NBA Roundtable

Dumars Interview

In Uncategorized on August 29, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I quoted a Keith Langlois interview with Joe D a few days ago, for completion here’s the whole thing, there’s three parts:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

There’s also an audio version of the interview available below the picture of Joe Dumars on each of the links.

Here’s a few further answers and questions that caught my interest

KL: Going into free agency, logic – when you looked at your depth chart – the names bandied about, and I know none of this was coming from you, but the names being bandied about were James Posey, James Jones, C.J. Miles, all potential backup threes. Did the fact that Rip proved he could play there dissuade you from chasing a backup three? Orlando played Mickael Pietrus big money because they had a significant role for him. Miami paid James Jones big money because they had a significant role for him. You didn’t want to pay those guys that kind of money because you only had a limited role. Is that why you ultimately went with Kwame Brown for most of the mid-level exception instead of a backup small forward?

JD: To get a young big with the kind of contract we did, a two-year deal, was a situation we felt was more right for us than to spend that much money or more on a backup to Prince.

On Afflalo

KL: In the game Rodney played only the first half, I think Arron scored 20 in the second half. That’s the progress you expected from him, I assume.

JD: That’s the progress we expected. Every guy you draft, acquire, trade for, sign as a free agent, is not going to have superstar potential. That’s now how you put a team together. But you still have to acquire guys who can help you become a great team. Arron Afflalo is one of those guys that all the good teams have to have on your team. Afflalo is just one of those guys that we were just recently talking about James Posey and what he did for Boston and Bruce Bowen and what he’s done for San Antonio over the years. I’ll date myself – Michael Cooper and what he did for the Lakers back in the day. Through the history of basketball, he’s one of those guys that you have to have on your team when you’re considered a really good team because those guys are willing to do whatever it takes to help your team win. It’s never about them individually. They just do whatever is necessary and that’s what he’s shaping up to be in the league. One of those guys that if it calls for defending somebody or face-guarding somebody, he’ll do it. If it calls for tyring to score, he’ll do it. If it calls for diving on loose balls all night long, he’ll do it. When you’re putting a team together you’re always looking for guys like that. Guys who’ll do whatever it takes to win.

On Samb

KL: A quick word on Cheikh Samb. JD: When Cheikh came over last season, if you look at your notes, I said two years in the D-League, one to learn the pace of the game here, two to get stronger. He has skill, can really shoot the ball, a great touch, can really block shots. But he has to learn the NBA game, the pace of it, and physically, just continue to get bigger and stronger so he can play

On the 15th roster spot

KL: If Lindsey decides not to come back, would you leave that 15th spot open?

JD: Yeah, we would not look to just run out and fill it. We are in no big hurry to fill the 15th spot. It’s a plus if you can find someone you really like at that 15th spot and if that’s Lindsey, then so be it. But it’s also a plus if you leave that roster spot open, because you never can tell what might come down the pike. So it’s a pretty good position to be in because you can be pretty selective about what you want to do.

On Michael Curry

KL: I know the bullets haven’t really started flying for him yet, but he has been a head coach for a few months and you’ve had the chance over the course of the summer to see him assemble a staff and work with them and coach in the Summer League. What have your impressions so far been of him?

JD: He has a presence. He has a presence on the floor. First and foremost, you’ve got to walk out there and have a presence with your team. If you have a presence with your team, then you can walk out there and get their attention. If you have their attention, then you can get them to do what you want at all times. That’s what I’ve seen, that’s what I’ve expected and that’s what I will continue to expect from him as the coach. That he will have a presence, that he will have a voice and guys will respect that he’s not going to waver on basic things that we believe in – accountability, toughness, play to win, sacrifice, all those things that are clichés that everybody uses but only a few teams live by day in and day out. They understand that he’s going to live that. I’ve seen that. I know that to be him as a person and as a coach and I think you and me and everybody else will continue to see that from him.

  1. The embodiment of what makes a terrific GM in the NBA.

    In this case, Joe D. is 100% on the money.

  2. 100% on the money?

    On anything in particular or his answers generally?

  3. On the perceptions he has about his players, his head coach, and the needs of his team, in general, at this point in time.

    e.g. one of several key reasons the Pistons lost their series last year vs the Celtics was Flip’s incomprehensible decision NOT to play Aaron Afflalo at all. Is Afflalo a star player in the NBA? No, he’s not. Neither was Michael Cooper. Could Afflalo have been used more effectively by Flip, in that series last year? Most definitely. Have the Pistons actually improved their team this off-season? Yes they have … just by (i) getting rid of Flip, (ii) adding a still young (and now) affordable Big, like Kwame Brown, and (iii) holding on to their other highly coveted player assets that create mis-match nightmares for their opponents (e.g. Billups, Rip, Prince, Rasheed, McDyess, Stuckey, Maxiell, Afflalo & Johnson). Given the changes to the other rosters in the EC, the Pistons might well be the No. 1 Ranked team in the conference, right now, heading toward training camp … still flying under the radar (led by their rookie head coach).

  4. I like young Afflalo a great deal but I didn’t see him adding anything of value in that Celtics series. Why do you feel so strongly about his possible impact in that series?

  5. When the Celtics more or less abandoned their experiment with Sam Cassell, as their back-up PG … in their playoff matchups with the Hawks, the Cavs and the Pistons … that was when they found success.

    Why is this?

    As an individual basketball player … Eddie House is not a better PG than Sam Cassell.

    However, given what each of these two men bought to the table last season for the Celtics … it was actually a no-brainer when deciding which one SHOULD be in the C’s game-to-game rotation during the playoffs and which should NOT.

    The C’s played the entire year with Eddie House as their primary back-up PG … and succeeded to the tune of 66 regular season W’s … by minimizing his deficiencies (e.g. ball-handling aplomb & defense) AND maximizing his strengths (e.g. energy & perimeter catch & shoots).

    In conjunction with the other players on the C’s roster … Eddie House was an extremely good fit … even though he is in no way, shape or form configured like a conventional back-up PG, in the NBA, for a championship calibre team.

    The fact is … Eddie House’s skill set fit in perfectly with last year’s group of Celtics … and, Sam Cassell did not, as a live player on the floor!

    Where Sam excelled was as a player-coach, on the bench, who could tell the less-experienced members of their that THEY WERE IN FACT GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP LAST SEASON cause he knows first-hand exactly what a championship team looks, breathes and smells like … which is precisely what he did during a team huddle in the 2nd half of Game 4.

    What does this comparison have to do with Aaron Afflalo?

    The Pistons played almost the entire 2007-2008 regular season using a rotation of:

    Billups, Hamilton, Prince, McDyess, Wallace, Stuckey, Afflalo, Hayes, Johnson & Maxiell

    until they reached the play-offs …

    when Flip Saunders inexplicably decided to (i) shorten his rotation, overall, and (ii) (re-)introduce two vets into the mix with the 2nd unit, in place of his younger chargers who had served their team well all season long.

    Flip’s decision to go primarily with …

    Stuckey, Hunter (returning from injury) & Ratliff (late season acquisition) … in place of Afflalo, Hayes, Johnson & Maxiell off the bench … disrupted the chemistry of their team and under-mined their ability to DEFEND and REBOUND with the type of ‘youthful’ exuberance and athleticism they displayed throughout the regular season … and, which was FUNDAMENTALLY required for a team to beat the Celtics last year.

    You don’t win a NBA championship by playing one way during the regular season and another way in the playoffs.

    Joe Dumars knows this … based on his experience as a member of the Bad Boys.

    Flip Saunders does not.

    Would the Pistons have won the title last year if their coach had shown more confidence in the youngish players who had served their team well throughout the regular season?

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    One thing is certain, however.

    The 2008-2009 Detroit Pistons would have a much better chance of winning the title this coming season if he had.

    This, too, is what Joe Dumars knows … based on his experience with the Bad Boys, who failed on more than one occasion in their efforts to get by larry Bird’s Celtics before finally breaking through to win it all with the kind of deep and talented roster it takes to actually win the NBA championship.

    At their size and with their combination of skills (e.g. Defense & Rebounding) … last year’s Pistons would have benefitted tremendously by playing Stuckey AND Afflalo, Hayes, Johnson & Maxiell against the Celtics’ principal bench players (e.g. PJ Brown, James Posey, Leon Powe & Eddie House) who contributed to Boston’s victory.

  6. I don’t think the comparison works Khandor. Eddie House was the better basketball player for the Celtics. Afflalo and Amir were not for the Pistons. Two different situations.

  7. Were not in the regular season?

    Or, were not in the 2008 NBA Playoffs?

  8. And … please keep in mind that Joe Dumars … a man who should know the differences/similarities … just compared Aaron Afflalo to Michael Cooper!

  9. Michael … frigging … Cooper!!!

  10. I was talking about the playoffs – so not in the playoffs

  11. Aaron Afflalo and Amir Johnson were not the better basketball players in the 2008 NBA Playoffs, in comparison to Eddie House … as a direct result of how they were (not) used by Flip Saunders.


    Flip Saunders is a solid NBA coach in most respects but he has two glaring weaknesses.

    1. He chokes up at key times in big games … and ‘hesitates at the switch’ … when it comes to making instantaneous decisions that are critical to his team’s success or failure, e.g. when to make what sub; when & how to alter his team’s points of emphasis.

    2. His constant skittishness … and inability to present himself to his team as a rock-solid LEADER … rather than a deer-caught-in-the-headlights.


    From what I’ve seen and read and heard, thus far, Michael Curry does not have either of these problems.

    Michael Curry has the goods to become a top notch coach in the NBA.

  12. Khandor,

    What are your complaints about how Afflalo and Amir Johnson were used by Flip Saunders?

    How did you want the coaching staff to use/treat them?

  13. If you look at their box scores from last season …

    you can see a big difference between the PT afforded to the Pistons four key bench players … i.e. Maxiell, Afflalo, Johnson & Hayes … during the latter part of the regular season – where they were one of the best teams in the League – and their three playoff series vs Philadelphia, Orlando and Boston.

    Serviceable youngster like Afflalo & Johnson went from getting 10-20+ per game to DNP’s.

    Flip Saunders felt the Playoff HEAT … as he always does … and wilted, again … by mutating his rotation and taking his own team out of its comfort zone.

    Against teams that emphasize REBOUNDING & DEFENSE … like the 76ers, Magic & Celtics … Flip needed to trust his youngsters and maintain steady minutes … not just for the ‘Real Deal’ & Maxiell (whose PT he cut significantly in favour of Theo Ratliff) … but Afflalo (whose minutes were replaced by Hunter), Johnson & Hayes, as well.


    Your perception of the Pistons as Play-off under-achievers is ROOTED in the less-than-stellar work of their head coach, once the spotlight hits, since the departure of Larry Brown.

  14. Khandor,

    So your only complaint about how Flip Saunders used Afflalo and Amir Johnson are minutes related?

    I interpreted your the first section of your previous comment as “they (Amir+Afflalo) were not better players because of how Flip used them prior to the playoffs”. Is that what you meant or did you mean something else?

  15. No, what my previous comment meant was this:

    Did you mean that …

    i) When comparing Eddie House with Afflalo & Johnson during the regular season, Eddie House was the better basketball player;


    ii) When comparing Eddie House with Afflalo & Johnson during the Playoffs, Eddie House was the better player.

    Reason being that:

    (A) If what you meant was (ii) then I would AGREE with you … because Afflalo & Johnson didn’t even get on the court in some of the Pistons’ post-season games … much to the detriment of their team’s performance;


    (B) If what you meant was (i) then I would DISAGREE with you … because Eddie House and Afflalo & Johnson were all good players during the regular season and key contributors to their respective team’s success.

    A major difference between Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders this past post-season was that Doc eventually wisened up and returned to a modified version of his regular season rotation … when push came to shove vs Atlanta, Cleveland and the Lakers … while Flip remained in dark (re: his mutated rotation) throughout the Pistons’ stay during the post-season.

    Doc Rivers is a better coach than Flip Saunders.

  16. Khandor,

    Okay I’m a little lost at this stage. I don’t understand what you’re trying to say about Afflalo or Amir Johnson at all.

    Were they the players that rightfully should have been on the court in the playoffs? Why?

    Why were they a better option than what Flip Saunders did?

    Why would they have given the Pistons a better chance at beating Boston?

    I said they were not the best option for the Detroit in the playoffs and correctly shouldn’t have played. I think they only make the Pistons worse off in the Boston series.

  17. IMO … Detroit’s best rotation versus Boston would have been something like this:

    Billups — Rondo
    Rip — Allen-R
    Prince — Pierce
    McDyess — Garnett
    Wallace — Perkins
    Stuckey — House
    Afflalo — Posey
    Johnson — Powe
    Maxiell — Brown-PJ
    Hunter — Cassell
    Hayes — Allen-T
    Herrman — Pollard

    Depending on how Flip would do vs Doc … the Pistons could actually win a 7-game series vs the Celtics … if they would play to those individual match-ups.

  18. Khandor,

    Okay so you think:

    (1) Afflalo and Amir were the better players
    (2) They made Detroit a better team
    (3) Detroit would have had a better chance to beat Boston if they had played.

    Why do you think this? What do Afflalo and Johnson add that is so much more important to Detroit?

    The Boston series being the focus of the question.

  19. Afflalo (6-5, 215) & Johnson (6-9, 210) & Hayes (6-8, 228) are solid, physical rotation players who would have allowed the Pistons, as a group, to match-up better with the Celtics … in terms of size, height, weight, strength, explosive quickness and skill level … and (in general) to Rebound & Defend at a superior level.

    If you compare these two line-ups:

    (i) Billups, Rip, Prince, McDyess, Sheed, Hunter, Stuckey & Maxiell; and,

    (ii) Billups, Rip, Prince, McDyess, Sheed, Afflalo, Stuckey, Hayes, Johnson & Maxiell … with Hunter seeing spot duty vs Cassell only;

    there’s just no contest in terms of which one is better overall at team defense & rebounding and applying ‘physical strength/pressure’ to a team like Boston.

    There were games I saw during the 2007-2008 regular season in which the best 5-man combination the Pistons had that night, when matched up against a certain opponent, was a group that included Stuckey, Afflalo, Hayes, Johnson & Maxiell … either playing together or in combo with 1 or 2 of their
    Big 5.

    This was also the case when Detroit was down in a game and needed to get back into it with a surge of energy from its bench.

    Instead of mixing and matching … like he did during the regular season … Flip choked up again under the bright lights of the playoffs and tightened his rotation to the point that the Pistons LOST their versatility AND their physical superiority over the other quality teams in the NBA … which were trademarks of their team’s success last season.

    Joe Dumars did the correct thing this summer, replacing Flip Saunders and sticking with the rest of his team.

  20. Khandor,

    Jeez Khandor how many guys you playing? You’re going 11 deep in the Conference Finals? Wow (joking)


    Jarvis Hayes is a problem for Detroit. Forget his size, he can barely defend his own shadow out there on the court. He’s been a defensive liability his entire career and was so in Detroit, that’s why he got dropped once the playoffs started.

    This is a bad matchup for Amir Johnson. He can’t compete with KG or Perkins. He doesn’t have the skills for KG nor the size for Perk. Amir would also struggle hugely with Leon Powe’s direct physical game. He might have been able to do something with PJ Brown but I doubt it.

    Perkins was killing the Pistons in the paint all series, Amir was no answer, Theo was the best answer off the bench that they had.


    Arron Afflalo is a difficult one. I love Afflalo, very nice player and an excellent draft pick. There’s two big problems with Afflalo right now and that’s his versatility defensively and his jump shot.

    As a defender he’s primarily a stopper, let him hone in on someone and he’ll do a great job. His help D isn’t as good (solid not special). He also relies heavily on his strength to beat up on opposing shooting guards. Throughout the regular season Flip was hesitant to let Afflalo defend big small forwards and frankly I can’t see doing anything with Paul Pierce. Pierce is built like an ox and has an excellent low post and mid post arsenal. He’d destroy Afflalo.

    Defensively, Afflalo could have done a terrific job on Ray Allen. Not Pierce. Since Posey is a stand still jump shooter who shot what 34% from the field and 31% from three, for 5ppg. The value of Afflalo on Posey is very limited and largely wasted.

    Then comes his lack of a jump shot. He shot only eFG% 39% on jumpers last season. He was inconsistent and it was a problem. Stuckey’s jump shot was also a problem with Rodney hitting only 34% of his jumpers. Boston’s defense lives for perimeter players who can’t make jump shots, give them one and they’ll load up off that player onto the oppositions best scorers. Give them two players who can’t hit a jumper and you’re offense is dead in the water.

    One of the reasons Jarvis Hayes was so valuable to Detroit during the regular season was because he was able to balance this huge flaw from the backup backcourt. Also why guys like Billups were used regularly with Stuckey, or Tayshaun or Rip.

    Afflalo or Stuckey? Play both and you’re sunk. Of course you keep Stuckey.


    Okay I’m running into interlinking points of thought now … hmmm … I’ll make a second comment (need a third really to explain it well) with some thoughts on Flip’s playoff rotations which coincide with several items here


    Lindsey Hunter was huge for Detroit in the playoffs. He was excellent, he wreaked havoc defensively …….

    Hunter also worried the life out of Doc Rivers … to the point where Doc dropped the superior Eddie House despite his recent heroics. Just getting Eddie out of the series was a huge benefit to the Pistons. It left them without a man who was consistently the 7th best player on their roster.

    Hunter’s defense completely disrupted Boston’s offense. He created turnovers, he brought energy, he was excellent. Nobody pressured Boston’s guards better than Hunter did last season. Hunter’s was one of the biggest game changing defenders Boston faced all year. He was excellent.

    Hunter barely played against Phily or against Orlando, not until Chauncey went down – only 3 of the first 9 games and only 5 minutes per in those games. Then he took over the point and played good minutes (20mpg) in two games and played very well. The intention was always to unleash Hunter on Boston and Eddie House, especially after the amazing show Hunter put on in the regular season matchup. This only solidified his place.

    Hunter also added two important weapons offensively to help balance out the Pistons second unit – another ball handler and a shooter. Hunter hit like 55% from three during the playoffs and was a constant threat. Light and day from Afflalo and Stuckey. Having a second ball handler is also a very useful skill set against the Celtics defense. Once again, if the opposition has only penetrator the C’s defense will load up on him and deny him space to take the offense out of rhythm.


    I thought Boston was a horrific, not bad but horrific, matchup for Arron Afflalo. I also thought Hunter would be brilliant against Boston and was brilliant against Boston. I absolutely think it was the right decision to play Hunter in that series and in doing so ….

    That helped shove Afflalo out of the rotation for a couple of reasons

    (1) Stuckey was manning the two and playing 23mpg
    (2) Paul Pierce was dynamite and a bad matchup, also playing 43mpg
    (3) Tayshaun Prince was playing 40mpg as a result
    (4) Hunter had the remaining 10 minutes a game

    Flip could have played Afflalo a little bit in the series …. I wouldn’t have played him at all …. judgement call on that one. I liked how he used him on a few dead balls at the end of quarters to defend Ray. That was smart.


    Back to the bigs.

    Antonio McDyess was great against Boston and Flip rightfully increased his minutes. Detroit badly needed his scoring and shooting, especially with Rasheed regularly going missing. McDyess was also their best rebounder by a big margin in the series and their second best interior defender. He did the best job on KG and the best job on Perk. He also showed on screens which helped slow Ray and Paul down, which Rasheed flatly refused to do. Rasheed’s help defense was excellent but they were closer than normal because of uneven defensive performances from Sheed.

    Maxiell was very inconsistent and looked burnt out at times after defending Dwight in the previous series, the inconsistent play and McDyess’ quality play left him with decreased minutes.

    The Kendrick Perkins problem drove the Pistons towards a bigger body, and Theo had that and had used his body to great effect on Dwight Howard in the previous series. The also needed his interior defense, shot-blocking and overall help defense. Plus his defensive rebounding.


    The worst thing here about the difficulties with the Pistons rotation …. entirely predicable back in December … for several reasons. That would be my third comment but I might not write that one.

  21. Q1. Where did I have Johnson checking Garnett or Perkins?

    A1. I didn’t.

    Amir checks Mr. Powe or Mr. Brown (or Pollard or Scalabrine) … with Rasheed AND Jason Maxiell checking Kendrick Perkins.


    Q2. Where did I have Afflalo checking Pierce?

    A2. I didn’t.

    Arron checks Posey or Allen-R or House or Rondo or Allen-T.

    Tayshaun Prince checks PP on defense.


    Hunter was not huge against Boston.

    Hunter made 1 or 2 very good plays on 1 or 2 memorable sequences … especially where he stole the ball outright or forced a turnover.

    However, if you go possession by possession you will notice that there were any number of opportunities where a different match-up size, strength & skill wise would have generated a different shot attempt by either team or produced a Rebound for the Pistons with a different player on the floor than Lindsey Hunter for Detroit.

    The fact is … Lindsey Hunter gives up more on behalf of the Pistons (offensively, defensively & in rebounding) at this point in his career than Arron Afflalo.

    Anyone who thinks that Jarvis Hayes is an atrocious defensive player … simply does not have enough experience to know how a player with the attributes that Hayes has needs to be used in order to generate a positive result for his own team. It’s a mistake in basketball judgment to make such an assessment about Jarvis Hayes.

    Theo Ratliff’s inability to play away from the basket (on O & D) is a major liability against a team like the Celtics.

    What hurts the Celtics a lot more is a player like Josh Smith (Amir Johnson?) … who can step away from the hoop and still score either off the bounce or with an occasional J, and who covers a lot of ground on the defensive side of the ball.


    I’m not going to take the time go through each and every possiblity to show you the errors in your thinking but I will say this much …

    when you use certain players in a defensive role … what it also does is allow your team to place an increased emphasis on certain other players offensively for your team who might otherwise not get as many opportunities to score the ball if it uses an equal opportunity offense with a Big 5, all of whom can score the ball in their own right, in unique ways.

    In general, last season, when the Pistons played a lot of players, used their depth (on O & D) and FOCUSED on REBOUNDING & DEFENDING vs Boston … Detroit was the better team, despite having an inferior head coach on the sidelines.

    In contrast, when the Pistons used fewer players than the Celtics and played without an emphasis on REBOUNDING & DEFENSE … the Celtics were the better team.

    As young, relatively strong & quick athletes at the positions they play … men like Afflalo, Hayes and Johnson … in concert with Stuckey & Maxiell gave the Pistons a significant advantage in these two specific areas of the game that they simply gave up by not using them.

  22. and … that is one of the key reasons Joe Dumars fired Flip Saunders. 🙂

  23. Flip Saunders wasn’t my interest here so I’m largely bypassing that part but obviously there has to be some words on the rotation for more background on Afflalo/Amir and the bench overall.

    It’s worth saying this second comment doesn’t have a conclusion or overwhelming point … just thoughts around the subject. As I said, Flip wasn’t my interest here.


    On Flip switching his rotations …

    Firstly, there’s no chemistry issue here. It’s totally about talent which is unlike Boston, although both talent and chemistry pointed in the same direction there. Detroit did not display an abnormal lack of fluidity/cohesion to their play … that just didn’t happen.

    Secondly the bench wasn’t as different as many claim.

    Afflalo actually played close to his regular minutes over the first two series. He played about 9 minutes per game and appeared in 9 of the 10 games. In two of the 9 games he did play in did he not receive a decent run out (minutes wise).

    He did very little with his minutes. Overall he played 9.9mpg versus the 11.8mpg he played off the bench in the regular season. He was useful when he had a scorer to shut down but didn’t do a lot else when he didn’t have that.

    Like I said above, I thought Boston was a horrific matchup for Afflalo and the Pistons young second unit. I thought his minutes should have disappeared in that series.

    Lindsey Hunter is also completely different from Sam Cassell. Sam Cassell was with Boston for 20+ days before he even got his first practice in, after being a late season arrival …. by the time the playoffs rolled around he still didn’t know several of their plays and he hadn’t built up any understanding of how to play next to his teammates. Hunter on the other hand had been with the Pistons for the past 5 years and for the entirety of Flip Saunder’s regime. Very different from that standpoint.

    You could also look at Theo Ratliff. He was playing 14 minutes a night coming into the playoffs after arriving in Detroit. He kept his role because the team needed his interior defense, size, defensive rebounding. He played 11 minutes a game in the playoffs. It’s not that different.

    Stuckey and Maxiell were the 6th and 7th men. They played 23 and 22 minutes respectively over the course of the playoffs. Slightly higher than normal.

    I mentioned Hunter in my previous comment, stating that he barely played until Chauncey went down and until the Boston series came about.

    So now we’re past Stuckey, Maxiell, Afflalo, Theo, Hunter … and there isn’t a large difference in anything so far … outside of Afflalo being dumped for that one series which didn’t suit his talents.


    Which brings us to the parts that did change – Jarvis Hayes and to some degree Amir Johnson although his role changed less than people believe.

    Hayes was a very important part of Detroit’s bench during the regular season. It was an odd sight seeing him dumped in the opening round. I presume it was his poor defense that landed him outside of the rotation.


    The second change flows around young Amir Johnson.

    Firstly the playoff picture for Amir, he only played more than 3 minutes three times, only more than 6 minutes twice. Overall he played 8 games but hardly enough time to make a substantial impact.

    Over the first three months of the season Amir Johnson hardly played. He made onto the court in only 28 times out of 46, playing only 9 minutes per game when called upon. If I’m recalling correct I think he missed some time in training camp which held him back.

    From there he emerged (Nazr trade helped) in February and had a couple of spectacular performances littered around some so-so performances. He played 15 minutes a night and showed a great deal of promise.

    Then came the transfer deadline, Brezec was dealt which created a larger opportunity for Amir … but then Theo Ratliff was also signed. At the time I thought Detroit were the biggest winner out of the trading deadline teams, out of the contenders, because it solidified Amir Johnson’s role. However, it didn’t serve that purpose.

    Amir’s play declined a bit the next month, he grew more inconsistent and his minutes started to decline especially in the middle of the month. At the time to my surprise Theo Ratliff emerged healthy and in playing well, and was the type of backup big man that the club sorely needed. That shot-blocking interior presence that I hoped Amir could provide was being provided and to a higher level by Theo Ratliff.

    As the season drew to a close the Pistons began to rest their starters. Heck in April Rodney Stuckey led the team in minutes at 27mpg. The starters were generally playing low 20’s which opened up huge minutes for the bench and an opportunity to shine. Amir’s performances picked back up with the increased minutes (20mpg), but Theo was still playing at a high level consistently and was also playing double digit minutes.

    Hmm … I’ve veered off a bit here. Overall it was a very odd season for Amir Johnson. He showed some potential, much like he did in the NDBL, but he also showed he was inconsistent and not ready to perform at a high level.

    Amir Johnson never had a secure place within the team. Also, over the final third of the season, three backup big men were playing double digit minutes. Theo didn’t get minutes he didn’t have already. It was always a toss up between the two.


    Early on in the season Flip Saunders didn’t let his young second unit play together, and didn’t through the middle of the season, and only allowed them more time together at the end of the year. This wasn’t a unit that had spent the year leading Detroit to 59 wins.

    Over the first 55-60 games of the season Flip Saunders always kept a starter out there to marshal the youngsters and keep them in order. He settled on Rasheed Wallace as the best guardian angel for a couple of reasons

    – Rasheed is great with young players, always has been
    – He provided a big guy who could defend opposing centers. Interior defense
    – Defensive rebounding. There was a rebounding imbalance at the club between the vets and youngsters, the youngsters didn’t look after the defensive glass well enough.
    – His jump shot helped space the floor
    – Rasheed was happy to take a back seat and allow the younger players to do their thing.

    Quite a few Pistons had turns in this role but Rasheed was the best at it and earnt it before the midway point of the season. The two others that spent the most time in the second unit were Rip and McDyess.

    As for the bench, Afflalo and Maxiell spent the most time next to the starters, that created the lineups. Then when Stuckey got back healthy he spent a lot of time with the starters, he’d missed training camp and Flip was helping to integrate him by keeping him next to two-three starters whenever he could.

    So the bench lineup of Stuckey-Afflalo-Amir-Hayes-Maxiell was rarely used together.

    The bench had several flaws and to work around them Flip had to mix starters and bench players together … a lot. This isn’t ideal for a club that depends on his 5 man starting unit for large minutes together because of their excellent interplay, and it was always going to become an issue.

  24. Khandor,

    Just to focus on the end of your comment for a moment

    Firstly I fully agree that Detroit were better when they played their bench good minutes. Their starters were more productive per minute than in the past, and it allowed the club to play at a higher intensity level.

    Secondly I disagree on your reasons why that was so. The focus on the bench is offensive orientated, they provide a different type of offense than the starting unit and they badly needed that (a major failing of Flip Saunders).


    Now to meander in and around a bunch of other stuff.

    Amir Johnson isn’t a weapon away from the rim. He took only 26 shots outside of the paint all season, hitting only 5. Amir is not a threat to drive either, he doesn’t have the confidence and hardly ever attempts to do so. He doesn’t pose a threat out there anymore than Theo does.

    Defensively he does have an advantage away from the rim, and that’s important for their screen and roll defense and could have been very useful there, but nowhere else considering the C’s big man personnel (interior orientated).


    The Afflalo on Pierce comment, and to a lesser degree and for similar but different reasons the Amir on whoever comments, by myself, where made not from your point but from mine. I never said you thought they should be on them.

    I said Lindsey Hunter was more valuable and absolutely believe him to be …. and just about everyone I know would agree, especially knowledgeable Celtics fans who he freaked out very well ……. and that he should be on the court since I think he’s the superior player ….. which changed the matchups for Afflalo. Which brings us to Pierce, because Afflalo will have to take some minutes at small forward.

    Also I think it’s a fallacy to say it was just the odd possession or steal. He completely stalled their offense, took it out of rhythm and made them run it from an uncomfortable point ….. and his presence on the court kept House off of it, which stopped Eddie repeating what he did against Cleveland, and the huge impact he has opening up the court with his perimeter shooting.

    As for Amir, I don’t think he can defend Glen Davis or Leon Powe. Not the type of players he does well with. Both guys are too strong, too physical and too direct for him. Best matchup for him would be PJ Brown but I still think PJ outplays him … but he was a solid option against PJ.

    The reason why KG and Perk are important is because Theo spent a good chunk of his time came defending one of those two. Not all but a good chunk. Put Amir on the floor and the lineups change, which means more pressure on Wallace/McDyess to defend those two.

  25. Dave,

    Three very quick points.

    1. ‘Averages’ per se mean almost nothing to me.

    What matters to me is what a player actually does when he gets a chance to play in a specific game against a specific player and how his team plays with him on the court against a specific set of opponent players … and I’m not talking about +/-.

    2. re: your very last sentence

    ‘IT’ was only going to become an ‘issue’ if Flip Saunders deviated in the post-season from the manner in which he deployed his players when his team was playing at its best during the regular season.

    No one else made this decision other than Flip Saunders.

    3. Those who think the Pistons were not displaying ‘chemistry’ problems during their series vs Boston … are mistaken.

    When they Pistons lost those games to the Celtics they played like they did during previous seasons when they were eliminated in the post-season NOT like the way they played last season when their team was clicking on all cylinders.

    Billups, Rip, McDyess & Wallace are NOT the same players they were during their championship season with Larry Brown … for a host a reasons (i.e. McDyess wasn’t even there) … and what their team needed vs Boston was to share the load amongst their best 10 players.

    Unless we were to sit side-by-each during a replay of the games in question it will impossible for me to show you exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the Pistons would have have been better off not using Hunter vs Boston and giving additional minutes to Stuckey, Afflalo, Hayes, Johnson and Maxiell … in combination with one another and Billups, Rip, Prince, McDyess & Wallace.

    Flip’s decision to change his rotation AND the injury to Billups during the Orlando series is what cost the Pistons dearly in their series against the Celtics.

    That said … Would they have been good enough to beat the Celtics if Flip had done a better job?

    Who knows.

    All I can tell you with assurance is that there was very little difference between the quality of those two teams last season when each was healthy and playing at their very best.

  26. Khandor,

    Just some housekeeping …

    (1) I’d play Theo ahead of Amir Johnson in that series. Amir could have contributed a good amount and would have been solid choice. It’s a judgement call in my book. I’d rather go with Theo, I wouldn’t kill the coach for going either way with the decision.

    (2) I don’t think that’s true for Afflalo and Hunter. I think Hunter was the clear cut choice and rightfully had the role. I think it’s a big margin too.

    (3) The “It” being an issue only if Flip Saunders choose it to be? I’m not convinced of that. I don’t think there was a clear cut answer to avoid that and it’s because primarily Detroit are so reliant on their starting five …. also secondarily their youth aren’t developed as far along as one would like and that also causes problems.

    I actually blame Jason Maxiell for most of the problems, he was the key to avoiding this situation but his defensive rebounding and consistency weren’t good enough to become a starter. Keeping McDyess on the bench could have kept enough glue to hold that second unit together.

    (4) You know roughly what I think about Detroit, that they’re a “faux contender”, a regular season titan and have several vulnerabilities which will get exposed come playoff time like they have in recent years. Obviously if I think this I don’t believe a better head coach would have made the difference.

    I think too many people are focusing on Flip Saunders’ flaws and not enough on the Pistons flaws. They have serious problems there and they’re personnel related.

    Coaching is a problem of less importance in this situation, that’s why it doesn’t interest me that much.


    (5) I started my blogroll and added your site to it. I was looking over my links and probably have close to 200 different sites on there so I’m not going to be putting them all up. I’m afraid my blogroll will be relatively short and grow gradually over a long period of time.

  27. re: (3) The “It” being an issue only if Flip Saunders choose it to be? I’m not convinced of that. I don’t think there was a clear cut answer to avoid that and it’s because primarily Detroit are so reliant on their starting five …. also secondarily their youth aren’t developed as far along as one would like and that also causes problems.

    It’s a classic chicken & egg situation.

    Detroit WAS NOT reliant on their starting five … when they played at their best during the regular season.

    The only reason they BECAME so reliant on their starting five in the playoffs was because of Flip Saunders’ rotation.

    Obviously … you believe Flip is a solid coach who based his decisions on they way certain players performed when they did get a chance to play in the playoffs.

    I, on the other hand, do not believe this for a second … when it comes to Flip Saunders and the ability of this Piston team to succeed in the post-season.

    Flip makes decisions outside of the context of the game and does not react correctly … with the resources he has at-hand … when the bright lights are on.

    This is what he did in Minnesota … and this is what he did in Detroit.


    Coaching decisions are an absolutely huge factor at each and every level of competition.


    If Detroit had used:

    Billups — Rondo
    Rip — Allen-R
    Stuckey — House
    Hunter — Cassell
    Afflalo (and Hayes) — Posey
    Prince (and Hayes) — Pierce
    Maxiell (and McDyess) — Perkins
    Wallace (and McDyess) — Garnett
    Johnson — Brown-PJ
    Ratliff — Powe

    which of the individual match-ups do you have the Celtics winning?

  28. Khandor,

    You’re misunderstanding what I mean by reliant on the starting five … they’re reliant on the unity of the group. I wasn’t clear enough.

    Of that group being together and playing as a 5 man unit. Rather than being split up into different lineups and spending minutes alongside bench players. Those five guys have such an excellent understanding of how to play with one another, and are by far their best lineup and most important lineup, they complement each other brilliantly … it’s important to have that lineup on the floor together as much as possible.

    It’s important for those five players to be together as much as possible because they’re a better unit than as individuals because of how smoothly they fit alongside one another. Each of them are good players but they’re best together.


    I don’t think Flip Saunders is a championship caliber coach. I don’t think he should be in charge of a contender. For a middle of the road or developing team I think he’d do a good job.

    Just because I think that of him doesn’t mean I’m going to blame him for things which I don’t believe are his fault.

  29. I think you are under-estimating the individual worth/ability of the Pistons starting five.

    Just because Billups, Rip, Prince, McDyess and Wallace happen to play well together, as a unit, DOES NOT mean that they are not equally capable of playing highly effective basketball when mixed and matched with other solid players like Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo, Jarvis Hayes, Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell and (even) Theo Ratliff.


    As I said before … which individual match-ups do you see the Celtics actually winning, if the Pistons had deployed their best players in the manner I suggested in my previous comment?

  30. The Pistons starting five are all talented individual players and could play roles at a very high level in other lineups …. but they are best together.

    Their best chance at a title is being able to put their best lineup on the floor as often as possible. Especially if their minutes are lowered like they were in the regular season. Same for Cleveland.


    The Celtics starting five is very similar …. they’re a much better team the more their starting five is on the floor. The more that lineup plays the better Boston’s chances are of winning.

    In one regard though the Celtics were slightly different because of Posey and because of the small ball lineups they used …. when facing certain opponents that lineup was superior or at least on a par with their starting five. Most of the time it wasn’t but some of the time it was.

    Not all teams are like that. San Antonio have several different lineups for several different occasions with a lot of changing parts.


    Matchups up above? Hmmm ….

    Those matchups specifically? Okay.

    -Pierce severely outplays Prince
    -KG severely outplays Rasheed
    -Perkins outplays McDyess/Maxiell
    -Rip and Ray largely cancel one another out. Slight advantage Rip but it’s very small.
    -Rondo negates most of Billups’ impact, advantage Billups but it’s small.
    – Stuckey outplays House by a good margin
    – Hunter outplays Cassell
    – Posey outplays Detroit’s wings by a huge margin
    – PJ outperforms Amir
    – Powe outperforms Theo Ratliff

  31. re: individual match-ups

    You have Pierce OVER Prince (and Hayes).
    I have that match-up EVEN … if you add-in Hayes.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up.

    You have Perkins OVER McDyess (and Maxiell).
    I have that match-up EVEN … if you use Maxiell and THEN McDyess.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up.

    You have Posey OVER Detroit’s ‘wings’.
    I have that match-up EVEN … if you sue Afflalo and then Hayes.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up.

    You have Powe OVER Ratliff.
    I have that match-up EVEN.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up.

    You have Billups SLIGHTLY OVER Rondo.
    I have Billups OVER Rondo by a WIDE MARGIN.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to EXPLOIT this match-up!

    You have Garnett OVER Wallace (and McDyess) by a WIDE MARGIN.
    I have Garnett OVER Wallace and THEN McDyess only by a NARROW MARGIN.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up.

    You have Rip SLIGHTLY OVER Allen-R.
    I have Rip OVER Allen-R by a WIDE MARGIN.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to EXPLOIT this match-up!

    You have Brown-PJ OVER Johnson.
    I have Brown-PJ SLIGHTLY OVER Johnson.

    You have Stuckey OVER House by a WIDE MARGIN.
    I have Stuckey OVER House by a WIDE MARGIN.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up!

    You have Hunter OVER Cassell.
    I have Hunter OVER Cassell.
    TOO BAD Flip chose not to use this match-up!


    Your comparison to Boston is apt … but NOT for the reason you think.

    The Celtics DO NOT WIN the championship last season WITHOUT the contributions of Eddie House, James Posey, PJ Brown and Leon Powe … IN ADDITION to AND in combination with their Starting 5 (and their Big 3).

    It was HOW Doc chose to use his players in combination with one another … in the regular season AND then in the playoff games THEY ACTUALLY WON last season that made the KEY DIFFERENCE for the Celtics … as an outgrowth of their TEAM PHILOSOPHY which was rooted in the concept of ABUNTO.

    Eventually … Doc made the correct adjustments … which actually worked against his opponents … while his counterparts DID NOT.

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