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Archive → March, 2013

Andre Drummond: ‘If you saw practice, you wouldn’t have thought I got hurt’

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Andre Drummond after going through full practice Thursday: "If you saw practice, you wouldn’t have thought I got hurt."

I wonder whether today’s practice at all changes Lawrence Frank’s last assessment of Andre Drummond’s return (“He’s not coming back anytime soon.”). I don’t expect the Pistons to waiver in their patient stance, but the point Drummond is healthy enough to return might be closer than Frank previously thought.

Chris Paul overtaking Isiah Thomas

Two years ago, I wrote Isiah Thomas’ body of work was more impressive than Chris Paul’s, and I still believe that’s the case, though the gap is shrinking. But then and since, I’ve predicted Paul will retire as the best point guard since Magic Johnson.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN picked up where my argument left off and wrote an interesting piece comparing the two point guards:

It’s hard to find anything, anything at all, that Thomas did better than Paul on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t a matter of advanced stats preferring Paul, it’s a matter of nearly every statistic preferring Paul.

Isiah’s game had flaws, and we tend to forget them because he tended to forget them on the biggest of stages. When you deliver a 25-point NBA Finals quarter on a pretzel of an ankle, you blot out memories of a turnover-prone high dribble, and rim-prone floater. When your team takes out Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in their prime years, you earn a lot of respect.

Those sepia-glitter Isiah Thomas memories matter, and nothing will take them away. If he’s overrated, then it’s for the best of reasons: The guy performed when the eyes of the world were upon him.

Thomas also benefitted historically from something that was less within his control, even if he contributed to it: He played with an elite defense. His Pistons teams were top-three in the league in each year of that three-season NBA Finals span. But few would say that he was a better defender than CP3.

I don’t wish to trash Isiah’s legacy, or insinuate that he was unimportant to that championship success. He was crucial. I merely wish to point out that a good player can receive a lot of extra praise for having played on a great team, especially if the team excels at defense, an aspect of the game that fewer focus on. If you’re a scorer on a great defense, chances are that a disproportionate amount of credit will bounce your way.

Strauss’ evaluation of Thomas is fair (unlike the time he wrote that Kevin Johnson was better than Isiah). It’s no insult to Thomas to claim Paul is better per-season, per-minute or any other metric that doesn’t sum career accomplishments. Paul is just that good.

Rodney Stuckey hopes you don’t find him selfish

David Mayo of MLive:

He began the season as the starting shooting guard, went to the bench of his own volition, has spent much of his season standing in the corner away from the focus of halfcourt offensive sets, and openly has questioned how he has been used.

Asked if he thinks people might interpret that as self-centeredness, Stuckey replied, "I hope not."

"I’m not trying to be like, ‘Oh, I need to do this, I need to do that.’ I just know being aggressive, attacking the basket, attacking the hoop is my game," Stuckey said after Wednesday’s 105-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors. "In order to do that, I’m going to need the ball a little bit more in my hands in order to create for myself and my teammates."

"I’m not a selfish player at all," he said. "I’m always a team player. Just having the ball in my hand and creating for my teammates, that’s what I do."

On one hand, I empathize with Stuckey. Because the Pistons want to test Brandon Knight, they’ve had Stuckey operating outside his comfort zone.

Last season, Stuckey and Knight split point-guard duties while sharing the backcourt. Often, Stuckey handled the ball while Knight had easier off-the-ball assignments during difficult situations.

That worked OK, but the combination had little hope of blossoming into a contending backcourt. It’s very unlikely Stuckey is a starting guard the next time the Pistons win a playoff series, but the same can’t be said of Knight. Knight hasn’t secured a long-term starting spot, either, though, so the Pistons have wisely put the ball in his hands more often. Even though the Pistons’ on-court chemistry probably took a step back with Stuckey relegated, Detroit is learning a lot more about Knight, and that makes the change worthwhile.

Because Knight has the ball more than last year, that has given Stuckey fewer opportunity to do what he does best: attack the rim and draw fouls. His free-throw attempts per minute are his lowest since his first season as a starter (2008-09), and he’s already taken a career-high 147 3-pointers (despite shooting 27 percent from beyond the arc).

But that’s not the whole story.

There’s a perception Stuckey, at Lawrence Frank’s direction, has been stuck spotting up in the corner all season. But Stuckey has taken more than twice as many above-the-break 3s (98) as corner 3s (43), and those numbers don’t count Stuckey’s backcourt attempts – for him, a significant number. I see a player who must accept some blame for taking more 3-pointers than he should.

The Pistons haven’t done what’s best for Stuckey this season, but catering to Stuckey is not in the franchise’s best interest. I understand why that would bother Stuckey, but he could have handled the situation better. He’s rarely played with passion this season, and his minutes are often uneventful at best.

Both sides deserve blame. I don’t find Stuckey selfish. I also don’t believe he’s done enough to make an admittedly difficult situation work.

Andre Drummond ‘not coming back anytime soon’

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Pistons coach Lawrence Frank was initially optimistic before Monday’s game against the Nets in terms of how Drummond would be evaluated, leading some to believe Drummond was on the way back.

But after Wednesday’s practice he cleared the air, closing the door on such sentiments.

"There’s no update, it’s gonna be slow," Frank said. "He’s not coming back anytime soon. He’s made progress. You gotta think, the doctors restricted us from doing anything. Just from a conditioning standpoint, it’s gonna take time."

As difficult as watching this team without Andre Drummond can be, the Pistons are wisely showing patience. Plus, sitting Drummond comes with the bonus of increased lottery odds.

There is no good reason to rush Drummond back, and the Pistons know that.

Brandon Knight won’t play in summer league

David Mayo of MLive:

Brandon Knight has endured injuries of varying severity since the Detroit Pistons guard played in last year’s Orlando Pro Summer League.  Part of his plan for good health going into next season is to not participate in this year’s summer league.

This seems like a wise move. Brandon Knight, despite his admirable intent to outwork everyone, had probably overextended himself by playing big minutes and hitting the court before and after practices. We know Knight playing through injury once this season caused another.

This also goes back to the earlier discussion about how much teams gain from summer league. I suspect it’s not much more than they would by spending the week practicing, though I’m certainly open to contrary opinions. But absent reliable evidence summer league helps young players develop, sitting Knight makes sense. It’s just not worth pushing him too far for something that might or might not help him, especially when there’s no doubt whether Knight will work hard other ways this summer to get better.

Larry Bird still hates Bill Laimbeer

Easily the best thing about 1980s and early 1990s NBA basketball was the development of blood feuds. There are rivalries today, but the ones experienced back then are truly remarkable, to the point that the participants will never, ever move past them. The latest example, in the video above, is Larry Bird still discussing his dislike of Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer with Grantland’s Bill Simmons.

Pistons returning to cheaper Orlando summer league

David Mayo of MLive:

The Detroit Pistons have committed to returning to the Orlando Pro Summer League this year, president of basketball operations Joe Dumars confirmed Monday.

That comes just after a report by Ric Bucher of CSNBAYAREA.COM:

The recompense is an important component because teams are looking at their line-item expenses more than ever these days and the costs of having a Summer League team is one of the biggest. One general manager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is the second-biggest item on his budget, topped only by the cost of preseason training camp. Teams, on average, bring with them a 40- to 50-person contingent that includes players, coaches and support staff. The league schedule is held over 10 days but teams often come in several days early for a pre-league mini-training camp.

That, the GM said, is one reason why the Orlando Summer League has grown from six teams to 10 since it started in 2007

I’m not against the Pistons saving money (even if they say Lawrence Frank prefers Orlando anyway), especially in an area like this, where the more expense alternative doesn’t seem particularly advantageous.

However, by the fifth day in Orlando, most players seem too burned out to put much effort into their fifth game of the week. Does playing five rather than four summer-league games really matter? I doubt it, but if the Pistons think it does, realize they’re giving up something to save money.

Again, the trade off might be worth it.

Richard Hamilton’s Bulls tenure might be nearing its end

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Has Rip Hamilton played his last game for the Chicago Bulls?

Even head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t know at the moment … but it’s possible. Thibodeau was asked on Monday whether Hamilton’s lower back injury could keep him out the rest of the season and the veteran coach’s answer left open the possibility.

"There’s an unknown," Thibodeau said. "It’s (a) back so those are tricky, but we just have to wait and see."

The reality is that while Hamilton has had some nice games with the Bulls, he hasn’t been able to stay on the floor long enough to make much of a difference. He’s missed 21 games and counting this season because of various injuries and hasn’t even accompanied the Bulls on their last few road trips. He is a forgotten man in the Bulls’ locker room.

Whether he comes back on the floor or not, he will be viewed as an $11 million dollar mistake by the Bulls’ front office: $5 million for last season, $5 million for this season and a $1 million buyout this summer. Hamilton has said in the past that he would like to play another couple years in the league but it would probably be best for all parties involved to move in different directions.

There was a segment of Pistons fans who were convinced Richard Hamilton had more to offer when the Pistons benched, deactivated and then eventually waived him. Back then, I wrote it was very likely Hamilton was declining due to age and wouldn’t be a major contributor again:

Richard Hamilton’s career isn’t over, but he’s likely well past his peak. To maximize his value, he should play around better scorers and take fewer shots, perhaps as a backup. He could be effective in that role, but whether he accepts it is a different story.

Hamilton accepted a slightly reduced role with in Chicago, where his usage declined, though not much. His playing time decreased significantly, but it still wasn’t enough to avoid repeated injury. This shouldn’t be surprising for a guard in his mid 30s who relied on elite conditioning to be effective.

Most of us knew this already, but the Pistons didn’t give up on Hamilton too early. They did it too late.

Detroit Pistons bottoming out isn’t quite Bobcats bad

The Detroit Pistons have lost their last nine games by an average score of 108-90. In that span, they have the NBA’s 27th-best offense and worst defense. They’ve been outscored by 19.3 points per 100 possessions, easily the league’s worst mark.

But it could be worse.

The Pistons’ nine-game skid is the NBA’s most lopsided this season – and in words used way too often on this blog – other than the Bobcats.

In their last nine games, the Pistons the Pistons have been outscored by 158 points, the fifth-worst nine-game stretch this season. As part of a 10-game losing streak, the Bobcats had overlapping nine-game stretches where they were outscored by 163, 166, 198 and 209 points.

When they play the Miami Heat on Friday, the Pistons have a chance to claim the league’s most lopsided 10-game stretch of the season. Detroit just needs to fall to Miami by 57 points. It might be a longshot, but these Pistons just might have what it takes.

Andre Drummond does team-related activities, needs more tests before return

Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press:

Injured Pistons Andre Drummond (stress fracture lower back) and Brandon Knight (sprained left ankle) worked out after the morning shoot-around Monday, but no timetable has been set for either’s return.

“For the first time he was able to do some team-related activities today,” Frank said [of Drummond]. “He got up and down the court a little bit, went through shoot-around. I think anytime you start to reintegrate a guy, that’s always a positive thing. I think he’s definitely on the right track.

“Obviously, we’ve been very conservative with this for very intelligent reasons. I think we’ll just continue to up his work level every day. Eventually what we’ll have to do is … getting another CT scan or final confirmation to see if the stress fracture is healed before we take it to another level.”

Obviously, Lawrence Frank is treating Andre Drummond conservatively. This time, though, I don’t mind.