Summer came and went in the blink of an eye, and now the Detroit sports fanbase turns their apathetic attention to autumn’s familiar and, in too many cases, depressing storylines. Somewhere between the Lions getting screwed and a cloud of disappointment hovering over Ann Arbor, the Pistons held their Media Day on the final day of September, hoping to offer a ray of greatly needed sunshine in an otherwise bleak local sports scene.
Before we delve into Media Day talking points, let’s quickly set the table.
The Pistons, handcuffed by a lack of salary cap funds, weren’t big spenders in free agency. The low-key signing of vets Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, and Tim Frazier, however, should help the squad win now. 18-year-old Sekou Doumbouya, their first-round pick in last June’s draft, will, in theory, help the team win later.
The idea, as I understand it, is to incrementally dig out of salary cap hell without compromising long-term assets while, in the meantime, building the best possible team around the Blake Griffin-Andre Drummond pairing. The tricky part regarding the Process-less rebuild the Pistons are pursuing will be the balancing act between night-to-night competition, developing the youngsters, and the delicate resting requirements of some of their core contributors.
How head coach Dwane Casey prioritizes and subsequently navigates those potential landmines will go a long way in determining the outcome of the Pistons’ season.
Now, to the quotes!
We’ll lean on tweets from the Pistons’ Big Five in reporting (that’s Vince, Rod, JE3, Ku, and Snyder, of course) to help paint a picture of Media Day’s discussion of Detroit’s Big Four and beyond.
Blake on load management: "I'm a believer in science."— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) September 30, 2019
Both Blake Griffin and coach Casey stressed the importance of listening to the team’s medical staff in determining the proper resting rotations.
And for good reason, too.
Perhaps no other variable to the success of the Detroit Pistons is more important than the health of Blake Griffin. Last season, the team’s playoff run became a national punchline thanks solely to the limitations of Griffin’s aching knee. Does that mean Griffin sits out more games? Or plays fewer minutes on a nightly basis? We’ll all find out at the same time, but Griffin and Casey seem to be on the same page when it comes to abiding by the good doctor’s orders.
Griffin also touched on mini-goals, such as protecting home court throughout the season and becoming a better road team.
#Pistons Ed Stefanski on Andre Drummond extension talks:— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) September 30, 2019
"We really like Andre -- the person and the player -- but you never know what's going to happen."
Hey, most of us like Andre too!
But that doesn’t mean we’re satisfied with his progress over the last few years, and neither is he. Drummond openly discussed wanting to be Defensive Player of the Year during his time on the podium. Drummond will have a player option during the summer of 2020, which essentially makes 2019-20 a contract year for the 26-year-old center.
Andre Drummond: “I love playing in Detroit.” #PistonsMediaDay— Vince_Ells56 (@Vincent_Ellis56) September 30, 2019
Well, of course he’s going to say that.
A lack of extended focus and exertion of energy have limited Drummond’s capacity to fully endear himself to the Pistons fanbase, but it takes willing blindness not to notice his year-to-year improvement on both side of the ball.
One shared feeling by all Pistons who fielded questions was their admiration for Derrick Rose, and the sentiment seems to be mutual:
Rose on why he chose Detroit: pic.twitter.com/OvKL4gL0La— Mike Snyder (@M_James_Snyder) September 30, 2019
Derrick Rose is an inarguable upgrade in talent over last year’s backup point guard, Ish Smith, and fills a desperate need in the Pistons ability to procure buckets.
Previously, Casey stated the team’s identity will include a heavy dose of three-point shooting. Earlier in his career, that type of requirement might’ve been a problem for the former MVP:
D-Rose on why he didn’t shoot threes in New York:— KUpa Kid (@KuKhahilNBA) September 30, 2019
“I was stubborn. I was... I was stubborn. “
Sharing the backcourt with Rose on the second unit looks to be Luke Kennard, as Casey is worried about Cool Hand Luke’s fit with the first team:
Dwane Casey on starting Luke or having him come off bench: "On paper, he doesn't fit well with the first unit, but he is one of our more talented players."— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) September 30, 2019
Bruce Brown Jr., the other logical choice along with Kennard to fill out the starting lineup, owns a limited offensive skill set but his man-to-man and perimeter defense is exactly what the starters are lacking.
The debate over who to start isn’t asking which one is the better player. That’s easy, it’s Kennard. The question is where the pieces best fit the Pistons’ puzzle. Either way, the development of both players should be closely examined throughout the year.
Look, it’s in everyone’s best interest to say the right things at these types of events, and the members of the organization who spoke today followed that exact game plan. The enjoyment of the upcoming season is directly related to your expectations. If you’re looking for a championship contender in the Detroit Pistons, then you’re going to be disappointed. But if you dig the journey, there are enough reasons on this team to tune in on a regular basis.
It can be a fun year, but only if you let it be.