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The Zen of Losing

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We are most likely not making the playoffs. But I’m good, and you should be too.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

"What Andre needs to understand -- and we need to talk to him about it all the time -- is when he brings great energy to the game regardless of anything else he will be a major force," says Van Gundy.

"But when Andre really gets an every-night approach, he's got a chance to be great."

Two quotes from Stan I pulled from an article ESPN’s Anthony Olivieri wrote about Andre Drummond February 17, 2016. These quotes do not fall on deaf ears, not from Pistons fans and not increasingly from mainstream media at large. People are wondering what to make of Andre after a lackluster year, one in which coincidentally fell in the first year of a five-year contract that will pay him in excess of $125 million if he remains with the team throughout the full term.

"I told him he's too much like me," says Christine Cameron, Drummond's mother. "He just loves to please everybody."

This quote was taken from the same article, and begins to point towards where things might start to make sense, if not in a way that makes fans happy.

There is tremendous pressure on Andre and indeed on any number of young players in the NBA: the pressure of making people happy, sometimes to the detriment of themselves and their own development.

"I just felt a little different," Jackson said. "There was plays I made in '15-16 and gaps I could hit, and have the confidence to get there at all times. This season, at times I felt good and could get there.

"Other times, I felt like I was a shell of myself."

That’s an unusual level of candor from a struggling player. Typically, we get canned answers, of which Rasheed Wallace’s famous “Both teams played hard” is the tour de force, that are meant as a deflection of emotion and of personal responsibility.

Reggie’s comment is real talk, from a player who obviously feels like he’s let himself and his team down.

I am as guilty as anyone who calls themselves a die hard sports fan of treating players as if they were standalone entities, almost mythical, devoid of actual humanity and shielded from being a victim of all of the foibles that being human entails. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s arrest on suspicion of a DUI points toward the reality that NBA players are in fact real people, with real people’s problems.

Type (James) Harden's name into TMZ.com's archives, and you'll find him mentioned in at least 25 posts last season, while he dated tabloid magnet Khloe Kardashian. The distractions amounted to what Harden has called his worst year ever (even if he did post career-best numbers).

"If you do anything ... everything is on social media, it's on Instagram. People make it bigger than what it really is," Harden says. "I guess it comes with it, man. It's a new day."

The above quote, from ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh’s incredibly eye-opening piece, gives yet another bit of perspective on the world that today’s athletes have to negotiate, a world that didn’t exist before Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, TMZ etc.

These guys are trapped. No one prepared them to be carrying the burden of thousands of fans. They had no idea what they were signing up for — how could you? They only thought that they were living out their dreams, and that everyone would be happy for them. Only a few are preternaturally ready for the pressure not only of the game itself but of the shitstorm that awaits when they under perform.

How would you feel in your own job, if every day that you under performed, you had thousands of people on social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - hounding you, telling you that you did a shitty job today? Literally thousands, thousands of people telling you that you suck. Or the next day when you do have a good game that you’re a star again? And these people aren’t even your boss, they’re your peers, people who have no idea about how hard it was for you to get to where you got in the first place? To be judged by a mass of people who you have no idea of if they are even worthy of judging you in the first place?

I just googled “stars who hate being famous” looking for some real insight into how it is to be famous and what that reality must be like and all I got were lists of “Top ten stars who hate fame”. There is no humanity even in that.

This whole piece is only really for me, for me to take a step back and stop being so critical. Of Stan, of Dre, of Reggie, of Gores, of KCP, of whomever. It’s for me and hopefully for you to take a step back and recognize all of these people as people. In the grand scheme of things it all really doesn’t matter. It would be great, wonderful, amazing if the Pistons were a 4th or 5th or 6th or even 8th seed. It would be great if they even won the Championship. But hey, we have a great example blazing in front us for the idea that it all really doesn’t matter. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who won the championship less than one year ago are already being reviled for not being ready to defend their title this year.

So, end thought here:

It

Doesn’t

Matter.

Perspective is a wonderful, all-forgiving thing and we’d all do to get some perspective on all of this after a year in which I’m sure it was harder for any of the paid Piston employees than it was for any of us.

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