Archive → October, 2013
Josh Smith hitting the rim on a 3-pointer and the Pistons winning: two things I suspect you’ll see more often than not this season.
(hat tip: Ben Golliver of Point Forward)
ORLANDO | Slowly but surely, Chauncey Billups made his way through pregame warm-ups.
It’s a routine he’s probably done night after night for over a decade. Walk out, get some free throws up, transition into a set of turnaround jumpers from the mid-post and, of course, wrap things up with a round of shots from downtown.
He didn’t even play against the Magic that night, and he only played in three preseason games.
But even at 37, Billups doesn’t just walk off the court in anonymity. He stops to take a photo with a couple in the stands, two clad in No. 1′s jersey. He makes his way to the other side of the court, stopping for more photos with more fans before signing autographs for every fan draped over the edge of the tunnel.
This is a guy who’s on his last legs; a shell of the Mr. Big Shot that most Pistons fans remember. There’s just an aura about him, and those fans have always gravitated toward it.
Returning to Detroit doesn’t seem like a token victory lap for him. He doesn’t have a ton left in the tank, but you can tell that seeing the franchise return to relevancy is kind of an end-of-career pet project.
Chances are he’ll be a cog in starting a Pistons’ revival — how big of one is another question — but maybe, with success, the fan buzz he’s garnered will gravitate back to the team, too.
“It’s fun,” Billups said after the Pistons’ 87-86 loss in Orlando. “We have generated a little bit of excitement — Piston basketball again — and I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m a lifetime Piston, I feel, so I’m just happy to be a part of us kind of getting back to respectability.”
Maybe seeing familiar faces like Billups or assistant coach Rasheed Wallace helps to block out a forgettable stretch of failure.
For a franchise that hasn’t been respectable since Billups and Wallace were running pick-and-pops against the Celtics in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, it’s not a shock that a couple of diminished or retired fan favorites have rekindled some of the fire.
Those two aren’t what will make this team go, though. That starts with figuring out how to put together this team of odd-fitting pieces. The team’s top point guard, Brandon Jennings, is out with a broken jaw and the top backcourt reserve, Rodney Stuckey, out with a broken hand.
Neither played much, if at all, in the preseason. So, that whole, “Let’s figure out what guards are going to make this unbalanced roster roll” experiment is going have to happen early in the regular season now.
“There’s nothing really you can do in the preseason about it. You’ve got a lot of key guys out; people haven’t really seen what our team is really going to look like yet,” Billups said. “They will when Brandon (Jennings) gets back, and (Rodney) Stuckey gets back and I’m playing all the time. It changes a little bit. You’ve got playmakers out there to go with these big guys, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it is, as well.”
At times in Orlando, the team looked good. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith all had moments where things clicked. But, there were also times where — without those starting-caliber guards — the product looked like an absolute mess of tall, confused men with no room to operate on the floor.
It’s impossible to say what will fix the ills of this team because, like Billups said, no one has seen the full product.
Maybe it’s the guy that most of the Pistons’ fans have given up on, Stuckey. Billups was traded with the idea of Stuckey being the next in line, ready to step up. Well, that didn’t quite happen, but even after a disappointing stretch from Stuckey, the vet is excited to work with his former protégé.
“I’ve had some conversations with him, and that’s another one of the reasons why I’m happy to be back is I get to get him back under my wing again,” Billups said. “He’s back focused. Man, I really hate that he got hurt because he’s back focused, and he was playing great. Just him being able to attack and get people in foul trouble and just be able to go out there and score is going to be big for this team.”
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks has said that neither Jonas Jerebko nor Charlie Villanueva has put a lock on the fourth big spot in the rotation, so maybe Mitchell could get in there quicker than originally thought.
“I think he played well,” Cheeks said afterward. “His attention to detail was good. I think you know he’s a rookie. He’s going to make some rookie mistakes. He made a few of them tonight, but veterans make mistakes, too.”
Given Maurice Cheeks’ stated preference toward veterans, I’d be surprised if Tony Mitchell wins the job, but it’s absolutely to Mitchell’s credit he’s in the race. Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva know they can’t take a rotation spot for granted, and Mitchell is still building a relatively strong case.
Mitchell has made an astounding 11-of-15 shots and is averaging more rebounds, blocks and assists and fewer turnovers per minute than Jerebko and Villanueva in the preseason. He’s also averaging considerably fewer points and considerably more fouls per minute than those two.
If Mitchell makes the rotation, the Pistons would be getting a low-usage, high-efficiency, mistake-prone player. At this point, I’d take that over Villanueva and maaaybe Jerebko. Considering Mitchell has the highest ceiling of the bunch and, as the youngest of the three by five years, the most room to grow, he’s even more appealing
It’s also possible Cheeks doesn’t have to decide immediately. Villanueva left Tuesday’s win over the Wizards with back soreness, and it’s possible both Jerebko and Mitchell fit into the initial rotation.
If the Pistons are missing enough guards (Brandon Jennings and/or Rodney Stuckey) when the season begins, that could trickle down into playing time for Mitchell. Chauncey Billups could slide from shooting guard to point guard, though that’s not even a requisite move here. Kyle Singler could slide from small forward to shooting guard, especially if Cheeks deems Kentavious Caldwell-Pope unready. Jerebko could slide from power forward to small forward. And then Mitchel could play at power forward.
That might even buy Mitchell enough time get his bearings and solidify a rotation spot. But if I had to guess now, Jerebko is the fourth big man, and Mitchell will begin the season glued to the bench while the game’s result is in question.
At minimum, Mitchell is making a case to make the active list nightly when everyone is healthy. Right now, even that isn’t guaranteed for him.
|Andre Drummond, C 35 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-4 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -8
This wasn’t Drummond’s best effort, and he still had 14 rebounds. His post-ups yielded mixed results, and generally, the key was how deep he got before catching the entry pass. He seemed to get tired late as the Wizards came back, and they took advantage.
|Greg Monroe, C 36 MIN | 5-13 FG | 8-10 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -2
Monroe also looked tired late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter when the Wizards made their run, even more so than Drummond. But Monroe was better throughout the game. When Josh Smith plays – he had the night off to rest – Monroe won’t be depended on to this degree, but it’s nice to see Monroe flash such an all-around game.
|Chauncey Billups, PG 32 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +1
It seemed Billups deferred to his younger teammates at times, even though he’s better-equipped to run the offense. The veteran clearly understands the point of the preseason. And when Will Bynum and Peyton Siva set him up, Billups delivered, including a key 3-pointer late.
|Peyton Siva, PG 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -9
Siva played within his limits, which are still pretty constricting. He’s a rookie second-round pick, after all. Ideally, enough guards will be healthy by opening night to keep Siva on the bench, but if he must join the regular-season rotation, I want him to play like this. Let the better players shoulder the load, defend aggressively and avoid mistakes.
|Kyle Singler, SG 25 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -1
Singler has a real knack for getting open. Four of his baskets were assisted and all four by different players (Peyton Siva, Will Bynum, Chauncey Billups and Greg Monroe). This wasn’t a matter of Singler having exceptional chemistry with a single teammate. It was Singler seeing the court well and playing with passers good enough to take advantage.
|Josh Harrellson, PF 6 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +13
Made a jumper and a nice pass, but didn’t have an opportunity to make much of an impact.
|Tony Mitchell, PF 16 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +2
He looked very good offensively, getting to the rim and even making a jumper. He used his athleticism to more than make up for his occasional defensive positioning issue.
|Charlie Villanueva, PF 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0
Villanueva didn’t play in the second half due to a sore back. Could this injury give Jonas Jerebko a victory in their battle to be the backup power forward?
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 23 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +3
For the most part, he worked hard to get good shots, and that’s appreciated. Can I be a little greedy and ask Jerebko to work just as hard at defending and rebounding? His intensity while handling those less-glamorous tasks seemed to pick up as the game went along.
|Will Bynum, PG 25 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +13
I figured Drummond was the bigger component in all the great alley-oops he received from Bynum last season, but maybe Bynum deserves more credit for throwing quality lobs. Not only did Bynum connect with Drummond tonight, he also threw oops to Caldwell-Pope and Mitchell.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 17 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +3
Same story as the rest of his preseason and summer league. I liked his defensive effort, and he rebounded well for his position. But he has to make shots. Going 1-for-5 on 3-pointers just won’t cut it, and time is running out to show he’s fixed his jittery shooting
|Maurice Cheeks, Coach
Not only did the Pistons have an impressive 29 assists, those came from 23 different passer-finisher combinations. That indicates a true acumen for team-wide ball movement (and tonight, off-ball movement by players) rather than exploiting a particular matchup, and the Pistons need good ball movement to counter the lack of perimeter shooting in their starting lineup. I also liked Cheeks playing Monroe and Drummond big minutes. Those two need to be in shape to handle major roles in the regular season.
- Teams: Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons
- Date: October 22, 2013
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: NBA TV
- Radio: WXYT 1270 AM
What to look for
Q #1: In the offseason my gut feeling was that the Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond 3-4-5 combo simply would not work, partially because Smith at 3 seems like a bad offensive situation for him and partially because I suspected that Drummond would be better coming off the bench for another season. The trio has obviously started all preseason games, so how have they looked? (And will they give the small ball lineup of Wall-Beal-Webster-Ariza-Nene the Wizards are capable of turning to fits?)
@danfeld11: Drummond is way too good to come off the bench. Heck, he was too good to come off the bench last year (though that didn’t stop Lawrence Frank).
It’s tough to say now how the frontline will work, because the Pistons’ backcourt has not been at full strength. Brandon Jennings (wisdom tooth), Rodney Stuckey (slammed thumb in car door), Will Bynum (food poisoning) and Chauncey Billups (old) — what a comical set of circumstances — have been out during the preseason, and second-rounder Peyton Siva can’t orchestrate a work-in-progress offense.
Maybe Smith, Monroe and Drummond will work together. Maybe they won’t. But they have no chance without decent guards to alleviate some spacing pressure.
Siva, Billups, Singler, Monroe, Drummond starts for Pistons. Josh Smith out for rest.
Billups knows basketball better than most of his peers, gets along well with teammates of varying personalities and has spent his career playing several different roles. That’s the profile of a good coach, at least at this point in his career.
But it seems Billups is more interested in becoming a general manager, though that job requires similar skills.
Whatever Billups decides to do after basketball, I’d bet on him succeeding.
“No. 1, there’s always a little bit of embarrassment when something like that happens, right or wrong, there’s always some embarrassment,” Cheeks said Saturday at the Pistons practice facility. “For myself, who has always prided himself on being a high character person, it definitely is an embarrassment.
“But it happened, right or wrong, and I’m moving on.”
Cheeks deserved a chance to share his side of the story, and I appreciate that he didn’t brush this off without comment. It’s not clear whether his actions that night, the report’s existence or both embarrassed him. I’d like to know more about the incident, but that’s really his decision to make. He was not charged with a crime and the police report contained his explanation. He’s not obligated to share any more, and I doubt he will.
|Josh Smith, SF 29 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 13 PTS | +12This was a hard one because after looking pretty solid in pre-game shooting drills — both mid-range and 3-point jumpers — he came out laying bricks early. There were times in the first half where Smith looked uncomfortable, but he really came alive in the fourth. He was the catalyst in the Pistons’ comeback, hitting 2-of-3 from deep. It also requires mentioning that his early-clock heave from downtown with the Pistons down one with 30 seconds left was just terrible.|
|Andre Drummond, C 37 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -12Drummond had what’s become a pretty standard game for him. Crazy to say that, eh? He did the dirty work, rarely tried to do too much and played pretty solid defense. He, like Smith and Greg Monroe, is still learning what his role is, but if he plays near this level in the regular season, well, that’s a great role.|
|Greg Monroe, C 35 MIN | 7-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | +9It was a quiet night for Monroe, who didn’t really do much until that fourth-quarter run. He didn’t rebound well, and came out surprisingly slow against the mighty Orlando frontline of Solomon Jones and Kyle O’Quinn. His two blocks and steal are solid, preseason or not.|
|Peyton Siva, PG 47 MIN | 3-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 9 TO | 12 PTS | +4There were plenty of times where Siva looked bad tonight. Considering he played all but one minute due to Will Bynum being out with food poisoning, it turned out to be a gutty effort. His slashing-and-passing was the reason the Pistons looked great early. Once the Magic adjusted, he had nowhere to go, and that’s where the nine turnovers started.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 35 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +1There’s definitely two dimensions to Caldwell-Pope’s offensive game — KCP behind the 3-point line and inside of it. Tonight he made two from deep, and in the preseason he’s 6-for-18. However, he’s only 9-for-29 inside the arc. He’s a good 3-point shooter now, but as he adjusts to the NBA game, he’ll improve inside, too.|
|Tony Mitchell, PF 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +5Mitchell didn’t play a whole lot, but when he did he brought a bundle of energy. He used his athleticism to corral some pretty impressive rebounds above the rim. There was also a horrific sequence of trying to throw flashy passes on the break, which not-so-shockingly didn’t work out well at all.|
|Charlie Villanueva, PF 15 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -9He came out locked and loaded, per usual. There were some flops, there were some weak attempts at rebounds and there were plenty of shots fired up. It wouldn’t surprise me if Villanueva entered the season as the first big off the bench for the Pistons over Jonas Jerebko — purely because he spaces the floor better.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 15 MIN | 1-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | -11Battling for that primary backup gig, tonight’s shooting woes probably don’t help his cause. Jerebko did rebound well, and he brought some energy — which head coach Mo Cheeks mentioned that he wanted out of his bench before the game.|
|Kyle Singler, SG 21 MIN | 1-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -4I wouldn’t say he did anything really bad tonight, but he didn’t do anything amazing either. He still just does a lot of Singler-y things out there. I’m not sure how to quantify that, but it’s him. He even spelled Siva at the point for the one minute he got a breather in the second quarter.|
|Maurice CheeksIt’s pretty difficult to grade a coach who only has two healthy guards. The team came and went with Siva’s play tonight, but Cheeks had to play the rookie. These guys are still a work in progress, and the product tonight probably isn’t reflective of what Cheeks can do or what it’ll look like with the starters back.|
- Teams: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic
- Date: October 20, 2013
- Time: 6:00 p.m.
- Radio: WXYT 1270 AM
- Television: None
What to look for
Although the preseason is not a perfect way to gauge what the Detroit Pistons will look like during the regular season, it certainly gives us an idea. The team is averaging 92.4 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting from the floor during the 2013-14 exhibition season.
Those numbers obviously must be taken with a grain of salt because of the players getting minutes will not get much burn when the season tips off. Still, the shooting numbers are worrisome.
The Pistons will get their fair share of points in the paint, but they will also see a multitude of open jumpers because opponents will dare them to hit open shots. Detroit lacks floor spacers and operates with a trio of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the frontline.
Monroe and Smith are good passers, but shooters they are not. Consequently, they will be able to foil defenses every now and then by cutting and delivering pinpoint passes to teammates for easy scores. Mind you, they will also get a couple of open looks on occasion and they will have to bury them.
So far in the preseason, Detroit is converting 30.4 percent of their shots from downtown and it’s tough to expect anything more quite honestly given the players on the roster.
Enter the Orlando Magic. Orlando recently played against the Pistons West (Memphis Grizzlies: starting left-handed point guard, two left-handed frontcourt players and a roster built with little regard for 3-point shooting) and did everything possible to congest the paint.
Luckily for the Grizzlies, Mike Miller had it going and converted three of his four shots from downtown. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined to convert six of their 14 field goals.
In other words, the Magic are going to attempt to shrink the floor and dare Detroit to hit from long distance. It’s quite possible this one might get ugly in terms of scoring unless Detroit manages to get the right combination of players to take the open shots the team will get.
The Pistons have to learn to play against this type of defense because they will be seeing it often throughout the course of the regular season.
Read about the Magic
how much were his teammates to blame?
Let’s examine, using the combined effective field goal percentage, which accounts for the increased value of three-pointers, of Jennings’ four most common floormates.
Last season, they were Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, Mike Dunleavy and Sanders.
For the Pistons this season, I project they’ll be Smith, Monroe, Drummond and one of Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. I use last year’s stats for this group, but because Caldwell-Pope is a rookie, that doesn’t work. Fortunately, Singler’s rookie-year shooting stats seem like a reasonable approximation of Caldwell-Pope’s, so they’re interchangeable here.
? 2013-14 Pistons (with Billups): 50.6
? 2013-14 Pistons (with Singler or Caldwell-Pope): 50.0
? 2012-13 Bucks: 49.3
? 2013-14 Pistons (with Stuckey): 49.1
So Jennings is right. He should play with more efficient scorers this season, as long as Stuckey doesn’t spend too much time with the Pistons’ top lineup. (Please, Maurice Cheeks, don’t start Stuckey.)
However — and this is a huge “however” — Jennings’ four most common floormates two seasons ago had a combined effective field goal percentage of 50.7 — better than all of the Pistons combinations —and Jennings had an even higher usage percentage.
Three seasons ago, Jennings’ four most common floormates had an effective field goal percentage of 47.7, a poor mark. Jennings posted a career-low in shots per minute.
Four seasons ago, Jennings’ four most common floormates had a solid effective field goal percentage of 50.0. Jennings had the highest usage rate of his career.
To this point, Jennings’ gunning has been teammate-agnostic.
Jennings is trying to sell that he’s always been the same player, one smart enough to shoot when he’s better than his teammates and pass when he’s not. That would be great for the Pistons, because it’s always risky relying on players to improve.
But I don’t buy it.