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Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, DaJuan Summers and Tayshaun Prince make cases for bigger roles in the Pistons’ satisfying victory over the Hornets

It was a strange night at The Palace.

  • The Pistons became the third Detroit team, along with the Lions and Red Wings, to play overtime today.
  • Tayshaun Prince smiled on the court (after blocking Jason Smith).
  • Ben Wallace played nearly 14 minutes before grabbing a rebound.

Perhaps strangest of all, the Pistons won. For just their first victory this season over a team with a winning record and all five starters healthy, the Pistons beat the Hornets, 111-108.

This was the Pistons’ most satisfying win of the season. Ben Gordon, Will Bynum and Tayshaun Prince made the obvious plays, and Jason Maxiell made the small ones. Everything came together perfectly.

Instead of griping about lesser-of-two-evil lineup changes, we can hold enjoyable debates – like did Gordon or Bynum do more to show they deserve larger roles? Heck, DaJuan Summers and Prince made cases for enhanced roles, too. This game will be just plain fun to unpack.

Ben Gordon angles for a bigger role

Ben Gordon comes off the bench for two main reasons – a true professional, he never complains about it and his production throughout his career has been nearly identical either way.

But until joining the Pistons, he’s always had a clear role. He was the Bulls’ scorer, and that didn’t change whether he started or not. Now, if Gordon comes off the bench, he’s treated like a backup. Now, starting makes a difference.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Gordon if his 0-for-7 first half had come in a game he didn’t start. Would he have stuck with it like he did tonight? Keep in mind, most of those seven shots were good shots. And despite the misses, Gordon was rebounding. He was in this game from his first possession.

Still, Gordon hasn’t shown this type of focus and determination during the course of a full game when coming off the bench this year. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

After halftime, Gordon turned into the player I thought ranked on the fringe of the league’s best scorers. He scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the final 29 minutes. It was a complete scoring performance – shooting from the outside, driving inside and getting to the line.

Especially after the first half, I thought this season – the losing and coming off the bench – may have damaged Gordon’s psyche. I’m not sure whether the second half showed he was fine or fixed him, but it doesn’t matter.

This is the Ben Gordon the Pistons signed. I think you’ll look back at this game as a turning point for him.

I don’t expect Richard Hamilton to regain his starting job anytime soon.

Will Bynum angles for a bigger role

After Austin Daye, Will Bynum was the second Piston removed from the rotation this year. Unlike with Daye, nobody really complained about the move.

Until tonight, Bynum had a couple solid games, a bunch of bad ones and no very good ones. He played very well tonight – making 8-of-10 shots for 21 points and dishing nine assists. He managed the offense like he’d shown he could in previous years and wasn’t afraid to take big shots late.

Whatever was bothering him earlier in the season clearly didn’t show up tonight.

Detractors will point out his five turnovers and inability to get through screens quickly. For them, I have two words: Chris Paul. The best point guard in the game stole the ball from Bynum twice and pressured him much more. And getting through a screen in a timely fashion proves much more difficult when the speedy Paul is using it.

Bynum wasn’t perfect tonight, but his plusses substantially outweighed his minuses.

DaJuan Summers angles for a bigger role

With Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey out and Tracy McGrady going down during the game, John Kuester looked at the very end of his bench.

Playing his first meaningful minutes since against the Hawks on Nov. 3 and in just his sixth game this season, DaJuan Summers provided the spark the Pistons needed. He made an ultra-efficient two 3-pointers and a dunk in four shots.

His seven minutes played a key part in the Pistons’ victory.

Tayshaun Prince angles for a bigger role

After Tayshaun Prince blocked Chris Paul’s shot to end regulation, I tweeted:

Tayshaun Prince’s block capitalizes what might be his defensive performance in years.

J.E. Skeets replied:

No doubt. RT @PistonPowered: Prince’s block capitalizes what might be his defensive performance in years.

If Skeets said it, it must be true.

At his best lately, Prince took responsibility for his own man. He didn’t appear to show interest in rotating and helping his teammates. Tonight, he was all over the court.

His man-to-man defense played a large part in Trevor Ariza shooting 2-of-11 with five turnovers. Prince, who blocked three shots and added a steal, also did whatever he could on rotations.

It wasn’t just a defensive focus. It was a mentality. Prince also had 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

The numbers don’t always have to be so spectacular, but that’s how I’d like to see Prince play every night. The Pistons used to rely on Prince to defend the opposing team’s best wing, no matter what. That’s no longer the case, but the way he played tonight, Prince could do it again.

Rotation going forward

I’m not advocating Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, DaJuan Summers and Tayshaun Prince all get bigger roles. That would be impossible. All I’m saying is they played tonight like they deserve more.

Summers is the easiest to discount. He’s played like this before, but he doesn’t belong in the rotation. This team has enough better players that he’s still on the outside looking in.

I hope Prince can take on a larger role, because his wouldn’t involve more minutes. Sadly, I’d be surprised if he does. I’m not sure he desires to play like this every game anymore. That would take a lot of effort, and after competing for a title for so many years, I don’t think he’s that invested in this losing team.

Gordon showed he’s on the right track. It would be a shame to spoil his progress by sending him back to the bench. The Pistons ate that 0-for-7 first half in order to let him shoot his way back into a rhythm, and I understand that’s a sunk cost, but it just wouldn’t feel right to banish him to the bench again.

Bynum is the most interesting case. McGrady has proven himself capable of running the second unit, and I think everyone who plays benefits from a shorter rotation. So, if Richard Hamilton misses an extended amount of time, that could open the door for Bynum to keep playing. Otherwise, Kuester has a difficult decision to make. I won’t use hindsight to criticize him on this one, because no clear-cut solution exists.

Jason Maxiell’s quietly stellar day

Jason Maxiell had a prime cases of the box score* not telling the whole story.

*For the record, two points, no rebounds, an assist, a turnover, two steals and a block in 21 minutes.

Maxiell didn’t enter the game until late in the third quarter. As is often the case when a player enters so late, Maxiell had a singular assignment – slow David West.

West still scored, but with Maxiell playing the game’s final 21 minutes, Westworked a little harder for his game-high 32 points.

West gave Maxiell some difficulty outside the paint, but when West went down low, Maxiell pushed him from the spots West wanted. That led to either a forced shot or the Hornets going away from West.

On the down side, such a focus on West hurt Maxiell’s rebounding. John Kuester removed Maxiell from the rotation because Maxiell doesn’t always focus on boxing out. That happened again tonight.

So, in all, a great effort from Maxiell for giving the Pistons what they needed tonight – but not the type of effort that will earn him more playing time.

Regardless of whether he plays more, this was an awesome way to all but seal the victory:

Richard Hamilton’s absence

I covered most of Richard Hamilton’s semi-suspicious absence in an earlier post. But just to confirm a small detail, here are a couple in-game tweets.

Justin Rogers:

@vgoodwill @Chris_Iott @Stareagle Was the Gordon start strictly because of Hamilton’s illness, or did the two happen to coincide.

Dave Hogg:

@justin_rogers Pure coincidence. The T-Mac start was the one due to a late injury.


@Stareagle Just to be clear, you’re saying Gordon would have started even if Hamilton was healthy?


@PistonPowered We’ll have to ask Kue to be 100% sure, but there’s good reason to believe that.

Short nights for Ben Wallace and Greg Monroe

Fans often blame John Kuester for sticking with his comfort zone rather than what’s working. Overall, I think that’s a misperception, and tonight was a good example.

Neither Ben Wallace nor Greg Monroe showed they had much going, and both got quick hooks. Wallace played just 18 minutes, and Monroe saw just 15 minutes.

Sunday, Sunday

I hate to end this on a down note, but I think it’s necessary. What I wrote in the game preview still holds relevancy:

Speaking of pride, Michael McNamara of Hornets247.com alerted me to an interesting trend.

The Hornets are just 1-3 on Sundays. Although two of those losses came to the Spurs, neither was close. The Hornets’ loss to the 76ers wasn’t close, either. And New Orleans’ win came by just four points over the Kings.

As Pistons fans should know, Sunday losses might not be a coincidence.

I hope we look back at the end of the year and see the Hornets went 9-4 on Sundays, and this slow Sunday start is just pure coincidence. But the way the blew a 10-point halftime lead today, don’t count on it.

This win might mean as much as it appears to mean.


  • Dec 20, 201011:00 pm
    by Patrick Hayes



    The only thing I would add is that it is unlikely that NJ deals Murphy until they are completely sold on the fact that they aren’t getting Carmelo Anthony.

    Since Denver wants most likely a package of Favors, picks and expiring contracts, NJ needs to hold onto Murphy since he’s their biggest expiring deal.

    They also have Vujacic, but because they just acquired him, he can only be used in a one-for-one trade, not a multi-player deal if he’s dealt again.

  • Dec 21, 201012:20 am
    by Laser


    no offense intended, jason. i just had a vague recollection of you posting ideas i can’t get behind. starting both rip and gordon qualifies as one of them and served as a nice memory jog. i consider tayshaun our best player, certainly our most well-rounded, and i don’t see his skinny ass is coming off the bench. certainly not when he’s been so consistent, certainly not to start t-mac, gordon and rip. and i don’t think it’s in the team’s best interest to play six perimeter players, no matter who sits. i didn’t say “jason is an idiot,” but i don’t consider you to be any sort of authority about anything around here, and i’m surprised and embarrassed that your trade idea got everyone so revved up. i looked at it and knew exactly what it was, but i guess people are so hungry for change they’ll believe what they want to. props for setting this place on fire, but i just had a hunch you weren’t breaking major trade news.
    also, don’t anyone expect any trades at all. i don’t think it’s happening. maybe not this season at all. this last dumars interview is as deflating as it gets. what a sad state of affairs…

  • Dec 21, 201012:47 am
    by Jason


    Laser – I completely agree with Prince. It’s tough to put him on the bench, i only suggest him over Rip because I think he’d be much more of a professional about it.
    He has been somewhat consistent, but the offense has to revolve around him for him to have any consistency. And as we have seen this year, when a player pads their individual stats – we haven’t been winning games. Prince can hit 30 here and there, Stuckey can score 20+ as much as he wants – but a loss is a loss, which seems to happen quite often when everyone isn’t getting invloved.
    We win games when the team passes the ball, and finds the open man. When we take advantage of some of the offensive mismatches we create at some positions. This is all only possible with a PG that can move the ball around. I wanted that to be Stuck, it’s just not his game..
    My main point is starting the players that we’ve invested so much money into. Rip, Gordon, Tayshaun, and Villanueva are our top paid players – in that order. All four cannot start, so there has to be an odd man out – until a trade is made. The only way in my opinion to get the most of these 4 players on the court at the same time is to bench Stuckey, and Prince and start McGrady – allowing a “Facilitator” to be on the floor – with a number of offensive players (Gordon, Rip, Villanueva) around him, without being a liability on defense.
    I’m not sold on whether or not Bynum can fill that role, and from what i understand – most people around the organization believe McGrady to be the best passer on the team..
    It’s not perfect – but it’s the Pistons roster were talking about here. There’s not a whole lot we can do aside from Crazy trade proposals.
    What starting lineup would you suggest with our current roster, Laser? Patrick?
    Just curious..

  • Dec 21, 20104:30 pm
    by Laser


    i couldn’t be less worried about professionalism here. like it or lump it, rip’s being paid a FORTUNE and the organization would probably JUMP at the chance to buy his ass out.
    also, t-mac has yet to prove he can handle major minutes. a backup PG role will be just fine for him, as long as he’s playing behind someone else who can run the offense, and that’s basically bynum. and i really just hate the idea of having six perimeter players in any given rotation, regardless of who sits. so some kind of trade just has to go down, right?
    finally, who’s going to guard the other team’s best perimeter player? logic dictates that gordon would guard the PG, rip the SG and t-mac the SF… but what happens when there’s a lebron james or kevin durant or carmelo anthony in town?? someone’s got to guard the premier scorers, and face it: that’s gotta be tayshaun. he and ben start no matter what.
    as for my starting lineup, i’d give this one a shot:
    bynum, rip, tayshaun, monroe and wallace.
    alternately, if that proved a disaster, i’d consider your starting five with rip benched in favor of tayshaun. but that’s not perfect, because you still end up pairing rip with stuckey. this is why the team is awful. some trades just gotta happen.

  • Dec 21, 201010:50 pm
    by Jason


    Well said, Laser. Especially the last sentence.. No matter what way you try to flip it, we are always going to be mismatched at some point with our roster as is.
    You make a good point with a dynamic SF, there wouldn’t be anyone on the floor to handle them with my rotation. Mcgrady of 5 years ago, possibly.
    I don’t mind your starting rotation either – I guess it just goes back to being hard to stomach having the two guy you traded away Chauncey Billups for, warming the bench… Such a cluster F*&$ of a team!

  • Dec 22, 20105:54 am
    by Dan Feldman


    Neutes, Gordon was getting good shots. Wallace and Monroe, within the flow of the game, weren’t effective. There was reason to believe Gordon would start making his shots, but little reason to believe Wallace and Monroe could help much.

  • Dec 22, 20106:04 am
    by Dan Feldman



    A. I never said it was a bad thing. You’ve been harping on that for months, and I knew you wouldn’t pass up a chance to mention it again.

    B. If the Pistons force-fed you minutes, you might be a good player. We’ll never know.

    Your argument is absurd, and you’re unfairly holding expectations against Stuckey. Stuckey might not be as good as the Pistons think he is, and Summers might be better than the Pistons think he is. It doesn’t make Summers better than Stuckey. Not even close.

    C. It’s been 1.25 seasons since the Pistons drafted those guys. Detroit has one reliable starting small forward right now, and it’s Tayshaun Prince. Just because the Pistons haven’t handed the reigns to the class of 09 yet doesn’t mean it’s not in the cards.

    If the three second-year players continue to show progress and the Pistons re-sign Prince and McGrady to multi-year deals in the offseason, you’ll have a point. For now, you’re just being ridiculously impatient.

  • Dec 22, 20106:08 am
    by Dan Feldman


    Frankie D, sure the Pistons could use someone who plays like Summers would if he meets his potential. But that’s not Summers yet — not even close. Judge his playing time by what he is and not what he could be, and I think his minutes are fair.

    And I think the Pistons see Jerebko as more of a small forward long-term, but they had more of a need for a power forward last year.

  • [...] 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. [...]

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