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Archive → October, 2010

Contextualizing Austin Daye’s lack of heftiness

Austin Daye is too small to play power forward. You don’t need a fancy graph to know that.

But just how undersized is he?

Daye’s official bio lists him at 200 pounds, but in a recent mailbag, Keith Langlois said Daye weighs 209 pounds now. I’ll give Daye the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn’t make much difference.

Starting power forwards

Compared to other starting power forwards, Daye weighs far less. In fact, there’s as much of a difference between Daye and the next-light starting power forwards (Rashard Lewis and Lamar Odom) as there is between Lewis/Odom and Blake Griffin.

For the visually inclined:

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But pure weight might not be the best measure. Daye is 6-foot-11, so his 209 pounds are pretty spread out. That makes it even more likely Daye gets outmuscled by opponents. Let’s look at his relative pounds per inch:

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No matter how you slice it, as long as he remains Detroit’s starting power forward (which I can’t imagine will be much longer), Daye will be overmatched every night. Not most nights. Every night.

Starting small forwards

There are plenty of fans who want to trade Tayshaun Prince, so Daye can start at small forward. Obviously, this would make Daye less overmatched, but overmatched nonetheless.

In terms of weight:

image Click for full size

And in terms of pounds per inch:

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Backup small forwards

A third option is making Daye the backup small forward. This would help the situation more than making him a starting small forward, but it’s not a complete fix.


image Click for full size

Pounds per inch:

image Click for full size

Everyone else

There are only 50 players in the league who weigh less per inch that Daye. I though it would be fun to make a Sporcle quiz to see how many you can name. (If you’re not interested in challenging yourself, start the timer and hit “Give up?” above the timer after about about 15 seconds. The answers will appear).

If you look at the list, it’s full of quick guards who would easily blow past Daye.

There just aren’t many, if any, opponents Daye matches up well with.

What this all means

Daye’s body type makes it extremely difficult for him to guard and rebound against NBA frontcourt players. He’s also too slow to stay with many backcourt players. I don’t see either of those things changing anytime soon, if ever.

But Daye will often be a mismatch on the other end of the court. His offensive game is diverse, and opponents will struggle to cover him.

All I ask from Daye is that he do his best when it comes to defense and rebounding. Arnie Kander believes Daye is on the right track. From John Niyo of The Detroit News:

"He has learned how to widen his base," Kander said of Daye, whose massive wingspan — along with his smooth jump shot — made him one of the more intriguing draft prospects coming out of Gonzaga a year ago. "You can amazingly get strong if you have technique, and now he’s getting into his legs and using his strength in a real way.

"He’s an amazing talent, he really is. But he’s also a bright kid and he picks things up very fast and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get better."

I didn’t really see that in the opener against the Nets, but that’s only one game. Daye can and probably will get better.

For Daye, I think it’s important to appreciate the challenge he faces. But for Joe Dumars, I also think it’s fair to question drafting a player with such limitations.

Detroit Pistons blow third straight fourth quarter lead in loss to Chicago Bulls

Well, after three games, a theme has emerged.

The Pistons cannot hold a lead. Against New Jersey and Oklahoma City, the problems were at the defensive end. In Saturday’s 101-91 loss to Chicago, the problems were at both ends of the court as the Bulls out-scored the Pistons 34-9 in the fourth quarter and erased what was at one time a 21-point Pistons lead.

It was the third straight game the Pistons should’ve closed out, the third straight team the Pistons did enough right to look like a competent NBA team and the third straight game we watched with a helpless feeling, sensing what was coming as Chicago chipped and chipped away at that lead without any sign of a response from Detroit.

After three games, it’s safe to ask. Why does the team look so good at times, good enough to build leads against two sure playoff teams, yet can’t hold on?

They are in games because their bench, offensively at least, is going to be superior to virtually every team they play this season. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva (and Will Bynum when he’s healthy) will come in and abuse virtually any second unit player on any other team at their respective positions. Against the Bulls, the Pistons bench topped 40 points for the third straight game. Gordon couldn’t miss in the first half, Villanueva hit a couple big threes. They’re both streaky and will have some off nights shooting, but it’s a safe bet that they’ll also keep the Pistons in a lot of games by simply out-scoring the opponent’s bench.

The starters, on the other hand, will struggle to score most nights. None are what I would call poor players, but it’s going to be rare that any of the five starters on the Pistons will be better offensive players than their positional counterparts. The starters play better defense as a unit, they turn it over less as a unit, but they will inevitably rarely outscore the opposing starters.

The simple answer is, “Why not flip Gordon or Villanueva to the starting lineup?”

Well, the Bulls game proved why that won’t work. Gordon and Villanueva were very good in the first half. Gordon was being guarded at times by Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson. Villanueva was matched up with Brian Scalabrine for a long stretch. Hard not to look good against those players. But then Chicago adjusted in the second half and shortened their bench. When Gordon and Villanueva came in in the third, Chicago left Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah in up front for a bit. They also left Derrick Rose in, meaning Gordon would have to guard him some when Rodney Stuckey went out of the game.

It wasn’t pretty. Gordon didn’t make a shot in the second half and had three turnovers during a key Chicago run. John Kuester went back to Rip Hamilton, who didn’t have a good game offensively, for most of the fourth, and despite some beat writers protesting on Twitter — “But Gordon has 21 points and Rip only has five!!!” — Kuester had to do it. Hamilton wasn’t shooting it well, but at least he wasn’t booting the ball all over the court when he tried to put it on the floor the way Gordon was. Gordon also struggled to get shots off when Keith Bogans or James Johnson guarded him in the second half.

Villanueva shot it well through three quarters, then when Gibson started guarding him in the fourth, Villanueva went 0-for-6 from the field in the quarter.

Austin Daye had another non-existent game as a starter, and I’ve written previously that I think Villanueva has out-played him and will eventually supplant him as a starter. Although I still feel that Villanueva is the better option at the four right now, putting him in the starting lineup, or putting Gordon in the starting lineup, would eliminate really the only advantage the Pistons have right now, their bench scoring.

The Chicago meltdown was by far the ugliest to watch, made worse by the fact that I had to watch the game on League Pass and listen to Stacy King and whoever Chicago’s other broadcaster is blather on and on about nonsense. The Pistons were once again competitive. But unlike the OKC and NJ games, which were back-and-forth all game long, the Pistons were firmly in control of this game and lost it. Good teams sometimes lose games like the ones the Pistons lost in their first two. But bad teams always lose games the way the Pistons lost against Chicago.

Monroe’s first minutes

Pat Caputo can rest easy: Greg Monroe has finally played in a regular season game. With the Pistons in control in the first half, Monroe played seven minutes, made his only shot and had three rebounds. Not bad. But he also had three fouls in seven minutes and turned it over once, setting an illegal screen. I’ve written it often, but rookie big men generally take longer to adjust to the NBA than other rookies. There’s much more contact in the post, players are stronger and it’s simply hard not to foul a lot. Monroe looked comfortable and hopefully he’ll build on the little bit of time he saw tonight.

McGrady’s first bucket

Through three games as a Piston, Tracy McGrady has looked a little reluctant to shoot. That’s never a sentence I thought I’d write about McGrady. He shot 1-for-3 and scored his first two points of his Pistons career and also had four rebounds and an assist. The bad? Three turnovers in 17 minutes. McGrady has a long ways to go (if he has anything left) to be a helpful player to the Pistons, but I do appreciate that he hasn’t tried to force things when he’s been on the court. He had one nice play where he drove past Korver and found Jason Maxiell for what would’ve been a dunk had Max not been fouled. Unfortunately, he also had one of his shots deflected by Korver (not sure it can be called a block … it was an awkward play and Korver kind of got his hand on a shot that appeared to slip out of McGrady’s hand a little bit), which is another sentence I never thought I’d write about McGrady.

Stuckey’s point guard progression

Rodney Stuckey has been the biggest positive for the Pistons through three games. Stuckey has 23 assists and only four turnovers, he’s making good decisions and he’s getting to the line a lot. Including his 11 free throws against the Bulls, Stuckey is averaging over seven attempts per game. He didn’t shoot it well in the second half against the Bulls — going just 1-for-6. I believe Stuckey should be a 47 percent or better shooter this season, if it’s going to be called a successful season for him, and he’s at 46 percent right now. With his improved decision-making, however, he’s been the most important player on the court for the Pistons, particularly with Bynum out, making Stuckey the only point guard-like player on the roster.

Game Preview: Chicago Bulls will need more offense against what has been a high-scoring Detroit attack so far

Here we go, game thread number two for you guys. If you’re around and have some thoughts during tonight’s game, this space is yours.

Game Info: Detroit Pistons (0-2) at Chicago Bulls (0-1), 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit

Probable starters: DET – Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Ben Wallace; CHI – Derrick Rose, Keith Bogans, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah

Three things to watch:

1. I’m not saying the Pistons have more talent by any stretch, but Chicago, like Oklahoma City, is another good team that Detroit can do some things against defensively. The Bulls have no perimeter shooting other than bench player Kyle Korver, and he played just 15 minutes in their opener. That means when he’s not in the game, the Pistons perimeter defenders can cheat into the lane and sag off of Rose, Bogans and Deng from outside to help either on Rose drives or to help when Gibson, an improving post-up player who will be a tough matchup for Detroit, has the ball in the post. The Bulls shot just 43 percent in their first game, including 14 percent from three-point range. Their defense has improved, but they could struggle to score until Carlos Boozer returns. Rose scored 28 in the team’s opener, but needed 31 shots to do it. The Pistons would definitely take a similar points-to-shots ratio tonight.

2. Rose’s defense is shaky and Stuckey is coming off of arguably his best game ever as a Piston. Rose gave up 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting to Russell Westbrook in the Bulls’ first game. Expect Stuckey to build on his good first two games.

3. The Pistons have a huge bench advantage. That’s nothing new — they do boast more firepower on their bench than most teams, albeit expensive firepower. But the Bulls’ key reserves in their opener were Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Brian Scalabrine and C.J. Watson. Not much to like in that group, other than Korver’s three-point stroke and Brewer’s defense. The Pistons’ bench has scored 46 and 47 points respectively in two games this season. If they get that kind of bench production again, they’ll win this game. Chicago just doesn’t have the offense to keep pace with that.

Pregame reading:

  • John Salley violates bro code with Scott Hastings on Deadspin
  • Fox News Latino talks to Charlie V about the influence of Hispanic hoopers.
  • The Big Lead has video of Rodney Stuckey’s sick crossover of Daequan Cook last night. I hope Daequan is OK after that.
  • Danny Bonheim gives some thoughts on last night’s loss at Need4Sheed
  • Brian Packey points out the Pistons had some poor possessions in the fourth before the final few minutes that cost them

Pregame reading if you want to be really annoyed:

I’ve had my issues with Monsieur Caputo in the past. (And I don’t think I’m the only one). There is plenty to criticize the Pistons about. To criticize John Kuester for not playing young guys based on Greg Monroe’s DNP-CDs is really dumb though.

“And Monroe hasn’t played at all this season. No excuse for it. The seventh overall pick in the draft? Brutal thought process.”

Pat, come on. He shot 40 percent in the preseason as a BIG MAN. He turned it over like twice a game. I want Monroe to play and succeed as much as anyone, but he’s just not good enough right now. I think he’ll get better practicing every day, watching the way that professional guys like Ben Wallace and Jason Maxiell play defense. If he’s getting 15 or so minutes a game by the end of the season, that’s a win to me. Also, did you not notice that young guys Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey, who are viewed, whether we agree or not, as young franchise cornerstones, are both starting and playing quite a bit? That doesn’t qualify as “not playing young guys.” Kuester is playing young guys who have shown they are ready, and as much as I like Monroe and hope he’s really good, he hasn’t shown he’s ready just yet.

And I’m pretty sure Caputo referred to him as ‘Craig’ Monroe in the video.

On to the next one though. Terry Foster had this to say in his latest:

“The man that could’ve been a key piece for a Pistons franchise turnaround showed up at The Palace Friday night, and definitely looked like savior.

He was kind and respectful off the court, and a stone cold killer on it.”

Wow. Sounds great. Who is this mystery man?

Kevin Durant never had plans to come and play in Detroit, before he re-signed last summer with the Thunder, but is definitely the kind of player the Pistons need to earn wins in the standings, respect in the league, and enthusiasm among the fanbase.

To recap, the Pistons savior is a guy they never had a chance to draft, trade for or sign as a free agent? Perfect!

I can’t wait for the season to be a few weeks old so the guys who only write about the Pistons twice a year will finally be gone.

Russell Westbrook discusses competing against Rodney Stuckey and other up-and-coming young lead guards in the NBA

Let’s be honest. PistonPowered could use a little infusion of style. So periodically, former MLive It’s Just Sports Swag Consultant Eric Woodyard will stop by the site with some insight on the Pistons and the NBA. Woodyard has contributed at MLive, he covers the Pistons for SLAM Online, he files video reports on his YouTube channel and he writes for the Western Herald. You can also follow his Twitter updates. He covers quite a few games throughout the year, and he’ll send us a variety of interviews and interesting conversations he has related to the Pistons. Make him feel welcome here. — Patrick Hayes

As a team in transition, the Pistons are a team with young players who also need veteran leadership around to help mold them into professionals. Morris Peterson of the Thunder is respected around the NBA as one of the classiest players and a good locker room guy. He’s made a mark on several young guys around the league, including former Raptors teammate Charlie Villanueva.

Also, it’s tradition for me. Anytime Peterson is anywhere in my vicinity I have to catch up with him. Although he was on the inactive list, there wasnt any other player on the roster that I wanted to talk with more, not even Kevin Durant.

That’s how us Flintstones roll.

Eric Woodyard: Obviously you’re back home. How does it feel to be back home in Michigan?

Morris Peterson: It’s always good to be back home and see some familiar faces especially with the long season and being on the west coast. We dont get a chance to get home so it’s always good to come home and see some familiar faces and see your family.

EW: I read something the other day where it talked about how the young guys on this team was blazing you because you were older than most of the players on this team, could you talk about how that’s been? (laughs) Do they still tease you about that?

MP: (laughs) Not as much, but that first week was rough. It’s a thing to go from being one of the youngest guys in the locker room, I remember those days, to now being the older guy but it’s all good that just means they like you.

EW: Last year when we talked, I asked you how was it to play with Chris Paul. This year you’re with another superstar in Kevin Durant, how fun is it to watch him?

MP: I think KD is a great player. He’s definitely ahead of his time. You don’t find too many guys his age doing the things he does. If you look at it, he’s a match up problem. Him being 6-10, 6-11 and being able to handle it and shoot over smaller guys or drive around big guys, he always has an advantage so it’s great playing with a guy like him. To watch him last year and see him do the thing he did was good but once we were in practice, I think he’s worked even harder so it shows out on he court.

EW: How are you feeling health-wise? I know you’ve been battling with injuries for the past seasons …

MP: I’m feeling great, feeling better. I’m just trying to get back into it and get in the rotation and hopefully just try and get out there.

Rodney Stuckey had one of his best games as a Piston last night, and with his strength and athleticism, he’s similar to Thunder guard Russell Westbrook who also wasn’t a natural point guard coming into the league.

Westbrook finished the 2009-2010 season with an average of 16.1 points and 8.0 dimes per game. He then followed this up in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers where he averaged 20.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists over 6 games. This season he showed his performance was no fluke when he gave Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 28 points and 6 assists in the season opener.

Stuckey talked in the preseason about wanting to take over the team as a leader from the point guard spot, something Westbrook has been able to do with the Thunder. I caught up with Westbrook in the midst of him eating a bag of popcorn in the visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills just before he prepared to battle Stuckey and the Pistons to get a look at how he prepares himself and gets ready for a game.

EW: Can you talk about your pre-game ritual a little bit. What do you usually do before the game?

Russell Westbook: I usually take a nap, grab something to eat and listen to music, nothing too crazy and just hang out, chill and relax.

EW: What type of music do you listen too to get you in the zone?

RW: You know what? I switch it up. It all depends, sometimes I listen to some Raggae, some Cameroonian music…yeah (laughs). Lil Wayne …

EW: I’ve never heard anybody say that before … (laughs)

RW: ... some jerking (Ed. Note: It’s a song/dance, get your minds out of the gutter), I switch it up. So it all depends on how I’m feeling that day.

EW: Do you usually get hyped up to go up against another up and coming point guard? Like tonight’s it’s Rodney Stuckey, do you try to go out and try to prove that you’re better?

RW: Not really, I just try to go out and prove that my team is better. I try to go out and put my team in the best situation to try to win the game.

EW: What were some of the things you worked on this off-season?

RW: Well in the off-season I was really busy with FIBA and USA basketball so with that it helped me become more physical and a better teammate.

EW: That first game against your Olympic teammate Derrick Rose and the Bulls was great battle! So to get back on that battling your peers, can you break it down how does it feel to compete against all these up and coming guards?

RW: It feels good! It’s a good thing for the league, it’s a lot of good guards in the league and to go against somebody who’s real good and real tough, there’s really no nights off.

Too much focus on Kevin Durant on final play takes Charlie Villanueva’s greatest triumph as a Detroit Piston away from him

Charlie Villanueva can’t catch a break.

Friday’s loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder certainly wasn’t his best game as a Piston, but after establishing himself as a physical presence on the offensive glass, after battling on defense and after getting crunch time minutes — a rarity for him last season — for the second straight game, Villanueva spotted up in the corner, caught a nice feed from Ben Gordon and calmly knocked down what looked like the game-winning 3-pointer to put the Pistons up 104-103 with fewer than 10 seconds left against the Thunder.

Then, for the second straight contest, a defensive breakdown cost the Pistons the game. Against New Jersey, it was three players getting beat to a loose ball by Devin Harris that resulted in a game-winning shot. Against OKC, it was Jason Maxiell getting beat off the dribble by Jeff Green while Ben Wallace, who was supposed to be the weakside help on the play, got caught in no-man’s land and was late getting to Green because Wallace was cheating toward Kevin Durant. Green got to the basket unscathed and Detroit couldn’t get off a final shot with no timeouts remaining.

A lot went right for the Pistons, and I’ll get into those positives below. But my immediate take away was simply feeling bad for Villanueva. I’ve made no secret of my intrigue with Charlie V. I think he’s tougher than he gets credit for, and I think he genuinely wants to get better, wants to live up to his contract and wants to be successful in Detroit. He desperately needed a moment like the one he almost had tonight. Not that the Pistons losing necessarily erased the positive strides he made in other areas during the game, but we all know that memories from losses tend to fade quickly while game-winning shots tend to hang around all season. Villanueva, through two games, has the appearance of a better, more disciplined player than he was last season and that’s a good thing.

In fact, there were many good things that happened in this game. The Pistons shot a very good 47 percent. They held Oklahoma City to sub-40 percent shooting. The 47-43 rebounding disparity favored the Thunder, but not significantly. And most importantly, for the second straight game the Pistons were fun to watch, played cohesively and showed that there is no reason they can’t compete and have a chance to win games against good teams.

The defense is back

With great individual offensive performances by two players, most writers would start there. But if you’re curious as to why the Pistons almost won this game, look no further than this stat: 20-55. That is the combined field goals made and attempted by OKC’s three leading scorers, Durant, Green and Russell Westbrook. The Pistons were physical with them. They had their hands in faces of jump shooters all night. And as I said in the game preview, they contained Kevin Durant by making him a high-volume shooter. Durant scored 30 points, but because he gets to the line a ridiculous amount, he’s a virtual lock to go for almost 30 every night. All defenses can do against him is try and make it an inefficient 30, and the Pistons in their last three meetings with the Thunder have held Durant to 24-for-59 shooting. That’s as good a defensive job as any team in the league does against Durant.

If the defense is back, why did it give up more 100 points?

John Kuester allowed the Pistons to push the pace. The guards frequently ran on made baskets, caught the Thunder defense before it set and scored buckets in the lane all night. Frankly, I’m not used to seeing the Pistons play that aggressively on offense. They took and made good shots, they got offensive rebounds, and they shot a very good 47 percent.

So why did they lose?

Obviously, they looked terrible on the last defensive possession of the game. It kind of ruined what was otherwise a really good defensive effort. But the game would’ve been a pretty lopsided affair in favor of the Pistons had they protected the basketball. After opening the season with a clean six-turnover performance in New Jersey, the Pistons turned it over 18 times, including 12 in the first half, against Oklahoma City. Two of the main culprits? The usually steady Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Those guys are typically stabilizing influence in the starting lineup, but they combined for seven turnovers mostly because they each uncharacteristically threw some soft passes or made poor reads on where guys were going to be on the court.

Also, Austin Daye had his second straight poor shooting night, going 2-for-11. If he made one or two of those shots — and the Thunder were largely leaving him open — the Pistons probably win.

On to the rotation

Greg Monroe didn’t get on the court again. I already clowned some talk radio guys a bit, after they proclaimed after one DNP-CD in his first career game that Monroe is "a bust." I don’t know what those guys will think after he *gasp* picked up his second.

There are Pistons fans who are going to clamor for Monroe to play all season. I think I’m OK with him sitting as long as the Pistons are playing as competitively as they are right now. I always think it’s better for young guys to play their way into the lineup with strong practice habits, as Jonas Jerebko did last season and as Daye did this preseason, rather than just getting handed minutes because the franchise hopes they grow into a cornerstone.

Maxiell is not a great player, but he’s decent in some aspects of the game and he holds his own against most bigs in the league. At a minimum, I think it’s OK for the coaches to expect Monroe to beat Maxiell out before he gets minutes. My hope (for the sake of the franchise) is that Monroe quickly asserts himself as a better player, but if that doesn’t happen all season, I’m OK with Kuester keeping him glued to the bench.

There were a couple other rotation oddities, though. Tracy McGrady played only six minutes. He grabbed a couple rebounds, had an assist and looked really stiff on two plays, one where he was cutting to the basket and lost a pass off his leg and another where he couldn’t get to a lob thrown his way. McGrady didn’t get back into the game in the second half.

Wallace also had his minutes limited. He played just 20 minutes, grabbing eight rebounds with three blocks. He sat out most of the fourth, coming back in for the final play. I don’t know why he didn’t play more — perhaps Kuester was trying to save him for tomorrow since the Pistons have a back-to-back? I understand the desire to not overuse him, but having him out there for a few more minutes defensively could’ve certainly changed the outcome of the game.

Are you ever gonna get to Gordon or Stuckey, or what?

Saving the best for last? First, I just want to post their combined stat lines: 21-for-34, 56 points, 10 assists, 4 turnovers, 9 rebounds, 15 free throws attempted.

Stuckey has played one of the best two-game stretches as a point guard and playmaker in his career. He didn’t have his first turnover of the season until late in the second quarter of this game. He consistently made the right pass all night. He not only got inside, but he finished strong, including one vicious dunk in traffic and what would have been a second one had Thabo Sefalosha not fouled him. Through two games, Stuckey is averaging nine assists and just two turnovers a game, he’s had strong defensive efforts against two very good young point guards (yeah I know, Devin Harris had a good game, but that was largely due to his great fourth quarter after starting the game sluggishly), and he’s shooting over 50 percent. Stuckey has shown these flashes that he’s on the verge of putting his vast array of skills together throughout his career, and he’s consistently fallen back to mediocrity. He absolutely has to do it for a full season, but the Pistons have to be encouraged by this start.

And as for Gordon, that was a vintage performance. As fellow Pistons writer Steve Kays said on Twitter, "Ben Gordon is making the same kind of shots he was making against Boston in the 09 playoffs." Gordon, due to his injuries, didn’t have a dynamic scoring performance like that last season, where it seemed like every shot he took was going in, and not only going in, but barely moving the net. But I know Gordon can score. I was watching him defensively.

When Stuckey was out of the game, Gordon was guarding Westbrook, and not only guarding him, but doing an effective job. He was physical, bumping him and pressuring him full-court. He also moved his feet well and stayed in front of his man defensively.

Just glancing at Gordon, he looks like a guy who should be lock-down. He’s obviously a physical specimen and he’s obviously quick. Those are the most important physical skills when it comes to perimeter defense. For whatever reason, he’s never seemed as committed to his defense as his offense. Against Oklahoma City, he played both ends of the court with the same intensity, and he was simply dominant.

It’s early in the season, and the Pistons are 0-2. But they’ve established that they will play hard and be competitive, once against a not-so-good team and once against a team that some people predicted to get to the NBA Finals. The Pistons have glaring deficiencies, which I don’t think are a surprise to anyone who watches the team with an honest eye. But in the NBA, deficient teams fairly frequently beat more talented teams by playing the intensity the Pistons have played at through two games. I don’t know if they can maintain it, but I’m certainly more hopeful now than I was a few short weeks ago after watching them get beat down in the preseason opener in Miami.

Game Preview: Detroit Pistons will try to contain Kevin Durant in home opener against Oklahoma City Thunder

We had quite a few people commenting on random posts during Wednesday’s game against the Nets, so we’ll try and have these game preview posts from now on during the season. They can serve as your game threads to make commentary throughout each game. If you like them, we’ll keep doing them.

Game info: Oklahoma City Thunder (1-0) at Detroit Pistons (0-1), 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit

Probable starters: DET – Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Ben Wallace; OKC – Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefalosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic

Three things to watch:

1. Durant scores well against everyone, and the Pistons will probably be no different, but they actually do have the types of wing players who can bother him. Durant is longer than virtually every wing in the league, but Prince, Daye and even Hamilton are tall enough to at least get a hand up in his face. If they can turn him into a volume scorer, they’ll have a chance to win. Durant was 8-for-18 and 7-for-17 in two games vs. the Pistons last season.

2. Daye matches up much better against the Thunder. I’d expect him to get more minutes tonight, since they start Jeff Green at power forward. The Thunder don’t boast what anyone would call a rugged front line, so it should be easier for Daye to get comfortable in this game.

3. Guy to watch: Serge Ibaka. The Pistons had major problems with two kinds of big men last season, great post-up players like Brook Lopez, who torched them in the first game, and active athletic bigs who love to get out and run. Ibaka is that second type of big. If things haven’t change much since last year, expect a big night from Ibaka.

Pregame reading:

Rasheed Wallace helps out Darvin Ham at Albuquerque Thunderbirds practice

Former Piston (and Saginaw native) Darvin Ham, the coach of the NBADL’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds, got some help from a slightly more well-known former Piston at a recent practice. Scott Schroeder from excellent D-League blog Ridiculous Upside has the deets:

“I told him to come on out and feel free to come out and help us out,” Ham said of inviting his former teammate to his local player tryout. “He’s like, ‘yeah, I’m gonna come in and check y’all out but I’m not gonna do too much.”

Well, it turns that he did show up – and apparently was the loudest voice in the gym. It’s all good, though, because Ham says he calls him “his brother from another mother.”

Apparently, in retirement, Sheed is just gonna randomly show up at basketball practices all across the country. But Schroeder hints at the good thing this could inevitably (and awesomely) lead to:

I hope this is the first step into Sheed becoming a coach because that would be really, really entertaining.

Here’s the video:

Should anything be read into Greg Monroe getting a DNP-CD?

I’ve posted before about my belief that Greg Monroe should get some minutes, even if it means (and it most certainly does mean) that the team’s performance will slip with Monroe out there some rather than Ben Wallace or Jason Maxiell.

That being said, I wasn’t too surprised he didn’t play against New Jersey. After all, his preseason numbers were really bad (particularly his shooting percentage) and last night’s game was competitive down to the finish. Every team wants to win opening night, so that’s why I assumed there was no Monroe sighting.

But there could also be something more to it. From Vince Ellis’ Detroit Free Press blog:

Pistons first-round pick Greg Monroe got a DNP-coach’s decision, and it wasn’t shocking for those who have been paying attention. From Pistons coach John Kuester’s comments saying Monroe has to improve his motor, you could tell moments like Wednesday night would occur.

A fellow scribe overheard Kuester imploring Monroe to run harder in the team’s last preseason game.

You have to wonder if Monroe will ever meet Kuester’s demands because it’s highly unlikely the skilled but laidback rookie from Georgetown will ever be described as high-energy.

It’s obviously a situation that bears watching.

Yikes. That’s certainly not what any Pistons fan wants to read about their first lottery pick since, ahem, Darko.

But it does raise an important point in my mind: I watched Monroe quite a bit it Georgetown. He was described as a low-motor guy all throughout college. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t skilled — he undoubtedly was. But he doesn’t play with much emotion or fire. Everyone should’ve known that about him.

But did the Pistons? It was widely reported when he was drafted that the Pistons hadn’t worked him out, largely because they didn’t expect him to fall to them. The comments Ellis made does make me wonder if the Pistons knew just how long Monroe has been labeled with the ‘low-motor’ issue. I’m not sure it’s a part of his game that can easily be fixed — it just kind of seems like his personality.

Lionel Hollins gives a lesson in how Michael Curry probably would’ve saved his job as Pistons coach

Something PistonPowered readers should probably know about me: any time I can remotely tie an Allen Iverson story into a Pistons angle, no matter how long it has been since he played here, I’m going to do it.

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal relays this story of how Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins simultaneously stood up to Iverson and saved the Grizzlies season a year ago:

The Grizzlies were mired in losing and Allen Iverson — having missed a training camp during which Hollins preached a philosophy of one team, one goal — was upset about playing off the bench. Suddenly, the Griz had to deal with one big ego, one major problem.

So on Nov. 5, 2009, Hollins asked everyone in a Los Angeles gym to leave practice. That included visitors such as former Griz president Jerry West. Hollins then got something off his chest. In front of the team, Hollins demanded that Iverson conform to the team’s philosophy, understand his role and respect his teammates. Several key players say it was an essential move by Hollins, for the sake of the team.

We all know what happened. Iverson wouldn’t conform, he fake retired, he went and played poorly in Philly and now he’s in Turkey. Contrast that with how Michael Curry handled Iverson in Detroit:

“M.C. lied to us a million times,” (Rip) Hamilton said of Curry. “He sat me and A.I. down one time and was like, ‘I’m going to lean on both of you the whole year, just don’t go to the media. Say you’ll do whatever for the team and blah blah blah.’ This was a week before he brought me off the bench. He lied. So I feel for what Allen said.”

He added: “I think the person that we had didn’t know how to take advantage of (our roster). Instead of taking advantage of it, he killed it.”

Unlike the Grizzlies, who went on a major roll and threatened for a playoff spot in the West, the Pistons went into a tailspin as guys were openly frustrated, they whimpered into the playoffs and were swept by the Cavs in an embarrassingly uncompetitive series.

I come back to Iverson often because that is the move that is solely responsible for where the franchise is at right now. Joe Dumars receives most of the blame for making the trade, and I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but it’s important to note that the trade also gave Curry, who was supposedly hired for his willingness to speak his mind and stand up to veteran players, an opportunity to assert his stamp on the team and establish the standards he expected players to abide by. Had Curry taken a Hollins-like stand, he might still be coaching the team right now. Not that I’m saying that would be a good thing (though I do miss his suits). It’s just funny how one single event can have such a lasting impact on a franchise. Hollins handled it perfectly and the Grizzlies are one of the league’s exciting up and coming teams. Curry handled it horribly and the Pistons are a major question mark still.

Joe Dumars’ plan appears in loss to Nets, but Pistons still aren’t good

Maybe Joe Dumars had a plan, after all. I know many of you don’t want to believe that, but use your imagination for just a moment. His plan probably looked something like this:

And for most of the game, that’s what the Pistons had. The signs of progress were present.

But progress doesn’t mean good, and the Pistons don’t appear to be good. Improved, yes. Good, no.

When you’re not good, it doesn’t matter how well your general manager’s plan unfolds, you can’t surrender every loose ball to your opponents down the stretch. You can’t allow them to go on an 11-0 run within the last two minutes. You can’t miss five of your last seven free-throw attempts.

But the Pistons did all those things, and that’s why they lost to the Nets, 101-98, in a surprisingly well-played game last night.

Ben Wallace played the excellent defense Pistons fans expect from him. But Prince and Hamilton were the catalysts for Detroit’s excellent team defense. They were always in the right spots and gave the Nets very little room to operate.

Gordon made 5-of-6 shots for 12 points and had three assists. When the Nets had trouble staying with him, he scored. When they played him tightly, he made the right pass. It was an excellent offensive night for Gordon.

Villanueva, who scored 14 points, also played well on that side of the court. He took nine 3-pointers, but don’t read too much into that. By my count, three of those came when the Pistons were down late, two were forced, and he went 3-of-4 on 3-pointers within the offense. The Nets also appeared to pay extra attention to him inside. Yes, I could live without those two forced shots, but Villanueva made positive offensive contributions.

Stuckey really set the tone. He knew when to attack and when to pass offensively, finishing with 14 points (4-of-10 from the field, 5-of-6 from the line), seven assists and no turnovers. Defensively, he pushed Devin Harris around for much of the game.

This was a night the Pistons, who had only six turnovers, did a lot of things right. They looked crisp, especially for the first game of the season.

But they lost focus in those final few minutes, erasing the positives of the rest of the game. Detroit isn’t good enough for that to happen and win, especially on the road.

The good news is the Pistons aren’t as lifeless as last year. The bad news is that’s not necessarily enough to make the postseason.

For a team that will have to fight to make the cusp of the playoffs, every game matters. An 0-1 start obviously isn’t the end of the world (despite what you read about the Heat last night).

But it makes the Pistons quest this year even more challenging – and that’s the last thing they need.

Can an old dog learn a new trick?

Ben Wallace is still Ben Wallace – for good and bad.

He was a force on the glass. His 10 rebounds sell him short, because he tipped even more. He played better defense than anyone else in this game. He also reminded me how excellent his screens are.

*The defense has a huge in advantage because it knows Wallace isn’t a threat on the roll or the pop. Yet, he still gives the ball handler space to operate.

But when the Nets went to Hack-a-Ben late in the fourth quarter, those results were predictable, too. He made just 1-of-4 free throws before being removed from the game.

Wallace does a lot of good for the Pistons, but this is his chance to do even more.

I have no doubt Wallace sets an excellent example in the weight room. But you know what? He’s already strong. I think he likes lifting. I think he likes having the nickname “Body.” I think he likes being strong enough to intimidate opponents.

I don’t think he likes working on his free throws quite as much.

Do you think Rodney Stuckey likes harnessing his aggressiveness in order to initiate the offense? Do you think Austin Daye likes boxing out power forwards? Do you think Charlie Villanueva likes playing defense?

Probably not. But they try to do those things to give their team its best chance to win.

It would send in an incredibly strong message if, when the Pistons come to their next practice, they see Wallace taking free throws.

Better yet, I hope they see him working with a psychiatrist on them. I’m serious.

Wallace struggled to hit the rim on his attempts last night. He’s not a good shooter, but he’s not that bad. He clearly has a mental block.

Ron Artest worked with a therapist, and that has made him a better player. In the macho culture of professional sports, Artest is a pioneer. People laughed when he thanked his therapist after winning the title. I saluted him.

Wallace has an opportunity, by leading through example, to help the Pistons become a mentally sharper team. I don’t expect him to take it, and I won’t blame him if he doesn’t. Most professional athletes wouldn’t.

But the opportunity is there.

Tracy McGrady makes Pistons debut

Tracy McGrady made several good passes. He had three assists (and more passes that led to free throws) and no turnovers. He also played the passing lanes well, collecting two steals.

He played within himself, missing three shots in 14 minutes.

Really, I guess that’s fine. But it was sort of like watching Superman win a bocce ball tournament. After seeing him fly, take bullets without wincing and melt things with his eyes, bocce ball just isn’t that exciting.

For the most part, he looked like someone with “tired legs” who’s still smart enough to make plays, anyway.

In the second quarter, McGrady had position on Johan Petro for a rebound coming toward them and nobody else. All McGrady had to do was turn around and box out, and the rebound was easily his. Instead, he fouled Petro. Given his physical ability, McGrady probably made the smart choice, preventing a fastbreak opportunity. But most NBA players could just get the rebound.

That play about summed up the negatives of McGrady’s night.

During the broadcast, the word was Arnie Kander said McGrady won’t be at full strength until midseason. Expect more games likes this from McGrady for a while.

Again, if playing time was supposed to be dictated by performance, why is McGrady playing?


Austin Daye started at power forward and had a favorable matchup with Joe Smith. Daye will be overmatched every night he starts at power forward (more on this tomorrow), but this was about as good as it will for him. Smith doesn’t want to bang inside.

But then the Nets brought in Derrick Favors, who bullied Daye. The Pistons pulled Daye late in the first quarter, and he didn’t return until the second half.

Besides his defensive shortcomings, Daye looked rattled on offense. He missed six of his eight shots and didn’t get to the line.

Quite simply, Daye didn’t look like he was ready to start, or maybe even be in the rotation.

Didn’t the Pistons sign Ben Gordon for games like this?

When he was with the Bulls, Ben Gordon built a reputation as a fearless player, someone willing to take the big shots. John Kuester seems to buy that, playing Gordon the entire fourth quarter.

But after making his first three shots of the fourth quarter and drawing a foul on the fourth shot, Gordon didn’t shoot in the final six minutes of the game.

Villanueva took the Pistons’ final three shots, all 3-pointers, before their final possession. At least two of those plays seemed to be designed for him.

Gordon appeared to be the first option on the Pistons’ final shot, and I even thought he was open near the top of the key. But Tayshaun Prince didn’t hit him with the pass. It almost looked like like the play started before Prince was ready.

I can’t complain too much. Stuckey had a good look from the corner, given the situation.

But I can’t help but feel like Gordon was underutilized down the stretch.

Pick-and-roll defense

The Pistons pick-and-roll defense was pretty poor, especially in the third quarter, when Devin Harris ran a clinic.

It wasn’t completely Rodney Stuckey’s fault. Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Richard Hamilton all had turns on Harris. The Pistons even went to zone, too.

But Harris was too quick around the screens, too smooth on his jumpers and too accurate on his passes to a cutting Brook Lopez.

New Villanueva

After his summer of rededication to being a big man, Charlie Villanueva didn’t prove much one way or the other tonight.

Notching a steal and block, but too often playing his man too loose, his defense was a mixed bag. I’ll call that an improvement. The minuses still outweighed the plusses, though.

He had only three rebounds in 23 minutes. That number probably needs to improve.

Second unit

The Pistons played five reserves – Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Tracy McGrady, Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell – to begin the second quarter.

Thanks to some pretty terrible defense, the group promptly allowed the Nets to open the quarter on an 8-2 run. But somehow, the unit outscored the Nets, 34-25, in 13:46.

Still, the lineup choice didn’t make much sense to me, and I’m not confident in it going forward.

Why pair the smallest guards, Will Bynum and Ben Gordon? Why pair the leanest forwards, Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince?

I have no problem with the starting lineup, in and of itself, because most teams mix and match their starters and reserves throughout the game. But if Kuester plans to play the starters and reserves as separate units, I think they need tinkering.

Third-quarter dud

The Nets’ best quarter was the third, when they outscored Detroit, 31-20. Last year, I complained the Pistons struggled to make adjustments at halftime, especially when they were winning.

One game is much too small of a sample size to judge something like this, I’ll be keeping my eye on it.