The Pistons tried to stay positive in the face of their 17th straight defeat the other day. The loss to the Cavaliers kept alive the longest streak in one season since the red and blue set up shop in 1937, debilitating in and of itself. However, they saw in their effort building blocks that could well enable them to claim Win Number Three against the otherwise-hapless Grizzlies in their next outing. And considering that they hung tough for the most part coming off another near miss against the Knicks, it’s fair to argue that they’re not merely engaging in wishful thinking.
The Pistons certainly didn’t expect their 2023-24 campaign to be record-setting, and in all the wrong ways. When they gave highly regarded Monty Williams the largest head coaching contract in National Basketball Association history, they through it would help them take a leap to the next level. Instead, they have regressed significantly — handicapped by factors both beyond and within their control. While there’s certainly nothing they can do with the injuries that have befallen their roster, they have no one else to blame but themselves for their seeming inability to make the best of what they have as a result.
Naturally, much of the blame has fallen on Williams’ doorstep. It bears noting that even quarters who hailed his hiring prior to the start of the season are now second-guessing his decisions; from the lack of discernible substitution patterns to play-calling foibles, his missteps have been the subject of speculation. For now, top management appears inclined to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt; Rome, after all, wasn’t built in a day. In also taking into account the not inconsiderable price tag, franchise honchos have seen fit to exercise patience.
At this point, the last thing the Pistons want is to view futility as an inescapable outcome. For all the pitfalls of hanging on to moral victories, there is not inconsiderable benefit in seeing success by measures. Williams is right; progress is being made. He has to lead it, though, and secure buy-in for the long hail. Whether fans will keep accepting setback after setback en route, however, is another matter altogether.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.