Ending on a Lighter Note

[Gautham Nagesh]

While I'm glad I got the chance to discuss how the recession has disproportionately affected places like my hometown in Michigan, I wanted to end my guest blogging tenure on a more optimistic note. I believe Jackson and the surrounding communities will eventually find a way to cope with the loss of the manufacturing base and recover economically, but I think those solutions will arrive only through the commitment and hard work of the community. There is no longer any illusion that help will come from Lansing, Detroit or Washington; cities like Jackson are not politically important enough to warrant timely bundles of stimulus cash. I have already heard from a number of local entrepreneurs, organizers and community leaders who are doing their best to revive local commerce and I look forward to doing whatever I can to aid their efforts going forward.

Chances are I would have found an excuse to talk about the Pistons at some point this week, but Dwayne made that a lot easier by calling out Joe Dumars for signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. I'll admit my feelings about the signings are decidedly mixed. I was a communications intern with the team during the 2004 draft and stood five feet away from Joe Dumars as he discussed picking Darko over Carmelo, Bosh and D Wade. Our faith in Joe at the time was so great that no one in the press room openly questioned the choice; Joe D said Darko would be great, so we all assumed he would be right as usual. His trade for Sheed at the deadline that season put the finishing touches on a championship team and further cemented his reputation as a basketball genius.

Any aura of infallibility Dumars had left with Larry Brown and Ben Wallace. I still respect the man immensely and would rather have him running our team than any other GM in professional sports. But he has ignored the Pistons' glaring hole at center since Big Ben skipped town, leaving us soft and easily pummeled in the paint. Villanueva is undersized at power forward and first-round pick Austin Daye makes Tayshaun Prince look like Prince Fielder. It's also now obvious that Michael Curry was the wrong choice to succeed Flip Saunders as head coach, though Dumars didn't do him any favors by shipping point guard and team captain Chauncey Billups to Denver for the Cancer Allen Iverson.

But I'm not ready to give up on Joe D yet. I'm sure he realizes that Hamilton is at a loss without his bosom buddy Billups and unlikely to reach his former heights, so it would be wise to part with him while his value is still relatively high. My guess is a trade of Hamilton with either Jason Maxiell or Prince is coming, likely for a big man like Carlos Boozer or Tyson Chandler. Personally I'd love to see Hamilton gone, but I'd rather try to preserve some semblance of cap room and go after a player like Marcus Camby, who can defend the paint and rebound at a relatively low cost.

It's looking like the free agent bonanza of 2010 may be mostly hype, so I can see why signing two young productive starters makes sense. At 6-5 Stuckey can defend shooting guards, making it possible that he and Gordon can co-exist in the same backcourt. Gordon is streaky as a scorer but known for stepping up in the clutch, unlike Rip. Like Hamilton he doesn't create many shots for teammates, but his superior outside shooting should prevent teams from clogging the lane as much as they did last year. Villanueva is young and inconsistent, but he is a long, explosive scorer with upside and signed to a reasonable contract. If nothing else, he should be easy to move if things don't work out.

Considering some of the other leaders Detroit has seen lately, it's pretty tough to fault Joe Dumars for one bad season. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, particularly if he picks someone proven like Avery Johnson to be our next head coach.

I've really enjoyed the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you this week and I appreciate all the great comments and emails. If you're interested in keeping up with my writing, you can follow me or check out my blog, which I will start updating again next week.

Thanks for reading and happy Independence Day.