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Archive → February, 2012

Royce Young of CBS Sports would like to remind Pistons fans that it seems like forever ago that the team was good

In CBS Sports’ midseason grades column, here’s what Royce Young wrote about the Pistons:

Detroit Pistons (11-23)

The Pistons are playing much better basketball as of late, winning seven of 10. But still this has been another colossally disappointing season. Remember how the Pistons were once a team contending for the East? You know what’s weird about that? That was happening as of just five years ago. But it feels like the Pistons have been bad for a long time. That’s where it’s at for Detroit. Save for a better stretch early on, it’s been another bad year for the Pistons. Horrible attendance, fan apathy and worst of all, there really doesn’t appear to be a path out right now.

GRADE: D

Thanks, Royce. But seriously … I’ll take a D. With as poorly as the Pistons played early in the season, they’ve looked at the very least like a competitive team that cares about what its doing on the court lately. That, sadly, is a vast improvement over what we’ve seen the previous two years.

Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince make Sports Illustrated’s best/worst signings list … guess who landed on which list

The Pistons’ signings of Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince each were honorable mentions in categories in Zack Lowe’s midseason evaluations for Sports Illustrated:

Stuckey was mentioned among the ‘bests:’

Detroit and Philadelphia brought back Rodney Stuckey and Thaddeus Young, respectively, on decent long-term deals.

Prince, not surprisingly based on his career-low shooting percentage, made the ‘worsts,’ although Lowe is not as critical of the deal as other national writers have been:

The Pistons gave Tayshaun Prince a four-year, $28 million contract, a deal I liked at the time and still don’t really hate.

Pistons’ defense, Rodney Stuckey head into All-Star break early in loss to Raptors

When Rodney Stuckey has played well, though I’ve been impressed, I’ve also tried to keep the praise within reason and maintain my belief that Stuckey is beyond the point of enticing everyone with exciting flashes of brilliant play. After four years in the league, we know about Stuckey’s talent and upside. What we don’t know is whether he’s capable of consistently performing over the course of an entire season. That remains his challenge.

So, after Stuckey played really poorly in tonight’s loss to Toronto, I’m similarly going to try and avoid getting overly critical. It has to be said, though, that Stuckey was a non-factor in the game. He wasn’t aggressive, he didn’t play good defense (DeMar DeRozan ate him and any other defender the Pistons threw his way alive) and he scored 0 points and was on the bench during the fourth quarter, the only time when the Pistons played with much effort in the game. Stuckey deserved to get benched, but I also don’t think this one performance is enough to undo what he’s spent the last few weeks building.

How he responds is the key test. In the past, as commonly as Stuckey would have four, five, six game stretches of brilliant play, he’s also been capable of one, two or three game disappearing acts. Everyone, Stuckey included, is entitled to a bad game now and then. Unfortunately, the All-Star break means Stuckey will have to wait about a week to atone for this performance, but how he bounces back is important to watch.

Stuckey doesn’t have built-in excuses anymore. He has a coach in Lawrence Frank who respects him and has given him freedom — Stuckey himself said that having a coach who “believes” in him has been a big difference. He has a nice contract, so there’s not the pressure of playing for a big pay raise now. He’s no longer being counted on as the team’s primary facilitator. He’s also no longer a young player fighting for an identity on a veteran team. He’s a veteran now, a player looked at as a cornerstone and a player who, according to his words over the last three years, has wanted that responsibility. Part of it is being consistent on a game to game basis. How he comes back from this performance next week will be a much bigger indicator of his progression as a player than the strong performances he had the last few weeks.

Lazy frontcourt defense

Greg Monroe was great offensively, but his defensive performance was so bad, that his offensive performance is only going to get this lone sentence in the recap, mentioning that he had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. That’s all great. But being part of a frontcourt defense, along with Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko, that allowed Aaron Gray, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson to shoot a combined 14-for-23 and grab 22 rebounds is inexcusable.

Monroe was slow when matched up against the active Davis and Johnson and he got pushed around when matched up with the brutish Gray. Maxiell didn’t do a great job of leaving the paint — Johnson hit a few open jumpers from 12ish feet or so (don’t laugh … Amir’s jumper looks so much better than his Pistons days). Jerebko played defense by reaching too often and was too aggressive, resulting in another 18 minute foul-out for him, the second time this season he’s fouled out in 18 minutes or less.

Seriously, any time your horrid defense causes a Toronto crowd to chant ‘MVP’ at Gray as he’s shooting free throws (even if they were doing it jokingly) is a pretty sad indictment of your defensive effort.

Knight continues to take care of the ball

Brandon Knight wasn’t much of a factor with his passing, but in February, he has really worked on taking better care of the ball. He had zero turnovers against the Raptors (and three assists). It was the fourth time in13  February games he’s had a turnover free game (although, to be fair, one of those games was a five-minute performance when he broke his nose). He had just two turnover-less games in his first 23 games in December and January.

Knight’s shooting has been solid most of the season. Now, he’s gradually worked on taking better care of the ball. He’s even had some nice defensive moments, even if he still occasionally gets torched by opposing guards. He’s figuring things out. Hopefully, but the end of the season, he starts to put everything together and shoulders a bit more responsibility initiating the offense. He’s definitely moving closer to being able to do that.

Pistons continue tour of Eastern Conference’s dregs in Toronto

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Toronto Raptors
  • Date: Feb. 22, 2012
  • Time: 7 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 11-23
  • Raptors: 9-23

Probable starters

Pistons:

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • Jerryd Bayless
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • James Johnson
  • Aaron Gray

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +4

Over/under: 95.75-91.75

Score: Raptors win, 95.75-91.75

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

A look back at Bad Boys era jerseys

Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys is back with his second installment on the history of Pistons jerseys, today focusing on the Bad Boys era:

It was hard to pick players to show off the iconic 80s uniforms. Thomas (below) was a given, but who else? You could pick Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, John Salley, Rick Mahorn. In the end I had to go with the Microwave. As an energetic, undersized little kid who loved sports there was something about Johnson that i was enthralled by.

Check out part one of his series here.

All-Star Weekend Futures Game a ‘carrot’ for Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press asked Joe Dumars about having two young players in the Futures Game this weekend:

“It’s a nice carrot for them to be in the atmosphere down there, to be in an atmosphere where the best players in the world have been chosen — just to be in that atmosphere,” Dumars said last week. “It’s a great carrot for those guys. If they want to continue to be invited to that weekend, they are going to have to continue to get better.”

Dumars isn’t wrong at all here, but I have to say, I don’t like Monroe and Knight continually lumped together as future cornerstones/potential All-Stars. Monroe certainly is a cornerstone player and he’s damn close to being an All-Star right now. Knight has a long, long ways to go yet. I love his upside, love his attitude, love the fact that he seems to be a really hard worker, but he and Monroe aren’t in the same conversation yet when it comes to being impact players. Just feel like it’s important to continually make that distinction.

Austin Daye’s ankle still not 100 percent

It’s safe to say Austin Daye still finds himself out of the rotation largely because, with a few exceptions, he’s played really poorly this season. But apparently, an ankle injury that he sustained early in the season still could be bothering him. Daye sent these two tweets before last night’s game:

Gunna get back to the hotel and get a pool workout in to try and get my ankle better!

On the way to Arena early gunna get some treatment on my ankle and get up some shots #clearingthemind

Hopefully the All-Star break gives Daye a chance to fully heal. The Pistons are certainly in a position to try and give him ample opportunities in the second half of the season to get his shot straightened around if he can get his confidence back up.

Pistons can’t keep Alonzo Gee off the offensive glass in loss to Cleveland

With :45 seconds to go in a tie game, the Pistons forced a missed layup by Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving. The 6-foot-6 Alonzo Gee snuck in and grabbed an offensive rebound.

With :25 seconds to go in a tie game, Gee missed a short jumper, grabbed the offensive rebound and dunked it to put Cleveland up two.

Of course, by that point in the game, Cleveland had all but assured they were going to win after erasing a 17-point Pistons second half lead, capping things with a 35-23 fourth quarter. The problems for the Pistons were simple ones. Their defense was at its best when Ben Wallace, Damien Wilkins and Jason Maxiell were on the floor. That group helped put the clamps on Cleveland in the second quarter, allowing the Pistons to take control. Unfortunately, that lineup couldn’t score. Their offense was at its best with Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe on the floor. Unfortunately, they weren’t stopping anyone, particularly Kyrie Irving (8-for-15, 25 points, 5 rebounds 8 assists, 2 steals) and Antawn Jamison (11-for-22, 32 points, 10 rebounds).

In hindsight, it was a mistake for Lawrence Frank to go back to that defensively active unit of Wallace, Wilkins, Maxiell, Will Bynum and Ben Gordon that helped spark the team a bit in the second. I understand why he did it — his main scoring threats in the starting lineup were horrid defensively and Tayshaun Prince was just plain horrid at everything he did. It was still a mistake though. Cleveland got hot and the Pistons didn’t have an offensive weapon to speak of in the game since Gordon was having an off night.

For three quarters, the Pistons continued to look like a hungry, improving young team that would be formidable soon. But much like their last loss to a bad team, the Washington Wizards, the Pistons built a lead only to watch the opposing team pretty easily pick apart their defense while their offense went cold. Oh, and did I mention how terrible Prince was? Because he was really really terrible and still kept shooting kind of a lot. The Pistons continue to play not terrible basketball, but this game was a perfect example of why that * ahem * playoff talk was premature. The Pistons weren’t as bad as they were early in the season and they’re not as good as they looked over the last 10 or so games. That all adds up to a team that is still bad. They’re improving, there has been none of the dissension that marred the last two seasons, the young guys are playing a lot and a couple of their pricey veterans — Maxiell and Gordon — have had good enough moments to show that they can still occasionally be competent rotation pieces. Everyone should be pretty satisfied with those results for now.

A tale of off-shooting nights

Three Pistons shot the ball pretty poorly: Gordon (although, in fairness, he did hit a couple of jumpers late helping keep the Pistons in it), Prince and Jonas Jerebko.

There was a big difference between what the three players contributed, though. Jerebko shot 4-for-12, but still made offensive contributions namely through is five offensive rebounds. He also had an assist and a steal and didn’t turn it over. In short, he found a way to make himself useful even though his shots weren’t going in.

Compare that with Prince and Gordon. Prince had four assists and, as always, took care of the ball. But he didn’t play particularly good defense — Prince couldn’t deal with Gee’s activity and, like the rest of the team, struggled the few times he was matched up with Jamison when the Pistons went small and Prince played some four late. Prince’s biggest issue was his over-involvement in the offense. Jerebko shot poorly, but wasn’t out there looking for his own shot. He missed a few from close range (including two that were blocked) and most of his misses were open looks that he should always take. Prince often looked for his own shot even on a night when it wasn’t falling, and making matters worse, the Pistons had three players on the court with him most of the time in Monroe, Knight and Stuckey who were shooting really well. I’ve harped on this all season, but here goes again: Prince was brought into to be a steadying, veteran influence on a young team. Fine, whatever, I’m OK with the concept even if they paid too much for that kind of luxury. But part of being a smart, steadying hand on a young team is understanding when you should defer. Prince is, at best, a third option on this team and, when the team plays its three guard lineup with Gordon, he really should be the fourth option. He’s still behaving as a one or two option, and that’s a problem.

As for Gordon, I don’t have a problem with him shooting, even when he struggles. He’s paid to score. The issue is simply that when he’s off, he does absolutely nothing else of value. No assists. No free throws. Sloppiness with the ball (including two turnovers). Stuckey’s play over the last couple weeks has certainly helped make the point moot, but Gordon is clearly entrenched as a reserve at this point. He came to the Pistons because he always wanted an opportunity to start. I think after two plus seasons, there is ample evidence proving he’s in the only role he’s suited for now.

Forgot about Greg?

With everyone’s hearts pitter-pattering over Stuckey’s resurgence over the last week has taken some of the focus off of the man who was basically the only positive on a game to game basis for a good chunk of the season. Monroe showed once again that he’s still the Pistons steadiest and best offensive player. He threatened a triple-double again — 19 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists — and once again was probably robbed by a few teammates who had a tough time knocking down open shots. The offense was at its best running through Monroe and although he was part of a frontcourt that was dismantled by Jamison, he came up with three steals, his highest output since Feb. 1.

The Pistons don’t have a point guard

After the Kings game Saturday, noted troll/screen name abuser robertbayer/Bob Bayer/Kagiso Edwards/at least one more different name that I’m forgetting tried to take me to task for not mentioning the role Stuckey playing shooting guard has had in his improvement.

I don’t mention it because it’s nonsense. Tonight’s game was a perfect example. Stuckey is not a full-time shooting guard because Knight is not anything resembling a point guard yet. Against the Cavs, Knight shot the ball really well, obviously hyped to play against his rival Kyrie Irving, which dates back to high school when Irving and Knight were the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in the country respectively. But if you notice, Knight didn’t really do many point guard-like things. He had three assists and two turnovers, but the offense was initiated by Stuckey as much as it was Knight, and a lot of it was run through Monroe in the high post.

Stuckey obviously has more freedom under Frank to push the ball (Frank has called him a “one man fast break,” taking advantage of Stuckey’s speed in the open court, something two previous coaches have been hesitant/terrified to unleash). He’s obviously the team’s biggest guard, so matchup-wise, he’s often guarding the opposing shooting guard. But make no mistake, the Pistons aren’t running any kind of traditional offense that features one point guard. Point guard responsibilities are shared pretty equally between Stuckey, Knight, Monroe and Prince, all of whom have significant roles in running the offense.

As Knight develops more, that may change. But right now, it’s inaccurate to call Stuckey primarily a shooting guard.

The Pistons have a chance to tie Cleveland in the win column

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Date: Feb. 21, 2012
  • Time: 7 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Records

  • Pistons: 11-22
  • Cavs: 12-17

Probable starters

Pistons:

Cavs:

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Daniel Gibson
  • Omri Casspi
  • Antawn Jamison
  • Semih Erden

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +3.5

Over/under: 189.5

Score: Cavs win, 96.5-93

Notes

Read about the Cavs

Cavs: The Blog

Charting the Pistons’ progress at midseason

The Pistons’ season is midway over, and here are few charts to show how they’ve progressed in some telling statistics during their first 33 games.

The three horizontal red lines in each post represent the NBA minimum, maximum and average for each category.

Winning percentage

Offensive rating

Offensive effective field-goal percentage

Offensive turnover rate

Offensive rebounding rate

Offensive free-throw rate

Defensive rating

Defensive effective field-goal percentage

Defensive turnover rate

Defensive rebounding rate

Defensive free-throw rate

Pace