Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pistons Have Plenty of Amnesty Candidates

Pistons Have Plenty of Amnesty Candidates
By Steve St-Pierre

The NBA and its players remain divided on a new deal for the league’s next collective bargaining agreement. However, both sides have apparently OK’d a proposal for a new amnesty clause that would allow each team to waive one player and shed 75 percent of that player’s contract against the salary cap.

According to multiple reports, the new amnesty clause is still being discussed in labor meetings. Some teams are arguing that, if they don’t currently have a bad contract they wish to shed, they should be allowed to save their amnesty clause for at least a year or two.

Certainly, the Pistons are a team that could desperately use such a privilege. One would think that the logical candidates for this clause would include guards Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva. All three players have struggled the last two seasons in terms of performance, and each is due a substantial amount of money over the next two to three seasons.

Hamilton, who the Pistons have tried to trade the last two years, is due to make over $25 million the next two seasons. Though he was a major contributor during Detroit’s title run in 2004, he has been a thorn in the franchise’s side for a number of years with his lackluster behavior both on and off the court. Since the Pistons traded away his former backcourt mate Chauncey Billups, Hamilton has appeared disinterested and welcome to a change of scenery.

The year after they traded Billups, the Pistons appeared ready to part ways with Hamilton when they spent $90 million to sign Gordon and Villanueva in the summer of 2009. Gordon, who like Hamilton is a shooting guard, established himself as one of the NBA’s best scorers with the Chicago Bulls. Unfortunately, Detroit hasn’t found a way to make it work with either player. Gordon is owed more than $37 million the next three seasons.

Villanueva, a power forward who was signed to replace veterans Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, has also failed to live up to expectations in his two seasons with the Pistons, leaving a major void in the frontcourt. Villanueva will make over $24 million the next three seasons.

Assuming the Pistons elect to exercise an amnesty clause, they would have to decide between waiving Hamilton, Gordon or Villanueva. To do so, the front office would need to gauge its feelings on each player. Three years ago, Joe Dumars, Pistons President, elected to sign Hamilton to a three-year, $34-million contract extension. Two years ago, Dumars was willing to pay $90 million to sign Gordon and Villanueva. Obviously, Dumars will need to determine which player’s value has decreased the greatest the last couple seasons.

This time around, Dumars will surely need to consider the input of Lawrence Frank, Pistons Head Coach, and even Tom Gores, Pistons Owner. Even during this current NBA lockout, these three individuals should be communicating on a regular basis, preparing for a possible amnesty clause and discussing the number of scenarios it presents.

The Pistons could very well elect to waive one of either Hamilton, Gordon or Villanueva via the amnesty clause while arranging a buyout for another. For example, the team could decide that since Hamilton only has two years left on his contract, it might make more sense to either continue trying to trade him or simply buy out the remainder of his salary whenever the lockout ends. If he was bought out, Hamilton would still stay on the Pistons’ salary cap for the duration of his contract, but he would be free to sign with another team, and the Pistons could use his roster spot to sign a different free agent.

Another option, of course, is to just use the amnesty clause on Hamilton and commit to moving forward with Gordon and Villanueva. Clearly, both players have been misused during their first two seasons in Detroit. Gordon, though undersized, is perfectly capable of handling a starting role at shooting guard. His scoring and ball-handling make him extremely valuable on the offensive end, and the Pistons must utilize these capabilities if he’s going to remain on the roster.

Even with Hamilton gone, it could still prove difficult to commit the proper amount of playing time to Gordon. The Pistons still have a logjam in the backcourt with point guards Will Bynum and rookie Brandon Knight. Likewise, combo-guard Rodney Stuckey is a restricted free agent who Dumars has previously expressed interest in retaining. If Stuckey was to return, Detroit’s rotation issues would likely continue.

If they used their amnesty clause on Villanueva, the Pistons would be even thinner up front. Veteran Greg Monroe is set to remain as the team’s starting center, but both forward positions are up for grabs. Austin Daye is currently penciled in at small forward, and restricted free agent Jonas Jerebko will likely be re-signed. If Villanueva was to be released, Jerebko could start at power forward. The Pistons still have veterans Ben Wallace and Jason Maxiell under contract, but Wallace appears on the brink of retirement, and Maxiell has never been more than a complimentary reserve player.

It remains to be seen how long the NBA lockout will last and what results will come of its completion. It does, however, appear certain that there will be some sort of amnesty clause for each of the league’s 30 teams. The Pistons are arguably in need of it more than any other, and they’d better be ready to make the most of it.

Friday, October 21, 2011


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Detroit Pistons will hold auditions for a new cheer team that will perform during home games at The Palace of Auburn Hills.  Auditions begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 23 at the Cheerleader Training Center (14922 Technology Drive, Shelby Township, MI, 48315).

Cheer Team members are required to perform during every Pistons home game and represent the organization throughout the year at various team and charity functions. A flexible schedule is a must for selected team members.

To audition, male and female candidates must be 18 or older and are required to show proof of identification.  Aspiring cheerleaders should be elite stunters that are stage ready, physically fit and have a strong work ethic.  Co-ed nationals experience is a plus. Participants are encouraged to wear athletic apparel to the auditions and be ready to perform.

        For more information on tryouts contact Tim Dameron at or log onto

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Players Out, Coaches In

Players Out, Coaches In
By Steve St-Pierre

Due to the current NBA lockout, more and more players are opting to play overseas in order to earn a paycheck while continuing to enhance their basketball skills. The latest Piston to join that group is veteran forward Austin Daye, who has signed a two-month deal to play in Russia.

Daye is the third Piston to sign a contract overseas. At the beginning of the offseason in July, Detroit parted ways with former free agent DaJuan Summers, who signed a two-year deal to play in Italy. Then in mid-August, Pistons rookie Kyle Singler signed with a club in Spain. Both Daye and Singler will return to the Pistons immediately following the lockout.

Current Pistons Will Bynum, Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva have each expressed some interest in going overseas if/when the NBA begins cancelling regular season games, though nothing is imminent. Villanueva says he’s currently in Michigan working out regularly with Pistons teammates Ben Gordon and Jonas Jerebko. A restricted free agent, Jerebko plans to wait out the lockout in hopes of getting a long-term contract with Detroit whenever free agency begins.

The lockout hasn’t stopped Daye or Villanueva from playing a great deal of competitive basketball. Daye starred in the Impact Sports league in Las Vegas this summer, going up against some of the NBA’s best players including LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Villanueva, on the other hand, played this summer with the Dominican Republic national team, coached by John Calipari, University of Kentucky Head Coach.

Meanwhile, the Pistons’ front office has stayed extremely active this summer despite not being allowed to negotiate trades or free-agent signings. Lawrence Frank, Pistons Head Coach, has finalized his staff of assistant coaches. Brian Hill, an assistant the last two seasons under former Pistons coach John Kuester, will stay in Detroit. He is joined by John Loyer, Roy Rogers, Dee Brown and Charles Klask. Bill Pope, another assistant under Kuester, will also remain with the Pistons but as an advance scout.

Hill has worked with Frank in the past as members of the New Jersey Nets and the then-Vancouver Grizzlies. Rogers, a former NBA player in the late-90’s, coached under Frank in New Jersey before working alongside him last season with the Boston Celtics. Brown, a former Celtics player famous for winning the 1991 Slam Dunk Contest, has coached in the NBDL and WNBA. Loyer has spent the last two seasons as an assistant with the Nets.

Klask, a Michigan native, was an assistant last season with the Orlando Magic. He brings a unique emphasis on statistical analysis. The advanced stats movement, which has been popular for years in Major League Baseball, is something the Pistons want to continue to explore. Tom Gores, Pistons Owner, recently sent business partner Bob Wentworth to an advanced-stats seminar at Harvard University. It’s a technique Gores hopes to focus on in order to quickly improve the Pistons and make them elite again in Detroit sports.

The Pistons will continue to keep tabs on their players as much as they can during the lockout. Aside from monitoring the decisions of players signing overseas, they’ll also have to pay close attention to the situation involving veteran center Ben Wallace. With one season left on his contract, Wallace has been contemplating retirement, though he is leaning towards returning for one more year. He was recently arrested in Oakland County for drunken driving and unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon, though he’s not expected to receive jail time.

As the NBA closes in on a deadline to begin cancelling games, we could wind up seeing more players going overseas or even calling it a career, including in Detroit.