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Archive → October, 2011

Kentucky basketball team didn’t do a good job integrating freshman including Brandon Knight last season

Although there was certainly excitement when Brandon Knight fell to the Pistons in the draft, there were also many who pointed out that, based on Knight’s one college season, he might not be ready to take on a full-time starting point guard spot right away in the NBA the way fellow John Calipari pupils Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall were. Knight had an up and down freshman season, struggling at times with turnovers and shooting the ball, but according to ESPN’s Dana O’Neil, that could’ve been because Kentucky relied too heavily on freshman too soon last season:

UK may have finished the season in the Final Four, but the Cats didn’t start that way. They were a pedestrian 5-5 in the SEC and 17-7 overall out of the gate, losing six of their first seven conference road games. The blame, at the time, went to the freshmen. They weren’t good enough, not living up to the hype and so on.

Truth is, those on the inside say, it had nothing to do with the freshmen.

“We have to take more time and help them along from the beginning,’’ senior Darius Miller said. “We didn’t do a good job of that last year and I think that’s why we struggled. I think a lot of times, we found ourselves standing back and watching them. We thought they had all this talent and hype, so we should be able to just them go. We can’t do that. We have to help them and lead them.’’

Now, the good news is Knight did adjust and get better as the season progressed, particularly in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to Kentucky’s Final Four run, Knight was projected to go outside the lottery in the 15-20 range by most draft sites. Then, bolstered by some big tournament moments as well as a few high profile prospects deciding to stay in school, Knight’s stock soared and he was projected to go as high as No. 3 overall in the draft before falling to the Pistons.

Although his freshman season definitely produced mixed results, the fact that he seemed to learn quickly and get better later in the season should be a positive sign that he can pick up things quickly at the NBA level as well.

Chevette to Corvette No. 43: The 1950-51 Fort Wayne Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 32-36
  • Pythagorean record: 29-39
  • Points scored per game: 84.1 (7th of 11)
  • Points allowed per game: 86.0 (9th of 11)
  • Arena: North Side High School Gym
  • Head coach: Murray Mendenhall

Playoffs

  • Lost in first round to the Rochester Royals, 2-1

Leaders

  • Points per game: Fred Schaus (15.1)
  • Rebounds per game: Larry Foust (10.0)
  • Assists per game: Ken Murray (3.8)

Top player

Fred Schaus

Schaus and Larry Foust both played in the NBA’s first All-Star Game. But Schaus, although he didn’t rebound quite as well as Foust, scored more and with more efficiency.


Key transaction

Drafted George Yardley with No. 7 pick

Yardley was a high-scoring wing from Stanford, an eventual Hall of Famer and an excellent pick. Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel:

When the Fort Wayne Pistons selected George Yardley with the third pick in the 1950 National Basketball Association draft, Pistons General Manager Carl Bennett sent Yardley a telegram at Stanford University.

"Fort Wayne of the National Basketball Association drafted you," Bennett’s telegram said, according to Todd Gould’s book "Pioneers of the Hardwood." "Please call me collect late Tuesday or Wednesday at Harrison 9426 or Anthony 3264. Also advise coach Dean of our choice."

When Yardley received the notice, the Newport, Calif., native had to laugh because he had never heard of Fort Wayne.

It’s no wonder Yardley didn’t join the Pistons right away. Instead, he played AAU basketball, joined the Navy, played volleyball, prepared for the Olympics, broke his hand, missed the Olympics, toured South America and got married.

Finally, three years  later, Yardley joined the Pistons, but that’s a story for a future season.

Trend watch

End of stall era

On Nov. 22, 1950, the Pistons travelled to Minneapolis to play the George Mikan-led and heavily favored Lakers. Stew Thornley:

Fort Wayne controlled the jump and Mikan, flanked by Pollard and Mikkelsen, lumbered into defensive position. But as the trio turned around, they saw Pistons center Larry Foust standing at mid-court with the ball on his hip. And that’s where Foust—and the ball—stayed. Foust was under strict orders from Mendenhall to do nothing until the Lakers came out to play man- to-man.

The officials—Stan Stutz and Jocko Collins—screamed at Mendenhall and the Pistons to play ball. Mendenhall fired back that Minneapolis was playing an illegal zone defense, a charge that Lakers coach Kundla denied.

Meanwhile, the Auditorium crowd of 7,021 began to boo and stomp their feet in response to the inactivity. But Fort Wayne stuck to its game plan as they held the ball for as long as three minutes at a time. When one playing got tired of holding the ball, he’d flip it to a teammate, who would then tuck it under his arm.

The LakersV edge stood at 17-16 entering the fourth quarter. A free throw by Foust tied the scored with 6:10 to go in the game. But Jim Pollard dropped a free throw 12 seconds later to put the Lakers back out front, 18-17.

That score remained as the game entered the final minute. Now it was the Lakers’ turn to stall as Fort Wayne hustled to get the ball back. With nine seconds left, the Pistons forced a turnover as an errant Laker pass sailed out of bounds.

Paul “Curly ” Armstrong took the inbound pass and immediately fed the breaking Foust, who tried to put a running hook shot over Mikan’s outstretched arms. Mikan got a hand on the ball, but Foust’s shot still had enough on it to drop through the rim and give the Pistons a 19-18 lead.

Minneapolis roared back down the floor, but Martin’s shot hit off the rim as the final horn went off, ending the lowest-scoring game in the history of the NBA.

Mikan was game high with 15 points, and he produced the Lakers’ only four field goals of the evening.

The spectators weren’t the only ones fuming. John Kundla commented, “If that’s basketball, I don’t want any part of it.”

“What was wrong with it?” countered Mendenhall. “We won, didn’t we? We wanted to get those giants out in the open where we would have a chance to play basketball, not get our heads kicked in.”

Sportswriter Charlie Johnson called the exhibition a “sports tragedy.” But Minneapolis Tribune columnist Dick Cullum defended the stall as Fort Wayne’s best chance to win: “Therefore, it cannot be criticized for using it. It is a low conception of sports to say that a team’s first duty is to give you a lot of senseless action instead of earnest competition.”

“The name of the game is to win,” added Mikkelsen, “particularly when you’re playing on the road. That may have been the key to it. Since the game was in Minneapolis, Mendenhall had nothing to lose; after all, he wasn’t alienating his fans.”

But alienation of the fans was something that concerned Maurice Podoloff. “It seems to me that the teams showed complete disregard for the interest of the fans by the type of game they played,” said the league president the day after the game.

The NBA didn’t adopt a shot clock until 1954, but Podoloff’s message landed. After this game, which still stands (and likely always will) as the NBA’s lowest-scoring, teams stopped stalling.

Why this season ranks No. 43

The Pistons drafted three players this year – George Yardley in the amateur draft and Bill Sharman and Larry Foust in dispersal drafts – who would become stars. This could’ve been one of the most talented teams in Piston history, even if the top players were too young to compete yet.

But Yardley, as noted above, didn’t join the team for a few years, and Fort Wayne foolishly traded Sharman to the Celtics for Chuck Share. That left only Foust, who had a fine rookie season after Detroit picked him in the Chicago Stags’ dispersal draft.

With Foust and Fred Schaus, the Pistons made the playoffs, where they lost in the first round to a better Rochester Royals team.

Previously

David Stern’s mythical “cancellation” doesn’t mean scheduled games are lost

David Stern “cancelled” the NBA’s first two weeks, but that doesn’t mean the Pistons will miss home games with the Knicks and Pacers and games at the Nets Warriors, Trail Blazers and Lakers – as his been suggested by many.

If the lockout ends, the season isn’t just going to pick where the cancelled games left off.

Not every team had the same number of games scheduled during the first two weeks. Not every team had the same number of home games scheduled during the first two weeks.

Do you really believe the NBA will play a season where some teams play more games than others, where some teams host more games than others?

If the lockout ends in time to play at least a partial season, the entire schedule will certainly be reconfigured. Focusing on first-two-weeks opponents, I think, will prove useless. In fact, I’d guess there’s still time to play 82 games, although crammed into a tight space, if an agreement is reached soon.

Was the handling of the Palace brawl one of the NBA’s worst decisions of the last 12 years?

Chris Bernucca, writing for Sheridan Hoops, looks at 12 moments over the last 12 years when the NBA made less than stellar decisions, including the aftermath of the Palace brawl, which essentially destroyed a very good Pacers team:

The ugliest moment in NBA history took place Nov. 19, 2004. And it all started when The Hell With World Peace – sorry, I mean Ron Artest - got the bright idea to go into the stands and beat up a fan, triggering a scene that looked like a reprise of the 12th Street Riots. Steven Jackson joined Artest in a tag team, Jermaine O’Neal cold-cocked one brazen fan and Jamaal Tinsley was swinging a dustpan at anyone in his way. How chaotic was it? Rasheed Wallace and World Wide Wes were among those attempting to restore order. And to top off matters, the kneejerk studio analysts at ESPN actually said the players were justified to enter the stands.

When David Stern handed out the suspensions, the Pacers had fewer players than Gene Hackman’s Hickory High squad. And less than six months removed from the worst-rated NBA Finals, the dreaded “thug league” moniker was back, accompanied by irrefutable, unforgettable video. As Bill Walton so eloquently put it, “This is a disgrace.”

Rodney Stuckey has Twitter, according to Jonas Jerebko

Jonas Jerebko tweeted:

follow @himon1 the real Rodney Stuckey RT’ it

Rodney Stuckey’s Twitter feed is pretty standard, but there’s an occasional gem:

Getting them toes done mayne!!!

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Chevette to Corvette No. 44: The 2000-01 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 32-50
  • Pythagorean record: 36-46
  • Offensive rating: 100.0 (25th of 29)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.8 (8th of 29)
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: George Irvine

Leaders

  • Points per game: Jerry Stackhouse (29.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Ben Wallace (13.2)
  • Assists per game: Jerry Stackhouse (5.1)
  • Steals per game: Ben Wallace (1.3)
  • Blocks per game: Ben Wallace (2.3)

Top player

Ben Wallace

In 2000-01, the Detroit Pistons could’ve found themselves at their lowest point. Joe Dumars had just taken over and the team immediately lost its franchise player, Grant Hill, in free agency. That, as we know, turned out to be a blessing. Anyone who watches sports and pays attention to how teams are built has, by now, realized the role luck plays in building a contending team. The Pistons, like every other championship caliber team, are no different. They had a lot of luck mixed in with some savvy moves, and that luck started in 2000-01.

The Pistons were lucky that Hill signed a massive contract in Orlando. Severe ankle injuries caused him to miss more games than he played over the life of that deal. Had he re-signed with the Pistons, the team would’ve been stuck paying huge money to a player who couldn’t stay on the court.

The Pistons were lucky that they were largely rebuffed in free agency. After Hill made it clear he was leaving, one of the free agents the team vigorously pursued as a replacement was young Milwaukee Bucks small forward Tim Thomas. Thomas had become a key reserve on an up and coming Bucks team. I remember being at a concert that summer (can’t remember which one) and Dumars was there with Thomas, trying to convince him to become a Piston. Pursuing Thomas made sense — he was young, improving and played the same position as Hill. But I think we can all agree that had the Pistons successfully signed him, their ability to build a championship team would’ve been hindered with him taking up $8-$14 million per year of their budget as he did over the life of his contract that he signed with the Bucks.

But the biggest stroke of luck is that a player the Pistons did sign as part of the Hill sign and trade with Orlando, Wallace, turned into a better player than most would’ve reasonably expected. Wallace was a good player, a tireless worker who crashed the boards with ferocity and brought energy every time he touched the court for Washington and Orlando. The problem for Wallace is that he was always crunched in a numbers game. He was stuck behind bigger name players like Juwan Howard, Gheorge Muresan (don’t laugh … big Gheorge was effective before injuries wrecked his career) and Chris Webber in Washington. He finally became a starter in Orlando, but still only played 24 minutes per game. Wallace’s 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in those 24 minutes in Orlando suggested he would get better with more time on the court.

In his first season in Detroit, he finished second in the league in rebounding behind Dikembe Mutombo. His defensive rating of 94 was, at the time, his career best (he’d later best that mark three times).

Most who remember this season remember Jerry Stackhouse’s pursuit of the scoring title, and I’ll admit, that was fun to watch in what was a bad season. But through acquiring Wallace, Dumars not only landed the cornerstone player who would help return the team to its defensive roots, he also replaced his franchise player with another in the same offseason, which is truly a miraculous feat, lucky or otherwise.

Key transaction

Signed and traded Grant Hill to Orlando for Wallace and Chucky Atkins

This was obviously the biggest move, but we’ve already talked about the impact. So let’s go with the runner-up.

Traded Jerome Williams and Eric Montross to Toronto for Corliss Williamson, Tyrone Corbin, Kornel David and a 2005 First Round Pick

The acquisition of Wallace, a rebounding, defending bundle of energy, kind of made the team’s incumbent rebounding, defending, bundle of energy in Williams expendable. With Wallace under contract, there was little reason to commit to Williams long-term when it was likely thought at the time that both guys would occupy similar roles (remember … it’s doubtful the Pistons fully understood what they had in Wallace at the time). So they shipped Williams and stiff big man Montross to Toronto for salary flexibility — Williamson was a free agent to be while David and Corbin were throw-ins — and a future pick.

Williamson, however, turned out to be a great fit in Detroit. As a tweener forward, Williamson wasn’t quick enough to guard opposing small forwards, but what the Pistons discovered is that his mix of strength, quickness and post moves made him a tough matchup for just about every backup big man in the league. Williamson averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game after getting traded to Detroit. He was re-signed in the offseason and became one of the top reserves in the NBA over the next three seasons.

Trend watch

Jerry Stackhouse’s scoring assault

OK, admittedly, I liked watching Stackhouse try to basically score every time he touched the ball in the 2000-01 season. It was fun to watch and with the Pistons having no shot at contending for anything, why not see how much their best individual perimeter scorer could get each night? But let’s be clear: he was in no way an efficient offensive player. He shot 40 percent from the field and he was quite capable of putting up a hideous statline (like this game, for example).

The Pistons needed Stackhouse to shoot a lot because they simply didn’t have any other offensive threat before the trade for Williamson. The offense often consisted of Stackhouse dribbling around and barreling into the lane in hopes of drawing contact. He was pretty good at that, getting to the line 10.1 times per game. And it wasn’t like he was completely selfish — he did lead the team in assists.

It’s not particularly fun to watch a get-mine type of scorer, even if the Pistons did need big scoring from Stackhouse to have any shot at winning, but Stackhouse undoubtedly had some memorable performances as he fell just short of the scoring title (finishing second to Allen Iverson). The best was his team-record 57 points against Chicago late in the season. I remember watching that game, rooting for Stack to get to 60. He had some shots at it late in the game, but couldn’t get them to go down. I wouldn’t choose to watch that type of basketball all the time, but for one season, Stackhouse undeniably delivered some entertaining moments.

Why this season ranks No. 44

Unlike the current version of the Pistons, the 2000-01 team offered some hope for a quicker turnaround. Wallace was, at worst, going to provide the team with toughness, rebounding and shot-blocking, three areas where the team had been lacking for over a decade. Stackhouse was still a gunner, but he played extremely hard and there was some hope that he could be a key piece if the talent around him was upgraded. Williamson was a hard piece to figure out, but in his partial season with the Pistons he looked talented and tough.

There were certainly question marks — George Irvine wasn’t a long-term solution as coach (and he was fired after the season) and first round draft pick Mateen Cleaves showed that although leadership and intangibles can make a great college point guard, it’s hard to succeed at the NBA level minus a reliable jumpshot.

But this season could’ve been much, much worse. Look around the league at teams that lost their biggest star throughout history. Toronto after Vince Carter or Chris Bosh? Cleveland after LeBron? Orlando after Shaq? Milwaukee after Kareem? Portland after Walton? Recovery is not easy. The Pistons lost Hill, one of the league’s biggest stars on and off the court in the 1990s, a perennial All-Star and one of the NBA’s most popular players. It could’ve been years before the team sniffed contention again. Instead, because of some shrewd, luck, savvy — whatever you want to call them — moves, the Pistons were able to relatively quickly recover from what could’ve been a ruinous blow. The pieces for long-term contention started coming together this season, even if the record was still bad.

Previously

Grant Hill calls Tracy McGrady the most talented player of generation, remembers Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, backtracks

Grant Hill:

@TheReal_TMAC He is the most talented player I ever played with or against.

Three minutes later:

@TheReal_TMAC Kobe and MJ were pretty good too

Hill also has jokes:

@TheReal_TMAC It was an honor to watch TMac dominate in the Orlando. Unfortunately, I had the best seat in the house.

Jamie Samuelson: Pistons shouldn’t advertise after NBA lockout

Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press:

At some point, this lockout will end. And when it does, the Palace will put together a marketing campaign trying to bring fans back to the games.

Here’s some advice to the Palace: save your money.

Billboards and ad campaigns won’t help. Nobody will take their family to Auburn Hills because Greg Monroe stares down at them from a sign on I-94 and tells them that a new brand of basketball has arrived at the Palace or something like that. Fans will come back when they see players they actually like, who play hard and enter the game when Frank says so. Many of the recent players seriously damaged the Pistons brand which for decades has stood for hard work and winning. That won’t be repaired overnight. It will take some time. And that process will only start once the Pistons start playing games again.

It’s certainly an interesting idea. And Samuelsen is right: The Pistons won’t draw big crowds until the product, not the pitch, changes. But if a marketing campaign can turn a tiny crowd into a just-below-average crowd, that’s probably worth the expense.

Jonas Jerebko, now completely healthy, spurned offers to play in China or Russia

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News on Jonas Jerebko:

He had some offers, notably from teams in Russia and China.

But unlike most established players, he had plenty of overseas experience.

“My place is here in the States,” said Jerebko, who played in Sweden and Italy before being drafted. “I’ve been through that phase of my life. If other guys want to do that, that’s cool.”

“Hopefully the lockout gets settled in the next month or so, but if not, maybe I’ll entertain playing elsewhere.”

Why does Jerebko, who previously said he wouldn’t play overseas, seem open to the idea now?

“I’m fine, I’m 100 percent healthy,” said the Pistons forward, who partially ruptured his Achilles tendon during the first exhibition last season. “Everywhere I go, that’s what people ask me. But I’m fine. I’m just ready for the season to start.”

That’s good news and a reason the Pistons should want the lockout to end.* Because Jerebko is a free agent, he could sign a deal elsewhere that wouldn’t allow him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.

*Of course, there are unfortunately many reasons they’d want it to continue.

Chevette to Corvette No. 45: The 1962-63 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 34-46
  • Pythagorean record: 31-49
  • Points Per Game: 113.9 (6th of 9)
  • Opponent points per game: 117.6 (5th of 9)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coaches: Dick McGuire

Playoffs

Lost in first round to the St. Louis Hawks, 3-1

Leaders

  • Points per game: Bailey Howell (22.7)
  • Rebounds per game: Bailey Howell (11.5)
  • Assists per game: Don Ohl (4.1)

Top player

Bailey Howell

Howell had his best season scoring and shooting the ball in 1962-63. He averaged 22.7 points per game, the second highest average of his career, and shot 52 percent from the field, a career high. In his five seasons in Detroit, few players can claim his consistency. He never averaged fewer than 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds in a single season.

Key transaction

Drafted Dave DeBusschere

The NBA used weird things called ‘territorial selections’ in the draft until 1966. Basically, it was an attendance ploy. The NBA in the 1950s and 60s was still struggling to gain attention of sports fans, and most teams suffered from poor attendance. The college game was far more popular in most areas. So, if there was a college star who might help spark interest in his nearby NBA team, that team could ‘claim’ the player through territorial rights in the draft and forfeit it’s slotted first-round pick.

DeBusschere, a star at the University of Detroit, went to the Pistons as a result. He’s possibly one of the best athletes the state of Michigan has ever produced. Tom C. Brody of Sports Illustrated:

It takes real ingenuity for a typesetter to squeeze David Albert DeBusschere into box scores. Usually it comes out D’Buss’e or DeBuss’re or D’Bus’r, and the typesetters’ problem seems to last all year. From mid-April until the end of September, DeBusschere (pronounced de-busher with the umph on the bush) is employed by the Chicago White Sox, or one of its subsidiaries, as a right-handed pitcher. Then, as soon as he turns in his baseball uniform, he rushes off to join the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association.

Competing professionally in the major leagues in two sports is rare though not unique. Gene Conley, for example, recently retired as baseball and basketball player. But Dave DeBusschere does more than just play in the two leagues. After two years of preparing him in the minors, the White Sox are thinking seriously of using DeBusschere as one of their starters and, when you consider that the Sox have the best pitching in baseball, that is high status indeed. In basketball, critics stopped using such guarded terms as "promising" right after DeBusschere’s first professional game. If you look closely at the line of figures following his name in that box score, you will notice that he is nearly always one of his team’s leading scorers, re-bounders and playmakers.

DeBusschere would also go on to coach the Pistons as a player-coach. It was certainly impressive that he tried two pro sports and also gave coaching a shot early in his career. Of course, it has also been pointed out that DeBusschere truly blossomed as a basketball player when he left behind coaching and baseball and went to the Knicks, where he focused solely on basketball and helping the Knicks win a championship.

Trend watch

The last of the playoff teams

Current Pistons fans are familiar with playoff streaks ending. Dan recently covered the team that ended an eight-year playoff streak. In the 1990s, a nine-year streak was snapped. This would be the last season of a 14-year streak of playoff appearances for the Pistons.

Why this season ranks No. 45

Coach Dick McGuire really did all he could with this team. The Pistons had almost no size. Howell, DeBusschere and Ray Scott were at times forced to play center where they gave up significant size and strength many nights. Howell was the only regular on the team who shot better than 43 percent. Darrall Imhoff, a young center acquired from the Knicks who had been the third pick in the draft two years prior, showed that the Knicks were right to give up on him so soon (though, somehow, Imhoff, despite showing little basketball ability, was one of the three players packaged from the Lakers to Philadelphia in exchange for Wilt Chamberlain just a few seasons later).

The Pistons could’ve been a lot worse, but McGuire, in his final season as Pistons coached, coaxed just enough out of the team to secure the final playoff spot by three games over San Francisco.

Previously