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Archive → November, 2010

Charlie Villanueva is a go-to player and Rip Hamilton has a vintage performance as the Pistons overcome big nights from Gilbert Arenas and JaVale McGee

Last season, if Charlie Villanueva had a poor shooting night, it was usually a sign that he would follow it up with at least one more before he re-found his touch.

After shooting 2-for-11 against the Lakers on Wednesday, I expressed my desire to see him bounce back and have a respectable night against Washington. A couple commenters took me to task, saying Villanueva’s off night against L.A. wasn’t a big deal. And if it were any other player who had an off night, I’d agree. But for all of the criticisms people have had of Villanueva during his career, my main gripe with him has always been madding inconsistency. The talent was always there, the desire to be a good player was always there, the ability to take over a game with his offense was always there. The ability to quickly put a bad game behind him, however, has been a recurring issue.

So Villanueva’s great performance, 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting in Sunday’s 115-110 overtime win over Washington, was another great step in what is becoming a great bounce-back season for him. But more impressive than the scoring were the rebounds. Villanueva finished with 11. That’s only the fourth time as a Piston Villanueva has registered double-digit rebounds in a game.

Villanueva’s evolution so far has been remarkable. Not only is he becoming a reliable, game-in, game-out, option on offense, he’s playing very well at crunch time, scoring seven points in the final five minutes to help Detroit tie it. He’s easily been the most impressive Piston based on his collective body of work this season, he’s one of the few guys on the team who really displays a positive attitude all the time and he took another step towards turning around that “bad signing” label he may have been given a bit prematurely after last season.

At the end of the day, what the Pistons come away with is another hard-fought win over a not-very-good team that was missing its best player, John Wall, due to injury. The Pistons needed a late comeback and overtime, similar to their win over the Clippers, just to get that. But with all the drama, with all of the criticisms, they’re still 5-8, a half game out of eighth in the East, and every bit as much a contender for a playoff spot as those other flawed but lovable scamps in the 6th-15th range.

Rip Hamilton once again takes over game late

Pistons fans probably just shouldn’t bother watching Rip Hamilton until late in games. After the first quarter against Washington, when Hamilton shot just 2-for-6, I thought to myself, “man … he’s taking a lot of not-Rip Hamilton shots.” Hamilton made his career as an 18ish per game scorer and 46ish percent shooter with a very specific type of shot: off the catch.

His struggles the last few seasons have been well-documented. His shooting percentage, once very respectable for a guard, has plummeted to Iverson-like depths. And many have written the Hamilton-as-good-player obit in their heads a dozen times or more.

I’m beginning to think he’s not as finished as his numbers indicate, however. He’s just not taking good shots consistently. Against Washington, he forced two 3-pointers in that first quarter that were forced, off the dribble and not necessary to beat the shot clock or anything like that. It was just Hamilton improvising, trying to create on his own and taking shots that he doesn’t have the ability to make consistently. And if you think back to several Hamilton games since the Chauncey Billups trade, they fit that description. Essentially, Hamilton trying to do too much is a recurring thing.

Now, late against Washington, he took over and played really well, like he’s done late in games all season. But check out how he did it against the Wizards in overtime:

  • Hamilton 9-footer off a feed from Tayshaun Prince
  • Hamilton makes 18-footer with shot clock winding down
  • Hamilton 16-footer off a pass from Rodney Stuckey
  • Hamilton 17-footer off a pass from Stuckey
  • Hamilton 20-footer off a pass from Prince

Five shots in overtime for Hamilton. Five makes. Four of them off of assists.

There’s really no secret here. Hamilton is much better when he’s moving and catching the ball off of screens. The key is him moving it back if he doesn’t have a shot right away. He has problems when he tries to dribble his way to a better shot. Hamilton is a quick-decision player, and too often he’s trying to be a more deliberate type of scorer. That rarely pays off for the Pistons or for Hamilton.

Villanueva keeps Daye on the bench

Another trend started in this game: if Austin Daye doesn’t start because John Kuester feels Jason Maxiell has a better matchup, don’t expect Daye to play at all. Now, to be fair, this time around Maxiell had a really good game, scoring a season-high 14 points, and Villanueva, as mentioned above, had a great game off the bench. Kuester was right to stick with those guys since they had it going. Against Sacramento, the first time Daye sat, Villanueva and Maxiell didn’t do anything particularly special.

Two games is a small amount of time to glean any kind of meaning from this, but I have to say, it seems strange. Daye has sat due to unfavorable matchups against the Wizards JaVale McGee/Andray Blatche frontline and the Kings’ Carl Landry/Sam Dalembert combo. Now, no offense to those tandems. They’re certainly solid. But check out some of the apparently more favorable matchups where Daye has started and played: Kevin Garnett/Shaquille O’Neal; Al Horford/Josh Smith; Pau Gasol/Lamar Odom; Marcus Camby/LaMarcus Aldridge.

Does this seem kind of random to anyone else? How are matchups like the one tonight deemed “unfavorable” yet when the Pistons have played against some elite, All-Star caliber frontlines, Daye is right in there? This is quickly becoming one of the most confusing storylines of the year with the Pistons.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Daye is overmatched as a starting four every night. But if he’s not overmatched against Odom/Gasol, he certainly isn’t against McGee/Blatche.

Signs of life from Bynum

There’s no Piston I want to see get it together more than Will Bynum, strictly from a personal, “I just love to watch him,” perspective. He’s been really bad so far this season as he tries to battle back from a myriad of injuries. He wasn’t fantastic against Washington, but he did solid backup PG work, scoring nine points, shooting 3-for-5 and picking up three assists with no turnovers in about 17 minutes. My days of arguing the merits of Bynum as a starter are over, as Stuckey has obviously out-played him to this point, but the Pistons need competent minutes at that spot so that Stuckey doesn’t have to play 40 or more minutes a game just to keep the team competitive. Bynum is their best bet to fill those minutes if he can build on tonight’s performance.

The disappearing Ben Gordon

Ben Gordon is almost a rallying cry among Pistons fans at this point. He’s young and a prolific scorer who has shot the ball really well this season, basically an exciting potential bridge to a better team. Hamilton, on the other hand, is older and since he’s been around forever, his popularity among fans anxious for a new look is declining. So every time Gordon doesn’t get enough shots or minutes, it certainly riles people up.

Gordon scored 10 points, shot 4-of-6 and only played 20 minutes. I fully expect a couple “Gordon should’ve played more” comments to pop up. But I actually think, despite his offense, it was hard to keep him on the floor tonight. He had two really bad defensive plays against Nick Young in the first half, and when the Pistons bench came into the game in the second quarter, Washington erased a seven-point lead within a couple minutes.

Gordon has to get his turn and get on the court more, no doubt. But Hamilton was just better offensively and defensively tonight.

Jason Maxiell gets his second start against the apparently burly Wizards frontline

Essentials

Date: Nov. 21, 2010

Time: 6 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit Plus (Here’s the channel guide)

Records

Pistons: 4-8

Wizards: 4-7

Probable starters

Detroit:

Wizards:

  • Gilbert Arenas
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Al Thornton
  • Andray Blatche
  • JaVale McGee

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit -3.5

Over/under: 194.5

Score: Pistons win, 100.75-93.75

Three things to watch

1. Jason Maxiell is starting for Austin Daye.

When John Kuester made his pronouncement that matchups would dictate who starts at the four, it was assumed that Maxiell would start against burlier frontlines and Daye would play against the less physical combos. I guess I didn’t think the Wizards combo of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche were known for physicality, but apparently Kuester didn’t like something about Daye matching up with them. Personally, I thought the Wizards would be one of the few teams Daye wouldn’t be at a complete physical disadvantage against this season. He’d still be at some disadvantage, but McGee is relatively slight of frame and Blatche, although he’s certainly … uh … filled out some, isn’t known for being a punishing post-up player. Something worth paying attention to though: as Vincent Goodwill points out, the last time Daye didn’t start, he didn’t play at all. There’s really no reason to keep him out against the Wizards, so it will be interesting to see how much Daye plays and at what position.

2. Wizards might be without Wall, but Arenas has been good.

John Wall is unlikely to return from injury today, but that’s not necessarily going to get the Pistons off the hook. Gilbert Arenas is averaging nearly 21 points and 4 assists per game while shooting 45 percent (while above his career shooting percentage) over the last four games. Arenas got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but he’s starting to look more and more like the pre-injury Gil who used to score points in bunches when the Wizards played the Pistons. The last time he played a full season (All the way back in 2006 … wow. Doesn’t really feel that long ago) he averaged 27 a game against Detroit.

3. Will the Pistons respond to criticism?

Phil Jackson had the kick to the ribs comment after the last Pistons game, when he said there were guys who didn’t seem to be playing hard. The true mark of teams that legitimately aren’t playing hard is that it doesn’t really bother them when people say things like Jackson said. Teams that do legitimately have pride typically respond with better effort in an attempt to prove their accuser(s) wrong. The Pistons, similar to the game against the Clippers, have another game they should win, this time at home, against a bad team depleted by injuries. And hey, Flip Saunders returns to the Palace. How they respond today will certainly go a long way in determining if Jackson’s statement is as accurate as it seemed at the time.

Pregame Reading

Ben Gordon strikes the right tone with his response to Phil Jackson’s comments

After the Detroit News reported Phil Jackson’s ‘they don’t look like they’re trying‘ comments earlier this week, I wondered a lot about the response of the Pistons.

Teams that are trying typically get pissy at that sort of thing. Teams that truly aren’t trying typically just let that stuff roll off their backs. I was glad to see that Ben Gordon heard them and I think his response is the type of thing Pistons fans should be glad to hear. From Vince Ellis of the Free Press:

“I think guys should definitely look at that and look in the mirror,” Gordon said. “Phil Jackson is a great coach. … So that coming from him says a lot. I’m taking that and I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen again for me if he was talking about me.”

I think as this season unfolds, it’s becoming more and more clear what Joe Dumars liked about Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. There’s plenty to question about the money he spent on them and the moves he made in conjunction with signing them. But both guys have responded nicely to bad seasons this year and both guys seem to have the pride and temperament Dumars has sought in the past.

John Kuester was no fan of Lakers fans and their ‘MVP’ chants for Kobe Bryant at the Palace

I didn’t pick up much on it from TV, but apparently there were quite the annoying/obnoxious group of Lakers lovers, who were chanting ‘MVP’ when Kobe Bryant touched the ball and adorned in purple and gold gear at the Palace for Wednesday’s Pistons-Lakers game. Pistons coach John Kuester noticed, and wasn’t too impressed:

‘To tell you the truth, I was disappointed,’ Kuester said.

Even more disappointed? Natalie at Need4Sheed:

I was ashamed last night at the Palace of Auburn Hills for the first time in my life.  It wasn’t the same felling of heartache when I watched LeBron take away a game five before my eyes, or when Horry hit that three that still haunts.  This time the state of Michigan disappointed me to a point that I never thought I would get to…ever.

To be honest, I’m more offended that they chanted ‘MVP’ at Kobe when he’s not even the MVP of his own team. Chant it at Pau. That would be annoying still, but at least it would show at least a cursory understanding of basketball.

But the point Kuester and Natalie are making is well taken — one of the underplayed downsides of losing is that your home arena can often become a less friendly place to play than road arenas. When the Pistons were winning, there were a good percentage of fans who only cared about the team because they were a winner. Bandwagoners are a pain to everyone who is passionate about a team, win or lose, and suffers through the down periods, only to watch all of the dunderheads run back in, put their Kobe gear away and pull their Pistons stuff out of mothballs when the team gets good again.

Ultimately, though, there’s an easy way to not have fans chanting ‘MVP’ for an opposing player in your home arena: win games.

Five Pistons, including Ben Wallace this year, make the All-Star ballot

Last year, Detroit Piston Ben Wallace was in the midst of a great bounce back season but was left off the All-Star ballot, which was annoying.

This year, however, Wallace is among five Pistons who are on the ballot. From a team release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Detroit Pistons stars Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon were named to the 2011 NBA All-Star ballot which was unveiled today by the NBA during a special tip-off event in Los Angeles, the Official Host City of NBA All-Star 2011. NBA All-Star Balloting presented by T-Mobile will begin this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. The 60th NBA All-Star Game, which will air live on TNT and ESPN Radio in the U.S., and reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages, will be played at STAPLES Center on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011.

Wallace, a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner and five-time All-NBA Team selection, has been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team four times during his 14-year career. He currently ranks 27th among league leaders in rebounding (7.9) and 38th in blocks (1.00). Hamilton, a three-time NBA All-Star, ranks sixth on the Pistons’ all-time scoring list and tied Bob Lanier for the most consecutive seasons leading the team in points per game (8) a year ago.

Prince, a member of the Pistons’ 2004 NBA Championship Team, won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2008 Olympic Games in China and has been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team four times.

Stuckey currently ranks 20th among league leaders in assists with a career-high 5.7 assists per game and leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game. Gordon, who was the first rookie in league history to be named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2005, ranks 20th among league leaders in free throw percentage (.889) and 27th in both field goal percentage (.520) and three-point field goal percentage (.452).

2011 NBA All-Star Balloting presented by T-Mobile, with associate partner 2K Sports, allows fans around the world to vote daily for their favorite players as starters for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. There are several ways fans can cast their votes, including: at each NBA arena; in 20 languages on NBA.com; and through mobile phones by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”) or by visiting m.nba.com on any wireless carrier.

For SMS voting, fans can vote for All-Stars any time by texting a player’s last name from their mobile phones on any wireless carrier. Fans can cast one SMS vote per day, per phone number. Message and data rates may apply. T-Mobile customers will receive an exclusive 15 percent discount code to NBAStore.com for voting via SMS voting. Upon voting, T-Mobile customers will get a bounceback message with a discount code for them to use on NBAStore.com.

Fans can vote directly on NBA.com or use their Facebook profile information to help create an NBA.com All-Access account, which enables them to complete a ballot. After submitting their All-Star selections, fans will have the ability to share them with their friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter, and encourage others to cast their ballots.

For the first time, fans can print paper ballots at home through their web connected HP Photosmart printer1. HP customers can simply download and launch the NBA print application directly from the touchscreen panel on the front of their printer.2 Fans can print one specially coded ballot per day and put it in the mail as directed on the form. Paper balloting at NBA arenas and through the NBA Print App on HP printers will continue through Jan. 17, while wireless and SMS balloting, and voting on NBA.com will conclude Jan. 23. Starters will be announced live on TNT on Jan. 27, during a special one-hour pregame show at 7 pm ET featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the Miami Heat at the New York Knicks (8 pm ET) and the Boston Celtics at the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 pm ET).

Realistically, there’s little chance any Piston has a shot at getting on the All-Star team, but if anyone is deserving, it’s Wallace. And really, there isn’t a ton of competition at the center spot. Dwight Howard is a given, and Joakim Noah is probably up there in the second spot, followed by Al Horford. Neither of those guys are exactly big names, and coaches sometimes go with the lifetime achievement type picks when filling out the non-starting roster, so it’s not out of the question that Wallace could sneak onto the team.

An extremely high rate of Greg Monroe’s shots get blocked

ESPN’s David Thorpe wrote about the NBA’s rookie class, and pulled no punches when it came to Greg Monroe. He listed Monroe as the most disappointing rookie so far this season (note: Insider required to read the full story).

Thorpe mainly focused on Monroe’s lack of offense, particularly his inability to get his shot off:

Derrick Favors has yet to have a shot blocked in the NBA, inside the paint or on a jumper. Incredible. DeMarcus Cousins gets 15 percent of his jump shots swatted (not great), but only 7 percent of his paint shots blocked (pretty darn good).

Monroe has had 24 percent of his paint shots blocked and 25 percent of his shots outside the paint blocked. Gulp. Those are astoundingly bad numbers. And watching him on tape, it’s easy to see what his issues are — no explosion, little creativity or extension and no sense of urgency as a finisher.

He’s playing like he’s a 6-6 power forward (like Chuck Hayes, who also gets 24 percent of his paint shots blocked). He’s getting blocked by bigs in front of him because he’s not challenging them with any fakes or anything that will throw off their timing — and when he does fake, it’s in slow motion. And he’s getting blocked from behind by guards who can easily read his intentions. His problems are fixable, of course, but with the Pistons playing better basketball, his minutes may diminish.

There’s not much I can argue with there. Monroe is shooting 38 percent from the field and 28 percent from the free throw line. Offensively, his footwork has been bad, he’s often hesitant to go straight up strong when he catches the ball around the basket and even his hyped skill as a passer hasn’t materialized other than in brief flashes, as he has nearly a 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But where Monroe has impressed is on the glass. He has one of the best rebound rates in the league, second on the team only to Ben Wallace. And as someone who was not necessarily a dominant rebounder in college, it is good to see that Monroe has more focus on that aspect of the game as a pro.

I don’t expect that Monroe is going to develop into a dominant back-to-the-basket player. That wasn’t his strength in college, and there’s no reason to expect that it will magically turn into a strength against bigger, stronger NBA post players. But I will say that I believe Monroe’s offensive struggles have been largely mental. He just hasn’t seemed confident in the minutes he’s played, either rushing shots or taking too much time to load up and get them off. He’s also not a horrible free throw shooter. His 68 percent in two years of college wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the train wreck he’s shown as a pro so far. As we frequently see in the NBA, mental blocks often turn average or better free throw shooters into poor ones (Nick Anderson, what?). Monroe isn’t a Shaq/Ben Wallace type at the line. That percentage will go up by the end of the year.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the Detroit Pistons: ‘It looks like some of their guys aren’t playing hard right now’

Via Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News

Detroit Pistons’ knack of making games appear closer than they really are continues in loss to Los Angeles Lakers

So … how about that Jared Sullinger?

At least people won’t grasp at straws based on how well the bench played after the Pistons’ second unit combined to shoot 14-for-42 in the team’s 103-90 loss to the Lakers Wednesday.

The outcome isn’t a surprise. For the third time this season, the Pistons played a team that is among the league’s elite. For the third time (following losses to Boston and Portland), the Pistons were never in the game.

Rip Hamilton was ejected about five minutes into the game, and maybe having an extra taller defensive player to throw at Kobe Bryant would’ve mattered, but it’s doubtful considering how well everyone on the Lakers played and how poorly everyone on the Pistons played. There isn’t much to analyze in the loss. The Pistons didn’t move the ball well. They didn’t defend. And those two things aren’t much different than a lot of games this season, but the difference was the Pistons compounded the problems by not making shots. With Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey on the roster, the Pistons can usually count on at least one or two of them to have a reasonably solid game. But Prince was the only one of those players who shot above 42 percent, so that was the ballgame.

Vince Ellis of the Free Press Tweeted this before the game tonight:

Here come the fire Kuester e-mails. Like I said, not happening as long as team still competing.

I point this out not because I’m going to be one of those ‘Fire Everyone!’ type of people. Frankly, the ‘Fire Kuester!’ and ‘Fire Dumars!’ crowds drive me a little insane. But I just don’t understand how this team can be called competitive right now. Let’s check the body of work through their eight losses:

  • New Jersey and Oklahoma City: They were both games that a good team would’ve closed out and won, but that’s another debate. The Pistons were competitive in these games.
  • Chicago: Out-scored 57-28 in the second half. I understand the Pistons led big in the first half. But they lost this game by 10. Competing hard for the first half of a game and then getting out-scored by almost 30 in the second half = not competitive.
  • Boston: Celtics won by 23 and won every quarter, even the fourth, when Boston was deep into its bench.
  • Atlanta: Similar story to Chicago, except the Pistons had a smaller first half lead. Atlanta won the second half 50-37. Not competitive.
  • Portland: This was another blowout. Portland led by 11 after one, eight at the half, 11 after three and won by 22.
  • Golden State: A bad fourth quarter by the Warriors’ bench made this a close game in the closing minutes. Competing for one quarter = not competitive.
  • LA Lakers: The Pistons bench out-scored the Lakers bench by eight in the fourth quarter to make a blowout look like slightly less of a blowout. Not competitive.

I’m not an overly negative, complain about everything type of Pistons follower. But it’s absurd to call a team that has eight losses, six of them some variation of a blowout or a second half no-show, in 12 games competitive. It’s insulting to the intelligence of reasonable and unreasonable people alike to call the team competitive.

Last year’s Pistons team was really bad, but on many nights with an injury depleted lineup forcing them to play guys like Chucky Atkins and Chris Wilcox big minutes, they were competitive. Guys like Jonas Jerebko and Will Bynum and Ben Wallace played their hearts out in more losing causes than I care to go back and count. Even Stuckey, for as poorly as he played much of last season, played with effort, often taking a beating as the only remote scoring threat the Pistons had to put on the floor at times. That team played competitively for much of the season, even if they were no good.

This team? The one that has all of the key players who missed time last season back at full strength? The team that has had at least three public player-vs.-coach feuds in the last month? The one that is so segmented that you wonder if half of the locker room hates the other half’s guts? They are not competitive. They have underachieved to this point. Even if the team wasn’t going to be good regardless of those non-basketball things that keep happening, they should be better than this. They should seem more interested than this. And they shouldn’t come out completely disinterested every single time they play an elite team. Usually the opposite happens. Great title contending team like the Lakers on the road against a not good team in November? It’s typically the team like the Lakers that comes out flat as the not good team starts off with a flurry to prove everyone who thinks the team is lousy wrong. Three times, teams that all have much bigger games to look forward to, have much bigger concerns than the Pistons, have come out and pretty much established that they were going to win within the first 10 minutes or so of the game.

Nothing about the Pistons right now can be described as competitive.

So how about that Chris Wilcox?

The most impressive stat of the night? How about Wilcox finishing with a +4 +/- rating in his first action of the season. As you can tell, there weren’t really any positive stats to pull out of this one. But don’t undersell the accomplishment. Wilcox had the worst per-minute +/- rating of any Piston last season. He could step on the court and pretty much be guaranteed at least a -4. I don’t know how much Wilcox will continue to play, he’s pretty obviously the last man in the rotation. But he got about three minutes of action, was active and only took one poor shot.

McGrady seems OK

Tracy McGrady had to leave the game after rolling his ankle, and he looked to be in a lot of pain at the time, but he did end up returning. After the game on FSD, he didn’t seem too concerned about either the ankle or his knee, which he said he has "no issues" with right now.

What happened to Villanueva?

Man. I thought Villanueva and I had turned a corner. The problem that has plagued him throughout his career has been maddening inconsistency. We saw it in full effect last season, when he spent part of January looking like and All-Star and then February looking like he’d have a hard time making a D-League roster. He’s the definition of streaky, which is what made his first 11 games of the season so impressive. They weren’t all great performances, but he had avoided the really bad ones. Against the Lakers, he had his worst shooting night of the season. The Pistons need to win Sunday against Washington. They have some needed rest after their road trip and tonight’s game, but Villanueva is the individual who most definitely needs a bounce back game Sunday. He’s had a propensity in the past to let a bad shooting game turn into a prolonged shooting slump. If he plays strong on Sunday, it will go a long way in determining if he’s really turning a corner this season or if he still has all the same holes in his game.

Pistons face another quality opponent (Lakers), will they try this time?

Essentials

Date: Nov. 17, 2010

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 4-7

Lakers: 9-2

Probable starters

Detroit:

Lakers:

  • Derek Fisher
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Ron Artest
  • Lamar Odom
  • Pau Gasol

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +7.5

Over/under: 202.5

Score: Lakers win, 105-97.5

Three things to watch

1. Detroit’s mental approach

This will be the Pistons’ third game against a top team. In the previous two, against the Celtics and Trail Blazers, they showed no heart. The Pistons have followed the same formula in all their games – quit against good teams and play reasonably hard against mediocre and lesser opponents.

Just once (at least to start), I’d like to see Detroit bring it against a good team. Tonight, in the first game back after a long road trip, probably isn’t a likely time for it to happen, but I can hope.

2. Chance to score

Surprisingly, the Lakers rank only 23rd in defensive efficiency. They’ve flipped the switch off (Remember when the Pistons used to do that? Fun times), so they’re not as effective as the could be. If the Pistons actually try tonight – see No. 1 – they should score fairly effectively.

Austin Daye, and maybe Ben Gordon if he doesn’t need his dribble to get in rhythm, might be able to catch the Lakers sleeping and make some open jumpers.

3. Stuckey’s assertiveness

Plenty of people have been down on Rodney Stuckey’s play in the fourth quarter, when he’s not nearly as assertive. That can’t happen tonight.

If Detroit has one matchup advantage tonight, it’s Derek Fisher guarding Stuckey. Not only will Stuckey have to be sharp in the fourth, he’ll have to be assertive the entire game. Stuckey will probably need to dominate the point-guard matchup for Detroit to have any chance.

Pregame Reading

Ben Wallace, attorney at law

Yahoo!’s Marc J. Spears has a great read on Ben Wallace on a topic I’ve don’t remember Wallace ever discussing in all of his years with the Pistons: Wallace’s desire to go to law school after his basketball career ends.

“That’s my ultimate goal,” Wallace said. “It’s always been one of my dreams. I think I can argue a pretty good case. I think I can convince a couple of people to see things my way. I’m very serious about it. Very.”

One potential issue: Wallace will need to upgrade his wardrobe.

The problem? Wallace says he doesn’t own a single business suit or tie, which explains why he doesn’t know how to tie a tie.

“I think the last time I wore a suit was in elementary school,” Wallace said. “I’m from the Dirty South. I do have a couple two-pieces, though.”

Wallace, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, hinted when he re-signed in Detroit in the offseason for two years that that could be his last NBA contract, but he told Spears that he hasn’t decided for sure when he’ll retire yet.

ADDITION: Hat to move this up from the comments. Oats has already written Wallace his first commercial. It’s pretty solid:

Ben sits on the edge of his desk in a room where everything else is oddly colored black, suit positioned over his shoulder, and wearing a Detroit Pistons tie. He has grown his hair out again, and it is in his trademark afro. He is seated looking away from the camera. He turns to it and says, “Hello, my name is Ben Wallace. You may remember me from my playing days with the Detroit Pistons. I made a reputation as one of the hardest working players on or off the court, and now I’m one of the hardest working attorney’s in or out of the courtroom.”

Ben smiles as he sets the suit coat down on the desk, and starts unbuttoning his shirt sleeves, saying, “Other lawyers may have experience on me, but what I lack in experience I make up for in tenacity.”

Cuts to a clip of Ben Wallace highlights, then his voice continues talking, “If you or your family is hurt in an accident, I am exactly the right man to help you Rebound from it. If the insurance company goes up with a weak offer, be certain that I will Reject it over and over until we get a Slam Dunk offer that works for you.” (The words Rebound, Reject, and Slam Dunk are synced with high lights of him doing those things).

Cuts back to Ben, wearing a wife beater as he sits on his desk for no reason other than to show off his arms, and says, “Now that I’m not a part of the Going to Work Pistons, let me go to work for you.” Ben points at the camera while saying you, and continues, “I was one of the most intimidating defensive presences in the NBA, and now I’m the most intimidating presence in the court room. Trust me, the insurance companies will Fear the Fro.”

An announcer says, “Ben Wallace will make them Fear the Fro. Call 1-866-3 BIG BEN. That is 1-866-3 BIG BEN.” Just after saying that, a Big Ben clock chime sounds.