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Archive → October, 2012

Pistons blow double-digit lead in season-opening loss to Rockets, barely use Andre Drummond, still look exciting in process

The Detroit Pistons began last season 0-3 and the season before that 0-5, and with tonight’s 105-96 loss to the Houston Rockets, the Pistons have lost their third straight season opener.

Somehow, this one didn’t seem so bad.

I know Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey are each capable of much more than they delivered tonight. It’s not time to panic about them.

Kyle Singler and Kim English excelled off the bench – which is encouraging for both this season and the future. They play a fun brand of basketball, and first-half Will Bynum did, too. I could watch that for a full season.

Of course, Lawrence Frank barely used Andre Drummond (not that Drummond proved his coach wrong), which put a damper on the loss. But it’s only one game, and we all know what type of potential Drummond has. Eventually, he’ll get more of a chance.

For now, I’m just pleased Singler and English appear ready to join Drummond as part of the Pistons’ group of potentially productive youngsters.

Grades

Jason Maxiell – B-

24 min, 10 pts, 8 reb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 2 blk, 4-7 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2-2 FT

He was active and shot fairly well from mid-range. In other words, exactly what you’d expect from him.

Tayshaun Prince – C-

32 min, 12 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk, 4-9 FG, 0-1 3FG, 4-4 FT

I really appreciated that he didn’t dominate the ball, but he could have done more aside from scoring. His total of nine shots is misleadingly high, because a few came in transition and couple came late in the shot clock.

Greg Monroe – B

35 min, 14 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 0 blk, 7-13 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-3 FT

Not his best game, but Monroe made up for his shortcomings on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he missed too many shots, but passed well. Defensively, his rotations were too slow, but he got three steals.

Brandon Knight – C-

37 min, 15 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk, 5-15 FG, 1-4 3FG, 4-6 FT

Led the Pistons in scoring, led the Pistons in shots. In all senses, his stat line looks better by volume than it does be efficiency. Knight didn’t do anything terribly, but Detroit won’t win consistently if he plays like this — though, he might impress some casual observers with those numbers.

Rodney Stuckey – D

37 min, 9 pts, 2 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk, 1-10 FG, 0-3 3FG, 7-8 FT

He got to the line well, but he needs to finish better inside. If he doesn’t, he won’t keep getting those foul calls.

Andre Drummond – D+

13 min, 2 pts, 2 reb, 0 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT

I’m glad the Pistons are looking out for Drummond’s confidence by not starting him, barely playing him and not running anything for him. /sarcasm

That said, Drummond didn’t appear particularly confident or aggressive tonight. Right after he entered the game, Will Bynum found him for a short shot. Otherwise, Drummond faded into the background — which was the big knock on him at Connecticut.

Kyle Singler – B

16 min, 10 pts, 2 reb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 1 blk, 4-5 FG, 2-2 3FG, 0-0 FT

Before this game, I said the book was still out on whether Singler is a good 3-point shooter from NBA distance. Well, I’m not sure we have a definitive answer yet, but we’re getting closer, and it looks good for the Pistons.

Will Bynum – C+

13 min, 9 pts, 2 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk, 4-6 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT

Bynum had all his points, rebounds and assists in the first half, when he provided a major spark. Bynum didn’t do much in the second half, but at least he wasn’t a liability.

Kim English – B

14 min, 8 pts, 0 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 0 blk, 3-6 FG, 2-4 3FG, 0-0 FT

I was a bit surprised English was the first Piston off the bench. Aside from Drummond, English is the Detroit player whose role I’m most interested to see in game two. English provided pesky perimeter defense and strong outside shooting — what we all hoped (and somewhat expected, but how much can you really "expect" from a rookie?).

Austin Daye – F

DNP COACH’S DECISION

In about an hour, it will become official that he receives no contract extension, which would make him a free agent this summer. (Whether he’s restricted or unrestricted would be determined by the Pistons after the season.)

Charlie Villanueva – F

DNP COACH’S DECISION

On opening night, the Pistons typically introduce their entire roster, not just the starters. But the strange order they were announced made it seem like Villanueva was starting. Of course, Villanueva not only didn’t start, he didn’t play. Was this Mason’s trick-or-treat?

Most Valuable Player

In his first game after the Thunder traded him to the Rockets, James Harden (37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals) put to rest any notion that he can’t be a star. (I wrote more about Harden’s big night at ESPN here.)

X-Factor

Jeremy Lin (12 points, eight assists, four steals and an astounding +23) left the game in the third quarter with foul trouble, causing Houston to struggle. When on the court, his passing, driving and awareness helped the Rockets space the floor incredibly well.

Defining moment

Just before halftime, a fog machine went off at The Palace and steamed up the court. Pistons workers struggled to turn it off, spoiling a bit of the opening-night show. Though the Pistons had a few impressive runs, they never had a way to turn off the Rockets’ potent offense, either.

Video: Fog machine delays Pistons-Rockets game in first half

The Pistons and Rockets found out what happens when Halloween festivities attack just before halftime of Wednesday’s game. A fog machine underneath the basket started going off, causing a delay while Palace employees tried to get it shut off. Best comment, via Jose3030 on Twitter:

 

Pistons host James Harden, Rockets in season opener

Essentials

  • Teams: Houston Rockets (0-0) at Detroit Pistons (0-0)
  • Date: October 31, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons will open the season tonight against a Houston Rockets team that just brought in James Harden via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. This makes it a little difficult for head coach Lawrence Frank to prepare for Houston given that judging from the Rockets’ preseason play, they planned on featuring Kevin Martin in their offense; and he is now a member of the Thunder.

Harden’s game is vastly different from Martin’s and thus scouting the Rockets without actually seeing the new group play is essentially quite difficult; but not impossible.

During the preseason, the Rockets relied on ball movement around the perimeter to get the rock to Martin where he could do damage from 3-point range or by driving the ball to the basket. Mind you, Kevin McHale has other options this season with his new group of players.

Indeed, the Rockets now boast an intimidating presence at center in Omer Asik that may prove to be problematic for opponents this season. The former Bulls player is good at sealing his man on the interior and taking a hard dribble on the catch in the post and going to a soft right jump hook. He is also a good finisher on the catch, which makes him a dangerous pick-and-roll partner, but he also has the ability to catch the ball on the move and feed a teammate cutting to the basket — a skill he surely developed playing alongside Joakim Noah in Chicago — for an easy look at the rim.

It’s worth noting that Houston tends to forget about him for stretches, and thus might not be all that willing just yet to consistently go to him on offense. Also, Asik has probably never faced an NBA double-team, thus sending one at him may very well flummox him and result in turnovers.

Houston also loves to get out in transition when appropriate for easy buckets but the thing that seems to stand out offensively is their willingness to fire away from downtown. They are far from shy, and will shoot it from long-range without much fear. Should they catch fire, it could make things extremely difficult for their opponents.

As it pertains to Harden, he should thrive in the Rockets offense because of his ability to breakdown defenders off the bounce as well as his ability to successfully execute the pick-and-roll. Harden is a willing passer, which tends to keep defenses honest since they are unable to key in on his every move. This new dimension to the Rockets’ offense is a much needed one because Jeremy Lin has looked quite timid at times in the preseason; deferring far too much to teammates even when he’s been caught with the ball in his hands late in the shot clock.

One has to wonder if Lin is going out of his way to accommodate his teammates or whether his knee injury from last season is still holding him back.

On defense, the presence of Asik helps out the Rockets tremendously because of his ability to provide different coverages in the pick-and-roll.

Against quick penetrating guards, Asik usually stands back in the paint to make sure he does not get beat off the dribble and thus concedes the midrange jump shot; a spot where Brandon Knight will have to convert in order to force the big man to come out.

When Asik is involved in pick-and-roll scenarios involving perimeter players that Houston feels he can contain, he will either hedge or simply trap — especially on side pick-and-rolls — to get the ball out, which will get them in rotations. Thus, Stuckey and Prince should see a steady dose of this, and should be able to take advantage provided that Greg Monroe is aggressive offensively and that he continues to feed his timely passes to cutters as is customary for him.

In addition, Monroe might have some trouble posting up Asik since the Rockets’ starting center is quite strong and also good at contesting the shots of big men he is guarding.

With that said, if the Pistons can execute the offense and swing the ball side-to-side and then attack the defense off the bounce, it should lead to some good results as they will catch the Rockets rotating defensively and thus create high percentage shots at the rim.

Worth pointing out, the James Harden versus Tayshaun Prince matchup should be a fun one to watch. And one last note…

Enjoy the Pistons’ season home opener!

Read about the Rockets

Red94

3-on-3: Win, playoff projections

What’s better than a 3-on-3 season preview? A 3-on-3-on-3 season preview. This is the first of three 3-on-3s to preview the Pistons’ season.

How many games will the Pistons win this season?

Patrick Hayes: 36. I think the team will show slight improvements in several areas, young players will continue to get better and I expect the Pistons will hang around the conversation for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference until mid-March or so before ultimately falling off.

J.M. Poulard: The Detroit Pistons will win an even 40 games.

Dan Feldman: 38. This would be the equivalent of a seven-win improvement from last season, which should could understate the Pistons’ progress if they, as hoped, play their younger players more.

What are the odds the Pistons make the playoffs?

Dan Feldman: About 35 percent. It’s hardly out of the question, but it’s unlikely. The East is pretty deep – hey, Detroit isn’t the only team that believes it improved from last year – and most of the decline in the conference came from teams that were already ahead of Detroit. They might remain ahead of the Pistons, and a few other teams (Raptors, Nets, Cavaliers, Wizards) have a chance to pass Detroit. It’s just too crowded to give any team in that range a more-likely-than-shot at the playoffs.

Patrick Hayes: Slim. I don’t really understand how odds work, so I won’t have a number. But I think for the Pistons to have a chance, a team or three out of the Philadelphia/Brooklyn/Atlanta/Chicago/New York group have to be worse than expected and Toronto and Milwaukee have to improve less than most are expecting.

Injuries always happen, high-priced experiments like Brooklyn and New York frequently blow up, Tom Thibodeau might ground Luol Deng and Joakim Noah into dust and both Atlanta, Philly and Milwaukee could be distracted by stars who are potential free agents in Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The Pistons are certainly a team that could move past anyone in that group, but they also need some things outside of their control to break their way.

J.M. Poulard: Quite good. Only Miami, Boston and Indiana are certified locks to make the postseason. The rest of the conference has injury concerns (Chicago, New York and Philadelphia) and has seen some turnover in their rosters (Brooklyn and Atlanta) that make it tough to predict just how good they might potentially be. Hence, it’s not outlandish to think they will be in the playoff race until the last night of the regular season.

Where will the Pistons finish in the Eastern Conference?

Dan Feldman: Ninth. They should be right on the edge of the playoffs, and if they contend for a spot all season, that will certainly provide some quality experience for the younger players. But I think they’ll ultimately fall short – and, in the process,  keep their 2013 first-round pick, so missing the playoffs wouldn’t be so bad.

Patrick Hayes: Tenth. If everyone in the East stays relatively healthy, these are who I expect to be in the playoffs: 1. Miami 2. Boston 3. Atlanta 4. Indiana 5. New York 6. Brooklyn 7. Toronto 8. Chicago 9. Philly 10. Detroit 11. Milwaukee. I could see those 5-11 spots being rearranged in any combination and not be totally shocked, but I still think the Pistons are a player or two away from being a playoff lock.

J.M. Poulard: The Detroit Pistons will fight for a playoff berth but will ultimately fall short and finish with the ninth best record in the Eastern Conference.

3-on-3: Miscellaneous season preview

What’s better than a 3-on-3 season preview? A 3-on-3-on-3 season preview. This is the first of three 3-on-3s to preview the Pistons’ season.

Who is the Pistons’ X-Factor?

Dan Feldman: Andre Drummond. The range of how well he could do this season is as great as an Piston in recent memory. If his regular-season play resembles the preseason and he can sustain it over major minutes – this is is a stretch, admittedly – he could help the Pistons win a playoff series. If his focus wavers during a long and intense season, the Pistons are probably headed back to the lottery. He provides attributes – shot blocking, finishing inside and size to defend larger opponents – than no other player on the roster can. Unfortunately – and excitingly – the Pistons’ fortunes this season are very much tied to an unproven rookie.

Patrick Hayes: Rodney Stuckey. This is finally (finally!) the year we can stop talking about Stuckey’s ‘potential’ or ‘upside.’ His month-long stretch of fantastic play last season, along with his position switch, gave him one last shot to show he’s more than just a decent, rotation combo guard. If Stuckey is the guy we saw during February last season, the Pistons are going to be a much better team than most predict. If he’s still the same solid if inconsistent player he’s always been, the Pistons will be looking for an upgrade in the backcourt with their free agent money next offseason.

J.M. Poulard: Rodney Stuckey. The difference between good teams and bad ones is quite simple: one of them can close out games and the other cannot. Thus, when games are close and there is a mere five minutes left in the contest, good teams execute and create good shots, but when things breakdown offensively because of superior defense, it’s important to have a player who has the confidence to create plays and also deliver. Last season, Stuckey shot 47.1 percent from the field with less than five minutes left in the game and the scoring margin within five points; which is quite impressive considering that in these situations the shots are often low percentage ones.

Stuckey’s performances in crunch time will essentially be a huge factor in the outcome of Pistons games.

Which declining Pistons veteran will come nearest to his peak form?

Dan Feldman: Will Bynum. First of all, I should defend my inclusion of Bynum as a declining veteran. He’ll turn 30 this season, and his game is based on his ability to drive explosively to the rim. That’s not often a skill that holds up into a player’s 30s, especially someone who plays with as much reckless abandon as Bynum. Though Jason Maxiell also has an expiring contract, he’ll almost definitely receive another deal somewhere. Bynum is fighting to stay in the league. Plus, Bynum’s peak form is a lower bar than any other declining veteran’s.

Patrick Hayes: Jason Maxiell. I don’t think Tayshaun Prince will decline appreciably, necessarily, but I’ll go with Maxiell since his ‘peak form’ is a much smaller peak than Prince’s peak form and thus more attainable. Plus Maxiell is a bit younger, is asked to do a bit less in this lineup and he’s playing for what could be his last decent NBA contract, so he should be motivated.

J.M. Poulard: Corey Maggette and Jonas Jerebko are sure bets to get some minutes at the small forward position, which in turn means that if Tayshaun Prince doesn’t produce, he’ll be watching the game just like most fans; in a seat. Last season he posted his worst PER since his rookie season.

With competition at his position, Prince should be far more productive and efficient this season.

How much job security will Lawrence Frank have at season’s end?

Dan Feldman: A good amount, but it could be due poor reasoning. The Pistons’ schedule begins tough and finishes a bit easier, which could create the illusion of progress even none exists. Frank hasn’t been in Detroit long enough – and the Pistons are still enough of a rebuilding mode – for him to lose his job mid-season with something like a 1-8 start. It would take a major all-season collapse for Frank not to return next season, but if the Pistons miss the playoffs this year, reaching the postseason in 2013-14 might be necessary for him to keep his job beyond then.

Patrick Hayes: More than John Kuester had after his first season but less than Rick Carlisle had after his first season, I guess? The fact is, only one coach in the Joe Dumars era has hung around for more than two seasons. My guess is that Dumars would really, really like to end that stigma. I think Frank’s job is pretty secure as long as the season isn’t a complete disaster. If they don’t make the playoffs but the young players all look improved and Andre Drummond progresses nicely, he’ll be fine.

The wildcard, of course, could be if Dumars himself doesn’t have job security. If Tom Gores is adamant about making the playoffs and the team doesn’t pull it off, there’s a slim chance that Gores could go a different direction with both positions. I don’t think it’s likely, but we’re still in a getting to know you phase with Gores and his expectations, so you never know.

J.M. Poulard: Last season, the Pistons posted a defensive rating of 106.3 (22nd in the league) and finished second to last in the Central Division. Improving the team’s defense should directly correlate with the team’s record but I’m not completely sure the Pistons have turned the corner as of yet. My opinion may change by season’s end, but until I see significant improvement in the defense, I think his status might be up in the air at the end of the season.

3-on-3: Pistons awards preview

What’s better than a 3-on-3 season preview? A 3-on-3-on-3 season preview. This is the first of three 3-on-3s to preview the Pistons’ season.

Who will be the Pistons’ MVP this season?

Dan Feldman: Greg Monroe by a country mile. He was definitely the Pistons best player last year, and as one of the team’s youngest players, he has plenty of room to improve. Monroe is just as likely to expand the gap between himself and the Pistons No. 2 player as a teammate is to close the gap.

Patrick Hayes: Greg Monroe. He was their MVP last season and the season before that too. I see nothing from him or anyone else on the team so far that makes me think that will change.

J.M. Poulard: Greg Monroe will own this title by season’s end. He is the team’s best player as well as its most productive one, which in turn makes him essential to the team’s success.

Who will be the Pistons’ Rookie of the Year this season?

Dan Feldman: Andre Drummond. If you had asked me before the preseason, I would have said Kim English or maybe even Kyle Singler, who are both 24 and much more experienced. But Drummond has looked very good in the preseason, good enough that he has become the obvious choice here. Of course, it’s no guarantee Drummond’s preseason play translates to the regular season, but he’s offered enough evidence of development from his up-and-down freshman year at Connecticut that it would be foolish to pick someone else here.

Patrick Hayes: Although I think Kyle Singler will find a niche in the rotation and be solid, it’s going to be Andre Drummond. Drummond has proven to be further along than even the team and the most optimistic scouting reports originally thought, and his skillset is just to unique on this roster and vital to the team having any kind of success to keep him out of the lineup.

J.M. Poulard: Put it this way, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop predicted that Andre Drummond would be the Rookie of the Year of the NBA. So it’s really not much of a stretch to pick him to win the award for his team given the multitude of skills he flashed in the preseason. The rebounding prowess, finishing ability around the rim as well as his impressive athleticism will help him get noticed around the league, but more importantly will be factors that help the Pistons win games and develop into a good solid team.

Who will be the Pistons’ Most Improved Player this season?

Dan Feldman: Assuming we’re going by the same rules the NBA uses for Most Improved Player, and I can’t take Andre Drummond based on how much he’s improved since college, I’ll give Greg Monroe a slight edge over Brandon Knight. Knight will probably improve this season, but Monroe has already proven he’s capable of making a big year-to-year jump. Although there will me a diminishing rate of return, Monroe still had plenty of room to improve last season – mainly defense, but his mid-range game (shooting and passing) needed a little honing at the NBA level.

Patrick Hayes: Brandon Knight showed a better shot selection and better recognition of when and where to pass the ball during preseason. His ability to take care of the ball was still a work in progress, but still … if he only improves two of his three big weaknesses this season, that will still represent significant overall improvement for him.

J.M. Poulard: The point guard position is arguably the toughest one to learn in the NBA and thus rookies usually have a hard time adjusting to the speed of the game as well as the on the fly reads they need to make. Mind you, with a year under his belt, I expect Brandon Knight to become a better playmaker as well as a more efficient scorer for the Pistons, which in turn will make him the team’s most improved player.

Stephen Curry, James Harden and Ty Lawson contract extensions will limit Pistons in 2013 free agency

Stephen Curry signed a contract extension with the Golden State Warriors. James Harden is set to sign an extension with the Rockets. And Ty Lawson already signed his extension wit the Denver Nuggets.

Those are three free agents the Pistons can’t sign in 2013, when Detroit will likely have cap space. And whether or not the Pistons truly wanted Curry, Harden or Lawson is only partially important. With those three off the market, other teams are more likely to target the free agents the Pistons actually desire.

Here are the top 10 2013 free agents, according to SBNation’s Tom Ziller:

1. Chris Paul

2. Dwight Howard

3. James Harden

4. Andrew Bynum

5. Josh Smith

6. Manu Ginobili

7. Stephen Curry

8. Tyreke Evans

9. Ty Lawson

10. Andre Iguodala

Paul and Howard are pipedreams. Bynum might be, too. I don’t think Iguodala will opt out.

That list is looking a bit thin at the moment.

Tayshaun Prince losing patience as NBA gets younger

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press on Tayshaun Prince:

He once considered coaching, but he wants to be around his family and has doubts about his patience with the league growing younger.

This line enrages me.

I’m not mad at Prince. I’m mad at Joe Dumars.

When the Pistons re-signed Prince, they clearly considered his leadership ability as a large part of his worth. But, apparently, he’s still not completely on board with that role.

You know what else is growing younger besides the league? The Pistons. If Prince isn’t fully on board – or might lose his patience – with that, it’s a problem.

Look, we all do things we don’t want to do because our job requires it. And Prince has done a better job as a veteran mentor, some details of which are in Ellis’ article. I commend Prince for trying.

But why did the Pistons sign someone to be a leader – a nebulous of a skill that has never actually been proven to help at the NBA level – when it wasn’t even clear he was a good leader? So, far Prince has done an alright job with the younger players so far, but what if he loses his patience with that assignment?

The Pistons are playing with fire here, and the clock is ticking until they get burned.

No Corey Maggette in Pistons opener tonight

Corey Maggette missed much of the preseason with a calf strain and it appears he won’t be ready to go in the season-opener tonight. From Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

He hopes to be back sometime near the end of the Pistons’ six-game Western road trip, which starts in Phoenix on Friday.

“It’s not a race, it’s a marathon and I hope I’ll be back soon,” Maggette said. “I’ll definitely make the trip. Me and Arnie Kander have things we’ll be working on it out there.”

Goodwill also noted that it is not yet known who the other player on the Pistons inactive list will be tonight.

Lawrence Frank gives book – ‘The Energy Bus’ by Jon Gordon – to Pistons

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

[Stuckey] also was given some summer reading from Frank, a book called "The Energy Bus" by Jon Gordon.

"It’s a really good book, it’s about being positive," Stuckey said. "He gave it to the majority of us. It’s giving you different situations and dealing with different kinds of people. It was really helpful."

I don’t know whether Lawrence Frank and Jon Gordon have a greater connection, but they both spoke at a coaching event this summer in Washington, D.C. As far as the book, here’s an explanation from its website:

“It’s Monday morning and George walks out the front door to his car and a flat tire. But this is the least of his problems. His home life is in shambles and his team at work is in disarray. With a big new product launch coming up in 2 weeks for the NRG-2000 he has to find a way to get it together or risk losing his marriage and job. Forced to take the bus to work, George meets a unique kind of bus driver and an interesting set of characters (passengers) that over the course of 2 weeks share the 10 rules for the ride of his life… and attempt to help him turn around his work and team and save his job and marriage from an almost inevitable destruction.”

In the mode of other best selling business fables The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon, takes readers on an enlightening and inspiring ride that reveals 10 secrets for approaching life and work with the kind of positive, forward thinking that leads to true accomplishment – at work and at home. Everyone faces challenges. And every person, organization, company and team will have to overcome negativity and adversity to define themselves and create their success. No one goes through life untested and the answer to these tests is positive energy—the kind of positive energy consisting of vision, trust, optimism, enthusiasm, purpose, and spirit that defines great leaders and their teams. Drawing upon his experience and work with thousands of leaders, sales professionals, teams, non-profit organizations, schools, and athletes, Gordon infuses this engaging story with keen insights, actionable strategies and a big dose of positive infectious energy. For managers and team leaders or anyone looking to turn negative energy into positive achievement The Energy Bus provides a powerful roadmap to overcome common life and work obstacles and bring out the best in yourself and your team. When you get on The Energy Bus you’ll enjoy the ride of your life!