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.