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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

Pistons' 17-game losing streak is a team record. Is there any hope for faithful fans?

The Detroit Pistons have a new head coach, Monty Williams (left), and former top NBA pick Cade Cunningham (right) is healthy after missing nearly all of last season. Despite the changes, the Pistons are in a franchise-record slump with 17 straight losses.
Carlos Osorio
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) talks to head coach Monty Williams during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Detroit. The Pistons are in a franchise-record slump this season with 17 straight losses.

Take a minute and think back to October 28, a few days before Halloween. Does that feel like a long time ago? It certainly does for the Detroit Pistons.

That's because October 28 was the last time they won a game. Since then, they've lost 17 straight, setting a team record.

Reporter Mike Curtis covers the Pistons for the Detroit News. He joined Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to talk about the team's historic losing streak.

Wednesday's game: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena - 7:00 p.m.

Doug Tribou: In many ways, a 17-game losing streak speaks for itself. But you're at all the Pistons' games, so I just want to start by asking you for the basic eye test. How bad has it been?

Mike Curtis: Yeah, it's been it's been pretty bad. Like you said, they're on a historic losing streak. It's never been done in the history of the Detroit Pistons. Seventeen straight losses. And there are a couple of contributing factors for it.

The one that jumps off the page the most: they got hit by injuries pretty early in the season. Bojan Bogdanović, their leading scorer from last year, scored like 21 points per game. He wasn't available for the first 19 games [this season] because of a right calf injury. Without him, it's just been kind of tough for them to score. They don't have consistent scoring outside of Cade Cunningham.

The short answer, I would say, is the lack of scoring, turnovers, and excessive fouling. That's why the Pistons are struggling.

DT: But other than that... [laughs].

The Pistons — you mentioned Cade Cunningham — chose Cunningham with the top pick in the 2021 NBA draft. He's missed a lot of time since then, nearly all of last season. How would you say he's been playing this year? Are you seeing growth there?

MC: Yeah, absolutely. I think the first thing that jumps off when you look at Cade is just how he's scoring. He wasn't traditionally known as a three-point shooter in his first two years in the NBA, but he's now shooting at a 35% clip, which is pretty impressive for someone coming off a long layoff, as Cade has. He's averaging around 20 points. He's getting his teammates involved, too.

I think the biggest thing that Cade probably needs to work on is his turnovers. He's turning the ball over at a pretty high level. I think he leads the league in turnovers, actually. So if he can knock those turnovers down, it'll give this team a better shot to come out with some wins.

"The short answer ... is the lack of scoring, turnovers, and excessive fouling."
Detroit News reporter Mike Curtis on why the Detroit Pistons are struggling this season.

DT: The Pistons have a new head coach this season, Monty Williams. He's a respected leader and was named NBA Coach of the Year a couple of years ago when he was with Phoenix. What has he been saying about the team's struggles?

MC: He's been pretty levelheaded. One thing he's definitely been able to do is take some type of accountability. Almost every loss that they've had, he either says 'It's on me because I didn't have the right rotations out there,' or 'I didn't give this guy the best opportunity to succeed.'

There was one game, after they lost to the Wizards [on Nov. 27], where he was probably as emotional as we've seen him. He said that the Pistons lacked fight, they lacked spirit, and that wasn't what this team should represent. So he was really passionate after that game, but for the most part, despite the 17-game losing streak, he's been pretty levelheaded.

DT: The Pistons had the worst record in the NBA last season with just 17 wins, and they're pacing well below that right now at just 2-18. A lot of fans expected at least some improvement this season. And the fans are still turning out. ESPN lists them at 12th in the league in attendance so far. Do the faithful have any reason for hope?

MC: It's tough. It's really tough when you've had a team who has struggled like this team has. Now granted, [fans] are still showing up to games. I'm still there and I see them interacting. They're still engaged. When they don't see that level of competitiveness from the Pistons, they're booing their team. They see the Lions are doing pretty good [in the NFL] and I think they want that for the Pistons, as well. But, I think they are losing some sense of faith because they just want to see their team win.

DT: Mike, thanks a lot.

MC: No problem. Thanks so much for having me.

DT: For the record, the longest NBA losing streak in a single season is 26 games. Cleveland and Philadelphia both have that dubious honor. Wednesday night the Pistons will try to end their 17-game losing streak when they host the Memphis Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena.


Further reading from Detroit News sports reporter Mike Curtis: 

"Pistons fade late again against Cavaliers, lose 17th straight

"We really want to win': Bogdanovic looks to boost Pistons with return"

Editor's notes: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Caoilinn Goss is the producer for Morning Edition. She started at Michigan Public during the summer of 2023.
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