MARCH 1, 2013 AT 1:00 AM
BY VINCENT GOODWILL THE DETROIT NEWS
Washington — Of the nearly 15,000 observers who weren't sure if Wizards forward Trevor Ariza's 3-pointer went in or merely swished the net while coming up short, at least one courtside ticket-holder had no doubt of the outcome: agent David Falk.
Falk, the agent for Pistons forward Greg Monroe, is a longtime season-ticket holder.
When Monroe was drafted in June 2010, Falk said Detroit wasn't a great place to be, but he now believes the Pistons are headed in the right direction, despite their 23-37 mark.
"My theory about teams if I owned it, I'd want to be in one of two places: one player away from being a serious title contender, like (Pau) Gasol or (Kevin) Garnett, to put you over the top," Falk said. "Or you're in a rebuilding situation. The worst thing is being in the middle, where you can't get a high enough draft pick to make an impact. (Salary cap) flexibility is very important."
Although the Pistons haven't had a pick higher than Monroe, who went seventh, Falk said he likes the direction the Pistons are going, with the drafting of Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler, along with the acquisition of Jose Calderon.
"When Greg came to Detroit, Joe (Dumars) made the decision that they weren't constituted to be a contender," Falk said. "It's an intelligent way to respond. He went from a veteran team that didn't have a chance to win to a young team that's on the way up."
How the Pistons act this summer, with more than $20 million in cap space, will be a great factor in whether their curve for contending speeds up or regresses. Falk, having represented a who's who of the biggest names (Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning), isn't sure about the perception about Detroit not being an attractive destination for free agents.
"In my career, when Juwan Howard was a free agent (in 1996), we had serious talks with Detroit. Same with (Dikembe) Mutombo (in 1996)," Falk said. "You go to play, it's your job. You have a finite amount of time to win. When Detroit was good, it was a very attractive place to play, guys wanted to go there.
"I can't speak for every player, if they want to be actors and have commercials. Don't you want to win? Who cares about that other stuff?"
As for Monroe's future, contract talks with the Pistons could begin after his third year, which would be this summer, but Falk said the sides will put things off until July 2014, when Monroe will become a restricted free agent.
"Greg isn't gonna go backwards between his third and fourth year," Falk said. "I don't think I've ever done an extension after a third year. In the 90's you maxed out a guy after his second, but the (CBA) rules are different now."
"When I evaluate things, with a player of Greg's stature: Take the money out of the equation. I can get it from five different teams. 'Are there players I want to play with? A coach I want to play for? A city I want to live in?' My job is to make the money as insignificant as possible (relatively)."
Tayshaun Prince was the only drafted Piston in Dumars' reign as general manager to get an extension before hitting restricted free agency, and another Falk client, Indiana's Roy Hibbert, passed up a chance to sign an extension as a third-year player before the Pacers matched an offer sheet from the Trail Blazers.
Only time will tell what road the Pistons and their big man are headed down.
"What incentive does a player have to do an extension after his third year? For me personally, it's difficult to do that," Falk said. "Larry (Bird) offered a significant extension. The structure of the CBA, for me, I can't speak for others, I question why that makes sense.
"Do you want to play in a warm-weather market? A big city? For Roy Hibbert he was comfortable in a small market. Some players feel the opposite."
Monroe's free agency will come at a tricky time, when the purse strings of owners and general managers will be a little tighter due to the more punitive luxury tax, as evidenced by last week's quiet trade deadline.
"When the (super) tax kicks in, and teams get to the 'apron,' teams will think twice before adding long-term liabilities because it'll be harder to move players," Falk said."I think Greg Monroe is gonna be one of those core players long-term."