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Archive → March, 2012

Ben Wallace makes small steps toward law school

WASHINGTON – Ben Wallace will pick up his law-school planning once the season ends and he has a chance to reflect on his career. Until he does that, he’s not even sure when he wants to enroll. But he’s already figured out two small details:

He wants to practice criminal law, and he wants to attend law school somewhere in Virginia, his offseason home.

For now, though, he’s still playing, still impressing.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lawrence Frank said. “Ben amazes me in the sense that the guy, at his age, to be able to play so hard every night – I hope our young guys really appreciate what he does every day, because this guy’s been doing it for 16 years. He treats every day the same way, consummate professional.”

But even though Wallace, who holds a criminal justice degree from Virginia Union, is still focused mainly on basketball, he’s still set on attending law school.

“Oh, yeah,” Wallace said enthusiastically. “No question.”

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Andre Drummond

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-10, 270 pounds, freshman center from UConn
  • Key Stats: 10.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks per game, 54 percent shooting
  • Projected: Lottery
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

Yeah, I know, Andre Drummond said earlier in the season that he was leaning towards staying at UConn another season. But Greg Monroe once said that he planned to stay at Georgetown rather than enter the NBA Draft, yet somehow, he ended up playing for the Pistons instead of playing his junior season in college, so maybe the Pistons will have a similar stroke of luck and add another Big East big man.

The merits of Drummond are obvious. He’s big, athletic and blocks shots — nearly three per game in about 28 minutes a night. The Pistons have a notable deficiency in guys who are big, athletic and block shots (you may have noticed). But with those skills, Drummond is also incredibly raw, which is why he’s listed anywhere from two to six in most mock drafts, including Chad Ford’s recent one that had the Pistons landing Drummond at the six spot. After getting perhaps the best player in the 2010 draft in Monroe in the second half of the lottery and landing Brandon Knight later in last year’s lottery than most predicted he’d go, picking up a prospect of Drummond’s caliber at No. 6 would be another steal for Joe Dumars.

Pros for the Pistons

I don’t agree with this line of thinking, but there is a segment among Pistons fans that firmly believes Monroe needs to play power forward while being paired with a big center. Personally, the Pistons just need to add talent to their frontcourt, regardless of whether that talent is technically a power forward or a center. Fortunately for fans clamoring for a center, though, Drummond happens to be huge AND also has the shot-blocking/above the rim capabilities that the Pistons need.

Drummond finishes well around the basket on offense, he’s a good offensive rebounder, he can move without the ball and, on defense, he swats a high percentage of shots. All of those are things on the checklist for what the Pistons would like to add next to Monroe. With Drummond, there’s also the added bonus of him already being a little bit bigger than Monroe. Potentially, if he gets stronger and improves defensively (he’s already pretty solid on D) to the point where he can handle guarding opposing teams’ best big man, Monroe’s defensive problems become less of an issue (although he certainly needs to keep working on improving at that end of the court).

The Pistons, like every team in the lottery, are dreaming of Anthony Davis. But short of getting Davis, Drummond would be a pretty nice consolation prize.

Cons for the Pistons

Drummond didn’t have the dominant season many predicted for him as a heralded prep prospect. He was inconsistent for a UConn team that fell below expectations. This quote by Drummond about Seton Hall center Herb Pope, himself a pretty good player, is funny but also might give an indication as to why Drummond and another elite freshman big man prospect, Anthony Davis, didn’t make close to the same impact on their respective programs this season:

Seton Hall senior Herb Pope averages 18.6 points and 10.9 rebounds, he has eight double-doubles and he is a leading candidate for first-team all-Big East.

All those accomplishments, however, apparently weren’t enough to make a future Big East opponent aware of him.

On the eve of Connecticut’s matchup with improving Seton Hall on Tuesday night, Huskies freshman center Andre Drummond admitted to local reporters he didn’t know much about Pope.

“I don’t even know who that is,” Drummond said. “I’m not trying to be disrespectful. They said the name to me in practice and I was like ‘Wait, who’s Herb Pope?’”

“I haven’t watched Seton Hall so I wouldn’t know who’s on their team or anything like that.”

Drummond is young and that comment is more humorous to me than anything, but any team that drafts him will have to most likely wait for him to mature a bit before he’s a reliable, consistent contributor. He also needs to improve his dreadful free throw shooting (29 percent this season) as NBA teams will definitely exploit that weakness and send him to the line if he doesn’t. Drummond is physically imposing and athletic enough to be a dominant rebounder. He also occasionally struggles if he holds the ball too long — his seven turnover game vs. Rutgers was a good example of that. Despite his imposing size, Drummond is also hesitant at times to mix it up and play physically. That would be an issue for the Pistons considering that same thing can be said about Monroe, particularly on defense. The Pistons have a glaring need for more toughness up front, and that’s something Drummond is still developing.

None of his weaknesses should prevent a team from betting on his upside, he just has some work to do if he’s going to be an immediate impact player as a pro.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

The Good: God gave Andre Drummond the body of an NBA big man. He’s big, quick off his feet and moves incredibly well for his size. When he wants to be, he can be a dominant player on both ends of the floor. He can be an awesome finisher around the basket. He can be a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder.

The Bad: Drummond doesn’t always act like he wants to be a dominant player on either end. He can disappear for long stretches. He can shy away from the rough-and-tumble physical play in the paint. In short, he’s maddeningly inconsistent.

The Upside: Drummond reminds me a lot of another potentially elite prospect, Derrick Favors. If he ever gets it together and shows a passion for the game, he could be the best player in the entire draft. But there are serious questions about whether he’ll ever get there. He could get an NBA GM fired, too.

DraftExpress:

Whoever drafts him would surely be well-served hiring an experienced big man coach who can work with him on a daily basis and help him learn how to play with more toughness, confidence and aggressiveness. Such attention should help him a great deal, as he clearly has far more potential as a back to the basket threat than he was able to show this season.

NBADraft.net:

Man child. A physical specimen type of athlete with a huge wingspan, long legs and strength and agility at a young age … He’s already a beast inside the paint with his rebounding and shot blocking ability and shows the toughness and tenacity to be a dominant inside player … Shows a natural feel for the game with good timing on shot blocks and explosive leaping ability … Has a huge wingspan (7-feet-plus) … Born in August of 1993, and with size 18 shoes, Drummond could have another growth spurt in him and could end up well over 7-feet … Right hander who shows a solid form on his shot … Right now he scores a lot of points around the basket on ally oops and put backs. He’s also beginning to show some ability to create offense for himself and his post skills show a lot of potential.

Sheridan Hoops:

“He runs the floor as well as any 6-10 you’ll find on any level,” (New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski) said. “He has terrific athletic ability.”

The Republic:

The good: He has had nine double-doubles (10 or more points and rebounds in a game), which is more than any UConn freshman ever, including Emeka Okafor, who had seven. Drummond broke out in flashes, especially against Syracuse, the best team that UConn has played.

The not-so-good: Drummond, who averaged 10.2 points, has yet to develop the post moves that would make him a consistent scoring threat. The coaches are trying to teach him how to seal off his defender and move to the basket, for instance.

What is the best thing Andre Drummond does for his team?

Kevin Meacham (follow him on Twitter) writes for The UConn Blog, SB Nation’s UConn site:

The best thing Andre Drummond brings to any team right now is his freaky athleticism. He has a ways to go before he’s a well-rounded player, but right now Drummond will give you incredible quickness for a 7-footer and tremendous leaping ability; he also proved to be a very capable Jim Calhoun shot-blocker (that is, he’ll challenge anything near the rim while avoiding fouls and he’s quite good at weak-side help). All of that made Drummond an excellent college big-man defender. There were also times this year where Drummond would stride into a passing lane for a steal at the top of the key, leading to a fast-break dunk, and in those moments, Drummond looked like a seven-foot guard. He’s very much a “toolsy” (to borrow a baseball term) player right this second, but he had flashes that were absolutely breathtaking.

Previously

Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey fuel crazy comeback to cap bad game

WASHINGTON – Rodney Stuckey made the shots, but Brandon Knight made the splash.

With three minutes left, Knight flew over Detroit’s bench trying to save the ball between his legs. On the other side, he crashed into a cooler with full cups on top.

“Guy took a shower during the game – that doesn’t happen a lot ,” Lawrence Frank said. “But I thought that pumped our guys up. He goes over the top. There was a great spark that I think triggered, just to see the fight he showed.”

Knight’s hustle, evident since the start of the second half, set the tone for a 13-point comeback that became complete on Stuckey’s 3-pointer with 55 seconds left and changed the game’s outcome with Stuckey’s stepback jumper with 0.2 seconds left.

If the hooting and hollering heard in the Pistons’ locker room after their 79-77 win over the Wizards on Monday was any indication, Detroit needed this after losing five straight. Increasing lottery odds is always helpful, but so is rewarding hustle. The Pistons learned a lesson tonight about how to win that will, hopefully, stick with them.

Knight, although he couldn’t remember a save attempt quite like this one, didn’t need a lesson how to do it.

“You just don’t want to clip nothing to make you fall on your face,” Knight said.

That wasn’t the only unrefined part of the contest for Knight, who shot 3-of-13. But before the game, Ben Wallace talked about playing hard even when the individual results aren’t there. Knight (seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and one turnover) definitely held up his end of the bargain.

So did Stuckey, who picked up three first-half charges, missed six of his first eight shots and didn’t get to the free-throw line early. But he kept battling through his toe injury, and before the night ended, his game caught up to his effort.

In the end, it’s neither lottery odds nor learning how to play in tight games that was most important. As Stuckey pointed out, more than inspiring his teammates, Knight’s dive had another positive outcome.

“Luckily, he’s OK,” Stuckey said. “He’s not hurt. A lot of water fell on him, but he’ll be good, though.”

That was … nearly lockout-ruined

The Wizards were in the third game of a back-to-back-to-back and fifth game in six days. The Pistons were playing their third in four days and eighth straight in a different city. It showed – until a spirited final few minutes.

“It was an ugly, grimy, grindy –  I mean, the first half, the NBA called and they were about to throw us both out of the building,” Frank said.

Ben Gordon injured

Ben Gordon played just six minutes with a strained groin, so Austin Daye and Will Bynum (switching on and off with Knight as point guard) saw increased backcourt minutes.

Daye missed all three of his shots, and Bynum went just 2-for-7. Neither had an assist. If Gordon is an out an extended period of time, it will be interesting to see how Frank spreads backup minutes going forward.

Most Valuable Player

Jordan Crawford (21 points on 9-of-16 shooting) shot well on a night nobody else did, and he opportunistically collected five assists and three steals.

Stuckey’s game winner

Hopefully Rodney Stuckey returns to full strength against Wizards

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards
  • Date: March 26, 2012
  • Time: 7 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Records

  • Pistons: 16-32
  • Wizards: 11-37

Probable starters

Pistons:

Wizards:

  • John Wall
  • Jordan Crawford
  • Chris Singleton
  • Kevin Seraphin
  • Nene

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons -2

Over/under: 194

Score: Pistons win, 98-96

Read about the Wizards

TruthAboutIt.net

Vernon Macklin will likely remain in D-League two more weeks

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

After the game, Mad Ants GM Jeff Potter sent Pistons vice president Scott Perry this e-mail: “Vern with 24 and 20 tonight and the nastiest tip dunk I’ve seen all year. Dominated for 48 minutes. Took a huge charge toward the end of the game. He was unreal. Congrats on drafting him.”

The Pistons are likely to let Macklin finish the D-League season in Fort Wayne, Perry said, which consists of five more games and concludes April 7. He would then return to the Pistons for the final three weeks of the season. It will be up to Lawrence Frank whether Macklin could crack the frontcourt rotation then, but the Pistons feel pretty good that Macklin has a future that belies his draft status.

Lawrence Frank thinks he calls enough plays for Ben Gordon

Lawrence Frank on Ben Gordon, via David Mayo of MLive:

“When we bring Ben off the bench, virtually every play is run for Ben,” Frank said. “It’s just different personnel out there. Plus, off the bench, he’s not playing 40 minutes a night. So I think from a mental standpoint, when you know you have a longer leash, you probably don’t put as much pressure on yourself to make that first shot, because Ben missed his first couple of shots and turned down the first shot of the game we ran for him.

“To me, it’s not necessarily plays, because literally, when he’s in there, we call his number every single play.”

Pistons lose only nationally televised game

David Mayo of MLive.com:

The NBA announced today that ESPN has decided to change plans to televise the April 13 Pistons-Milwaukee Bucks game, and replace it with a Phoenix Suns-Houston Rockets game.

A Pistons spokesman said the team intends to discuss with Fox Sports Detroit the possibility of adding that game to its programming schedule.

Signs of quit fill Pistons’ loss to Knicks

The Pistons were outplayed and outhustled, and that was before they basically gave up.

Since March 12, the Pistons have played seven games in seven locations. I don’t know whether that cost them tonight’s game, but it certainly didn’t help in their 101-79 loss to the Knicks tonight.

Just look at the rebounding battle.

The Pistons rebounded 18 percent of their own misses, their fifth-lowest total of the season. Worse, they rebounded 55 percent of New Yorks misses, their second-lowest total of the season. Both marks, over a full year, would rank last in the NBA.

Or check out plus-minus.

All 11 Pistons who played finished with negative plus-minuses. At no point did the Pistons play well.

Or see the quarterly scoring.

Detroit was outscored in each quarter, which to me, is the mark of a game where one team quits. For the most part, its difficult to sustain enough energy and focus to outplay a team in each quarter – unless the opponent gives in. Tonight, the Pistons acquiesced.

As bad as this loss was, it gives a chance to appreciate how hard the Pistons have played this season, tonight notwithstanding. This is just the second time the Pistons have been outscored each quarter in 48 games this season (four percent). That’s way better than eight times in 82 games last season (10 percent).

More than anything, I think changing from John Kuester to Lawrence Frank facilitated the difference. The Pistons are much more willing to play hard for Frank than Kuester.

Hopefully, they get back to that Monday in Washington

Charlie Villanueva plays

Charlie Villanueva played for the first time since March 10 against the Raptors and just the fourth first time all season, and he was, um, involved.

Villanueva (six shots, a pair of free throws and a turnover) used nine of the Pistons’ 18 plays while he was in the game. Unfortunately he made just one shot – and three free throws for his first five points of the season. He also blocked a shot on the other end.

Villanueva wasn’t quite so involved in every face, though. He rebounded only one of the 19 misses, including nine by the Knicks, while he was in the game.

Building blocks defense better

Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight haven’t drawn much defensive praise around these parts, but they did some good things on that end tonight.

On the Knicks’ final possession of the first half, Monroe came out to help beautifully to stifle a Jeremy Lin drive. Monroe had the benefit of knowing Lin would have to shoot before the half ended, but that was one of the most confident and aggressive helps I’ve seen from the Piston center. That wasn’t his only impressive rotation of the night

Knight played the passing lanes well, nabbing two steals. Knight has the length to go for more steals than he does. With a few more calculated risks, he could go from a subpar to good defender in a hurry.

Jeremy Lin and Walker Russell meet again, this time in the NBA

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at New York Knicks
  • Date: March 24, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 16-31
  • Knicks: 23-25

Probable starters

Pistons:

Knicks:

  • Jeremy Lin
  • Landry Fields
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Amar’e Stoudemire
  • Tyson Chandler

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +10.5

Over/under: 192.5

Score: Knicks win, 101.5-91

Read about the Knicks

KnickerBlogger.net

The Miami Heat have no answer for Austin Daye

In 38 minutes against the Miami Heat this season, Austin Daye is shooting 59 percent. In 371 minutes against everyone else, he’s shooting 26 percent.

Daye didn’t have the kind of impact in tonight’s loss to the Heat that he had earlier in the season when he scored a career high 28 points in a much more competitive game against Miami. But his eight minutes did triple the total number of minutes he’s played in March, he did shoot 3-for-4 and he did not play in the passive, tentative way he so often has this season.

Daye still being on the roster after the trade deadline was a mild surprise, considering his seeming lack of fit in the system Lawrence Frank is trying to build here. But Joe Dumars’ comments after the deadline passed suggesting that the organization still has faith in Daye would lead me to believe that he’s going to get another opportunity at regular minutes before this season ends. Tonight was a good step in that direction.

The man immediately ahead of Daye on the depth chart, Damien Wilkins, also played pretty well against the Heat, but the good news is Wilkins playing decent doesn’t necessarily mean Daye has to sit. The only competitive lineup Frank put on the floor tonight, starting late in the third quarter, featured both Wilkins and Daye along with Will Bynum, Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko. Bynum pushed the ball, Wallace, Jerebko and Wilkins hustled and the helter-skelter nature of that lineup set Daye up for a few nice, easy looks, something he desperately needs to break out of his slump. I also liked that lineup simply because it paired Daye with four high-energy guys who scrap and hustle. Those are traits that really need to rub off on Daye if he’s going to play more.

The opportunity for minutes over at least the next week or so should be there. Rodney Stuckey missed his second straight game tonight and the team will rightly take its time with him. Ben Gordon followed up his spectacular Denver performance with a dud and Bynum is also known for his inconsistency. Daye’s ability to play minutes at shooting guard could be the small chance he needs to re-assert himself as a rotation player. In the past, Daye has had a hard time taking advantage of the bit minutes he does get and making a strong case that he’s deserving of more time on the court. Tonight, he played confidently and looked like a player who can do positive things for the Pistons. Hopefully he gets a chance to build on his small positive steps he took and hopefully he takes advantage of it.

Gordon didn’t have it

Dan Feldman noted earlier today just how out of nowhere Gordon’s 45-point game against the Nuggets was. He also brought up the unpleasant but likely scenario that the aggressive, dangerous scorer we saw in Denver was probably a one-game-only thing. He was right. Gordon’s first 3-point attempt against the Heat was way off and he missed all four of his attempts. He only shot the ball 10 times overall in 31 minutes and was back to being the passive spot-up shooter who doesn’t often look for his own offense we’ve grown accustomed to.

Part of the issue tonight was Gordon had a much tougher assignment on defense. Not that the Nuggets’ guards are slouches, but having to account for Arron Afflalo is a bit easier than having to worry about Dwyane Wade. Gordon understandably struggled at that end of the floor and it looked like having to pay extra attention to Wade and constantly worry about the tendency of Miami’s perimeter players to not only force turnovers, but to take off for run-outs afterwards, took a tool on his offense. His shots were usually contested and he turned the ball over seven times.

Knight scores efficiently

Brandon Knight turned it over three times and only had two assists against that tough Miami perimeter D, but he was able to get his shots off and get in the lane a little bit against the Heat. Unlike Gordon, Knight hit all four of his threes, so that opened things up a bit for him on the drive. With Stuckey out and Gordon struggling, Knight shifted over and spent time at shooting guard with Bynum running the point.

I know there’s a great debate and a few people who get offended every time it’s pointed out that Knight isn’t really a point guard yet, but with Stuckey out, it is more obvious that although Knight is getting better at taking care of the ball, the Pistons need Stuckey’s PG-like skills to help their offense run better.

Knight also broke the franchise rookie record for 3-pointers in a season, topping Lindsey Hunter’s previous record of 69. Knight still has a ways to go this season to build on that too.

Length bothers bigs

Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell and Wallace combined to shoot 3-for-15. Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh only blocked three shots, but they altered many more. Monroe never got comfortable offensively and he had a terrible defensive first half, losing track of Anthony for a couple early buckets and he was regularly late with help when Miami’s wings penetrated. Struggling against athletic shot blockers like Anthony is nothing new for Monroe, but I was disappointed that he didn’t seem to use any of his trademark craftiness against Anthony. Early on, Monroe went straight into Anthony without using any pump fakes or secondary moves, making it very easy for Anthony to contest his shots and force him into bad misses.