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Archive → February, 2012

Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey lead dominant team victory over Bobcats

Most Valuable Player

Greg Monroe. Monroe (19 points and 20 rebounds) edges Rodney Stuckey (29 points, four rebounds and three assists) because he played some of the best positional defense of his career. Monroe blocked a shot, took a charge and, overall, got to the right spots defensively. I’ve been critical of Monroe’s defense in the past, but he played well on that end tonight.

X-Factor

Bismack Biyombo, who blocked three shots in nine minutes, left left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Without him, the Bobcats couldn’t protect the rim or grab rebounds effectively. I doubt they would have won, anyway, but Boris Diaw, DeSagana Diop, Tyrus Thomas, D.J. White and Byron Mullens were pitiful.

That was… thorough

Aside from Jason Maxiell – who starts for his defense (four blocks) and rebounding (seven rebounds) – every Piston starter scored scored at least 14 points and made at least half his shots.

Rodney Stuckey drove to the basket relentlessly, and more often than not, made a layup or drew a foul. He finished 9-of-11 from the line.

Greg Monroe was active inside, often making himself available for passes from Detroit’s motion-heavy perimeter players, and finished well.

Brandon Knight (20 points, five assists, no turnovers) combined Stuckey’s and Monroe’s approaches, driving to the rim and taking advantage of teammates’ activity to find open looks for himself.

Tayshaun Prince made jumper after jumper, which I’m sure will be totally sustainable – as long as the Pistons don’t have too many games in a short stretch or too long a break.

Stuck on the bench

Neither Austin Daye nor Will Bynum played, and Vernon Macklin saw just two minutes.

I suspect the Pistons’ woeful three-game losing streak had something to do with that. Lawrence Frank has made clear how important winning is to him. I don’t think he wanted to risk letting the opportunity for victory slip away.

Really, none of Detroit’s reserves made a significant impact.

The Pistons’ starters played heavy, though not extreme, minutes. And they played hard for that time. It was a welcome sight, and I’m certainly not complaining. I’m just curious how they’ll handle such a strenuous load Saturday at Memphis.

Pistons host a team actually worse than them in the Charlotte Bobcats

Essentials

  • Teams: Charlotte Bobcats at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: Feb. 29, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 11-25
  • Bobcats: 4-28

Probable starters

Pistons:

Bobcats

  • D.J. Augustin
  • Corey Maggette
  • Reggie Williams
  • Boris Diaw
  • Bismack Biyombo

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +-5.5

Over/under: 189

Score: Pistons win, 97.25-91.75

Read about the Bobcats

Queen City Hoops (preview)

Will Bynum and Walker Russell have newborn children

Will Bynum and Walker Russell both had children born during the All-Star break. Brendan Savage of MLive.com:

Bynum’s second daughter, Aliya Gloria, was born Thursday. She weighed eight pounds and was 21 inches long.

"It was beautiful," said Bynum, 29, who did not accompany the Pistons to Toronto for last Wednesday’s final game before the break. "That was my first time (in the delivery room). My oldest daughter, who is four, I didn’t get a chance to make it because I had the championship game in Israel at the time.

"I was scared at first but it was beautiful. It wasn’t what I expected. It was definitely special. It worked out well (over the break). I got to spend time with them and help my wife (Andrea) out."

Russell, a first-time dad, welcomed son Aiden Jake into the world on Saturday.

"It was a great thing," said Russell, 29. "It was a great experience, a beautiful experience to see the whole process. I’m just ecstatic. I’m just proud. First baby, it was a son, so I’m ecstatic right now."

Mazel Tov.

Lawrence Frank makes assistants complete daily military-inspired reviews

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

It’s called an After Action Report, which Frank learned about after taking his Nets team to West Point. It’s about what they did well, what they did poorly, things they didn’t prepare for in practice and more principles.

"You have to be brutally honest with it," Frank said. "Every coach has to do an AAR, and that’s why we don’t let the wins and losses get in our eye. We have to be true to the process."

One of the minority owners of the Nets was a West Point guy, and gave Frank further information after their initial trip. Frank became intrigued and uses it in Detroit, assigning different assistant coaches to look at varying issues.

Whether it bears fruits this year remains to be seen, but Frank believes doing daily AARs will pay benefits down the road.

I wonder how different this is from other coaching staffs, even if other coaches don’t put such a formal title on it.

Grantland has an extensive oral history of Malice at the Palace

Jonathan Abrams of Grantland has a huge recap with comments from several of the players, media and others at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Nov. 19, 2004, when a cup of beer ruined the Indiana Pacers. There are so many great quotes I could excerpt, so just go read the whole thing, but these comments were among the ones that stood out to me:

Stephen Jackson (guard/forward, Pacers): [Toward] the end of the game, I recall somebody on the team told Ron, “You can get one now.” I heard it. I think somebody was shooting a free throw. Somebody said to Ron, “You can get one now,” meaning you can lay a foul on somebody who he had beef with in the game.

Ben Wallace (forward/center, Pistons): He told me he was going to hit me, and he did it. That was just one of those things. It happened in the heat of the battle.

Watching that game, it was pretty clear that things were going to escalate. I’m not shocked at all that Artest’s foul was premeditated.

Just to reiterate, it’s OK to not play hard before or after the All-Star Break apparently

I mentioned this in the game recap last night, but it’s worth repeating in its own post. Here was Lawrence Frank before yesterday’s loss to Philly:

“Sometimes, guys are still on break,” he said. “Physically, they’re here. But you see it. The first game on breaks sometimes are a little bit funky, for both teams, because you have no rhythm of practice or playing.”

Here was Rodney Stuckey before the game:

“It didn’t really feel weird, I picked it up and it was just the same-old, same-old,” he said of his return to practice Monday. “But taking five days back and you start running, it’s a big difference. Other than that, my body feels good. I think the first couple of minutes, everybody’s going to be huffing and puffing, but other than that, everything’s going to be good.”

Here was Tayshaun Prince after the game:

“Still on vacation,” Prince said, then repeated it twice more, when asked to explain the 97-68 blowout at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

I have one very simple question after reading those comments again: why is any of this OK?

I’m OK with the Pistons losing games. I’m realistic enough to understand the situation they’re in from a talent standpoint. Namely, they don’t have much. They’re over-matched on a sheer talent basis against nearly every team in the league. But the problem with this team hasn’t just been about talent. They also quit. They quit against Philly last night, they didn’t play hard against Toronto in the game before the All-Star Break and I can go back through the schedule and point to a handful of other games where they simply just did not compete whatsoever.

That lack of fight, to me, is inexcusable, and to brush it off with comments like the ones above? That’s lunacy. It’s even more crazy that, apparently, no reporter had any follow-ups along the lines of, “… so your message now is the team might not be able to play at an optimal level after five days off when the storyline all season prior to this was that the team wasn’t playing well because of a compacted schedule that allowed no rest?” And people wonder why this team isn’t drawing.

Fans will watch and appreciate a team that has little talent but still tries really hard consistently every game. The Pistons lack talent and they lack consistent effort. That’s a problem.

Lawrence Frank’s pregame comments prove a little too prophetic in loss to Philly

Jason Maxiell couldn’t be contained on the offensive glass against Philadelphia. Fortunately, the Sixers figured out that even if he grabbed an offensive board (he had six of them in 26 minutes), there was a good chance he’d give the ball right back to them (he had five turnovers). One of the things I always loved about Chris Wilcox was his insanely high turnover rate (except, miraculously, in a contract year) despite the fact that he rarely touched the ball for very long. Maxiell had a Wilcox kind of game — active, athletic, not terrible in most statistical categories, but five turnovers? Seriously?

But I’m just kidding a bit with that intro. Maxiell had a sloppy game, but to have your worst loss of the season (the last time the Pistons lost by 29 or more was last March), it takes a special kind of poor performance, and the Pistons delivered. Rodney Stuckey returned from his All-Star vacation, which lasted one extra day than everyone else’s, to at least score some points (17 on 5-for-12 shooting) despite joining Maxiell in the five turnover club, but he also wasn’t the worst player on the court.

Brandon Knight continued to take OK care of the ball (three turnovers in 28 minutes), but does a low turnover rate from your PG really matter if he only gets one assist and shoots 2-for-8? But he also wasn’t the worst player on the court.

After a 2-for-10 performance, Tayshaun Prince‘s career-low field goal percentage fell to 40 percent on the button, dangerously close to joining Austin Daye, Walker Russell and Will Bynum in sub-40 percent territory. The only difference is Prince has taken more shots than all four of those players combined (and not just a few more … roughly 100 more). Ouch. But Prince was still not the worst player on the floor.

That distinction goes to Ben Gordon. Gordon bested Prince with a 1-for-10 shooting performance. Prince also grabbed one more rebound (4-to-3) and dished one more assist (2-to-1). They were even on turnovers. I’ll give the nod for slightly less horrible to Prince. It was close though, hard to project the winners. Like Santorum-Romney all over again.

Before the game, Lawrence Frank gave this interesting comment to reporters:

“Sometimes, guys are still on break,” he said. “Physically, they’re here. But you see it. The first game on breaks sometimes are a little bit funky, for both teams, because you have no rhythm of practice or playing.”

I dunno … Philly looked pretty awesome. But seriously, I read that before the game and I thought, “I wonder if they had like a horrid shootaround or practice or whatever today and Frank said to himself, damn … better do some preemptive damage control.” Then, Stuckey helped provide some clarity too:

“It didn’t really feel weird, I picked it up and it was just the same-old, same-old,” he said of his return to practice Monday. “But taking five days back and you start running, it’s a big difference. Other than that, my body feels good. I think the first couple of minutes, everybody’s going to be huffing and puffing, but other than that, everything’s going to be good.”

OK, got it. Don’t expect teams to play competitively before or after breaks. No wonder the Pistons discounted those tickets tonight. This is normally the point where I write ‘check back for updates.’ But, now that I’m familiar with the etiquette, I think I’ll ease back into my post-All-Star schedule slowly too. No need to go too hard … there’s a game tomorrow anyway, amiright?

Pistons start tough stretch tonight against Philadelphia

Essentials

  • Teams: Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: Feb. 28, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 11-24
  • Sixers: 20-14

Probable starters

Pistons:

Sixers:

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Jodie Meeks
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Elton Brand
  • Lavoy Allen

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +4

Over/under: 182.5

Score: Sixers win, 93.25-89.25

Notes

Read about the Sixers

Philadunkia

Detroit Pistons All-Star-break grades

Pretty straightforward grading scale here — we are evaluating on-court contributions based on the first half of this season. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments.

Greg Monroe

Dan Feldman: B+

I nearly gave Monroe an A-, but his defense it too far below par. Honestly, I’m excited that Monroe is only a B+. He still has plenty of room to get better, and he’s already so good.

Patrick Hayes: A

His defense is weak, but I can overlook that based on how quickly he’s become an offensive force. For parts of the first half of the season, Monroe was literally the only Piston worth watching. He’s had games where he was dominant offensively, he has an array of post moves, he’s crafty around the basket and he’s added a reliable 15-footer to his arsenal all in one offseason after a rookie year that saw his scoring opportunities mostly result from dump-offs around the basket or offensive rebound/put-backs. If he improved this much on offense in one offseason, imagine if he devotes next summer to getting better on defense?

Brandon Knight

Dan Feldman: D+

A D+ isn’t that bad for a rookie point guard who left college after one non-dominant season and has been pressed into major minutes. He’s headed in the right direction, but he’s still one of the worst, if not the worst, starting point guards in the NBA.

Patrick Hayes: C-

I had Knight in the B/B- range for a minute, but I reconsidered. I think was too distracted by his recent play in February, where he has improved significantly when it comes to taking care of the ball. But I have to grade for the whole picture in the first half, and there was a long stretch where Knight was both sloppy with the ball and not passing well enough to make up for the turnovers by creating shots for others. I’m really optimistic, though, that Knight is primed for significant improvement in the second half. He’s getting better faster than I expected.

Tayshaun Prince

Dan Feldman: D

Lawrence Frank has apparently put in a lot of work adjusting Prince’s demeanor for a player re-signed for his leadership ability. Prince has reverted somewhat to the mean after a dreadful start, but he’s still shooting inefficiently and not passing or rebounding well. At least his defense is decent.

Patrick Hayes: F

Sorry, nothing against Prince’s career. I also don’t begrudge him for signing the lucrative contract that was offered to him. But his presence is stunting the growth of the franchise. Prince is having a terrible season shooting the ball, yet he’s shooting as often as a player in Greg Monroe who is having a terrific shooting season. Prince is also shooting more than more effective scorers Stuckey, Knight and Gordon. He’s still a ball-stopper on offense, even if his isos are not as frequent as they were in the Kuester era. He doesn’t get to the line, he doesn’t move the ball much and he shoots too much. If Prince were content with a role as the fourth or fifth best player on this team (and make no mistake, the reality is he is the fourth or fifth best player on this team), he’d be more productive and the team’s better offensive options would get more opportunities. So far, there has been no indication that Prince is ready to accept any kind of complimentary role, and that’s why he gets a failing grade from me so far. I just don’t see how he fits on this team.

Rodney Stuckey

Dan Feldman: B-

Splitting time at point guard and shooting guard suits him well, and for the fifth time in his five-year career, Stuckey looks like he’s playing his best basketball this season. Until he puts it together for a longer stretch though, it’s tough to grade him higher.

Patrick Hayes: C+

Much like Knight, I had Stuckey higher originally in my thought process, but think that I was over-valuing recent performance (pre-All-Star Break game aside) too much. Stuckey has become comfortable in his role, he’s been aggressive and he had a great stretch of games in February. He and Knight are forming good chemistry, his attitude seems improved and he’s giving solid minutes at both guard spots, which might be the optimal role for him in his career. But I have to take into consideration his injury problems and slow start to the season. He had some bad performances in January and the disappearing act against a lousy Toronto team before the break, so overall, he’s in the C/C+ range I think.

Jonas Jerebko

Dan Feldman: C+

Jerebko shoots from outside a bit too much and he’s struggled to physically defend opponents without picking up fouls, but he’s big and active – a great combination.  As long he doesn’t lose those traits, he’ll have a place in this league.

Patrick Hayes: B

No complaints about Jerebko. Coming off a serious injury, he’s virtually the same player he was as an impressive rookie two seasons ago. Sometimes he fouls too much and his game hasn’t evolved much from where it was at as a rookie, but even if he never improves from where he’s at now, he’s still a very useful and effective combo forward whose versatility and energy would help any team.

Jason Maxiell

Dan Feldman: C+

Maxiell getting back into shape has allowed the Pistons to start him and, subsequently, fix their rotation. Maxiell’s grade might be inflated by how well everything has fallen into place around him.

Patrick Hayes: B

If I’m grading strictly on production, Maxiell is probably more in the ‘C’ range. But he also gets bonus points from me based on my expectation for him vs. the reality of what he’s produced. He’s been much better than anyone could’ve rightly expected, considering the poor shape he’s been in the last two seasons (something Maxiell fully accepts blame for, incidentally). Of all the Pistons’ bad contracts, Maxiell isn’t the player I would’ve guessed would return closest to his previous form. He’s having a really nice season, one that should ensure he gets another NBA contract after this one runs out, something that wasn’t a given coming into the season.

Ben Gordon

Dan Feldman: D

His scoring has finally risen to the point it’s surpassed dwindling expectations. That has somewhat hidden that Gordon is a turnover machine, coughing up the ball a ton for someone without much ability to create for teammates either through passing or dribbling to draw attention.

Patrick Hayes: C

Gordon is who we thought he was. Injuries have slowed him some this season, but he’s at times been an effective scorer who, when his shot hasn’t been falling, does little else to justify being on the court. Now that Stuckey seems to have cemented himself as the starting shooting guard, Gordon is in his best role coming off the bench. He certainly signed in Detroit because he wanted to start. Maybe he could if he was surrounded by better talent in the starting lineup. He’s not, so the bench is the best home for him. He seems comfortable in that role and he’s having a (somewhat) bounce-back season. We can argue all day about his contract, which remains outrageous in comparison to his production, but he hasn’t been bad overall this season.

Ben Wallace

Dan Feldman: D+

I shed a tear ranking my favorite player so low, but in his final season, he’s effective only once every few appearances.

Patrick Hayes: A

I don’t care about the grading rules here. I can’t grade Wallace based on this season. He gets a lifetime ‘A’ from me, even if he’s not physically capable of bringing it every night anymore. I’ll give him points for delivering the two best quotes of the season.

Damien Wilkins

Dan Feldman: D

Wilkins has done everything anyone could have reasonably expected from him, but he’s just a limited player.

Patrick Hayes: C-

Wilkins is fine. He’s a respected veteran on a minimum contract who plays hard. He’s done what he was brought in to do (basically, be a last-minute stopgap when the team was surprised by Kyle Singler‘s decision to stay in Spain). Wilkins isn’t going to win the Pistons any games, but he’s not going to lose them any either. He’s exactly the type of player who Daye should have to beat out — Daye is clearly more talented, particularly on offense, but Wilkins is clearly smarter, tougher and plays harder. Wilkins can’t make up the talent gap, but it’s reasonable to expect Daye to catch Wilkins in the things he does better.

Austin Daye

Dan Feldman: F

Daye’s first two seasons were uneven, but he’s taken a step back in essentially every way this year. It’s like every element that Daye struggled with last year or the year before, he’s combined this season.

Patrick Hayes: F

For all of the hope I had for Daye based on the impressive amount of work he put in over the summer, the results have been brutal. His psyche seems so fragile, he’s often lost defensively and he hasn’t seemed to be on the same page with the coaching staff at all. To top it off, he’s had a nagging ankle injury. Yes, the Pistons have nothing to lose by playing Daye ample minutes and hoping he finds something to break out of this, but at the same time, he’s been one of the worst players in the NBA statistically this season. It’s hard to fault the coaches for not playing him more considering those ugly numbers.

Walker Russell

Dan Feldman: D

Poor man’s Jeremy Lin.

Patrick Hayes: C-

Russell has passed OK and I’ve certainly enjoyed rooting for him as he earned an unlikely roster spot with the Pistons after fighting for years to get to the NBA. But, at best, he’s a limited backup in this league. His passing is sometimes fantastic and he clearly knows how to run an offense, but his defense and shooting are both lacking.

Will Bynum

Dan Feldman: F

Bynum’s energy is always great, but his production in limited minutes has been dreadful.

Patrick Hayes: D

Bynum is still one of a handful of Pistons who I’ve actually enjoyed watching over the last few seasons because of his effort and the path he had to take just to get to the NBA. Bynum had his best opportunity to claim a starting spot with the team this season with Rodney Stuckey unsigned heading into camp, and he pretty definitively proved he’s not a starting caliber PG. Then, Stuckey came back, Brandon Knight took over, Bynum got hurt and, once again, found himself near the end of the bench. I still like Bynum, I still think he’s an affordable and effective bench player, but I don’t think there’s a fit for him on the Pistons anymore.

Vernon Macklin

Dan Feldman: F

Macklin has one job: convince Lawrence Frank he deserves minutes. He hasn’t done that.

Patrick Hayes: Incomplete

Macklin is my biggest frustration of the first half. I totally understand why Daye isn’t playing — yeah, he’s young, but I’ve seen enough of him to feel like a decently informed evaluation of him is possible at this point. Plus, the Pistons have depth at his position, with Tayshaun Prince signed for 30 more years and Jerebko able to slide over and play small forward. It would be nice for Daye to develop, but it’s not imperative. Macklin, though? He plays the team’s weakest position, he’s had some decent moements in garbage time and the guy simply can’t get enough minutes to make any kind of evaluation one way or another. The Pistons really should find out whether they have anything in him in the second half. It would be really pointless to invest a roster spot in him in a lost season and never bother to find out if he can play or not.

Charlie Villanueva

Dan Feldman: Incomplete

I really hate giving incompletes, but Villanueva’s mysterious injury has kept him out all but six minutes this season. There’s really nothing to grade him on.

Patrick Hayes: Incomplete

If I want to be unfair, Villanueva is a failure. This season, his Detroit career, whatever measure you want to use, he was a terrible signing who brings exactly one above average skill to the table — outside shooting — for a premium price. But I shouldn’t be unfair. He’s dealing with what sounds like a really painful injury. He seems like a good, nice person. I don’t think he’s a negative locker room presence or a guy who just wants to collect a paycheck and never contribute. As Maxiell and Gordon have shown, players who looked really bad under John Kuester have looked slightly better under a more competent coach in Lawrence Frank. I really do hope Villanueva gets that same opportunity to turn his Detroit career around, or preferably, to show that he’s a capable NBA player for another team, in the second half of the season.

Lawrence Frank

Dan Feldman: D+

I had higher hopes for Frank’s defense. I know he doesn’t have the players to really make his scheme shine, but I would have liked to see more immediate dividends on that end of the floor. I get that Frank is building a foundation and not shortcutting in favor of short-term benefits, but for midseason grades, that lowers his. Hopefully, it makes him more likely to earn an A next season.

Patrick Hayes: C-

I certainly glean more information listening to Frank talk basketball than I did listening to Kuester’s depressing postgame interviews. I was a big fan of Frank when he was hired. I’ve been disappointed in the defense, disappointed that Macklin hasn’t got at least a few minutes here and there other than garbage time and disappointed at how big a role in the offense Prince still has, so some of that enthusiasm for Frank has worn off, even if I still think Frank is doing a credible job, particularly at creating a more harmonious locker room. I read a few comments on other writers’ grades complaining that Frank was not getting graded high enough. I think that’s a result of too much emphasis on the present and forgetting about the wretched basketball this team played early. Yes, the team has improved as the schedule has eased up some, but no, it hasn’t improved enough to take Frank out of the low C/high D range just yet.

Detroit Pistons

Dan Feldman: D-

They’re a run-of-the-mill bad team, nothing special. At least their young players – Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko – give hope for the future. Otherwise, this squad is pretty bland to watch.

Patrick Hayes: D

Monroe’s development, Knight’s slow but steady improvement and Maxiell and Gordon both re-establishing themselves as competent role players have all been welcome aspects of the first half of the season. The poor defense, sometimes disjointed offense and lapses in a couple of winnable games before the break should help everyone understand the reality of the current Pistons: they are still one of the four or five worst teams in the league. Hard to give a performance like that, even if there are a few positives here and there, anything higher than a D.

Charlie Villanueva could play again soon, unless he doesn’t

Perry Farrell of the Detroit Free Press:

Monday night, Villanueva practiced with his teammates after not doing any running for two months and could be available by next week.

“I’m feeling real good; I went through the first 20 minutes of practice, non-contact, and felt pretty good,” said Villanueva, who has not played since a Jan. 4 loss against Chicago. “I’m taking it day by day from now on. I’m not trying to speed things up. I’m just working my way back into things.”

Dave Mayo of MLive:

Charlie Villanueva updated his personal health status on Monday, although there weren’t many new details and there remains no timetable for the Detroit Pistons forward to return.

Villanueva on Twitter:

Felt good earlier today being back in practice. I’m still not 100% but slowly getting there. Looking forward, staying positive #godshands

So … so much for a definitive update on his status, I guess. Villanueva certainly hasn’t endeared himself to Pistons fans since his arrival here, but with the Pistons in a position to use their amnesty clause next offseason, they will probably give Villanueva ample opportunities to play in the second half of the season to see if he can build up any semblance of value. If he can’t get back on the court, he’s making the amnesty decision a relatively easy one for the team, I would think.