Instead of questioning why the Pistons are trying to improve or nitpicking their choice of possible improvments, let’s break the team’s 2013 offseason plan down a bit more simply. Moreso than ever, Detroit’s true goal likely revolves more towards getting their brand name talked about again and shifting perception and reality, regardless of who they end up signing in the coming days. Here’s the axiom:
Recent Perception: Detroit’s basketball franchise is in trouble, on the decline and cannot attract interest from any top free agent talent on the market.
New Reality: Detroit has money and the impetus to spend. They want to remind potential free agents they’re a proud franchise committed to winning, whether or not they manage to get all their targets.
Those fine with maintaining a negative status quo in Auburn Hills will side with perception. They’ll say nobody good will ever want to play for the Pistons anymore. They’ll claim Josh Smith is overrated and a waste of money, Andre Iguodala is on the decline and everyone else is simply too unappealing to merit interest, regardless of the real reason the Pistons’ may be targeting each player or the knowledge of a complete plan which Detroit may be putting together. Strangely, these are some of the same folks howling when Joe Dumars does nothing at all and keeps his roster intact.
To today’s NBA player, commitment is key. Long ago after the season ended, Tom Gores said he would be open for business this offseason, and it’s important he backs up that talk in order to show players he is, in fact, an owner serious about winning. For the better part of three off-seasons, the team has been financially hamstrung and unable to explore upgrades of any kind. Players who didn’t understand that might tend to believe the team simply didn’t care anymore, which is, of course, not the whole story.
Regardless of possible comparisons regarding the depth of talent, this isn’t the summer of 2009 all over again, where Detroit threw foolish money at Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. The Pistons of 2009, coming on the heels of a failed season in which they didn’t make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in six seasons, were still riding high and trending stable in the NBA landscape. They were looking for a quick fix to stay relevant and cut corners on a rebuild. The same cannot be said four years later.
With solid pieces in place, now, more than ever, the Pistons need this offseason’s pursuits to flip reality and perception, especially in the consciousness of possible free agent additions even three years into the future. Their bold move on Smith immediately when free agency began was a sign of commitment, and nighttime internet rumors that Detroit may be interested in both he and Iguodala as well as a trade for Rajon Rondo helps to cause a stir, even if they aren’t completely possible or even true.
If nothing else, the Pistons are showing players they can get involved once more, become one of basketball’s heavy hitters and remain serious about winning. With three NBA titles and several great names of the game hanging from the rafters, Detroit’s basketball tradition is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s certainly been on an alarmingly downward path recently.
The quickest way to reclaim tradition? As marketing gurus might suggest, put your name back on top with a fast media blitz. In NBA circles, the free agency period remains the best manner to get that done. Credit Dumars and company for going to work quickly this summer to shift perceptions about their team.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax