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Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon say team needs to make in-game adjustments, but that’s not just a matter of coaching

UPDATE: Kuester has responded to the thinly veiled criticisms directed at him by the players. Both the News and Freep have the details. Nothing too revelatory in either story, but I do firmly support Kuester in this situation. The Pistons’ players simply do not play smart enough or hard enough for their second guessing of strategy to be taken seriously.

In the comments on the Austin Daye post over the weekend, DetroitPCB referenced some comments Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva made after losses to Charlotte and Phoenix.

Here are their comments, via Vince Ellis.

After Monday’s loss at Charlotte, when the Pistons almost overcame a 23-point first-half deficit, Charlie Villanueva basically said it was foolhardy to keep trying the same thing when it’s not working. He was talking about the second quarter, when the Bobcats had their own personal dunk contest.

Ben Gordon, repeating similar themes from earlier this season, said pretty much the same thing following Friday night’s 92-75 loss to the Suns.

“I think we played right into their hands,” said Gordon, who scored 19 points. “I think they hustled and stuck to their game plan, but we didn’t make the proper adjustments to beat what they were doing.

“And when you play the same way the entire game, anybody can cover that. … We just made a run, but continued to make some mistakes we’d made throughout the game, and it’s tough to win when you’re not making adjustments.”

At this point, I’m certainly not able to make a spirited defense of the overall job John Kuester has done coaching the Pistons. The only result that matters is that Kuester has won less than a third of his games coaching the team the past season and a half, and on several occasions, the team just looks flat-out unprepared.

But it’s pretty plain to see that Kuester is going to become the scapegoat for the team as it routinely underperforms, and that’s unfair. Here was Ellis’ conclusion in his column:

Gordon has a point. It was apparent early Friday that Suns coach Alvin Gentry was going to go small with 6-foot-6, 215-pound Mickael Pietrus at power forward and 6-11 Channing Frye off the bench.

Despite the size mismatch, the Pistons rarely went into the post to attack. Villanueva could have exploited the matchup and 6-8 Tracy McGrady and 6-9 Tayshaun Prince also can make plays in the post.

I agree that the Pistons failed to take advantage of that small lineup the Suns put on the court, it was the main thing I wrote about in the recap. That’s certainly the responsibility of the coaches, but aren’t the players responsible for not recognizing that too? I mean, Villanueva posted up Pietrus on the first play of that game, got a bucket, and then didn’t set up down low again or demand the ball for the rest of that quarter. Should a coach have to explain to a player like Villanueva, allegedly a power forward, to head to the post and call for the ball when he has a shooting guard on him? Because I feel like that is something Villanueva should instinctively do, whether it was part of the initial gameplan or not. What would Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett do if an opposing team was going to guard them with a shooting guard the whole game? First of all, they’d be personally insulted. Second of all, they’d scream at any teammate who attempted a shot without first going through them in the post.

Villanueva certainly isn’t Duncan or Garnett, but he’s still a big man. He still has a post-up game when he wants to use it. He’s still one of the top scorers on this team. Even if the coaches were explicitly telling them to not pound it into the post, which I doubt, why not just do it anyway? NBA players frequently break off the offense and exploit mismatches on their own without direction from the coach. This was an opportunity for Villanueva to do that, and he didn’t assert himself.

Players make their own adjustments all the time. A big switches out on a guard, so the rest of the players automatically know to clear out and allow the guard to try and beat the big off the dribble. Guard switches onto big on defense, his teammates routinely know to get him the ball. These are basic things that the Pistons, other than maybe Prince and Ben Wallace, routinely do not do.

Against Phoenix, McGrady was getting trapped at halfcourt on every possession as he tried to dribble the ball up, yet no teammates were coming out past the 3-point line to help him or create an easier pass. Consequently, McGrady threw some passes into really tight spots and that led to turnovers. Sure, the coaching staff is partially culpable for that, but aren’t players taught at very low levels of basketball to come out and help a teammate who is getting pinched by two or three guys as he advances the ball? Should Kuester really have to tell veteran players that maybe if their man leaves to go double, get your ass out past the 3-point line and help get the ball up. Players should know that automatically.

The Pistons’ third quarter woes are certainly attributable to a lack of adjustments at halftime (or maybe Kuester is just the world’s worst motivational speaker, so the team always comes out sluggish), and that is surely a coaching issue. Clearly, some information about what the opposing team had success with or struggled with in the first half is consistently not getting conveyed clearly to the players, and that’s a problem that has led to some brutal third quarter performances this season and last. But it’s silly for Villanueva and Gordon to point a finger at no adjustments being made when they’re culprits as well.

Kuester might be doing a poor job as a strategist as coach of the Pistons, but with only a couple exceptions, the Pistons are not a smart basketball team and even the best X’s and O’s coach can’t have success with players who seemingly need to be told to do every little thing before they execute it.

17 Comments

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Hayes. Patrick Hayes said: From @PistonPowered: Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon say team needs to make in-game adjustments, but that’s no… http://bit.ly/e6BumN [...]

  • Jan 3, 20119:48 am
    by LEVI

    Reply

    THERE ARE 2 WAYS TO COACH. A COACH CAN BE AN INCREDIBLE X’S AND O’S TEACHER (EITHER OFFENSIVLEY OR DEFENSIVLEY). OR A COACH CAN BE A STRONG, INSPIRATIONAL LEADER. A COACH WHO IS A GREAT TEACHER HAS TEAMS THAT EXECUTE THIER ASSIGNMENTS NEARLY FLAWLESSLY. COACH WHO HAS INSPIRING LEADERSHIP QUALITIES HAS TEAMS THAT OVERACHIEVE, WINNING MORE GAMES THAT THIER PERSONNEL WOULD SUGGEST THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO WIN. COACH JOHN KUSTER CLEARLY IS NOT A GREAT TEACHER OR INSPIRATIONAL LEADER. THIS TEAM’S ;ACK OF SUCCESS IS THE COACH’S FAULT.

  • Jan 3, 20119:56 am
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    Nah. The team is obviously unbalanced as even they are aware. Q didn’t put this team together. I haven’t seen him do anything that suggests he’s a good coach, but blaming this mess on Q isn’t fair or productive. What do you really hope to get out of this team as it is currently constructed?

  • Jan 3, 20119:57 am
    by jack

    Reply

    How many players can draw those doube teams? McGrady recives these double teams because he is quickly regaining that respect he had from the coaches. His rescent plays is showing that he can still tear teams apart if he is given the opportunity. No offense to stucky, but no coach in this league is going to sit around and try to drawup a gameplan to stop him.

    First he is’nt a McGrady type player and two he only knows one way and thats to get his. Tunnel vision. Even in this stage of his career tmac is better then stucky.

  • Jan 3, 201110:02 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Levi:
    Jeremy said it perfectly. Kuester is not a good coach. But he didn’t assemble the roster, and at the professional level, if players can’t motivate themselves to play hard every night, and many guys on the Pistons can’t, no coach is going to succeed.
    I don’t think Kuester has done anything to prove he should remain on the job. But I can say the same thing about most guys on this roster, who have all pretty much underachieved with only a few exceptions.

  • Jan 3, 201110:04 am
    by jack

    Reply

    It’ no coincidence Prince and Charlie V all say the offense runs better with McGrady running the show. The Pistons now need to learn to reap the rewards of those double teams tmac will garner from here on. Get better spacing on the floor and if you see tmac is  being doubled, move off the ball or curl to the basket to get those easy points or free looks that he will creat.

    No other player in this team can create those looks  except McGrady. He has one bad game and stucky nutrider showup to tell us all about it but the facts are the offense in general has and will run better with the superior Tmac to stucky running the show.

  • Jan 3, 201110:06 am
    by jack

    Reply

    Dumars is not going to sack Kuester especially at this junction of the season and the sale of the team in the air. Plus who are the candidates who standout?.

  • Jan 3, 201110:40 am
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    jack do you even watch the games? Stuckey is the Pistons leading scorer and every coach in the league knows that stopping Stuckey stops the Pistons offense. Therefore every coach in the league sets their defense to force the ball from Stuckey’s hands and to make sure there’s a big between Stuckey and the basket at all times. Further, no one in the world would like to see an effective McGrady play 30 minutes a game more than me. Problem is McGrady has yet to prove he can be effective with that work load. Hope he gets there, but until he does we’re going to have to make do with what he can do, not what we wish he can do.

  • Jan 3, 201110:49 am
    by jack

    Reply

    There you go, thats why the offense has sucked since they’ve told stucky take the reigns. The guyy has no playmaking instinct or skills whatsoever.You just answerd why the offense has been shonky since Billups got traded. Stucky is not a PG and wuill never have the  instinct to be a PG.

  • Jan 3, 201111:14 am
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    My point was that who is he going to pass the ball too? Wallace who can catch but can’t score (teams foul him)? Maxiel who can’t catch the ball? Prince who is also always double teamed (at least lately)? Hamilton, the 27th best shooting guard in the league?  How many assists does Stuckey lose because Hamilton blows wide wide open jump shots all the time? Stuckey and Gordon work well together. Stuckey, Gordon and McGrady on the floor together will probably work really well. Let’s hope we see some of that in 2011. And its obvious jack hasn’t watched any games since Billups was traded.

  • Jan 3, 201111:46 am
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    To contribute something positive to the discussion, I think the subtext to this has as much to do with locker room divisions as coaching. CV and Gordon are close and represent a faction in the locker room we know that. Experience also says that losing tends to create factions (or at least let factionalism leak out of the locker room). So it some ways, its surprising that we haven’t seen more of this. One of the things coaching is supposed to do, however, is to address these issues so that they don’t affect on court performance. The decision (whether it was coaching or higher up) to keep trotting Hamilton out as a starter when it was obviously losing games is a major factor in this. So this is really about the macro issue of coaches not addressing the issues of team cohesion and putting people in a place they may be effective as much as the micro issue of in game adjustments. My thoughts anyway.

  • Jan 3, 201112:04 pm
    by IsraeliPiston

    Reply

    I beg to differ re Stuckey as a PG. He DOES have instincts – but only as a run and gun point guard and not as a Billips half court look alike point guard. Stuckey wants to run – but with Rip and Tayshun he really can’t.

  • Jan 3, 201112:25 pm
    by Jacob

    Reply

    One of the BIG issues that I think Patrick is alluding to is that the Pistons don’t have a defined floor leader. The players need to make in game adjustments almost as most as the coaches do but there is no floor leader to initiate those adjustments. No, there is not much that Coach Q has done particularly well, but I’m afraid that he’ll become the scapegoat for many other problems that are not his doing. The way the roster is constructed we’ve got so many players who don’t have a defined role, inconsistent minutes, old guard vs. new guard, effort only half the time. The great teams in the league have 1-2 guys that have the voice to make in game adjustments and the authority that other guys will follow. The Pistons don’t have anyone with that type of voice or authority at this point. All that to say, they aren’t that far out of the last spot in East playoff race and there is a lot of this season left to play, so we’ll see what happens this year. But to be taken seriously in the future, the roster has got to be reconstructed.

  • Jan 3, 20112:23 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    wow, what a free pass to Q and his staff.

  • Jan 3, 20114:19 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:

    How is this a free pass? I said throughout that he’s a bad coach.

    Why are you giving free passes to players who don’t regularly play hard?

  • Jan 3, 20115:17 pm
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    I say keep Monroe and Daye and blow this b1tch up. By that i mean the coaching staff and all the other players not mentioned. Clean slate.

  • Jan 3, 20117:28 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    i’ve been saying this for a long time, and it’s painfully obvious, so i’ll be concise: A) joe dumars put together a team that cannot compete; gregg popovich, jerry sloan, phil jackson, larry brown… all of these guys would have trouble coaching the pistons into a team that should be taken seriously by anyone. B) because joe has put together such a rotten team, kuester is not on a position to succeed, because his job is to put his players in a position to succeed. that said, he would have a hard time doing a worse job than he’s been doing so far. nobody in their right mind would have ever started daye OR maxiell at PF over monroe or charlie, and he stuck with those two so long as to make the playoffs a near impossibility. C) because of both of those points, i have a hard time blaming anyone for not playing hard enough ever. it would be nice to see them have more pride since they’re being paid so much money to play a game they love, but it’s a lost cause almost every night. it would be like expecting me to last five rounds with muhammad ali in his prime, or like expecting muhammad ali TODAY to last five rounds with me.

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