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Archive → December, 2010

Detroit Pistons let Steve Nash get a jump on his New Year’s plans in blowout loss to Phoenix

On the Pistons first offensive possession against Phoenix Friday, they dumped the ball into the post to Charlie Villanueva, who was being guarded by Mickael Pietrus, a shooting guard who the Suns started at power forward. Villanueva easily backed down Pietrus and converted a hook shot inside.

Then the Pistons continuously settled for quick jumpers, most of which missed their mark, as the team shot just 40 percent and lost to the Suns 92-75.

Following comments from Pistons fans on Twitter throughout the game, one common theme kept coming up: how can the Pistons continuously follow good wins, like Wednesday’s over Boston, with pitiful showings against mediocre or bad teams? It’s a maddening trend, I’ll admit, but the loss to Phoenix is not a totally unexplainable thing. In reality, it’s pretty simple why they lost: they needed Rodney Stuckey.

This might seem a little bi-polar of me considering I’ve called for Tracy McGrady to take minutes from Stuckey at the point guard spot for going on three weeks or so now. But the Pistons had two major issues against the Suns: they didn’t have a reliable second ball-handler to put in the game when the Suns started aggressively trapping McGrady with long, quick players and when the Pistons’ jumpers were failing them, they had no player who could get shots in the paint.

There are a lot of things that Stuckey doesn’t do well enough on the court to justify the minutes and investment the team has made in him. But make no mistake, the Pistons as presently constructed still need him. McGrady turned it over five times because Phoenix was trapping him near halfcourt on virtually ever possession. McGrady is big enough to sometimes see over those traps and make the correct passes, but if there is no passing angle (and his teammates were consistently in the wrong spots all night to provide sufficient help), he just doesn’t have the explosion or ball-handling ability to break those traps on his own. Stuckey is quick enough, strong enough and handles the ball well enough to beat those traps most of the time.

And with that lone little post play for Villanueva to open the game, the Pistons virtually abandoned any attempts to bully a smaller Phoenix starting lineup. McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon settled for jumpers because, let’s face it, those guys are strictly jump-shooters. Villanueva didn’t consistently drag himself down on the block to try and establish position against Pietrus or Grant Hill. And Ben Wallace, bless his heart, is not going to provide any kind of offensive presence in the post.

Stuckey, on the other hand, gets a majority of his points inside. The threat of him penetrating would’ve at least made it harder for Phoenix to trap the ball with multiple defenders so far away from the basket.

So once again, with the opportunity to build some momentum against a reeling team after a good win, the Pistons not only didn’t do it, they had a miserable performance. It’s natural to get excited about beating teams like Boston, even if the Celtics weren’t at full strength. But the Pistons are not turning any corners. 2011 brings little promise — the trade deadline is around the corner and one of my favorite activities is talking about the NBA Draft, but other than those things, expect the Pistons to continue their trend of often uninspired play with the occasional fun performance sprinkled in. No one wants to watch a losing team, but as long as everyone is realistic about what they are capable of, the season will become much more bearable.

No credit for the bench here

It has been somewhat annoying how the performance of the Pistons’ bench this season has been overly praised.

Well, against Phoenix, no one is going to give that unit much credit. Two guys came off the bench and weren’t completely hopeless: Austin Daye made shots and had eight rebounds and Chris Wilcox played with energy, made a couple of great passes and had a nice hustle play that resulted in a dunk.

But even those performances came with negatives. Daye bit hard on pump fakes by virtually every player he defended. He had to come out in the first half after picking up three fouls in only a few minutes because he couldn’t stay on his feet defensively. And Wilcox didn’t even get a chance to build on his first half minutes after injuring his groin and missing the second half.

As for the rest? Hamilton shot the ball as poorly as I’ve ever seen him. He’s probably finished with worse lines than 2-for-9, but it was as much about how he was missing as how many he missed. He had three shots that barely grazed iron and he constantly forced up contested shots.

Will Bynum was abused by Goran Dragic. Dragic beat him off the dribble all night, and it was his performance alone in the second quarter that ignited the Suns and helped them stretch an 10-point lead to 18 in that quarter.

Greg Monroe shot 2-for-6 from the free throw line and blew an open layup on his only field goal attempt. DaJuan Summers also blew an uncontested layup and he picked up a charge against Grant Hill where Hill was planted in front of him a good three seconds with Summers still deciding to barrel right into him.

Guys like Summers, Monroe and Bynum who have seen their rotation spots and minutes fluctuate wildly need to perform well in games like this, when they could potentially earn more playing time. It was disappointing that none of them seemed up to the task, not that the starters were much better either.

Happy New Year!

Hopefully everyone in the PistonPowered audience has a great 2011, even if seeing a playoff-caliber basketball team probably won’t be in the cards.

This site continues to grow, and more and more people show up in the comments every day to contribute. One of my favorite parts of my day is interacting with people on this site, even if it’s with people who I disagree with and start arguments with. This is a great site and community to be a part of and I look forward to all of your crazy trade suggestions that are sure to get even crazier in the next few weeks!

Detroit Pistons’ hot 3-point shooting should match up well against Phoenix Suns’ porous defense

Essentials

Teams: Detroit Pistons at Phoenix Suns

Date: Dec. 31, 2010

Time: 9 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Records

Pistons: 11-21

Suns: 13-17

Probable starters

Pistons:

Suns:

  • Steve Nash
  • Vince Carter
  • Grant Hill
  • Channing Frye
  • Robin Lopez

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +6.0

Over/under: 209.5

Score: Suns win, 106.25-103.25

Three things to watch

1. The Phoenix defense is worse than ever

Yahoo!’s Kelly Dwyer took on the Suns’ defense yesterday, and this was his take:

In the eyes of way too many people, Gentry is the guy who finally got the Suns playing defense last season, which couldn’t be further from the truth. All he did was slow the team down a little offensively, in literal terms. The Suns didn’t run as much, though they scored with great efficiency, and that limited the amount of points their opponents could put up. So on the surface, sure, the points allowed went down. But when you factored pace into the equation, the Suns were far, far worse under Gentry defensively than they were under Mike D’Antoni, who was roundly criticized for paying little attention to the defensive side of things when he coached the Suns from 2003-08.

The Pistons have shot better than 55 percent from three in two straight games, so if their shooters are on again, they should get their share of open looks against the Suns.

2. Will the Tracy McGrady rebirth continue?

McGrady will get another start as Stuckey’s stomach virus is reportedly still bothering him and kept him out of practice yesterday. The next step for McGrady is putting together two good games in a row. He should get another crack at significant minutes tonight, and if he performs well again, the Pistons will once again have a difficult decision for John Kuester to ponder.

3. Is that a favorable rebounding matchup for the Pistons?

Well, maybe not quite. The Pistons are last in the league in rebounding at 38.1 per game. But the team directly above them? Phoenix at 39.0 per game, and the Suns play at a faster pace with more possessions, so it’s conceivable the Pistons could actually not get destroyed on the boards for a change. They do, however, have to force the Suns to miss a few shots.

Pregame Reading

Rodney Stuckey will miss his second straight game tonight against Phoenix

Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

The Pistons will be without the services of guard Rodney Stuckey tonight against the Phoenix Suns. Stuckey is out because of the stomach flu, and did not make the trip with the team.

The Pistons are in contact with Stuckey’s physician, and hopes he’ll join them for Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz.

Tracy McGrady, who had 21 points and eight assists in Wednesday’s win over the Celtics, will again start at point guard.

The Basketball Jones is profiling every NBA arena, including the Palace

Andrew Unterberger is currently nearing completion of a pretty cool undertaking: he’s writing profiles of every NBA arena for the Basketball Jones. The project, called ‘60/30‘ (60 days/30 NBA arenas). Here’s what he had to say about his trip to the Palace of Auburn Hills in November:

The Palace felt a little stuck between stations to me. Clearly, the Pistons want to be rooted in their past greatness, given the proud legacy of their Bad Boys late-80s teams and the still-fresh glow of their mid-00s conference-championship streakers, but the stadium tries to have it both ways, maintaining the general visual scheme of the classic teams with a kind of modern edge (sharper colors and graphics, weird mascot, surprisingly loud and potent bursts of flame during player intros), which doesn’t always mesh. The dischord between past and present is present throughout the stadium, down to the banner out in front, which features Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey seemingly warring with Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, with Ben Wallace (a foot in both worlds?) making peace in the middle. The message, “Back to work,” is probably more telling than the team intended.

Unterberger’s take on Pistons mascot Hooper is pretty funny, and he even quoted Dan Feldman in the piece. But the whole series is really worth a read. Seeing a game in every NBA arena is surely a dream of most basketball fans.

John Hollinger: Tracy McGrady is ‘clearly’ the best passer on the team

Just to follow up on the ongoing discussion of whether Tracy McGrady should supplant Rodney Stuckey as the team’s starting point guard, John Hollinger weighed in on the topic in his ESPN chat today (Hat tip: Steve Kays):

I’m not sure he (McGrady) has the legs to start every night — he looked like he needed a nap in the Charlotte game — but he’s very clearly the best (only?) passer on the team and it’s a marked difference from watching Stuckey and Bynum pound it for 23 seconds.

Also, for what it’s worth, McGrady told SLAM’s Eric Woodyard that the Boston game was the best he’s felt on a court since 2008.

Tracy McGrady continues to show he’s the Pistons best playmaker in surprising win over Boston

Apologies for the late recap. Had some computer issues last night.

The last time a Piston missed a start due to a stomach virus, it was the first game in a much-needed lineup change. Perhaps Rodney Stuckey‘s third missed start of the year will finally lead the Pistons to acknowledge what has been becoming more obvious with each passing game: they are a much better team with Tracy McGrady running the offense.

McGrady spurred a surprising and decisive win over Boston (albeit a hobbled Boston team missing Rajon Rondo already and losing Kevin Garnett to injury during the game), starting and scoring 21 points with 4 rebounds and 8 assists in Wednesday’s 104-92 win.

I’ve raved about McGrady enough lately, so it’s not really necessary for me to further espouse the virtues he brings to the court. They were abundantly clear against Boston.

It took some guts for John Kuester to finally make the call to bench Rip Hamilton in favor of Ben Gordon, but eventually, he made the right decision. Giving McGrady more minutes at the expense of Stuckey, long viewed as a key part of the team’s future, will be an even tougher call. But even with Stuckey’s incremental improvement this season, he’s still clearly being out-played by McGrady and the Pistons are a more balanced, efficient team with McGrady running the offense.

McGrady’s impact on Wilcox

Chris Wilcox does two things well: he finishes and he runs the floor. He’s not going to be a consistently good rebounder or shot blocker or defender. Those weaknesses are the reason he’s never found his way into the rotation during his Pistons tenure. His strengths, on the other hand, were never apparent because he’s never really played with a guard who has great court awareness and who consistently looks for guys who get out and run on the break or cut to the basket. More minutes for McGrady will mean more production out of Wilcox. McGrady will find him around the basket, he’ll look for him out running on breaks and he’ll make Wilcox’s signing less of a bust.

Random stat

The Pistons made 10-of-15 3-pointers against Boston, their second straight productive game from long range. From ESPN Stats and Information:

They got burned for 104 points by a hot-shooting Pistons team, one that sizzled from 3-point range for the second straight game. The Pistons followed up an 11-for-19 3-point shooting effort in their last game against the Bobcats by making 10-of-15 3-pointers against the Celtics.

A check of Basketball-Reference.com showed it to be the third time in the last 25 years (and the first time since 2008) that the Pistons had consecutive games in which they made at least 10 3-pointers AND shot 55 percent or better from 3-point range.

Some Daye-light

A consequence of McGrady moving into the point guard spot was Austin Daye getting some minutes backing up Tayshaun Prince. The results were Daye’s best night in weeks. He scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Yesterday, Dan Feldman laid out several clues that suggest Stuckey might not be viewed by the organization as the key piece of the future that he once was. Daye certainly is still an important player to the team’s future if he’s able to develop. Sacrificing many of Stuckey’s minutes to McGrady can play more point guard and Daye can get on the court ultimately makes more sense than continuing to give Stuckey the bulk of the PG minutes.

Charlie Villanueva vs. Kevin Garnett Part Deux

Essentials

Teams: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons

Date: Dec. 29, 2010

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 10-21

Celtics: 24-5

Probable starters

Pistons:

Celtics:

  • Nate Robinson
  • Ray Allen
  • Paul Pierce
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Semih Erden

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +7.5

Over/under: 188.5

Score: Celtics win, 98-90.5

Three things to watch

1. Villanueva gets another crack at KG

Charlie Villanueva faced a bit of criticism for using Twitter after the last Celtics-Pistons game to air his beef with Kevin Garnett. Those who thought Villanueva was out of line for making it public in that fashion rather than handling it on the court. Since, Villanueva has put together a nice bounce-back season. It would be nice to see him show off his newfound toughness by going at Garnett.

2. No Rondo, but Nate Rob creates other problems

Rajon Rondo is out for the Celtics, but in his absence, Nate Robinson has been putting up shots. Robinson is streaky, but he’s also lightning quick with range and unlike Rondo, he’s a shoot-first player, which changes the Celtics attack somewhat. He won’t control the game like Rondo, but he can potentially get hot and become a third perimeter score the Pistons will have to account for along with Allen and Pierce.

3. More burn for Chris Wilcox?

Dan Feldman pointed out why Wilcox wasn’t necessarily a good bet to get more of a role because of his good performance against Charlotte, but if the Pistons bigs struggle early again, it’s worth a shot to see if Wilcox can duplicate Monday’s energetic game.

Rodney Stuckey might be the Piston most likely to be traded

This is just a hunch, but I think the Pistons are going to trade Rodney Stuckey before the trade deadline.

Obviously, this post comes on the heels of maybe Stuckey’s worst performance of the season. But I don’t think it’s impulsive. Rather, I think we’ve ignored too many clues to this point.

No extension

The top signal is Joe Dumars’ decision not to extend Stuckey. Dumars had never denied an extension to a player on a rookie contract. When Dumars knew he didn’t want to make the necessary investment for a young player, he cut his losses. He still has a couple months to do that with Stuckey.

Making it work shouldn’t be a problem. If Rodney White and Mateen Cleaves had value when Dumars traded them, so does Stuckey.

Struggling team

Another factor is Dumars’ desire to make a trade. He had playoff hopes for a team that’s sinking from the postseason race. Although the ownership situation limits him, Dumars surely wants to make something happen.

The conventional wisdom is the Pistons are shopping Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton more than other players, and that might be true. But I’m not sure how far that will get Detroit.

The value of Prince’s large expiring contract most likely comes by acquiring a better player signed long-term, which the Pistons probably aren’t interested in doing. Hamilton’s contract might dissuade every team from acquiring him.

Stuckey would likely pique the interest of more teams.

Same level

Here’s what Dumars told Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois this summer:

KL: Do you see this as something of a crossroads year for Rodney Stuckey?

JD: I wouldn’t use the word crossroads, but I will say this. He and I, we’ve had some conversations about expanding his role on this team, about assuming more responsibility, more leadership, for the success of us going forward. I think it’s important for him. We’ve had a couple of those conversations, so he understands exactly, going into year four. I think he’s been good, but good is not always good enough. He’s been good, but sometimes you have to be more than good and that’s what we’re looking for from him.

Stuckey had been good this year. In fact, he’s having the best season of his career – as he’s done every year.

But he hasn’t been more than good. And unless Dumars’ expectations have changed, that means Stuckey has been a disappointment.

Maybe it’s time for Stuckey to work toward the next level somewhere else.

Trade ideas

Just to get the ball rolling, here are nine trade ideas involving Stuckey:

What do you have?

Chris Wilcox can’t redeem the Detroit Pistons’ losing effort

When you amble back on defense so slowly, the opponent gets multiple shots before you decide its important to get back, you deserve to lose.

When you toss up lazy shots that are more likely to get blocked than not,* you deserve to lose.

When you throw away simple outlet passes, you deserve to lose.

When you do each of those things multiple times, you really deserve to lose.

*The Bobcats’ 13 blocks tied the third most a team has made in a game this season.

A flash-in-the-pan* sizzling Chris Wilcox (15 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal in 23 minutes) shouldn’t keep you from what you deserve – even against the Bobcats. He didn’t. The Pistons lost, 105-100.

*Before you suggest Wilcox belongs in the permanent rotation, read Royce Young’s assessment in Wilcox’s player preview.

The Pistons spent the first three quarters displaying one of their most uninspiring efforts of the season, and that’s a crowded race. The only conflict appeared to be whether Detroit would do a poorer job defending the rim or the 3-point arc. The Pistons seemingly did everything wrong until the fourth quarter.

  • They had no gas. Detroit played in a different city last night, and the Bobcats didn’t play the previous five days. That might be an excuse for 36-year-old Ben Wallace, whom John Kuester pulled early, and hobbled Tracy McGrady, who didn’t play much, either. But for the rest of the team? The NBA season is full of back-to-backs, so that’s not a valid excuse to me.
  • Their rotation was nonsensical. In the first quarter, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon shot well and, although the results weren’t fantastic, hustled on defense. Villanueva wasn’t rebounding, and Gordon didn’t move the ball particularly well. But at least they were doing something. So what did that earn them? A spot on the bench in the second quarter, which the Bobcats opened on a 24-2 run.
  • Rodney Stuckey was awful. I think Stuckey gets a bad rap for how he manages the Pistons’ offense. He’s not Magic Johnson, but he he’s not Nick Young, either. Tonight, he forced shots and didn’t get anyone else involved, finishing with six points (1-of-6 shooting), three assists and three turnovers in 25 minutes.

Obviously, I’m pointing out a lot of negatives for a close game. But the game was close because neither team really played like it deserved to win. Both teams lacked energy most of the game. Several plays appeared to happen in slow motion, with none of the 10 players on the court capable of playing at full speed. Each team had only one good quarter – the Bobcats in the second and the Pistons in the fourth – and tied the other two.

Although they were nearly equally dismal, when two bad teams play, one must win. That doesn’t stain the victory. Everybody gets to play bad teams, and most teams look forward to the chance to beat up on someone weaker (or as weak) as them.

Not the Pistons. They played tonight like this was just another game. And if you’ve seen how they play any other game, nothing about the result of that attitude should have surprised you.

Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace will miss Pistons game with ankle injury

Essentials

Teams: Detroit Pistons at Charlotte Bobcats

Date: Dec. 27, 2010

Time: 7 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Records

Pistons: 10-20

Bobcats: 9-19

Probable starters

Pistons:

Bobcats:

  • D.J. Augustin
  • Stephen Jackson
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Boris Diaw
  • Nazr Mohammed

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +5.5

Over/under: 193.5

Score: Bobcats win, 99.5-94

Three things to watch

1. No Gerald Wallace

Gerald Henderson will start in place of Gerald Wallace, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. That’s obviously a pretty big break for the Pistons.

Henderson isn’t a great perimeter shooter, so I hope Tayshaun Prince shows the same dedication to help defense as he did against the Hornets last week.

2. Charlie Villanueva on the glass

Boris Diaw is one of the league’s poorer rebounding power forwards. If everything goes to plan, Charlie Villanueva should have his way with him on the boards. That would allow the Pistons to keep one of their best offensive weapons on the court.

If Villanueva isn’t getting the job done on the glass, I suspect Greg Monroe would dominate Diaw for rebounds. But Monroe’s offense game doesn’t threaten the Bobcats quite as much.

3. New Bobcats

Paul Silas will make his debut as the Bobcats’ head coach tonight. I don’t expect Charlotte to look much different, but keep an eye out for a few wrinkles. Hopefully, they confuse the Bobcats more than the Pistons.

Pregame Reading