Many believe the Detroit Pistons arrived a year early to the party by crashing the playoffs last season. However, at the midway point of the 2015-16 campaign it wasn’t clear that the squad would be able to break the franchise’s six-playoff drought.
Heading into the All-Star break, the Pistons were playing .500 basketball and had a 27-27 record. However, post All-Star break the club rumbled to a 17-11 record and emerged as the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final seed.
There were many factors that led up to the team reversing their fortunes mid-stream, but an undeniable piece of their playoff puzzle was the trade deadline acquisition of forward Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic.
The Pistons dealt veterans Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Magic in exchange for the forward and almost immediately inserted him into their nightly starting lineup. Not only did the Pistons thrive, but Harris also transitioned well into his surroundings.
Harris Pre All-Star (ORL): 13.7 points, seven rebounds, two assists, 46 percent from the field, 31 percent on threes
Harris Post All-Star (DET): 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 48 percent from the field, 38 percent on threes
It’s never easy for a player to adjust to new surroundings after being dealt mid-season and Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy believes Harris will be even better for the team this season after being able to compete in a full training camp with the staff and teammates.
“Tobias has been great,” Van Gundy told Basketball Insiders. “He came [into training camp] in unbelievable shape, worked really hard all summer and is just moving along playing two positions. Again, a guy that’s really tried to take to heart everything we’ve been talking about. He’s really been trying to work harder defensively, I mean, [he’s] exactly the kind of guy you want.
“His teammates love him and love playing with him. Very good player, better person, great attitude, wants to win and is trying to take some leadership. There’s really nothing negative with him whatsoever.”
There were times early in his career where leadership and Harris weren’t synonymous, but the Pistons are an emerging team with a young core full of potential. The opportunity to emerge as a leader on the team is open behind center Andre Drummond and guard Reggie Jackson at the top of the lineup.
According to Van Gundy, not exactly a coach known to loosely offer praise for his players, Harris is on the path to carving out a much more significant role with the franchise and on the court as we approach the start of the 2016-17 season.
Damian Lillard clarifies “Super Team” comments
A couple of weeks ago, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard caused a bit of a stir by stating he had “too much pride” to ever team up with a gang of superstars in an effort to win a title. Many believed the guard was taking a thinly veiled jab at All-Star forward Kevin Durant who signed with the record setting 73-win Golden State Warriors this past summer.
Lillard recently joined the Jim Rome Show on CBS Sports Radio to provide more clarity on his comments and reiterate the fact he wasn’t taking a jab at Durant in the very least.
“What I was saying was about myself,” Lillard explained to Rome on whether he would sign with a super team. “It wasn’t about anybody else. I was saying joining other big time players and joining a team like Golden State is something that I couldn’t see myself doing.
“We play this game to win and if that’s what somebody is willing to do to win and if that’s what they want to go and do then that’s fine, it’s not against the rules, we can’t be mad at anybody for joining whatever team they want to join but what I was saying I’d rather do it with the team I have. I’d rather build it up to being a championship team.”
The Trail Blazers travel to Golden State on November 1 to kick off their regular season series.
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