Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Detroit Pistons and silliness

The once proud franchise has become silly in several ways. Let's look at a few of them.

Once upon a time, late and long-time owner Bill Davidson built a jewel of a venue called the Palace for his team to play in. It was in the 'burbs and didn't displace homeowners through the dreaded "eminent domain". Though a bit "out of town", the Palace was easily accessible. A freeway ran close by and it was/is located on a main thoroughfare.

But here's the kicker. He did it entirely with his own money. No shady dealings to con the taxpayers into financing such a venture. He wanted it, he built it, and he paid for it. Plus, he was also the first owner to buy a private jet-liner for his team to fly in to and from road games. Again, with his own money. It was appropriately dubbed Roundball One. The man had class.

And then he died. His much younger widow Karen inherited the team, the Palace, and a world-class outdoor concert venue which was forever known as Pine Knob. True, that name has changed since an electric company ponied up big bucks for the naming rights, but they still haven't figured out how to keep the lights on during a storm.

It became quickly apparent Karen had little interest in running such an empire. So she cashed out. Enter equity fund extraordinaire Tom Gores -- another billionaire. He now owns the whole works.

What is Karen doing these days? Nobody seems to know. But with the mega-bucks she got from TG, she probably could have bought herself a tropical island somewhere populated with a battalion or so of hunky dudes to keep her -- ahem -- entertained. Somewhere, life is good for the former Mrs. D.

In the interim, Tom Gores has made a few moves. First he pumped umpteen million bucks into the Palace to "upgrade" it. Then rumors surfaced he might be entertaining the notion of moving the team back to Detroit in yet another new arena. That seemed silly. Why spend a bunch of money to spiff up an already excellent venue only to consider a re-lo? And if he DID move the team -- who -- pray tell would want to purchase the Palace? It made no sense.

To his credit, he broomed the former "front office" personnel and brought in his own people. Former Piston great Joe Dumars had once built a championship team, but over the years his boneheaded moves led the team into the nether regions of the league. The players weren't good and they had salary cap problems. Joe had to go.

In an astounding turn of events, Gores hired Stan Van Gundy as not only his President, but also head coach -- with two general managers in between. So if the coach reports to TWO general managers (ever hear of that before?), but they report to the same coach as President -- who the hell's in charge anyway? More silliness.

And now the Detroit Pistons find themselves tangling with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of this year's NBA playoffs. A #8 seed going up against a #1 with home court advantage. Good luck with that. It will be a short playoff run.

The DEE-troit faithful and their ever homerish media would have us believe the Pistons can hang with the Cavs. That can be summed up in three words.

No -- they -- can't.

Lebron and Co. appear frustrated, almost bored, that they have to go through the motions of dispatching such a clearly inferior team. Yes, the Pistons have led in both the first two games they would wind up losing, but the Cavs turn on the jets just enough in the latter portions of the game to rack up wins. They have bigger fish to fry.

At that, the Pistons have some serious silliness on their own roster. Consider Reggie Jackson, presumably the namesake of the baseball player once dubbed "Mr. October". The original RJ clouted a bunch of mammoth home runs, but he was also the all-time leader in strike-outs. Plus, he was a terrible defensive outfielder, didn't have much of an arm, and was slow on the basepathes. Old Reg was known as a bit of a loose-cannon back in the day, but he made it into the Hall of Fame -- go figure.

The current Reg of the Pistons is also somewhat of a loose-cannon. At times he can be a terrific player, at least by Detroit standards, but he doesn't appear to be wrapped too tight. His childish emotional outbursts (tantrums) on occasion aren't exactly the stuff one would expect of a seasoned professional. Maybe that's what got him ran out of Oklahoma City.

The Pistons' best player is widely viewed as one Andre Drummond. He's a big guy that can score in bunches and snag rebounds galore. He's also getting paid very well -- somewhere in the $20 million range.

So here's a question. How can such a "talent" step up to the free-throw line and suddenly turn into Stevie Wonder with his charity tosses? We're not talking Shaqish bricks -- we're talking air-balls. From the dang free-throw line. Eight year old kids, great-grandmothers, and even trained kangaroos could shoot freebies from 15 feet with more accuracy than Drummond. It's shameful -- and definitely silly.

Parting thought. If I'm Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavs, I pass down the word to my coaching staff to back off on the minutes the starters play, even if it means letting the Pistons win at least one game of the next two on their home court. We can take these guys whenever we want to.

But a Game 5 back in Cleveland is a major cha-ching for me.

And don't be surprised if exactly that happens.

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