Detroit Pistons introduce Trajan Langdon: What he said about Cade Cunningham, cap and more

The Detroit Pistons’ new leader has finally spoken.

Team owner Tom Gores introduced new president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon during a news conference Friday at the team's Midtown practice facility. It has been a busy few weeks since he took over the organization at the end of May. The organization has parted ways with general manager Troy Weaver and head coach Monty Williams, and is hunting for a new coach as the draft approaches Wednesday in New York.

Here's what the former general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans had to say upon his arrival in Detroit.

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.)

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores talks to president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon at press conference to introduce Langdon at the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in Detroit on Friday, June 21, 2024.
Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores talks to president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon at press conference to introduce Langdon at the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in Detroit on Friday, June 21, 2024.

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Did you sell yourself to the Pistons, and did you look for the Pistons to sell themselves to you?

"There’s only 30 of these and it’s been my dream to run one of these one day. I knew the time would come at some point when hopefully things would match up between myself and an owner that had trust and faith in me, and a situation that I thought could really help in. I think that has to be the match for somebody that will succeed. I thought the timing was great and the situation. I thought Tom and I really connected over some late-night meetings and a few good phone calls. I think the connection was there in just understanding where this franchise was and what this franchise needed — just give it time. Some of those things that this organization needs, I’m able to provide. I’m pretty humble, a pretty modest guy but I think I stand for some things and I’m pretty good at some things that this organization needs. The fit and the timing at this present time for the Detroit Pistons organization and myself really aligned, and that’s what attracted me to this opportunity."

What's your initial assessment of the roster?

"I’ve only been here for three weeks and to be honest with you, we were in the West, which was a gauntlet. We saw the Detroit Pistons twice, so I wasn't heavily focused on this team last year, to be honest with you. But what I’ve seen is studying the team as I was going through the process with Tom, and what I’ve seen since I’ve been here are young men who love to be in the gym and love to work. I think our average age is between 22 and 23 years old. These are good young men that are passionate about the game and they’re excited about the future. They’ve been in here working their tails off.

"I’ve gotten to meet individually with a lot of them and they’ve been very responsive. I shared my vision with them about where this team is going, what I’d like to do with the team, not from a roster standpoint but a cultural standpoint on what my expectations are going to be from each and every one of them. They’ve all been very, very excited about that. I think the vision is aligned there, and we’ll continue to be having these conversations and expectations and hold these guys accountable."

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Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon speaks at the press conference to introduce him at the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in Detroit on Friday, June 21, 2024.
Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon speaks at the press conference to introduce him at the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in Detroit on Friday, June 21, 2024.

How far away are the Pistons from being competitive?

"For us, I don’t think there’s a time frame for when we want to get back to the playoffs. For us, it’s creating a foundation for our young players, a foundation of winning, which means creating an environment of winning. You have to do that first before you can actually win between the lines. You’ve gotta practice and compete at a certain level, and have a certain fiber of human beings in this facility every day, and that means not only the players, it means the coaching staff and this front office and this performance staff. We all have to help out in the development of our young players. Creating that foundation is paramount that we do that first.

"We're not going to skip steps. I can't give you a timeline. When we get there, we get there."

What qualities are you looking for in the next head coach?

"Tom has talked about leadership, that’s incredibly important to find a young man that can lead this team going forward and is aligned with us, aligned with Tom, aligned with myself and the front office on how we want to execute going forward and how we want to build this organization. I think somebody that’s a really good communicator is important, somebody who’s a good collaborator is important. I don’t mean just with the front office, I mean with the performance team, I mean with our nutritionist, with our mental skills coach. It has to be collaboration throughout this organization at all times so we’re aligned. And I think somebody who is really big into development and is passionate about it. We talk about our young players, our young core, and they are good young men but they’re talented. We have to have someone who has the patience, but also the desire to develop these young players and not skip steps. Those are some of the qualities we’re looking for in a new head coach."

What are you hoping to accomplish with the team's $65 million in cap space?

"That’s one thing that we are looking for, with the cap space that we do have, is bringing in contracts from other teams and gathering assets as well. Hopefully, those players that come in can bolster the growth of our youth. If we can interweave those two things, those would be things that would make our summer successful."

The Pistons have been among the worst-shooting teams in the league. How do you plan on fixing that?

"I think spacing always helps. I think players that can shoot the ball helps, so that’s what we’re obviously going to attack. I think if you have those two things on the floor, as well as guys that understand the game, it’s going to really cut down on turnovers and you’re going to shoot the ball better, you’re going to get better looks. You have to have people that make the right decisions, the easy decisions and play well together. Like I said, Pistons-first mentality and being unselfish. I think all those things will impact the way we play the game and we’ll see our turnover rate go down and hopefully with the help of our new coach, Fred Vinson, there in the back, our 3-point percentage will go up. We’re going to get to work on that right away, bur tha’s the roster we envision putting together."

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham shoots over Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson in the first half at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, April 1, 2024.
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham shoots over Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson in the first half at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, April 1, 2024.

What are your initial impressions of Cade Cunningham?

"He and I have had some really good conversations thus far. High-character human being, mature beyond his years and a big-time basketball player at a young age, averaging 23 (points) and 7 assists last year. We’re going to put a group around him that can bolster his growth, but not make it as hard for him to do the things he had to do this last year, but also help other players get better. We want to have other players help him so he can help the other players as well, because he is an unselfish player who I do think has a chance to really be impactful at a high level and be the best player. In terms of the championship level, who knows? I really, really hope so. But we’re not going to start talking about championships here, that’s a long way away when you’re talking about foundational growth."

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him @omarisankofa.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons introduce Trajan Langdon: 'We're not going to skip steps'

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