Michael Blackstone

Gores: Pistons “Needed A Fresh Start” In Hiring Langdon

The Pistons hired new president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon and moved on from former head coach Monty Williams this month, wiping the slate clean after a franchise-worst season. A year ago, the Pistons made Williams the highest-paid coach in the NBA at the time, circling back to him after he turned down their initial overtures. What followed was a year mired by injuries, plateaued development from the team’s young players outside of Cade Cunningham, and a lack of either spacing or a veteran presence on the team.

After assessing everything, I really felt the best choice for the organization was a fresh start,” owner Tom Gores said during Detroit’s official introduction of Langdon on Friday. “Our mistakes in the past has nothing to do with just one person. We needed a fresh start and we needed Trajan to lead with a fresh start.

According to The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III, the Pistons were impressed by Langdon’s willingness to bring in people around him who could cover skills he wasn’t as well-versed in. With the organization reportedly seeking synergy, hiring Langdon was a good start, Edwards writes.

Both Gores and Langdon expressed the need for Detroit to be more aggressive in bringing in outside help during free agency this offseason.

These young players, they need to play, but, yes, bringing in veterans who hopefully have a lot of know-how, some IQ and can shoot the ball, that’s going to be the target so that we can spread the floor and make it easier for the development of our young players,” Langdon said. “We’re going to look to do that, hopefully, through trade and free agency. That is how we’re going to attack this summer.

Meanwhile, Gores expressed disappointment with how last offseason went and how it was one of the main mistakes the team made last year (Twitter link via Omari Sankofa II of Detroit Free Press).

We have to have players who are active,” Gores said. “It’s not good enough to be a free agent, come over and not play.

As for who will take over for Williams in the head-coaching role, Langdon said the search won’t take a back seat to the preparations for the draft and free agency. As we wrote on Thursday, the Pistons plan to interview former Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney and Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori. James Borrego has also been listed as a potential frontrunner and is expected to get an interview.

Here are a few more notable quotes from Friday’s presser via Edwards, Keith Langlois from Pistons.com and Sankofa:

Langdon on the draft:

I think we’re going to get a good player at five. We like five a lot. We’re looking for the guy we feel has the best upside out of this draft and if that guy’s not there at five and there’s a team that’s willing to give us an asset value to flip back, then maybe that’s an opportunity, as well. But as of right now, our vision is not to be out of this draft. We want to draft a player and if we do flip back, it’s not going to be that far.

Langdon on bringing in front office executives Michael Blackstone and executive J.R. Holden:

Michael Blackstone … the thing I needed the most, especially coming into this situation, is a strategist, someone who really understands the cap. He has a big-time negotiating background and is very systematic and thoughtful in regards to what we need to from a roster and staffing standpoint.

“… J.R. Holden and I have a longstanding relationship from playing overseas. He understands what winning looks like and the culture and environment that we’re trying to create here. He’s cut his teeth here before with Stan (Van Gundy), in Philadelphia and the last five years in Brooklyn with Sean Marks.”

Gores on Langdon’s ability to turn things around:

I’m extremely confident this partnership with Trajan is going to work. That it is going to turn our franchise around. The mistake of the past is thinking a magic bullet will just handle things. As Trajan said, it’s about the details. It’s about everyday leadership. Greatness is built on the details and you can’t skip those. So I’m extremely confident. Trajan’s into details and he has an ability to be strategic and have vision and then an ability to speak with people and inspire them.

Gores on the franchise’s pecking order for decisions:

Trajan is the boss. He’s the president of basketball. He can come to me, he can get recommendations from [chairman Arn Tellem]. One of the things we needed was that single source of decision-making and have that person really pull together everything so that we can make decisions.

Pistons To Hire Michael Blackstone As Langdon’s Top Lieutenant

The Pistons are hiring Michael Blackstone as their executive VP of basketball operations, Omari Sankofa of the Detroit Free Press reports.

Blackstone will be the second in command under new president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon. Blackstone has updated his social media bio, stating he now works for the Pistons organization.

Blackstone had worked with Langdon as the Pelicans’ VP of basketball administration since the 2020/21 season. He had been considered the favorite to land the job as Langdon’s right-hand man.

Sankofa confirms the Pistons are also hiring Nets director of player personnel J.R. Holden in an executive role.

Blackstone was an assistant GM in Atlanta before coming to New Orleans. He was also the executive director of basketball operations with the Cavaliers from 2010-13.

The Pistons parted ways with GM Troy Weaver at the beginning of the month. Weaver’s rebuilding project was a failure, as the Pistons finished with the worst record in the league this season.

Langdon and his assistant will have over $60MM in cap space this summer to make the team more competitive. The Pistons hold the No. 5 pick in the draft after falling in the lottery.

Pistons Notes: Front Office Candidates, Weaver, Buzelis

Michael Blackstone, an executive who worked with new Pistons head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon in New Orleans, is considered the favorite to become Langdon’s second-in-command in Detroit, sources tell James L. Edwards and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Blackstone, the Pelicans‘ vice president of basketball administration, was an assistant general manager in Atlanta before coming to New Orleans in 2020.

Other prominent names to watch, according to the authors’ sources, are Matt Lloyd, senior vice president of basketball operations with the Timberwolves; Travis Schlenk, the Wizards‘ vice president of player personnel and former team president in Atlanta; Brock Aller, the Knicks‘ vice president of basketball and strategic planning; and Tayshaun Prince, vice president of basketball affairs with the Grizzlies. The authors note that Prince is a sentimental favorite among fans because he was a starter on Detroit’s last championship team in 2004.

There’s an opening in the front office after the Pistons parted ways with general manager Troy Weaver in what the team described as a mutual decision. Weaver, who served as GM for the past four years, lost decision-making authority with the addition of Langdon.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Poor draft decisions marked the biggest mistake Weaver made during his time running the organization, contends Andrew Birkle of The Detroit Free Press. Birkle acknowledges that seven of Weaver’s eight first-round picks look like they’ll have a future in the NBA, but he views them as a mismatched collection of talent that doesn’t fit together. He also questions whether the team has any potential stars other than Cade Cunningham, adding that it’s too early to fully evaluate the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 because he’s missed so much time due to injuries.
  • Shooting and rim protection are the most important assets in the NBA, and Weaver failed to provide the Pistons with either of those things, observes Shawn Windsor of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). Windsor adds that everyone should be considered expendable after a 68-loss season, starting with head coach Monty Williams, who will be Langdon’s next major decision before addressing the roster.
  • Keith Langlois of NBA.com examines Matas Buzelis as a potential pick for the Pistons at No. 5 in this year’s draft. Although the G League Ignite had a disastrous season, Buzelis showed promise with 14.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Langlois notes that his 6’10” size, floor-spacing and play-making ability, and his versatility on defense make Buzelis a good fit with the rest of the roster.

Pistons Part Ways With GM Troy Weaver

JUNE 1: The Pistons announced Weaver’s departure in a press release, calling it a “mutual decision.”

“I very much appreciate all the dedication Troy displayed to our Pistons franchise,” Gores said in a statement.  “As much as we have struggled lately, we will look back and see Troy as an important person in the remaking of the Pistons. He took the pain of rebuilding head on and he did the hard work to get us the flexibility we have today. He also assembled a great core of young men with tremendous skill and character to give us a path to the future. Make no mistake, I have real appreciation for who Troy is as a person and what he has meant to the organization. I wish him the very best as he pursues his ventures.”

MAY 31: The Pistons and general manager Troy Weaver are parting ways following the team’s decision to hire Trajan Langdon as its new head of basketball operations, according to James L. Edwards III and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Reporting ahead of Langdon’s hiring indicated that Detroit’s new top front office decision-maker would be given the freedom to either retain or let go of Weaver. According to Edwards and Charania, the Pistons offered Weaver the option of staying with the franchise in an off-site scouting role, but he turned down that position and will leave the organization.

Weaver was hired as the Pistons’ general manager in 2020 and oversaw a full-scale rebuild during his four-year tenure. However, the team hasn’t made the strides that ownership and management were hoping for and expecting. After winning 20 games in Weaver’s first year and 23 in his second, Detroit has gotten even worse over the last two seasons, compiling just 17 wins in 2022/23 and a league-worst 14 this past season.

Weaver made some good draft picks during his time with the Pistons, as Edwards and Charania note. Cade Cunningham, 2021’s No. 1 overall pick, has star potential, 2020 first-rounder Isaiah Stewart has developed into a solid rotation player, and Ausar Thompson, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and Marcus Sasser have shown promise. However, Weaver’s first lottery pick – Killian Hayes at No. 7 in 2020 – was a miss, and his moves to fill out the roster around the young core weren’t particularly fruitful.

Langdon is expected to have “free rein” to make changes to both the front office and coaching staff, according to Edwards and Charania, who say that team owner Tom Gores has told him that money is no object.

With Weaver no longer in the picture, Detroit is in serious talks to potentially hire another Pelicans executive, league sources tell The Athletic — Michael Blackstone, the VP of basketball administration in New Orleans, could become Langdon’s second-in-command with the Pistons, per Edwards and Charania. Blackstone spent time in the Cavaliers’ and Hawks’ front offices before being hired by the Pelicans in 2020.

Southeast Notes: Teague, Hawks, Heat, Wizards

The three-way trade that sent Jeff Teague to Indiana earlier this offseason came as a bit of a surprise, but Teague himself wasn’t totally caught off guard by the deal. As he tells Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, Teague had been informed by the Hawks that an offseason trade may be in the cards.

“Me and the Hawks talked a bit and we agreed to be open with each other and try to help each other facilitate a nice deal,” Teague said. “So I knew it was coming [eventually], but I didn’t know when. When I got the news, Coach Bud let me know that he would be trading me home. It was bittersweet, but I’m excited about a new start and a new opportunity.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast division: