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Pistons playing like ‘two halves of a team?’

Losing is going to cause this sort of thing, but CBS Sports’ Ben Golliver quickly noticed something about the Pistons before, during and after their loss to Portland Tuesday: as Golliver put it, they play like ‘two halves of a team.’

Of course, that’s nothing new to people who have been watching the team the past two seasons as young players uncomfortably were thrust upon a veteran core that had grown used to things being a certain way for a very long time.

But this season more than last, reports have alluded to an uncomfortable locker room, something that is a dramatic change from years past when the Pistons had arguably the best chemistry and locker room of any team in the NBA. From Golliver’s story:

Hamilton and old guard championship teammates Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince occupied one side of the post-game locker room, heads down, voices monotone, after the loss. Prince didn’t mince words when discussing his frustration. “It’s everything. Not just one thing. Everything. It’s always that way when you’re not winning. Even our wins didn’t feel like wins. When that happens, you know it’s a problem.”

A problem for Prince, perhaps, but his younger teammates on the other side of the locker room didn’t seem as touched, as Charlie Villanueva laughed and smiled, second-year forward Austin Daye exuded a flat air of relative indifference, and a shell-shocked Greg Monroe looked like he was trying to escape his decision to turn pro as he hustled quickly out of the locker room with headphones drowning out the world.

The night ended with that distinct divide, but it started that way too. Two hours before the game, Daye, Monroe and DaJuan Summers worked through their shootaround routines together, looking to develop skills under the tutelage of the team’s assistant coaches, and to enjoy a few laughs. Only after the young trio ceded the court did Prince and Wallace take the court, briefly and mostly in silence, to get their blood going before the game.

Some people (myself included) thought it was strange when Rodney Stuckey said in the preseason that the team needed more vocal leadership, and that he was going to fill that role. After all, the team had Prince, Wallace and Hamilton, three championship veterans, right? How could the team possibly be lacking leadership?

Golliver’s account suggests maybe Stuckey was onto something. Prince and Hamilton’s frustrations are somewhat understandable — both guys have heard their names in trade rumors for about two years now, so the prospect of teaching their potential replacements about playing winning basketball would probably be less than appealing if they feel like the team could move them at any time. Wallace, however, was brought in specifically to be a locker room presence for the younger players. Last season, there were reports that rookies Daye and Jonas Jerebko routinely worked out with Wallace in the weight room, trying to copy his work habits. Hopefully, that hasn’t ended as the team has grown more frustrated and less cohesive on the court this year.

6 Comments

  • Nov 11, 20101:29 pm
    by Chris

    Reply

    To that point, one moment has stood out to me so far this season.

    During the Bobcats game I repeatedly saw T-Mac hold the ball at the top of the key and implore his teammates to rotate on back door cuts and use screens. Over and over, their response was to just stand there and look at him. He’d eventually take a limp screen and pass the ball to someone standing still nearby.

    In the same game Prince made a similar gesture specifically to Daye (I think) who again didn’t budge. There was a stoppage in play just seconds after after Prince’s motion for movement and he still hadn’t yet passed the ball. As soon as whistle blew, Prince slamed the ball with his off hand and was visibly frustrated.

    All of this was at the time the Pistons had the lead and had been at least passing the ball well.

    Prince isn’t one to get very emotional on the court, but considering the fact that they were winning and playing well, I think it’s indicative of a communication divide. He’s trying to get those familiar backdoor cuts and screens going for the young guys that he and Hamilton love, but they won’t do it.

    They’re making the extra pass, but when it comes to taking the direction, the young guys seem to be having none of it. There just might be a mood that the young guys have nothing to worry about and they just need to wait for the trades shortly before they get full control of the team.

    I might be wrong and T-mac and Prince are calling for clearouts, but since they are always passing immediately afterwards, I don’t think so.

  • Nov 11, 20101:51 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    Chris:
    I remember the Prince play vividly. I believe there was a timeout after the play and Prince was walking to the bench next to Daye and someone else, very vividly gesturing where people should’ve been moving.
    I’m excited by the young guys, but none of them are very smart basketball players. If Prince has tried to offer advice on the court that they don’t take, that is really maddening, since Prince has always been one of the smarter players in the league.

  • Nov 11, 20106:36 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @Patrick

    excuse me but i think JJ, Daye, and Monroe are smart basketball players. I still question Monroe’s motor but not his smarts. Daye has been playing very good defense while out of position and overmatched if you have been watching – mainly because he is using his length and always makes contact with his man and boxes out after the shot is taken. I do not think he is a dumb basketball player. Stuckey is another matter – he is not post playing career coaching material and since he sometimes runs the point his lack of court smarts is a reoccuring problem.

    But Prince has not been playing all that well defensively. And he has not been rebounding very well for a couple of years now. And while he has assumed the go to role on this team when they need a low post basket by working his man off the dribble from the right side, he has become a bit of a black hole when he has the ball. When he is running the point from the top of the key he is quick to hit Rip with the pass but much slower to rotate it to Daye. It is as if he is telling the kid to wait his turn – that Daye is not a first look option.

    Personally, i think it is time for Tay to go. I said that last year too while being conscious that he might be the best player on the team. But he is in the way of the young kids taking this team over and figuring out how to win in this league. Prince was always quiet while the Pistons were winning but these days his body language is completely negative. Rip too. These guys are used to winning. They are not going to adjust to losing. Ben is different. Playing in Chicago and Cleveland and having those injuries taught him something. But Rip and Tay need to go.

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  • Nov 11, 20106:54 pm
    by Chris

    Reply

    I’m not one to toss any servicable player off the team for an intangible element like he’s in the way of the younger players development.

    I also don’t want to label the young guys are not being smart players. The problem here is they’re play differently than the older guys. Not dumb, just different.

    Case in point, the only way Stuckey seems to consistently get assists is to barrel to the lane and at the last second dish off the ball. There’s nothing wrong with that, It’s perfect for Gordon and Charlie V, but it’s leaves Rip and Tay standing around waiting for the pass. Again, it works, but not so well if they’re running outside looking for screen at the same time.

    The onus is on the coaching staff to knit them together. How can you reasonably expect a couple of guys who’ve won a title playing their way to just abandon it to suit the kids? Stuckey asked for more leadership. Then you’ve got Tay trying to direct them to do what he knows works and they don’t know what to do.

    To me that seems like a simple lack of coaching. Too many good players who need to be set up in very different ways. It’s as if Q can’t come up with a hierarchy of plays for who’s on the floor and he just lets them work it out on their own.

  • Nov 12, 20109:01 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:
    “excuse me but i think JJ, Daye, and Monroe are smart basketball players.”
    You’re excused. They’re not smart yet, although Jerebko is ahead of the other two. Monroe has sloppy footwork and Daye doesn’t move well without the ball on offense. He has to get better at creating a passing lane when guys are penetrating. Too often, he just stands in one spot on the perimeter. He has to get better at sliding his feet and creating better angles for guys like Stuckey and Gordon to kick out.
    I didn’t mean to suggest they won’t get there, but young players in general aren’t smart basketball players when they come into the league. The Pistons guys are getting there, but it’s obvious Prince and Wallace in particular have been frustrated on the court at times with them not being in the right spots.

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