DETROIT (AP) — Rodney Stuckey stood near his locker after what might have been his final home game for the Detroit Pistons.
Stuckey is a free agent and can head elsewhere this offseason, but he still offered a few comments on what’s been ailing the Detroit franchise these last few years.
“Stability,” Stuckey said. “You guys see it — always changes each and every year.”
There will be more of that after Detroit went 29-53 this season and missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year. Coach Maurice Cheeks was fired in February, and team president Joe Dumars stepped down this week. That leaves owner Tom Gores in charge of a significant overhaul, three years after he took over the team.
The Pistons made one last bid to turn their fortunes around under Dumars last offseason, when they hired Cheeks as coach, signed Josh Smith and traded for Brandon Jennings. That trio of moves raised expectations, and the team did not come close to meeting them.
Smith was the Pistons’ scoring leader but shot only 42 percent from the field, and Jennings may have been even more inconsistent. Detroit still has one of the game’s top young big men in Andre Drummond, but it’s anyone’s guess what the team around him will look like in 2014-15.
Whoever is in charge of basketball operations will have several key decisions to make.
The Pistons will lose their first-round draft pick if it’s not in the top eight — part of a previous trade with Charlotte. Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent, and both Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva are unrestricted. Villanueva barely played this season, but both Monroe and Stuckey were major parts of Detroit’s rotation.
“July, it’s going to be a good time. I’m excited just to see what different options I’ll have,” Stuckey said. “But at the same time, Detroit has drafted me and gave me this opportunity.”
Stuckey has played for the Pistons for his entire seven-year career. In that span, Detroit has had only one winning season, and Stuckey has played for six coaches, including John Loyer, who took over on an interim basis this season after Cheeks was fired.
That cycle of coaching changes is one the Pistons will seek to break, but the franchise has fallen fast after reaching the Eastern Conference finals every year from 2003-08. The new-look roster never seemed to mesh this season. With Drummond and Monroe playing inside, the 6-foot-9 Smith was ineffective when he spent too much time on the perimeter.
Jennings, meanwhile, finished fifth in the league in assists but shot only 37 percent from the field. Detroit’s strength this season was its offensive rebounding, with Drummond excelling in that regard, but the sheer number of missed shots from outside made the Pistons a reasonably easy team to defend.
“Our season definitely could have been better,” Jennings said recently. “We have taken a lot of lumps and bruises throughout the year. We’ve been an inconsistent team all year, and that’s been our main problem.”
Last offseason was supposed to be Detroit’s first big step toward becoming relevant again in the East, but now another major shakeup to the roster could be on the horizon.
Drummond clearly looks like a player the Pistons can build around, but the front office will have a lot of work to do.
“Everybody knows I can’t stand losing. I hate it with a passion,” Drummond said. “It’s something I don’t want to get used to.”