Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pistons, Devil's Nights

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I was a child living in Southfield, MI a few decades ago, the evening of Oct 30 was a night many of us youngsters looked forward to as we loaded up on soap and eggs to have fun on Devils Night.

It was an evening that homeowners disliked because they were not looking forward to cleaning their windows after they were soaped and hit by an egg, or in other extremes broken windows had to be fixed as a result of rocks.

Myself and other friends never went past soap and eggs because these were the same people we would see with costumes the next night wanting candy for Halloween.

When I moved to Highland, MI., there was no Devils Night because this was the country and there were major distances to cause havoc. By the same token, there was no Halloween and all of my friends lived in Southfield so this wasn't fun anymore.

Devils Night doesn't figure to be fun for the Detroit Pistons this year as this franchise takes an 0-2 record to Chicago to face the Bulls (0-1).

But there is more to this situation than meets the eye.

Detroit lost it's opening game Wednesday Night to the New Jersey Nets 101-98 in Newark. What made this loss more painful was the fact that Detroit lost to a coach it could have hired in Avery Johnson when the two sides couldn't agree to contract terms a couple years ago. Johnson felt he needed some job security to get this franchise back on track and Vice President Joe Dumars couldn't close the deal to lure him to the Palace.

Now Johnson is working for Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who met Johnson's price and has deep pockets to land the coach the talent he needs to be successful as they prepare to move to Brooklyn, NY in a couple years.

Detroit hired John Kuester instead and in his first season the team finished with a 27-55 record although the team had to deal with 155 games lost to injury and was 7-4 when his squad was totally healthy.

Nevertheless, Detroit's problems go beyond last season. When Kuester was hired he became the 27th coach in franchise history. He's followed in the shadows of Hall of Famers the late Chuck Daly, Larry Brown, Doug Collins and Rick Carlisle, whom elevated this franchise to elite levels.

In addition to not hiring Johnson which in my opinion, this move will haunt the Pistons for years to come, Dumars knows he'll always regret not drafting Carmelo Anthony and taking Darko Milicic instead with the second pick of the 2003 NBA Draft.

While most franchises would be thrilled to reach their respective conference finals every year, Dumars wasn't. He dismantled the team by trading his quarterback Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson on November 3, 2008 and he would become Anthony's teammate in Colorado.

An inexperienced head coach like Michael Curry had to deal with a disgruntled guard in Iverson which proved to be a big mistake.

While Brown did make a mistake by wanting the New York Knicks job while he was employed by the Pistons, it still boggles my mind that Dumars and late Owner Bill Davidson couldn't work out their differences to co-exist. Davidson gave Brown millions of dollars to leave.

Instead, this once proud franchise is in such disarray because it's just a matter of time before Owner Karen Davidson does sell it. If Red Wings/Tigers Owner Mike Illitch does buy the franchise, will Dumars be a part of the new management team? Despite three championship rings, will the what have you done for me lately theme lead to Dumars becoming a paid season ticket holder?

Will Dumars become a season ticket holder at the Palace of Auburn Hills or a new arena in downtown Detroit?

He certainly won't be credentialed by late Vice President of Public Relations Matt Dobek.

I doubt he'll be working with Tom Wilson, who has his hands full trying to get Illitch a new stadium.

Perhaps Dumars could reunited with John Hammond who learned his lessons well and has turned the Milwaukee Bucks into a playoff team last season.

As all of these mistakes have compounded themselves, in recent years, the Pistons fans have faced more tricks than they have treats. There losses on and off the court will only lead to more empty seats at the Palace.

While I do feel bad that Kuester has inherited this mess, is he the guy that can turn around this team which has an aging Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton plus hope that Tracy McGrady can make a comeback with Arnie Kander as his strength and conditioning coach?

Time will tell whether Ben Gordon (5 year/$55 Million) and Charlie Villanueva (5 year/$35 Million) are worth their contracts. I do believe that selecting 6-11, 250 Georgetown Center Greg Monroe as the seventh pick overall in this years draft was a good move, but the problem is there haven't been many good decisions lately.

So how many more Devils Nights will there be for Pistons fans? In an economically depressed city, I'd think that taking money from customers for an unsatisfactory product is worse than soaping and throwing eggs at windows. The fans are getting eggs thrown in their face.

I can't imagine a happy fan after the Pistons lost their home opener 105-104 to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night.

These questions remain.

What will the Pistons record be with a healthy 2010-2011 roster?

Will Kuester be around to finish the rebuilding job?

What big name coach will be brought in to finish what Kuester started?

When will the team be sold?

How much patience will the new owner have with Dumars?

How small will the crowds shrink to?

What will become of the Palace of Auburn Hills?

One thing is for certain, Avery Johnson is glad that he won't have to answer these questions at any of his press conferences in New Jersey.

His team is 2-0 and last year's Nets squad became only the fifth team in NBA History to lose 70 games by finishing with a 12-70 mark. Johnson's team has only one way to go and that's up.

Will we say that about the Pistons? They can still regress at 27 wins.

Time will tell but in a matter of time, Karen Davidson won't care that she was unable to keep her late husband's legacy alive.

In the meantime while Devil's night antics have been replaced by cable, satellite television, video games and the Internet, Pistons fans can only hope their are less tricks, soap and eggs in the future and there are more Halloween evenings instead.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


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