They Confiscated A Pistons Home Game And No One Seems To Care
11:39 AM EST on December 29, 2023
We've all had our fun with the Detroit Pistons (a statement that admittedly leans heavily on your definition of fun), but that’s just part of losing-streak living. They try hard, they hang awhile, they can even take the odd lead. Last night, they dope-slapped the Boston Celtics for the greater majority of the night, creating their largest lead of the entire season and holding it for longer than in any of their other 27 losses. This was surely their night—until gravity set in with its usual thud.
But that's not the indignity that will endure. It came earlier in the day when the league office decided to take away one of Detroit’s future home games, the Feb. 26 PE class with the New York Knicks, and move it to New York. They didn't replace that lost home game with anything else. They just said, "You're playing 40 at home and 42 on the road this year, capisce? Capisce." Then they put out a press release without the capisce part to make it all official and tidy.
This little insult to injury got remarkably little notice, perhaps because the Pistons are a bigger story for what they are doing rather than where they are doing it, but the league chose the Pistons of all teams to sacrifice a home game (and although we're not sure about this, maybe a home gate as well) because the Knicks had been shorted by the not-quite-fully-formed in-season tournament setup but still have aspirations for playing beyond Tax Day, while the Pistons are already six games behind Charlotte, for God's sake. It's a scheduling quirk that won't be noticed, until the Pistons need that late February home crowd to break their 53-game losing streak.
It's the philosophical implications of the league's decision here that make a body wonder. The Knicks are a playoff contender so every home date can matter; the Pistons are, well, you know. But nobody ever thought to take a home game from Charlotte the year they finished 7-59 in the strike-shortened 2012 season, or the 1973 76ers who went 9-73. Those teams got their full complement because while they may have been execrable, they were still dues-paying members in good standing, and it didn't matter that they weren't likely to put their games to good use.
So, caught in a logistical bind because of Adam Silver's personal affectation for the Carabao Cup and dealing with a franchise already suing one team (Toronto) and in a snippy little grudge match with the league in general over that twist in Jimmy Dolan's Y-fronts, the league gave the matter full consideration, agonized long and hard, put on its most diplomatic and sympathetic face, and told Detroit owner Tom Gores that he would just have to take one for the team.
Or, equally plausible, they gathered in executive Zoomery after a night on the ales and said, "Screw it, it's the Pistons. What are they gonna do, quit us and join the Horizon League?" As an ancillary argument, if you as a player have a choice, so the logic would go, would you rather spend that night with your pals in New York or your family in Detroit? That's a poor message, but it's what happens when you think too hard about not enough—like how to make December basketball matter.
In a structure designed to convince everyone that all franchises are created equal, the Pistons just got told they are not only massively less equal than the Knicks, but less equal than every other team that had a home game remaining against the Knicks. Already locked in self-esteem issues, they have a slightly uncalibrated schedule to go with all the other roadblocks preventing them from catching the Wizards for 14th.
And since you didn't ask, who gets that extra home game that the league confiscated to make the Knicks whole and slightly less snivelly? The also-don't-really-need-it Milwaukee Bucks, who are 16-2 at home, laid 146 on the Knicks in their last meeting in Wisconsin on Dec. 5 to wreck the schedule to begin with, and are chasing Boston for the top seed in the East.
Will any of this matter in the end? No, because nothing matters when you get right down to it, but what hope do any of us have if we can't even get this right? Ask any Piston; they know from not getting it right better than anyone.