As the World Turns: Where Do the Detroit Pistons Go From Here?
First, let me get this out of the way: We are never going to know how the last two weeks really went down. There have been no shortage of educated guesses as to the details of this roller coaster ride, but in the end, it is all just theory and innuendo.
Is there a lack of stability within the Detroit Pistons organization right now?
Absolutely. That goes without saying.
But the amount of damage caused to this once-proud franchise will never be fully known by anyone not on the team payroll.
Why? Because if the franchise has proven it is good at one thing recently, it is the ability to handle things internally. Right when everyone was ready for a "20/20" interview with Rip Hamilton, John Kuester or Joe Dumars, out comes a blurb of a press release from the team's president of basketball operations and a press conference in which Rip claims that perception and reality are greatly divided.
Smoke? Possibly. But I would venture to say that we've heard pretty much all that we're going to hear about this episode and that it will be all eyes forward for the Pistons from here on out.
Since there is no good use trying to squeeze any more blood from that stone, the most sensible thing is to look ahead with the team and try to figure out how to return this group to the glory it enjoyed just a few short seasons ago.
That said, this team has about 20 games to try to salvage a sense of pride and, possibly, a No. 8 seed, out of the 2010-2011 campaign.
Would it help to make the playoffs? Well, we obviously aren't going to see ourselves competing for the Eastern crown this year. That much is known. And in a draft class that may be weak, there are a few top-notch prospects in the first six or seven picks that surely would add quality youth to the roster.
But given the way that things have gone, a spirited sprint through the last quarter of the season may be just what this team needs to put this nightmare behind them and reestablish a sense of confidence that any team needs if it is ever going to be successful.
What we learned the other night against a Utah team in transition was that there is still some fight in this dog. That fourth quarter alone is evidence that with the right mindset, this is a team worthy of consideration for one of the last spots in the pro tourney.
It may be too little too late, but I would rather see this team dig deep and find its pride then to check out and mail in March and April. The future will be an easier road to travel if we can figure out who has some heart in them and is worth keeping around instead of who is a cancer that desperately needs the scalpel.
The return of Jonas Jerebko should be very well-timed, if he indeed is able to get back on the court in the coming weeks as is hoped. No one epitomizes the gritty nature that will help remake this franchise these days then the young Swede.
As for the veterans from yesterday's cherished past, they have their own futures to worry about too. How quickly will a team be to trade for Hamilton or sign Tayshaun Prince if the last impression they have of them is the one that is so fresh in many minds these days?
This summer will be one of the most interesting in years, as the book is finally closed on the last era and a new chapter is begun. The core is there to build a balanced roster in the image of Pistons teams past. All that is needed are the obvious roster tweaks and a new sense of leadership that everyone can buy into. The purchase of the team by Tom Gores could be the first domino in that change.
Here's to the first day of the rest of this franchise's life. It may take a while, but this team will be back where it belongs as everyone's least favorite underdog soon enough. Of that much, I am definitely clear.
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