Pistons mailbag: Don't count on return for Billups, Tolliver

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

While the 16 playoff teams began their quest for the NBA title last weekend, the Pistons were wrought with questions about what their future will be. The core of the roster is pretty secure in terms of contracts, and the biggest focus is on whether Stan Van Gundy will return as team president and head coach.

Pistons owner Tom Gores and Van Gundy are planning to meet later this week to determine what the plan moving forward will be. If Van Gundy stays for the final year of his contract, he also could be in line for an extension, preventing him from being a lame duck.

Firing Stan Van Gundy would create a lengthy offseason to-do list for Pistons owner Tom Gores.

If the two sides split ways, it could create a huge offseason task for Gores, in reconstructing the basketball staff, having to hire a new head coach, general manager and team president. It’s too early to speculate on potential names, but having all three of those positions to fill — and finding chemistry within that group — would be a tough task.

The Pistons mailbag looks at some of the offseason moves needed to get the Pistons back to respectability.

■ Question: Do you think the Billups to work with Arn Tellem thing has any smoke to it? —@DerekSportsDude

■ Answer: I’ve been leery of this one from the start. It has all the makings of a feel-good story, with Chauncey Billups coming back to pull the Pistons out of their doldrums. Tellem, who is the Pistons vice chairman, has lots of NBA connections in his former role as an agent, would oversee the basketball operations. There are some hurdles to this scenario working, though.

Tellem still is busy in his current role, managing the construction of the practice facility in Detroit, continuing the partnership with the Ilitch family, plus looking into the MLS possibilities. In many ways, moving to president would be a demotion, as he also is a Pistons rep on the NBA’s Board of Governors.

As for Billups, it’s a move that would excite the fan base because it’s a recognizable name — but what are his credentials, beyond being an ESPN analyst? He was a candidate for the Cavaliers’ GM job last year, but he has no front-office experience. The last time a Detroit team went out and hired someone from the press box in the front office, it was Matt Millen. Billups actually could work out, but there are no guarantees there.

■ Q: Most important off-season roster move, considering no draft pick and cap space? — @kpaff3587

In the last 10 games, including eight starts, Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent on 3-pointers.

■ A: It may not be the most important, but the decision on Anthony Tolliver will be critical in determining where they go in the long and short term. Tolliver is one of the vocal leaders and top producers on the court and in the last 10 games, including eight starts, he averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent on 3-pointers.

Keeping Tolliver likely would mean a hefty pay increase, maybe to $6 million or more per season. That also likely would mean moving Henry Ellenson to backup center, if he’s ever going to get playing time. It’s a tough call, but with Jon Leuer also returning from missing most of the season, there are some other options. The guess is that the Pistons let Tolliver get a bigger payday elsewhere.

Outside of that, they could look to upgrade at small forward, getting a starting-caliber player and moving Stanley Johnson to a reserve role.

■ Q: With the 3 ball so important to winning in the #NBA, next year is that a big priority for the #Pistons? — @Agridome

■ A: Surprisingly, the Pistons had two players in the top 10 in 3-point shooting (Reggie Bullock was second and Tolliver seventh). Putting Bullock into the starting group was a big boost, and having both toward the end spread the court out quite a bit. Defense was the bigger concern, as the Pistons gave up too many points to too many bad teams (see the 130 against the Grizzlies). They could stand to have another good perimeter defender, maybe in the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope mold to help out in the backcourt. Stanley Johnson is versatile but isn’t as good defending smaller guards.

■ Q: We already know you like Toronto the best. Rank the 5 worst NBA cities. — @jschrieber

A: I’ve gushed about Toronto enough over the last few years to make that one obvious. The rest of the top five is Miami, Portland, New Orleans and Brooklyn/New York. The worst cities, based on fun stuff, weather and entertainment: Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Phoenix.