Detroit Pistons’ Troy Weaver showing Lions, Tigers how to rebuild a team the right way

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver could have taken a victory lap on Monday after pulling off the unthinkable.

In his first season in charge the Pistons, Weaver overhauled the roster, set a new culture, developed a core of young players, created an entertaining product, broke the endless chain of mediocrity and — this is the truly wonderful part — the Pistons lost.

And lost.

And lost.

The Pistons finished with a 20-52 record, the second—worst record in the league and are in as good a position as possible to get a top draft pick, even though the NBA draft system is idiotic, which is a column for another day.

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So yes, Weaver could have taken a victory lap, if only for having — as odd as it sounds — a successful losing season.

But he didn’t.

When he held a season-ending news conference, he dug deeper.

“The biggest thing I learned? I gotta be better,” Weaver said. “When we are talking about players having growth this summer, it’s myself included. I’m standing at the front of the line and I gotta be better. I gotta come back better. I gotta be sharper, more thoughtful, more insightful, more demanding.”

Maybe, when you hear a GM say things like that, you roll your eyes.

But I believe him.

I trust Weaver, just based off what he accomplished this season. His mindset runs through the organization. And you have to love where this team is headed.

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Weaver is setting a wonderful example on how to rebuild a franchise.

Are you paying attention Tigers? Their rebuild is stuck somewhere between painful and depressing and it grows more wearisome every day when you see a long list of prospects struggling in the minors.

The Lions rebuild is stuck somewhere between intriguing and — wait.

Can we have a lion?

I mean, seriously.

A lion for the Lions?

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to do it, but I would love to literally just have a pet lion,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said, said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast on Monday. “Just a legit pet lion on a chain, a big ass chain, and he really is my pet. We just walk around the building, we go out to practice, we’re at seven-on-seven, we’re behind the kicker when he’s kicking.”

Even though I’m not crazy about seeing a big cat on a leash, I love the thought process behind the idea.

Because it’s so similar to the mindset of these Pistons.

[ Grading Detroit’s rebuilds, from promising to failing: Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, Tigers ]

“The record stinks but we’ll continue to fight, claw, scratch, bite, whatever we got to do to get out of this hole,” Weaver said.

That sounds like a Campbell’s knee biting.

And I love the mindset.

“When I took the job, I had one goal in mind and that was to restore the Pistons and I won’t stop or quit until it happens,” Weaver said. “We’re going to be unwavering in how we get there. We are going to stay true to ourselves and really be committed to doing things, the Pistons way. But the optimism, the belief inside these walls comes from us doing things the right way and the belief we have in each other that we can make it happen.”

“What type of player do you think this team needs to take that next step?” Weaver was asked.

“We need competitive guys,” Weaver said. “We need a competitive player who brings it and fits with the group, like mindset, that can continue to move this needle forward. But he’s got to be a competitive guy.”

That, too, sounds like how the Lions are building.

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Obviously, it is pointless just to get competitive guys if they can’t play. But Weaver has shown an ability to identify talent. When you have talent and mindset, everything can change.

Don’t just get good players.

Get players with the right DNA.

“Twenty wins doesn’t sit well with me at all,” Weaver said. “I don’t like anything about it. I don’t like the way it looks. I don’t like the way it smells.”

OK. I understand his point. But I have to disagree.

Twenty wins was fantastic because it breaks the chain of mediocrity and sets up the future, even though I realize the Pistons don’t have the best lottery luck.

But at least there is some hope right now.

That’s something we haven’t had a lot of around here.

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Right now, the Tigers are struggling with little help coming in the immediate future. And the Lions are a long way from being competitive. So hopefully, the Lions will learn from the Pistons.

Lay the foundation. Create a new culture. Develop some young players. Create some excitement. And put out an entertaining product.

And, in the short term, lose.

And lose.

And lose.

At least for one more year.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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