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Vernon Macklin’s impending free agency won’t boost minutes, but maybe it should

WASHINGTON – Vernon Macklin has passed every public test put in front him.

In the NBA, he’s averaging 11.8 points on 55 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes.

In the D-League, he’s averaging 16.6 points on 53 percent shooting and 17.2 rebounds per game.

Of course, it’s difficult to know what those numbers mean. Mackling has played just 79 NBA minutes, and his D-League performances have come against, well, D-League competition.

But when the rookie returns to the Pistons, he should receive a rotation spot for one major reason: His contract expires after the season, and Detroit should getter a better idea of what it has in Macklin before he hits free agency.

Unsurprisingly, Lawrence Frank disagrees.

“No, I never – contract’s set aside,” Frank said. “Pay no mind to that.

“He just has to continue to work. We have good guys in front of him, and sometimes it’s just a matter of the other guys maybe playing a little bit ahead of him. At some point, he’ll get an opportunity. He just has to be ready when his number’s called.”

There’s no right answer here, just my opinion. I understand why Frank hasn’t played Macklin more. Macklin hasn’t shown he’s better than Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell, Jonas Jerebko or Ben Wallace. Frank has seen Macklin in practice, so unlike I do, he has much more information to evaluate.

But in this season that surely won’t end in the playoffs, the Pistons owe it to themselves to determine whether they should re-sign Macklin. If that means not basing the rotation completely on merit – less than ideal solution, so be it.

This is based one major caveat: Macklin has consistently shown a good attitude. As far as I can see – which again, isn’t nearly nearly as wide a view as Frank’s view – Macklin has. Walker Russell, a D-Leaguer before the Pistons called him up this season, has played with others sent down from NBA teams. In general, those players with NBA rights usually don’t bring the same attitude as those who don’t.

“When you don’t have it, I think you may be a little more hungry,” Russell said. “But he showed that a guy with it, with his contract, a guaranteed contract, that you can still go down there and be hungry and have a purpose. Like I said, he went down there and showed how to be a professional.”

Russell and Macklin spoke Sunday.

“He was happy,” Russell said. “He said, ‘I’m glad I went down here and experienced it.’ It was an eye-opener for him, so I think it humbled him now a little bit, too.”

“So far, he’s handling it like the best pro that I know, especially that got sent down.”

Many have paid attention to Macklin developing his specific facets of his game in Fort Wayne, but getting sent down might have a broader impact on his ability to play in the NBA.

“I told him it’s a good thing to go down there, get some run, get some bump, get into some basketball shape,” Russell said, “because practice isn’t playing in a game.”

“The more he got into shape, the more you see the numbers producing.”

Maybe improving his conditioning will be enough to push Macklin into the Pistons’ rotation. If he’s close, any edge could make a difference.

“Sometimes it’s not about, can you play or not?” Russell said. “It’s a numbers game. He just got caught up in a numbers game. But I think, definitely, Vernon can be a presence in the NBA, obviously in the D-League.”

Unfortunately, that D-League definitiveness doesn’t mean much. Only the NBA uncertainty does.

Ideally, Macklin returns from Fort Wayne playing so well, Frank can’t keep him off the floor. But if that doesn’t happen, Detroit is in a bind.

There’s no easy way for Frank to tell Monroe, Maxiell, Jerebko and/or Wallace their minutes have been cut to get Macklin playing time and maintain credibility that he’ll base playing time on merit. But there’s also no easy way to evaluate Macklin if he doesn’t see more NBA minutes.

Unless the Pistons are already certain they plan to re-sign Macklin and confident they can keep him at the price they’re willing to pay, I’d rather err on the sign of giving the apparently hard-working rookie with a positive attitude regular minutes.


  • Mar 28, 20121:13 pm
    by Tiko



    ….what I wish the starting lineup would be in the last 17 games

    • Mar 28, 20122:06 pm
      by Chris H


      Amen, give Stuckey a rest, let him completely heal, bring BG, Max and Charlie off of the bench so they look good facing the opponents 2nd rotation and hopefully boost their trade value, if there is any way to salvage that, and finally let Big Ben decide his own minutes.  I’m sure that he wants to go out with a few more wins, but let him be a part of that decision, he knows what games he will most positively effect, or maybe some teams he just really wants to play against, maybe Chicago or Cleveland.

    • Mar 28, 20122:58 pm
      by Jgoplay


      I dont think we should be starting macklin, but he definitely should be in the rotation. 
      as for daye, give him 10 mpg and we’ll see from there. DEFINITELY need to start stuckey and knight together. They need to build upon that chemistry they have.

      • Mar 28, 20123:33 pm
        by Mark


        What is there to lose by starting Macklin, and what is there to gain by continuing to start

        It doesn’t make Frank lose any credibility with the players by telling them we’re struggling are going to try something new.

        I get not taking minutes from Jerebko because he has a future here, and Wallace deserves to play his last few weeks of his career, but Maxiell isn’t owed anything as far as I’m concerned. And he might opt out and leave us in FA with nothing. So are we going to play him over the young guy who we may need to resign as his replacement, and risk losing both?

        Macklin’s numbers in the D-League may be just against D-League competition, but does anyone think Maxiell would or could avg 16 pts and 17 rebs down there? I don’t. I think Max would just try to get by doing as little as possible until he’s called back up. THAT is why Macklin deserves to play over Maxiell.

        With backup SF always up for grabs too, if Frank wanted he could play JJ at SF, and just give Macklin his minutes at backup PF.

        There are ways Macklin can get in the rotation. Frank seems to have a hidden agenda on this one for some reason.

        • Mar 28, 20123:48 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          “It doesn’t make Frank lose any credibility with the players by telling them we’re struggling are going to try something new.”

          I agree that Macklin should play some, but precisely what you just said was a big part of John Kuester losing credibility with players. He changed and shook up lineups often because the team wasn’t winning, and that helped erode players’ trust in him and it also, I think, made them believe the coach was blaming certain individuals who were being benched for the losing results.

          Like I said, I want Macklin to get some meaningful minutes, but I also think putting guys in roles and keeping them in those roles if they perform reasonably well (and Maxiell/Monroe/Jerebko/Wallace all have) has been a big part of him earning some trust that was lost during the Kuester era.

  • Mar 28, 20121:36 pm
    by The MAN


    Pistons ALWAYS do this, we don’t develop our young players and they end up going to another team and shining

  • Mar 28, 20123:27 pm
    by Corey


    Pistons philosophy on young players is so screwed up. Saying they can’t put Macklin in for 12 minutes a game to see if he can play is ridiculous. Rebuilding teams are supposed to, you know, build.

  • Mar 28, 20123:34 pm
    by RationalSportsFan


    I completely agree that Macklin should be playing, but a guy’s per36 numbers are useless when he has only played 79 minutes (especially when basically all those minutes come in the frantic, defense-less last minutes of blowouts).

  • Mar 28, 20125:19 pm
    by Alan


    To play devils advocate…

    Let’s say we play Macklin some minutes towards the season’s end and he plays superbly.  As a restricted Free Agent, we may have just upped his value by giving him a chance to shine in limited minutes. 

  • Mar 28, 20126:39 pm
    by frankie d


    it’s comments like frank”s that make me wonder whether joe and the pistons know what the heck they are doing.
    how is the team ever going to figure out what kind of player macklin is, unless they actually play him and test him at the nba level? 
    how is the team going to be able to take inventory of its talent and determine just what it needs to focus on in the off season, for draft and free agency and trade purposes? 
    how much sense does it make to wait till next year to find out about macklin?
    unfortunately, we’ve seen this nonsense before, as every year for the last 3 years, the team has played its vets heavy minutes pretty much right up to the end of the year. 
    as someone has already written, when you are rebuilding, you are supposed to…rebuild.
    it’s a simple concept that seems to constantly elude joe d and his coaches.
    i blame joe d for the most part.  frank, and any coach, is going to try to win every game he can, however he can.  while i don’t agree that playing the old guys necessarily provides the best chance, the logic is credible, at least.
    but joe is supposed to have the team’s long term interests in mind and he should do what is necessary to make certain that frank has to play the young guys. 
    btw, jj hickson just had another very good game last night.  he looked like he looked in cleveland…active, aggressive, a real force down low.  why joe d passed on a chance to give him a shot in detroit is a mystery.  portland picked up a nice young player off waivers.

  • Mar 28, 20128:13 pm
    by Guus


    I really have to disagree with most of the above comments.

    First of all, rebuilding a franchise is in no way any responsibility of a coach. Frank should not be worried about contracts at all. It is his job to work with the team he gets from Dumars, and work towards the best possible result with the best playing combination of players. If Macklin doesn´t beat out Maxiell, Wallace, Jerebko and Monroe in practice, he should not be awarded minutes by Frank.

    Now, Dumars, that´s a whole other story. He might like to see more minutes for Macklin, to see his trade value go up. But he should have thought of that before. If he would have wanted Frank to play Macklin more, he should have assembled a team where Macklin would have been good enough to crack the rotation. That would have meant putting a worse team together than we have now. That is basically what Portland did: trade away your proven veterans. Yes, they did it to acquire young players and picks, but it also automatically gives those young players a chance to prove themselves in real games. All of there competition at their spots has been traded away.

    Secondly, I don’t get how we somehow have to evaluate a player by playing them in games. Do you guys really think Frank and Dumars somehow can’t evaluate Macklin, simply because he only playedf 79 NBA minutes? What about the NBA competition in practice? Monroe and Maxiell are currently both NBA starting big men, and on a bad NBA team I might add. If Macklin can’t beat them out consistently in PRACTICE, why would he be able to beat out other PF’s en C’s in actual GAMES? Frank sees him everyday, I think he will be able to evaluate Macklin just fine.
    I read people saying: look at Pop. He let’s his young players finish this or that game, completely on their own! He is a great player developer, hence, we should play our young players too. But do we know what Pops players showed him in practice? Why does he trust those guys? They must have earned it somehow, and from what I know about Pop, it’s not necessarily easy to gain his trust. They must have earned it in PRACTICE, after which they have affirmed that trust in the game and Pop decides they deserve to finish it. The fact that Pop plays his young players a lot, has a lot more to do with great drafting and signing by Buford. HE (along with his front office) deserves credit for giving Pop great young players, who live up to their potential to beat out proven starters.

    And lastly, who says players need to play in NBA games to develop? Sure, IF they get there, they will ultimately develop while playing in NBA games. But first they have to develop to the point where they deserve minutes in an actual game to begin with.
    People say: Look at Afflalo. We hardly played him, trade him away and once he gets minutes, he develops into a decent rotation player. Not true. It completely disregards his development in Detroit. It’s precisely because of his development in Detroit that he was able to earn Karl’s trust in practice, meriting his eventual rotation spot. Same for Johnson in Toronto. (By the way, it’s on Dumars that he trades them away right when they have developed into potential rotation players. That’s where the problem was, not with them supposedly not developing, because they weren’t playing much)

    So basically, we’re in this mess because Dumars didn’t want to really rebuild after he had all the capspace from Iversons contract getting off the books. He attempted to continue the run (or pick it back up if you will) by adding new veterans, BG and CV. He envisioned them starting for another good Piston team. It didn’t work out, obviously. I think this year he did ok. Not great, but ok. Look at it this way: 3 out of 5 starters are young, potential building blocks for the future. Now, the second unit, I think, is too veteran heavy. I would have liked to not have Wilkins, so Frank would be forced to play Daye (now that that Wilkins IS there, Frank has to play him if he outplays Daye in practice). And of course, I would have liked to see another young player with potential in stead of either BG or CV (or both :P), but hey, I can understand it was hard to move them for Dumars.
    That way we would have had 5 or 6 out of 9 rotation players be young potential building blocks for the future.

    So I back Frank 100% on this one: it is Dumars that should have given him a different team to be able to rebuild. Dumars has proven to be a great GM when it comes to making a mediocre team better, through gutsy trades and signings (Billups, Hamilton, Rasheed). He might do a great job with ateam like the Hawks. It’s up to him now to show that he can also rebuild, or build from scratch. I hope can do it (he did good draft wise, so far).

    It comforts me knowing that Gores apparently has faith in Dumars. Gores seems a shrewd business man, who isn’t afraid to shake things up and would have no problem eliminating elements that stall development of his enterprises. Yet he stuck wit Dumars. He must believe Dumars can do it.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. It’s 2 AM in the Netherlands now, time for bed.

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