With Christmas upon us, the Pistons have a rare two-day break from games and gear up for a seven-week stretch before the All-Star break. They’re not playing their best basketball and have struggled to put together any kind of consistency on offense or defense.
News & Views takes a look at where the Pistons stand, plus a look around the league at some of the surprise teams as the midway point of the season nears:
News: Chauncey Billups is among the nominees for the Hall of Fame.
Views: The 2019 class could have a decided Pistons flavor to it. Besides Billups, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Chris Webber also are nominated. There isn’t necessarily any guarantee, but Webber looks to be a strong candidate for his strong career with the Sacramento Kings. Right behind that, one would have to put Billups and Wallace in strong consideration, but there’s some discussion there.
Billups was the Finals MVP for the Pistons’ run in 2004, but that, in itself, isn’t enough. There’s a Finals MVP every year — does Andre Iguodala get in the Hall of Fame also for his 2015 award?
His career numbers aren’t eye-popping: 15.2 points and 5.4 assists, with five All-Star appearances, three All-Star selections and two spots on the All-Defensive team. Billups, claim to fame is the bigger story of leading that “Goin’ to Work” squad that had no superstars. That group is regarded being a good team, but not a great one.
Wallace should be an easier choice, even. He was a four-time All-Star and four-time defensive player of the year. Six times, he was on the All-Defensive team and led the league in rebounding twice and blocks once.
He was the dominant defensive player of his era but never averaged double figures in scoring. Like the Tigers’ Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker awaited their call to the Hall, Billups and Wallace might take a little longer to get the recognition they deserve.
Better late than never.
News: The Pistons started 13-7 but have dropped off in December, going just 2-9.
Views: It’s partly just the schedule balancing out with some of the tougher teams in the league. They faced only two teams with losing records — the Pelicans and Timberwolves — during that stretch.
It’s been a peculiar first part of the season, with some good wins but some questionable effort against mediocre teams and better effort against some of the league’s elite teams. That’s what .500 teams do, defying the schedule game of trying to guess when the wins will come. It’s just tough for fans to buy in for a team that beats Golden State but loses to Atlanta.
Coach Dwane Casey still is looking to instill a winning culture into a franchise that’s wallowed around .500 for most of the past decade. It’s not going to be a just-add-water solution that fixes itself, but through 31 games, it’s looking more like a long-term project for Casey and his coaching staff.
News: The Nuggets are leading the Western Conference and the Pacers are making moves in the East.
Views: The Raptors and Warriors are among the league’s elite teams but there are some new kids on the block with young teams in Denver and Indiana. The Pacers were criticized for dealing Paul George to the Thunder but they made off like bandits in that deal, getting two stars in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, when they had little leverage in the deal.
The Nuggets are coming of age quickly and their young talent and depth will make them a formidable team all the way through the playoffs. The Lakers made a move in the West, as expected, with LeBron James, but the Kings are the biggest surprise, getting above .500 and challenging for a playoff spot after years of poor play.
In the East, the Nets are opening some eyes too, despite the loss of Caris LeVert. They may still be a player or two away from being a playoff team, but they’re in a good position to make a deal that could push them into the fray to try to speed up their timeline of playoff contention.