As the Cavaliers-Pistons series moves at a snail's pace towards tonight's Game 3 in Detroit, I took the opportunity to site down with Brian Packey, head blogger over at Motown String Music, SBNation's Detroit Pistons blog. Here is what Brian had to say about the series, Chauncey Billups and the fall of Detroit --
FTS -- What were the thoughts of Pistons' fans on the Chauncey Billups trade, when it happened and now?
MSM -- I think there were mixed feelings. The fans that loved Chauncey and had gotten accustomed to the Pistons being among the elite teams in the league were outraged. Chauncey was our leader, our glue and there's no denying that. However, the fans who were upset about the team having been to six straight Eastern Conference Finals and only one championship to show for it were crying for a change. This may not have been the one they were crying for, but along with money playing an intricate part in the trade these fans were elated by the trade and calling Joe Dumars a genius. After all, Joe promised change, brought in a future Hall of Famer in exchange for Billups so it wasn't like they were giving him away at the time of the trade, and they freed up some cap space for the upcoming off-season(s).
After all that has happened this season, I don't think there's many fans left on that latter wagon. I, for one, would love to use a take back.
Did Joe Dumars make a mistake with the Michael Curry hiring?
MSM -- Honestly, it's too early to tell. I think it's easy to fault him because of how poorly this team has played this season, but he doesn't take the rock on gameday. Sure, saying he hasn't been the best coach in the league would be putting it very nicely, but it is just his first season; and let's not dismiss the fact he had to deal with a trade that took away the heart and soul of this team at the beginning of the season. They were left with a ton of talent, but the aforementions are extenuating circumstances. I'm also a firm believer in the one-year cushion (barring something completely out of the ordinary). Pistons had three chances to get where they wanted to be with Flip and failed. Joe was calling for a roster shake-up and I don't think this is the reason he was fired, but it also probably wouldn't be fair to force Flip to go from ECF team's coach to a rebuilding one. Curry was in the wings because he was Joe's guy and it was only a matter of time before he was the new head coach.
What is the biggest disappointment after the 1st two games?
MSM -- Aside from the lack of passion--which I beat into the ground later--I have to say Tayshaun Prince. I alluded to this in the Game One recap, too. Tayshaun has been non-existent this series, just as he was in 2007 when the Pistons lost to the Cavs. People try to let him off the hook because he's playing through an injury, but I'm not buying that excuse. If you're going to fight through an injury you better damn well be ready to contribute, otherwise you're hurting the team not helping it. Six points in two games is not exactly what you're looking for from your starting small forward.
Do you think the Pistons can draw anything from the 6 or so minutes that the reserves provided a spark in Game 2?
MSM -- What else is there to draw anything from in this series? If I was Michael Curry, I would be putting those six minutes in bold and replaying it over and over in the minds of the players at practice. Not because they actually succeeded in making a run on the Cavs, but because the bench players showed the starters up big time. Whether Lebron, Williams, and Varejao were on the floor or not, that Pistons group of reserves played with more heart, passion, and determination than the starters have shown all series. I would spin it to make it light a fire under their asses, but we'll see how it goes in Game 3.
The Cavaliers have now won 6 straight playoff games against Detroit. Is LeBron and Co. now in the heads of ‘Sheed, Rip and Tayshaun?
MSM -- The only people who care about the other four wins are number crunchers and the media. I doubt the Pistons even consider it because it was two years ago. In fact, the way they are playing, they might be thinking about their May 1st tee-time more than anything else. And this is not to take anything away from Lebron and Co., but I just think 'Sheed, Rip, and Tayshaun are, for the most part, more in their own heads than anything else. (I will say though, Lebron has a nice little condo in Tayshaun's dome-piece. He's been camping out there since 2007.)
What are your thoughts on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan resident and one-time sponsor of the Pistons?
MSM -- I didn't know much about the gentleman, outside of what you told me. Wikipedia is a beautiful thing, though. Check this out: "In March 2009 Birmingham, Michigan police announced that they were investigating a reported altercation between Gilbert and a former executive and television face of Rock Financial, David Hall.The undefeated hoosiers of the alphawolf league ( he was a coach) lost to the worst seed in the playoffs." Foreshadowing?
Name a few things the Pistons need to do, and better yet, can do, to turn this series around.
MSM -- First and foremost, play with some pride. If they follow their six P's (Prior practice prevents piss poor performance), that would help, too. I went into this series conceding that the Pistons were out matched, hence I have the Cavs winning in 7 in my overly-optimistic series prediction. That's bad when my overly-optimistic prediction still has my team losing.
Anyway, I think playing with passion and pride directly relates to how your opponent performs as a result. If you're giving them easy, uncontested shots a team like Cleveland will set the nets on fire. However, if you're running around like a mad man and putting your hand in people's faces then it will without a doubt affect your opponents' shots. In those six minutes in the fourth quarter where Detroit played that type of defense, Cleveland shot 1-7 with 4 turnovers before Lebron, Williams, and Varejao were put back in. Obviously I don't expect the Cavs to shoot like that all the time--especially with their starters in-- but that's how runs happen and if we can have more of them we have a better chance of turning things around. Sounds pretty cliche, but it's true.
It also might help for us to do a better job of cleaning up the defensive glass and I'm not talking about with a bottle of Mr. Clean.
Has some of the ‘Joe Dumars Shine' been tarnished because of some of the recent moves? (Darko, Curry, Billups)
MSM -- I think so and I don't think it's necessarily fair. The things Joe has done for this franchise (as a player and GM) have been invaluable. Yet, he makes a couple goofs, like drafting Darko and one that looks like a goof so far in trading Billups, and everyone is quick to hate on him. First of all, we won an NBA championship Darko's rookie season because of Joe's smart deadline trade for Rasheed Wallace and Carmello has not exactly been a winner, nor a saint in Denver either. (Not that I'm saying I wouldn't like him on our team). I'm saying not every GM is perfect. I'll use one of the same arguments I used to defend Michael Curry. Joe put a team on the floor that had a chance to win multiple championships (one ring, one NBA finals appearance, and four other ECF trips), but he doesn't carry the rock on game day. I agree in the end the blame goes on the guy who put it all together, but I think asking for his head because of a couple alleged mishaps is unfair, considering this is really the first "bad" season Joe Dumars has had with his own players.
What is the #1 reason the Pistons have fallen so far, so fast?
MSM -- Chauncey not runnin' the show at the point is the biggest reason for our fall this season.
My thanks to Brian for taking the time! GO CAVS!