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Archive → January, 2012

Pistons like Chris Kaman, but Hornets’ asking price is too high

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

To be clear, Jazz checked on Kaman some time ago but doesn’t make sense now. Detroit likes him, needs center. Most teams have found (cont.)

(Cont.) Hornets asking price for Kaman too high. "They were asking for draft picks, cap space and a young player," one executive says.

I think Kaman could help the Pistons in some ways, but I wouldn’t give up draft picks or a young player for him.

In hard-fought loss to Hawks, Pistons get it all – individual progress & lottery odds

Lawrence Frank risked bodily harm to stop the Hawks tonight. Josh Smith made a 3-pointer to punctuate a 12-2 run to start overtime, and while celebrating, he nearly ran over Frank, who had come onto the court to call timeout.

While Frank had seen enough, I couldn’t get enough.

From this Pistons team, I will take 48 minutes of effort anytime I can get it. After a few years of dogging it too often, it’s a welcome sight. So what if the Pistons fell apart in overtime during a 107-101 loss to Atlanta? That’s Frank’s problem and not one I share.

This was the Pistons’ most satisfying two-game stretch of the season, even more so than back-to-back wins over the Pacers and Magic during New Year’s weekend. Not only did the Pistons play better tonight and against the Heat on Wednesday than they did in the victories, their two losses will improve their lottery odds.

And really, that’s still so, so important. For everything that went right tonight for the Pistons – Greg Monroe’s offense, Brandon Knight’s penetration – something went wrong – Monroe’s defense after he shoots, Knight’s finishing.

The Pistons are a work in progress – a big step from getting worked every night – but they need help. Some will come internally, as efforts like this will accelerate the growth of players already on the roster, and some will come from their lottery pick. Tonight, the Pistons helped themselves on both fronts.

Eventually, the Pistons must prove capable of competing for 53 minutes when necessary. But this year, 48 will play just fine.

Greg Monroe turns tables on Josh Smith

Greg Monroe missed his first six shots, but in the nine minutes he played before scoring his first point, he had four rebounds, an assist, a steal and charge drawn. That’s what makes him such a likable player. Even when his shot isn’t falling, he still players hard and tries to contribute in other ways.

At that point, it appeared Monroe would be limited mostly to those other contributions tonight. Monroe’s first six misses – and no free throw attempts early – were no coincidence. Josh Smith defended Monroe phenomenally, forcing Monroe out of his spots.

But like a veteran with a wealth of experience, Monroe sized up Smith, adjusted his moves ever so slightly and went to work. Monroe finished with 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting with 11 rebounds , four assists and two steals.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s a joy watching Monroe play offense.

And Monroe’s defense has picked up since it bottomed out early in the season – with notable exception. After Monroe shot tonight, he was frequently slow to get back on defense and pick up his man, and that led to a few Atlanta baskets.

Brandon Knight dictates offense, despite struggles at rim

Brandon Knight had zero(!) turnovers tonight. None, zilch, nada.

Although Knight spent time at shooting guard next to each Rodney Stuckey and Walker Russell, his turnoverless performance tonight was more impressive than his no-turnover outing against the Bobcats for two reasons:

1. Knight played 42 minutes tonight compared to 35 minutes against Charlotte.

2. Knight attacked all night. He drove to the basket and set his teammates up with a career-high eight assists. Somewhat-risky drives and passes increase turnovers, but they also create better shots. To get those better shots and not turn the ball over, like Knight did, is aces.

Knight was particularly effective after grabbing his five defensive rebounds. They weren’t necessarily contested rebounds, but he immediately tried to create a fastbreak opportunity with some success.

Next, Knight needs to take better advantage of his ability penetrate. He made just 1-of-7 layups tonight. At least he took advantage of his outside shooting, including 4-for-8 on 3-pointers, to score 20 points.

Jason Maxiell hits high note

Jason Maxiell is playing himself out of the amnesty discussion.

It had been 66 games since Maxiell last scored 12 points in a game. Tonight, he scored 12 points in the second quarter alone, on 5-of-7 shooting. He finished with 19 points, matching the second-highest total of his career, and a season-best eight rebounds.

Although a lot of Maxiell’s game is based on brute force, he made mid-range jumpers and moved actively to create shots at the rim tonight. And yeah, his strength helped too, allowing him to convert two shots while being fouled.

With stellar play off the bench this season, Maxiell has turned himself into a useful role player. Some nights, like tonight, he scores. Some nights, he defends. Some nights, he rebounds. He doesn’t always put together all his skills in a single game, but as a $5 million expiring contract next season, he’ll value if he keeps playing like he has this year.

Austin Daye plays through slow start

Through three quarters, Austin Daye was 0-for-3 – a disappointing output following his breakout game against the Heat. Although I wish Daye had made more shots in his first 13 minutes and four seconds of playing time, his misses provided an opportunity to assess where his head is.

For the first time in a long time, Daye played within himself despite not making shots. He attempted a shot every four minutes and 21 seconds, which – ignoring the the games he played 31 seconds and 11 seconds – would have been his least-frequent shooting game since the season opener. Daye moved the ball well and rebounded and defended decently enough.

In the fourth quarter and overtime, Daye made 4-of-8 shots, including 2-of-3 3-pointers, for 12 points. He wasn’t nearly as impressive as Wednesday, but Daye didn’t let his early misses take him out of the game.

Daye earned a rotation spot against the Heat, and he probably didn’t prove tonight that he deserves minutes all season, but he certainly did enough to warrant continued playing time in the near future.

Tracy McGrady, now an Atlanta Hawk, returns to Detroit

Essentials

  • Teams: Atlanta Hawks at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: Jan. 27, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 4-15
  • Hawks: 13-6

Probable starters

Pistons:

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Joe Johnson
  • Marvin Williams
  • Josh Smith
  • Zaza Pachulia

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +6

Over/under: 180.5

Score: Hawks win, 93.25-87.25

Three things to watch

1. Austin Daye

After his breakout game against the Heat on Wednesday, all eyes will be on Austin Daye tonight to see how he responds. The narrative that he ended his slump once his personal trainer flew to Detroit to work with him fits perfectly. Is it just a good story, a coincidental strong game for an otherwise weak player, or is Daye really back on track as a result of Joe Abunassar’s help? We’ll get a better idea tonight.

2. Another tough opponent

The Pistons interrupt their string of division-leading opponents – Thunder on Monday, Heat on Wednesday and 76ers tomorrow – with tonight’s game against the 13-6 Hawks. Yup, should be super easy.

3. Containing Joe Johnson

Matt Tanner of Hoopinion:

At this point it has become cliché to to rip on Joe Johnson and his max contract, and to start the season he was doing little to assuage the criticism. Johnson averaged 16.7 points per game through the first eleven with a healthy Al Horford, and while obviously a small sample size, it would have been his lowest average as a Hawk if he continued at that pace.

Since Horford went down however, Johnson has upped his scoring average to 22 points per game and has been demonstrably more of a leader on the court. Watching Johnson play like Robin when we want so desperately for him to be Batman has always been maddening, but perhaps the Horford injury will force him to seize the spotlight. (And yes, I know that is quite possibly the biggest reach at a silver lining in the history of silver linings).

That was written before Johnson struggled against the Spurs on Wednesday, but I’d guess Johnson is eying the opportunity to get back on track against a porous defense. The onus will likely be on Rodney Stuckey to stop him.

Rodney Stuckey has big plans for Brandon Knight

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Brandon Knight doesn’t know it yet, but part of his summer is already blocked off.

“During this off-season, we’re going to spend a lot of time here working out with each other, just getting used to each other and building that chemistry, where we need to be on the court – off the court, as well,” Stuckey said. “We haven’t (discussed it) yet. But I’m going to demand that. And Brandon is a bright kid. Whatever we need to do to get better, he’s willing to do it.”

Ya know, I really hope that’s the case. I hope Rodney Stuckey is committed to being a good teammate and helping his young teammates get better. I also hope that, now that he’s one of the more veteran players in the locker room despite the fact that he’s not exactly old yet, he’s more assertive and takes on more responsibility.

But Stuckey is also a master of the athlete-speak quote. For two straight media days, Stuckey told grand tales of growing into a leadership role to an assembled scrum of reporters. That never materialized as he planned those seasons. Some of that could be attributed to the fact that the Pistons had a large collection of prideful veterans who probably weren’t much interested in following the example of an unproven young player. Now, with those obstacles to his ascension mostly gone, hopefully Stuckey matches actions to his nice sounding words.

Kyle Singler didn’t give into Pistons pressure to play in NBA this season

In an interview with the Associated Press, Pistons draft pick Kyle Singler doesn’t sound like a man who is likely to be NBA-bound anytime soon:

“I knew they were upset, a little disappointed. The bottom line was that I was a little selfish, I wanted the best for myself, I wanted to be happy,” Singler told The Associated Press from Madrid’s training facilities on the outskirts of the Spanish capital.

“It was difficult but, at the end of the day, if I never play in the NBA, would I be disappointed? Sure, but I’m happy I made the decision I made.”

The 23-year-old from Oregon said the opportunity to play abroad and experience a foreign culture was too good to pass up.

“The opportunity to play a lot more was here, but the bottom line was I was happy and felt no pressure to leave and go back to the NBA,” said Singler.

It would certainly be nice for the Pistons to have another young player in the fold who could hopefully become a rotation player down the road for them, but if Singler is happy overseas and wants to stay their, I’m happy for him. There are some fantastic leagues in other countries where guys can make a nice living and see some cool places. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see an American player realize that the NBA is not the be-all end-all when it comes to pro basketball, even if the league does have by far the most talented players anywhere. I can’t imagine cheering for someone with that haircut on the Pistons anyway.

Ben Gordon’s shoulder injury has bothered him all season

David Mayo of MLive.com:

“I did it in practice, on that side of the court, in training camp,” he said, his first disclosure that the injury was suffered in preseason. “That was the first time I did whatever I did to it. Then, in games, I kept getting hit in the same area, and it never really got a chance to get back to what it was.”

An MRI last Saturday, when Gordon first missed a game in a win over Portland, indicated multiple issues in the shoulders, including “a couple tears,” Gordon said.

“It wasn’t really one issue,” Gordon, adding he also had multiple contusions and has developed tendinitis in the shoulder. “Each time I played, it may have gotten a little bit worse, because the last couple games, before the MRI, it was hard to even raise my arms to shoot the basketball.”

Perhaps, Ben Gordon’s injury explains his poor shooting (42.2 percent). Still, I’m not convinced an eighth-year player with such a limiting injury will be the rare case who bucks his trend of decline.

Rodney Stuckey’s 3-point shooting: aberration or breakthrough?

Rodney Stuckey is shooting 37.5 percent on 2.9 3-point attempts per 36 minutes. If those numbers hold, they’d both be career highs and, for the first time, Stuckey’s 3-point percentage will best the NBA average.

Has the fourth-year guard finally solidified his outside shot?

Maybe.

It’s encouraging that Stuckey is attempting so many 3-pointers – 32 in 14 games so far this season – because that indicates his high percentage is a result of increased skill, not becoming more choosy in his shot selection. Before this year, he had never attempted more than 28 3-pointers in a 14-game stretch.

But Stuckey’s 12 makes in 32 attempts don’t break new ground. He’s achieved that 17 others times during his career, though they came as part of just two independent stretches, one that mostly occurred during the middle of the 2008-09 season and one that mostly occurred late last season. In fact, he made 13-of-32 3-pointers four times during his 2008-09 hot streak.

Stuckey producing like this at the beginning of a season certainly gives more reason for optimism. It’s easy to imagine him spending the lockout launching 3-pointer after 3-pointer in a Seattle gym. Whether that happened, I don’t know. But I’m more less likely to consider his 3-point shooting a fluke than had he dropped these numbers in the middle of the season.

I’m encouraged by Stuckey’s production from beyond the arc so far, but until he shoots like this long enough to post the best 3-point-shooting stretch of his career, I’m not ready to declare definitively that he’s turned the corner.

Hooptie Watch: Still worst ever

The Pistons have been terrible this season – so bad, in fact, they have a chance for the worst statistical season in team history. In honor of broken-down and beat-up a models everywhere, I present “Hooptie Watch” – periodic looks comparing the 2011-12 Pistons to other teams in franchise history that missed the playoffs.

There are two basic ways to measure a team’s regular-season level:

1. Win percentage

2. Pythagorean win percentage

To rank the Pistons’ non-playoff seasons, I’ll average of both win percentages, and for ease of use, set everything to an 82-game schedule.

Greg Monroe returns to thefty ways

Almost immediately, nearly all of Greg Monroe’s numbers improved this season from last season, with one notable exception:

Steals.

Through his first 10 games, Monroe averaged 0.7 steals per game – down from 1.2 last year, despite his minute rising from 27.8 to 31.0 per game.

Monroe has quick hands and excellent anticipation, and he gets a high percentage of steals by knocking the ball out of the opponent’s hands. He has a knack for timing his swipes for just the right moment when his man eases up with the ball.

His lack of steals early didn’t appear due to unsuccessful swipes. Rather, Monroe appeared so focused on his offense, he rarely even attempted to make steals.

Thankfully, he’s collecting steals at high rate once again. Monroe broke out of his mini scoring slump against the Heat, but he also made three steals. To me, that’s just as important.

Steals are an underrated play, because not only do they always end an opponent’s possession (unlike blocks), they often lead to fastbreaks (unlike charges). They’re especially important for someone like Monroe, who still struggles too often to defend his man and help.

Austin Daye’s big night

Austin Daye scored a career-high 28 points against the Heat last night, and calling that unlikely would be an understatement.

This season, 131 other players have scored more than 20 points in a game. All of them are averaging more points per game in their non-season-high-games than Daye is (3.5 points per game).

By scoring 28 points, Daye joined even more elite company. This season, 50 players have a season-high of at least 28 points. They’ve all scored at least 5.9 points per game more than Daye has in their other games.

Entering yesterday, the two players directly above (Kenneth Faried and Kurt Thomas) and below (Reggie Jackson and Kosta Koufos) Daye in the NBA scoring-average rankings had a season-high of 11 points, a total Daye matched against the Celtics.

Daye’s game could be a total fluke, or he could play the rest of the season less like Reggie Jackson and more like the typical player who’s scored 28 points in a game. Given that Daye played so well a day after a late-night shooting session with his personal trainer, I’m hopeful the third-year player has found his way.

Lost in his slump was the fact that Daye appears to be a hard worker. His confidence might be shaky, and his defense might leave a lot to be desired, but I think Daye works hard.

Daye’s big night puts him in elite company, and I hope he spends the rest of the season proving he belongs there.