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Detroit Pistons so impressive in victory, Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal says Detroit’s a playoff team, but lineup questions linger

After maybe the best two-game stretch of his career, Austin Daye lost his spot in the rotation.

Nobody seemed too happy with John Kuester’s decision before the game, but his team did the best thing possible to take the heat off – win. The Pistons beat the Kings, 100-94, for their second straight win and fourth in five games.

The win was so impressive, Kings coach Paul Westphal said in his postgame press conference, “I think they’re a playoff team in the East. I don’t think there’s much doubt about it." (Detroit is only half a game out.)

But the lineup questions aren’t going away just yet.

Jason Maxiell, who made his first start of the season, deserves a spot in the rotation because he’s been very good defensively this year. He can also score a bit inside and rebounds reasonably well.

That said, he shouldn’t be starting. He’s at his best against backup centers, and he should stick to that role.

In his postgame press conference, Kuester indicated Daye sat because of a poor matchup with Carl Landry. When the Pistons play the Warriors tomorrow, we’ll learn if that’s accurate. Golden State certainly doesn’t present similar challenges inside.

If the Pistons really wanted a more physical preference starting, it should have been Greg Monroe. He’s rebounded like crazy (better than Maxiell) and defended pretty well.

Really, Kuester doesn’t get enough credit for benching Monroe in his first two games. That motivational technique worked like a charm. The knock on Monroe had been a low motor, but that hasn’t been the case so far this season.

But apparently, Kuester still doesn’t trust Monroe as much Maxiell.

I’m still not convinced Kuester gave the true reason for the switch. The Trail Blazers offered a similarly difficult matchup for Daye, and he still started. If there were other reasons to remove Daye, Charlie Villanueva, who has been active on both ends of the court, should have received starting consideration.

Of course, this leaves Daye out of the entire conversation. He’s been alright this season, doesn’t he deserve to at least play?

Well, maybe. First we have to set the terms of the argument.

The Pistons primary goal is making the playoffs. Joe Dumars has said that often, so you can’t blame Kuester for any decisions with short-term benefits. I think that’s a sound goal, anyway. Winning will help locker room problems, foster an environment where players don’t complain about minutes and increase Detroit’s chances of hosting playoff games ($).

So, whether Daye deserves to play comes down to whether than he’s better than the worst player in the Pistons’ 10-man rotation

That’s probably Tracy McGrady, who conveniently plays the same position as Daye.

There’s no question Daye is better equipped to handle a heavy load, but since we’re only talking about the 13 minutes behind Tayshaun Prince, it’s not so cut and dry.

I would lean toward Daye, but you can easily make the case McGrady is better right now. McGrady’s quick hands on defense have started fastbreaks, and Daye often looks lost on that end (to be fair, not nearly as often as last year). Plus, McGrady’s passing and smarts makes him capable of initiating the offense, and that’s particularly relevant with Will Bynum’s recent struggles. Either way, I won’t blame Kuester for his choice.

Whew, that was complicated, and the Pistons only moved one player out of the lineup.

This team has so many players capable of playing multiple positions, any switch has ramifications up and down the roster. Someone will be left out.

So, it goes back to what I said above – just win. It’s the easiest way to sort all this out.

Scoring star

Ben Gordon deserves more minutes.

He’s shooting amazingly and defending, passing and rebounding well enough. The 27.3 minutes per game he’s getting when Richard Hamilton is healthy aren’t enough.

Tonight, he scored 16 points on six shots, including a huge 3-pointer with with 23 seconds left. For the season, he’s averaging 16 points per game on 54.7 shooting. But he’s only taking 10.6 shots per game.

Some players shoot well on limited shots, because they only take the shots they can make. Behind Gordon, Ben Wallace has the team’s second-highest field-goal percentage. But Wallace can only score on the putbacks and bunnies he’s taking right now. He already takes every makeable shot available to him. He can’t take anymore.

Gordon’s shooting percentage will likely come down, only because as the sample size increases, it will revert to the mean. (Gordon’s career shooting percentage is .436, but I still think he’ll come out way ahead of it this season.) But Gordon could take more of the same types of shots he’s taking now and shoot at a similar clip.

The problem is Hamilton. Because of locker-room politics, there’s almost* no conceivable way to bring him off the bench. You can cry about how Gordon is better, younger and and a better fit next to Rodney Stuckey. It doesn’t matter. It’s also not fair, but most of all, it doesn’t matter.

*I say almost, because if the Pistons win enough, they can make any personnel decision. But it would take a heck of a lot more wins to bring Hamilton off the bench than it would to justify not playing Daye at all.

So, here’s Gordon, showing why he’s the can’t-pass-up type of player Joe Dumars clearly thought he was signing, doing as well as possible, and he can’t get enough minutes.

I wish there was a good, but I don’t see one anytime soon.

New problems on the defensive glass

Once again, the Pistons struggled to get defensive rebounds.

They were allowing their opponents to collect 29.1 percent of available offensive rebounds (23rd in the NBA) and the Kings were nabbing 30.2 percent of available offensive rebounds (sixth) entering the game.

Sacramento grabbed 39.1 percent tonight.

But unlike against the Trail Blazers, boxing out wasn’t the problem (at least for the most part).

The Pistons don’t have someone who’s active when going for rebounds.

The players they depended on most for rebounds tonight, Ben Wallace and Jason Maxiell, have the same style. They position themselves well for where they think the miss will go (Wallace more so) and box out. They’re not the most nimble, so they’re susceptible to high-motor opponents.*

*Austin Daye uses this same style, so he wasn’t going to help today.

Nether Wallace or Maxiell is very tall, either, so longer opponents can cause them trouble on the glass, too.*

*Daye is tall, but not strong enough to make a difference today.

So, the active Carl Landry (five offensive rebounds), the long Samuel Dalembert (five) and Jason Thompson, who’s a little bit of both, dominated the offensive glass.

The problem with those types of rebounders, especially against Detroit’s type of rebounders, is they can get easy putbacks. Landry grabbed rebounds and re-elevated before the less-bouncy Wallace and Maxiell could do anything. Dalembert wasn’t bother by his shorter opponents on tips, and Thompson did both. The Kings had offensive rebounds on 16 of their possessions, and their big men made putbacks on 11 of those.

The Pistons need someone to matchup with those types of players

Jonas Jerebko would probably be that guy, but he’s injured.

Greg Monroe might be that guy, but he mostly matched up with DeMarcus Cousins, who wasn’t the serious offensive-rebounding threat. (Hence, why I said Monroe should start.)

I’m not sure why Charlie Villanueva, especially with his improved physique, isn’t that guy. He had his worst rebounding percentage of his career last year, and I chalked that up to injuries. He’s rebounding even worse this year.

I bet this problem gets sorted out before the end of the season. I hope it’s before Jerebko returns.

A Prince fit for the Kings

Patrick called this in the game preview, but Tayshaun Prince owns the Kings. He made 7-of-10 shots tonight.

McGrady jumpers

Tracy McGrady made 4-of-5 jump shots tonight, and he looked good doing it. More of a sign that he’s on his way back.

A sign that he’s not is how slowly he still moves on the court. His hands move faster, though. It’s to the point I expect him to make at least one steal every game, even in limited minutes.

Stuckey solid

Rodney Stuckey played pretty well, posting 17 points, seven assists and three rebounds. He also had four turnovers, but I’m not sure all four are on him. The entire team was sloppy passing and receiving the ball today.

Stuckey also played solid defense on Tyreke Evans, who shot just 9-for-21.

Really, it’s a credit to Stuckey that he can play this well and not get mentioned higher in the recap. Expectations have definitely risen for him.

Mental state of the team

Detroit played reasonably hard today, but the Kings aren’t a very good team, either.

The Pistons showed no effort against their best two opponents – the Celtics and the Trail Blazers. They play harder against middle- and lower-tier teams, but they aren’t good enough to win all of those.

Is that enough to make the playoffs in the East? Maybe.

I just want to see Detroit play hard against a good team. That will give me some hope this team isn’t as mentally weak as it looks.

Unfortunately, there are few reasons to expect that. heWizard sat in the third row of the Clippers game and wrote analysis for Detroit Bad Boys. It’s a good read but this passage particularly impacted me:

The thing that struck me most being just feet away from the players and coaching staff was something that I sort of expected, but was surprised to see so pervasively: this is not a happy team. There was little warmth between players, zero warmth between players and coaches, very little fanfare from the bench even after big shots and next to zero excitement after a tightly-contested overtime victory.

However, the players did not seem fragmented. They fought as a team and talked to one another on the bench. But my assessment is that their unity is one not necessarily for one another so much as against Kuester. Nearly every player (CV was the notable exception) shook his head and grumbled to his teammates when benched.


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  • Nov 14, 201011:24 pm
    by Laser


    rotation solution: move a perimeter player before the deadline. any perimeter player will do, but a guard would be best. agree completely that someone else should start. monroe or CV would be nice choices with maxwell (not a typo, that’s my nickname for him ever since the announcer at a clippers game called him that) a backup C.
    nobody will be surprised that my reaction is that i didn’t think i could be so discouraged about a 4-1 stretch, but the 1 stands out because it was so decisive and the only game against a probable playoff team. plus the clipps game may be the most giftwrapped game i’ve ever seen. i guess it’s not a bad thing to be able to scratch out a few wins against the dregs of the league; i just hope the front office isn’t encouraged enough by these baby steps (the team still doesn’t look particularly good on the floor) to stay the course. but i’m afraid they will.
    tomorrow’s rematch vs golden state should be the most interesting game of the year to date. i’m curious to see how they answer back after some flat individual performances and a game they probably should have won. wonder what adjustments they’ll make. would definitely be interesting if they could take us out even without david lee.

  • Nov 15, 20101:45 am
    by Chabvis


    I didn’t have any problem starting Maxiell tonight, and cannot really understand the argument. If we are talking about winning the game last night then it seems pretty clear to me that Maxiell was the best option to match-up against Landry. It turns out that Maxiell didn’t make a huge difference rebounding, but hind sight is always helpful, and pre-game I was happy with the decision.
    As the game progressed, I thought Monroe should have gotten some of the minutes that were given to Max. But in terms of who is starting I do not particularly care either way, and would play it match-up wise.
    If we are talking about player development and long-term issues, then of course I would prefer to see either Daye or Monroe starting, but I am more concerned about winning games at this point in time, and think that the starters should be match-up based. Saying that, I would like to see Daye back in the starting 5 tomorrow against GS.
    The real crime though, that we should be discussing, is why Rip is not only starting, but is taking the most shots every night out. What does BG have to do to get the majority of the minutes?  I am jamming a ton into one post, but BG has to be more selfish and look for his shot more often.

  • Nov 15, 20107:36 am
    by JoshB


    No matter what anybody may think about the front office, they are fully aware that we need to do something about the logjam of perimeter players we have. Joe D has said that if he has to stick with this roster he will, but he would prefer to make a trade to bring in another frontcourt player. I really hope this group does start playing well together though, because I think it’s easier to bring in another player if there’s at least some semblance of chemistry already there. I have been a little concerned with BG though since Rip returned. He really hasn’t been as aggressive, and it can’t just be that Rip is taking up the shots, because Rip was chucking away(terribly) in the 1st few games, but Ben still got his points.

  • Nov 15, 20108:06 am
    by detroitpcb


    are you guys serious? what did Max do last night? got dominated by Landry & Thompson. Max does not box out. that is his major problem as a defensive rebounder. he simply gets position close to the baket and uses his athleticism. he almost never makes contact with his man before the shot goes up. and even on those very rare occasions when he does, people can always go over him since he is only 6’6″.

    Daye could not have done any worse. I suspect he would have done better. But Daye gets moved out of the lineup after his two best performances.

    Q needs to go. The only two players on this team who do not have to earn their minutes are Rip & Tay. Tay played a horrible first half. T-Mac cn in and did some nice things but when he went out Q brought Prince back in so he could (mess) up some more. Tay thinks he is the go-to player on this team – and i give him credit for making shots in the clutch – but he is a ball pounding black hole and i thought the Pistons wanted to move the ball and be unselfish?

    This team is completely divided. Tay got what he wanted and moved Daye out of the starting lineup. Now he and Rip are playing with familier faces. The starting lineup now consists of the old guard and the bench are the new guys. T-Mac takes Daye’s place and we are no longer developing our future.

    Monroe played very well last night. Cousins looked a bit efuddled and made a number of very stupid and careless turnovers. But you see how highly the coaching staff thinks of him. They went to him at the end of the game. He didn’t deliver but the experience is invaluable.

    We need to make a deal with Sacremento. They have 3 players i covet: Landry, Thompson, & Cousins. Sac is not going to part with Cousins, unless he has a few more dust-ups with the coaches, but they need a guard/small forward and Rip would fit great on that team.

  • Nov 15, 20108:23 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    They just gave away a younger, better version of Rip in Kevin Martin last year to shed salary. No way the Kings would be interested in Hamilton.

  • Nov 15, 20108:34 am
    by Rodman4Life


    Give up on shipping Rip out unless we send a whole lot more.  It’s just a fantasy.  Let’s just accept Rip and move on.  I mean, look at his contract.  Who wants that? Sacramento could do so much better.
    Cousins gets the late minutes because Sacramento doesn’t have the veteran options that we do.  I would like Monroe to get minutes, but if we win with older players in late, coaching staff gets a thumbs up from me.
    And for everyone clamoring about playing time for the young players, keep one thing in mind.  A few games back we were 0-5 and feeling miserable.  Who cares about developing young guys if we keep getting mashed in the face.  Why can’t we develop young guys appropriately while making a stab at the playoffs.  Everyone was asking for Q’s head and we went 4-1 in the past 5.  I think he is becoming a scapegoat now because, to me, he has rebounded very well from a poor start.

  • Nov 15, 20109:25 am
    by nuetes


    I’ve been on the start Max at PF bus for awhile now, and when I saw the starting lineup all I thought was – finally! Get Daye out of there. He’s played admirably, but the physicality that Maxiell provides up front is needed. There was a play in the 3rd I believe where Max fouled Landry on a layup, the shot went in for an and1 opportunity, but Max sent Landry flying out of bounds with a good hard foul. That’s the physical brand of ball we lack with Daye. There were a few rebounds Max missed despite being in perfect position. Landry grabbed one over his back, and he went up for another grabbed it and it popped out of his hands. I’ll let those slide because Sacramento dominates the glass on the regular. They just came off a game where they had 21 offensive boards, so holding them to 18 is in some way respectable.
    As for Gordon, if Feldman didn’t notice he did play more than Rip. He played 27 minutes to Rip’s 21. It just doesn’t seem like it because Rip jacked up 14 shots in his 21 minutes to Gordon’s 6 shots in 27 minutes. It doesn’t matter who starts so much as who finishes, or plays more, and last night Gordon got the playing time. Also did anyone notice Ben Wallace played during crunch time, and totaled 28 minutes? Did Kuester have an epiphany over night? It seems like he finally put together a rotation that gives the team the best chance to win games.
    Monroe going against Cousins was enjoyable. The Kings were intent on showcasing this matchup for some reason. They went to Cousins 3 or 4 straight trips down the court while Monroe was on him. In the end Monroe put up the better stat line, so he won the battle. Monroe hasn’t been there every game, but the games he has played well certainly give a lot of hope for his future.
    Mcgrady still has something left, not all of it though. He’s still way to slow and nimble with his movements. He hasn’t made a full speed move yet as a Piston. He won’t run hard, maybe because he’s too cautious about his knees. Even with that he’s still been one of the better contributors when he’s on the floor. Easily his best game as a Piston last night.
    One final thought – Luther Head was called for a travel. I couldn’t believe it.

  • Nov 15, 201010:57 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    The issue for me was not necessarily Maxiell starting. i think he should be in the rotation, and he’s certainly a more viable power forward than Daye.
    But what was the cost? Daye had confidence issues last year because he’d get yanked in and out of the lineup. He’s coming off of his two best games, just found his shooting stroke and … not only does he lose his starting spot, he gets a DNP-CD? I worry about what that will do to his confidence for sure. If it hurts it some, I don’t think it was worth starting Maxiell. Maybe Maxiell helped last night, but I certainly don’t think his presence was the difference between the Pistons winning and losing.

  • Nov 15, 201011:00 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    “I have been a little concerned with BG though since Rip returned. He really hasn’t been as aggressive, and it can’t just be that Rip is taking up the shots, because Rip was chucking away(terribly) in the 1st few games, but Ben still got his points.”
    Although I don’t disagree that Hamilton shoots too much, he is only taking 11 shots a game, less than Stuckey, Villanueva and Prince. Personally, I think Stuckey needs to shoot less, not Hamilton.
    I don’t want Gordon to only take four or five shots a game, but I have no problem with him being selective with shots he takes. He’s actually had stretches in his career where he takes really horrid shots.
    There are a few players on the Pistons who could use a little discretion when shooting, Rip included, but he’s been far from the only “shoots too much” culprit this season.

  • Nov 15, 201011:03 am
    by Patrick Hayes



    Watch the f-bombs my man.

  • Nov 15, 201011:05 am
    by Patrick Hayes



    “Why can’t we develop young guys appropriately while making a stab at the playoffs.”

    I agree with you on this point. They need to play, but they’re better served by playing less and getting the chance to win. Too often, you players get huge minutes on terrible teams and get trained on nothing but how to play losing basketball.

    It’s very possible the Pistons come up short of trying to make the playoffs. But at the very least, I’d like them to be in contention for a spot, and with the bad shape the East is in, I think they will be in contention for that eighth spot all season.

  • Nov 15, 201011:53 am
    by detroitpcb



    you know, last night was a total dis of Daye by Q. Daye had folks in the house – family & friends that came to see him play. He had started every game up to that point and had played well for being out of position. And last night Q gives him a DNP – coach’s decision.

    i know if i was a player, i would never forget that.

  • Nov 15, 201012:00 pm
    by detroitpcb


    and you may be right that Rip’s contract is not moveable and Martin is a younger version of Rip but you have to admit that Sacremento needs better shooters on the floor with Evans.  Rip and Tay – while still being very good players – are a problem on this team going forward. Unless Joe (and you guys) want to ship the young guys like Daye & Monroe out and try and make another run with the vets – it is time for a change of the guard/small forward.

  • Nov 15, 20101:18 pm
    by Patrick Hayes



    I don’t know if I’d go THAT far. I think it was poor timing since he’d actually played reasonably well the last couple games. I question the timing because of that. Why now? Why not a two weeks ago when he was clearly overmatched? Kuester didn’t seem to care about poor matchups for him then.

    As far as his family being there, I don’t know. His dad was at the Clippers game and honestly, family being in attendance shouldn’t be a consideration for Kuester.

    Overall, I’ll be happy if Daye isn’t playing minutes against first unit PFs on the reg. But I won’t be happy if he’s playing sparingly or no minutes at all. Who knows how this will work out. Tonight’s lineup should give a clue if this was a temporary move or more long-term.

  • Nov 15, 20101:25 pm
    by Danny D


    In regards to Ben Gordon. You state that the premise of the argument must be that the pistons are trying to make the playoffs.
    However, in the BG argument you accept how hes outperforming his minutes, yet fail to say what a bone headed move it is to not get him more shots, or minutes.
    The problem is Hamilton. Because of locker-room politics, there’s almost* no conceivable way to bring him off the bench. You can cry about how Gordon is better, younger and and a better fit next to Rodney Stuckey. It doesn’t matter. It’s also not fair, but most of all, it doesn’t matter.\
    Why is there no way to bring him off the bench? we are supposed to be trying to win now right?
    My take on it, falls to Coach Q, in that hes just a bad coach. when you decide to write a story on him (Hopefully when hes fired this week) on him, ill prepare one of my rants as to just HOW bad he is.
    Love your take on things though other than that.

  • Nov 15, 20101:48 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    @Danny D:

    I actually didn’t write the post, Dan Feldman wrote this one.

  • Nov 15, 20101:52 pm
    by Brett


    Does anyone else think that Will Bynum is the player who should be out of the rotation (along with either Daye or Maxiell).  You can’t play more than 9 guys and keep anyone happy, so you play 4 bigs and 5 perimeter players.  Stuckey, Rip, BG, and Tayshaun are clearly going to take 4 of the perimeter spots, so you’re left with T-Mac or Bynum as the odd man out.  T-Mac is simply playing better and can clearly handle the back up point guard duties.  Regardless, one of those two has to be out of the rotation to free up more time for Ben Gordon (as this piece mentions, he needs to play more).  Gordon will essentially get a good deal of Bynum’s minutes (this will require Kuester to sub him in earlier, for Rip, and then bring Rip back to play with Gordon and T-Mac on the second unit)…So T-Mac or Bynum, who’s your choice?

  • Nov 15, 20101:57 pm
    by Patrick Hayes



    Bynum has been terrible. Although McGrady looked serviceable in limited PG minutes, I’m not quite so convinced he can handle the backup PG spot full-time.

  • Nov 15, 20103:40 pm
    by Danny D


    oops major faux pas! Sorry i usually just shoot off random thoughts from work. Seeing you answering the comments i made an assumption. albeit an incorrect one.

  • Nov 15, 20104:36 pm
    by JoshB


    Yeah I agree that rip is not the only culprit of excessive shooting, but I used him as the example since he and gordon are so often tied together in conversation. I honestly don’t have a problem with how often any of them shoot, but their shot selection as a whole is terrible. Even during the years that we were contending there would be moments where the team seemed to just stand around, but this group takes it to a whole new level. I don’t care how good of a shooter someone is, they won’t have any sustained success without good ball movement, and good floor spacing. Stuckey should probably shoot less though, but I have appreciated him pushing the ball after makes by the opposition.

  • Nov 15, 20105:31 pm
    by dagledhill


    This game made me want to combine a couple of trade rumors I’ve seen lately on espn.go.com.  Atlanta and Detroit were rumored to be discussing Teague and Crawford for Prince and Bynum (or other player to be determined).  It has been rumored that Sacramento offered Jason Thompson for Teague.  What about Detroit gets Thompson and Crawford, Atlanta gets Prince and Bynum and Sacramento gets Teague.
    Wishful thinking, I know.  I can’t really see why the Hawks would do it – just a little more in expiring contract and Tayshaun’s winning playoff experience.  Sacramento would get the guy they are rumored to want for the guy they want to trade.  Pistons would get another young big and Crawford’s expiring deal.
    The only problem for Detroit is depth at point guard.  they could use Daye and McGrady at SF, Monroe and Villanueva at PF and Wallace and Thompson at C.  It”s evident they can’t handle big men and need to move Daye to his more natural position.

  • Nov 15, 20108:02 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    PCB, Maxiell is a streaky rebounder. He has spurts when he’s excellent and stretches where he can’t grab a board to save his life. The difference is often whether he’s focused on boxing out. Last night he boxed out, but it didn’t matter.

    Do you really think if someone besides Kuester was the coach, Hamilton and Prince would play less?

  • Nov 15, 20108:04 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Nuetes, I realized Gordon got more minutes than Hamilton. But the way Gordon is playing, he still deserves more minutes than he’s getting.

  • Nov 15, 20108:08 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Pcb, are you sure Daye had family and friends at the game? Sacramento is seven hours from his hometown of Irvine, Calif. I’m sure he had fans at the Clippers game, but Sacramento is far.

  • Nov 15, 20108:23 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Danny, an NBA coach’s biggest job is managing egos. If Kuester stops starting Rip, Kuester loses Rip’s respect. That could mean he loses Prince’s, Wallace’s and Maxiell’s respect. That’s an unworkable situation, and it’s even less likely the Pistons make the playoffs.

    On top of that, other players will be less likely to sign with the Pistons down the road. Hamilton has been in All-Star. He’s had one injury-filled season and one slow start. That’s not enough to justify benching him, at least in the eyes of players.

  • Nov 15, 20108:26 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Brett, Bynum has struggled, but as I wrote in my review of the Hawks game, the Pistons move the ball way better with Stuckey or Bynum in the game.


    I don’t think that’s changed. McGrady and Prince just aren’t good enough at initiating the offense, so the only thing to do is hope Bynum picks it up.

  • Nov 15, 20108:29 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Dagledhill, that’s actually not a half-bad idea.

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