played well on offense and not disastrous on defense, which was totally unexpected.
  6. Bradley does the little things that go unnoticed, but he offers some stability that was missing with KCP.
  7. Reggie is back.

What are your takes thus far? As you can see I’m pretty excited and I can’t wait for Monday to beat the crap out of Philly. I’m tired of hearing how they’d make the play-off over us.

Cheers,

Aris

Christopher Daniels:

Aris!

Again sorry for the late response...the days/weeks are flying by!

So happily even though it's been a few weeks since your reply the Pistons are still going strong! Drummond is looking like if not a new man, more like the player we all hoped he'd become. Reggie is pretty close to the good player with some bad habits we expected to return last year. Stanley seems to be embracing a solid role-player mentality and finding his place in the starting line up looking very solid. Bradley is getting better every game and behind the scenes it seems he's really helped the Pistons become a more focused team. Tobias is looking like our go-to scorer most nights, kind of this team's Rip Hamilton. But what has impressed me most is how this team seems be starting to find an identity with a super solid bench and with a team mentality where the share the ball a lot, work hard on defense, and take what's coming to them. I love that it seems the Pistons DNA of no superstar but just a really solid collection of complementary players is starting to be seen. Reggie is not a superstar, nor is Drummond, nor Tobias etc etc.

Now that the season is in full swing I think it's time to wrap this conversation up. It's been really fun to get to know you Aris. All the best to you and I hope we cross paths one day but in the meantime look forward to your insights in the Game Threads!

Any last thoughts?

Tschüss!

Aris Kafadogias:

Dear Chris,

What a season so far!

Last time I wrote back we lost to the Sixers, but still it’s been a hell of a ride so far. I agree with every point you made. I’ll say once again that I feel rewarded I preached patience with this group. I was optimistic about Jackson coming back healthy and I liked Tobias and Stanley. Bradley has brought much needed defense even if his shooting is not always there and he takes some very long twos. However the biggest surprise is Drummond. Holly Hell! What a transformation. There’s a point I believe in a big man’s career, when he gets better at the foul line and then his game just blossoms simply due to the fact that he no longer avoids contact and can be more aggressive. I believe the Bucks game was that watershed moment for Drummond. He’s still inconsistent defensively and he makes some bad plays here and there, but his FT shooting and his passing are skills that can take this team to the next level. Let’s hope the good performances continue. This is a no superstar team, but it might be a five star team like the going to work crew, at least that’s what we should be hoping for I think.

It was a pleasure getting to know you as well. These DBB conversations were a great idea, and even though it took forever I enjoyed it a lot. Hell, we should have a season diary perhaps, if we’re up to it.

I wish you well and I’m really hoping we can someday meet up either in Detroit or in Vienna.

Mit herzlichen Grüßen

Aris Kafantogias