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Does Charlie Villanueva completely lack self-awareness? Has he changed? Or is he trying to play us?

Charlie Villanueva had two tweets last night that left me shaking my head:

@DETPistons I heard the Press Conference with Joe Dumars earlier today went well, interesting. We need to REdevelop that Detroit toughness.

I embrace being a Detroit Pistons. And though we’ve had a share of bad luck, I’m determine things will change for better in 2010-11. RISE.

What does he think fans will think of those tweets? Does he not see the irony everyone else will?

The Pistons need to redevelop that Detroit toughness because of you.

Maybe that’s unfair. You were hurt most of the season and played through it. That’s tough. But you didn’t play tough. You were soft on defense, soft on the glass and soft on shot selection.

Maybe being hurt is a legitimate excuse, but most fans won’t see it that way. And isn’t a major point of your tweeting to stay connected with the fans? Well, those two tweets show a major disconnect.

It’s not luck

More than anything else, I have a big problem with Villanueva pinning Detroit’s problems on luck.

Of course, the Pistons suffered from more than their fair share of injuries. Of course, that hurt the team. Of course, that was unlucky.

But there was plenty more wrong than that and pinning the Pistons’ problems on luck isn’t going to fix their other other shortcomings. Bad luck is a scapegoat. It will sort it self out. The other problems are real, and those are where Villanueva’s focus should lie.

He’s made the right overtures before. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press in February:

It might have been a first for Charlie Villanueva.

After Friday morning’s shoot-around to prepare for the Nuggets, Villanueva said he is concentrating on defense and rebounding first, and isn’t worrying about whatever offense comes his way.

Villanueva has shown he knows how to say the right things (usually). But he hasn’t shown will act on them. The above proclamation ultimately rang hollow.

  • In 54 games before the statement: 16.1 shots and 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.
  • In 24 games after the statement: 16.1 shots and 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes.

He didn’t change one bit. He was the same player before and after.

Villanueva can be a good rebounder and an adequate defender. The first step would be to stop shooting – not completely, but stop looking for shots and having plays called him. Villanueva expends way too much energy on offense.

But more than just a change in on-court philosophy is necessary.

Attitude adjustment

I think Villanueva carries himself like a star player. That’s not to say he’s not a hard worker or a good teammate, but he likes to do things his way. He shoots a lot and likes to be in front of the cameras. I think he wants to be the face of a franchise.

But he’s not a star player.

He’s on-again, off-again starter on a bad team. He’s never made the playoffs. His 13.1 career scoring average ranks 103rd among active players – behind such stalwarts as Kirk Hinrich, Al Thornton and Wilson Chandler.

I think Villanueva sees the nonchalance of the game’s premier players and emulates it. LeBron can dominate while clowning with his teammates. Dwight Howard can shut down opposing offenses while laughing all game. Dirk Nowitzki can drain jumpers while making it seem like he barely looks at the rim.

I think he’s picked up a little bit of the prima donna attitude, too, but I can live with that. Most professional athletes expect preferential treatment. But there’s a line, and it varies by player.

I found myself questioning Villanueva several times last year. Is he worth the headache? Does he provide on the court to justify his issues off it. Because that’s what it ultimately comes down to. That’s why so many teams will appease each of LeBron’s demands this summer and not think once about signing Stephon Marbury.

How to fix this

Villanueva has to realize he’s not a star. There’s a chance he could become one. It’s a small chance given his age and what he’s accomplished so far. But he won’t reach that level if he keeps his current mindset.

I don’t expect anything to change, though. Villanueva isn’t a bad guy – far from it, it seems. And if he reads this or any other article critical of him, he can point to a lot of reasons he should be proud of what he’s done.

He does great work in the community. He puts himself out there to fans, interacting with them in ways few professional athletes do. He won a national title at Connecticut. He’s a role model for young Hispanic basketball players. (By the way, a writing trick is to do lists like that in threes. But it was so easy to come up with four that I included them all, and I think that says something about Villanueva).

It’s completely fair for him to look at those and other accomplishments and say, “I’m on the right track.” If he continues on this course, that’s no real tragedy. He’s in the NBA and seems to enjoy it. Who am I to call him a failure? I don’t think it’s fair to expect greatness from every player. Do you do the best you can at your job, or do you peak near the level your boss expects of you to get by?

But if he really is serious about redeveloping that Detroit toughness, he can’t be satisfied. He needs to work harder. He needs dive for loose balls and risk looking foolish, even if the stars of the league would never do that.

And he needs to make tweets like last night’s more than lip service – because right now, that’s all they seem like to me.

21 Comments

  • May 26, 20101:12 pm
    by Mike

    Reply

    I think you’re pretty spot on. I also think the problem with Chaz is that he’s not very smart… on the court definitely and probably off of it too (as evidenced by his atrocious grammar in every tweet).

    I’ve had plantar fasciitis, and it hurts, but it’s nothing debilitating. I’m pretty sure the standard protocol is to take a couple weeks off following a cortisone shot. Why not just do that instead of playing crappy basketball 90% of the year?

    Is he a nice guy? Yeah. Do I want to watch him play for the Pistons anymore? Nope.

    • May 26, 20108:44 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      I don’t know Villanueva well enough to make a judgment about how smart he is. He’s not the smartest player on the court, but I’m not sure how much that has to do with him not understanding what to or just not being interested enough in making the right play.
      As far as his tweets, again, I don’t want to make a judgment. Villanueva has one of the few jobs where grammar is pretty significant. Is he not smart enough to understand proper grammar, or is it just not a priority to him? Again, I don’t know.
      You experience seems a little different than what I’ve read. From what I’ve heard it’s not the type of thing that gets better with rest, so you as might as well play through it. Did you get a cortisone shot? How did that affect you? I’m definitely curious to hear more.
      And don’t forget, Villanueva also had nagging back issues, too. So, those might have been a bigger factor than his foot.

      • May 27, 20102:55 pm
        by Mike

        Reply

        Good point, I forgot about his ailing back… any back injury is pretty painful and definitely limits what a person can do.

        But to answer your question, I did receive a cortisone shot. I could lift weights, ride a bike, basically anything but run and jump. Perhaps not every case should be pigeon-holed, but from what I took out of my experience was you can play through the injury but you’re definitely going to be slower (and probably not be able to jump as high). I played football in college and suffered the injury halfway through the season (I wasn’t aware that it was plantar fasciitis at the time) and was somehow made slower than I already was.

        • May 27, 20103:58 pm
          by Dan Feldman

          Reply

          I think the inability to run as fast is comparable for football and basketball.

          But not being able to jump as high would affect be devastating for a basketball player. It would adversely affect Villanueva’s shooting, rebounding and defense.

  • May 26, 20102:48 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    CV is just content. You think he thinks he’s a star. Maybe thats the case. Maybe he already thinks he’s good enough. I think he’s just fine collecting his paycheck and putting in his 10/5 nights and being adored on twitter. He isn’t any better of a player now than when he entered the league. He’s just content. Thats the only way I can put it. He thinks he’s good enough. He won’t change.

    • May 26, 20108:47 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Nuetes, I don’t know if content is the right word. I think Villanueva wants to be a better player. I think he wants to play for a winner. But I don’t think he knows how to do either of those things, and I don’t think he has shown he cares enough to get past the “want to” stage.

      So, if you want to call that content, I wouldn’t disagree. But I think it’s a little more nuanced than just saying he’s happy with what he’s doing.

      • May 26, 201011:36 pm
        by nuetes

        Reply

        However you want to look at it the fact remains he hasn’t improved one bit since entering the league as a one and done player. Usually a one and done would signal some sort of upside, but he’s settled into his role if you ask me. The only difference between now and when he entered the league is his tendency to shoot more threes.

        • May 27, 20101:28 pm
          by Dan Feldman

          Reply

          You can question the rate at which and the amount he’s improved, but I don’t think it’s fair to say he hasn’t improved at all.

          His defensive rebounding percentage has trended upward. His turnover percentage has trended downward. He has improved his 10-to-15-foot jumper.

          • May 27, 20102:11 pm
            by Sweet Lou

            I’ve been keeping up with the blog a while now…keep up the good work! The commentary you offer is very informative.
            I’m just posting here to suggest changing the “make the font size smaller as comments gets progressively nested” feature on the board. It’s pretty absurd trying to read the above fonts, and I’ve got a 21″ monitor :)
             

          • May 27, 20103:54 pm
            by Dan Feldman

            Thanks, Lou. No question, you are right about the comments. I know Graham has been working on getting that fixed, and launching the re-design of the site was the first step in making that happen.

            I know it’s far from ideal, but if you hit ctrl and +, the font gets bigger. You can hit ctrl and – to make it smaller when you’re done. But that should just be a temporary solution.

  • May 26, 20102:49 pm
    by Dave

    Reply

    Absolutely!!

  • May 26, 20103:39 pm
    by The Rake

    Reply

    Last nite I penned an email to Terry Foster of the Detroit News primarily about Charlie V.  Terry said that CV was soft, I agreed and questioned whether he could/would change. Ultimately, I dont see him changing – if the Pistons want to return to their tough roots and strong D, CV is not your guy.  I think he’s a good guy and an average player.  If we can move on from him, I suggest we do so.  Its time to know what we are getting and stop “hoping” people will improve.  I.E., hoping potential is reached.  See, Austin Daye (never be a defender), CV, BG (always a shoot first guy with little D), Stuckey (not a true PG), etc. The list goes on. I want to know what I am getting from someone, not hope they surprise me and play beyond what we’ve seen.

    • May 26, 20109:07 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      The Rake, your plan sounds great in theory. But in a league with a salary cap like the NBA, it just won’t work.

      Proven players cost too much money to get enough of them to win and stay within the cap rules. You have to get players who have room to grow and hope they do. Look at the championship team. Each starter added a key element to his game after coming to Detroit.

      • Chanucey Billups: ability to run the point
      • Richard Hamilton: maturity to put an offense on his back
      • Tayshaun Prince: experience
      • Rasheed Wallace: composure to not self-destruct
      • Ben Wallace: swagger to be a team’s top player

      The Pistons never could’ve gotten all those players if they didn’t get them before they broke out.

  • May 26, 201011:54 pm
    by Tads

    Reply

    This is a great article.  He might be useful in a different kind of offense, one where big shooters are useful and defense doesn’t matter.  Hopefully they can trade him soon so this can happen, it might better for him and for us.

    • May 27, 20101:13 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Thanks, Tads. I think there a couple things the Pistons could do to help Villanueva.

      The first thing is to play him more next to Ben Wallace, instead of Chris Wilcox. Villanueva won’t be a great defender, but he would look a heck of a lot better.

      Offensively, I think running more would help.

  • May 27, 20106:04 am
    by jay wierenga

    Reply

    Nice post, one of many I have seen from you.  You know, I was thinking the same thing when I was reading this from Charlie(dont call me hustle). When fans hear those statements from Dumars regarding toughness, Im sure nearly all of them thought of Charlie. To me, he seems like the poster child for this generation.  It is the culmination of the failed “self-esteem” movement that was popular with educators in the 80s and 90s. What teachers rightly realized was that you need to praise the child’s effort, not their intelligence. Otherwise, you end up with kids that rest on their laurels before they have them to rest on. Sadly, I dont think it is in Charlie’s dna to change.  Hopefully Dumars can dupe some other gm into taking a chance on him.

    • May 27, 20101:18 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Thanks, Jay. I’m not saying the self-esteem movement isn’t to blame with Villanueva, but you can’t make it to the NBA without a tremendous amount of drive. When I criticize someone’s drive here, it’s relative to other NBA players. These guys are beating the rest of society hands down.

      But it is an interesting point. Maybe once immersed in the NBA, Villanueva has fallen back on the everybody-is-a-winner mantra that was prevalent when he was growing up.

      • May 27, 20105:02 pm
        by jay wierenga

        Reply

        thats not exactly what im saying.  basically, the movement made young men (and women) feel as though they were special and destined for great things.  at the first sign of adversity is usually when they are exposed and then the cognitive dissonance starts to come into the picture.  basically, sliding the goal posts in order to make his personal attitudes fit.
        alright, a lot of psych talk here.  but think about it.  when has charlie v seen adversity in his basketball career? he had enough raw talent and skill to coast by without hard work all through high school and college.  his first couple teams were awful and as a result didn’t use him to his abilities.  if they faltered, it was expected.  those franchises have never been winners.  but now he finds himself on a team comprised mainly of winners and the finger is inevitably going to get pointed directly at him.   the point is that if his work ethic had been promoted initially instead of his brilliance, maybe he wouldn’t come across like a lazy, soft, coddled and aloof player (sorry, i know the rule of three thing, but he deserved the last one as well!)

        • Jun 1, 20102:25 pm
          by Dan Feldman

          Reply

          I think that’s a good point. Villanueva hasn’t faced a lot of adversity in his career.

          But I don’t think it’s fair to say Villanueva hasn’t worked hard. You don’t stick in the NBA without working hard. If Villanueva hadn’t worked hard, he would’ve faced more adversity sooner.

          That’s not to say he doesn’t have room to work harder, though.

  • May 27, 20108:33 am
    by James

    Reply

    Nice article Dan.  I agree with everything you said. 

    If Charlie wants to change things the first thing he needs to do is show up at training campl in great shape.  He can clearly tone up his body some to improve his athleticism and cardio plus it’ll show that he’s truly dedicated to improving his game.  If that doesn’t happen then I don’t think we’ll see any difference in his effort level defensively or rebounding once the real games begin.

    • May 27, 20101:20 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      I think that would go a long way, too, James. But I think you’ll see an improvement in his rebounding from this year regardless. For his career, he’s a pretty good rebounder.

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