Column: Pistons Becoming Bad Boys, in Different Ways than Before
The Bad Boys are back. No, not Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and the rest of the famous Piston team that won back to back titles in ’89 and ’90, but Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Marcus Morris who combined have been to the playoffs two times in their career.
The 2015-2016 Detroit Pistons are nothing like the Bad Boys of the late 80s and early 90s, but the young Pistons’ team is causing a stir in the NBA. In today’s NBA, no team could get away with playing the way that the Bad Boys did. Instead, the Pistons’ are getting into the opposing team’s heads in a plethora of different ways. Unlike in recent seasons, the Pistons are a competitive bunch, and are currently in 7th place in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, the Pistons would be in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. One major difference between the Pistons of this season, and the Piston teams of the past seasons, is that this group is full of competitive players. Now, I am not saying that the Piston teams in the past did not want it enough to make the playoffs, because they just did not have the talent to, but they also rarely played with enough passion to win games. Obviously, talent means more than passion but teams that win in the NBA also play with the effort to win.
So, the Pistons came into the season as a team bound to be back in the lottery for the 2016 Draft. There were only a handful of national media members who saw Detroit as a threat to get into the playoffs. Now they are 40-35 with seven games left in the season and as mentioned earlier, are in 7th place in the Eastern Conference which would put them in a seven-game series against the Toronto Raptors, the number two seed in the East. The 40 wins Detroit has this season are the most since the 2007-2008 season when the Pistons won 59 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Who knew that this is where Detroit would be so late into the season, primed for a playoff spot?
Detroit did not get to where they are currently by playing the way Piston teams had in the recent past. There are multiple factors that are related to the Pistons’ play this season.
Much of that is accounted for by Head Coach, Stan Van Gundy, who does not accept anything but 100% effort always and when a player does not give 100% effort, he is the first person to call them out. He is the definition of a no-nonsense coach. He does not accept at all, period. Van Gundy has helped the Pistons discover and play with an edge. What’s the edge? Allow me to explain.
As Van Gundy is a no-nonsense coach, the Pistons are a no-nonsense team. They do not back down, from anybody. And that’s a good thing. It’s not a problem with Van Gundy either. To the right extent, he allows the Pistons to express their beliefs on the courts.
In the offseason, as Van Gundy assembled his team, he made a move that started the downfall of the Phoenix Suns. He sent a 2020 second round pick to Phoenix for 1/2 of the Morris twins, Marcus Morris. At first, Morris did not want to come to Detroit, he did not want to leave his brother, Markieff, in Phoenix. Van Gundy knew what he was getting with Morris. He was going to get a no-nonsense player. He would be the tough, loud, title hungry small forward Detroit needed. Game by game throughout the season, Morris has become a better player, and is playing the best basketball of his career under Van Gundy. Morris is the one who is usually in the middle of the Pistons’ exchanges with other teams. As part of that he has 11 technical fouls this season, tied for the 4th most in the NBA. Morris will play dirty, he make the effort plays that will make the opposing player flash a dirty look, he does not give up, much like the city he plays for, and that is why for fans, it is so easy to get behind him.
On Martin Luther King Day, the Pistons played the Chicago Bulls. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was having a rough game and picked up a technical foul early in the game for slamming the ball to the floor. Later in the third quarter as Pope continued to struggle he ran down the court and was yelling at the ref that he had been fouled on the previous play and a foul should have been called. The ref then proceeded to stop play and hit Caldwell-Pope with his second technical foul of the game, expecting him from the contest. Pope was elated as he walked off the court. As he walked off the court, Van Gundy looked at him and said to some extent, “nice going.” As Pope walked back to the locker room he kicked a chair, which he later received a fine for doing. At the post game press conference Van Gundy admitted he should have given Pope space and time to relax.
They talked it out after the game, via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
“We’re good,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We had a talk before we got to Houston, so we’re good. Everything’s squared away. Everything was in the heat of the moment. We talked about it and squared it out.”
Many times this season have the Pistons have gotten into scrums during games, or exchanged words with another player.
This season alone Andre Drummond has been in exchanges with Dennis Shroeder of the Atlanta Hawks, Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, and Paul George to name a few example. We’ve also seen Marcus Morris get into exchanges with Paul George and LeBron James.
At the end of the January 2nd game in which the Pistons played the Indiana Pacers. This happened:
Is getting into a post game fight good, or receiving a technical foul for a unessesary action? No, but, it shows that the Pistons care, something that the fan base of Detroit have not seen in quite some time.
As of late, we have seen the Pistons take their edge to a whole new level. They have flustered an entire team.
On Tuesday night the Detroit Pistons defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 88-82. Postgame, Russell Westbrook had some choice words for Reggie Jackson, who was celebrating Detroit’s win prior to the final buzzer sounding. There were other members of the Thunder who had an issue with Jackson. Steven Adams and coach Billy Donovan both thought Jackson’s actions were immature. Then after practice on Thursday Kevin Durant said, “Who cares about Detroit.” He also called Jackson’s celebrations, “bush league.”
The Thunder have been distraught over their loss to Detroit and their former, misused teammate gaining some revenge on them. Durant was still angry days after the event occurred.
And by the way, the Thunder managed to escape the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night 119-117, who rested Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Paul Pierce, and DeAndre Jordan did not play. Blake Griffin was also out. The Thunder played at full health.
The Pistons are not the Bad Boys that Earth was once graced with. The Pistons do not shove people to the ground, throw punches, and bloody other players up. But, they will get in another player’s face if they need to. They will get into a team mentally. They will not let you forget about them.
Welcome to the Bad Boys of the modern-day NBA, the Detroit Pistons.
Featured Image via: Tim Fuller-USA Today