‘Restore the greatness:’ Pistons rebuild trudges on as second half of season approaches

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver met with the media on Tuesday to give a midseason update on the team and his impressions of how they performed in going 10-26 in the first half. After several changes in the roster in the offseason, Weaver continued what he calls the “restoring” of the franchise’s greatness by trading Derrick Rose and negotiating a buyout of Blake Griffin’s contract last week.

Weaver touched on several topics, including the young core of the roster, his outlook for the trade deadline and how they’ll proceed forward beyond this season. Here are some takeaways from Weaver’s media session:

RESTORING, NOT REBUILDING: Weaver refers to the rebuild as a restoring, because of the legacy that the Pistons have as a team that’s won multiple NBA titles. The difference has a story behind it.

“When I was going through the process of coming to Detroit, my dad used to collect older cars. He had a 1966 Monte Carlo that he was restoring, and before he passed, I would go out and talk with him, and he would say you can only restore something that’s great,” Weaver said. “That stuck with me and there’s been greatness here in Detroit, with three championships, so that’s why it was a restoring.

“No slight to what I’m about to say, but the Minnesota Timberwolves can’t restore; they don’t have three championships. They don’t have the greatness. The Atlanta Hawks can’t be restored — but the Detroit Pistons can restore. We want to restore the greatness.

“There’s a blueprint of success here. I’m not the smartest guy and I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I know what works here and we’re trying to be the third iteration of greatness here in Detroit, so that’s where restoring comes from.”

Weaver wasn’t picking on the Timberwolves or Hawks, but just used those two franchises that haven’t won championships as examples to illustrate the point. It could be just semantics on which word he uses, but the background on his father’s classic cars provides a worthy context for why he prefers that term.

It’s not cheesy — in fact, it’s more personal because of that.

THE UNTOUCHABLES: Not only is “The Untouchables” a really good movie, but the term struck a chord with Weaver when asked about the upcoming trade deadline on March 25 and whether there are players that he wouldn’t trade. It’s an interesting question, given that the Pistons are in the midst of a rebuild and the Weaver strategy seems to be to get as many future assets as possible.

“Untouchables? No. Nobody is untouchable. I learned never say never, but there are some guys that are here to stay, so we’ll see,” Weaver said. “I might say, ‘Oh yeah, this guy’s untouchable,’ and then somebody calls me up with four first-round picks — then he’s not untouchable. Strange things have happened.”

That question seemed to be pointed at Jerami Grant, who has had a breakout season in a starting role. He’s a favorite to win NBA most improved player and has plenty of upside. Grant has said he wants to be with the Pistons and the inclination is that if there aren’t untouchables, then Grant is the closest thing to it. One would think that the rookie group that includes Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee might be just below that.

If they’re not untouchable, there would seem to be a hefty price to pay to pry them away from Weaver. He indicated that they’ll be aggressive at the trade deadline, but they likely won’t have the fireworks that they did in the offseason, when they retained only four players from last season’s roster.

KILLIAN’S RETURN: Weaver said that there will be an announcement next week on Hayes rehabilitation from a torn labrum in his hip. That’s big news, because initially, there was some fear that he could be done for the season if the injury required surgery. Weaver sounded optimistic that a return could be coming soon.

“He’s progressing well, and it’s been exciting to see him grow and come back from this setback. He’s been working diligently, and he looks great. We’ll have an update next week and we’re excited to have him join the team shortly.”

More: Pistons rookie Killian Hayes ‘progressing well’ from hip injury

Hayes was the No. 7 overall pick and obviously, the front office was high on drafting him for his talent, which he didn’t get to show fully in only seven games to start the season. If he could get 25-30 games to finish the season and work his way into form, that would be huge for the rebuilding plans — especially if he looks anything like the other rookies have in their adjustment to the NBA.

If Hayes is able to come back and play well, it could make for some interesting decisions about their other point guards, including Dennis Smith Jr. and Delon Wright.

MORE ON SMITH: Smith has played just 12 games with the Pistons, but Weaver seemed very optimistic about his production and whether that could translate to Smith staying beyond the end of this season, as many have surmised will be the extent of his stay.

“We’re excited to have an opportunity to bring Dennis in and evaluate him. He’s a young man and we’re excited about the prospects of him this second half of the season and going forward,” Weaver said. “He has a lot of the traits that we look for in the new Pistons moving forward. You’re right to assume that we’re going to take a long, long look at Dennis Smith Jr. I really like what I see thus far.”

Smith is still on his rookie deal and at $5.7 million this season, that’s a big price to pay for another point guard, especially if Hayes and Lee are projected as the future at the position. That doesn’t exclude the possibility that the Pistons could keep three point guards, as Casey likes to have multiple ballhandlers on the court.

►PARTING WITH GRIFFIN: The Pistons worked on the buyout with Blake Griffin, but that wasn’t the only option they considered. They also worked on a potential trade, but the salary and remaining time on the contract made it difficult to negotiate a trade, another team would have had to match that salary, likely with multiple players.

For subscribers: Beard: How Pistons lost more on Blake Griffin gamble than in the standings

“We definitely wanted to exhaust (every option) and look into trade market as well to see if we could facilitate something to get him in a situation, a destination that he would like, as well as making it a good situation for us as well,” Weaver said. “No, we didn’t automatically think or assume that it would be a buyout. We just landed there, and it’s worked out for all parties.”

Griffin signed with the Nets — whom the Pistons play on Saturday in Brooklyn — and the cap relief that the Pistons get was a benefit, as was doing right by Griffin, who wanted to play for a contending team.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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