Beard: Pistons in danger of fading from playoff hunt

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

The buzzards are flying overhead, attracted by the Pistons’ carrion. In the midst of a horrendous skid of six losses in the last seven games, the Pistons are struggling and sinking, matching their low-tide mark for the season at four games under .500.

Seemingly, the blood is in the water and the Pistons have been looking for anything to grasp onto to avoid drowning in the remaining 22 games of the regular season. What’s more, of the final stretch of games, 13 are on the road, including nine of the next 12.

Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons lost to the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the start of a three-game streak of double-digit losses.

The tail end of that string is a 12-day, six-game western trip.

■ News: The Pistons have lost three straight — all by double digits — and are three games behind the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot.

■ Views: The Heat are falling fast, going 2-8 in their last 10 games, but the Pistons haven’t been able to take advantage, with a 4-6 mark in the same span.

Coach Stan Van Gundy said Monday that Reggie Jackson could return ahead of the big road trip, a potential life preserver to help them stay afloat. He said Jackson is projected to return to practice ahead of the western trip, which could be the boost they need. Before Jackson’s injury, the Pistons were 19-14; they’re 9-18 since. There’s something to be said for that.

As it stands, the Pistons (28-32) will help themselves if they can beat the struggling Orlando Magic and get a full-game by beating the Miami Heat this weekend. Simply put, in the final 22 games, they’d need to go 13-9 to finish at .500, which would give them a shot at getting the No. 8 seed.


■ News: Van Gundy has just one year left on his contract but team owner Tom Gores hasn’t commented on his future beyond that.

Stan Van Gundy has led the Pistons to the playoffs once in his first three seasons in Detroit.

■ Views: It seems that if Van Gundy goes through Year 4 of his tenure and has just one playoff appearance to show for a top-tier payroll, there will be more heat about his status. Owner Tom Gores has said he supports what Van Gundy is trying to build, but even with the addition of Blake Griffin, the Pistons haven’t been able to build enough momentum to break into the top eight in the East.

The coaching staff and front office are also in the spotlight, given that many of their contracts expire in the offseason as well.

“We haven’t had (contract) talks with anybody this year,” Van Gundy said Sunday. “We have virtually everybody coming up and we haven’t talked with anybody at this point.”

From a timing standpoint, if Gores opted to completely clean house, he could do it without a big financial commitment. There’s no indication that’s the case, though. General manager Jeff Bower reportedly is interested in the Charlotte Hornets GM position, so that could be a sign as well.

Considering this roster is built around Van Gundy’s system, a complete tear-down to the studs could involve moving several pieces, which could put them in a precarious position. It’s an unenviable position for Gores, to have to start over from scratch.

That may be the doomsday option.

■ News: The Pistons are 5-6 with Griffin in the lineup.

■ Views: The won the game after the trade was announced and then the next four with Griffin in uniform. He’s an elite player, but hasn’t meshed well with the roster yet. Some of it is roster construction around him. The initial burst seems to have worn off, and the fear is that complacency with the current skid will set in. It hasn’t yet, but they’ll need to pull out of nosedive quickly.

It’ll be another adjustment phase when Jackson returns, but there won’t be time to quickly adjust; it’ll likely be about 16-18 games remaining and they’ll need to get acclimated to each other expeditiously, or the playoffs — and maybe this current construction of the team — will be in jeopardy.


Tipoff: 7 Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/950

Outlook: The Pistons (28-32), who have lost three straight, are looking to even the season series, after losing both games in Milwaukee. The Bucks (33-26) have won four of their last five games on the road.