Pistons Mailbag - Monday, December 15, 2011

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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Corey (Kansas City, Mo.): Everything out of camp sounds extremely positive and players seem genuinely excited. I have noticed, however, that there has been little mention of Rodney Stuckey. Is it simply players minding their own business on his contract status or do they really not care that he isn’t in camp? With Brandon Knight in the fold are they better off without him?

Langlois: Coaches are generally averse to talking about players absent and in the midst of contract negotiations, no matter the sport, Corey. Lawrence Frank said something the other day about never being concerned with the roster, but focusing on coaching the players available to him. Will Bynum said Wednesday that Stuckey is his good friend and he would like him to return, but even when he talks to Stuckey he steers clear of contract talk. Players understand there’s a business side to basketball and they usually separate that from their personal relationships. No, I don’t think for a second that the Pistons would be better off without Stuckey. I think no Pistons player would benefit more from the structure and discipline Frank will impose on the Pistons than Stuckey, and if Stuckey returns and is open to Frank’s methods, I believe he’ll blossom.

Ken (Ankara, Turkey): You have spent a lot of time talking about coach Frank and his leadership and the players’ adjustment to him. What are your impressions of the other coaches, how they all work together and how the team is responding to them?

Langlois: Thoroughly impressive staff, Ken. They strike me across the board as a bunch of guys without egos who’ll stay in the gym as long as any player wants to be there working on his game. Will Bynum and Brandon Knight have both commented about the personality and teaching skills of Dee Brown, who will work with point guards. Greg Monroe said he’s looking forward to working with Roy Rogers – Rogers actually put Monroe through his workout for the Nets leading to the 2010 draft – and Ben Wallace and Rogers came out of Alabama high schools in the same year. John Loyer was given high marks by several young players – Zach Randolph, Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams, most prominently – for his work with them in his previous stops. Jonas Jerebko and a few other players commented during Wednesday’s media day about how impressed they were with the whole coaching staff. If you missed it, I wrote profiles of the assistant coaches last month.

Kim (Sterling Heights, Mich.): I’m confused by the salary cap and hope you can help me understand the difference between a cap of $58 million and a tax threshold of $71 million. If the cap is $58 million but you don’t incur tax until $71 million, why not spend to $71 million?

Langlois: Many teams can and do. Some teams exceed the tax ceiling, as well, Kim. But when you go past the cap, there are limits to how you can go about acquiring other players. For instance, if your payroll is at $58 million or more, you can only sign free agents by using a cap exception (such as the mid-level or biannual). The mid-level means you can offer a player no more than $5 million in the first year of the contract, so that limits a team’s ability to acquire significant players. Teams over the cap can spend as needed to retain their own free agents, but can’t bid on other team’s free agents without use of their exceptions.

Nikola (Belgrade, Serbia): Which big man is most likely to sign with the Pistons? Is there a way we could bring DeAndre Jordan or even Carlos Boozer to Detroit. Any chance to get involved with Dwight Howard?

Langlois: Jordan is bound to the Clippers until March 1. That’s when the new CBA will allow for free agents signed under terms of this agreement to be traded. Given the hefty contract he signed by agreeing to Golden State’s offer sheet, he’ll have to perform remarkably well for teams to pursue him in trade – and with Chris Kaman now gone in the Chris Paul trade, the Clippers need him more than ever. There is a reasonable chance Chicago would listen to offers for Boozer given the emergence of Omer Asik and Taj Gibson up front to go with Joakim Noah. But with the Bulls adding Rip Hamilton to fill the most obvious need on their roster, I’m not sure what type of fit remains for the Pistons. Howard has been linked to only three teams: the Nets, Lakers and Mavs.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): It seems free agency has slowed to a crawl. Is that because everyone is waiting on Chris Paul and Dwight Howard before they make other moves? Have other teams shown interest in Stuckey yet?

Langlois: It sure seems that the Paul and Howard sagas have affected free agency, but with Paul now traded and the Magic at least cooling Howard trade talks for the moment, things should pick up. Compressed schedule or not, the usual pattern of free agency is that as soon as the bell sounds the premier free agents are gobbled up immediately. Nene, by most accounts, was the top free agent available this year, yet because teams were waiting to see what Howard or Paul might do, they were holding back on going hard after Nene – and Nene, likely, was waiting, too, so he could have his pick of the field once Howard’s fate was determined. There has been very little that has leaked with regard to Stuckey’s free agency. That, again, it could well be related to teams with the cap space to go after him looking at other options first.

Clinton (Flint, Mich.): What did you think of Chauncey’s comments following his release? He sounded very upset. How do you think he’ll fit with the Clippers?

Langlois: Tayshaun Prince was talking the other day about trying to put himself in the shoes of players like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom who thought they were traded one minute and found out the next they weren’t, or players caught in speculation of being amnestied, as Billups was. He said, “When I walk in the gym the next day, what do I do? But you know what? What I do, I hold my head up high and work my (backside) off and I wouldn’t worry about it, because guess what? At the end of the day, we love to play this game and no matter who we’re playing for or what jersey we’re wearing, we owe it to ourselves to go out there and have fun and do it to the best of our abilities. When I’ve heard trade rumors over the last at least three years, I’ve never let it affect me. I always go out there and play the same way, no matter what, and I’m not going to change.” My hunch is that once the sting of being let go by the Knicks subsides, Billups will realize there are worse things than making about $12 million to throw lob passes to Blake Griffin and live in Los Angeles for the next four or five months. I think that if adapts mentally to no longer being the guy who controls the pace of game – and he won’t be that guy, not with Chris Paul at point guard – he’ll actually adapt well to playing shooting guard at Paul’s side. Billups has been caught up more than a player of his stature would ever figure to be in deals that weren’t primarily about him, but he’s still a very nice asset for any team and will fit in very well with the Clippers.

James (Tampa): With all the news about Howard and Paul being traded and the fact that the Heat need a center and a point guard more than anything, wouldn’t it make sense for them to talk. If Orlando offered Howard for either LeBron or Wade or Paul for either one, a big three of two of the Heat stars and one of either Howard or Paul would be better than the big three they have now. Would you do one of those trades?

Langlois: Wade for Paul or James for Howard would make a lot of sense for Miami, James. I don’t think it has a chance of happening, not at this point, but I do think the Heat would be the better for either trade. Paul has found his home, of course. There has been plenty of Internet chatter about a Howard-James deal, though everyone admits it’s a pie-in-the-sky notion. There’s probably even a part of Pat Riley that would entertain the idea, but he sold Wade on staying in Miami with the pitch to pair him with James, and sold James and Chris Bosh on the idea of taking less than the maximum contracts they could have gotten anywhere else, and to pull the plug on it now would have ramifications for him down the road.

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