Pistons refuse to cave on quest to make the playoffs
New Orleans — To tank or not to tank.
That’s not the question for the Pistons, at least not yet.
Following their strong 12-7 start to the season, they went 4-11 during a difficult December stretch and they are 4-8 in January. Things aren’t looking up for their playoff chances — they entered Wednesday’s matchup 2½ games behind the Charlotte Hornets for eighth place in the East — and they’re 5-12 in their last 17.
Still, they’re not ready to pack everything up and give up on the rest of the season.
“First we want to win — that’s the bottom line. We want to make the playoffs — that’s our charge,” coach Dwane Casey said Wednesday morning. “At the same time, we have to (play young guys who play hard). Our first charge is not doing that for the sake of not winning. We want to win; we’re going into games to win, to compete to make the playoffs.
“When you do that, it leads to winning — and that’s what we’re going to do.”
It’s a bit of an uphill climb, with a 20-26 record, including Monday’s loss at Washington to start the three-game road trip, which came after a buzzer-beating shot in the home loss to Sacramento.
The difficult strength of schedule in December portended some rough times but losing to Sacramento twice in 10 days and falling to the Wizards without John Wall was surprising. Casey said the issue was energy and effort, without which they’re going to find it tough to make the playoffs.
“Our give-a-crap level has to be high and if not, we have to find eight guys who give a crap to come out and compete. That’s the bottom line,” Casey said. “We don’t have the Michael Jordans or Larry Birds to come out and win a game by themselves.
“We have to do it collectively, with collective intensity, with collective effort, collective focus and we have to find eight guys who are going to do that.”
Although the idea of tanking has become a hot topic in considering the Pistons’ long-term future, it’s not feasible with the addition of Blake Griffin’s contract for three more years and Andre Drummond for two more.
After missing the playoffs for the past two seasons, the Pistons aren’t trending toward playing better — but Casey is using his first season to make assessments about which players he thinks will be part of the core going forward.
He’s using intensity and effort as gauges and using his experience in turning things around with the Raptors as a compass to guide him.
“What’s the sign of insanity — you keep doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results? That’s what we want to make sure we’re not doing,” Casey said. “We’ll get it. This is the fun part for me; it’s exactly like when we first went to Toronto, trying to get in the playoffs and in the rankings defensively and offensively. We sputtered those first couple of years and then we took off.”
Drummond still out
Drummond missed Wednesday’s game — his third straight start — because he remained in the NBA’s concussion protocol after suffering a nasal contusion in Friday’s win over the Miami Heat.
Last season, Drummond missed only four games total and if he stays out much longer, it would be the most games he’s missed in a season since his rookie season, when he played in just 60 games. He’s been durable in missing only seven total games in a five-year span.
The Pistons will honor their championship teams in a pair of home games in March and April. The first will be March 30 against the Portland Trail Blazers, when they’ll honor the 30-year anniversary of the Bad Boys back-to-back champions.
They’ll follow with the 15-year celebration for the 2004 “Goin’ to Work” championship team on April 7 against the Charlotte Hornets.
Members of each championship team will be in attendance for each game and the celebration will include a special halftime ceremony along with video tributes, special in-game interviews and highlights of special moments commemorating each championship team.
Langston Galloway, who is from Baton Rouge, La., presented gifts to young men from the Son of a Saint mentoring program in New Orleans. Each young man got game tickets, a pair of Galloway’s Q4 shoes, a T-shirt and other gifts in a pregame meeting.