Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver would like the fans to know he too is disappointed this season. The Detroit Pistons posted a letter written by the GM acknowledging this season’s difficulties while also thanking the fans for their “patience, trust, loyalty and support.”
You can read the full letter on nba.com.
I’d say that a general manager of a professional basketball team sending a not-quite-apology letter to fans in the waning days of a disappointing season amounted to insult to injury, but there is so little of substance, I’m not sure it’s worth getting insulted over.
The only important information in the letter is the fact that the letter exists at all. If the team was able to match its own internal, much less its external, expectations, this letter would not exist. But it does. Why?
Because Cade Cunningham’s early season injury torpedoed just about every plan and expectation this team had for itself. In the letter’s terms, “While that injury impacted the continuity of our team, it also presented an opportunity for growth from others.”
In my words: this was a lost season. And when a season is lost, the best you can do is hope to set yourself up for success next year. In NBA rebuilding terms that meant play a lot of young guys a lot of minutes, don’t add any bad long-term salary in an effort to “improve” marginally, and lose a lot of games.
Detroit mostly gets passing grades there. Rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren have exceeded most expectations for year one. Isaiah Livers got a bit of a position logjam cleared when the Pistons sent out Saddiq Bey for James Wiseman. Killian Hayes doesn’t have a good offensive game, but he showed enough willingness and development that he looks like he might be worth investing in for one more season just to see what happens.
Weaver’s letter acknowledges that “rebuilding a team does not always follow a linear path.” First, points for using the rebuild word, Troy. I knew you had it in you. Second, this is an artful way of saying this team took a step back. Not only that aforementioned injury to Cade, but also injuries to Isaiah Stewart, Duren, Marvin Bagley III and the team’s few reliable vets in Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks.
Yes, that step back might have been needed to take the two steps forward this franchise is looking for. But momentum is certainly not on this franchise’s side. And, again, this letter doesn’t exist if at least some in the front office weren’t feeling a little bit of heat from a disgruntled fanbase. Or, more precisely, from season ticket holders.
The team seemed to pivot into asset accumulation mode in that Wiseman deal, and the introduction of another really tall player who had not had much previous success on his first team (see: Bagley, Marvin), left people wondering about the viability of Detroit’s long-term rotation.
The Pistons have a documented history of wanting to play two bigs, but it’s unclear if any of Duren, Bagley, or Wiseman have the defensive chops to play either center or power forward. Duren is the youngest player in the NBA in his first season so he gets a pass. The other two have a lot of developing to do, and they better do it quick. Isaiah Stewart can defend, but he, like the rest of the bigs, might not have the stretchiness needed to play power forward full time, and this team needs to open up driving lanes for Cunningham and Ivey not close them off with a no-range starting lineup.
The team still doesn’t seem to have a viable wing defender to speak of, give or take your belief in the still-developing Isaiah Livers. Hitting in the lottery again can solve a lot of issues, but that doesn’t mean i’m comfortable with how many questions this team is leaving me with at the end of year three of a ground-up rebuild.
But that’s the point. The organization knows I’m not alone in feeling this way. So here we have a letter to put my worries at ease.
“We’ve positioned ourselves for another high draft choice in this year’s draft, we have a favorable salary cap position, and we’ll continue to talk with teams and evaluate trade opportunities as they present themselves.
“Make no mistake – we are all disappointed with our record this season but are confident that we continue to be on the right path to success. We appreciate your patience, trust and loyal support as we continue this journey together.”
Thanks, Troy. Now just win the draft lottery so we can put all this ugliness behind us.