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Archive → January, 2009

Live Blog: Detroit at Memphis

Game Preview: Detroit at Memphis

Date: Jan. 19, 2009

Time: 5:30 p.m.

Detroit record: 22-17

Memphis record: 11-28

Detroit probable starters:



Memphis probable starters:



Spread: Detroit -4

Outlook: The Grizzlies are a bad team on a five-game losing streak.

The Pistons are a team on a five-game losing streak. What kind of team remains to be seen. Detroit surely isn’t as bad as Memphis, but the gap might be closer than desired.

This is the final game of Piston coach Michael Curry’s self-set evaluation period for small ball. A loss today, and it’s hard to believe the starting lineup won’t be changed. But for better or worse, a win would probably keep small ball alive a bit longer.

Rudy Gay could cause some problems for Richard Hamilton at small forward, when Tayshaun Prince is the type of defender that could slow Gay (18.5 rebounds per game).

O.J. Mayo (19.4 points per game) has been impressive as rookie. He’s a strong guard that could pose problems for Iverson. The best move might be to have Rodney Stuckey guard Mayo and have Iverson defend Kyle Lowry.

Memphis is a poor rebounding and defensive team, so the Grizzlies probably won’t take advantage of the advantages Detroit’s small lineup creates for them.

Also, a groin injury is nagging Prince. If he doesn’t start, it will end a streak of  394 consecutive games started. If he doesn’t play, his streak of 451 straight games played will end.

Small ball

Small ball: It’s not as bad as you think.

Small ball: It’s worse than you think.

Since Richard Hamilton returned from injury four games ago, he has started with Rodney Stuckey, Allen Iverson, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace. That lineup leaves the Pistons undersized at the two, three and four positions.

Neither small ball nor bigger five-man units have performed well lately. Let’s look into how the small-ball lineup has performed compared to other lineups.

Why small ball is not as bad as you think

Without argument, small ball puts the Pistons’ most talented players on the court. It would probably be tough for Detroit to never put its best five players on the court together and be successful.

The even numbers back up small ball’s talent.

When on the court together in the last four games, Stuckey, Iverson, Hamilton and Prince have been outscored by .07 points per minute. But other lineups have been outscored by -.13 points per minute.

PF is points for.

PA is points against.

PPM is points per minute.

PPMA is points per minute against.


Surprisingly, small ball actually allows fewer points per minute than other lineups.

Why small ball is worse than you think

The lineup sets a terrible tone.

Let’s add a third column to the previous chart, First. First denotes how the starting lineup plays before the first substitution.


The starters faced just two-point deficits against the Bobcats, Pacers and Thunder and were tied against the Hornets before a substitution – not really troubling.

But how poorly the first unit defends is problematic. It allows more points per minute than small ball overall or the other lineups. And its -0.2 difference in points per minute is the worst of the three sets.

If you need one more reason small ball shouldn’t start, here’s the obvious reason you already know. Detroit is 0-4 with the lineup since Hamilton’s return.

What to do

Curry should start a bigger lineup, but small ball could also see minutes later in the game.

He seems to be moving in the right direction. Small ball’s minutes have dwindled in each of the last four games.


In fact, Stuckey, Iverson, Hamilton and Prince haven’t played together in the last two games, except at the beginning of each half.

Judging by Curry’s comments before yesterday’s game, the small lineup will likely be the starting lineup tomorrow at Memphis. But his confidence in it is certainly wavering, and rightfully so.

“I think we’re good enough, whichever way we decide to play,” Curry said. “But we haven’t played defensively and rebounded the ball as well as I like with that (small) group. We’re really looking at today and Monday, to see how our performance is.”

Professional Game Coverage: New Orleans 91, Detroit 85

Game Preview: Detroit vs. New Orleans

Date: Jan. 17, 2009

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Detroit record: 22-16

New Orleans record: 23-13

Detroit probable starters:


PG- Rodney Stuckey


SG- Allen Iverson


SF- Richard Hamilton


PF- Tayshaun Prince


C- Rasheed Wallace

New Orleans probable starters:


PG- Chris Paul


SG- Rasual Butler


SF- Peja Stojakovic


PF- David West


C- Tyson Chandler

Spread: Detroit +2.5

Outlook: The Pistons are a team in disarray. They’ve lost four straight, their longest losing streak in four years.

The good news is four of their opponent’s five starters aren’t meeting expectations.

The bad news is the other one is Chris Paul.

The bad news is Detroit will likely start small ball again.

The bad news is Tayshaun Prince will probably defend David West instead Peja Stojakovic, and Richard Hamilton will have to deal with Stojakovic.

New Orleans is an excellent team, and the Pistons are reeling. This game has loss written all over it.

Professional game coverage: Oklahoma City 89, Detroit 79

Game Review: Oklahoma City 89, Detroit 79

Small ball is dead.

Piston coach Michael Curry didn’t announce the end of the lineup, but the hope that it could succeed is gone among alomst everybody else. The Thunder took advantage of every deficiency small ball has.

They outrebounded Detroit 52-35.

Six-foot-nine small forward Kevin Durant scored 32 points over smaller guards Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey.

Power forward Jeff Green grabbed 14 rebounds over Tayshaun Prince, a small forward pushed to power forward.

Oklahoma City scored 42 points in the paint.

Oh, and the Thunder are the NBA’s last-place team. And this was Detroit’s fourth straight loss, worst streak in four years. Not exactly encouraging.

After the game, Curry said he will continue to evaluate the Pistons’s starting lineup, as he has all season. With games in back-to-back days, I doubt Curry ditches small ball right away.

More likely, he starts Stuckey, Allen Iverson, Hamilton, Prince and Rasheed Wallace against New Orleans. If Detroit somehow wins, Curry will stick with small ball for at least another game. A loss to the Hornets, factoring in an off day Sunday, could mean small ball is as dead to Curry as it is to the rest of us.

  • Hamilton shot a little better (9-for-19) than he had since returning from injury, but he had four turnovers. He still hasn’t looked sharp since coming back.
  • Stuckey had a rough game, going 1-for-10 for three points. He didn’t make an impact in any way.
  • Iverson played more aggressively that he has recently. He attacked spots on the court and shot quickly once he got to them, instead of dribbling around aimlessly and jacking up shots.
  • Tough to win with small ball when two of the three guards are off.
  • Prince made 9-of-14 shots for 18 points. He continues to work for good looks and not settle for contested jumpers.
  • The Thunder play with a lot of energy and are oozing with young talent. They’re fun to watch, and they’ll be very good soon.

Live Blog: Detroit at Oklahoma City

Game Preview: Detroit at Oklahoma City

Date: Jan. 16, 2009

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Detroit record: 22-15

Oklahoma City record: 7-33

Detroit probable starters:


PG- Rodney Stuckey


SG- Allen Iverson


SF- Richard Hamilton


PF- Tayshaun Prince


C- Rasheed Wallace

Oklahoma City probable starters:


PG- Russell Westbrook


SG- Desmond Mason


SF- Kevin Durant


PF- Jeff Green


C- Nick Collison

Spread: Detroit -4.5

Outlook: Talk about two teams going in opposite directions.

After starting the season 3-29, the Thunder have gone 4-4 in their last eight games.

The Pistons have lost three straight. They haven’t lost four in a row in nearly four years.

Oklahoma City has a solid young nucleus that seems to be gelling. The Thunder are a good rebounding team, which creates a problem for small ball.

Prince is the type of player who could defend Durant effectively. Instead that task will likely go to Hamilton.

Oklahoma City is talented and playing  its best basketball of the season. An isolated loss wouldn’t be the end of the world.

But with the three-game losing streak and the widespread dislike of small ball, losing tonight would bring a lot of public scrutiny.

Curry as star-struck as every other coach

When Piston president of basketball operations Joe Dumars hired a new coach in June, he said, “Guys either respect you or they don’t, and they respect this guy.”

Dumars told the Detroit Free Press he hired a coach who’s “not going to coddle guys, and they know that.”

But that’s not who he hired.

He hired Michael Curry.

This is not a not a knock on Curry. He’s like every other coach in the NBA. It’s a players’ league, and coaches have to coddle to their star players.

That’s why the Pistons start  Allen Iverson and Richard Hamilton, even though that seems to be the wrong decision from a purely basketball standpoint.

The smaller lineup sets a tone of poor defense and rebounding – the opposite of what Curry says he emphasizes.

But it might be the best decision for the team.

Iverson and Hamilton are stars, and neither would be happy. It’d be impossible for Curry to tell how negative the chemistry ramifications of bringing on of them off the bench, and I obviously have less of an idea.

Curry clearly thought the risk was great enough that he starts both players.

It was foolish to desrcribe Curry how Dumars did back in June. Every coach in the NBA is at the will of his stars. Curry is no different.

Curry surely understands that starting the most talented players isn’t necessarily the right move. When he was a player, Curry started ahead of Sixth Man of the Year Corliss Williamson during the 2001-02 season, despite Williamson being a better player.


The next year, Curry started ahead of Williamson and a talented rookie name Tayshaun Prince.

Curry set the tone of playing tough defense and communicating on the floor – more than a one-dimensional Williamson or inexperienced Prince could.

So, in a way, Curry knows better than to start both guards. But keeping Williamson and a rookie Prince on the bench isn’t quite the same as keeping Iverson and Hamilton there.

Iverson’s often difficult relationships with coaches are well documented.

And Hamilton just saw his best friend, Chauncey Billups, traded after being the consummate team player. In fact, the only reason Hamilton is a Piston is because Detroit traded Jerry Stackhouse for him. The season before that, Stackhouse traded his selfish style for a team-oriented game in Rick Carlisle’s first year as Piston coach.

Having the guts to stick Hamilton or Iverson on the bench is why Curry was hired. It’s clear he doesn’t have that confidence right now.

This situation could play out a few different ways. In order of most likely:

1. Hamilton regains his form after missing an extended period of time with an injury. Small ball works well enough to allow Curry to keep using it, even if it still seems a big lineup would be even better.

2. Small ball is a disaster, and Curry finds the confidence to bring one of the guards off the bench. The question then would become how accurate Dumars’s assessment of the players’ respect for Curry is.

3. Small ball is a disaster, and Curry keeps using it. I have no idea what would happen in this situation. Of all his coaching hires, this one has Dumars’s mark on it. That might give Curry more time than Carlisle, Larry Brown and Flip Saunders would have gotten in this situation.