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Archive → March, 2013

Professor Fennis Dembo?

To piggyback on Dan’s nostalgic post looking at what some possibly forgotten former Pistons are up to these days, Lost Lettermen also has a great slideshow that includes former Piston Fennis Dembo:

This surefire entry on college basketball’s All-Name Hall of Fame was more than just a memorable name. He was a star for the Cowboys, leading the No. 12 seed to the 1987 Sweet Sixteen — including a second round triumph over Reggie Miller and UCLA in which Dembo scored 41 points in an upset win — while averaging a tournament-leading 27.8 PPG.

Dembo’s appearance on the 1987–1988 college basketball preview issue of Sports Illustrated was the first ever by a Wyoming athlete and preceded a seven-year professional career (1988–1995). Dembo is now back in his native San Antonio with hopes of finishing his college degree, obtaining a master’s or Ph.D. in civil engineering and becoming a university professor.


Where are they now? Maurice Ager, Chucky Atkins, Maceo Baston, Dale Davis, Tremaine Fowlkes, Horace Jenkins, Allan Houston, Olden Polynice, Jerome Williams

Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com has an awesome “Where are they now?” feature that includes several former Pistons. Here are my favorites, but definitely check out Deeks’ post for even more fun.

Maurice Ager – Ager hasn’t played since a four game stint with the Timberwolves at the very start of the 2010/11 season. Instead, he’s turned to music, and is now a producer and occasional rapper. Ager’s first album, "Moe Town," was released last month; here’s a video clip of a bonus track, called "Pistons." You’ll recognise one sample.

Chucky Atkins – Atkins has taken up coaching. He first volunteered at USF, then worked with the NBA Player’s Association at high school camps, before starting his first season this year at Evans High School in Orlando, his alma mater.

Maceo Baston – Now owns and runs a cupcake shop in Michigan, Taste Love Cupcakes.

Dale Davis – Here’s an awkward if jauntily soundtracked video that explains Dale’s current business.

Tremaine Fowlkes – Tremaine Fowlkes was born in Los Angeles, California. A man named Tremaine Fowlkes founded a company called TRE Holdings LLC in Los Angeles in 2004. That company, according to this, lodged then redacted an appeal against a finding in the US Bankruptcy Court. Same guy? Hope not.

Allan Houston – Assistant general manager for the Knicks. Suffered an awkward moment at the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League when a heavily jet-lagged idiot tripped over a step, stumbled a few places and landed in his lap. That person was not me. (It was really.)

Horace Jenkins – Jenkins runs an AAU team in Lehigh and also offers private coaching.

Olden Polynice – Runs a personal training service, Next Star Basketball, and is a DJ.

Jerome Williams – Now the director of basketball operations at powerhouse high school side Findlay Prep, and has a terrible haircut.

Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour out indefinitely on medical leave

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour will be out indefinitely on medical leave, the team has announced.

Man, that’s a bummer to hear. Abdenour is the fiery half the Pistons’ legendary duo of Abdenour and Kander, and I hope the long-time trainer is OK.

Feel free to share your favorite Abdenour-receiving-a-technical-foul stories in the comments. That’s right, there are multiple.

Piston of the Week: Charlie Villanueva

Piston of the Week (3/17/2013 – 3/23/2013): Greg Monroe Charlie Villanueva

8.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, one smug fourth quarter barrage while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. 

I actively tried to pick someone new this week. I gave Rodney Stuckey a hard look after a solid week last week, but he laid a pair of eggs before playing well against the Bobcats. Jose Calderon was solid, but he also left a game with the flu, likely caught by being exposed to the toxicity of a 10-game losing streak.

Hell, there was even a part of me that thought it’s worth giving the award to Charlie Villanueva because he was the one who keyed the team to its first win since February of 1994.

So I did.

With my apologies to Greg Monroe, who put together a super strong week and has apparently found a knack for cooking the Miami Heat, your Piston of the Week is Charlie Villanueva.

He wasn’t the best, nor was he even good for most of the week, but Charlie V did something that no Pistons player has been able to do in the last 10 games — step up and be “the guy” when the team needs it in the fourth.

Admittedly, there haven’t been that many chances for the Pistons to take control of a game during the streak of terrible, but Charlie V scored 17 frickin’ points in the fourth quarter on Saturday.

He showed more life than he has in a month(s) and was, however dirty it sounds to say this, the best player on the floor during the Pistons’ fourth-quarter comeback. He’s a streaky player, we know that, but when those wild 3-pointers are going down, his whole game opens up.

It also helps that he’s a match-up nightmare for the Bobcats, who tried to throw a mix of post and perimeter defenders on him. However, those defenders didn’t really defend Charlie at all in the fourth quarter — which allowed for him to be the recipient of  multiple drive-and-kick passes for open 3-pointers.

Seriously, he had a SportsCenter-worthy dunk and the game winner on a layup that came, gasp, off a HUSTLE PLAY. That’s what kind of game it was, Charlie V was scoring from everywhere, posterizing dudes and hustling to make winning plays.

Yeah, it was the Bobcats, and yeah, lottery balls say it’s probably better for this team to lose every game, but there isn’t always value in losing — it really messes with a team’s psyche. There’s a weird balance between rooting to win and rooting for draft position, and tonight, Charlie V trolled the entire “tank!” community by playing arguably the best fourth quarter of any Pistons player this season.

There’s something admirable about a guy, struggling and buried on the bench in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, being able to come in and do something good. It shows that someone on the team hasn’t totally quit — which, unfortunately, is something that appears to have happened at times during the streak.

So, cheers to Charlie V, occasionally earning his big contract pennies at a time, even in the worst of times!


Past Winners

Pistons squeak out a 92-91 victory in Charlotte

Detroit Pistons 92 Final

Recap | Box Score

91 Charlotte Bobcats
Jason Maxiell, PF 22 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -3If Maxiell stops shooting so many mid range jumpers and gets to the bucket more, he shoots better? What a novel idea! I wish someone would have thought of that before!
Greg Monroe, C 29 MIN | 2-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | 0This was a tough game for Monroe. His 2-11 from the field was not a misleading stat. He forced so many bad shots against competition that he should be clearly better than (Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts). His defense was average, but again, he was playing against some of the worst starting big men in the league.
Jose Calderon, PG 30 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -8Calderon had another solid night. He was good shooting from outside, but probably could’ve gotten the ball inside a bit more (he did to his teammates, but took no shots in the paint himself). He had six assists, but probably could’ve gotten more if the big men could get all of their shots to go down. His defense wasn’t great, but Kemba Walker is a hard player to stop.
Brandon Knight, PG 37 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 10 PTS | 0In his first game back from his ankle injury, Brandon Knight was a disaster. He played a lot of minutes (a lot at point guard late in the game), but turned the ball over too much and shot very poorly. (16.5% from three). The only saving grace tonight for Knight was his stellar defense (see: Dan’s last post about Knight’s underrated defense).
Kyle Singler, SG 28 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -7Singler wasn’t too involved tonight, but when he was, he didn’t shoot too well and got in foul trouble. His defense was nothing too great, but he didn’t look lost.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 20 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +7Villanueva basically split time at power forward tonight with Jason Maxiell,and did about just as well in every facet of the game except for shooting, where he was good tonight long range. Oh, also, he had a monster dunk late in the fourth quarter.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -2Since the Pistons gave up on their season, Jerebko has been finding himself in the rotation more, and tonight was no different. Jerebko logged solid minutes but wasn’t very involved, shooting at a mediocre percentage and getting eight points.
Khris Middleton, SF 16 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +10Middleton has been finding himself playing a lot since the Pistons began tanking as well. Tonight he had six points and played surprisingly well on defense, forcing a lot of misses and turnovers.
Will Bynum, PG 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +1Unfortunately, Will Bynum didn’t play after the 5:35 mark in the second quarter due to his lingering hand injury. He didn’t really make an impact in his six minutes on the floor.
Rodney Stuckey, PG 30 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 13 PTS | +7Stuckey was expecting his minutes to go back down after Knight returned from his injury, but that was not the case. He played a lot tonight and shot well, but the best part of his game was the way he ran the offense. He has eight assists and was spreading the ball around very nicely.
Lawrence FrankFrank coached the Pistons to a win and did a nice job managing the team in crunch time, but it was against the Bobcats. It would have been nice to see Kravtsov and English log some playing time instead of Bynum and Stuckey. It was good to see him get Jerebko and Middleton some rotation time, however.

Off to Charlotte…


  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (23-47) at Charlotte Bobcats (16-52)
  • Date: March 23, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Something has to give tonight.

The Detroit Pistons have won 8-of-34 road games this season while the Charlotte Bobcats have been victorious in 10-of-34 contests at home.

One trend will have to take a brief pause tonight when these teams square off.

The Pistons have lost 10 games in a row entering the matchup this evening and will desperately be attempting to remedy the situation.

Unfortunately for the Pistons’ faithful, Detroit was part of history Friday night on the road in Miami. After opening the contest with a great offensive showing, Lawrence Frank’s unit faltered in the second half and gave Miami their 25th straight win.

Greg Monroe was dominant against the Heat’s diminutive frontline and his play coupled with Jose Calderon’s allowed the Pistons to drop 54 points in the first half.

Erik Spoelstra had his team turn up the pressure in the second half and Miami seemingly snuffed out every Piston play.

In the game’s preview, we had pointed out that outrebounding the Heat wouldn’t be sufficient and it wasn’t. Detroit was dominant on this front, grabbing 47 rebounds to Miami’s 33 but it hardly mattered.

Charlotte on the other hand is coming off a victory Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors. The win gave the Bobcats their first back-to-back set of victories since November.

Their great offensive showing against Toronto came as a product of their interior assault combined with their outside shooting. The Bobs scored 46 points in the paint and converted 8-of-16 shots from 3-point range.

The Pistons should allocate a fair amount of defensive attention to Byron Mullens when the teams meet tonight. For whatever reason, teams tend to lose track of him be it on the perimeter or on the boards, which gives him multiple easy scoring opportunities.

Mullens was a terror against the Raptors, pouring in 25 points on an efficient 7-of-11 field goal shooting.

Read about the Bobcats

Queen City Hoops.

Pistons lose to Heat, and that’s OK

The Pistons haven’t had much of anything to play for for weeks now, and their 10-game losing streak and often disinterested play is a reflection of that. But we got a nice reprieve tonight as the Pistons gave a game effort and actually led at halftime as they took their turn at trying to end Miami’s historic winning streak. Not surprisingly, they weren’t successful, and that’s OK. It was nice to simply see some fight — including Jonas Jerebko, who always seems to irritate the Heat whenever the teams play, inducing a flagrant foul out of Mario Chalmers and Greg Monroe having one of his best games of the season with 23 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Also, Kim English continues to be highly entertaining — he played solid defense in his 12 minutes of action. A little too solid. He picked up six fouls and fouled out in those 12 minutes.

The Pistons have had plenty of halftime leads and seen them evaporate this season, but tonight’s three-point lead seemed particularly unsafe. The Heat have been toying with bad teams a bit of late, including overcoming a 27-point deficit to beat the Cavs earlier this week. The Pistons, at the very least, played hard, played physical and made the Heat work hard. Or, at least work as hard as any team can make the Heat work right now.

Grades generator is down, so you’ll have to settle for text only tonight. Box score is here if you need it.

Jose Calderon (B-) – He shot the ball well and also moved pretty well without the ball — Monroe and Jason Maxiell both found him on nice cuts to the basket. But he was uncharacteristically sloppy with seven turnovers and he lost Mario Chalmers a couple times for open threes.

Rodney Stuckey (B-) – Stuckey didn’t shoot well, but the fact that I’ve watched so much college basketball the past two days has made me less harsh about that (seriously … college basketball is the worst). Stuckey played hard and did a pretty good job defensively against Dwyane Wade.

Monroe (A) – Monroe had his entire, beautiful offensive game on display tonight. He beat guys off the dribble. He passed from the high post. He took pretty good care of the ball. He made post moves. He even hit an elbow jumper. Monroe has been less consistent this season than we’d been accustomed, but there is no doubt that he’s one of the most skilled big men in the league offensively, and the more weapons the Pistons can put around him next season, the better he’s going to be.

Kyle Singler (A) – Singler made open shots, he rebounded, he moved without the ball and he had one of his best games of the season. He didn’t guard LeBron James particularly well, but who does?

Jason Maxiell (C+) – Maxiell had a nice pass to a cutting Calderon in the first, then also had an early turnover trying to make an extra pass, not bad for a guy who rarely looks to pass.

Jerebko (B) – Jerebko didn’t shoot well, but he did make an open three (something that is vital for him to improve if he’s going to be a rotation player), he grabbed eight rebounds and he was the feisty irritant and hustle player that made him gain so many fans in the first place 

Will Bynum (F) – Bynum only played 13 minutes and made no impact in a game the PIstons really could’ve used his scoring off the bench.

English (C-) – English continues to shoot poorly, but he gave the Pistons good minutes defensively, even if he was too foul-happy. He took a good, hard (and clean) foul on James on a run-out that would’ve been a dunk in the first half and he handled himself well defensively against Wade and Ray Allen. I have no problem with is aggressiveness, even if he did pick up quick fouls.

Charlie Villanueva (F) – Ditto what I wrote for Bynum. If the Pistons got any offense at all out of either of their two bench guys whose job is solely to provide offense, they would’ve had a chance to win this game.

Lawrence Frank (A) – After weeks of this team playing like they didn’t care all that much, Frank deserves credit for getting the Pistons prepared enough to compete hard against the Heat. Whether he’s the coach here beyond this season or not, that’s a sign that he’s still respected in the locker room and, even in a lost season, can still motivate the team, even if trying to end Miami’s winning streak was also a motivating factor. The Pistons had a good gameplan. They were physical with Miami, they let Monroe dominate inside against Miami’s collection of stiffs they throw out there at the center position when Chris Bosh isn’t in and, if they got any shooting at all from Bynum or Villanueva, they would’ve had a chance to win on the road against the probable NBA champions who are playing out of their minds right now. Not a bad night for Frank.

Miami Heat: 24 and done?


  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (23-46) at Miami Heat (53-14)
  • Date: March 22, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD, NBATV

What to look for

The Miami Heat have turned themselves into one of the toughest teams to beat in NBA history.

Every time they seem headed for a loss, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade pull a rabbit out of their hats and end up laughing at those in the audience that temporarily doubted them.

Chris Bosh and company are currently in the midst of the second longest winning streak in NBA history. They’ve won 24 straight games and will be shooting for number 25 tonight against the Detroit Pistons.

Just how ridiculous has Miami been of late?

During the string of victories, they’ve actually been outrebounded on average. Indeed, not only are teams gathering more boards than the Heat, they are also generating more field goal attempts.

And yet, Erik Spoelstra’s men keep winning for two reasons: firstly, they consistently outshoot teams from the field. Secondly, their crunch time performance has been superior in comparison to their opponents’.

During the win streak, Miami is winning games by an average of 10.8 points. The instances where the contests have been tight have brought terrific defensive and offensive outputs by the Heat’s big three and the players surrounding them.

In the last 47 days or so, the Heat have scored 126.7 points per 100 possessions in the clutch (defined as the last five minutes of the game with the scoring margin within five points), the best figure in the league over that time.

Defensively, they’ve surrendered 80.8 points per 100 possessions in crunch time, which is the second best figure in the NBA since February 3rd (start of the streak).

Their play this week has been perfectly indicative of their excellent late game execution during their undefeated run. On Monday night in Boston, the team rallied from a 17-point deficit to make the game close late in the fourth quarter.

LeBron James was spectacular in that outing by virtue of his scoring and playmaking to end the game. The offense helped the Heat take the lead late, while the defense closed out the contest despite a career night by Jeff Green.

The following battle occurred two nights later at the Quicken Loans Arena where the Cleveland Cavaliers took a 27-point lead. It seemed as though the Cavs would be making history by ending the Heat’s run.

However, the defending champions bounced back late in the third quarter and made a game of it again. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Ray Allen and LeBron James looked as though they had insulted Nas and Mobb Deep in their very own rendition of Jay-Z’s Takeover.

The Chosen One and Jesus Shuttlesworth combined for 21 points in the final period and helped Miami take the lead in crunch time. The defense closed out the head-to-head matchup and sent Miami to victory.

The Pistons will have a shot tonight at the champs.

As evidenced by the data, owning the boards won’t be enough. Lawrence Frank’s unit will desperately need a good shooting night if they plan on keeping the contest close and getting an opportunity for a road win tonight.

In addition, protecting the ball against a selective ball-hawking defense is mandatory against this Heat squad. They feed off miscues, which allow them to get out in transition and gain momentum.

If Detroit is successful in these key areas, it should afford them the possibility of stealing the contest late. Mind you, their execution in crunch time will have to be superior to that of Miami.

Sounds difficult? Well, no one said taking down the chest-beating champs would be easy…

Read about the Heat

Heat Index.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

Pistons strangely rely on opponent’s last five games for scouting

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

When the Pistons scout upcoming opponents, they look at the most relevant information – which is the most recent information. They look, specifically, at the last five games to gauge lineup combinations, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

I get examining the last five games for lineup combinations and tendencies and then plugging in season-long data. But strengths and weaknesses from just the last five games? That seems like way too small a sample, especially when schedule strength can swing wildly during such a short stretch.

Kevin Pelton, back when he wrote for Basketball Prospectus, tackled the question of when data becomes significant:

Taken together, all three measures suggest that performance starts to flatten out somewhere around 25 games or so. If I was forced to put one number on when results become reliable, that would be the point, when two years ago teams were on average within two points of their final differential, adjusted or otherwise.

Player performance tends to stabilize a bit more quickly. Historically, analysts have used three benchmarks as cutoffs–250, 500 and 1,000 minutes. A starter can get to that first round figure, the smallest threshold at which I would ever seriously consider player performance, within the first couple of weeks of the season.

The interesting thing about player statistics is that there are a variety of different denominators, which means they stabilize at different rates. The denominators on rebounds (available missed shots), assists, steals and blocks (team plays) are so large that they tend to be highly reliable over small samples. The same is true of player tendencies (usage, and the percentage of plays used on twos, threes, free throws and turnovers). We see far more volatility in shooting statistics, since their denominators (shots attempted) are much smaller–especially in the case of three-point percentage. So it’s worth casting a warier eye toward hot shooting starts than players dominating in other ways.

It’s impossible for me to say how much the Pistons rely on their opponents’ last five games, so this might not be problematic if they use this info as a small piece of the puzzle. But it sounds unreliable, and in a season when Lawrence Frank’s team has routinely been out-coached, might this strategy be a factor?

Brandon Knight’s defense has been very, very overlooked

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

On Feb. 7, the Pistons ranked 19th in the NBA by allowing 103.5 points per 100 possessions.

Since Feb. 8, the Pistons have allowed 112.1 points per 100 possessions, a mark that ranks last in the league.

So what changed?

Anyone who watches games will say Andre Drummond. Sentimentalists who recall his four all-defensive second-team selections will say Tayshaun Prince.

And they’d both be right.

But Drummond and Prince are only part of the story. The Pistons’ most overlooked defender this season has been Brandon Knight, who has missed six games and played just four minutes in another due to injury during this "run."

The Pistons allow 8.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when Knight is on the court than when he’s off — easily the best mark on the team.

Corey Maggette is next closest, at 4.8 (skewed because he played more than 80% of his minutes with Drummond), followed by Jose Calderon, at 4.0 (less relevant, because since he joined the team, Detroit’s defense has been terrible with or without him) and then by Austin Daye, at 3.2 (no longer on the team).

The closest reasonable comparison is Greg Monroe, who checks in at 3.1. Knight just dominates this stat.

Of course, on/off numbers can be heavily influenced by lineups, both by the team and the opponent. But individually, Knight’s defense also checks out.

On the plays mySynergySports, a video scouting service, lists Knight as the primary defender, he allows 0.84 points per play, which ranks 131st in the league. Considering 460 players have played in the NBA this season and that this is a per-play rank rather than a stat in which Knight benefits from playing big minutes or often defending fellow starters, 131st is very good.

Not only is Knight defending well, he’s markedly improved from last season, when he ranked 370th. In five of the six play types as categorized by Synergy that he’s eligible for, Knight’s rank has improved:

• Isolation (295th to 97th)

• Pick-and-roll ballhandler (167th to 106th)

• Post-up (220th to 92nd)

• Spot-up (303rd to 194th)

• Handoff (42nd to 9th)