The NBA “Too Soon to Sign Debate – Two Good Players and No Coach = Horrible Move All The Way Around!

July 9, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that a player signing before a team has a coach is smart and Sports Geek’s argument that it’s not.

Something interesting happened on the way to a verdict. Apparently Bleacher Fan has a new boy in Joe Dumars, and is already nominating him for NBA Executive of the Year. Sports Geek has apparently made Dumars his new favorite whipping boy. It was a totally unexpected turnabout by both of my colleagues, as I never expected Dumars to take such a prominent role in this debate.

Bleacher Fan dug deep and pulled out some quotes from “Bleacher Fan’s Pick Me-Up Book of Quotes.” Add Dolly Parton to the list of names (a list that includes the Olsen Twins… The 16-Year-Old Baseball Player Debate) that I didn’t expect to get mentioned on this website… EVER! Bleacher Fan also made a unique analogy to a teenager buying a new car to keep his evil, wicked neighbor from getting the same car. I mean, who would want to listen to that snob brag about that car for the next five year? Not me, that’s for sure!

Sports Geek elaborated on how coaches are able to adjust to players much better than players are able to adjust to coaches. He also threw into question the motives of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, asserting that they are looking for money, not championships.

The question I posed had nothing to do with Dumars, though. I wanted to know if, essentially, it was an incredibly dumb move, or incredibly smart move, by an NBA free agent to sign with a team that does not yet have a coach. In saying that, I have absolutely no choice but to extend Bleacher Fan’s losing streak and award the “W” to…


I’m not sure why anyone would sign with a team that has no coach. Why do you think so many college recruits renege on their verbal commitment to a college after the team changes coaches? It is because they are not sure who is going to be in charge. They will not know the new coach, just as Gordon and Villanueva likely are not familiar with the new Detroit Pistons head coach, John Kuester. It is definitely not a match made in heaven. Do you think Gordon and Villanueva are regretting the move? We cannot be sure right now, but it is reasonable to think that regret had at least entered their thought process.

Bleacher Fan, feel free to appeal. I’ll listen to you, as always. But, something tells me you won’t appeal this time! :)

The NBA “Too Soon To Sign” Debate – It’s the NBA, Man… Coaches Aren’t Important!

July 8, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument here.

NBA coaches are as useless as a snooze button on a smoke alarm, right? That’s what some NBA writers would have you believe. No other media covering any other professional league treats coaches with the disrespect NBA media dish out to coaches. You’d think that coaches are a dime a dozen. After all, the NBA is a player’s league, right? That’s why Detroit Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars can sign two free agent players, guard Ben Gordon and power forward Charlie Villanueva, to five year contracts each without having a coach in place. But, Dumars has made a sad, stupid mistake that is going to put the city of Detroit through ever more tough times.

Long-tenured, successful NBA coaches are able to adjust their system and style – slightly – to the talent they have around them. This is due, in large part, to coaches having a close relationship with the General Manager so that the right talent is brought in to fit the coach’s system. That’s why you see coaches like the Utah Jazz’s Jerry Sloan, the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, and the Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson become legendary coaches. They are able to influence the personnel decisions and construction of a team so only players suited to their style of coaching become members of their teams.

Dumars has set up his new coach, former Cleveland Cavs assistant John Kuester, for failure. How can Kuester be expected to come into Detroit with no say over the draft or the free agency period? Did Dumars deliberately seek out a coach who was able to manage these two types of players? Was he forced to because he signed them so quickly?

While Dumars has gaffed here, it’s also fair to question the rationale of the players involved. Why would Gordon and Villanueva sign a contract without knowing they’re going to like the man they’ll be playing for in 2009-2010? It’s simple – money. And, that reason isn’t good, it’s dumb. The investment Dumars has made in these two players is considerable compared to the investment in the coach. Which do YOU think is expendable? Yup, it’s the coach, putting the players in a tough spot of coaching change, and further away from what SHOULD be their goal as professional athlete – a championship.

So, why does Dumars not get his coaching situation squared away earlier in the off-season? I have no idea. Do players who are serial money-chasers ever win several championships? Nope (though Latrell Sprewell was able to feed his children). Kind of makes you wonder whether the motivation for Gordon and Villanueva is money, or jewelry. My gut tells me it’s money, which will buy them all the jewelry they want, expect for one ring.

Bottom line, is it easier to find a coach than a player? No. It is MUCH easier to find a player to fit a coach’s system than a coach who can fit a player… let alone TWO players (two players not know for their defense). The timing of Dumars’ coaching hire is as dumb as the player’s decision to sign with a coachless team.

The NBA “Too Soon To Sign” – I Know This Is Cliché, But…

July 8, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that signing players without a coach is not smart.

“When fate hands us a lemon, let’s try to make lemonade.” – Dale Carnegie

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” – Anonymous

“If you want the rainbow, you’ve gotta put up with the rain.” Do you know which philosopher said that? Dolly Parton, and people say she’s just a big pair of… never mind, you get the point!

These quotes all have one thing in common – they all talk about how people need to make the best out of a bad situation. That’s exactly what Detroit Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars has done by signing free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

But first, let’s play a game…

Imagine that you are 16-years-old. You don’t have your driver’s license YET, but your test is next week. As you are studying for your test you come across an ad for the “perfect” car. It’s in your price range and has all the features you are looking for.

The problem is that you’ve heard your neighbor talking about that same car, and they already have their license. What do you do? Do you let the car go because you don’t have your license yet, or do you still buy the car WITHOUT the license, knowing you WILL have it sometime next week?

I would buy the car, YOU would buy the car, and based on his actions last week, Joe Dumars would buy the car.

Dumars made a decision that some are calling unconventional. He signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon as free agents, but was still without a head coach. Some people questioned the decision because they didn’t understand how a team could sign players without knowing who would the coach the team.

I don’t see what the big deal is. Both Gordon and Villanueva are talented scorers, a skill the Pistons need next season considering several expiring contracts which include Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson (those two are freeing up nearly $20 million in cap room). Combining inactivity, with need AND available money, would have been as good as suicide.

When free agency opened for the 2009 NBA season, Dumars had to make the most of his coachless situation. To expect Dumars (or ANY general manager) to remain inactive when everyone else in the league is trying to get stronger is just BEGGING for trouble, head coach or not.

Consider that Villanueva was being courted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who just happen to be the Pistons’ division rivals. If Dumars fails to act just because he doesn’t have a head coach he runs the added risk of seeing him on the opposite side of the court many times throughout the season – and possibly in the postseason. Instead, he stole talent from one division rival (getting Gordon from a still interested Chicago Bulls team) and prevented that talent from going to another. I’d call that a successful move!

The critics (such as Sports Geek) will argue that Dumars is running the risk that Villanueva and Gordon won’t fit into the new coach’s scheme, or that there may be conflict between the eventual coach and players. But, the knowledge of who your head coach is doesn’t mitigate that risk. Coaches and players may or may not get along or fit into a system REGARDLESS of whether or not the coach has been named. Picking players is an inexact science, and general managers have to make the best decision for their team based on the situation in front of them.

For Joe Dumars, the choice was a simple. He could have no head coach AND no free agents, AND lose Wallace and Iverson, AND have unused salary cap room. Or he could have no head coach, BUT bring in two talented free agents to build the organization.

That sounds like a no-brainer to me. Joe Dumars took the desperate measures he had ended up sitting in his new car, sipping lemonade while watching a rainbow!

The NBA “Too Soon To Sign” Debate – The Coachless Team

July 8, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that a player signing before a team has a coach is smart and Sports Geek’s argument that it’s not.

After two spirited debates to start the week, including a controversial verdict to the Sampras-Federer debate (had to throw that in there Bleacher Fan… :)), we come to another interesting topic – one that caught the attention of all three of us when it happened late last week.

Free agent NBA guard Ben Gordon, and the NBA’s favorite Tweeter, free agent power forward Charlie Villanueva, separately agreed to five year contracts with the Detroit Pistons. They can’t actually sign the contracts until today, but all indications are that they will sign them.

On the surface, it’s a great move for both of them. Gordon is coming off an outstanding first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Villanueva is coming off a strong season in which he averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. The Pistons, who were dominant at times against the Eastern Conference earlier this decade, have gotten older, and Pistons general manager Joe Dumars is trying to rebuild the team. These two players, together, could help speed up the rebuilding process in Detroit.

It’s a process that would be more smooth if they actually HAD A COACH!!!

When the Pistons fired Michael Curry on June 30, I wondered if they thought the search for the new coach would be this bumpy! First, Doug Collins was at the top of the list. That didn’t work out. Avery Johnson was brought in, but they couldn’t reach an agreement. Now, it appears that Cleveland Cavaliers assistant, John Kuester, is in line for the job. But, let’s not count those chickens before they hatch. He hasn’t signed anything yet. You cannot assume anything in the NBA, as Portland found out the hard way with their Hedo Turkoglu courtship.

Who the Pistons have, or have not, hired isn’t the question today. The fact that they haven’t hired anyone is what today’s question is built around.
The question is…

How smart is it for a player to sign a contract with a team that currently doesn’t have a head coach or manager in place?

Bleacher Fan will argue that it’s a very smart move for the player. Sports Geek, on the other hand, will argue that it’s a dumb move.

Feel free to leave comments. We always love hearing from you, and you might even be able to sway my decision, too!!!


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