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Detroit Pistons chaos watch falls from high to sort of high

After last night’s pathetic display on the court and in front of the tape recorders, the Pistons responded well early in a pivotal game against the Hawks tonight.

They played hard and even led for a lengthy stretch. There were plenty of positive signs, and it looked like they were moving past last night’s drama. Even if they didn’t hold on for the win, the night looked encouraging just because the Pistons weren’t folding like they did last year.

Then Rodney Stuckey had an issue with John Kuester.

Stuckey sat the final 13:25 of the first half, which isn’t that unusual considering the Pistons clicked with him out. But when Kuester pulled Stuckey 2:42 into the second half, that raised some eyebrows.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News provided details:

#Pistons Kuester calls Stuckey, Stuckey doesn’t respond…Kuester calls DaJuan Summers to replace him…what is going on here

Stuckey didn’t return the rest of the game, and the players Kuester trusted to stay on the court ran out of gas.

Maybe this was a misunderstanding, but if Stuckey was pouting, he needs to take a lesson from Tayshaun Prince. You think anyone will take Stuckey’s side after the Pistons reasonably played well without him?

That’s the position Prince was in last night. After a lousy game by the entire team, including himself, he criticized Kuester afterward. He wasn’t in position, at least publicly, to hold the higher ground.

Prince played well tonight, and he played harder. If he wants to pick a fight with Kuester now, he might win the people’s support.

After to back-to-back poor games, Stuckey doesn’t have that advantage. But something has to give. This didn’t come out of nowhere. Lost in all the issues last night was the beginning of the Stuckey-Kuester feud. From Chris Iott of MLive:

Detroit coach John Kuester and point guard Rodney Stuckey had a brief but terse exchange.

I’m not sure who’s in the right, but neither Stuckey nor Kuester has done enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Why the Pistons nearly won

They moved the ball.

As much heat as Rodney Stuckey takes for not being a true point guard, the ball moves much better with him on the court. The Pistons also have better ball movement with Will Bynum, but while he’s been injured, they’ve really struggled when Stuckey sits.

The Pistons average 16.9 assists per 48 minutes when Stuckey plays, and before tonight, that number was 10.4 without him the previous three games.*

*Detroit had 23.2 assists per 48 minutes with Bynum in against the Nets in the season opener.

But without Stuckey tonight, the Pistons produced 19.5 assists per 48 minutes. That was easily their best non-Stuckey rate.

Assists per 48 minutes Click for full size

Ben Gordon (four), Tracy McGrady (three), Greg Monroe (three) and Charlie Villanueva (three) had all their assists with Stuckey on the bench. Interestingly, Tayshaun Prince, who played point guard for long stretches, didn’t have any assists.

Those four deserve a lot of credit for keeping Detroit’s offense rolling from sinking in a difficult situation.

Why the Pistons lost

Their big men ran out of gas.

Charlie Villanueva played 36 minutes, and Greg Monroe played 27 minutes – both season highs. On top of that, Villanueva played the final 16:50, and Monroe played the final 14:31.

By the end of the game, they were getting pushed around. The Hawks force-fed Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford and Josh Smith inside down the stretch.

I’m not sure why Jason Maxiell didn’t make an appearance (more on that later), but I’m not ready to heap blame on John Kuester for overplaying Villanueva and Monroe. Ben Wallace wasn’t as effective as usual, and on the second night of a back to back, it’s perfectly understandable to limit his minutes. Plus, Rodney Stuckey’s unexpected benching threw a kink into the rotation.

That said, if you want to criticize Kuester for this, I won’t be offended.

Monroe passes Maxiell

The biggest loser in Greg Monroe’s heavy load was Jason Maxiell, who didn’t play at all.

Yesterday, I recommended Monroe see more minutes at the expense of Tracy McGrady, not Maxiell. That still might happen. With Stuckey out, McGrady’s passing and ball-handling ability were needed.

McGrady took advantage, playing his best game as a Piston, notching nine points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. He didn’t quite look active and physical, but he was much more active and physical than he had been.

There are a lot of moving parts – what happens when Will Bynum comes back? – but for now, Monroe is in, and Maxiell is out.

More chaos ahead?

As I wrote above, the Pistons playing hard is the biggest piece of evidence about the team’s mental state. The Stuckey-Kuester rift is a negative, but enough players, including Prince, seem willing to play hard.

Still, I’m not totally convinced the Pistons are progressing productively. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press prior to tonight’s game:

“So you can now add players-coach drama to a locker room where there’s an obvious division between the old guard (Prince and Rip Hamilton) and the new guard (Stuckey, Gordon, etc.).”

If Prince and Hamilton really are on opposite sides of a locker-room divide, and they’re uniting over a dislike for Kuester, that doesn’t bode well. A common way to fix these types of problems is a closed-door team meeting. But the Pistons already did that Wednesday morning, according to Ellis.

So for a team off to its worst start in 30 years, what now?

19 Comments

  • Nov 3, 201010:34 pm
    by Hassan Shah

    Reply

    Also, I don’t know if anyone caught this, but Ben didn’t play much at all either… Now the benefit of this was that Monroe was able to log some really solid time (although I’d like if he toughened up on the D a little bit).
    There was also a moment later in the game where the Hawks announcers actually commented on McGrady rolling his eyes at Kuester, followed by Kuester immediately benching him.  It makes me wonder what’s going on and if we’ve got a full on player revolt underway, only 5 games into the season…

  • Nov 3, 201010:36 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Hassan:
    Wallace played 21 minutes. He’s only been averaging 23 a game this season, and tonight was the second of a back-to-back. Probably not to much to read into with that.
    The McGrady thing is interesting though, didn’t catch that.

  • Nov 3, 201010:37 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    Also, who does Stuckey think he is? Mike Conley or something?

  • Nov 3, 201010:54 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    Ha posted this under the previous thread on accident. Stupid tabs.

    Alright I’ve had it. The evidence against Kuester is piling too high. I’m not saying this team is actually any good, but I’ve witnessed 5 consecutive games of coaching decisions that make me scratch my head. Tonight was the icing on the cake. What was up with that 4th quarter lineup? Stuckey doesn’t want to get off the bench so you put Summers in? Summers?! I’d be more upset if the lineup that was in there didn’t hold their own, until it mattered that is. Once crunch time hit the Hawks executed, went 8-11, got layups, dunks, and whatever they wanted completely closing that game out. Get over the hack-a-ben stuff. Put him in the game! Monroe. Moose man is looking good. I’m about to take back everything I said. He’s hustled and played without hesitation the last two games. I don’t know if it was Kuester’s tough love (ugh) or he just wasn’t ready at first, but he’s looking the part. His size is suddenly more noticeable to me. He looked quite a bit bigger than Horford. He’s snagging rebounds outside of his zone and handling the ball well. I can live with the struggles on offense right now if he keeps providing the energy. I’d like to see him get in the game with Wallace at some point. If both of those guys are in there the front court might be a tad bit formidable. CV and Daye are so bad at PF. I don’t know what to do about this position. I’d like to see Monroe get some minutes there. One thing is for sure something has to be done at that position if they have any hope of winning games. Well, the next game is THE GAME. If they can’t get a win against Charlotte things look bleak. GS is much improved, but there is hope Curry is still out or limping. They have to get a win before they go on this West coast trip. Kuester’s job depends on it.

  • Nov 3, 201010:56 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    The only thing i’d caution with Monroe is that he often did this at Georgetown — he’d have a couple games where he’d be active, hustle and bang inside, followed up by a few games where he’d be passive and you’d forget he was on the court. I hope maturity brings more consistency with him, and he has looked solid the last two games, compared to where he was at in the preseason.

  • [...] kinda agree with Dan Feldman over at PP. Detroit Pistons chaos watch falls from high to sort of high – PistonPowered [...]

  • Nov 4, 201012:42 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    kuester blew it with that public call-out of the team. against the celtics in a blow-out, it was bad timing. go 0-6 against the bobcats and maybe it’s time for that sort of thing. but those dudes were playing four consecutive games of pure isolation pickup-style basketball, and kuester wasn’t questioning the style of play, just the effort and leadership.
     
    about the game: this was the first time all season they’ve played like a team. they were rarely this good last season. it sort of reminds me of when the pistons were the scrappy, depleted team that rattled off five in a row. one of the differences (aside from taking the ball out of stuckey’s hands by taking stuckey’s butt off the floor) is that you actually have a more balanced, flexible rotation, since you don’t have to accommodate five guards locked into the rotation. you gotta keep daye on the perimeter stat. maybe start monroe and ben down low. if they play this kind of smart, creative, team ball for the time being, they’ll be able to hold me over until february, but they gotta make some damn moves. atlanta just buckled down and played good fundamental basketball, and we didn’t stand a chance.

  • Nov 4, 201010:30 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    giving Cv a pass because he played a lot of minutes is a joke. Atlanta went right at him down the stretch and he responded with what he did all game defensively – which is nothing. Why Q does not go offense/defense with Ben Wallace and CV to avoid both the hack-ab-ben and CV’s defensive liabilities is beyond me. In a close game you are going to have a timeout each time down the floor.

    i watched McGrady roll his eyes at Q’s instructions in the New Jersey game towards the end after New Jersey had made its run with the hack-a-ben and i thought the vets were already judging Q on his incompetent game management.

    as a coach you cannot do the things Q has done and maintain the respect of the players. And there are some decent coaches available: Woodson, Brown. Either would be an upgrade over Q

  • Nov 4, 201011:03 am
    by Todd

    Reply

    Ok, so the first thing we do in a situation like this is what, blame the coach? STOP! Think about all of the coaches that have been run out of town from the Dumars regime – Carlisle, Brown (ok, that was his fault), Saunders, Curry, and now we are talking about Kuester? Five coaches in 10 years? What are we the Oakland Raiders? Seriously, its about time we start shipping off the malcontents, even if it is for pennies on the dollar. I loved Rip and Prince, but they are not helping the situation. We recognize the CV and Gordon pickups were bad, move em. In fact the only pieces I would keep right now are Monroe, Bynum, Daye, Jerebko, White and the man-the-beast-the-legend – Ben Wallace. Otherwise the rest of the guys are not playing up to their contracts.

  • Nov 4, 201011:46 am
    by PeterDee

    Reply

    “Threw,” not “through.” Just trying to help.

  • Nov 4, 201012:18 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Todd:

    Add Irvine to your list. Six coaches.

  • Nov 4, 201012:18 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    @todd: coach deserves plenty of blame. no sense keeping him if he stinks. but if you ask me, joe’s biggest mistakes with his recent hiring choices is that he keeps giving the job to rookie coaches who stink. he’s either got to commit to someone who can do the job or do it himself.

  • Nov 4, 201012:29 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    I think Dumars’ decisions with coaches points to a trend: he doesn’t think coaches are that important.

    Other than Larry Brown, who Dumars wanted to keep but was overruled by Davidson, I think Dumars pretty much just thinks dudes are interchangeable.

    I don’t think it’s a good thing to constantly change coaches, but I would fully agree with the premise that there are only maybe five (and that might be pushing it) really good coaches in the NBA. If you don’t have one of those guys, your coach isn’t going to have much of an impact on your wins/losses, unless you have a train wreck. And let’s be real: Curry was a train wreck and Kuester is definitely heading further and further in that direction.

  • Nov 4, 201012:36 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    The Pistons are bad. It seems like they’ve been in 4 winnable games so far, yet their point differential of -9.2 is the third worst in the league behind Washington and Minnesota. They are 25th in scoring at 92.8 ppg and unbelievably 19th in defense at 102.0 ppg allowed. That puts them at a pathagorean win total projection of 17 wins over the course of the season. Wins produced predicts a darker tale: 12 wins. Whoa. Also that 19th in defense is a tad misleading because of their pace, 28th in the league, their defensive rating is 28th in the league. All those numbers basically say they are 0-5 because they are supposed to be 0-5.
     
    They are a bad team, even with Gordon and CV arguably having good seasons. Ben Wallace has still been good, in fact he’s playing better now than he did last season, the problem is he’s not playing as much as he was last year so the team is hurting. Also Daye isn’t coming close to making up for the loss of Jerebko. They won’t come close to 30 wins at this rate. The PF position is killing them, and their best player is too old, or I guess a 4th quarter liability (?) to get enough minutes to help them.

  • Nov 4, 201012:46 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    I’m with Dumars in that regard, if in fact he does think coaches are interchangeable. Either you have a good coach, and those are rare, or you have one of the other guys, and there are plenty of them. Hasn’t there been something like only 7 coaches to win a title in the last 25 years? Jackson, Riley, Brown, Rivers, Popavich, Tomjanovich, and Daly. Might be forgetting someone. Not sure.
     
    Once any coach, regardless of how good or bad he is loses his players he ceases to be a coach and should be removed. Players have to buy into what the coaches are demanding of them. If they are tuning the guy out, which seems to be the case right now, he can’t coach. If he can’t coach he’s worthless. If they can’t beat Charlotte I would have to believe Q gets the boot. It’s a must win game.

  • Nov 4, 20101:48 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    there’s an enormous “middle ground” of coaches i’d be thrilled to have. hayes is right about trainwrecks, and that’s what we’ve been looking at the past few years. that’s got to change. ATL was the first game where the pistons actually played like a team.

  • Nov 4, 20102:16 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @Todd

    i was not a big fan of the Ben Gordon signing and he can be a defensive liability on the floor but you have to like what he has been producing so far this year. Right now, he looks like a keeper going forward. The Stuckey/Gordon backcourt has looked pretty good until the 4th quarter and a lot of that is coaching .

  • Nov 4, 20102:28 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    Gordon is playing great, but you can’t expect his 59% shooting to hold, and that’s exactly what is making him valuable at the moment. He also leads the team in turnovers and personal fouls.

  • Nov 4, 20102:46 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @nuetes
     
    let me rephrase that: Ben Gordon would be my choice to keep if the alternative is Rip. I think he offers more than Rip at this stage of their careers – though i certainly would be willing to trade Gordon and Rip and move Daye to the two if i could get a good big man for either one of them

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