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Archive → April, 2011

The Big Answer?: Will Bynum

DF then: Did his ankle injuries rob him of his all-around game?

At the beginning of last year, Will Bynum did an excellent job of scoring, passing, rebounding and even defending. Then, he was hit with a pair of ankle injuries. When he came back, he was more the one-dimensional scorer he appeared to be the season before.

So, I want to know whether that early-season production was skewed by a small sample size or derailed by injury. Bynum says his ankles are fine, so we should know the answer early.

DF now: Not as much as I had hoped

Bynum doesn’t get enough credit for his passing, and his man-on-man defense became manageable. So, I think I’d guess his ankle injuries held him back last year.

But he never consistently displayed such an all-around game. Sure, he had few-game spurts, but that’s all he had last year, too. It would take major improvement for him to be capable of doing it more often.

PH then: Can he win the starting point guard job?

The Pistons maintain that there is open competition at all spots. Rodney Stuckey is the presumed starter at point guard, but the Pistons have also expressed a desire to “return to their roots” and focus on the blue-collar style that has won the franchise three titles.

Bynum, the unheralded guy who has had to fight for everything in his career, better embodies that philosophy than Stuckey, the first round pick who was handed a starting job two years ago and shown little improvement.

PH now: Kind of

Bynum was finally given an opportunity to start when Rodney Stuckey was benched for insubordination late in the season. Then, just a couple games in, Bynum’s season was finished after he injured his knee.

Bynum isn’t a starter in this league, but he’s a very good, energetic backup who will push the pace, put pressure on the defense, score points and set up teammates by relentlessly attacking the paint. He has flaws for sure, but he played as hard as any Piston this season and has a reasonable contract. He’s fun to watch and worth having around.

Arnie Kander declares Jonas Jerebko’s right Achilles tendon healed

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

There is great news on the Jerebko front. The torn right Achilles tendon that forced him to miss the entire season is healed and all that’s left for Jerebko to complete rehab is to gain strength in his legs, according to Pistons strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander.

I think everyone believed Jonas Jerebko would be ready for the start of next season, even if it begins on time, anyway. But the confirmation is certainly nice, as is this:

When the fans next see Jerebko he will be 20 pounds heavier.

“But he still moves as well as he did before,” Kander said.

Kander also said today:

The team was pretty healthy going into the off-season and there weren’t any lingering health issues.

The Big Answer?: Austin Daye

DF then: Is he really mentally stronger?

At media day, Austin Daye didn’t look any bigger or stronger than he did last season, but I’ll take the Pistons’ word that he gained 10 pounds of muscle. My bigger question is whether Daye has grown mentally.

To be honest, I don’t think he has the edge necessary to compete in high-level situations. Maybe he’ll develop it, and he’ll have time. The Pistons won’t have many crucial moments anytime soon.

Still, I’d like to see at least some progress in that regard this season.

DF now: Yes, but…

There’s still more work to do.

Daye showed a lot more resiliency when opponents got physical with him this year. I was impressed by his ability to make shots late in close games, too.

But his body language wasn’t always great, and he showed up late to the Philadelphia practice. He’s not as mature as he needs to become, but there’s still plenty of time to get there.

Daye made steps this year, and I’m pleased with that. Still, I might have the same question about him heading into next year.

PH then: What will he learn from T-Mac?

Austin Daye is not strong enough, athletic enough or good enough for us to expect him to ever have Tracy McGrady-like production. But he, like McGrady, is a really tall wing player, has a nice jumper and can put the ball on the floor pretty well for a guy his height.

If I could choose any player for Daye to watch offensively, it would be T-Mac, simply to learn how McGrady effectively uses his body on drives and takes advantage of his height to get pretty clean looks even on contested shots.

PH now: Not much

It’s not that McGrady wasn’t a good teammate, he really seemed to be. It’s just that with McGrady at point guard so much this season, Daye didn’t play behind T-Mac at small forward as much as I thought he would at first.

Daye showed flashes of potential. He’s the best pure shooter on the team, he can put the ball on the floor and he’s a bothersome defender because of his length, even if he gets pushed around a lot by small forwards and power forwards alike.

I don’t really have a good feel for what his best future position is or what his ceiling is, but I like his temperament, like his shot and like his dog.

John Kuester hasn’t met with Joe Dumars

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press called John Kuester and found out the coach still hasn’t had his end-of-year meeting with Joe Dumars:

Kuester said he doesn’t know when he will sit down with Dumars to discuss his future and hasn’t been given an indication one way or the other.

"I’m quite sure we will talk soon," Kuester said.

Kuester’s absence isn’t that unusual. The only members of the coaching staff in the area are assistant Pat Sullivan and advance scout Bill Pope. Dumars returned this week from scouting overseas, and the rest of the front office is going through draft preparations — although no decision has been made yet if they will bring in prospects before the pre-draft combine, which starts May 17 in Chicago.

The meeting could occur at anytime, and I doubt it will change the inevitable. I can’t see Kuester returning for a third season.

Detroit Pistons Draft Dreams: Reggie Jackson

Boston College guard Reggie Jackson  hasn’t hired an agent and his name has been everywhere from mid first round to late first round to early second round in mock drafts. He’s not the biggest name out there, but if he stays in and somehow falls, he’d be a fantastic pick for the Pistons with the first of their second rounders.

Info

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, junior G from Boston College

Key stats: 18.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three

Projected: Late first/early second round

How would he help the Pistons?

A big guard with the ability to play the point who shot 50 percent overall and over 40 percent from three? Sign me up. I actually have no idea why Jackson isn’t considered a lock for the first round right now.

He is a long-armed and athletic player who can shoot and who has point guard ability, although BC needed him to do a lot of scoring for them. He’d represent great value for the Pistons if he fell to them early in the second round and I see no downside to taking him if he stays in the draft and that happens. The project big men who might be hanging around in the second round are nice, but I’d much rather take my chances on a player like Jackson developing with his size and shooting ability than hope that a skinny four-year center like Keith Benson or JaJuan Johnson not only develops, but can add enough weight to make a NBA rotation. I like both of those guys, but I think the odds heavily favor a player like Jackson, who wouldn’t have the added pressure of needing to bulk up just to be able to get on the court.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

Well, the first reason he wouldn’t help them is he probably won’t be there. As I said, I can’t imagine that in a weak draft, a PG prospect like Jackson won’t move into the first round.

The only real downside to drafting him would mean the Pistons would have tougher roster decisions to make. They’d essentially have to choose between keeping Jackson and Terrico White, since it would be unlikely the team would carry two young, unproven PG prospects. If they took Jackson and he proves to have some potential during camp to play and help the team, they’d also have to make a decision on Rodney Stuckey. Competition from players behind him, whether that would be a player like White or Jackson or incumbent backup Will Bynum, would mean Stuckey would either see decreased minutes or they’d have to clear minutes at SG for hm. I don’t think any of those scenarios are necessarily bad things, but taking a guard like Jackson makes the roster more complex than just taking a big man and throwing him into the mix.

What are others saying?

From DraftExpress:

Much of Jackson’s development since last season can be attributed to the way he utilizes his athleticism. Standing 6’3 with a giant wingspan, but an underdeveloped frame, Jackson has excellent size for a point guard, and while he does a lot of scoring at the college level, he has the makings of a potential floor general on the NBA level if he improves his ability to orchestrate an offense. He took a big step towards that end by learning how to play at different speeds, something that he didn’t do effectively last season. That change has allowed him to cut down on his mistakes considerably, yielding his impressive 2.9 assists-to-turnover ratio. Slowing the game down and using his excellent quickness to exploit seams within the flow of the offense instead of using it to force action, Jackson has looked terrific in the open floor and in most half court situations early this season.

From ESPN:

Jackson is one of the true sleepers in this year’s draft. He’s coming off a terrific season at Boston College where he averaged 18 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.3 rpg and shot an impressive 42 percent from three. He’s long, athletic, has great quickness, can run a team and shoot the basketball. Those types of players are typically lottery picks at the end of the day. Scouts have been a little bit slower on the uptake with Jackson, but every NBA team I spoke with has him as a solid first-round pick. A few have him in the lottery. He’s also the type that could really rise with terrific workouts. I expect he’ll stay in the draft.

From NBADraft.net:

It all starts with Jackson’s arms. Despite being 6’3, his incredible 7 foot wingspan allows him to play significantly taller … Good foot speed and length make Jackson a terrific defender.

Hickory High’s Similarity Scores

Previously

NBA All-Stars dominating playoff scoring

I’ve been more glued to non-Pistons playoff basketball this year than ever before, and I’ve noticed one theme: star players are carrying an extra load. If you’re interested, I wrote about that for Basketball Prospectus today.

Which coaches have endured the most drama during a single season?

A 30-win season is certainly not good by any standard, but John Kuester‘s 2010-11 record as coach of the Pistons is pretty run of the mill as far as bad seasons go.

But when you combine the record the tumultuous nature of the season — the team in flux because of uncertain ownership, the alleged player boycott in Philadelphia, the banishment and then reinstatement of Rip Hamilton — Kuester had a really bad season.

A few times this season, especially around the time the boycott happened, I wrote that the extent of the insubordination of players seemed unprecedented. I decided to try and search around for some other coaching seasons that can compete with Kuester’s for overall disastrousness. Now, this isn’t just about wins and losses. I could simply list the coaches of the teams with the worse individual records and call it a day. I’m looking for seasons that saw coaches deal with unbelievable amounts of off-court stuff that helped torpedo their seasons. Here were the examples that stuck out most in my mind, but feel free to add your additions in the comments. I think Kuester’s has to be near the top of the list, because mutinies are just so crazy to think about, but I don’t think anyone can touch the gentleman who leads off this group.

P.J. Carlesimo, Golden State Warriors, 1997-98

Carlesimo was easily the first name that came to mind when thinking about the absolute worst seasons a coach could have. I’m sure everyone knows what happened between Carlesimo and Latrell Sprewell, but for those who weren’t following the NBA in 1997, here’s a refresher:

Three days after being fined for missing a team flight and arriving late to Salt Lake City the night before a game, Latrell Sprewell let Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo know that it was best to leave him alone.

“I don’t want to hear it today,” Sprewell said after Carlesimo asked him to throw crisper passes during a practice.

Tensions had been boiling between the two. Three weeks earlier, Carlesimo yanked Sprewell from a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, calling him a joke, because Sprewell was laughing in the huddle during a timeout. The Lakers held a big lead at the time.

Today, Carlesimo was warned by Sprewell not to approach him. When the coach ignored the caveat, Sprewell grabbed Carlesimo by the throat for 10-15 seconds before the other players stepped in. About 20 minutes later, Sprewell returned to throw punches at the coach. He landed a glancing blow.

That happened in Carlesimo’s first season as Warriors coach, a season in which he won just 19 games. Even with the unprecedented alleged mutiny Kuester faced this season, I don’t think any coach will ever “top” the overall wretchedness of Carlesimo’s 1997-98 season.

Rick Carlisle, Indiana Pacers, 2004-05

Miraculously, this team managed to win 44 games and win a playoff series. Those things are a testament to Carlisle’s coaching. But if it weren’t for one of the ugliest night’s in NBA history in November 2004, this team was capable of so much more.

This, of course, is the season that the Palace brawl helped dismantle a Pacers team that was young and talented enough to be a legit threat to Detroit’s spot atop the Eastern Conference. After losing to Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season, the Pacers added Stephen Jackson to an already talented core group that won 61 games the year before. Then, of course, the brawl happened, Indiana lost Ron Artest for the season and Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal for huge parts of it. Carlisle and the Pacers were so desperate for bodies while coping with the suspensions that they even brought in Michael Curry and started him in seven games. Other names who saw action on that team were Britton Johnson, Tremaine Fowlkes (Hey! Another former Piston!), Eddie Gill, John Edwards (not to be confused with this guy) and Marcus Haislip.

Carlisle deserves tremendous credit for molding this team in the face of great turmoil into a scrappy bunch that held things together until O’Neal and Jackson got back. But the pre-Brawl Pacers were talented, young at key positions, good defensively and deep. They appeared to primed for many years of contending for titles. During this season, their window was slammed shut shockingly.

M.L. Carr, Boston Celtics, 1996-97

Boston had four players who started at either power forward or center at different points in the season and shot 44 percent or worse: Antoine Walker (42 percent), Frank Brickowski (43 percent), Dino Radja (44 percent) and Alton Lister (41 percent). But it was all for Timmy.

In one of the most blatantly obvious incidents of tanking in NBA history, the league’s flagship franchise, coached by the team’s general manager M.L. Carr, trotted out the likes of Stacy King, Marty Conlon and Todd Day, among others, increasing the odds the Celtics would win the lottery and nab Tim Duncan to give them their much-needed interior presence.

Instead, Boston ended up with the fourth pick, taking Chauncey Billups, who new coach Rick Pitino gave up on after half a season. Walker became the anchor of their interior by proudly chucking up 3-pointers at about a 30 percent clip for the next decade or so. And Carr, who now had the distinction of overseeing the worst season in Boston Celtics history, was re-assigned to the Celtics corporate development office and later oversaw a WNBA team in Charlotte.

Frank Hamblen, Los Angeles Lakers, 2004-05

After the 2004 Pistons effectively ended the Lakers mini-dynasty in the early 2000s, Shaq was traded, Phil Jackson retired while roasting Kobe Bryant in a book on his way out and the Lakers turned to respected former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich to take over the Bryant-led version of the operation.

Rudy T quit halfway through the season, however, with the Lakers at an OK 24-19 mark. Then Frank Hamblen took over and went 10-29 the rest of the way.

Hamblen was just an interim guy, but I don’t think anyone expected the bottom to quickly fall out on the Lakers like that. So what went wrong? Other than re-adjusting to life without Shaq and Jackson while Bryant was finding his way as a team leader (a road that was bumpy for him for a couple of years), the fact that Chucky Atkins led the team in minutes played was a good indicator of why L.A. didn’t win more. At least they got Andrew Bynum out of it with their lottery pick, though.

Ron Rothstein, Detroit Pistons, 1992-93

Rothstein’s 40-42 record is mediocre, but he was in over his head when he moved from the broadcast booth on local Pistons games to the sidelines.

In his lone season coaching the team, Rothstein only had to deal with following in the footsteps of legendary Chuck Daly. Daly’s shadow still looms large as the greatest coach in the history of the organization and one of the greatest coaches of all time, so imagine taking over the year after he left. Daly’s departure also gave Rothstein another headache: minus Daly, Dennis Rodman’s mentor and father figure, Rodman became increasingly erratic and difficult to deal with. In February of that season, Rodman was discovered sleeping the Palace parking lot with a gun.

On the court, the team also suffered an identity crisis, moving away from its defensive roots. The Pistons had brought in offensive-minded players like Orlando Woolridge and Brad Sellers the previous season to try and add new life to the veteran team. It predictably didn’t work out well. Sellers was gone before the season started and Woolridge was traded during Rothstein’s first season for Alvin Robertson (Robertson was dumped the following season after he attacked director of player personnel Billy McKinney). More finesse players like Terry Mills and Gerald Glass also joined the roster under Rothstein and didn’t really mesh with the old guard. Veteran players like Bill Laimbeer and Mark Aguirre began to show their age, as did Isiah Thomas, who only shot 42 percent from the field (a career low) and 30 percent from three that season.

The bottom didn’t fully fall out until the next season when Thomas suffered what turned out to be a career-ending injury, Laimbeer retired just 11 games into the season and Rodman was traded for Sean Elliot. But the Pistons were well on their way to the bottom during Rothstein’s only season as coach.

New York Knicks pick up option on Chauncey Billups

With Chauncey Billups having an injury plagued season and possibly not being as well suited to Mike D’Antoni’s offense as a more up-tempo point guard would be, along with the fact that the final year of his contract is pricey, there was at least some speculation that the New York Knicks would decline Billups’ option and allow him to become a free agent. This understandably had some Pistons fans excited, hoping maybe the team and Billups would be interested in a Ben Wallace-style reunion as Billups finishes out his career.

Unfortunately, it won’t happen this offseason. The Knicks decided to pick up Billups’ option yesterday. From Marc Berman of the NY Post:

Billups could have been waived by tomorrow’s deadline and bought out for $3.7 million. The savings, however, would have brought the Knicks under the salary cap by, at best, $8 million, and they would have been in dire need of a point guard amid a bare free-agent crop.

“We have made a decision to keep Chauncey Billups for the upcoming 2011-12 season,” Walsh said in a statement.

“Chauncey, Amar’e [Stoudemire] and Carmelo are a great nucleus, as we continue to look to improve our team going into the offseason. Chauncey is an extremely talented and experienced point guard — we are very happy to have him back.”

As nice as it would’ve been to see Billups back in Detroit, it was kind of a pipe-dreamy scenario. Billups is aging and does have some flaws, but the Knicks wouldn’t have done better on the free agent market during a thin year for point guards and they are basically devoid of assets to make more trades after giving up nearly every tradable piece on their team save for Landry Fields in the Carmelo Anthony trade. New York would’ve been crazy to let him go, particularly since he will now have the added value of being a large expiring contract during the season that might help them if another team wants to unload a long-term deal to a useful player in a trade.

Did John Kuester lose the Pistons when they blew a lead in their season-opener?

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News appeared on Sekou Smith’s Hang Time Podcast and, among other things, discussed how John Kuester lost the team (hat tip: Steve Kays):

When you start off 0-5, and to be honest, that’s where he lost this team, he lost this team when they started off 0-5. When you blow a seven-point lead in a minute and 41 seconds against the New Jersey Nets in the season opener. Sekou, when I tell you, the locker room was like a morgue after that game. I said to myself, “This might kill them for the rest of the season.” And they never got over that.

I’m not saying Goodwill is wrong. He’s talking about how the players perceived the loss, and they certainly could have become irreversibly upset with Kuester because of that and the next four games.

But Detroit’s loss to the Nets was not Kuester’s fault. As Patrick commented on my game review:

I don’t see how anyone could watch the game and think that coaching is the reason the Pistons lost. These are the reasons, as Feldman noted in his post:

- Missed 5-of-7 FTs down the stretch.

- Three guys stood and watched as Devin Harris dove on the floor to tip the ball to Morrow for the game-winning three.

Kuester didn’t make perfect coaching decisions all the time. But if the team made four of those free throws or maybe decided to go to the floor to pursue that loose ball (or maybe not collapse in the lane and leave one of the league’s best three-point shooters all alone for that matter), they win.

Grant Hill alleges the Detroit Pistons mismanaged his ankle injury, possibly due to standard Isiah Thomas set

Appearing on Jason Whitlock’s podcast, Grant Hill said the Pistons “mismanaged” his injury during his final season in Detroit:

“I don’t think anybody really knows I started to have ankle problems at the end of the 1999-2000 season, probably mid-March,” Hill said. “I was still able to go out and play. I still played well, but I was getting a lot of treatment. It was certainly bothering me. As we got closer to the end of the season, my ankle was really getting worse. I was missing practice. To the point where we had a nationally televised game against Philadelphia and I just pulled myself. My ankle was just killing me. We get back, we get an MRI. They say it’s a bone bruise.”

Hill rested the final three games of the regular season and returned to the lineup for the Miami playoff series.

“It’s still bothering me,” Hill said. “I pull myself in the third quarter. They put me on some heavy medication and we had a long break between Game 1 and Game 2. While I was on this medication I felt great. Obviously it was masking the pain. Went out and played in Game 2 and I felt a pop in the second quarter, continued on in the third quarter and couldn’t go on. When we got back, we found out it was broken.

“I (had been) told everything was fine. I even found out that certain team doctors were questioning whether I was really hurt, thinking I was soft or whatever. This was after I had pulled myself from Game 2 against the Heat. At that time, when I found out I had broken my ankle, as crazy as this sounds, I was relieved. I finally had some confirmation, I finally had proof that I’m really not making it up.”

Hill said Isiah Thomas’ long shadow might have affected the way the Pistons dealt with his injury.

“There was a standard in Detroit and that standard was Isiah,” Hill said. “He grew up in Chicago. He was tough. He played hurt. He had that great game against the Lakers in the Finals (on a twisted ankle). He was the face of the franchise and I’m sort of the exact opposite. I’m sure there were Isiah supporters within the organization. Who knows? I can only speculate. But it was like no matter what I did, it wasn’t as good as Isiah….

“I wasn’t trying to prove how tough I am. I was just trying to win.”