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Archive → March, 2011

Jason Whitlock defends Isiah Thomas

Thought-provoking as always, Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock defends Isiah Thomas. An excerpt:

It’s fun and it’s good business to ridicule Isiah Thomas. Is it the right thing to do?

He pulled himself up by his boot straps, embraced education, involved himself in sound business decisions throughout his career, maintained a marriage, won championships, invested some of his wealth in the education of others and remained loyal to his family and friends from the west side of Chicago.

A collection of Dennis Rodman stories

Jo-Ann Barnas of the Detroit Free Press talked to many people who knew Dennis Rodman in Detroit and complied their best Rodman stories. This one from Isiah Thomas stood out to me:

"We were standing in the lay-up line, warming up and shooting, and Rodman was standing back and watching everybody shoot. I said, ‘Hey, come on, you have to participate; everybody’s shooting lay-ups, you have to shoot lay-ups, too.’ And he said, ‘I’m just watching the rotations on the basketball.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘Like, when you shoot, your ball spins three times in the air. Joe’s sometimes has 3 1/2 or four times.’

"That’s how far Rodman had taken rebounding, to a totally different level, like off the charts. He knew the rotation of every person that shot on our team — if it spins sideways, where it would bounce, how often it would bounce left or right. He had rebounding down to a science, and I never heard anyone think or talk about rebounding and defense the way he could break it down.

"When you talk about basketball IQ, I’d put Rodman at a genius level."

Definitely read the entire article. All the stories are great, and so is the photo gallery at the top.

Negotiations with Tom Gores frustrating Pistons owner Karen Davidson

Gregg Krupa and Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

In fact, some close to the negotiators say that not only is no agreement imminent, Karen Davidson’s fatigue and frustration are growing.

One source close to Davidson last week said the process is so utterly problematic, she feels as though she has lost control of it. Her concern, in part, is that while Gores continually requires more information, too few details of an agreement are in place, despite more than two months of exclusive negotiations.

Isiah Thomas: Still suffering from small man’s disorder apparently

We made a big deal, rightly so, out of Scottie Pippen’s dumb comments about the Pistons a couple weeks back. Well, in fairness, former Piston Isiah Thomas has now joined him in underselling how good a few of his Hall of Fame opponents were, namely Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.

Thomas is probably the best Pistons player of all time, and some of my favorite memories from childhood involve watching Thomas play. He was a warrior who cared more about winning than perhaps any player except Jordan. Since his playing days, however? Well, his record as a basketball exec speaks for itself and he’s done numerous things to suggest he might be a bit of a jerk. These comments to Bill Reiter of Fox Sports (via Deadspin) do nothing to disprove that jerkish reputation:

“I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “They’re all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even fucking rate. If they were all my size, shit, they wouldn’t even be talked about.”

Now, it’s worth noting that these comments probably aren’t a result of Isiah simply thinking that he was the better player than all three. Bird and Jordan allegedly helped conspire to keep him off the Dream Team. And Johnson, who Thomas was friends with when they were players, blasted Thomas in a recent book, which Thomas obviously wasn’t happy about.

Reiter’s piece is lengthy and well worth the read for Thomas fans, of which I still consider myself despite the often childish way he has conducted himself over the years. I’m generally not surprised when people who are as competitive as Thomas was on the court turn out to be kind of petty off of it. The same can certainly be said about Jordan and Pippen, among others. The difference is, Thomas has seemed to burn more bridges than just about any other former NBA great, which is why he’s coaching a small college team rather than working in the league.

Quick hooks of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon shouldn’t overshadow Pistons’ total team collapse at Indiana

John Kuester didn’t show much patience tonight for the $95 million men.

When Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster had as many putbacks (two for five points, including McRoberts’ and-one) as the Pistons had defensive rebounds early in the second quarter, Kuester removed Charlie Villanueva just 2:39 into the forward’s night.

Ben Gordon, who also started the second quarter, made it just 1:03 longer. Kuester pulled him after Gordon accumulated no stats besides a turnover.*

*Although, if Kuester reads this blog, maybe he pulled Gordon for not shooting.

Kuester replaced Villanueva with DaJuan Summers, who has never shown he can be an adequate NBA player, and Gordon with Richard Hamilton, who had already made three turnovers. Obviously, that didn’t solve any of Detroit’s problems.

Detroit committed 18 turnovers (tied for a season high and led by Hamilton’s six) and continued to allow bit players like McRoberts (15 points and 13 points) and Foster (seven points and seven rebounds) to dominate inside during a 111-101 loss to the Pacers.

Kuester’s lack of faith in the $95 million men shouldn’t distract from the Pistons’ larger (although, not largest*) problems. They’re an already-bad team that has given up on the season, making them dreadful to watch. It’s reached the point that Fox Sports Detroit’s technical difficulties in the second half served as a welcome relief.

*That would involve their pending sale and salary structure, matters too grim to devolve into after a loss like this.

The Pistons didn’t receive high-level energy tonight from anyone – although Greg Monroe (14 points and nine rebounds) and Chris Wilcox (10 points and seven rebounds) came closest. That’s particularly disappointing because Detroit had three days rest before the game. Rest should help an older team like the Pistons, who entered tonight’s contest 4-2 in games after at least three days off.

If the off days actually aided Detroit tonight, I fear how ugly their remaining eight games – which feature no more than one day off and two back-to-backs – will get.

In fact, Detroit trailed by 25 in the fourth quarter before a late rally made the score look reasonable and padded the stats of Rodney Stuckey (24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds) and Hamilton (19 points, five assists and five rebounds).

Those numbers, much like the Pistons’ tanks at this point, fit the same description:

Empty.

Chris Wilcox can really pass

Chris Wilcox had only two assists tonight, but they were impressive. Both went to Greg Monroe, and both gave Monroe the ball in perfect position to make a layup.

Wilcox has flashed his passing ability a lot more this season, especially in the second half, than he did last year. Last season, his passes were like a typical big man’s – forgettable.

Is this a newly developed skill for him? Or is it that under the radar? I hadn’t heard about it or seen it until this season.

Whichever team pays Wilcox next year would receive an offensive boost if it incorporates Wilcox’s passing into its game plan.

Demoted from ESPN, Pistons and Pacers will have their resiliency tested on FSD+

Essentials

Teams: Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons

Date: March 30,  2011

Time: 7 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Records

Pistons: 26-47

Pacers: 33-42

Probable starters

Pistons:

Pacers:

  • Darren Collison
  • Paul George
  • Danny Granger
  • Tyler Hansbrough
  • Roy Hibbert

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons –6.5

Over/under: 201

Score: Pacers win, 103.75-97.25

Three things to watch

1. Fox Sports Detroit Plus

I know we have the station listed above, but I just wanted to remind everyone this game has been moved from ESPN. Jumping back to what Patrick wrote in August about this game:

I don’t understand how people can watch the Pacers on local TV, let alone national TV.

I guess they can’t, Patrick. I guess they can’t.

2. Terrico White?

Will Bynum will miss the game for family reasons, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News. I haven’t seen anything new on Tracy McGrady’s various ailments. If he can’t play, who will get point-guard minutes behind Rodney Stuckey? Could Terrico White finally make his NBA debut? I know it’s a longshot – I’m not even sure he’s healthy enough to play yet – but it might be possible.

3. Pistons seeking back-to-back wins over Indiana

In its last game, Detroit beat the Pacers.

The Pistons haven’t beaten the same team in consecutive games since topping the Pacers twice in December 2007. In consecutive games against the same opponent since then, Detroit split with the Bucks, lost twice to the Raptors and split with the Knicks.

What does this mean? Nothing, nothing at all.

Pregame Reading

Pistons center Greg Monroe named most improved rookie by ESPN’s David Thorpe

David Thorpe named his most-improved rookie teams, and guess who won his rookie Most Improve Player. Greg Monroe, of course:

This time last year, scouts were mixed on Monroe. They liked his talent, skill and length but had questions surrounding his inconsistent motor. Would he engage as a rebounder? Would he be a paint presence? Would he find ways to be a significant producer consistently?

As Pistons fans now know, the answers to those questions are yes, yes and yes. Monroe is entrenched in the starting lineup, one of just a handful of first-round picks who can say that. He’s a double-double threat every night now after not getting his first until Jan. 4 — a 14-and-11 game against the Lakers in L.A. Since then, he has recorded 17 more and missed a double-double by one rebound or point in four other games.

Monroe has learned to compete harder and for longer stretches, and he’s doing so while fouling less often. In fact, he rarely has had to worry about being in foul trouble, which is gold for a starting rookie center. He has gone from a big guy with questions about his future to the big guy his franchise will build around. That makes Monroe our 2011 MIP.

Celtics walked out on the Pistons before Detroit ever walked out on the Bulls

If you write about how awesome the Bad Boys were, especially if you expose the Bulls’ continuous cheap shots at them, I’ll probably link to you. Now up, Terry Foster of The Detroit News. Besides some standard, although always interesting to me, explanations about why the Pistons weren’t totally wrong to walk out on the Bulls, Foster reveals a little-known story.

I always thought the Celtics (besides Kevin McHale) just left the floor quickly after the 1988 Eastern Conference finals. Foster explains that wasn’t exactly the case:

People forget or never knew that the Celtics walked out on the Pistons in the 1988 Eastern Conference finals when the Pistons advanced to their first NBA Finals. All the networks showed, however, were clips of Kevin McHale telling Thomas to not be content with just being in the NBA Finals, but to go win it. That conversation only happened because McHale and Thomas had been acquaintances since high school. Meanwhile, many of McHale’s teammates were already in the locker rooms, leaving Adrian Dantley standing at the free-throw line with about a minute left.

Ben Gordon should shoot more

I want to clarify something about yesterday’s post on Ben Gordon: He’s in a scoring slump, not a shooting slump.

In his last eight game – the same sample I examined yesterday – Gordon’s effective field-goal percentage has been 64.3. That’s the fourth-best eight-game stretch of his career (behind two overlapping stints in March 2008 and a run that uses seven of his previous eight games and the one prior).

In the last eight games, Gordon’s teammates combined effective field-goal percentage has been 51.7. His teammates have also attempted 12.3 shots per 36 minutes to Gordon’s 9.1.


Those charts shouldn’t be so out of proportion.

If Gordon shoots more, meaning he’s not as picky with his shot selection, his effective field-goal percentage would likely drop. That’s because he’s probably taking only high-percentage shots now.

But if he shot more, he’d be taking shots from his teammates, who have been shooting at a much-worse clip than he has. That would help Detroit.

Basically, the numbers show Gordon has been too tentative. That probably backs up what most observers of his game have seen, too. It’s certainly the case for me.

There’s an effective middle ground here. For Gordon and the Pistons to reach it, he should shoot more.

A couple great John Salley stories from his first training camp with the Pistons

Keith Langlois talked to John Salley about playing for Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson, and Salley told two fantastic stories about his first NBA training camp.

The first:

“Chuck had this thing called a five-lap mile,” Salley smiled. “I used to be a runner. We had to run and the guards would take off and then the big men would take off. Back in the day, guys would come to training camp to get in shape. Not like now – you’d better come to camp in shape.

“So the guards take off and I start stretching my legs and I hear, ‘Young fella, pace yourself.’ Joe (Dumars) and Isiah (Thomas) take off and I’m right behind them. They turn around and look at each other and they take off faster, so I pick up faster. The last lap, it was me, Joe and Isiah – you would have thought it was the Olympics. Dennis had asthma, so he conked out in lap three. Bill Laimbeer was red – not from being angry. I think the beer was coming out of him at that point.

And the second (the use of parentheses might make it even funnier):

“OK, now it’s the next day. Rick Mahorn and Sid Green have a little fight. I don’t know why, but I stand between them and said, ‘C’mon, we’re teammates, man. Let’s get along.’ And Sid punched me in the jaw and Rick kicked me in the leg and they both stood over me and said, ‘Rookie, don’t you ever get in a grown man’s (business).’

“I’m sitting down, looking at the ground, and Chuck’s got his arms crossed and nobody’s helping me. I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ I’m bleeding, I’m on the floor and I’m thinking, ‘This is different (stuff). One, I realized don’t ever show up the vets – ever! Two, stay out of grown folks’ (business).”

Salley has great insights on Daly and Jackson, so be sure to read Langlois’ entire piece for those.