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Archive → September, 2009

Pistons will hold open practice Oct. 10

From a team release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Detroit Pistons will host an open practice inside The Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday, October 10 from 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Admission is free for all fans and doors will open at 11:30 a.m.

“The open practice is a great event where our fans can come out and get a preview of this year’s team,” said Joe Dumars, Pistons President of Basketball Operations.  “Having the practice free to the public is a great way to kick-off training camp and get the community excited about the upcoming season.”

Pistons players will practice on the court beginning at 12:30 p.m. Coca-Cola has teamed with the Pistons and will provide refreshments and free preseason tickets.  In addition, the event will feature a number of exciting opportunities for those in attendance.  Pistons coaches will be on the microphone at the beginning of the practice to provide interaction with the fans while the 2009-10 Pistons Dance Team “Automotion” and Pistons mascot Hooper will perform along with the Pistons Flight Crew.

“Coca-Cola has always been about small moments of refreshment — something we all could use – so we’re inviting people to enjoy an ice-cold Coca-Cola, a hot dog and a game, all free of charge,” said Mike Alter, Marketing Development Manager for Coca-Cola.  “It’s a little break that everyone can enjoy.”

For more information on the Pistons Open Practice, call 248-377-0100.

Pistons want to be a defense-first team

New Pistons coach John Kuester was the Cavaliers’ offensive coordinator last season.

But make no mistake. He’s a defensive-minded coach.

“Day one, we’re going to have preach what it’s going to take to be a great defensive team,” Kuester said yesterday. “That’s going to be our main goal right from the get-go.”

Prior to last year, he had never worked with just the offense. His mentors are Larry Brown and Mike Brown. Of course, Kuester’s bread and butter is defense.

He’s very similar to Rick Carlisle, who was the Pacers’ offensive coordinator before the Pistons hired him. Carlisle had also been a defense-first guy, and once he became a head coach, that focus returned.

Establishing the priority

Kuester faces a challenge in that the Pistons’ two biggest offseason acquisitions – Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva – aren’t exactly known as quality defenders.

So, Kuester will look to a few players who were around in 2004, when Kuester was an assistant on the Pistons’ championship team, to instill a defensive mindset in their teammates. Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince played quality defense then, and they realize how important that is.

But it’s not like Gordon and Villanueva don’t understand the importance of defense.

Gordon has shown no hesitation in saying the focus has to be on the defensive end.

And Villanueva comes to Detroit from Milwaukee, where tough-minded Scott Skiles also emphasizes defense.

“If you don’t play defense, you’re not playing,” Villanueva said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Actually doing it

The bigger issue is whether Gordon and Villanueva can execute it. There are reasons for their defensive reputations.

And even if they can do it, how long will it take to get there?

Prince said it’s most important that all five players are on the same page – even more so than their individual defensive talents. That process begins today in training camp. But it could easily last well into the regular season.

“It’s going to take time,” Prince said.

New expectations for a new era

I think Gordon and Villanueva want to play strong defense. But their definition of strong might be a rude wakeup call compared to what the Pistons are used to.

When the Pistons put their best five players on the court, Villanueva will play center. He played that position with the Bucks at times, and his toughest defensive assignment was the Magic’s Dwight Howard.

The Pistons have guarded Howard better than nearly any team in the league – and that’s without double-teaming him. By having just one player slow him, Detroit prevented Orlando’s outside shooters from getting open looks.

Villanueva needed plenty of help against Howard.

“Team defense is the way you’re going to defend a player like that,” Villanueva said.

That wasn’t the only way for the Pistons. But it probably will be now.

Tuesday Trivia: No. 1 draft picks

The feedback for last week’s trivia was overwhelmingly positive. So, I’ve decided to make it a weekly feature. The format may vary, but here’s another sporcle quiz.

Start the timer right away. Don’t look up answers. And post your results in the comments.

Can you name the #1 NBA Draft Picks (1968-present)?

Quiz

My score: 36/42

I’m pretty proud of how I did on this one. Most of the answers I missed were tough. But there was one that just left me kicking myself.

Can you beat a 36?

Pistons release training camp roster

The Pistons announced their training camp roster today, and there are no surprises. Chucky Atkins and Maceo Baston are in on non-guaranteed contract, and it’s highly unlikely either makes the team.

From a team release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced the club’s training camp roster today.  In a related move, he announced the signing of guard Chucky Atkins and forward Maceo Baston to contracts.  Per team policy, terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

Atkins, 35, who spent four seasons with Detroit (2000-2004), returns to the Pistons after averaging 3.1 points, 0.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 12.9 minutes with Denver last season.  He played in just 32 games for the Nuggets, the second-fewest of his career.  In 265 games with the Pistons, the 5-foot-11 guard averaged 10.0 points and 3.5 assists.

Baston, 33, appeared in 27 games with the Indiana Pacers last season averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.0 minutes per game.  He scored a season-high 12 points in a Pacers win over Miami (1/30) and had seven rebounds, an assist and two steals in a season-high 19 minutes.  At Minnesota, (2/20), Baston tallied eight points, a season-high eight rebounds and a career-best three assists in 16 minutes.

The Pistons’ 2009-10 training camp roster is a follows:

NO      POS     NAME      HT    WT      DOB     COLLEGE YRS
17      G       Chucky Atkins   5-11    160     8/14/74 South Florida   10
8       F       Maceo Baston    6-10    230     5/29/76 Michigan        4
38      C       Kwame Brown     6-11    270     3/10/82 Glynn Academy HS        8
12      G       Will Bynum      6-0     185     1/4/83  Georgia Tech    2
5       F       Austin Daye     6-11    205     6/5/88  Gonzaga R
7       G       Ben Gordon      6-3     200     4/4/83  Connecticut     5
32      G       Richard Hamilton        6-7     193     2/14/78 Connecticut     10
33      F       Jonas Jerebko   6-10    231     3/2/87  Kinna, Sweden   R
54      F       Jason Maxiell   6-7     260     2/18/83 Cincinnati      4
22      F       Tayshaun Prince 6-9     215     2/28/80 Kentucky        7
3       G       Rodney Stuckey  6-5     205     4/21/86 Eastern Washington      2
35      F       DaJuan Summers  6-8     240     1/24/88 Georgetown      R
31      F/C     Charlie Villanueva      6-11    232     8/24/84 Connecticut     4
6       C       Ben Wallace     6-9     240     9/10/74 Virginia Union  13
13      G/F     Deron Washington    6-7     202     12/12/85        Virginia Tech   R
9       F/C     Chris Wilcox    6-10    235     9/3/82  Maryland        7

Joe Dumars and Chauncey Billups among the decade’s best

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie continues his series ranking the best of the last decade, and couple more Pistons were honored.

The top 10 NBA general managers of the last decade

The Spurs’ R.C. Buford was No. 1 on the list, and I think that’s a good call. And No. 2 is also pretty obvious.

2. Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons

Bum moves, Joe’s made a few. But he’s been in the front office since 2000 and running things on his own since 2001, and the sheer amount of moves he’s made has still left the Pistons in the playoffs for every season he’s run things singularly. He’s also presided over a title-holder, built solely around his trades and pick-ups.

Dumars started by playing it smart, working with teams in cap hell, leaving things flexible, sometimes acting as if Bird Rights didn’t matter and he had an NFL-styled hard cap to work with. The Pistons were in the Eastern Conference finals every year between 2003 and 2008, and it was only the players’ fault they didn’t win more titles.

He’s also screwed up a fair amount. Let the Larry Brown situation linger, let his players walk all over Flip Saunders, drafted Rodney White, drafted Darko Milicic(notes), picked up lower-rung free agents that just didn’t work, hired Michael Curry and seemed all too willing to quickly cash in his 2009 cap space forBen Gordon(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes) — two nice players who might not even start for Detroit for spells next season.

Could it have been better? Yes, Detroit’s run could have been much, much better. Spurs-like, better. But overall, it was still pretty damn good.

The 10 best point guards of the last decade

Jason Kidd and Steve Nash top this list, and I also think they’re the right choices. It’s hard to argue with Billups at No. 3, either. Gilbert Arenas was hurt too much, and Chris Paul started too late into the decade.

3. Chauncey Billups(notes)

Here’s a resume. Six teams, one of them twice, one he never played for. So … six teams?

One ring, four All-Star teams, and the man didn’t even start more than 60 games for the second time until his sixth season. This is a long way of telling you that, six years ago, any thought of any impending inclusion of Chauncey Billups on a list of the decade’s best point men would be met with confusion and/or derision. And yet, here he is. And some will argue for his presence at the top spot, and I’d have a tough time shouting them down.

Sturdy D, standout offensive efficiency on slow-down teams, lots and lots of wins. He leads, he executes, and sorry for resorting to a cliché, but Chauncey Billups is proof that persistence often pays off.

Did the Pistons pursue Bobby Jackson before Chucky Atkins?

At the bottom of this post about Wally Szczerbiak, Chris Tomasson of AOL FanHouse mentions former Sacramento Kings backup point guard Bobby Jackson.

Jackson is holding out for guaranteed money. He turned down offers by Detroit and Miami to go to camp on a make-good deal.

I doubt there’s much to read into this. I really do. But in case this is worth some thought:

Does Detroit just want a veteran point guard (like Chucky Atkins, who just signed) in camp for better practices. Or do the Pistons really want to make sure a dependable point guard is available?

The Pistons have 14 players, and I really doubt they go to 15. But if they make an uneven trade, that could open the door for another player to sign.

Chucky Atkins returns to Pistons (at least until training camp ends)

Via Need4Sheed:

“97.1 The Ticket has learned that the Pistons are bringing back guard Chucky Atkins. The veteran point man, recently released by Minnesota, will receive a non-guaranteed tryout with Detroit. Atkins has been invited to the team’s training camp, which opens Tuesday”

Looks like the Pistons are moving in reverse. I can’t wait until they trade Atkins and Ben Wallace to Phoenix for Grant Hill.

A little bit of NBA trivia

Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub linked a quiz on sporcle yesterday about each NBA team’s leader in 3-pointers. After taking it, I realized the site had several more NBA-related quizzes.

Ten quizzes later, here are my scores. Yes, they’re very low. You should beat them.

I want to hear how you do in the comments.

Of course, we’re on the honor system. Don’t think about the question until you start the clock. Don’ look up answers. And, obviously, post your real scores.

Can you name the NBA Teams’ 3-point leaders?

Quiz

My score: 17/30

Can you name the players who have won both an NCAA title and an NBA Title?

Quiz

My score: 15/35

Can you name the colleges that have produced the most players to the NBA via the NBA Draft?

Quiz

My score: 21/30

Can you name the players who went from High School/Prep School Straight to the NBA?

Quiz

My score: 21/30

Can you name the NBA players with 5000+ free throws made?

Quiz

My score: 16/27

Can you name the winners of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (MVP)?

Quiz

My score: 52/54

Can you name the NBA Teams’ point leaders?

Quiz

My score: 25/30

Can you name the NBA Coaches with the most career wins (regular season)?

Quiz

My score: 10/20

Can you name the Pro and College Teams Larry Brown has Coached?

Quiz

My score: 12/13

Can you name the players who have made the most NBA All-Star Game Appearances?

Quiz

My score: 21/26

Former Michigan power forward Maceo Baston to attend Pistons training camp

Maceo Baston (NBA.com)

Maceo Baston will attend the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Hat tip: Detroit Bad Boys).

Baston has bounced between the NBA and Europe. He’s 33, so he probably doesn’t have much upside left.

Here’s a little more on Baston from a 2005 article by Ian Robinson, whom I had the pleasure of writing with at The Michigan Daily:

Former Michigan Daily basketball beat writer and current Detroit Free Press sportswriter Mark Snyder recalls that although Baston was less physically imposing than his Michigan teammates Robert Traylor and Maurice Taylor, he always found a way to make an impact.

“He had an ability to use his long arms as a threatening shot-blocker and could rebound in a crowd,” Snyder said.

On the floor, Maccabi’s uptempo style makes it one of the most electrifying teams to watch in Europe, and Baston contributes to that excitement on both ends of the floor, Arbel said. In the 2004-05 season, Baston averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

“(Baston) brings to Maccabi another flashy style with his dunks and alley-hoops,” Arbel said. “He plays tough, maybe tougher than any other player in defense, and makes sure players won’t be too excited to penetrate the paint with his shot blocking ability.”

His odds of making the roster are low. The Pistons already have 14 players, and in this economy, they’re probably not going to add another.

But it does seem like his skill set fits what Detroit is trying to do (push the ball and defend).

As Michigan alum, I’d love to see Baston catch on. But calling the chances slim is being generous.

Allen Iverson, manager continue to revise his tenure in Detroit

Did Richard Hamilton and the rest of the Pistons betray Allen Iverson? (Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)

Allen Iverson lives in his own world.

He practices when he wants. He stays out as late as he wants. He shoots when he wants.

And it’s clear he doesn’t realize it.

Whenever you hear from his inner circle, they share the same delusions he has. They’re “yes” men. And here’s the latest example, from the Memphis Commercial Appeal (Hat tip: Yahoo! Sports):

"He went there, and he couldn’t really trust what people had told him," said Gary Moore, Iverson’s business manager and grade-school football coach. "People in Detroit weren’t very truthful with him."

According to Moore, Iverson had been told that he would be the leader of the team when he arrived, and that was not what played out. The players were upset that the front office had traded away Chauncey Billups, Moore said. Iverson was persona non grata before he even showed up.

"Allen couldn’t do anything about that," Moore said. "When you lie to him, that affects him."

First of all, there’s no way anybody in charge in Detroit – whether it be Joe Dumars or even Michael Curry – was stupid enough to tell Iverson he would be the team’s leader. That’s just not something anyone can decide.

(EDIT: It was pointed out to me saying “no way” is a little too strong, and it is. But the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

Dumars has shown over and over again he knows how to develop a successful organizational structure. Promising Iverson a leadership role spits in the face of that.

And Curry took classes on sports leadership at Virginia Commonwealth to prepare for his job. He obviously knew better, too.

So, “no way” was too strong. But I’ll stick with “nearly no way.”)

Maybe Dumars and Curry told him he’d be the focal point on the court. But that’s completely different.

And unlike Moore’s account, Iverson knew the situation he was coming into. Check out his introductory press conference (30 seconds in):

“I know it’s a tough situation for my teammates – obviously losing a great player like Chauncey and Antonio McDyess.”

It was especially tough when Iverson refused to adapt to the players around him, missed a practice and quit rather than come off the bench.

The Pistons never showed much respect for Iverson. They seemed to play harder when Richard Hamilton was at shooting guard instead of Iverson.

But here’s one other thing Iverson said (1:28): “One thing for sure, two things for certain. I’m going to do whatever the coach wants me to do out there on the basketball court. If he gives me an assignment, I’ll just try to carry it out to the fullest.”

Both sides are often guilty of broken promises in these types of squabbles, especially when both suffer so much as a result of the partnership.

But this time, it’s a one-way street.

Iverson, as usual knows he’s right. But outside Planet Iverson, here on Earth, we know better.