Blogs > Lions Lowdown

One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Title town?

Stopped in the office for a few minutes yesterday and one of our very talented page designers, the only OP staffer who loves college basketball as much as I do, was discussing Michigan State's title hopes in the immediate future. He said he'd be disappointed if the Spartans don't win a championship sometime in the next three years, which got me thinking ...

I look at MSU's current roster and see a top-10 team, easy. If they win the Big Ten, they'll be in line for a one or two seed and a second-weekend trip to Ford Field. Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick will be gone in 2008, but considering who's back and who's coming (Delvon Roe, Draymond Green and Korie Lucious) there's little doubt they'll be a Final Four contender. Knowing the caliber of recruit they're in on for '09, even if Roe and Raymar Morgan are early NBA entries, it's not out of line to dream of another turn-of-the-millenium run.

That said, national championships are not easy to come by. Duke just signed a star-studded three-person class and could add three top-10 players this year. North Carolina, the early-season favorites to cut down the nets in San Antonio, might ink the top two players in the '08 class. UCLA has locked up talent-rich California (even if USC is riding the O.J. wave). And Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Ohio State and Indiana are in on just as many blue-chip talents as MSU.

I point these facts out not to be a hater - I really do think MSU has some bright years ahead so long as Tom Izzo stays in town - but to temper expectations a little. The Spartans might very well have one of the brightest futures around, but in no way, shape or form does that guarantee them a national title. If Morgan has a great year, it's not far-fetched to believe Morgan he could turn pro after the season. Roe could be one-and-done. And as great as MSU's '09 recruiting class could be, no one knows what the future holds for Dexter Strickland or Jamil Wilson or Richard Howell or DaShonte Riley.

MSU basketball has spoiled us in a lot of ways. I'd be disappointed if the Spartans didn't make it back to the Final Four this year or next, but my crystal ball doesn't do titles. What about you? What are your expectations for Spartan basketball?


Roe shows out

Didn't get a chance to see him play, but by all accounts Michigan State basketball recruit Delvon Roe was one of the prime performers at the recently-completed USA Men's Youth Development Festival.

Roe, a senior-to-be and the centerpiece of MSU's 2008 recruiting class, missed the championship game because of a nagging leg injury but finished as the camp's leading scorer at 30.3 points per game. He also was one of five players to average double figures in rebounding (10.3 rpg) for the tournament. Craig Miller, spokesperson for USA Basketball, said Roe's injury was minor. His Blue team lost the gold-medal game in overtime to USA Red, 112-109.

Fellow 2008 MSU recruit Korie Luscious led his White team to the Bronze medal. He averaged 18.2 points per game, but struggled with 23 turnovers in five games. Another MSU targets, Class of '09 guard Dexter Strickland, averaged 15.6 points as Luscious' backcourt mate.

Greg Monroe, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 14 in the '07 Class by, joined Roe as the festival's top performers. Monroe was the top rebounder (12.6) and a bull inside, Holiday led all players in assists (8.0) and was one of the few defensive standouts, and Evans averaged 29.8 points and went for 43 in the opener on 18-of-25 shooting.


Chiming in

Haven't been around much the last week as my regular reporting duties have called, but just wanted to share a conversation I had with former MSU assistant Jim Boylen. He's adjusting well to his own program, living out of a hotel in Utah for the time being while his house is being built, and if you happen to be in the market for a place in mid-Michigan his house is still up for sale.

On the court, Boylen and his staff — holdover assistants Marty Wilson and Chris Jones and newcomer Jeff Smith — have the talent to compete for an NCAA bid next year if they can improve their defense (one of the worst in the country in field-goal percentage allowed). Tyler Kepkay was one of the top junior college recruits in the nation and someone frequently compared to Steve Nash (for more than just their Canadian roots), and big man Luke Nevill has NBA potential.

The best part about having your own program? "When you play in all those scrambles you get to tee off on No. 1," Boylen said. "When you're an assistant you tee off on 12." He's half-joking, of course.

Two other issues to weigh in on, albeit belatedly. Maurice Joseph surprised no one by finally picking Vermont. A few readers had emailed during his decision-making process and that always appeared to be his best fit. He'll sit out a season, be close to home, and be the focal point of a team with NCAA aspirations when he comes back. Plus, he'll get his masters for free from a pretty good school, whereas if he stayed at MSU he'd be out on his own after next season.

Finally, MSU released its "criteria" for selecting a new athletics director yesterday. Immediately, I filed that under, "Duh." It's no secret Mason planned to step down at the end of his contract. In fact, he told me as much for a story I wrote when he signed his one-year extension last year. I still have every reason to believe associate AD Mark Hollis will replace Mason, and this is just a formality to appease other candidates. Hollis was actively involved in the new football coach search, he's Tom Izzo's trusted basketball sidekick and he's the marketing genius who brought the Cold War, BasketBowl and WJR to MSU. The Spartan brass would be silly to turn anywhere else.

Probably no blogs next week as I'm wrapping up my first of two summer projects, but I'll spend most of July previewing the upcoming college football season. A sneak peak: No. 1 in my first AP poll will be USC, and I've got Michigan winning the Big Ten.


The 'no-update' update

Gotten a lot of Mojo-related questions over the last two weeks and frankly I'm a bit surprised he hasn't announced his new school quite yet. He seems to be conflicted about playing close to family — Vermont is less than two hours from his home in Montreal — and the lure of a bigger conference at Rhode Island.

Talking to someone close with the MSU program the other day, they believe Mojo will end up at Vermont when things finally shake out, and that Vermont is the best situation for him. I don't believe the delay means he's headed back to MSU in any way, shape or form. The Spartan program won't turn its back on Joseph, but the bottom line is he won't be in the rotation next year if he remains a Spartan. If he transfers, sure he'll sit out but he'll also have two more years to play, two years to pursue a masters degree (on whatever school he picks), and the possibility that he can be the man — or a solid contributor, at least — on a tournament-caliber team.

With the summer recruiting period just around the corner, the coaches at both Vermont and Rhode Island are getting impatient (they're calling and emailing people close to Mojo to inquire about his decision). The process has dragged on far too long already, and my gut tells me he'll settle on a school this weekend or early next week.


Stanton looking strong

Drew Stanton had a good practice Monday in his bid to become the Lions' backup quarterback. Stanton took all the second-team reps at the team's Organized Team Activity workout, completing (roughly) 75 percent of his throws and making solid reads most of the day.

This was a small sampling, of course, and in non-contact drills, but Stanton still looked much better than he did during rookie mini-camp last month or at the start of the team's mandatory mini-camp three weeks ago. At mini-camp, the Michigan State product did not take any reps during team drills as coaches insisted he focus on learning the playbook and his own mechanics.

He threw several good-looking balls Monday, and said he feels like a different quarterback.

"It's been a long progression, definitely, but like I said I'm starting to see the benefits of doing it the right way and it's starting tog et converted to muscle memory that allows you to play the game and not think as much," Stanton said. "It's starting to kind of make sense. It's not just chicken scratch or foreign language to me now."

My gut tells me Dan Orlovsky will enter the season as the Lions' No. 2 quarterback — Jon Kitna remains a strong No. 1 — but judging by Monday Stanton's at least ready to compete for the job.


Sunday sermon

I'm not ready to coronate LeBron James King of the Eastern Conference for the next decade like I heard one Cleveland fan do in a drunken stupor last night, but I'd bet money the Pistons won't challenge his throne next year the way they're currently constituted.

Chauncey Billups cost himself a lot of money with his sub-par playoff performance, but some team starving for a point guard will be willing to pay him in free agency. Don't expect Mr. Big Shot back in a Piston uniform next year. Joe Dumars would be wiser to spend his money retaining Antonio McDyess (who's passion and play have not deteriorated over the past 12 months) and working on a sign-and-trade with Portland, where the Blazers are looking to unload problem child Zach Randolph and need a point guard.

Billups for Randolph, who'll make about $14 million next season, would make sense for both teams. Randolph gives the Pistons an inside scorer and the perfect compliment to McDyess and Jason Maxiell, their current frontcourt of the future. (Rasheed Wallace has grown so volatile that he's become expendable, though it's doubtful anyone wants him, and Nazr Mohammed is well, Nazr Mohammed.) Portland would pair Billups, who's still a fine player and clutch shot-maker, with Brandon Roy in the backcourt. No. 1 pick Greg Oden can make up for any defensive inadequacies and mature slowly on offense, and Randolph has no future in Portland with LaMarcus Aldridge also waiting in the wings.

I don't know if Dumars would be able to finagle Jarrett Jack in a deal (to make salaries match?), but the Pistons also have a pair of first-round picks. I've been on the Javaris Crittenton-at-15 bandwagon for a month now (though he might end up a lottery pick when all is said and done), and Daequan Cook would be a good Rip replacement down the road (even if means trading up from 27 to get him).

I don't know if that's enough to get the Pistons back to the NBA Finals next year, but they'd get younger and their future would look brighter without going through a painful rebuilding process like the one that made the organization largely irrelevant for most of the 90s.