One thing's for sure. The Detroit Pistons will look a lot different next year. They'll have a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks, and three new "draftees", notably first round pick Kentavius Caldwell Pope.
Whether any of the draftees actually makes the team remains to be seen, but it's a pretty safe bet at least Pope will stick, at least for a year or two. After all, even if it turns out he doesn't have what it takes to play with the big boys, no NBA team (and in this case -- Pistons Prez Joe Dumars) wants the egg on their face that would come with admitting their first round pick was a bust. Then again, Pope could become the next Dwyane Wade. Stranger things have happened. Hey, once upon a time, over lunch, the sports editor of this paper asked an idiot like yours truly to write for him -- and he was buying!!! So anything's possible.
Further, the above mentioned Joe D went out and snatched former Atlanta Hawk and free agent Josh Smith. This will likely give the Pistons some much-needed scoring help from the "wing". Plus Smith can be a force in the paint at times. Combine him with Detroit's young big men Greg Munroe and Andre Drummond, and this is a significant team upgrade.
In a surprise of sorts, the well-travelled Chauncey Billups is returning to the Pistons as well. Billups will be 37 before the next season gets underway. How much gas he still has left in his tank also remains to be seen, but this could well be a win-win-win situation. In the twilight of his career, Billups likely wanted to return to the team where he experienced his glory years, including winning an NBA title almost a decade ago. The Pistons only gave him a 2-year contract, which sounds prudent and, at that, they've only committed about $5 million to Billups. Sure, that's a ton of money to us normal folks, but it's a bargain basement price in the insane world of professional athlete contracts these days. Besides, Billups will likely contribute a few quality minutes here and there, and having him on the team to "coach up" young point guard Brandon Knight certainly can't hurt.
How all this will come together under new coach Cheeks would seem to be the big question. It would appear the Pistons will be better than they've been in recent years past, but that's not saying a whole lot -- because they've been terrible. So bad, in fact, that a great deal of their former loyal fan base has deserted them. Despite all their gimmicks and promotions, the only time the Pistons can come close to filling their own house (the Palace) is when a premier team comes to town. And those fans are there to see the OTHER guys. Who's kidding who?
Nevertheless, here's wishing Mo, Josh, Mr. Big Shot, the newbies, and the rest of the crew with another year of experience under their belts the best of luck.
If it all comes together right, the Pistons could make the playoffs.
But let's get real. Even if Cheeks gets things to mesh perfectly, and the players perform at their best all year long -- does anybody really seriously think the Pistons will be capable of competing with the current elite teams in the NBA?
I think not, but right now they have nowhere to go but up.
What they have done is a start. It certainly appears "on paper" that they will be better.
Yet in the improbable case they post a record similar to or even worse than last year -- I hope Joe D is either ready to retire or has his job resume in order.
Because if THAT happens -- well -- even nice guys and home town legends have been known to be kicked to the curb on occasion. Such is the cutthroat world of pro sports. It's a business, and even a fine man like Dumars doesn't get a pass forever.
Let's not forget that while Dumars should be given all due credit for building the Pistons into a perennial powerhouse a decade ago, he was also the same man in the same position as that same team has descended into bottom feeders over the last several years. It works both ways.
Idle thought: Why has Joe Dumars become so fat over the last few years? What's up with that? I've heard of eating bad contracts, but this is ridiculous.