The Big Picture: This incarnation of the Detroit Pistons shouldn't be quite this bad. They're not terrible as it stands, but they're bad enough that there's this creeping sense that something's gone horribly wrong in the organization. From this outsider's vantage point, there are two main issues that are leading to dysfunction, and which the Bobcats would do well to address or avoid in their own house.
1 -- The veterans are oozing with entitlement. The team wants to trade Rip Hamilton because he's Stephen Jackson minus the defense, and making Josh Smith money. The team should want to trade Tayshaun Prince because, though he might actually be their best player this year, he's more valuable to them in the form of picks or young players than as an expiring contract. Yet, the vets -- and their friends -- pout and complain that they don't get the respect they deserve. We don't know how much of this was unavoidable friction that happens when a player starts losing his ability and how much was legitimate screwing-up by management, jerking around the players and not treating them like men with families. In the end, everyone looks bad, but Hamilton worst of all, because his production simply doesn't match up with his projected opinion of himself.
2 -- They signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon to huge contracts, and those guys simply aren't worth the money they were given, especially Gordon.
The Cats haven't yet signed anyone to a deal as foolish as the Gordon contract, but they've taken on Jackson and Boris Diaw via trade, and both of those contracts are in the same class as Villanueva's. We've got a long-established head coach, which should quell any credibility problem like the one John Kuester has with his players, but Detroit illustrates how a reasonably upbeat situation here in Charlotte might turn toxic seemingly overnight.
Musical Interlude: Bonnie Prince Billy -- "World's Greatest" (R. Kelly cover)
Key to Victory: Jonas Jerebko is done for the season, Jason Maxiell may be out, Rodney Stuckey may be out, Ben Wallace may be out, and Hamilton may be out. All those guys were expected to be significant contributors this year. What's been surprising to many, though, is how well the Pistons have been doing without them. Tracy McGrady has been a better point guard this year than he was a wing player the past couple seasons (see: faint praise), and Greg Monroe is hardly a star, but he's holding his own in the middle.
All that's to say that though they're not better, the Pistons are a different type and style of team now than they are when everyone's healthy, and the Cats shouldn't expect a grind-it-out, Hamilton-focused, Larry Brown-style of offense the way they might run when everyone's there.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: In 1988-89, Kuester was coach at George Washington University, and the Colonials went 1-27 for the season. Yikes.