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Archive → November, 2012

Pistons try to avoid second loss to Orlando in less than a week

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (2-9) at Orlando Magic (3-7)
  • Date: November 21, 2012
  • Time: 7 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Like any struggling team, the Orlando Magic have plenty of weaknesses. But the most glaring, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, has been the offense:

The Magic aren’t playing to at least one of their strengths: long-distance shooting.

Redick, Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and E’Twaun Moore are good 3-point shooters, but through Monday, the Magic ranked 29th among the NBA’s 30 teams in treys attempted, trying just 13.5 per game.

Yet, at the same time, Orlando also is failing to draw shooting fouls. The Magic ranked last in free-throws attempted, taking only 16.9 per game.

Asked after Monday’s 81-72 loss in Atlanta what is stalling his team’s offense, coach Jacque Vaughnnoted that the night’s 19 turnovers hindered everything else.

The Magic ranked 22nd in the league in turnovers made, with 15.6 per game.

Of course, it’s a pretty tough sell to anyone who watched the first game between these two teams last week that the Magic are struggling on offense. Orlando shot 49 percent in that game. The Magic made 41 percent of their 3-pointers. The team scored 110 points, 22 above their season average. Orlando also scored 39 points in the fourth quarter alone.

It’s amazing what leaving shooters, even struggling shooters, open all night will do for their confidence. The Pistons responded to that embarrassing home loss to Orlando with a fantastic defensive effort in a blowout win over Boston on Sunday. If the Pistons do a better job of closing out on shooters and keeping Orlando’s limited but active big men off the offensive glass (the Magic had 14 offensive rebounds, several of which led to open jumpers, in the first game), they’ll have a chance at putting together that modest yet elusive first two-game winning streak of the season.

Read about the Magic

Magic Basketball

Counterpoint: Why I’m not done writing about Andre Drummond’s minutes

After the Pistons beat the Celtics, Patrick wrote that he was done writing about Andre Drummond’s minutes, explaining:

Why I’m done writing about Drummond’s minutes for now

As I noted, we have a large enough body of work to suggest that Drummond deserves more than the 15-18 minutes per game he’s been playing this season. But we also have a large enough body of work to suggest that Frank is not going to increase those minutes in the immediate future. Frank gives non-answers to the question when he’s asked about it and doesn’t really explain why. From a fan’s perspective, it’s certainly frustrating. But for right now, I’m just going to treat Drummond as what he is — the team’s primary backup center. I could devote words every game making a case that Drummond could’ve helped in certain points when the defense faltered, but that will get old to read. It certainly gets old to write.

I don’t know what will become of Frank or the Pistons this season. Tonight was certainly a good sign that the team hasn’t tuned him out — thanks to the John Kuester era, it should be clear to everyone what it looks like when a losing team tunes out its coach. They played better and more physical defense tonight than they have at any point this season. They have a more favorable schedule coming up than the one they started the season with. I think it’s conceivable that the team wasn’t as bad as they looked through the first eight games of the season. I’m still an advocate of Drummond playing more. His numbers back it up, his effort has been good and he’s been better than the other non-Monroe options up front. But if Drummond continues in the 15-18 minute range and the Pistons begin to play more competitively, win more games and improve defensively, there will hopefully be better things to write about in the coming weeks than doing the equivalent of facepalming at the lack of time for Drummond in these recaps.

How Drummond develops very well could be the difference between the Pistons contending for a championship and not winning a playoff series until the next rebuild. He’s that important, and his future has that much variance.

So, no, I’m not done obsessively worrying about how many minutes Drummond plays each game.

A couple minutes here and there likely won’t matter, but fundamentally, it matters a great deal what role the Pistons give Drummond. So far, Drummond has played well in his limited playing time against backups, and because of that, he deserves a larger role. I see no reason to baby him, especially when doing so very well could stunt his growth.

The Pistons should reward Drummond’s quality production because, among other reasons, accelerating Drummond’s development only benefits the Pistons. However, if Drummond doesn’t continue to perform well in his current role, he doesn’t necessarily deserve to take minutes from Jason Maxiell and/or Jonas Jerebko. Increased playing time should come with merit, but it should come when there is merit.

This is a situation that deserves close attention. This isn’t the Damien Wilkins-Austin Daye debate of last season, where a subpar veteran kept a subpar young player glued to the bench. Drummond is so much more than that, both for his play and his importance to the franchise. I’m excited about Drummond, in part because I still don’t know what path he’s headed down.

But, game by game, as we get clues about his direction, I’m going to write about it, and I’m frequently going to praise or criticize Lawrence Frank for how he handles Drummond’s playing time. I’m too hopeful and too nervous about Drummond’s development to drop the issue.

The Pistons don’t run plays for Kyle Singler

Terry Foster of The Detroit News has a collection of one-sentence paragraphs on Pistons rookie Kyle Singler today. Aside from pointing out the fact that Singler, at age 24, has already won titles at the high school, college and pro levels, there was also this bit:

The Pistons don’t call plays for Singler. He gets most of his points off hustle, dives and just being in the right place at the right time.

Now, I don’t point that out because it’s surprising, but it does reinforce what makes Singler a good fit in the starting lineup. His shooting has been an obvious benefit, but replacing a player that the team did have to call a lot of plays for so that he could get shots in Rodney Stuckey with a player who scores efficiently and barely has to touch the ball to do so has been the biggest reason he’s made such an impact in his three games as a starter.

The Andre Drummond/Jason Maxiell debate continues

The Vinces — Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News — each have features on Jason Maxiell‘s solid statistical contributions this season today.

I touched on that as well in a post and the weekly PistonPowered Freep column last week. Maxiell is clearly having a pretty good season. I would never make an argument that Maxiell shouldn’t have a significant role on the Pistons and I don’t even object to him being in the starting lineup. This, though, from Ellis’ story, is a point I might argue a bit:

Twitter and fan sites have been full of activity from those thinking Drummond, the team’s first-round pick, should be in the lineup instead of Maxiell. They might have a point, and even Frank speaks of developing and evaluating players.

But what about guys earning playing time based on merit? Any objective observer can see Maxiell is the superior player right now.

I would probably describe Maxiell as the smarter player. I would probably describe him as physically stronger. And he’s probably a tad better offensively at this point because he does have the ability to knock down a 15-footer, which Drummond doesn’t have.

I’d be hesitant to call him ‘superior,’ though. Drummond’s per-minute production is better than Maxiell’s. I’m not saying that would necessarily hold up if Drummond suddenly began playing 25+ minutes per game, but I’m not saying it wouldn’t hold up either.

I don’t think Ellis is making an unreasonable conclusion. There’s a chance that if Drummond were shoved into the starting lineup and expected to play bigger minutes against starting-caliber players, he’d get exposed — perhaps he’d be in foul trouble or some of his occasionally flawed fundamentals would be taken advantage of more often or bigger, stronger frontline players would put more of a physical beating on him that would wear him down and make him less effective. Those types of things happen to raw young players fairly frequently when they go from small roles to big roles. But Drummond’s excellent production in limited minutes, along with his physical profile — he’s bigger and stronger than your typical 19-year-old entering the league — make me think there’s also a decent chance he’d be more productive than Maxiell if his workload increased and they were playing comparable minutes.

That’s not a knock on Maxiell, either. He’s been very solid this season and certainly doesn’t deserve to be completely demoted or anything like that. But the Pistons also haven’t been very good whether he’s been on the court or off it, so I don’t see what the harm would be in upping Drummond’s minutes a bit at the expense of a few of Maxiell’s minutes to see if Drummond’s per-minute production is a mirage or not.

Lawrence Frank wasn’t upset by Rajon Rondo’s late-game assist chasing

Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics has a little assist streak going that you may have heard about. Rondo extended his streak of having 10 or more assists in a game to 34 consecutive games in Sunday’s loss to the Pistons. It wasn’t easy, though, as Rondo had to play much longer than Boston’s other starters in a blowout in order to continue that streak, which trails only Magic Johnson (46 games) and John Stockton (37 games) for the longest streaks of all time.

Some teams would get mad at that sort of thing — stat padding in garbage time is generally frowned upon by the so-called unwritten rules of sport (although it’s occasionally hilarious, like with Ricky Davis and JaVale McGee, for example). Via the Associated Press, though, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank wasn’t too upset with Rondo’s ‘efforts:’

Frank laughed off the issue.

”I guess the basketball gods were on his side tonight,” he said. ”I wasn’t worried. I just know he’s a great basketball player.”

I’m glad Frank didn’t act like a blowhard about it publicly like some coaches would have. Rondo and the Celtics certainly could’ve been more tactful about blatantly trying to chase a statistical record in an already-decided game, but I also admire Rondo’s bluntness in his postgame comments, discussing how much getting that record would mean to him.

Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum combine to become one real point guard in Pistons win over Boston

Boston Celtics 83 FinalRecap | Box Score 103 Detroit Pistons
Jason Maxiell, PF 30 MIN | 5-10 FG | 5-6 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +12It’s strange considering Maxiell’s athleticism and energy have always been his greatest assets as a Piston, but his 15-footer has become a really important component in the team’s offense. When he’s hitting it — and he has been most of the season — the Pistons offense is much more competitive.
Tayshaun Prince, SF 33 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +16Prince, most importantly, played really good defense on Paul Pierce tonight. And on top of that, he also contributed offensively. Prince has a tendency to wear himself out on D in his best defensive performances and not have much left for the offensive end. That wasn’t the case tonight.
Kyle Singler, SF 24 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | +8The Pistons are 2-1 with Singler as a starter and very close to being 3-0 aside from an awful half a fourth quarter against the Magic. Singler’s shooting is obviously important, but the simple fact that he’s a player who is effective without having to dominate the ball is the biggest factor in his success.
Greg Monroe, C 32 MIN | 8-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 13 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | +11Monroe has received plenty of A’s this season. He gets the A+ tonight because he was solid defensively. He had two steals, but beyond that, he matched the physicality of Kevin Garnett, no easy task. Monroe has a tendency to avoid contact on defense, and he didn’t do that at all tonight. One of his best efforts at that end of the floor.
Brandon Knight, PG 24 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +7It’s hard to give anyone a bad grade considering how great the Pistons played as a team in this win, but Knight had easily his worst game of the season. The big issue, no surprise, was turnovers. Knight has done a better job taking care of the ball overall this season, so hopefully this was just a one game thing.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 10 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +2Jerebko is slumping. After a strong start to the season, he’s averaging fewer than three points per game and shooting just 7-for-28 over that stretch. That slump happens to coincide with Jerebko taking a couple of nasty shots in the Sacramento game, so maybe he’s a bit injured or something. Corey Maggette returning has also ate into his minutes.
Corey Maggette, SF 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | +3This was easily Maggette’s best game as a Piston. The offense was solid and he was getting to the line, but he also played physical perimeter defense off the bench, made a couple hustle plays (including skying to catch a pass that should’ve resulted in a turnover for the Pistons) and for the first time this season, looked like he had his legs under him while he was playing.
Andre Drummond, C 18 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +11Drummond was solid in limited minutes (that should be his nickname). This certainly wasn’t a bad performance, but it wasn’t his best either. Defensively, he bit hard on a couple of KG pump fakes, but Drummond is probably susceptible to that sort of thing against the smarter veteran bigs in the league.
Will Bynum, PG 21 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 7 PTS | +11Bynum stepped in nicely with Knight struggling. He had five assists and no turnovers and the offense just ran much more smoothly with him in the game tonight. That doesn’t happen often, but Bynum has been noticeably better this season as a halfcourt PG than he has been in the past.
Rodney Stuckey, PG 31 MIN | 4-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 14 PTS | +17Stuckey’s performance is another reason the Pistons could keep Knight on the bench. Stuckey also had five assists and zero turnovers as he and Bynum shared point guard responsibilities off the bench. Stuckey was more aggressive, getting to the line six times, and he was also doing things like diving after loose balls, which Stuckey hasn’t always been known to do in the past. He looked very comfortable in this role, without the responsibility of having to be defined as either guard position while he was in the game. He just played.
Lawrence Frank, Head Coach We’re all just going to have to live with the fact that Frank is not going to play Drummond enough to satisfy most fans (more on that in a minute). What I was impressed with tonight — the Pistons had a really awful loss on Friday against a bad team at home. They blew a late lead, and looked really passive doing it. Frank deserves credit for having the Pistons ready to play hard, physical and well against a good team in Boston just a day later. If he were a great coach, they probably wouldn’t have lost to Orlando. But if he were a bad coach, they definitely would’ve followed that up with a loss tonight too. Also, the Pistons had 12 turnovers at halftime and just four in the second half, so Frank should get some credit for those adjustments that the team made in the second half.

Why I’m done writing about Drummond’s minutes for now

As I noted, we have a large enough body of work to suggest that Drummond deserves more than the 15-18 minutes per game he’s been playing this season. But we also have a large enough body of work to suggest that Frank is not going to increase those minutes in the immediate future. Frank gives non-answers to the question when he’s asked about it and doesn’t really explain why. From a fan’s perspective, it’s certainly frustrating. But for right now, I’m just going to treat Drummond as what he is — the team’s primary backup center. I could devote words every game making a case that Drummond could’ve helped in certain points when the defense faltered, but that will get old to read. It certainly gets old to write.

I don’t know what will become of Frank or the Pistons this season. Tonight was certainly a good sign that the team hasn’t tuned him out — thanks to the John Kuester era, it should be clear to everyone what it looks like when a losing team tunes out its coach. They played better and more physical defense tonight than they have at any point this season. They have a more favorable schedule coming up than the one they started the season with. I think it’s conceivable that the team wasn’t as bad as they looked through the first eight games of the season. I’m still an advocate of Drummond playing more. His numbers back it up, his effort has been good and he’s been better than the other non-Monroe options up front. But if Drummond continues in the 15-18 minute range and the Pistons begin to play more competitively, win more games and improve defensively, there will hopefully be better things to write about in the coming weeks than doing the equivalent of facepalming at the lack of time for Drummond in these recaps.

So, that recent Boston dominance is nice

The Pistons won two-of-three from the Celtics last season and now won the first meeting this season. The Celtics are actually one of the few good teams that’s not a complete mismatch up front for the Pistons. Garnett is still a great player, but he’s more of a jump-shooter than a post player on offense at this point and Boston is also undersized with Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger in their frontcourt rotation. It’s mostly just one of those flukey things that sometimes happen in the NBA, but of all the good teams to have that record against over the last season plus, I certainly don’t hate seeing it against Boston.

Boston coming to town

Essentials

  • Teams: Boston Celtics (6-4) at Detroit Pistons (1-9)
  • Date: November 18, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After losing at home Friday night to the Orlando Magic, the Detroit Pistons will try to shake off the defeat and add a second victory to their win column when they take on a Boston Celtics team tonight that is sure to be somewhat fatigued after playing against the Toronto Raptors at home yesterday.

The tricky thing about back-to-backs in the NBA is that they can often result in scheduling losses because they force head coaches to go deep into their benches to buy some time for the starters to rest during the course of the games in order to have some gas left in the tank to perform to their usual standards late in the fourth quarter.

Doc Rivers on the other hand seems to have an entirely different philosophy this season with respect to the rest he’s afforded to his big guns.

On the back end of back-to-backs, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are actually playing more minutes than what they typically average during the season. This could be attributed to the fact that Rivers is still trying to figure out his rotation (which he is), but also given that it’s a little early in the season he can get away with it for now.

The Celtics have won two out of their three games when playing on consecutive nights, and their opponents have been at Washington (win), at Milwaukee (win) and at Brooklyn (loss). Thus, the Pistons should probably expect to see Boston regulars tonight, although with a slight twist.

The departure of Ray Allen from the Boston Celtics was seen as a betrayal, but also was going to benefit them a little — according to Ainge and Rivers — because they now had younger guys playing shooting guard that didn’t need to always have plays called for them. That made sense in theory, but when looking at the Celtics’ offense this year, it looks a little different. The emphasis for ball movement is still there, and Rondo does an exceptional job of directing traffic and finding players, but there is less misdirection involved; and the offense looks a little more simplistic.

Consequently, there are times where it looks quite plain and less sophisticated in comparison to last season, and thus one would be tempted to say it’s worse, but it’s actually the contrary. Their offensive efficiency has improved and so has their field goal percentage. The adjustment has been a slight one, but one that should be obvious: Rondo utilizing the ball just a bit less, while Garnett and Pierce are using it a bit more.

The end result is that they are getting more opportunities to create offense either for themselves or for teammates; whether it be in the pick-and-roll, on the low block or simply in quick isolation plays.

On defense, the Celtics are nowhere near their level of effectiveness from seasons past, which could be attributed to the fact that Rivers is still mixing and matching his rotation. But there is another factor at play here: Garnett isn’t the same guy.

By the time the postseason rolls around and there is more rest time, perhaps then KG will look like a defensive beast, but asking him to do so for 82 regular season games has now become a thing of the past.

The Celtics like to be aggressive on defense and get into the face of players with the ball, and once the ball goes to the wing, they tilt their entire defense towards the ball-handler to clog all driving lanes. When properly executed, it looks like a zone defense.

There are three ways to beat this: the first one involves having either Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony on your team, because they can take one dribble and elevate over the defender for a jump shot, the second one requires a movement creating action like a hard dribble towards the defense or pick-and-roll and then passing the ball to force the defense to rotate until it reaches the open man camped out on the weak side or the last one, a pinpoint cross-court pass from the strong side to the weak side that flusters the defense.

The Pistons do not have great wing passers, nor do they have Melo or Kobe, so their best bet is to go towards the defense and then share the ball on the perimeter for an open shot or even better, go right at Kevin Garnett. Indeed, the Big Ticket now has trouble closing out and recovering on mobile stretch big men; thus he can be attacked off the dribble — paging Dr. Monroe — to get inside the paint where Boston lacks shot blockers and allows opponents to convert 67.8 percent of their shots at the rim (26th in the NBA).

The Pistons will have their hands full tonight, but it’s important that they try and take advantage of a team that has not yet set its rotation and that is also vulnerable early on in the season defensively as well as on their backboards.

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub.

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Martin warned by NBA for flop against Pistons

We’ve all heard that the NBA plans to start taking serious actions against habitual floppers this season, and apparently one of the first warnings issued was for a play by Kevin Martin in a game between Oklahoma City and the Pistons on Nov. 9. Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated describes the play and what, precisely, the NBA didn’t like about it:

Martin’s violation occurred during a Monday game against the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The violaton occurred with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City’s 92-90 win. As he lined up a three-point attempt in front of Detroit’s bench, Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko contacted his right shooting hand.  Martin collapsed directly to the ground, simulating much stronger contact than actually occurred, and then writhed on the ground in pain. His shot missed but he was awarded three free throws and he made all three, cutting Detroit’s lead to 73-67.

That was a competitive game, but still one the Pistons probably wouldn’t have won even if that call had gone their way. It’s good to see the NBA better policing that leg-kick move that Reggie Miller made famous though. So far, three players have reportedly been warned about flopping.

Rasheed Wallace would like to coach

If you haven’t been paying attention to Rasheed Wallace’s comeback with the New York Knicks this season, you’ve been missing out. As ‘Sheed has rounded into playing shape, he’s been a great contributor off the bench and a factor in the team’s strong defense and strong perimeter shooting. Pistons fans have long known that Wallace is one of the league’s smarter players when it comes to an understanding of fundamentally sound basketball, and that basketball IQ has definitely been on display this season so far.

Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports recently profiled Wallace and, it seems, Wallace’s comeback might be prep work for his next career. As a coach. No joke:

So this gang will shoot straight. They agree Woodson had everything to do with Wallace’s return. And they say Rasheed might be considering getting into coaching.

“I know for a fact that’s his aspiration,” says Donaldson. “He loves to teach. I can see him as an NBA assistant. That’s what it’ll have to be for him.”

The idea of Wallace as a coach has been discussed before – there’s even a “Coach Sheed Movement” – but it was quickly met with jokes about him getting tossed out of every game 30 seconds after the end of the national anthem. Yet this version of Sheed seems different. There have only been a handful of games, but they’ve passed without an outburst or flare-up. (At least until Friday night’s technical foul.)

“He’s more calm now,” says Donaldson. “Stepping away has helped him a lot.”

Jokes about technicals aside, I’ve never doubted that Wallace has the intelligence to be a fantastic coach. But Adelson’s article notes another important factor — Wallace really enjoyed being away from basketball, having a flexible schedule and spending time with his family. The time commitment and obsessive behavior required of coaches at the NBA level is even larger than what is required of players. I could definitely see Wallace helping a team in a sort of advisor/consultant assistant coaching role, but it’s hard to picture him taking on the responsibilities that come with being a head coach. I hope he does though, that would be highly entertaining.

Video: Cleanse yourself of the Orlando Magic loss by remembering that Andre Drummond is still tons of fun to watch

Yeah, the Pistons lost to the Magic. Yeah, Andre Drummond continues to not play enough to satisfy most fans. But on the bright side, he did play enough to do the things above.