Archive → December, 2009
Date: Dec. 31, 2009
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Television: Fox Sports Detroit
Las Vegas projection
Spread: Detroit –4
Score: Detroit wins, 95-91
Detroit offensive rating: 103.8 (23rd)
Detroit defensive rating: 108.5 (21st)
Detroit pace: 88 (29th)
Chicago offensive rating: 98.7 (29th)
Chicago defensive rating: 105.3 (12th)
Chicago pace: 92 (22nd)
Score: Detroit wins, 105-104
The Pistons are on an eight-game losing streak, and though they get a four-day-weekend to rest before their next game, it’s a trip to the Southwest Division-leading Dallas Mavericks. They follow that game with a trip to San Antonio.
Detroit really needs to come out strong this afternoon and win this game to carry some momentum into its mini-road trip. Otherwise, this losing streak is all but guaranteed to hit double-digits.
This is my list of the 10 most influential Pistons of the last decade. The ranking is based on Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and will be ordered by which Piston – including any member of the organization – "for better or worse, has most influenced events” in the last decade.
Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Michael Curry, Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, John Mason, Antonio McDyess, Flip Saunders, Jerry Stackhouse, Rodney Stuckey, Corliss Williamson, Tom Wilson
10. Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince (Tom Strattman/AP)
In addition to producing at a near-All Star level for seven seasons, Prince made the Pistons’ greatest play of the previous decade.
He ran the length of the court to block a Reggie Miller breakaway layup, preserving a Detroit win in Game Two of the 2004 Eastern Conference finals. The play itself was spectacular, but the ramifications were even more extraordinary.
Rasheed Wallace had guaranteed a win before the game, and Prince’s block helped Detroit maintain its swagger, even its series with the Pacers and eventually win the NBA Championship.
Prince, the Pistons’ leader in games during the previous decade, was one of the league’s premier wing defenders at his peak.
When Detroit trailed, 3-1, against the eighth-seeded Magic in the first round of the 2003 playoffs, Pistons coach Rick Carlisle inserted Prince, then a little-used rookie, into the rotation.
The former Kentucky Wildcat covered Tracy McGrady, who led the league in scoring during the regular season and had made 52 percent of his shots in the series.
But with Prince’s 7-foot-2 wingspan bother him, McGrady made just 36 of his shots in the final three games – all Pistons wins. That led to the first of Detroit’s record six straight conference finals.
His strong defense of Kobe Bryant in the 2004 Finals was also key to the Pistons’ title.
The only reason he’s not higher is his defense has been quite mediocre the last couple years.
But at one point, he appeared on track to be a star. Still, he’s certainly been one of Detroit’s top players of the decade.
9. Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace (D. Lippitt/Einstein/Getty Images)
Despite all the worries about his tumultuous tenure in Portland, Rasheed Wallace immediately became the perfect fit in Detroit.
When the Pistons traded for Wallace in Feb. 2004, they went from a good team to a great one. They finished the regular season 20-6 and stormed through the playoffs to win a championship.
He was an excellent defensive player in his own right, but he also made Ben Wallace even better by allowing him to move to power forward.
He was a great teammate – arguably too good. The entire team took on his persona, for better or worse.
The Pistons whined to the refs and only played their best with their backs against the wall. They also embodied Sheed’s swagger.
He guaranteed wins. He danced before games. He taunted opponents (“Ball don’t lie!”).
His end in Detroit was nearly as ugly as his beginning was ideal. Wallace clashed with Flip Saunders and sulked under Michael Curry the next year. It was sad how easy a decision was to let him walk last summer.
Since Grant Hill signed with Orlando, Rasheed was the most talented Piston in the remaining nine years and four months of the decade. You can decide if that’s a sincere compliment or back-handed.
Regardless, he accelerated the Pistons’ title track and made them one of the league’s premier teams of the decade.
8. Darko Milicic
Darko Milicic (AP)
Milicic is the worst player on this list – by far. He averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in his two-and-a-half years with Detroit. Austin Daye, who’s hardly been spectacular as rookie this season is just 16 points from matching Darko’s Piston total.
But try having a conversation with a fan of another team without Darko coming up. He’s Joe Dumars’ scarlet letter. Every wise move the general manager makes is still overshadowed by Darko in the court of public opinion.
Had Dumars taken Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or Dwayne Wade, the Pistons might have become a dynasty. They already had an excellent team and adding a player like one of those three could’ve greatly impacted the next 10 NBA titles.
If only it were that simple.
Many forget how big Darko was in NBA circles when he was drafted. He wasn’t an unknown. He was the consensus No. 2 pick months before the draft.
I think every team would’ve taken Darko with the No. 2 pick. Not most teams, not 28-of-29 teams. Every single team.
The comparisons were astounding: Dirk Nowitzki with defense, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell with a jumper.
That’s why Darko’s poor play was so shocking. He makes Sam Bowie look like a good draft choice. At least, Bowie was a good player before his injuries.
Darko was just a bad basketball player. And his shadow will hang over the Pistons for a long time.
7. Rick Carlisle
Rick Carlisle (Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)
Before Joe Dumars hired Rick Carlisle, the Pistons were a wayward franchise. They had missed the playoffs in five of the nine seasons since Chuck Daly left. And they lost in each of the four years they made it, including two sweeps.
Carlisle came in and commanded respect. He preached defense and a grind-it-out game. His first great move was getting Jerry Stackhouse, a scorer with a selfish streak at times, to buy in.
He took a team that started Chucky Atkins, Stackhouse, Michael Curry, Ben Wallace and Clifford Robinson and made it a 50-game winner.
Carlisle actually led the Pistons to 50 wins in each of two seasons at the helm. Detroit won a playoff series his first year and went to the conference finals the next season. He appeared to be one of the league’s bright, young coaches.
But he was fired – supposedly for treating lower-level employs poorly to the dismay of Bill Davidson. In a strange scene, Carlisle showed up to his own firing press conference, sat next to Joe Dumars, and the pair answered questions together.
If Carlisle’s replacement wasn’t so great, the former Boston Celtic would’ve gotten more credit for the job he did in Detroit. And his strange exit would’ve drawn more attention, too.
6. Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton (Getty Images)
The image of Hamilton endlessly running running around screen after screen holds some root in fact. No Piston has played more minutes in the regular season or playoffs this decade.
Hamilton leads the Pistons in points scored in both the regular season and playoffs this decade. Partially by efficiency and partially by volume, Hamilton has become one of the Pistons’ top players ever.
He’s been a starter eight seasons this decade – more than any other Piston.
He outlasted Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups. By default, he became the Pistons’ leader. But Allen Iverson’s season in Detroit and Wallace’s return usurped some of that role.
Even as second or third banana, Hamilton was key to the Pistons’ six straight conference finals appearances. His play always seemed to pick up in the playoffs, especially when he put the Pistons’ offense on his back in the 2004 conference finals against the Pacers, an excellent defensive team.
Hamilton went from a young, talented player when the Pistons traded Jerry Stackhouse for him to an All-Star. He’s a class act, and the Pistons have been fortunate to have him.
I don’t want to believe it, but I have to ask.
- Are the Pistons just the type of team that loses by 17 (104-87) to the Knicks?
- The type of team that shows no desperation?
- The type of team that whines about playing time?
- The type of team that gets out-rebounded (44-33) by the NBA’s third-worst rebounding team?
- The type of team that lets David Lee go for 30 and 12?
- The type of team that allows its opponent to make 51.3 percent of its shots.
- The type of team that’s destined for the lottery?
I want to say no.
- I want to point out Richard Hamilton (5-of-21) and Tayshaun Prince (two points in 25 minutes) are still getting acclimated.
- I want to point out Will Bynum sat out.
- I want to point out Charlie Villanueva (scoreless) is playing hurt.
But it’s getting tougher and tougher to defend this team. The Pistons are running out of excuses.
This season could get ugly quickly if they don’t turn it around soon.
Charlie Villanueva played just 12 minutes against the Knicks tonight, and he said it wasn’t because of his plantar fasciitis or his trip to the hospital today. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
“I don’t know what it is,” Villanueva said. “I don’t know. I’m not going to suit up so they can monitor my minutes. I’m suiting up because I feel like I can play.
“So that’s a question you’ll have to ask him.”
And while the comments were in a subdued – not belligerent – tone, we do have some evidence that Kuester’s job of divvying up the minutes on this roster will definitely have some bumpy patches.
Date: Dec. 29, 2009
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Television: Fox Sports Detroit
New York: 11-19
Las Vegas projection
Spread: Detroit -4.5
Score: Detroit wins, 99-95
Detroit offensive rating: 103.9 (23rd)
Detroit defensive rating: 108.1 (21st)
Detroit pace: 88.1 (29th)
New York offensive rating: 105.1 (21st)
New York defensive rating: 108.0 (19th)
New York pace: 94.5 (7th)
Score: Tie, 97-97
The Pistons finally have all their players. They’re at home. They didn’t play yesterday. Their opponent is bad.
Please, please snap the seven-game losing streak.
This week’s quiz is about NBA jerseys.
My Score: 10/15
Warning: Spoilers in the comments.
Ben Wallace is Detroit’s starting center and best defender. Nobody else on the team comes close to matching his inside presence. Ideally, he’d play big minutes. But at 35, he probably can’t sustain such a heavy load – no matter how much the Pistons try to give him one.
Will: defend and rebound.
He might not be as athletic as he once was, but he’s smarter. His positioning is excellent, and that’s why he’s still effective.
Wallace has virtually no offensive game. He has no post moves, no jumper and is a terrible free-shooter. Most of his points come from put-backs and other hustle plays.
Must improve: free-throw shooting.
I was nearly inclined to put nothing here. By three seasons, Wallace is Detroit most-experience player. At some point, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
But Wallace is making a career-high 49.1 percent of his free throws this year, and he can keep that up. He actually has decent form in warmups. His problems are mental.
Maybe he’s past them and has improved from the worst free-throw shooter of all time to merely terrible.
Before the season, Wallace spoke to the media and gave short answers to every question. It seemed like desperately just wanted the crowd to focus on another player. Finally, some flatly asked him if he was trying to downplay his return to the Pistons.
“It’s kind of hard for me to downplay my return,” Wallace said. “I mean, I’m 6-9, 240. I’m pretty sure everybody sees me coming.”
I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
Wallace has been remarkable, and nothing shows that more than his playing time. Despite John Kuester’s preliminary plans to sit Wallace at times, Big Ben has played in all 30 of Detroit’s games and is second on the team in total minutes.
Nobody else on the roster comes close to matching his interior defense and rebounding.
1. His passing will become overrated.
Wallace is an excellent passer for his size. His passing was always pretty good, and it’s really improved since he first left Detroit.
He hasn’t gotten much credit for the skill, but that’s beginning to change. I think it’s only a matter of time until it goes too far.
Wallace was underrated for much of his career. Finally, people noticed, and it became chic to say Wallace was underrated – to the point he probably became overrated. I suspect his passing ability will receive the same fate.
One reason it’s easy to overrate his passing: his assists look remarkably skillful. But he either makes the pinpoint pass when he sees an opening or makes an easy pass back to a guard near halfcourt.
He’s not involved in the offense enough to make the quality in-between passes that teams must make to facilitate good ball movement.
2. Wallace will be a factor in end-of-season-award voting again.
Since he won the 2005-06 Defensive Player of the Year award, Wallace finished sixth for the award the next year. Otherwise, he hasn’t even received a single vote for any major award.
But that could change this year. Wallace should garner attention for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. His numbers are better than they’ve been since his first year with the Bulls, and he’s forcing teams to account for him when they’re on offense.
3. Wallace will return next season.
It would be easy to look at Wallace’s near-decision to retire this offseason as evidence he’s almost done.
“Oh no, that wasn’t the first time I thought about retiring,” Wallace said. “I was pretty much retired. So, that’s not frustration. I know what I can do in this league. I know what I’ve done in this league. It was just one of those things where I thought I was closer to the end than the beginning.”
Wallace doesn’t seem very introspective. And I don’t think the season he’s having will push him any closer to the end. Trying to get a read on him, let’s look at why he returned to Detroit.
“I just figured that, if I was going to retire, this would be a good spot for me to retire,” Wallace said.
“C’mon, man,” he continued. “That’s a no-brainer.”
Maybe his only reasons for returning to Detroit were the painfully obvious ones. But I think it’s more likely he hadn’t put much thought into it. He liked it it in Detroit, and that was it. I don’t buy he was thinking about retiring when he made that decision.
A lot of speculation here, but my gut says he’ll be back.
Check it out: No. 7 on Daily Dime.
Someone sent me these videos about Will Bynum in high school from the series, “Preps: Chicago Hoops.”
The end of the first video offers good insight into Bynum’s attitude at the time. I haven’t watched the second two yet, but I’m looking forward to them.
The Pistons’ losing streak reached seven games with a 102-95 loss to the Raptors today.
But Detroit finally snapped its misery streak.
Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince all returned to the lineup after extended absences due to injury. They looked pretty rusty throughout the game, but their play picked up as it went.
First half combined: 17 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Second half combined: 22 points, six rebounds and five assists.
That improvement is encouraging, and I expect it to continue against the Knicks on Tuesday. All of a sudden, it’s possible to see the Pistons as a playoff team.
But Hamilton, Gordon and Prince weren’t the key today
Jonas Jerebko’s second-half turnaround was the biggest reason for Detroit cutting a 19-point halftime deficit to one. After shooting just 1-for-5 in the first half, he made all five of his shots in the second half.
The big takeaway is Jerebko can play power forward with the rerturners on the floor. He had started at small forward with Prince out, but he played power forward in the preseason. This is especially relevant as Charlie Villanueva battles plantar fasciitis.
It’s just another plus of Joe Dumars’ plan to not worry about slotting players into certain positions. And the deep team he built? We might finally get to see that, too.
Once they get back in the swing of things, the Pistons will begin to look like a playoff team. Whether they’ve dug themselves into too deep a hole is another question. But at least they look competitive again.
Now, they just need to win a game.