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Archive → November, 2010

John Kuester tries hard-line stance, but it’s not accomplishing anything

From Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

After Monday’s game, one player wondered why Stuckey was punished and Prince wasn’t.

"You see it, the inconsistency," said the player, who didn’t want to be quoted by name. "Everybody does."

Therein lies Kuester’s problem. While it’s true coaches treat players on an individual basis, there is no star who stands above everyone else.

Which is worse, a player ignoring a coach or a player and coach having to be restrained? Both happened during the heat of the game, when emotions run high, but seemingly, Kuester handled them differently.

People in the Pistons organization have said Kuester has taken a more assertive tone, that he’s not going to fall in line with one of his predecessors, Saunders, who never fought back.

Being more assertive is a fine course of action, but you have to be consistent with it. The idea of that strategy is to command the respect of the players in a way Flip Saunders never did. But a consistency is necessary for that approach to work.

It’s not working. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

And although this movie is awfully familiar, considering the locker-room problems with previous coaches Flip Saunders and Michael Curry, several veterans say they have never seen it this bad — especially since the season is so young.

Tayshaun Prince bristles at notion that his best days are behind him

Dan Feldman has pointed out his belief that Tayshaun Prince‘s frustrations are boiling over largely because he simply can’t handle being in a losing situation. And not just in a “he doesn’t like to lose” kind of way, more a “losing turns him into a malcontent” kind of way.

Prince said as much in a conversation with Fanhouse’s Sam Amick. But he also talked about something else that bothers him: people acting as if he’s past his prime at the (relatively) young age of 30:

“I’ve got a lot left, man,” he said. “I think where people go wrong at is when I got hurt last year and missed six weeks due to a back injury, all of a sudden it’s, ‘Tayshaun is breaking down.’ People say that to make the rumors and things like that, but I feel great. I’d never put a limit on how many years I can play, but I’ll just play until my body tells me it’s time to stop.”

As one of the people out there who might’ve been accused of writing of his decline prematurely, I do feel a bit differently now. Prince, although I’ve been no fan of the way he’s played this season, is still obviously very skilled and would help a contending team. He’s also looked healthy the entire second half last year and all season so far this year.

Prince also, interestingly, discusses free agency in the Fanhouse piece, specifically that he doesn’t intend to come back to the Pistons out of the goodness of his heart. He intends to play for the team that wants him and what he’s capable of producing most, kind of debunking one of the theories floating around out there, that the Pistons might try and bring him back at a cheaper rate.

Hat tip: Detroit Bad Boys

Charlie Villanueva is turning into a bargain for the Pistons

Charlie Villanueva‘s first year in Detroit was not a smooth one. He didn’t exactly fit the profile of the surly, brawny power forwards Detroit fans are accustomed to with his easy-breazy personality, and many people mistook the fact that Villanueva is a laid back, nice guy for him being a ‘soft’ player.

As his offseason spent in Detroit working out and his first 11 games this season have proven, Villanueva is far from soft. In fact, his presence on the team might be the single most exciting thing in a season filled with in-fighting, up and down play and an inability to close out games that should’ve been wins. He’s been so impressive that I’m about to write something that even I, eternally a Villanueva fan and optimist, never thought I’d write.

Villanueva might be a franchise cornerstone right now.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t other ones in place — Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe, Ben Gordon and maybe even Rodney Stuckey (his free agency clouds things a bit) are all very important components to the future successes or failures of the Pistons.

The key has been Villanueva’s attitude as much as his improved game (and his game has improved, but more on that in a minute). He’s fun to watch. He has an odd style on the court and is very comfortable making unorthodox-looking moves with the ball, getting off shots from a variety of different angles and positions and, of course, firing that slingshot three-pointer, giving him the ability to go on personal scoring runs and pile up points in a relatively quick amount of time. He shows emotion, he annoys Kevin Garnett and he’s the only Piston who has really seamlessly fit into his role this season.

As for his actual performance, he’s on pace for the best season of his career. Here are some key stats through 11 games:

  • .580 true shooting percentage (previous high was .547)
  • .540 effective field goal percentage (previous high was .508)
  • 19.2 PER (previous high was 18.6 in his contract year in Milwaukee)
  • 115 offensive rating (previous high was 108)
  • 42 percent 3-point shooting (previous high was 35 percent)
  • 108 defensive rating is not great, but would be only the second time in his career he’s finished below a 110, so it does represent that he’s trying harder on that end of the floor.

Villanueva isn’t going to be a defensive stopper, he’s not going to be a traditional PF who is glued to the paint and he’s not going to be a great rebounder. But if he provides the offense he’s been giving through 11 games over the course of a season, he’s worth his contract. Villanueva, for that production, makes just over $7 million this year, $7.5 next year and then $8 million and $8.5 million the final two years of his deal. Compare him to some other stretch fours around the league:

Rashard Lewis

  • True Shooting Percentage: .447
  • Effective FG Percentage: .423
  • Offensive Rating: 95
  • 3-Point Percentage: .306
  • PER: 9.6
  • Average Salary: About $22 million a year over the next three years

Al Harrington

  • True Shooting Percentage: .503
  • Effective FG Percentage: .480
  • Offensive Rating: 104
  • 3-Point Percentage: .360
  • PER: 14.5
  • Average Salary: About $7 million a year over the next five years

Antawn Jamison

  • True Shooting Percentage: .517
  • Effective FG Percentage: .517
  • Offensive Rating: 104
  • 3-Point Percentage: .381
  • PER: 16.2
  • Average Salary: About $14 million a year over the next two years

Villanueva is out-producing all of those guys pretty significantly, he’s cheaper than all of them except for Harrington and he’s much younger than all of them. So although last season was disappointing because of his injuries and falling in and out of the rotation towards the end of the season, if Villanueva remains healthy and can come close to maintaining his levels of production, it’s pretty clear that his contract, while pricey, is pretty reasonable considering his skillset and age.

More importantly, he’s one of only a few Pistons who seems legitimately happy to be playing in Detroit right now.

From Vince Ellis of the Free Press:

Charlie Villanueva has been striking a pose after nailing a long-distance triple, or running to the bench to do a flying chest-bump with a teammate. He has let out howls of joy after a good play and has played with confidence and swagger.

“When you’re losing, people look to point the finger,” Villanueva said after scoring 11 points and grabbing three rebounds against the Kings. “But what’s important, and people sometimes forget, is having fun. You go back to when you was a little kid when you used to play basketball just for fun. … You can still have passion, and you can still have some fun.”

And Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News had this story:

The Pistons started 0-5, punctuated by a listless performance against the Celtics that featured his (Villanueva’s) tête-à-tête with Kevin Garnett and the drama that ensued from Kuester calling the team out.

Tayshaun Prince took exception, and it looked like the ship was sinking again — and the second-year guys, Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Austin Daye were center stage.

But the trio went out to dinner, cleared the air and vowed no matter what happened, they weren’t going to be the problem.

Who would you rather have your young players around right now: Villanueva or Tayshaun Prince? The answer is obviously Villanueva, and that statement would’ve sounded insane three months ago. Prince is the veteran, the champion, the consumate steady professional. Villanueva was the oddball signee who loved to Tweet. Villanueva’s transformation this season is remarkable.

Welcome ‘Pistons by the Numbers’ to the blogging world

For longtime readers of this and every other Pistons site out there, you’ve probably bumped into Ben Gulker, aka brgulker, in the comments a time or three.

Well, Ben has his own Pistons blog now, part of Dave Berri’s Wages of Wins Network, covering the Pistons from an advanced statistics perspective using the wins produced stat. Ben’s blog, Pistons by the Numbers, already has a few posts up (I was apparently asleep at the wheel and just now realized that he had a blog, so apologies for not linking sooner), so check it out if you’re interested in the Pistons or the WP stat.

Even if you’re skeptical of wins produced or other advances stats, it’s still interesting to read about them and challenge your own conventional thinking, even if you come away with your opinion unchanged.

John Kuester must be restrained from Tayshaun Prince in loss to Warriors, Villanueva and Ben Gordon nearly lead Pistons back from 32-point deficit

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of a late comeback, but it rarely holds significance.

When teams get a big lead, they lose focus, play reserves and stifle  aggressiveness. There are several reasons they should see their lead dwindle, so I can’t get too excited when the trailing team makes a dent.

But the Pistons were down so much tonight (32 points) and played so hard for such a long period of time (eventually cutting the lead to two), this comeback actually meant something. If there were no other factors, even though the Pistons lost to the Warriors, 101-97, the comeback would have given me hope going forward.

But there are other factors.

During a second-quarter timeout, Pistons coach and John Kuester and Tayshaun Prince had another incident. I’ll let those at the game explain.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

#Pistons Prince and Kuester going at it in the huddle…Prince throws down towel and barks at Kuester….Kuester walks his way and held back

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Q giving it to Tay and Tay waves him off. Coach Walker separates the 2. #Pistons.

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Prince and Kuester exchange more words. Looks like Kuester asked Tay to leave. Assistant coach Darrell Walker kept approaching Kuester back.

After the game, Kuester said the confrontation was only a result of basketball being an emotional and passionate game. I don’t buy it. But that’s a smart answer for Kuester to give and maintain some control of this team. Given the circumstances, Kuester’s answer is probably the most honest and reasonable one could have provided.*

*I could have gone without him praising Prince for his second-half intensity, though. To the surprise of Goodwill and Ellis, both of whom who saw Rodney Stuckey get benched, Prince started the second half. But Prince didn’t show much in the third quarter and returned late in the fourth quarter just in time to ignore a wide-open Stuckey cutting to the basket on an inbound pass and contribute nothing else.

Prince’s answers threw me for a bit of a loss, though.

He can be combative with the media at worst. At best, he appears annoyed to be taking questions. But tonight, he seemed at ease, more than I’d ever seen him when talking about something unpleasant.

I’m not sure what that means. Could it mean Prince no longer cares? Could he think, “let the media in, there’s nothing worth guarding anymore?” I don’t know.

Regardless of his motivation, Prince was pretty candid. He blamed frustration and said, “You can call me the bad guy,” and, “Maybe the way I handled it wasn’t the right way.” He set himself up perfectly to apologize.

But, besides the aforementioned statements, he was unapologetic, and it would be a stretch to consider them apologetic. Instead, he said he acted the same way with Flip Saunders and Larry Brown (and I assume Michael Curry, but I can see why he’d repress those memories). Prince’s basic message: This is how I am. Deal with it. Everyone else has.

Prince repeated the same phrase in his interview: “I felt I had something to say. He felt he had something to say.”

These are two men whose views differ too greatly. I’m not sure who’s right. I won’t pretend to know. But something has to give.

Don’t chalk this up to a blogger being angry. That’s just covering up the issue.

The Pistons have a real problem, and it’s not getting any better.

Like I thought after the Celtics game, Prince is still professional enough to do his job without complaint most nights. But that’s only a band-aid for the issue. Incidents like these will continue to occur.

If he’s the same person he’s been, Prince needs to go. I don’t see how he’ll handle the disappointments of playing for a losing team in productive matter. It’s one thing to hate losing. It’s another for losing to prevent him from helping the team.

But you might notice I said if he’s the same person he’s been. After the game, Prince didn’t sound like himself. He almost sound like someone who’s thrown caution to the wind. All the insecurities and protective instincts that overtook his previous interview were gone.

It’s almost like Prince doesn’t care anymore. He has no use for the charade. He can be who he wants to be. He’ll have the option to leave at the end of the season.

If that’s the case – well, I don’t know. I have no idea what to expect from Prince going forward.

Remember when he used to be the Pistons’ most consistent player? Strange times now.

The comeback

Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey keyed the Pistons’ comeback.

Villanueva (being active on both ends and hitting shots) and Gordon (hitting shots) did the same things they’d been doing all season.

But Stuckey contributed in ways he hadn’t yet before, at least not to this extent. He rebounded in traffic. He dove for loose balls. He looked to pass first.

You can’t expect Stuckey to play this way every night, and he probably shouldn’t. His strengths are elsewhere. But it’s nice to see he has those skills in the bag.

Anatomy of a run

The Warriors went on a 20-0 run in the first half that put the game out of reach. Disappointingly, it was an entire-team breakdown. Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Tracy McGrady, Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell all played during the run.

Greg Monroe (+13) and Rodney Stuckey (+9) were the only rotation players not to see the court, so it’s no wonder they led Detroit in plus-minus.

Here’s a breakdown of the disaster:

  • Time: 5:18
  • Warriors offensive rating: 166.7
  • Pistons offensive rating: 0.0
  • Pistons turnovers: five
  • Bynum turnovers: two
  • Pistons shots inside 17 feet: one

Daye returns to starting lineup

I owe John Kuester an apology. Yesterday, I doubted whether Austin Daye really sat against the Kings because of a matchup problem.

That appears to be the case. In a more favorable matchup, Daye started and played well.

Unfortunately, his streak of consecutive 3-pointers made ended at 10 – three short of the record.

On the bright side, the legend of Terry Mills will live on.

Quest for .500: Pistons have chance to get back to the verge of mediocrity if they beat Golden State

Essentials

Date: Nov. 15, 2010

Time: 10:30 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 4-6

Warriors: 6-4

Probable starters

Detroit:

Warriors:

  • Steph Curry
  • Monta Ellis
  • Dorell Wright
  • Brandan Wright or Dan Gadzuric
  • Andris Biedrins

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +7

Over/under: 209.5

Score: Warriors win, 11.75-97.75

Three things to watch

1. The Warriors play defense. For real.

The stingiest unit in the NBA on a points-per-possession basis this season? Would you guess the Warriors regular starting lineup of Curry, Ellis, Wright, David Lee and Biedrins? The additions of Lee and Wright, as well as the health of Biedrins, have been huge defensive upgrades for the Warriors, who look like a playoff contender out West. Fortunately for the Pistons, Lee is out tonight, which will impact the defense and rebounding of the Warriors, and possible replacements Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric are significant drop-offs.

2. Can Ellis/Curry shoot that poorly again?

Steph Curry and Monta Ellis shot a combined 14-for-35, including 0-for-8 on three-pointers in the Pistons’ win over Golden State earlier this month. It’s a stretch to think that can happen again, but part of what worked in the first game was making Curry and Ellis work hard defensively. Stuckey (21 points/9 assists) and Hamilton (27 points) had their best games of the season that night, and they obviously did a good job disrupting the rythym of Golden State’s offense.

3. What will the lineup look like?

John Kuester said Daye was out of the lineup in Sunday’s game against Sacramento because he matched up poorly against the Kings’ frontcourt. He matches up better against Golden State, particularly if they start Brandan Wright for Lee. It’ll be interesting to see who starts for the Pistons. If Daye is out again, it could mean Maxiell as a starter is more of a long-term thing than originally thought. This is right around the time last season that Maxiell became a starter for a prolonged period of time.

Pregame Reading

Win Pistons tickets for Nov. 30 game in Orlando

Live in Florida? Will you be there for Thanksgiving? Want to go to a Pistons game?

Thanks to StubHub, which offers tickets for this or any other game, we’re giving away two tickets in section 101, row 26.

Just send correct answers to these three questions to PistonPoweredContests@gmail.com, and you’re eligible to win.

1. Who is the only man who’s been the head coach of the Pistons and Magic?

2. In which city does Graham Simmington live (answer can be found on this site)?

3. Besides the draft pick that became Rodney Stuckey, which player did the Pistons receive when they traded Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo to the Magic?

If you’re not going to be around for this game, no worries. We’ll have another giveaway (not tickets), later in the week.

Ten games in, 10 stats up, 10 stats down for Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are 10 games into their season, and we’re beginning to get an accurate picture of what they can do. So far, almost all statistical analysis on this site has included a disclaimer about small sample size. That’s becoming less relevant.

Of course, a lot will still change by the end of the season. So, Patrick and I are trying our hand at predicting which stats won’t hold up.

Ten numbers that will increase

Dan Feldman

Patrick Hayes

Ten numbers that will decrease

Dan Feldman

Patrick Hayes

Which numbers do you think will increase and decrease by the end of the year?

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.

Detroit Pistons get up-close look at one time object of their affections DeMarcus Cousins

Essentials

Date: Nov. 14, 2010

Time: 6 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 3-6

Kings: 3-5

Probable starters

Detroit:

Kings:

  • Beno Udrih
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Omri Casspi
  • Carl Landry
  • Samuel Dalembert

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +5

Over/under: 199

Score: Kings win, 104.5-94.5

Three things to watch

1. Are the Kings tired of DeMarcus Cousins?

Depending on who you believed, the Pistons tried between extremely hard and very hard to move up in the NBA Draft to get DeMarcus Cousins, but couldn’t convince Minnesota to switch places and couldn’t convince the Kings not to draft Cousins. Even Worldwide Wes reportedly wanted to see Cousins in Detroit. It didn’t work out, of course, but this week reports emerged that things haven’t been perfect so far in Sacramento. I doubt the Kings would give up on a young talented player so soon, especially one who is averaging 11 points and 6 boards in just 20 minutes a game. But you can bet the Pistons will watch closely. I’m sure the franchise’s love of Cousins’ game hasn’t waned, and the desperate need for a big with his skills is certainly still as great as it was over the summer.

2. Expect a good start by Detroit.

Yahoo! points out that the Kings have been a really bad first half team, giving up an average of 58 points per first half this season. The Pistons have been a good first half team. Those two forces should conspire to help the Pistons play well early. Holding the lead in the second half is another matter, but the Kings have been struggling defensively this season.

3. Tayshaun Prince owned the Kings last year.

The Kings for some reason had a hard time defending Tayshaun Prince. He had two of his best all-around games of the season against Sacramento a year ago. The teams split their season series. Prince had 22 and 23 points in those games and shot a combined 22-for-32.

Fourth thing to watch

OK … had to give this its own sub-head. John Kuester, after two days ago saying he wouldn’t tinker with the lineup, has tinkered with the lineup, moving Jason Maxiell into the starting lineup for Austin Daye. I don’t dislike moving Daye out of that four spot, and I’ve written as much several times this season. But in favor of Maxiell? Presumably, the move was made because the Kings are a good rebounding team with a good frontline. The problem? Maxiell hasn’t rebounded well this year. Daye’s total rebound rate is better than Maxiell’s. Greg Monroe‘s rebound rate is also higher. So I’m not convinced that starting Maxiell is going to give them any significant boost on the boards. Plus, Chris Wilcox is active today for the first time. Presumably he’ll play some, because why would you activate him if he’s not going to play? It will be interesting to see how Daye’s minutes are affected by all of this.

Pregame Reading