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William Davidson Foundation Fund Grants $3 Million To Support Polk Penguin Conservation Center

Detroit Zoo - Polk Penguin House

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – The William Davidson Foundation Fund has made a $3 million grant intention to the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) to support the development of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo. Construction of the $26 million facility will begin in the spring near the Zoo’s entrance.

“This very generous grant will help us create an extraordinary conservation center of international significance for iconic polar animals – penguins of Antarctica. The center will highlight that incredible ice continent and the dramatic effect of global climate change,” said Ron Kagan, DZS executive director and CEO.

“The Detroit Zoo is known regionally, nationally and internationally as a leader in the field of animal welfare, science education and visitor experience,” said Jonathan Aaron, president, William Davidson Foundation. “Research and personal experience tell us that having strong cultural destinations, like the zoo, promote the region’s growth and vitality. We are pleased to support this worthwhile and exciting project.”

More than 100 design, engineering and construction jobs will be created and sustained for the estimated two-year development period of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, and the facility will add several full-time employees to the DZS staff. With an associated annual increase of 100,000 visitors, the new attraction is expected to have a regional economic impact of several million dollars per year, adding to the $100 million economic impact the Zoo already has on the region.

Inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic expeditions and epic crossings of the Drake Passage, the facility’s dramatic exterior design will evoke a tabular iceberg. The interior experience will feature 4-D effects such as arctic blasts, waves and snow, and will include a penguin “deep dive” with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar through a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area.

For more information or to make a philanthropic investment in the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, visit http://dzoo.org/pcc.

The William Davidson Foundation, a family foundation, was established in 2005 in Detroit to honor its founder’s memory by continuing his philosophy of giving. It is committed to efforts to preserve and enhance Jewish life in the United States and abroad. In addition, the foundation is funding efforts to improve the economic prosperity of its home community in southeastern Michigan in order to make the region an even more desirable place to work and to live.

The William Davidson Foundation established the William Davidson Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in 2013.

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2013 – 2014 Detroit Pistons Preview


Josh Smith Press Conference July 10, 2013 | Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty Images)

The 2013-14 Detroit Pistons season gets underway October 8 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Once again we look to our trusted sport’s gurus, Patrick Smith & Paul Buck, to give us their low down on what to expect this season.

1. Where do you think the pistons will finish this year?

Patrick Smith: The cop out here is to say that they should compete for the bottom three playoff spots, which yeah, sure. But that is too easy. They should be the sixth best team in the East. I really, really want to predict a disaster of a season for either the Knicks or Nets but their best players are too good and the bottom of the Eastern Conference is too bad so it is safe to assume the Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks and Nets will all definitely be ahead of the Pistons. I also feel confident that the Magic, Bobcats, Raptors, 76ers, Celtics and Bucks will be worse. Every single one of them besides Milwaukee is actively trying to be worse for lottery combinations. That leaves the Cavs, Hawks and Wizards to compete with the ‘Stones for those last three slots.

There are all sorts of questions about spacing and shot selection and playing time for this Detroit team, but with Smoove and Brandon Jennings this team has more talent than its mid-level competitors and ultimately talent will win out.

Paul Buck: I think the Pistons can finish anywhere from the 6th seed to missing the playoffs. I think we have enough veteran players to play along with our young core. With Andre Drummond being our starting center, Monroe at PF, Josh Smith at SF, Billups at SG, if he stays healthy, and BJ at PG. Billups will be the leader on the court, and BJ will be taking notes and learning from the former NBA champion. If Greg Monroe can fit into the power forward role, it would mean a lot to our starting five. People say he is a natural center, but I think he can become a natural PF and will hold that spot down for years to come. Our front court can be one of the best once they get more experience.

2. Will Josh Smith work at small forward?

PS: Probably not. At least not for more than 12 minutes a game, but I don’t think he will be asked to play SF much more than the first six minutes of each half. Ultimately the addition of Josh Smith gives the Pistons the ability to keep at least one all-star caliber big man on the floor at all times. No other team in the league can do that. For the minutes where the jumbo lineup is out there the team will have to hope that the defense, rebounding and IQ provided by all three big men can make up for some very real spacing issues.

If Rodney Stuckey starts at shooting guard, which seems likely now based on what Langlois is writing over at Pistons.com then that starting line up is going to be very tough to watch in stretches. They will have literally one guy on the floor who is capable of hitting a long jump shot. That isn’t good. So Detroit is going to have to hope they can make up for that by dominating the stretches when the reserves are playing. Oh also they should get rid of Rodney Stuckey (more on that later).

PB: Josh Smith will work at SF, because he gives us a huge defensive threat at that position where we had Tayshaun Prince for many years. Smith is a more offensive minded player than Prince, but his defense and shot blocking ability is off the charts. He is a player who can spread the floor as well, with his mid-range jump shot and his ability to sink three pointers.

3. Is Brandon Jennings the long term answer at PG?

PS: Yes. He isn’t a perfect option, but I think he is above average and is a good fit for the guys around him. I think it is possible he makes a Chauncey-like leap, but it is foolish to expect something like that. Even if he doesn’t, he is a low-turnover, high-assist guy who is a scoring threat. It is interesting how much certain “smart” NBA people bag on Brandon Jennings considering that he takes care of the basketball, which makes up for a lot of the issues he has with shot selection. If he actually keeps his promise to shoot less he could be really good.

PB: I think Brandon Jennings can be the long term answer at point guard. The key here is that he is going to be able to learn from Billups who was once the leader and point guard of the Pistons. Jennings assists have gone up each of the last two seasons. He is a score first type player right now in his career, but he is only 23 years old and he is entering his 5th NBA season. Having Mo Cheeks, who is a former PG himself, in as the new head coach will also benefit BJ. I think he needs to realize that he has other shooters around him and should focus on dishing it to them rather than trying to get himself a shot. His field goal percentage has been pretty poor his whole career because he has been the main scorer for the Bucks in previous years. He has talent around him now and needs to use them.

4. What was your favorite/least favorite move of the off season?

PS: I love the Chauncey signing, mostly out of nostalgia but I also think it was a really smart move. He can shoot, he brings the leadership this team is so desperate for and he seems like he is interested in mentoring Brandon Jennings. Considering the fact that the Pistons are dreaming on Jennings mimicking Billups career, who better to help him do that than Mr. Big Shot himself?

My least favorite move is not cutting Stuckey before his contract became fully guaranteed and not amnestying Villanueva. If Joe D does either of those things then they could have signed Jennings outright without losing BK7 or Khris Middleton. Maybe you think the team was good to cut ties with Brandon Knight, and maybe you think Middleton was never going to amount to much. You are probably right about both of those things, but the point is both players are assets. With his contract and the abilities he has shown, the team surely could have got something BK, even if it was just a pick. As a fan you should be upset that the team gave up two valuable assets just to save money.

PB: My favorite off season move was bringing back Billups to finish his career here in Detroit; the place where he made a name for himself. I think he still has some juice left in his tank and that he will be a contributor to our team. He is going to mentor BJ and hopefully show him how to be a pass first point guard, but also still be able to get his shot off if he wants it. He has battled injuries the last few seasons, but even if he gets hurt he will be able to work with BJ. I am also a fan of Luigi Datome. He has been one of the best players in the Italian league. Brandon Jennings and Datome have also already played one season together when Jennings played in the Italian league instead of going to college for one year. I think that will help Datome make the transition to the NBA. Datome is a big small forward and he is only 25 years old. He could have the potential to be a solid NBA player and possibly a starter at some point in his career.

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Finally: Pistons trade makes team better now and in future, increases odds of playoffs

Jose Calderon | Raptorsrepublic.com

Jose Calderon | Raptorsrepublic.com

By Patrick Smith

As I am sure most of you know, last night the Detroit Pistons traded Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to the Memphis Grizzlies in a three team trade in which Rudy Gay went to the Raptors and the Pistons netted Jose Calderon.

Obviously this is great news.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone calling this a loss for the Pistons, so I am not going to spend too much time explaining why it’s so great for Detroit, but I need to spend at least a few paragraphs spiking the football here. As others have pointed out it’s probably the first trade since 2004 that the Pistons and Joe Dumars actually won, and they won it in a big way. This trade made the Pistons better right now and increased their salary cap room to around $30 million next season. The trade also increased the Pistons chances of making the playoffs, although it still seems unlikely they will catch the Celtics.

First off, Jose Calderon may be the best player involved in this trade across all teams, his player efficiency rating (PER) this season of 19.38 is five points higher than Rudy Gay’s, and ranks as 38th in the league, and he has a higher win share than Gay or anyone else. How you feel about these combo stats will determine your excitement about this, but it is arguable the Pistons got the best player and gave up the least in this trade.

What is not arguable is that the Pistons got the absolute best fit. If you were to make a list of needs for the Pistons, regardless of position it would go in some order like this:

  1. More playmaking
  2. Less turnovers
  3. Better 3-point shooting
  4. Better free throw shooting
  5. Better perimeter defense

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Detroit Loyalty: Deeper than you think

By Patrick Smith

Detroit Skyline - Google Images

Detroiters are obsessed with their national image. Unconsciously cataloguing every reference to the city, every piece of fiction set in the area. Attacking any comedian or personality who would dare denigrate it and scouring movies for local landmarks. I have seen Michael Bay’s The Island only because it was shot in Detroit, same for Four Brothers.

This would be a harmless affectation if it didn’t have such drastic consequences. It has led to years spent pouring money into the downtown and touristy trivialities while neighborhoods and schools crumbled. Engaged civilians spend their time talking about Detroit “looking like a real city.” Southeast Michigan still has no functional public transit system, but it hosted the Super Bowl and has a river walk. In 2004 before the Pistons’ clinching game five win, columnists and pundits were imploring residents not to riot because Detroit didn’t need another black eye nationally; begging your spouse not to burn down the house because of what the neighbors might think.

There is nothing wrong with beautification as a whole, and any reason not to riot after a sporting event is a good one, but anyone who was living near the Theatre District in 2006 and saw the effort that went into scrubbing and painting long vacant buildings, trying to make them look inhabited had the same feeling: What the f**k?

What the f**k are our priorities? What the f**k are we doing? What the f**k is the point?

A more trivial example was the city’s “Say Nice Things About Detroit,” public relations campaign, as if the only problem in Detroit was a misconception.

Of course there is a misconception, and while anyone spending his breath bashing the motor city can go to hell, Detroiters have started to embrace their dark horse image. As the city becomes ever so slowly more livable, Detroiters have started closing ranks-happy to keep the city’s myriad pleasures a secret to outsiders. New York Times pieces have flooded the national consciousness with stories of hundred-dollar houses, and Detroiters are bristling at a small but growing group of artists and would-be bohemians adopting the city. After decades of bashing from all sides, it feels unfair for outsiders to start enjoying the city’s pleasures: “you didn’t want me then, so hon, don’t want me now.”

Which brings me to the Lions.

Matthew Stafford, Lions QB - Google Images

Detroit fanhood is not more obsessive or better than the type found in other cities, it is just different. It has long been argued that sports fans in colder climates, or more depressed areas, cling more tightly to their teams, mostly for lack of better options. The effect for Detroit goes a step further because the city is so starved for national recognition. While Chicago and Boston may be cold, those cities’ residents are not dependent on their sports franchises for a national identity. Meanwhile the sports franchises in Detroit are often the only way residents have to see themselves reflected. For a city obsessed with its perception, its no surprise that area residents invest themselves so fully, as much for a sense of identity as to delight in victories. Often the Lions, Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers are the only face Detroit gets to show to the world. So the major sports teams represent the city in a way that most cities’ franchises do not. Straining for a light in darkness, Detroit residents may not be sure what they want national pundits to say, but they very much want to hear them say something.

This is what makes those endless “it’s good for Detroit” articles at least a little bit true. For the most part the feel good columns are condescending and hollow, a Red Wings victory or Tigers pennant doesn’t make the poor any less poor, it doesn’t lower the unemployment rate. Whatever psychic benefits come from a championship are fleeting and inconsequential in the face of Detroit’s problems, and the people who are supposedly the most “helped” by these victories are the ones with the least amount of time or capital to enjoy them. But still the victories feel good. Not because Detroiters want everyone to like them again, but because the teams persevere in spite of what the experts say.

The Pistons 2004 championship is a perfect example. The joy of that victory came because no one thought the team could best the superstar Lakers. Of course the two have nothing to do with each other, but that victory felt like a beacon of hope for the whole city. Los Angeles was the prettier, self-proud other in which everyone was so confident, but in actuality Detroit had been secretly building something great that no one else appreciated. It didn’t solve the city’s woes or ease anyone’s suffering, but that victory reflected Detroiters’ greatest hopes for their own real struggle: while everyone else was focusing on something bigger or flashier, the city had been creating something unique and impressive on its own

Anyone who has been to a Detroit at Chicago sporting event and heard the disgusting Dee-Troit Sucks! chant knows that the teams represent more than sports for other fans too. Chicagoans in particular seem to delight in Detroit’s struggles, because every Detroit failure insulates them from facing their own city’s difficulties. How often has someone in Chicago exclaimed “at least we’re not Detroit,” or exalted Mayor Richard M. Daley by saying, “without him we could be just like Detroit?” Because of its comfort in the lead, and own insecurities over being the “second city,” Chicago has somewhat belatedly declared a competition between the two cities. Sometime after Detroit fell to the ground and was crying for help, Chicago put its foot up on the city’s chest and declared itself the victor of a previously unannounced competition, much the way everyone in Chicago is suddenly a Blackhawks fan. Chicago and Detroit have two very different ways of relating to their sports teams. While everyone loves a winner, Detroit seems uncomfortable as anything but the underdog.

Woodward Spine © 2011

Which is why while Detroit is Hockeytown, and the Pistons and Red Wings hold the city’s most recent championships, the Tigers and Lions are the teams that are the most Detroit.

Detroiters rep their two losing-est franchises the hardest, taking abuse with a hardened jaw and a slight head nod (thinking, ok, ok we’ll see), more comfortable feeling the same national abuse over their sports as they do everything else. If you’re outside of the city, a Tigers cap or a Lions shirt says yep, I know you think Detroit sucks, but I know something you don’t. Whether you are from Michigan or not, anyone who has been to Detroit and enjoyed the unique experience the city has to offer holds a secret no one else can really understand without experiencing it. Listening to someone talk bad about the city holds a perverse joy, like listening to someone you can best in a fight talk tough, because you know the speaker is completely missing the point.

Nowadays the Lions are everyone’s second-favorite team, but I beg all of you to go back to the Steelers and Cowboys.

Lions fans had to root for Wayne Fontes and Scott Mitchell, Joey Harrington and Matt Millen. They delighted in Barry Sanders while at the same time wincing as they watched an awful organization squander his talents and force him into retiring out of frustration. This is not a cry for pity; Detroiters have seen plenty of sports victories in recent years, and are starting to enjoy some real life victories as well. It is not even a claim that fans from other cities cannot understand some false-sense of suffering. Rather, as the Lions look poised for the best year they’ve had in a while, the fans would like to enjoy this moment alone. And when the team breaks through into the playoffs this year it will not mean much of any consequence for a city still struggling to stand up on its two feet, but it will feel good to hear people say nice things about Detroit, so long as they sound surprised.


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The revolution will be televised

By Mike Fossano

It didn’t take long for the Pistons’ 2010-11 season to fall into near lockstep with last year’s dismal output. There is one major difference, however—this year’s squad cannot lean on the injury crutch like they did last year.

This season has been pockmarked by a handful of events that could be read like Seinfeld episodes. It started with “The Determination Era,” then progressed to “The Tayshaun Feud,” “The Losing Streaks,” “The Unresolved Sale” and “The Rip Benching.”

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more pathetic, the events that transpired Friday indicated how wayward this franchise really is.

“The Mutiny”

I’m sure that Friday morning arrived just as any other normal one for Kuester, who’s  21-38 team was in Philadelphia to take on the 76ers later. By the end of the morning shootaround, it was as clear to him as it was to everybody else that something had been brewing within his team.

Only seven players showed up for the practice after what is being called a “player protest” of the coach. Kuester dodged many of the questions that were lobbed his way following the practice, which is something that has dogged him all season long.

By refusing to deal with the issues plaguing his team head on, he allowed them to fester through the media and create a toxic locker room. One of the most common complaints from players has been his inability to communicate with them, which is evidenced by the awkward “he-said/she-said” banter during “The Rip Benching.”

Hamilton performed well after he was inexplicably asked to start Feb. 5 at Milwaukee after rotting on the end of the bench for 13 straight games. His subsequent re-benching was the final straw for the players, who had discussed taking a stand against their coach over a week ago, according to Terry Foster of the Detroit News.

At the same time, however, these players are getting paid millions of dollars to be professionals, show up and play a game. For these players to be pulling this stunt in Detroit, with our sour economy on team that’s nearly 20 games below .500 is ridiculous.

Not long after the debacle in Philly, word leaked out through Yahoo! Sports that Hamilton scolded his coach during an expletive-laden tirade just prior to his benching. Assistant coaches were stunned by the outburst, and younger players would later privately confide that they wished they had the courage to step up to Hamilton.

Looking at it through an objective lens, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree with the crux of Hamilton’s argument, which questioned Kuester’s viability as an NBA head coach. The results, or lack thereof, during the supposed offensive mastermind behind the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers speak for themselves. However, Hamilton’s course of action was juvenile and displayed a grossly skewed sense of reality.

Prior to his arrival in Detroit, Hamilton was considered a talented, but one-dimensional shooting guard. Paired with Chauncey Billups, the duo helped to spearhead the Pistons from mediocrity to world championship-caliber basketball for much of the 2000s—even when their defensive deficiencies were exposed once Ben Wallace departed for Chicago.

From an offensive standpoint, Hamilton’s game fell off a cliff once Billups was shipped to Denver for Allen Iverson (in retrospect, and perhaps at the time, a trade that should’ve never happened, but I digress…). Even with a rookie head coach in Michael Curry and a transitional roster, Hamilton signed the Pistons’ three-year, $34M extension offer immediately following the trade. Since then, Hamilton has been given space to develop into a relative malcontent with zero repercussions for his detrimental behavior and lack of production—other than reasonable requests for him to come off the bench.

“The Takeover”

It’s time for Joe Dumars to show some culpability for this disaster as well. When things were great, Dumars was easy to find and had a much stronger media presence. Nowadays, the only time you see him is when the in-game camera picks him out from the depths of his shadowy suite.

Firing Kuester right now would continue what has been an awful run of Piston players running coaches out of town, but it’s likely an inevitable end to this relationship. As he rightfully received credit for culling the pieces to their 2004 championship run, he deserves criticism for a string of questionable free agent signings and draft picks since then.

Dumars needs to regain control of the team by either working behind the scenes to dissolve infighting, or by taking the reins from Kuester as head coach himself. If neither happen, Piston fans can expect this turbulent period to continue.


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Spine Week Recap

Joe Louis Fist Sculpture, Detroit, MI

By Jeffrey Buck

As it turns out, we missed the mark with our Grammy Awards predictions. With three correct choices out of eight, Mike takes home the prize in our Editors’ picks. You can see who won each category below and we also have a short recap below the jump of some of last week’s highlights if you missed them. As always, thanks for reading!

Final Tally:

Mike: 3 of 8

Jeff: 1 of 8

Grammy Winners:

Record of the Year
Need You Now – Lady Antebellum

Album of the Year
The Suburbs – Arcade Fire Continue reading


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Free Stuff Friday

That’s right, The Woodward Spine is giving away prizes to several lucky individuals.

To become eligible, simply sign up for an email subscription to the blog by clicking the “Sign me up!” button on the right-hand side of our home page from now until Feb. 11. Winners will be chosen at random through a raffle, which will be held on Feb. 18. If you have already signed up prior to this you’re still eligible and we know who you are.

Good luck and thanks again for supporting us and the Woodward Spine!

– MF & JB

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