The firing of Detroit Pistons head coach Maurice Cheeks today is surely bringing more questions than answers to a team that is clearly in a state of disarray. Prior to the start of the season, team owner Tom Gores publicly commented on the postseason expectations that he had for Detroit. “If we don’t get in this year, it’ll be a huge disappointment,” Gores said.
This is where Gores’ thought process gets confusing. Over the past couple of weeks, the Pistons were rapidly fading out of the playoff picture. They had lost 11 of their previous 14 games, and this seemed like a prime time to dispose of Cheeks to make a last ditch playoff push. Instead, Cheeks was retained and Detroit was showing signs of improvement. Their last two wins came in convincing fashion against the Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets, both playoff contenders.
If Gores was so committed to being one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference, why would he fire his first-year coach just when they were finally putting together complete games?
The most logical explanation is that Gore’s impatience got the best of him and he wanted a quick turnaround. But, perhaps his thought process has changed. Could Gores have made the decision to tank with the hopes of keeping his team’s coveted lottery pick for the 2014 NBA Draft? It’s not entirely implausible.
Detroit has sat on the edge of the eighth seed for quite some time now. Gores may not want to take the risk of missing the playoffs as the ninth or 10th seed in the East, which would almost surely result in losing their protected first-round pick. The coming weeks before the NBA trade deadline will paint a clearer picture of Gores’ intentions. Josh Smith and Greg Monroe have recently been rumored to be on the trading block.
Who knows, maybe they’ll pull another surprising move and deal Brandon Jennings as well. Parting ways with several of the team’s key components will be the ultimate sign if Detroit intends to become worse in the short run or stay on course with Gore’s expectations.