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Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

It’s not just the coach that separates us from the Pistons

By meerna Jun18,2024
It’s not just the coach that separates us from the Pistons

The Detroit Pistons were the worst team in the NBA. They have promising young players, a top-five NBA draft pick and an exciting young rising star in Cade Cunningham. They need a new coach who will make smart decisions about rotations and have a shorter leash on young players. They must be allowed to learn and develop, with more development prospects than contributors, but there must also be potential consequences that inject a competitive spark into a team that has looked disinterested all season.

If you remember, it’s late spring 2023 and fans and analysts alike have agreed that it’s time for a Dwane Casey update.

Well, it’s the summer of 2024 and I have a feeling of de ja vu.

Monty Williams is a solid to very good NBA head coach. Let’s start with this, because Dwane Casey was there too. Williams has nearly 10 seasons of experience to prove the same. Last season in Detroit was the only one in his career in which the wheels completely came off the car. Casey also had years of experience as a solid to very good NBA head coach, including one strong year in Detroit with a healthy and dominant Blake Griffin.

Casey forced him out of control and joined a team that had hopes of competing for the playoffs, only to lead that same team through a painful rebuild. Casey’s teams were bad. Very bad. In their senior year, the Pistons finished with the worst record in the NBA.

The same very bad team decided to hire Monty Williams to replace Casey. The same very bad team decided to add an injury-prone backup point guard, an exhausted three-point specialist, and a coach who made it his mission to ensure the safety of all players under the basket while attempting a jump shot.

Can you have de ja vu from your own de ja vu?

The Pistons decided to wish on every star in the sky that Cade Cunningham could single-handedly carry a team that was too young, too injured and too low in scoring to the play-in spot. In this way, they took over the worst squad in the NBA and returned to the game almost unchanged.

None of this excuses the coaching decisions Williams made last season. He didn’t train well. Period. But he also got such a bad lineup that Mike Muscala changed the rules of the game. The same Muscala who only played six minutes per game after leaving Detroit. Therefore, I am asking for an honest answer to the question: can you name a trainer who could lead it? This squad to a win total you would consider acceptable before the season started? Name a coach who could push This team to compete for play-in. Shoot, pass a coach he could win 25 games with This list.

If Chris Quinn, a fan favorite from last year’s coaching search, wins eight consecutive matches Would anything change in this team this season? That’s 22 wins in a season in which management and owners expected the team to take a step forward. Troy Weaver is still fired and fans will be clamoring for Quinn’s job. As many do with Dwane Casey. And as many are doing now with Monty Williams.

I’m not sure Erik Spoelstra, one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, could lead this team to 30 wins. The Pistons set a record for the total number of players allowed to wear team uniforms in a season. Was it just fun?

Many of Monty Williams’ idiosyncratic coaching decisions can be convincingly explained by the “throw him at the wall and see what happens” method of problem-solving. Killian Hayes was a big defender who would have been a great fit for Cade if he could shoot the ball. Williams gave him one last chance to prove himself in a contract year. Hayes failed. Marvin Bagley played basketball as a backup center, but the team’s defense was terrible. Well, James Wiseman had a contract year and at least blocked some shots, so let’s see what he can offer. Wiseman failed.

It goes up and down the lineup.

Jaden Ivey as a sixth man until he proves he can play defense? Lost. Jalen Duren as a defensive mainstay? Lost. Cunningham playing without the ball more often? It didn’t work because there was no one in the squad worth giving the ball to. Ausar Thompson as a corner milling machine? Lost. Isaiah Stewart in the starting four? Lost. Can Chimezie Metu stick? NO. Can Isaiah Livers be the 3-D wing the team needs? NO. Joe Harris as a solution to floor spacing problems? Not happening. Let’s try to win a few games with Kevin Knox in the starting lineup. Success…actually. But only because he finally ended his record losing streak.

There was no rotation that won enough games last season to meet even the most modest expectations. And if no coach could fix this mess, what reason do we have to want Williams’ season ticket? Again, we know Williams is a solid NBA head coach. We know the players respect him and he seems to be A-grade person. Of course, none of this is unique. I mentioned that the same could be said for Casey. The same can be said for many head coaching candidates.

However, if Williams wasn’t a problem last season, which he wasn’t, the only reason to continue would be to convince Trajan Langdon that Williams didn’t fit his vision for the team’s future.

In the NBA coaching landscape, true negatives are as rare as incredible positives. Erik Spoelstra and Greg Popovich might be the only game-changing coaches in the last two decades. On the other end of the spectrum there is Jim Boylen and old friend John Kuester. Good and bad generational coaches are hired once every decade. On the spectrum between some great and some bad products, there’s a whole range from “pretty good” to “good enough.” Monty Williams lives there. That’s where Dwane Casey was. It’s a space that almost every Pistons coach since Larry Brown has occupied. Most importantly, there will likely be someone you want on the team to replace Williams.

So if you want to reshuffle the deckchairs, hope for the deckchairs to be shuffled. Just don’t forget we’re on the Titanic. The only way to restore this ship’s buoyancy is to patch the holes in the hull and repair the composition.

It’s not the coach, it’s the team. It has always been this way, with coaches being easily identified and visible scapegoats.

Fixing the team is Trajan Langdon’s job. And if he sees fit to shuffle the deck chairs, so be it. I won’t be cheering anyway. Because the coach will be re-evaluated once the squad is fit for the playoffs, regardless of what Langdon decides to do now.

Last season wasn’t Monty Williams’ fault. If Langdon agrees, there is no reason to fire Williams now. Hopefully, with better player development, selection and squad building, there will never be a reason to dismiss Williams. Give him a real squad and we will see a truly competitive team.

By meerna

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