“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically, with the clear implication that “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquillity are more life-enhancing than interesting ones, which, from a historical perspective, usually include disorder and conflict.
Whatever spin you choose on the expression, this season has undoubtedly been a roller coaster of “interesting times” for the Detroit Pistons and their fans. From wild upside down corkscrews of excitement to moments where it seemed like the roller coaster may well have been broken yet we were all still strapped in. Never a dull moment.
Having all but secured a berth in the playoffs (barring a shitting of the bed of epic proportions - and please don’t guys) it’s an actually weirdly quiet if not slightly boring end to the season. The fight for a playoff spot has none of the craziness of the West where, as usual, it seems like nothing is remotely decided. In the East as usual the last couple of spots are like a game of hot potato with seemingly no one really wanting them. That’s not true of course but that’s how it seems, doesn’t it?
The playoffs in any case are rapidly approaching and there is of course excitement but how much? Are these flourishes of badassery like the games against Toronto a real thing? Or are we more the team that couldn’t beat the Cleveland Tankaliers pee wee league offering?
Oh and of course there’s what will come after the playoffs, this very pivotal offseason which may or may not be affected by the outcome of the playoffs themselves.
It’s becoming obvious to me that’s it’s not good for me to have these weeks of time waiting for the playoffs. Existential dread creeps up on you slowly from behind and may or may not eat you.* But it’s just a game right guys?
1. Given both the Pistons fairly certain spot in the playoffs and their wildly inconsistent play of late, what word or phrase would describe your current mood?
Justin Lambregtse: Cautiously optimistic. As much as it seems like they are guaranteed to make the playoffs, based on how they have played a majority of the season, I am still worried. This team is capable of beating anybody, but also losing to anybody. Their hot stretch coin cider with an easy part of their schedule and their schedule to close out the season is pretty tough. They could very well revert to how they played in December and still find themselves out of the playoff picture.
Brady Fredericksen: Content. I think this team, as it’s assembled today, is better than the one that opened the season strong. They’re far from perfect, but they’re thriving in spite of their flaws. There were times throughout December and January where they felt like a lost cause -- heck, in the Blake Griffin-less loss to Cleveland, it felt that way -- but we’re getting the best of both worlds here. The Pistons are winning and they’re developing their most important young asset: Luke Kennard. His improvement over the final weeks of the season and (hopefully) in the playoffs should serve as a great stepping stone leading into a third season where he’ll likely be expected to take on an even more significant role.
Ryan Pravato: Cautiously excited. I’m just ready for some playoff basketball to be played and for the Pistons to win a couple games at least.
Michael Snyder: Good enough. Meaningful April basketball is all I ever wanted out of this season, and we did it! A low-40s win total was a fairly common prediction this preseason, and we’re probably going to do it! I mean, life’s grea—good enough.
Steve Hinson: Meh. They were never as bad as their 4-16 stretch and they were never as good as their 12-2 stretch. Their overall record of a little over .500 and net rating of a little in the negative is the more accurate take: that they’re an entirely unremarkable, average team.
2. What word or phrase would you use to describe the importance of the Pistons performance in and results of this year’s playoffs?
Justin Lambregtse: Unimportant. Management knows they still have to wait another year before they can start building the team they want around Blake Griffin after some of the bad contracts expire. It will be nice to watch the team in the playoffs, but I’m not expecting much. Based on how December went, that is ok and any playoff wins they get is just icing on top.
Brady Fredericksen: You can always learn. Let’s be honest, the Pistons are going to get destroyed if they go up against the 76ers. They might, not for sure, but MIGHT, be able to upset the Raptors or Pacers. Both situations would bring valuable experience that these guys all need. Do I think the Pistons gained much from playing hard in a sweep to Cleveland a few years ago? Doubt it, but it was a first-time experience for a lot of them. This time, you’ve got a relatively veteran team that needs to learn how to win a series, not simply how to get to the big stage. I think the same applies to Dwane Casey, who has his own playoff bugaboos. Learning how to succeed in April and May is always important if you’re one of the teams that isn’t playing the tanking game.
Ryan Pravato: Play hard, play smart. I think deep down we all know the Pistons don’t have a roster that can win a playoff series (playoffs are a different animal* than the regular season) against the Bucks, Sixers, Raptors or Celtics. Who knows though, I’ve been wrong once or twice before.
Michael Snyder: Stepping stone. I’m big on gaining experience. Yes, even if it’s a first-round sweep, in fact, especially if it’s a first-round sweep. What’s it a stepping stone to? No idea.
Steve Hinson: Inconsequential. Unless they manage to topple their first round matchup, putting up a strong fight in a first round loss really doesn’t mean much - especially when the entire core is in their prime.
3. What word or phrase would you use to paint a picture of how you see the franchise going forward from this season based on this season, management, future potential of current players, trades, cap space (or lack thereof)?
Justin Lambregtse: On the rise. Things are only going to get better in the future after some of the bad contracts expire and the cap has smoothed out a bit. This team won’t have a bunch of overpaid players and can finally start to build a team around Blake Griffin before his inevitable decline towards the end of his contract.
Brady Fredericksen: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. We’ve seen that they’re playing to win. Does that mean the No. 16-17 pick they have in June is up for grabs on draft night? Does it mean they flip a revitalized Reggie Jackson (and his expiring contract) for an upgrade at point guard or small forward? Does it mean they actually try to go find a couple of wings that can get buckets? Positive momentum is the best way to phrase it, but I think they know the clock is ticking on Griffin being able to carry this team. Going for a big trade this summer, whether it’s for Mike Conley, Bradley Beal or another star, seems it would be a likely objective. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether they can pull it off, though.
Ryan Pravato: I really don’t know. Just somehow get Jarrett Culver in the draft and not give up Blake or Andre in the process. Good luck with that.
Michael Snyder: I’m intrigued enough to keep watching. I enjoyed every minute of Blake Griffin this year. When these guys are playing hard and cheering for each other, they’re very easy to root for. Sorry to all the championship-or-bust people out there, I’m an easy sell.
Steve Hinson: Uncertain. I think when we hit the Portland game on Saturday that stretch will dictate much of the direction of the team this summer. Nine out of those final 11 games are against teams that are at least decent and the Pistons have struggled against parts of the schedule like that this season. If they finish the season below .500, regardless of what seed they are in the playoffs, it’d be tough to rationalize maintaining the status quo.
What are your words or phrases rolling around in your collective Pistons-addled brains? Please play along at home and let us know below.