Pistons search for coach, hope to draft Victor Wembanyama

DETROIT (AP) – The Detroit Pistons, coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, are searching for a coach and hoping their new leader has Victor Wembanyama in the lineup.

Detroit closed its fourth straight season – and 12th in 14 years – without a postseason appearance on Sunday with a lopsided loss at Chicago.

After finishing an NBA-worst 17-65, Dwane Casey announced he was stepping down with one year left on his coaching contrat to accept a role in the Troy Weaver-led front office.

Casey was hired by the Pistons in 2018, when he was named the NBA Coach of the Year after his seventh season in Toronto. He led them to a .500 record in his first season and a playoff berth that ended with a first-round exit.

The team’s latest rebuilding effort crumbled due to moves that didn’t pan out, including trading for Blake Griffin, and injuries that kept key players such as Cade Cunningham off the court to hurt Casey’s chances of having success.

“We are grateful for his steady hand as head coach during these important development years, and we are excited to have his wisdom and experience in the front office as we enter the next phase,” team owner Tom Gores said. “Dwane joined us as an experienced and successful coach ready to lead a veteran team, but when we made adjustments as an organization to rebuild around a younger core he fully embraced the decision.”

Detroit desperately hopes its painful season will pave the way for Wembanyama to bring his talents to a franchise aiming to eventually add to its three NBA titles.

“It was something our organization had to go through,” Casey said last week. “It was painful. It was ugly.”

The Pistons, by only one game, beat their franchise-worst record from the 1979-80 season when Dick Vitale was fired 12 games into the season. Their miserable season, though, won’t give them a big advantage in the draft lottery.

Detroit, San Antonio and Houston each will have a 14% chance of picking first – and selecting a 7-foot-3 French phenomenon. Whether Wembanyama or another talented player joins the Pistons, they need an influx of talent.

Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, the No. 5 and No. 13 pick overall last summer, did provide hope for the future with their play.

Ivey, an electric guard, averaged 16-plus points and more than five assists to rank among rookie leaders. The 19-year-old Duren, who started the season as the NBA’s youngest player, averaged about nine points, nine rebounds and one block a game.

Cunningam, the No. 1 pick overall in 2021, had his second season stunted by shin surgery after playing in just 12 games.

“Cade going down was a blessing in disguise for Ivey,” Casey said last week, referring to the transition to point guard that the former Purdue star was forced to make.

Bojan Bogdanovic, who averaged a career-high 21.6 points, Isaiah Stewart, James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley are expected to be back to give the young team some experienced players in the rotation.

“I’m still excited about what we got here,” Bagley said. “We got guys that care and are not OK with losing and that in itself is a sign of a team that can be great.”

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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