Archive → March, 2012
Final Four trumps Pistons’ overtime win over Bobcats, which included minor Greg Monroe-Brandon Knight flap
Stuckey, going into that last timeout, asked me who won the Kentucky game.
Kentucky 69, Louisville 61 in the main event. Pistons 110, Bobcats 107 in the undercard.
By hosting the Bobcats and not leading after regulation, the Pistons join a prestigious group that previously included just the pre-Linsanity Knicks, Raptors and Hornets.
On one hand – with Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon out injured – that’s somewhat understandable. On the other hand, even without those two, the Pistons probably should put away a team like Charlotte sooner.
During Detroit’s run, though, D.J. Augustin drove for a layup. Mayo:
BK and Greg Monroe argue about that defensive lapse, no help on the Augustin drive. Jawed at each other a bit. 95-91
#Bobcats, 1:15 left.
In itself, that’s no big deal. Teammates, caught up in competition, clash all the time.
But on losing teams, those types of problems can fester, intensify and become significant. Obviously, the Pistons don’t need a rift between their two most promising players.
But by the time Will Bynum made a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime and the Bobcats missed two 3-pointers on their final possession, I bet Monroe and Knight had forgotten about the exchange.
Certainly, Stuckey wasn’t the only one with an eye on the Final Four tonight. Even Pistons fans who don’t like college basketball are intrigued by Detroit’s potential first-round draft picks playing for Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio State.
With tonight’s win, Detroit hurt its odds of having its choice between those Final Four stars. But the Pistons also avoided another potential problem, which has real value.
And, of course, they didn’t lose to the Bobcats
To me, it looks like Lawrence Frank was shouting instructions to his players for most of the play, but just as Ronnie Brewer shot, Frank turned toward him and shouted. It looks even more convincing in higher-quality replays, which if someone posts, I’d happily update my mediocre capture.
If Frank yelled to distract Brewer, I don’t have a huge problem with it. I have a much bigger problem with Frank stepping onto the court before the shout – especially because he comes mighty close to the Bulls’ play. Many coaches do that, but I wish the refs did a better job policing it.
(Hat tip: Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated)
Coming up with a good defensive effort against the Bulls when Derrick Rose is out of the lineup is certainly a less daunting task than when they are at full strength, but the Pistons still produced one of their better defensive efforts of the season in tonight’s 83-71 loss to still pretty good Chicago team.
The Pistons lost because they couldn’t contend with Chicago’s strength — Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer were monsters on the offensive glass, combining to grab 17. Nine of those 17 came in the fourth quarter, producing 10 second chance points in the quarter and helping push the Bulls’ four-point lead into double digits.
The game, unlike some recent matchups in Detroit’s 14 straight losses to Chicago, stayed competitive most of the way because the Pistons used their length and speed to counter Chicago’s strength advantage. Detroit forced Chicago into 19 turnovers by constantly getting their hands in passing lanes. Now, they were partially helped by the sloppy ball-handling of Chicago’s guards, but Brandon Knight had one of his most active defensive games, a positive sign from a player who is quick and long-armed enough to eventually become a really good defensive point guard. Knight had a steal and two blocked shots and helped hold Chicago point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas to 4-for-18 shooting.
The team’s other starting guard, Austin Daye, also had two blocked shots and had three steals. In fact, Knight and Daye were the only two Pistons to block a shot in the game. Daye had his second straight positive defensive performance. He struggled shooting the ball (5-for-14), but I’m not convinced it was his poor shooting that was keeping him out of the lineup anyway. Lawrence Frank has shown a willingness to roll with players who are struggling offensively as long as the defensive effort is there, and defense has always been the lacking or even non-existent part of Daye’s game. He faced tough defenders tonight in Ronnie Brewer and Luol Deng, so I’m not too worried about the poor shooting. In fact, I’m encouraged that the poor shooting didn’t torpedo his confidence at the other end of the court as it often does. He remained competitive and energetic even when his shot wasn’t falling. That’s a huge mental hurdle he has yet to overcome as a NBA player and tonight was a positive sign that he has the ability to contribute more than just occasional spot-up shooting.
The defensive performance was far from flawless — Jason Maxiell gave up some way too easy baskets to Carlos Boozer early and, although they played hard on defense, Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko were just out-muscled on the boards all night. Still, there was much more positive to take away from the defensive effort tonight than negative, and it has been a rarity to be able to write that this season.
Starting, not closing, quarters was a problem
Bad teams frequently do a poor job of closing out quarters strong, and the Pistons have been no exception this season. Tonight though, the Pistons were down eight with less than three minutes to go in the third and cut it to four by the end of the third.
Unfortunately, they didn’t carry that momentum into the fourth. Kyle Korver hit a three, then Taj Gibson hit a jumper and was fouled to push the lead to 10 in the opening minute of the fourth. That was a theme all game for the Pistons — they worked very hard to get the game close, then Chicago would answer with a series of easy baskets to push the lead back up.
Monroe’s tough 14 points
Greg Monroe has been passive over the last few games when it comes to establishing good position and creating the types of shots he was regularly getting earlier in the season. Tonight, he wasn’t getting great position and he was taking shots a bit out of his comfort zone, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Monroe fought for every inch he could get against Noah and Omer Asik. Usually though, they succeeded in making him catch it a little further from the basket than he wanted the ball. Unlike a previous meeting this season when Monroe successfully beat Noah off the dribble several times, Chicago was giving plenty of help, making it difficult for him to put it on the floor. Monroe scored 14 on 7-for-13 shooting, but none of those baskets came easily. Four of his points were a result of tip-ins where he absorbed a lot of contact and was sent crashing to the floor. Four more came on heavily contested jumpers.
Monroe was involved in the offense — he also had five assists — but more importantly, he had zero turnovers despite facing constant pressure from Chicago. He’s had more dominant performances this season, but I don’t think he’s performed better against a tough, physical defense that came after him than he did tonight.
About that bench …
Chicago’s defense was physical and intense. Other than Monroe, Maxiell and Ben Wallace (who only took four and two shots respectively), no one on the Pistons shot well. But the starters at least were competitive against the Chicago defense. The reserves? Not so much. Will Bynum, Damien Wilkins and Jonas Jerebko combined to go 2-for-19. Bynum, in particular, played really poorly (0-for-8 shooting, 0 assists, 0 steals and a turnover). Wilkins and Jerebko were at least able to make some hustle plays. Jerebko came up with five offensive rebounds and Wilkins had a nice, clean contest on a Watson breakaway layup, forcing a miss, in the fourth quarter, although Wilkins did pay the price by taking a hard elbow to the face. But with a depleted lineup, the Pistons desperately needed some scoring out of at least one of those guys (and Bynum should’ve been the most likely candidate). It just never materialized.
Couple of things about Knight’s stat line that his detractors will surely jump on: he only had one assist and he didn’t shoot well overall. I’m going to give him a pass on both counts.
First, they needed him to be aggressive as a scorer tonight with both Stuckey and Gordon out. On top of that, with Bynum struggling, Knight was their only player capable of consistently beating his man off the dribble and creating shots for himself or drawing the attention of the defense. He did those things pretty well most of the game. Until he forced three bad shots late in the game with the Pistons trying to get back in it, he was a respectable 7-for-15. As for his assists, he found open teammates several times for open jumpers, resulting in misses. Jerebko, Prince and Daye all missed wide open threes in the second half that should’ve been assists for Knight. Knight’s offense wasn’t terrible and his defense was pretty good. His effort was a big reason the game stayed as close as it did.
Despite getting medical clearance to play, Tom Thibodeau held Rip Hamilton out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. On Twitter as the game was about to start, I was reading tweets from Chicago fans who were worried that Hamilton might be rushing back from his latest injury simply to face his former team. He’s already done that once this season, and he re-aggravated his injury in that game.
Hamilton being stubborn/prideful even to the possible detriment of his own health? I’m shocked to hear such a thing. Never change, Rip.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons at Chicago Bulls
- Date: March 30, 2012
- Time: 8 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Detroit
- Pistons: 18-32
- Bulls: 41-11
- C.J. Watson
- Ronnie Brewer
- Luol Deng
- Carlos Boozer
- Joakim Noah
Las Vegas projection
Spread: Pistons +10
Score: Bulls win, 96-86
Read about the Bulls
Daye starts with Stuck and BG out.
Needless to say, this is a huge opportunity for Daye, but it won’t be easy for him either. The Bulls have brutish perimeter defenders in Ronnie Brewer and Luol Deng who are not only great defensively, but much stronger than Daye too.
Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton went through a full shoot-around Friday morning and is a game-time decision to face the Detroit Pistons, according to coach Tom Thibodeau, while Derrick Rose only participated halfway and will likely miss his ninth consecutive game with a groin injury.
Hamilton, who injured his right shoulder on March 5, has played in just 16 games this season because of various injuries. He began taking contact on Wednesday.
In order for Hamilton to play, the Bulls need “medical clearance first, and when he’s pain free, he goes,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Some believe Hamilton shouldn’t have returned to face his former team in Detroit on Jan. 4. He tweaked his injury and missed the next eight games.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Hamilton is going to do whatever he can to play tonight. The Pistons get a big break with Rose out, though.
3. Can Detroit win three straight road games?
Chicago doesn’t have Rose, but the Bulls still have lockdown defense. Monroe has had a good game against Noah once this season, and he’ll need to break out of his recent slump if the Pistons are going to win tonight.
Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag
- Measurables: 6-foot-8, 209 pounds, sophomore forward from NC State
- Key Stats: 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks per game, 53 percent shooting, 29 percent 3-point shooting
- Projected: Late first round to early second round
Why he is intriguing
Leslie is a freak of an athlete who is capable of displaying boundless energy and impacting the stat sheet in a variety of ways. He’s also still prone to the immaturity of youth, though. As a prized high school recruit, he de-committed from NC State before eventually re-committing. Last year, he also decided for some reason that it would be a good idea to post his anti-gay thoughts publicly on Twitter. Note to athletes: that probably won’t end well.
Leslie’s tantalizing size and athleticism will surely make NBA teams fall in love with him. But his perimeter game, which is still in need of some refinement, might push him into being a second round pick despite having first round athleticism.
Pros for the Pistons
Like yesterday’s prospect, Darius Miller, Leslie fulfills a need for the Pistons: speed and athleticism on the perimeter. But while Miller’s next level skills are pretty defined — he’ll provide shooting, passing and play hard — Leslie is more hard to quantify.
He’s a good rebounder for a wing player. He’s lanky and athletic and blocks shots. He has the physical tools to become a good defensive player. He is capable of playing with boundless energy, he’s one of the best in the country at running the floor and he finishes well. Although he plays some in the post at NC State, he also has the necessary ball-handling skills to play most of his minutes at the three as a pro. All of those skills are certainly things the Pistons could use.
Cons for the Pistons
Unlike Miller, Leslie doesn’t add a floor-stretching presence. With Austin Daye‘s shot off all year and the futures of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon uncertain, the Pistons could use more shooters to take pressure off of Greg Monroe if he’s doubled in the post and help open more driving lanes for Rodney Stuckey. It’s easy to envision Leslie finishing off great passes from either of those players, but as a 29 percent 3-point shooter, it’s also easy to see his defenders sagging off of him to give extra help on Stuckey or Monroe.
Also, though he’s not quite as frail as Daye was coming out of college, Leslie needs to get significantly stronger if he’s going to hold his own defensively against some of the stronger wing players in the league. He’s also more of a hybrid forward, a role the Pistons already have filled with Jonas Jerebko. He, like Jerebko, might be most effective switching back and forth between forward spots depending on matchups. The Pistons could really use a player who could become a permanent fixture at SF and possibly push Tayshaun Prince for the starting spot down the road. Leslie could be that player, but he might not be skilled enough offensively to be only a SF at this point. He’s also a bad free throw shooter at 59 percent.
What others are saying
Leslie came out of high school with a checkered rep. He was regarded as one of the most athletic prospects in his class. But his attitude and indifference on the court raised eyebrows. As a freshman he showed both his potential and his potholes. As a sophomore, Leslie has made major strides in his game and in his consistency.
For two straight games in the tournament, against San Diego State and Georgetown (and along with some stellar play in the ACC tournament against North Carolina and Virginia), Leslie carried the Wolfpack and now has them in the Sweet 16. Scouts love Leslie’s length and athletic ability. But it’s his newfound toughness and aggressiveness on the court that’s led to them warming up quickly to him. Leslie still is a work in progress, but virtually every general manager I spoke with this weekend had him ranked somewhere in the late-teens to the 20s on their boards.
Possessing all the physical tools necessary to be successful on that end of the floor, Leslie would benefit from playing a role that would allow him to capitalize on his athleticism in transition while affording him a chance to develop a comfort level as a face-up scorer from the midrange.
Defensively, Leslie is limited to some degree by his lack of bulk, but is mostly inhibited by his inconsistent motor. By no means is he an incapable defender, as he’s been terrific for stretches, using his length to block shots at the rim and his quickness to deny dribble penetration, but he has not consistently competed with an intensity that let him get the most out of his abilities.
He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble from about the foul line extended, and can finish strong around the rim in a variety of different ways … Shows the potential to develop a jump shot, but still has a ways to go before it becomes a weapon … He runs the floor well for a 6’9 forward and is an easy and big target on the break for his point guard as he can get up and catch anything around the basket … All the tools to be a great shotblocker on and off the ball … High motor guy who brings energy and explosiveness that can liven up his team and the crowd
Gottfried told reporters Saturday that he refuses to call Leslie “C.J.” because of the criticism he heard about the 6-foot-8 forward after he seized control of the program. He calls him by his first name, Calvin.
“When I took this job, every time I turned around somebody was making a negative comment about C.J. Leslie: Doesn’t play hard. He’s disinterested. You’re not going to be able to reach him,” Gottfried said prior to his team’s win over Georgetown. “So my thing was it’s time for a change. It’s time for you to have a fresh start. So for me we’ll change your name.”
Leslie said Gottfried focused on the strengths of every player on the roster and implemented them within his system. That approach helped players cling to Gottfried.
“He did a good job of just knowing everybody [personally]. That’s the start of it. Just getting to know everybody and what they can do best,” Leslie said during Saturday’s media session.
Leslie has faced plenty of adversity at N.C. State, from dealing with various suspensions to handling the constant questioning of his maturity and effort. Yow earned his trust by continuing to support him through times good and bad.
“I think he has an innate sense of how much I care about him as a person,” Yow said.
What is the best thing C.J. Leslie does for his team?
C.J. Leslie is an absolute phenom from a shear athletic standpoint. His greatest strength is the ability to make those “wow” plays — whether it’s his lightning-quick drop-step, an offensive putback in traffic, or a blocked shot from seemingly out of nowhere. He showed a budding post-up game as a sophomore, but he won’t have the luxury of being guarded by power forwards in the NBA. He has the God-given tools to enjoy a long career in the league, but lingering commitment and focus concerns will scare some front offices away.
Zack Lowe of Sports Illustrated has a really interesting look at the value of shooting corner 3-pointers. First, here’s his description:
It has become accepted among NBA geeks that the hierarchy of the “best” shots, from most efficient to least, goes something like this:
2. Free throws
3. Corner three-pointers
4. Other three-pointers
5. Mid-range shots
Teams last season shot 39 percent on corner threes, which is about the same percentage teams shoot overall on two-pointers outside the restricted area. Teams last season shot about 35.5 percent on all three-pointers, meaning they shot something like 33.5 percent to 34 percent on three-pointers taken anywhere but the corners.
In short: The corner three is a great shot, something Spurs coach Gregg Popovich understood probably before the Internet became a thing.
And, in his section on coaches, Lowe notes that the Pistons have improved immensely at defending corner threes under Lawrence Frank:
Another coach to watch: Lawrence Frank. The Pistons are right behind Philly in corner-three attempts allowed after surrendering many more than average last season while playing at a tortoise-like pace. Frank, of course, is a defense-first coach who spent 2010-11 with the Celtics, a team that patrols the corner well.
Seasons Played Together: 9 (1985-1994)
NBA Titles: 2
Along with Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman, Zeke and Joe D’s intense style of defense gave the Pistons their “Bad Boy” identity. Isiah was the little man with a big game, while Dumars was the undersized silent assassin. They made it to three straight Finals while coming away with two and they absolutely owned the Bulls during the late ’80s. So much so that people were saying MJ would never win a ring—sound familiar?
I have to admit … I was pretty shocked to see Isiah and Dumars finish higher on that list than Tim Duncan and David Robinson. I loved Thomas/Dumars as much as anyone, but not sure I can even defend that one. Lists like this are all about stirring up debate though, I guess.
David Aldridge of NBA.com notes that Channing Frye’s mom is trying to put together a show about NBA moms, and it could include former Piston Rip Hamilton‘s mom:
While she tries to find a permanent TV home for “Girlfriends,” she’s also developing another show, “Basketball Moms,” which follows six women who live together as they share stories about their sons and confront their own issues, including trying to lose weight and get in better shape. The demo featured Frye; Pam Long, Rip Hamilton’s mother; Thelma Harris, the mother of Heat forward Dexter Pittman; Monja Willis, mother of the Thunder’s James Harden; Queen Warrick, the mother of Suns forward Hakim Warrick, and Linda Shanklin, the mother of 76ers’ All-Star forward Andre Iguodala.
And speaking of Hamilton, it looks like he’ll return to the lineup tonight for Chicago against the Pistons.
“It was frustrating for the past couple of years, just mentally not being where you want to be as a team. All that stuff took a toll,” Stuckey said.
He clashed with former coach John Kuester, who was fired after last season and is now a Los Angeles Lakers assistant.
But Stuckey decided to make a change. He credits family and friends for his turnaround, and he also went to a psychologist, “Just to clear my mind,” he said.
“I think it was good for me. It wasn’t someone inside my inner circle, and they didn’t care,” Stuckey said of therapy. “I was going to get the feedback I needed to hear. That really helped out a lot. It was just positive energy. There was too much negative energy.”
That’s really interesting to read and, I think, reinforces what most who follow the Pistons closely have observed over the years. Stuckey’s issues have had little to do with his on-court talent and more to do with him playing with a consistent positive energy level and effort. A more calm mental state and just simply maturing seem to have finally allowed Stuckey start to realize his immense potential this year.