This kind of attitude, Detroit can get behind.
This kind of promise, Detroit will support.
This kind of talk?
Man, it’s hard not to like these Detroit Pistons already.
Hamidou Diallo gave a soliloquy on Monday afternoon that summed up what the Pistons are trying to build.
“I think the biggest thing is … just trying to bring excitement back to the city,” Diallo, in his third season in Detroit, said. “And it’s an objective for us. We understand what we need to do. We understand where we were, and we understand where we’re trying to get to.”
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Where were they? Ugh. It’s been painful. They are 63-157 in the last three seasons and haven’t won a playoff game since 2008.
“So every day is just hard work, battling with each other, arguing with each other, from top to bottom,” Diallo said. “I mean, ‘cuz we’re trying to figure it out. We’re trying to do something special. We trying to be great and most importantly, we are just trying to do it for the city. We know how much this city loves basketball. It’s important for this city to have a good basketball, a competitive basketball team, and this group that we got, we are just trying to do that this year, trying to be competitive and just trying to leave it out on the court every night.
“I feel like that’s something that we can do. That doesn’t take any talent. That doesn’t take making or missing shots. That doesn’t take playing great defense. When you say being competitive, you are saying, having a team that the city relates to, the city’s identity is competing, grit and just being a team that doesn’t take no bullshit.”
Now, you could say that’s just talk. But it summed up this organization’s mantra.
So let’s go through some of the topics that he so eloquently raised.
Where were the Pistons?
They were in the red, as Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said Monday. Putting an incomplete roster onto the court.
“I feel like we’re out of the red, but I like the complement of players we have,” Weaver said. “We have a lot of young guys. We have a lot of veterans that will solidify things for us and keep us level. You go from the red to the black and the only way to do that is to get level. I feel like we’re at level ground right now, so I’m calling it ‘ground zero,’ so hopefully we can take a step forward.”
It’s like climbing out of the basement and reaching street level. You look at the sky and can breathe fresh air again. The roster has flipped, and a young, promising vibrant core is here.
They have kept the keepers.
“I feel like we finally have a full complement of players,” Weaver said. “The first few years we didn’t … so we can go compete every night now.”
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What is competitive?
Well, Diallo just outlined it.
“It’s the most talent we’ve had since I’ve been here,” fifth-year coach Dwane Casey said. “Also the youngest talent that we’ve had.”
It’s Cade Cunningham, entering his second season, with more strength and muscle, being encouraged to become an even bigger leader.
It’s the addition of lottery picks, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, who bring speed and springs.
It’s Saddiq Bey, working out all summer, just to get ready.
It’s Isaiah Livers, fully healthy and off restrictions.
And it’s the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic, who is 33 and on an expiring deal.
Yes, he can shoot (39.2% career 3-point shooter).
But he brings something else.
“He’s a pro,” Casey said.
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He’s one of the guys the young players can watch and learn from, just by seeing how he prepares every day.
A lot to love
On Monday afternoon, a series of Pistons spoke at media day, and I walked away thinking: “Man, I like these guys.”
I like how they think. I like their mindset. I like what they’re talking about.
It’s like they are all cut from the same cloth.
Smart. Competitive. Team-first.
And that’s no accident.
“We draft people, not players,” Weaver said. “We want to bring the right people in, guys who put the team and other things before themselves. We don’t have a group of guys who are selfish, only thinking, ‘Me, me, me.’ It’s easy for that group of guys to organically grow.”
Weaver has seen this before. He joined the Utah Jazz in 2004 — the year Utah won 26 games. The next season, Utah jumped to 41 wins thanks to a young group of guys (Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer) complemented by veterans (Matt Harpring, Mehmet Okur).
Hmm. Sound familiar?
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Weaver joined the Thunder in May 2008. In his first full season, the Thunder won 23 games. The next? It jumped to 50.
“That’s where a lot of my confidence comes from,” Weaver said. “Been through it. I know what it tastes like, smells like and more importantly, I know what it looks like. So I’m very confident where we are and the direction we’re headed. But yes, absolutely. It feels very similar.”
I believe this team is poised to take a leap forward and fight for the playoffs this year.
Maybe it won’t make it. Injuries can derail the best of plans. And young players never develop in a linear progression — it’s more like a roller coaster. There will be ups and downs. Back and forth.
But it’s clear what they are trying to build.
And it’s clear what is at the core.
In the eloquent, immortal words of Diallo, this is a team that won’t “take no bullshit.”
The Pistons haven’t even played a game yet.
And it’s already easy to love them.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.