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Archive → December, 2012

Andre Drummond on his playing time: ‘I like what they’re doing with me so far’

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

As he walked through Philips Arena on Wednesday morning, Drummond said he didn’t know anything about fans clamoring for more playing time from the rookie center from UConn.

But even if was aware, Drummond said he is in full agreement with being brought along slowly.

"Who wouldn’t want to play more?" he said. "If you love the sport, you love to play, but it just isn’t my time.

"I’m a rookie, they’re trying to ease my way in and I like what they’re doing with me so far in terms of me being prepared for what I need to do. I’m just really excited about that."

That last quote shows an unselfishness that many young players trying to establish themselves in the league don’t have. Ironically, makes me even more confident Drummond has the savvy to play more right now.

Will Bynum, other Pistons reserves are going to inject some heart into this team if it takes all night

Will Bynum crouched down, having just missed what could have been the game-winning layup late in the first overtime. The point guard had put the Pistons on his back during a 22-point fourth-quarter comeback, in which he fittingly scored or assisted on 22 Detroit points. But that wasn’t enough for Bynum, who was demonstratively dejected after his miss. Then, he did something that, by now, everyone should know he’d do.

He bounced back up.

Bynum – and Rodney Stuckey and Andre Drummond and Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva – kept coming and coming at the Hawks before finally succumbing in the second overtime. Despite their 126-119 loss, this was one of the most enjoyable Pistons games of the season.

Bynum, Drummond, Daye and Villanueva played the entire fourth quarter and both overtimes together. Stuckey would have been out there the entire time if not for twisting his ankle with one second left in regulation, but he somehow returned a couple minutes after what appeared to be a nasty injury and played the rest of the way.

Of course there were mistakes all over the court. Those five players have very well-known deficiencies, and many showed. But none of that mattered, because all five of those players showed so much heart. Others (though not many) have played better, but I haven’t been more pleased with any Pistons than I was with those five tonight.

Bynum, Stuckey, Drummond, Daye and Villanueva each set their season high in minutes, and playing such a long stretch will likely prove more costly to their bodies than had that playing time been more evenly distributed throughout the game. The Pistons host the Heat in two days, and the starters owe it to those reserves to play hard for long stretches.

Bynum, Stuckey, Drummond, Daye and Villanueva didn’t earn a win, but they earned that much.

Detroit Pistons 119 Final
Recap | Box Score
126 Atlanta Hawks
Jason Maxiell, PF 22 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -16

In the 18:25 Maxiell and Josh Smith both played power forward tonight, Smith scored 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 25 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | -21

Prince’s sprained ankle didn’t really seem to bother him, and he played a solid game. He missed both his shots when he started overtime with Stuckey out injured, but considering Prince sat so long and Frank probably didn’t intend to bring him back, it’s tough to blame Prince for being a little tight in that situation.

Kyle Singler, SF 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -11

The Singler-as-a-shooting guard experiment may have run its course. When the the early returns proved impressive, I wondered how Singler was doing so well at a position that seemed to be a less-than-ideal fit. Perhaps, he benefited from a small sample. In his last 12 games, Singler is shooting 33 percent from the field and 22 percent on 3-pointers. Plus, his foot-speed continues to be an issue on the perimeter defensively.

Greg Monroe, C 26 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | -21

Coolest Monroe moment (and second-coolest Daye moment) of the night: After Daye made the 3-pointer that put the Pistons up one with three seconds left in regulation, Monroe literally floored Daye with a chest bump. I wish he would’ve hit Smith that hard at some point. Monroe wasn’t responsible for Smith shaking his man so often, but Monroe’s help-side rotations lacked aggressiveness.

Brandon Knight, PG 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -13

Knight shot poorly and didn’t take care of the ball (four turnovers). He looked incapable of handling point-guard duties, and that’s why, for most of the game, he didn’t.

Charlie Villanueva, PF 32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +16

Villanueva’s 3-point shooting really gave the Pistons a lift, as did his physical defense. He was wasn’t afraid to put a body on Smith and Al Horford, and although that resulted in some fouls, it was sure better than how the Pistons defended those two earlier in the game.

Austin Daye, PF 32 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +17

Late in the fourth quarter, I tweeted that Daye had mostly just been along for the ride of the comeback fueled by his floormates. A few second later, he made what was nearly the game-winning 3-pointer. Daye’s defense – especially against Smith at small forward – was unimpressive in regulation, but after his big shot, he really got into it.

Andre Drummond, C 36 MIN | 7-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | +7

At times, Lawrence Frank was clearly dismayed with Drummond’s defensive coverage, but the coach stuck with Drummond down the stretch, anyway. More than Frank playing the other four reserves so long, this was particularly meaningful. Drummond was far from perfect defensively, but the good outweighed the bad. Offensively, his athleticism presents opportunities for high-percentage shots that aren’t available to other players. His ability to catch passes cleanly and elevate quickly for dunks especially stood out tonight.

Will Bynum, PG 36 MIN | 13-26 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 31 PTS | +6

3-pointers made in 277 minutes entering tonight: 3.

3-pointers made in 36 minutes tonight: 4.

I don’t know quite what to make of Bynum’s game tonight. It was a bit fluky, but man, was it great. Not only did he shoot well from outside, his burst to the basket created plenty of layups (including a couple good looks he missed). In the fourth quarter, he didn’t hesitated to drive and kick. Late in the game, he probably could have looked for his teammates a bit more, but he was still creating good looks for himself. Bynum plays how he plays, and once he carried the Pistons into overtime, they were justified in riding out the ups and downs for the rest of the night.

Rodney Stuckey, PG 44 MIN | 7-19 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 11 AST | 16 PTS | +1

Stuckey is tough as nails. Saturday, he played through plenty of contact a day after getting his teeth knocked in. Tonight, he returned from a serious-looking ankle injury to close the game. And once again, he proved himself to be the Pistons’ best distributor.

Lawrence Frank, HEAD COACH 

Frank rightly stuck with the reserves who brought the Pistons back into the game. That’s not always the right move, but tonight it was. Frank has often said playing time is based on merit, and tonight he backed that statement in full.

ATL bound tonight

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (9-21) at Atlanta Hawks (16-9)
  • Date: December 26, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After losing back-to-back games to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks rebounded on Saturday night at home by defeating the Chicago Bulls by 17 points on the strength of a great performance by Al Horford.

The Hawks have performed quite well this season despite jettisoning Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, both of which were important pieces to the team in recent seasons.

Their good play this year has come as a result of the good overall play of both Al Horford and Josh Smith combined with the fit of the complimentary players around them.

ATL has some good dribble penetrators in Jeff Teague and Lou Williams that create offense off the bounce for themselves or their teammates; and in addition the team has some terrific knockdown shooters in Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow that do a great job of keeping defenses occupied.

And yet, the Hawks are only 14th in offensive efficiency in the NBA despite their complimentary pieces on offense because their execution on this side of the ball leaves much to be desired

They have some good parts that fit together and should be able to take advantage of most defenses, but their attention to detail hurts them on this front.

Their guards set some good screens for their perimeter players but struggle to do the same against big men, seemingly fearing contact. Thus, the Hawks backcourt players get into the lane and position themselves to set picks but instead just kind of get in the way of the opposing big men as opposed to setting solid screens on the interior, which compromises the post position of Atlanta’s interior players.

Another area where the guards struggle is in the pick-and-roll. They do not always wait for their big men to fully station themselves in the screen setting process, often leaving before bigs even get an opportunity to position themselves, which leads to drives into the middle of the lane with condensed space since the passing options are almost non-existent given the proximity of all of the players.

It’s worth noting that Larry Drew’s unit typically remains static on the weak side of the court, which means that defenses need only concentrate on defending the initial action. With that said, Josh Smith and Al Horford are good enough to overcome most of these issues and create high percentage looks for themselves as well as their teammates, but the offensive execution itself is problematic nonetheless.

Defensively however, it’s night and day.

The Hawks own the fourth best defensive efficiency mark in the NBA, and once again that is a product of their pair of interior players.

The defense is geared to shift everything towards Smith and Horford, where they can accomplish a multitude of things to thwart opposing offenses.

Both players have the foot speed and intellect to vary their pick-and-roll coverage regardless of the opponent: hedge and recover, hard trap, switching or waiting for the ball handler beneath the free throw line. In addition, they possess the ability to completely abandon their man for the sake of protecting against the first option in a play and trust their teammates to cover for them until they rotate back to him.

The defensive execution is impressive to watch on most nights as Josh Smith and Al Horford accomplish these tasks seamlessly, but they also contest shots, patrol the paint and rebound their area. Indeed, a lot of what Atlanta does defensively is system based, but their scheme works well because of their bigs, which helps the Hawks limit opponents to 38.9 points in the paint per game (sixth best mark in the NBA) per Team Rankings.

The Detroit Pistons will have their hands full tonight in Atlanta, but finding ways to attack the Hawks on both fronts will be paramount to obtaining a road victory.

Read about the Hawks

Soaring Down South.

Poll: If Tayshaun Prince can’t play, who should start at small forward?

Lawrence Frank is learning to live with Andre Drummond’s mistakes, and I’m learning to live with Lawrence Frank’s

WASHINGTON – No single issue dominates Lawrence Frank’s relationship with Pistons fans – and, perhaps, his bosses, but more on that later – than Andre Drummond’s role.

Drummond has played very well this season, I think. I don’t mean well for a rookie projected to be very raw. I don’t even mean well for a rookie. I mean well for anyone.

Frank has also frequently praised Drummond this season, but Frank is in a position where his words on the situation mean little. Frank has the power to play Drummond more or less, and that counts a whole lot more.

That doesn’t mean I was going to pass on an opportunity to ask Frank about Drummond, though. Specifically, I asked Frank about the times Drummond is out of position but still makes a positive play – the situations I thought were at the root of our divide (I, like most fans, want Drummond to play more than he has.). Frank’s answer, well, surprised me.

“The key is, it’s not the mistakes you make, it’s how you react to them,” Frank said. “Last night was a prime example. He wasn’t perfect from a coverage standpoint, not that any of our guys were. But his ability to then make up for it – we don’t have a lot of guys who can do that. That speaks of his effort, his athleticism, his speed, his quickness, his agility. As long as you see that, you can live with the mistakes.

“You just want to teach him to get better, because ultimately, in order to become the highest-level player, not only do you need to have your athleticism, you need to have proper technique, know-how, understanding tendencies. That will come over time.”

That sounds, well, totally reasonable.

We all want Drummond to improve his “coverage” in the long run, because that will make him only more effective. But in the short term, when Frank insists the Pistons are trying to win, Drummond deserves plenty of playing time. Plus, that playing time will only help Drummond improve his coverage.

“When we drafted Andre, we had a very good feel for how we wanted to pace him along. He’s doing some really good things. We’re very, very proud of him. At the same time, the experience, the know-how with it is, we want to understand how to build this up.”

Drummond ranks 14th among rookies and 230th overall in minutes per game – numbers I consider way too low. But considering it initially appeared Drummond would be a project and considering his playing time trending upward, I won’t continue to harp on what I consider past mistakes.

By all appearances, Frank is amending for them by playing Drummond more. I don’t quite agree with all the caution, but I understand it – as does Frank.

"The thing that’s especially for the PER and all that is what you can never judge is when those minutes are extended,” Frank said. “You could project what those numbers are going to be, but it’s very hard to sustain those numbers consistently if you’re playing those minutes. It’s not rotisserie basketball. It doesn’t work quite like that. There are a lot of variables with it. Plus, you may be playing against different type of guys.”

That’s another totally reasonable argument. If Drummond played more, his efficiency would likely drop. So far, the Pistons have mostly played him in favorable situations, and that boosts his numbers, most of which don’t account for quality of opposition. I can see why, considering their plan has so far produced excellent results, they want to build slowly.

I say “they,” not “he,” because Drummond’s situation clearly doesn’t fall on just Frank. It’s an organizational issue. One thing Frank said especially stood out:

“The thing that’s been most impressive is his positive, positive spirit and character,” Frank said.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Joe Dumars basically said the same thing earlier this month:

He has an infectious, great spirit about him that makes you root for him.

Shortly after Dumars said that, Frank said something, that while not directly contradictory to Dumars’ statement, didn’t exactly mesh:

"When we don’t play Andre 18 minutes, the reporters (who cover the Pistons regularly) have pictures of me up all around town — and the fans, too," said Frank, who used that benchmark because Valanciunas played 18 minutes in the Raptors win Tuesday at Cleveland. "But the thing is, there are certain things that we’re privy to things that maybe the general public isn’t.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Frank used the same word, “spirit,” as Dumars when complimenting Drummond. I’d guess Frank was told about getting on message re Drummond. I’d guess Frank has had a lot of internal discussions about Drummond.

As I’ve said many times, Drummond is the Pistons’ most important player because he could develop into a great or so-so player or anywhere between. After talking with Frank, I’m hopeful the Pistons are on the right track with Drummond, regardless of how they handled him previously. I doubt they expected this much from him, either, and that has created a challenge.

I’ll leave you with one quote from Frank that I’m sure we can all agree on.

"It’s great that he’s exceeding expectations,” Frank said. “What other way would you want it?”

Not all Kim English stories have a happy ending, but hopefully this one will

WASHINGTON – Kim English, on his way from getting up a few early shots or doing whatever players do 90 before games, jogged down a Verizon Center hallway back to the Pistons locker room Saturday. As English turned one entranceway too soon, a Wizards event staff member alerted him to the error – then said he’d send English back the wrong way once the game began, his way of giving the hometown team an edge.

“I don’t play,” English yelled back, his tone more humorous than resentful.

The event staff member reminded English that plenty of benchwarmers get their chance against the Wizards – who’d lost six straight, including the Pistons’ 100-68 win Friday.

“You’re right,” English said. “I played last night.”

A few minutes later, Lawrence Frank would say English was active for the game, again in place of Corey Maggette, who’d occupied a rotation long after English had lost his.

“Looking at Kim, especially coming back home, opportunity mainly to play in front of family and friends,” Frank said.

Of course, English didn’t play Saturday. He doesn’t play most games.

As an NBA player, English is pretty unremarkable. He was a second-round pick, and most second-round picks don’t last. On the court, aside from his 47 percent 3-point shooting in an extremely small sample, there’s little evidence he’ll stick in the league. Even as an ordinary prospect, he’s unremarkable. There are 70 others who’ve been good enough to play an NBA minute this season but have played less than English.

What makes English stand out, though, is his likability.

He grew up in Baltimore with a girl’s name and a stutter, but that just hardened him. As did his summers at his father’s construction company. From the time he was about 12 until he went to college, he poured concrete for English Concrete Contractors.

“It was labor. Definitely hard work,” English said. “It gives you an appreciation that there’s people out there that do that for a living. It takes this and puts it perspective.”

Unfortunately, English might need that perspective. Next to Austin Daye, no Piston has a more tenuous spot in the NBA than English, whose contract is fully unguaranteed for next season

It would be easy to end this post by saying English will make it as an NBA player, adding some cliché that English’s resolve is as solid as the concrete he poured.

But, in the NBA, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, likeable players don’t make it. Sometimes, small disappointments like not playing in front of hometown fans develop into big disappointments like losing a roster spot.

There’s no grand narrative here – just a player I’m still hoping will, and very well could, succeed, but might not.

Santa Wojo delivers gifts to Pistons

Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News gave Christmas gifts to local sports figures, and though my favorite is Dave Brandon’s, there are a few good ones for the Pistons:

Andre Drummond: A position in the Pistons starting lineup.

Joe Dumars: A winning lottery ticket.

Lawrence Frank: Same thing I try to give every Pistons coach — slightly more job security than a North Korean opposition party member.

Tom Gores: Not sure if it’s legal, but I’ve been rounding up fannies to plop in the empty Palace seats.

Detroit Pistons salary page updated

It was long overdue, but the “Salaries” tab at the top of this page has been updated. To celebrate this Christmas miracle, I’ll be around to answer any questions about the Pistons’ salary structure in the comments.

Also, there are a lot of figures involved, so if you see any errors, please let me know, and I’ll fix them.

Pistons reportedly won’t pursue DeMarcus Cousins

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

#Pistons have been interested in DeMarcus Cousins in the past but they won’t make a play for him now, for obvious reasons

I’m not sure what “obvious reasons” are, but I wouldn’t mind the Pistons pursuing Cousins, whom the Sacramento Kings recently suspended for cursing out coach Keith Smart.

If obvious reasons are that Cousins just cursed out his coach, I wouldn’t let that be a dealbreaker. Cousins’ value is lower than usual right now, and this could be the exact right time to take advantage of that. Trading for him when he’s been a model citizen, not only would be costly, it probably wouldn’t even be possible, because the Kings wouldn’t give him up. His verbal altercation is certainly a red flag, but the Pistons should do their due diligence to assess how likely Cousins is to hurt his team with outbursts like that in the future. This incident didn’t really shock anyone, and if the Pistons were interested in Cousins before, I don’t understand why this would completely shut the door.

If obvious reasons are that the Pistons already have Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, I wouldn’t let that be a dealbreaker, either. I probably wouldn’t give up either of those two to get Cousins, but all three couldsplit minutes at at power forward and center. Though 32 minutes per game might be a bit low for each of them if they hit their peaks, reducing playing time for the big men might make them even more effective.

If there are other “obvious reasons” I’m forgetting, let me know. There are certainly plenty of drawbacks – including Cousins’ attitude and the Pistons already having Monroe and Drummond – but Cousins might be a better trade target than when the Pistons pursued him before. Maybe the Kings’ asking price is still too high, but this exactly when I’d consider trading for him.

Andre Drummond’s uncle wants him to dunk everything, and his mother wants him to stay close to home

When I covered Andre Drummond at the NBA Draft, it was clear two people were in charge of his circle – and neither was Drummond. One was his uncle, Phil Santavenere. The other was his mother, Christine Cameron.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit had a couple nice articles on both. First up, Drummond’s uncle, who, like us, wants his nephew to dunk everything:

"I’ve never been a real physical person up until this point," Drummond said last week. "I worked on lay-ups and my next moves and never went with anything strong. He hates it. My uncle hated it with a passion.

"He just kind of gave up trying to get that out of my game. I always made it so he never really said anything to me, but he always told me that whenever you get to the next level, you better not be doing that. You will get your shot blocked."

Ellis also wrote about how Drummond’s mother and sister moved to Michigan with him:

Cameron is from St. Thomas in Jamaica, moving to the United States in 1989. Her thoughts on life were formed there.

"I grew up on the islands and I grew up a certain way," she said. "I would get my butt whipped. I don’t do it the American way. I’m very firm and very strict with them so I have to discipline them. I keep them on a straight track. I don’t let them run loose. I keep them home."

Drummond admits to scoldings when he stays out too late, but Cameron’s primary responsibility is helping him organize his life.

I recommend clicking through to learn more about the specifics of what Drummond’s mother does for him.