Los Angeles — Pistons team owner Tom Gores has stressed that the goal this season was to make the playoffs and show improvement over last season.
Rampant injuries to several of their starters, including Blake Griffin — who has missed 17 of their 35 games — have all but derailed their playoff hopes with a 12-23 start after Thursday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
Gores isn’t using the injuries as an excuse, but he sees the impact they have had on the playoff trajectory.
“We've had a hard time with health and everything else like that and we thought we could manage (injuries) a little better,” Gores said at halftime. “We've got a lot of work to do. We're not winning, and the record is the record, so we just have to keep plugging away.”
The Pistons have lost nine of their last 11 and look to be fading from any playoff consideration, though the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference — where the Pistons finished last season — still is a possibility.
Gores, for what it’s worth, doesn’t want to settle for another mediocre season and admitted that with the trade deadline approaching on Feb. 6, he and the team executives would assess where they are and whether it’s time to move in a different direction, such as looking to trade some of their key players to move toward a restart.
“Well, we have to look at everything because we're not winning, so you're not winning, to me, you have to assess everything. I think anybody would want to do that,” he said. “And probably in the next month or so, we're going to get together as an organization and just discuss things.”
In Thursday’s game, the Pistons were without four rotation players: Griffin, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and Markieff Morris. That’s been the story in different variations, with almost all of the roster missing at least a game or two because of injuries.
Those injuries make it hard to gauge where the Pistons will go as the season progresses, but one thing is clear: making a marked improvement will be difficult with several main cogs on the shelf. Load management for Griffin, Derrick Rose and Jackson was expected, to some degree, but having so many players missing multiple games was unexpected.
“Well, it's very hard to filter through that and it's been unfortunate. We expected to manage minutes and all of that stuff for our players but we've had some bad luck, but other teams had bad luck, too, and you’ve got to work through it,” Gores said. “I just think injuries happen. We've had more than our share this year, but we have to build a team that can handle it.”
After an All-NBA season last year, Griffin had knee surgery and missed the first 10 games of the regular season. He hasn’t looked the same since and has lost much of the lift on his jump shot and hasn’t been as effective on drives to the basket.
He’s still owed $76 million for two years after this season and given his decreased production, Gores indicated that there’s no plan of how to move forward with Griffin for the remainder of this season.
“No, we're not that far, and we're just going to assess it in the next week or so,” he said. “He's a trooper. If he could play, you know he'd be playing, so I think we just give him a few days of rest and see what happens.”
Andre Drummond is another conundrum, as he has a player option for $28.8 million for next season but has alluded to the fact that he might want to try free agency, which would leave the Pistons with no return if they don’t trade him before the deadline.
Gores said that the Pistons value Drummond, but will leave the decision in his hands.
“Andre is going to have to make his choice — I mean Andre is a great player,” Gores said. “So, we'll just see. All these things are unknowns and it's kind of difficult to filter through all this little bit of health bad luck.
“The bottom line is that our record is our record. And regardless of injuries. You know, we've got to figure out how to win.”