Hello again! It’s been a while since you’ve seen me write anything here, and I apologize for that. That we’re already two weeks into the NBA season and this is my first column is regrettable.
Welcome to The NBA Roundhouse! Every weekend, in this space, I’ll take a look at the NBA as a whole, singling out a storyline or two that I find interesting that doesn’t directly involve the Bulls. The Bulls will most likely show up here anyway, but my purpose here is to broaden your understanding of the NBA beyond the team in Chicago.
There are certain things I’ve come to take for granted over the past few years of watching the Chicago Bulls.
One is the level of talent on the floor. Collectively, the Bulls have boasted some of the top overall talent in the NBA the last two years. Derrick Rose won an MVP, Luol Deng made the all-star team, Joakim Noah is playing like an all-star to star this year, etc. I could go on, and that doesn’t even bring up Tom Thibodeau.
Another is the fanbase. Yes, the Bulls do have a lot of fans who jumped on the bandwagon back during the Michael Jordan Era and just never left, but they still have a ton of fans. The United Center sells out on a nightly basis and the season ticket waiting list is approximately a mile long. No matter where the Bulls travel, they’re guaranteed at least some fans in attendance.
This is not the case here in Michigan.
As those of you who have read my bio know, I grew up in Chicago — well, technically just outside, but my house is literally 100 feet from the border with Chicago proper — but currently attend Michigan State University, and thus live in East Lansing, Michigan. It’s about an hour and a half from Detroit, but virtually everyone I know who lives in-state and follows basketball is a Detroit Pistons fan.
Let’s just say their experience is a bit different from my own.
For example, let’s just focus on the two above points. The Pistons are objectively awful this year, and while they were respectable for a good chunk of last year’s lockout-shortened season, they still weren’t very good. Greg Monroe appears to be a franchise player, but his teammates are…let’s be kind and call them un-good.
Rodney Stuckey is arguably the Pistons second best player, and he’s shooting 17.4 percent from the field through five games. He shot 7/23 in his last two games, which was good enough to raise his percentage by 13 points. To be fair, five games is an ridiculously small sample size, and he’s been an OK shooter in the past, but still.
Also, while fans of the team do exist in the abstract, they aren’t exactly battering down the doors of the Palace in Auburn Hills. Extrapolated to a full season, last year’s attendance numbers are down by more than 300,000 from 2007-2008, which was the last of three straight years of sellouts.
I have had brief discussions with Pistons fans, both on Twitter and elsewhere, and it’s clear they’re frustrated. Joe Dumars built a championship team in 2004 — which made it back to the finals the next year — but seems to have lost his touch of late. Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009, when they were the eighth seed and got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So, while we Bulls fans complain as management cuts costs and tries to straddle the line between contending and spending as little money as possible, Pistons fans watch as their team pays more than $45 million to six players — one of which, Rip Hamilton, isn’t even on their roster — who are basically contributing nothing to the team. Furthermore, although the team is ostensibly rebuilding, they gave up a first round draft pick just to make Ben Gordon go away. For their trouble, they received Corey Maggette, who has not yet appeared in a game for them and hasn’t lasted more than one season with a team since 2010, when he spent two years with the Golden State Warriors.
I guess the point of all this is that living in Michigan the last year plus has given me some perspective on the Bulls offseason and how to view this team sans Derrick Rose. Yes, the games will be ugly. Yes, the bench is moderately terrible. Yes, Carlos Boozer will make you want to throw things.
But there’s still Thibs. There’s still Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. There’s still Neil Funk and Stacey K— wait, no, that’s not right. There’s still Nate R— no, that’s not it either. Rip? No. Hold on, it’ll come to me.
Hmph. Well, on the bright side, the Bulls don’t owe Tayshaun Prince almost $22 million over this year an the next two.
Sorry, Pistons fans.