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Archive → October, 2009

Player Preview: Jonas Jerebko

Essentials

Position: Power forward/ small forward/ center

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 231 pounds

Years pro: Rookie

From: Kinna, Sweden

Role

These player previews are coming out in reverse order of who I expect to have the biggest impacts this season. But if I had waited a bit to decide the order, you probably wouldn’t see this post for a few more days.

By all accounts, Jerebko is impressing Pistons coach John Kuester. But where will he play?

Austin Daye seems to have solidified the backup small forward spot.

It seems like the Pistons want Jerebko to develop into a center, and that’s where he played in the summer league. But I’m not sure he’s ready to play there (if he ever will be). Via the Detroit News:

"I’ve never done it before (play center), so it’s a new experience," Jerebko said. "It’s physical but I like it. I don’t like to play the five, but to get minutes, I will do it."

That leaves power forward, which is probably his most natural fit going forward. But the Pistons have a pretty talented player in Jason Maxiell already there (more on this later).

Kuester has fueled speculation the rotation could go 11 deep. But I don’t see that happening.

Coaches talk all the time before the season about having long benches. But when push comes to shove, there just aren’t enough minutes to go around.

I don’t see Jerebko cracking the rotation – at least for now.

Scouting report

Will: Do more than his stat line suggests.

For better or worse, Jerebko is good at a lot of things — but a master of none. A lot of his contributions will go unnoticed by many.

Kuester gives a few examples from Detroit’s preseason game against the Hawks in The Oakland Press:

“You can’t look at what he did, in regards to six points, six rebounds in 17 minutes and understand the impact that he had on the little things that we want to get accomplished,” Kuester said. “Whether it be shows on the high pick-and-rolls, his second and third energy efforts going after the boards, whether he got it or didn’t get it. I was very proud of him. I’ve seen that in him in practice.”

Won’t: Slow down.

Jerebko might not always look smooth, but he has a big motor. He played a preseason-27 minutes against the Wizards. And even then, his effort didn’t waver. Kuester via the Detroit Free Press:

"His energy has been outstanding," Pistons coach John Kuester said. … "Jonas has a motor that keeps on running and running at a high level," Kuester said. "He knows what a coach wants. That kind of energy is contagious and excites a coach."

He’s going to make it as hard as he can for Kuester to keep him off the court.

Must improve: His comfort on the court.

Jerebko might be all over the court, but it doesn’t look smooth. I’m not sure if this comes from his age, the transition from Europe or what.

At least the issue seems to be ironing itself out. From Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Jerebko, less than three weeks into his first NBA training camp, feels more comfortable by the day. In fact, last week’s debut already seems like a long time ago, when he was so hyped. Pistons strength coach Arnie Kander said he was almost hyperventilating.

“I was excited,” he grins. “Family was there, from Buffalo. The first three minutes, you go in cold, the first time you get on the floor, the chest doesn’t want to go with your legs. But it was fun.”

Every day will be something new for Jerebko for a while. Once that phase passes, we’ll get to see what he can really do.

Stock

Rising

Jerebko is the first Swedish player in the NBA, so that’s pretty cool. And every time you hear his name mentioned lately, it’s something positive.

That can’t last forever, but I’m not sure any Piston has seen his reputation rise more since the preseason started.

Three predictions

1. Jerebko will be one of two Pistons whose roles are being overinflated right now.

Kuester has been gushing about Jerebko, absolutely gushing. I think the coach likes Jerebko, but that might be based on expectations.

Jerebko is playing very well for a rookie in the preseason. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be better than veterans in the regular season.

(More on the second Piston who I think is overhyped in a future player preview)

2. He won’t get the benefit of the whistle.

Call it the Zeljko Rebraca effect. He’s not the most athletic. He plays physical. And he’s a rookie. I don’t see refs reacting favorably.

3. Jerebko will give the Pistons a better backup power forward than they had last year.

Jerebko will help Detroit, but it might not be the way he wants.

Jason Maxiell’s production slipped across the board last year. It’s hard to believe the contract extension he signed at the beginning of the season didn’t have something to do with it. He just didn’t look hungry on the court.

Jerebko might just be the kick in the butt Maxiell needs. And if that doesn’t work, that likely means Jerebko is playing well.

Win-win.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: John Beilein

Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein recruited Jerebko when he was at West Virginia and is a friend of his family. For more info, check out this Buffalo News article.

You recruited him at West Virginia?

He ended up actually attending one of our summer camps. But the big thing is his dad, Chris, played at Syracuse.

And his uncle, Peter Jerebko, both played and was my assistant coach at Le Moyne College. He was one of the greatest shooters, could be as good of a shooter I’ve ever had at any time. And I’ve had some shooters. He’d be in the Pittsnogle range of consistent shooters.

So, (Jonas) looked at Syracuse. He looked at University of Buffalo. And he looked at West Virginia.

He chose University of Buffalo because that’s where the family’s real home is. That’s where the grandpa is. All the uncles are there. A lot of the grandchildren are there.

But then, (he) decided in that spring to go pro instead of going to college.

How far along did you get recruiting him before he picked Buffalo?

I was going to over and visit him in the fall and have him in for an official visit.

Did you offer him a scholarship?

We were going to offer him an official visit in the fall. Our standard thing is an official visit usually has a scholarship offer on the table.

But not at that time. We didn’t have all those things yet.

He had the talent. We wanted to see all the other things.

What did you like about his game?

He really had a great feel for the game. He could really shoot the ball, really shoot the ball.

I loved that he could block shots. At the college level, he was going to be able to block some shots, even though he’s a forward. He had great timing.

Did you see him as more of a small or power forward in college?

Oh, you know how are forwards play. They would have been very much the same. He would’ve played either forward for us.

What did you see that you wanted him to work on? Which parts of his game weren’t as developed?

I don’t think they was anything in particular. We saw him as a very, very good prospect to play in college.

A lot of people, if they had reservations, it was about a kid from Europe. You get a verbal from them, and then they go pro and while you told everybody else no.

Those things are typical of European players because there are so many great opportunities for the ones that are already over there.

If there wasn’t that concern, how hard do you think he would’ve been recruited?

I think he would’ve been recruited at a very high level had he been in the United States …

He was basically unknown in the States, unless you know the Jerebko family. … If he had the exposure, he would’ve been a highly sought after recruit.

Is there anybody you can compare him to in stature coming out of high school if he would’ve had those opportunities?

Kyle Singler, that type of player. (Singler was a five-star recruit, according to rivals.com) … But this is four years ago now.

Is there anything else to know about him?

He comes from a great family. He’s a great kid with a great family.

His brother played at Syracuse. His other brother played Division II, but could’ve played anywhere. He could’ve played Division I anywhere.

Just a real solid family.

Player Preview: Deron Washington

Essentials

Position: Small forward/ shooting guard

Age: 23

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 210 pounds

Years pro: Rookie

From: Virginia Tech

Role

Not much of one for now. I had hopes Washington could be a defensive stopper off the bench. But this obviously isn’t an indicator of getting on the court much:

Said (Pistons coach John) Kuester, “That first week of practice, he was lost.”

Although Washington didn’t play in the Piston’s first preseason game, he has played in the three since.

Still, a slipup like his first week on such a deep team probably puts him behind the curve in the fight for minutes.

Scouting report

Will: Show off his athleticism.

That might mean a number of things – defending, running the fast break, getting loose balls or grabbing offensive rebounds. When he’s on the court, his energy should stand out.

Won’t: Make jumpers.

Washington made just 26.9 percent of his 3-pointers his senior year at Virginia Tech. And that was after making them a point of emphasis the previous summer.

Must improve: Free-throw shooting.

There are two main ways Washington can earn minutes: running the court well on fast beaks and coming in as a defensive stopper at the end of games.

And he would be so much more valuable at both if he was a just a little better of a free-throw shooter.

Washington made just 61.6 of his free throws at Virginia Tech and 37.5 percent in the summer league this year. If he can get that to 70 percent, his value skyrockets.

Stock

Rising

Washington has a non-guaranteed contract, but it’s well-accepted he’ll make the team. After playing in Israel last year, that has to be a good feeling for him.

Three predictions

1. The first time Washington plays meaningful minutes, he will impress.

Kuester probably won’t go to Washington until there’s a situation where Detroit looks lethargic. Washington will come in and inject life to he Pistons and look like one of their top players.

2. Washington will play in fewer than half Detroit’s games this year.

I think he’ll spend a good amount of time on the inactive list. And isn’t he a prime candidate for the D-League?

3. Washington will never receive regular NBA minutes.

A lot of players come through the NBA with great athleticism, but limited skills. A large majority don’t stick.

Washington seems like a good guy, but just playing the odds, he won’t last in the NBA.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: Brad Greenberg

Before he became the head coach at Radford, Brad Greenberg was an assistant on his brother Seth’s staff at Virginia Tech, where he coached Washington for three years.

Brad Greenberg was also the Philadelphia 76ers’ GM from 1996-97, when they drafted Allen Iverson, and spent seven years in the Portland Trail Blazers’ front office.

He was nice enough to answer a few questions about Washington.

When you coached him, did you see any skills that were NBA-ready?

He had a tremendous quickness and spring and courage. He was a fearless player.

Some people don’t think those are skills, but I think those are pretty valuable things in the NBA, as athletic as the players are.

He has the physical attributes to get to balls and make some plays that players who just aren’t as quick or as springy or as bold and courageous can make.

What do you think about his label of being more of an athlete than a basketball player?

I think he’s worked hard to develop a lot of his basketball skills. He’s improved over the years as a shooter. He’s improved as a ball handler. He’s improved, I think, as a passer.

But he’s still a young player. I think most people, when they say that, they’re talking more about offensive skills. His defensive instincts are advanced.

He’s a young player and still developing and will keep working to get better

Kuester said Washington looked “lost” the first week of practice, but that he picked things up after that. When he first came to Virginia Tech, did he have similar problems?

No, he was able to learn offensive and defensive tactics – no problem. The NBA is a much more complicated and fast-paced process for young players. …

Even now, watching preseason exhibition games, teams are running are running fairly complex offenses and reading off each other while playing. And they haven’t been going very long.

So, I think for any young player, that’s an adjustment.

In college, Washington guarded anywhere from point guards to power forwards. Is he limited to covering shooting guard and small forwards in the NBA?

I think that’s ideal. He matches up best with players close to his height. …

He’s very quick, though, and hard-working if he were matched up with a bigger, stronger guy who tries to post him up. He’s learned how to use his quickness to compensate for if he’s giving up some size or giving up some weight.

Is the ideal system for him offensively something more up-tempo?

I don’t know. … It might be easier for him to attack the basket on a team that was extremely aggressive at trying to create open-court situations.

That’s one of his best things – to use that quickness to drive to the basket. So, he probably have a few more opportunities to do some things with the floor spread out. …

He’s pretty good at one or two dribbles, 25 feet and in, and just attack the basket and use his quickness. That could play to his strengths more than a team that was going to walk the ball up the court.

Everybody talks about his dunks, but what are some nuances in his game that, unless you watch him closely, you’re not going to appreciate?

I think he moves well without the ball. He’s a pretty good cutter. …

He can get out and fill the lane. So, obviously, he’s a good runner to go out and fill the lane.

To dunk the ball, you’ve got to get yourself in position. He’s got great instincts at trying to crash the offensive glass. …

He’s got a unique ability to chase down a breakaway and block what looks like a clear-path layup from behind. …

There are some players who have done that over the years in the NBA that I was always amazed by. I was lucky, in my years with the Trail Blazers, Jerome Kersey was incredible at that. He could be five feet behind a guy on a breakaway. And miraculously, he could catch up and time it and pin the ball to the glass.

Deron is incredibly aggressive at trying to make that kind of play. He’s able to make some plays that basically erase clear-path layups.

What’s something about Deron most people would be surprised to know?

His mom was a great athlete. He’s probably the third best athlete in his family behind his dad and his mom.

(His mom, Denise, played basketball at Xavier University in New Orleans. His dad, Lionel, played defensive back at Tulane and for 15 seasons in the NFL. He’s now the Oakland Raiders’ defensive backs coach.)

What’s Deron like off the court?

He’s a very nice, wonderful young man, respectful, quiet, loves basketball. He’s a good guy. He’s just a good guy.

He’s been raised real well. He’s been around pro athletes with his dad and football. I think he knows that character is an important part of having a chance to be a pro player.

In other words: Darryl Slater

Darryl Slater covers Virginia Tech for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and also took the time to answer a few questions.

How would you assess Deron’s game?

He’s a great defender. He’s so long and lanky. He was their guy at the top of their press when they did press.

He was a versatile defender. He was able to guard anyone from a point guard to a power forward. His length really helped him with that.

And that’s why he fit so well into Seth Greenberg’s system. Seth likes gritty kind of defenders. And Deron, as I recall, was that.

He’s not a great shooter. I know that’s one thing he wanted to work on going into his senior year. … I don’t think he ended up doing much in terms of his field-goal percentage. (It actually dropped from .503 to .416.) …

I think that’s what, obviously, has kept him from being very attractive to NBA teams. …

But he’s a pretty tenacious player. I think another knock on him is his frame. …

He’s pretty swift in his ability to get to the rim. He’s one of those gliding kind of guys.

I’m sure you’ve seen some those dunks that he’s had, like the one where he got over Greg Paulus. He’s iconic here for those.

Do you agree with the assessment that Washington is more of an athlete than a basketball player?

At the college level, where I saw him, he was a very good player. He wasn’t a 100-percent complete player, but few guys are. He was very effective in the ACC.

But as a pro, that probably is more true.

You mention he got to the rim very easily and smoothly. Was that mostly in transition, or could he do it in the half-court, too?

Definitely in transition, for sure, he could out-run guys.

I think of one moment from his senior year. They were playing Virginia up in Virginia. … He drove to the basket (for the game-winning layup at the buzzer). It was a half-court situation off an inbounds play. …

That’s one of the iconic moments of his career, for me at least. People talk about those dunks and stuff like that, but this was just a great sense of basketball awareness.

I mean, he’s not like Dr. J or anything getting to the rim. But that’s good basketball sense.

Do you have a sense of what kind of guy he is, what kind of presence he is in the locker room?

Great guy. …

He was so close to his mom. He’s from New Orleans, and she was living down there after he came to college. After Katrina, their house got destroyed. …

She moved to Blacksburg, and she got an apartment, so she could be close to him. He’s really, really close to his mom. She’s like one of his best friends.

He’s really a super approachable guy. He’s one of the nicer guys I’ve dealt with. … Always willing to talk after the game, never got snippy, never got surly.

I don’t know how he did with his teammates, but I always got the sense that he wasn’t necessarily a really, really vocal leader. …

But I got the impression guys like him. I liked him. Really down to earth.

Anything else Pistons fans should know about him?

He can’t palm a basketball. For a guy who’s a great dunker, I remember writing that a few times, how ironic.

The guy’s got smaller hands than I do I think, and I’m like 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3.

Slater was kind enough to send over his pre-draft story on Washington, too. A couple excerpts:

Few college players leap higher than Washington, a 6-7, 205-pound forward blessed with an elastic body that makes him a fast-break offensive threat and versatile defender. Problem is, Washington won’t be able to play in the NBA as he did in college.

Because of his spindly build, he’ll have to move farther from the basket, where his weaknesses could be exposed. An NBA team will insist that Washington develop an outside shot; he made 41.6 percent last season and 26.9 percent on 3-pointers.

"It’s not just shooting," said Keith Drum, a North Carolina-based college scout for the Sacramento Kings. "He’s going to have to improve ballhandling, decision-making with the ball away from the basket. His athleticism and energy are good enough. It’s the physical strength and the skill set that will have to get a little bit better. But the strength is less of a problem as he moves away from the basket."

Washington’s scoring and rebounding averages increased every year at Tech, and his career averages were 11 points and 5.4 rebounds. But (Virigina Tech coach Seth) Greenberg knows Washington’s defense might be his biggest asset.

"How many guys in the draft can guard Sean Singletary, Jack McClinton and [James] Gist?" he said, referring to Virginia’s shifty 6-foot point guard, Miami’s 6-1 perimeter ace and Maryland’s 6-9 power forward.

Said Drum: "Defensively, I think he’s capable of guarding people away from the basket because of his energy and his athleticism."

Tayshaun Prince’s injury doesn’t sound too serious

Tayshaun Prince might miss the Pistons‘ next game, according to Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News.

If he’s questionable for an exhibition game, I’m not too worried.

Tayshaun Prince hurts toe

From A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive:

Tayshaun Prince will not return in the second half of tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards because of a cut under his right big toe.

ESPN chat transcript

Tuesday Trivia: Coach of the Year

After a one-week hiatus, Tuesday Trivia is back. This week’s quiz is on Coach of the Year winners.

My Score: 24/47

Blog schedule, including ESPN chat

ESPN Chat

I’ll be joining Chris Broussard in a chat about the Pistons at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Join and ask some questions.

If you’re unavailable then, a transcript of the chat will be available here.

Previews

I’m also going to do individual player previews between now and the start of the season. They’re ordered by who I expected to have the biggest impact this season, from least to most.

I’ll also do a team preview and a bigger-picture look at the Pistons before the regular season starts.

Here’s a tentative schedule:

Oct. 14: Deron Washington

Oct. 15: Jonas Jerebko

Oct. 16: DaJuan Summers

Oct. 16: Chris Wilcox

Oct. 17: Austin Daye

Oct. 18: Jason Maxiell

Oct. 19: Kwame Brown

Oct. 19: Ben Wallace

Oct. 20: Will Bynum

Oct. 21: Charlie Villanueva

Oct. 22: Rodney Stuckey

Oct. 23: Tayshaun Prince

Oct. 24: Richard Hamilton

Oct. 25: Ben Gordon

Oct 26: Season preview

Oct. 27: State of the Pistons

New Detroit Pistons coach a smashing hit

The Pistons’ new coach is drawing rave reviews:

Via The Detroit News:

Said Rodney Stuckey: “Things are different around the practice facility. With Coach … around it’s more fun, the whole vibe is different. I know (Coach) will hold guys accountable and people are going to have to be ready to play.”

The Detroit News:

adamant about pushing tempo and getting quick offense off turnovers and missed shots … Talk to a young player … and you’d think the Pistons are going to run all the time.

The Detroit News:

If (Coach) has his way, the words soft or complacent will never again be uttered in reference to the Pistons.

The Detroit News:

And nothing he’s done has given even the slightest indication he isn’t up to the task.

Detroit Free Press:

As for his style, look for more transition offense and a renewed emphasis on suffocating defense that was a hallmark of the Pistons ‘ 2004 NBA title winners.

Detroit Free Press:

plans to rely on his bench more this season to keep his starters fresh.

The Detroit News:

Rookie coach shows right away he is in control and commands respect from players

The Detroit News:

Perhaps the biggest question coming into camp already has become a non-issue — (his) relative inexperience as a coach.

The Detroit News:

That respect has been fortified by his preparation, organization, unwavering confidence in his fundamental beliefs and ability to communicate his knowledge of the game.

Have you figure out the twist yet?

These quotes are a from a year ago and about Michael Curry.

So, when you read articles like this and this (and there are sure to be plenty more before the season opener), take them with a grain of salt.

John Kuester might be the next Chuck Daly. But he might be the next Curry.

Odds are he’ll be somewhere in between. Until he coaches a regular-season game, there’s really no way of telling.

After all, many doubted Daly’s hiring – even Daly:

He asked one reporter, “Who wants to hire a 52-year-old failure?”

Kuester is 54. Maybe the Pistons will be happy they hired him. But maybe not.

Nothing we can do but wait and see.

Jonas Jerebko shows little, Will Bynum shows a lot in Pistons’ preseason opener

Jonas Jerebko needs work

If you’ve heard anything about Jonas Jerebko (and I’m not assuming you have), you’ve heard he’s a tough, physical player.

Last night was not an example of that.

Jerebko and Jamaal Magloire got tangled up late in the fourth quarter. Magloire connected a punch and a forearm to Jerebko’s upper body (on one motion).

Both were ejected.

But Jerebko just pushed Magloire to separate himself, and he rolled away. It was clear he wanted no part of an altercation.

So where was that mean streak?

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com offers a clue:

Toward the end of workouts, Jerebko loses his legs and his explosive athleticism along with it.

That would also explain why he looked more tentative as the game went on, too.

Especially considering how deep the Pistons are, I don’t see Jerebko cracking the rotation any time soon.

Will Bynum needs playing time

With Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon needing minutes in the backcourt, Bynum appeared to be the odd man out.

But he scored (15 points on 5-of-7 shooting) and passed efficiently (just two assists, but he distributed better than that) last night.

If he was a first-round pick, and Rodney Stuckey was undrafted, I think Bynum would be starting.

Odds and ends

  • The bigs seemed to pass the ball pretty well. Rasheed Wallace was known as a good passer, so the Pistons appeared headed for a drop here. But I think Ben Wallace is underrated in that regard. And even Jason Maxiell kept the ball moving well.
  • DaJuan Summers had an excellent summer league, and everyone said Austin Daye needs time to fill out. But Daye entered the game before Summers. And Summers played more minutes. So who will make a bigger factor this season? Before the game I would’ve said Summers. At this point, I’m guessing Daye.
  • Ben Wallace started and was solid in limited minutes. That’s a role I see him having during the year, too. He’ll provide the tone Kuester wants.
  • Ben Gordon talked about being more of a playmaker this year. I didn’t see him do it once.
  • Kwame Brown looked lost on defense and didn’t rebound especially well. I hope this is just lethargy for the first preseason game.
  • I thought Deron Washington would get minutes as a defensive stopper this year, but he didn’t play at all.
  • Chucky Atkins didn’t play, either. Probably should end any speculation about a miracle chance of making the roster.
  • I can’t believe the Heat, down two, drove inside in the final seconds. Did anyone really want to play overtime? Draw up a 3-pointer next time, Erik Spoelstra.
  • I’m not happy Wallace ditched the afro. That thing on his chin doesn’t make me feel better.

Computer troubles

Sorry for the lack of content the last few days, but I’ve had some computer troubles. I’m hoping to have it all squared away tomorrow.

And I’ll also try to have something up after tonight’s game.