Detroit — The week of trade deadline brings out more paranoia than usual for many players.
Whether it’s a rumor on Twitter or an unexpected text message from their agent, players are wearier this week, with the deadline approaching on Thursday afternoon.
It’s sometimes a palpable sense in the locker room, with things quieter than normal and players not as jovial or talkative. For the Pistons, it looks to be nail-biting time, with the team in squalor, far below .500 and coming off squandering a 25-point lead against the Clippers on Saturday.
Coach Dwane Casey tries to downplay the pre-deadline chatter and focus the players on what’s important: trying to string wins together and try to turn the ship around and squeak toward the playoffs.
“A lot of times, it’s a lot of noise that signifies nothing. It’s a lot of trade talk but general managers talk every day,” Casey said Monday. “Some of it is noise and some is general managers trying to get things done. The key thing is that everybody has to go out and do their job and pay attention to what they’re supposed to right in front of them and control the things you can control.
“Whether it’s this coach is going to get fired or that coach or this player is going to get traded or that one — just go out and do your job because that’s the nature of our league, unfortunately, but it’s part of it, so you have to be professional and deal with it.”
Focus has been an issue for most of the season, as the Pistons have been able to play well in certain games, but have squandered a number of leads, which has led to them sitting in the No. 9 spot in the East and not reaching expectations so far.
The big challenge this week is blocking out distractions and not paying attention to all of the chatter on social media and all the rumors going around.
“You have to be a pro. I’m sure a lot of our players have been in discussions before. It’s part of the game, whether it’s players, coaches, general managers, owners, whatever it is. It’s part of our league and it’s such a hyped-up league,” Casey said. “A lot of times, what’s reported and what’s in the newspapers is not true and all at once, after the trade deadline, it’s back to normal.
“It’s part of it and we have to control the things we can control, which is the game in front of us right now and not worry about what’s in the media or the Twittersphere.”
What this time of year also brings is the tough task of talking to players when their name is in the rumor mill or worse, telling players they’ve been traded and have to move to a different team — but quickly. In the case of pre-deadline rumors,
“I have (talked to players), if I felt like that player was too sensitive to handle it. One thing I always tell guys is that it’s a great thing your name is being mentioned because that means somebody else values you or it’s in conversation with other people,” Casey said. “When you don’t hear your name, that’s one thing you have to be concerned about.
“One of the hardest things to do in this league, even harder than the trade (call) is to tell someone they’re getting cut. Getting traded, you’re going to another team and you’re in the NBA. When you get cut, you don’t know if you’re going to get that opportunity again to play in the league and your dream may be over with.”
Respite for Griffin
Given the bench struggles, Casey says he’s considered tinkering with the lineup and making some small changes to the rotation to ensure there’s a scorer on the second unit
“A lot of times, you have your best players in there at the time and we could go with a younger player like Bruce Brown or Khyri Thomas and see how they do under pressure in those situations,” Casey said. “That’s a fine line and we’ve discussed substitution patterns down the stretch in those situations.
“One thing I want to do is find a minute or two to rest Blake (Griffin) in those situations because he’s worn down to the nub by the time we get to the fourth quarter. I have to do a better job of finding a minute or two to give him a blow. We have to play this chess match to find the right combinations to close out games.”
Pistons at Knicks
Tip-off: 7:30 Tuesday, Madison Square Garden, New York
Outlook: The new-look Knicks (10-42) lost their first game since trading for Dennis Smith Jr. and unloading Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks. It’s a home-and-home back-to-back for the Pistons, with the rematch on Friday.