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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.


  • Feb 22, 201210:28 pm
    by Ricky


    Monroe is perhaps tired .. he has play a lot lately

  • Feb 22, 201210:41 pm
    by frankie d


    i thought he looked gassed by the 3rd quarter.
    he definitely looked like he was reserving his energy for the offensive end.
    when he got hit for that flagrant foul by bayless, that seemed to energize him and he played with a bit more energy on both ends.  but he still put out much more energy on the offensive end.   i think he scored about 16 points after that flagrant foul.
    he definitely needs to work on his conditioning as there have been several other games where he looked gassed fairly early in the game.

    • Feb 22, 201210:51 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Yeah, it has definitely been an issue for him all season. He motions to come out of games quite a bit.

      • Feb 22, 201211:04 pm
        by frankie d


        when he gets tired his legs get shaky like a boxer who is about to go down. it is usually pretty obvious that he’s gassed. that supposedly was an issue in college and i’m surprised that he hasn’t addressed it by this point.
        the team desperately needs him to be able to play hard for 35-38 minutes a game. when he hedges out on a pick and roll, he almost never hustles back to the lane to pick up his man. at first i thought he just had really slow feet, but then it was obvious that he just wasn’t putting the effort into it.

      • Feb 23, 201212:08 pm
        by tarsier


        Only 4 games in the next 15 days. That should help a bit. Plus rising stars, I guess.

  • Feb 23, 201212:38 am
    by Talan


    He runs like he is 7 foot five 300lbs. Seriously awkward run, really short strides like he is afraid he’ll fall over.

  • Feb 23, 20129:30 am
    by Matt


    Too bad these last two. By my calculations the Stones are about to go about 2-15 after the break with a pretty brutal road schedule. Anyway that should guarantee we get back those lottery balls we lost in the last 10 games!

  • Feb 23, 201210:33 am
    by vic


    whats good is that even though we won a few games, our losses to washington, Toronto, cleveland… those losses were especially good for our lotto chances, because they were teams we are in reverse competition with

    • Feb 23, 201212:05 pm
      by tarsier


      and the wins were against new jersey, sacramento, new orleans. teams detroit isn’t in reverse competition with?

  • Feb 23, 20122:23 pm
    by shawn brown


    i dont like the idea of tanking to get a chance to pick a player who is unproven at the nba level. there is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to the nba draft.   for every MJ and lebron james there is also a darko and a sam bowie.  once we know what pick we are going to get if we can find a willing trade partner id package the pick to get a proven player, thats just my take.    i mean everyone this year is going on about davis but remember we picked greg monroe at 8 and brandon knight at 7 i believe, so you dont always need to draft at 1 to get a good player. the core of this team is monroe, knight, stuckey and JJ.    find players to complement them and not just go with the big names. remember joe d has had a much better time picking later in the draft then sooner anyhow.        BTW everyone who says we should ve picked carmelo and d – whine (wade) over darko is forgetting that they would ve bolted for brighter lights when their contracts were up.  joe d flipped darko for stuckey and even though rodney isnt a star , he is a decent player, something darko isnt.

    • Feb 23, 20125:40 pm
      by tarsier


      Dude, nobody would’ve complained about “only” having 7 years of  Melo, Wade, or Bosh. And there is no reason to believe they would’ve bolted anyway if they had good teams around them. But that is neither here nor there. I don’t think teams should tank in terms of not trying to win. But in terms of playing their young guys to develop them at the expense of minutes to vets who may get more wins but aren’t part of the future? Yeah, I’d do that every time. And when you trade for a sure thing, you get a decent player. If you want a great one, you almost always have to draft him. Or give away a boat load for him when he is halfway through his career.

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