The ice is in. It’s been painted. The first octopus has been tossed onto it, scraped off of it, and twirled around in the air over it. We’re barreling toward the opening of Detroit’s latest attraction, Little Caesar’s Arena, the new home of the Red Wings and Pistons.
I’m excited. I think we all are, here in Detroit. It’s been four years since the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, and the transformation from then to now has been swift. Make no mistake, there is still plenty of work to be done. There always will be. The public school system is at the top of the list (as it is for most metropolitan areas, if we’re being fair). But those who were here 10 years ago cannot deny that things are much better now than they were then.
In a way, the completion of this super arena feels somewhat like our reintroduction to the rest of the country, the rest of the world. Detroit is, at long last, “back.”
Major businesses finally realized what an opportunity Detroit presents, and have started moving in as the area’s economy has stabilized. Young professionals are flooding to the city as a result. There’s a nightlife downtown that literally did not exist just a few years ago. The city is fun again.
More importantly, the city is safe again, thanks in large part to 65,000 new streetlights that the Public Lighting Authority installed from 2014-2016. You can see the difference from space. Yes, there is still crime. Again, perfection is impossible. What we’re looking for is meaningful, lasting improvement, and that’s what we’re finding.
Things are actually going well in Detroit for the first time in a long while. So, at the risk of being that guy and bringing everyone back down, I would like to take a stand that I think many are too afraid to.
I will not step foot in Little Caesar’s Arena this season. Not for a Wings game. Not for a Pistons game. Not even if I’m offered free tickets.
Let me clarify. This is not a futile attempt to hold onto what once was. Truthfully, I’m happy the city’s two second-fiddle franchises are going to have a brand new home. For differing reasons, both desperately needed new digs. Let’s be honest, Joe Louis Arena had been a dump for a decade. We only liked it because it was our dump. Nothing gets a Detroiter going like a sense of ownership.
As far as the Palace goes, it was a great venue. It was just horrendously located. There was only one way for any of us to get in and out of there. After sitting in traffic on I-75 for who knows how long, the experience of a Pistons game felt more like a road trip.
I’m glad the Wings and the Stones were sensible enough to share. Doing so saved the city from having another large swath of downtown real estate unnecessarily eaten up. As soon as the news broke that the Wings would be building the new LCA, my first thought was that the Pistons should approach them about joining. Sure enough, they did.
I’m sure my having figured it out before it happened has a lot to do with it, but I feel almost a sense of pride that the two organizations are coming together. As I’ve said, this is a crucial step in the revitalization of the city I love.
The new arena will be great, to be sure. My point here is the two teams that will play inside are not. In fact, they’re both in miserable condition without much hope for this coming season, or the next, or the one after that.
It’s simple, really. The teams both suck and I refuse to pay outrageous prices just to be crowded by a bunch of half-ass fans who are only there to see (or rather, be seen at) the new building.
Return of the Dead Wings?
As we all said our goodbyes to the Joe, we also bid farewell to the Wings’ playoff streak, which came to an anti-climactic end after an incredible 25 consecutive appearances. That thing started before I was conceived. I’d literally never seen my hockey team fail to make the playoffs until this past spring.
It was criminal that the streak had to end in the final year at the Joe, but it also provided a much-needed wake-up call. The team needed to be restructured. What better chance could we have than this offseason, as we move into our shiny new rink? Sure, it’s not ideal, but what other choice do we have at this point? The roster is full of players that fall into two groups. There’s the aging core of veterans who’ve all fallen off dramatically, and there’s the heirs apparent who are fumbling the torch.
Apparently, GM Ken Holland slept right through the alarm clock. It’s obvious to those of us who watched a decent amount of games last year that there flat-out is not enough talent on this roster to legitimately compete. Yet, here’s Holland, making supplemental moves to flesh out his team, as if he’s only one or two pieces away from a Cup run. Judging by the signings made this summer, the nightmare will continue, even as we enter dreamland.
The headline move was re-signing left winger Tomas Tatar to a four-year deal worth $21.2-million. He scored 25 times last year. He’s a good player. The issue is the Wings have at least three other guys who could fill the same role.
The major free agent brought in was Trevor Daley, who signed a contract good for three years and $9.5-million. This is a decent signing. Daley is fresh off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hopefully, he’ll inject a bit more pride into a locker room that seemed to get down on itself quite often last year. He’s not flashy but he’s steady. The Wings need that badly on the blue line.
Much like the Tatar situation though, the Wings have a number of players who could play the same type of game Daley will be. None of them are any good but they’re still being paid. If it were me, I’d have left Daley’s spot open for a younger guy to take, and Tatar’s too. I understand why Holland is making these moves. I just think he’s wrong for making them.
The Pistons’ situation isn’t any better. This time last year, we had reason to believe. Then they started playing games. I don’t know what the problem was with last year’s group. I don’t think any of them know either. The 2016-17 campaign was the definition of a lost season. Now we try to move on, but in what direction and with who?
Reggie Jackson was either injured or unproductive the entire year. Andre Drummond was exposed as a liability in close games because of his atrocious free throw shooting. Tobias Harris had a very blah season. Stanley Johnson saw a dramatic decrease in minutes and a subsequent dip in his numbers. Marcus Morris was traded for Avery Bradley, who takes the spot left by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Duke guard Luke Kennard was brought in through the draft.
What kind of team are we looking at? Last year was frustrating because not only was the team no good, it seemed at times like the players didn’t give a damn. My hope is Avery Bradley can help change the chemistry of the team. The makeup of a team is often overblown but in basketball I think it is something worth noting, particularly on a team like the Pistons.
Stan Van Gundy demands a lot from his guys. He preaches defense first. That doesn’t normally go over well with today’s players. When you’re the GM and the head coach though, you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t have the right guys on your roster. That’s what we’re seeing here.
SVG has one more season to prove he knows what he’s doing. In theory, his game plan is almost unbeatable. In reality, he’s not had much success anywhere. Unless Van Gundy can get his players back on board with his philosophy, we’re going to be looking at another wasted year.
I’m interested to see how Luke Kennard’s game translates to the NBA. I’m excited to have a high-energy guy like Avery Bradley on the squad. Other than those two, I don’t know what you’d be looking forward to with this team.
So again, I will not be entering Little Caesars Arena this fall, winter, or spring. My protest means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things but I don’t know how you can tell me shelling out for a lackluster product is a better option. If you’re only going to see the new building that’s fine by me. It’s your prerogative. I, however, will not be joining you. Maybe next year.
Yes, the Wings have their new ice, but how thin is it?