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Andre Drummond gets lone Most Improved Player vote from George Blaha

Andre Drummond received a second-place vote for Most Improved Player, officially tying him for 20th in voting. He’s likely to be the only Piston to receive a vote for the NBA’s major awards this season.

Does it taint anything that it came from Pistons play-by-play man George Blaha?

Blaha voted Drummond No. 2, behind Goran Dragic and ahead of Gerald Green. Dragic won the award, and Green finished fourth in overall voting. Twelve players received a single vote, so Blaha’s ballot wasn’t out of line on those grounds, either.

Still, though.

Blaha isn’t technically a Pistons employee (I don’t think), but his job is obviously tied to the team. He’s continued to cover the Pistons as they’ve changed networks, and broadcasters – whose companies, unlike those of beat writers, have contracts with the team – typically share cordial relationships with their teams.

Drummond definitely improved this season. Even if his per-minute numbers remained remarkably similar to his rookie year, sustaining them in a larger sample and against a wider variety of opponents shows growth. But I didn’t have him in my top three, and he wasn’t among my toughest cuts or even my moderately tough cuts from the pool of reasonable candidates.

A key question: If Blaha didn’t have such a close relationship with the Pistons, would he have voted for Drummond? Nobody, not even Blaha, knows the answer with total certainty.

But even if Blaha would have voted differently without his Pistons ties, that doesn’t make Blaha’s vote “wrong.” Maybe Blaha’s unique perspective makes his vote better than everyone else’s.

If someone else had voted for Drummond I wouldn’t be raising these points. I’d be appreciating that someone in another market noticed Drummond’s improvement.

And there’s the rub. Blaha, like everyone, has biases. It’s reasonable to view his place in life and assume he has pro-Pistons biases and that caused him to vote for Drummond. Blaha could vote with his heart or his head, but both reside in Michigan.

I just wish Drummond’s vote had come from elsewhere else.

Is this better than Drummond getting no votes? Not really – so much as we care about these things, which I do to irrational levels. I already knew how fond Blaha is fond of Drummond. Putting it on a ballot changes nothing but the official record and that in nearly the smallest way.

The fact is none of the other 124 voters shared Blaha’s view of Drummond, and I find their selections collectively more accurate. In the end, that’s all that really matters.

These awards are determined by a collection of votes, but regardless of the final tally, I have my preferences and you have yours. And Blaha has his.

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Kyle Anderson

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-9, 230 lbs, sophomore forward from UCLA
  • Key Stats: 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 1.8 steals per game, 48 FG%, 48 3pt% and 74 FT%
  • Projected: Mid first round

Matters to No One But Me …

Anyone who has been a longtime reader of Draft Dreams over the last five years knows that I’m a sucker for the ‘too productive to ignore’ players in the draft, who don’t necessarily have prototypical positions or athleticism or height or whatever other measurable you want to throw out there, but they make themselves prospects nonetheless by being insanely productive. Kyle Anderson appears to be one of those players:

The chip comes from critics — some real, some perceived.

His gangly 6-foot-9 frame and stop-motion style were said to be ill-suited for major-college basketball and surely for the NBA.

“People doubt me all the time because maybe I’m too slow, maybe I’m not athletically gifted,” Anderson said. “I look forward to proving them wrong.”

Anderson might join my list of Reggie Jackson, Draymond Green and Trey Burke as my yearly favorite unfairly criticized prospect who falls too far in the draft.

Fits with the Pistons because …

Anderson is a wing with good size who hit 48 percent of his threes last year. He’s a skilled passer, plays intelligently and is a great rebounder, especially for a perimeter player. All of those qualities fill obvious needs for the Pistons.

Anderson would step into the lineup and immediately become a candidate to be the best shooter on the team and possibly the best passer (although Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith all have their moments of being good passers too). If the Pistons started him at small forward, they would still have the advantage of putting a really large frontcourt on the floor, but wouldn’t have to play someone out of position to do it. The offense could run through Anderson at times, his shooting could provide better spacing and, at 6-foot-9, he’d still create the mismatches defensively that the Pistons hoped a Smith-Monroe-Drummond combination would. Or, if that trio returns next season, the Pistons could just go even harder with the super-sized group and play Anderson at shooting guard.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Although he has the length and basketball IQ to theoretically play good defense, he is not yet a good defender. He lacks the strength and athleticism that many NBA wings possess, so it will be asking a lot to assume he could come in and handle starters minutes against most starting NBA small forwards.

It’s also unclear if he can maintain that high 3-point shooting mark. He had a drastic improvement from his freshman to sophomore season — 21 percent to 48 percent — and that’s a good sign. But he has still only attempted 96 threes over two seasons, so it’s probably premature to assume he’s going to be an elite marksman in the NBA.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Anderson is a unique player in the draft. He’s a point power forward who excels when the ball is in his hands. He’s got a huge wingspan, is an improved shooter and can rebound. But he’ll fit on only some teams and is going to struggle defensively. He probably has the widest range of any player on our Big Board; he could go anywhere from 10 to 35.

DraftExpress:

What makes Anderson truly special is his prodigious passing ability, which made him one of the most entertaining players to watch in all of college basketball. He led all prospects in our Top-100 rankings in assists at 7.4 per-40 minutes pace adjusted, the highest rate of any player that size in our database since Evan Turner, Luke Walton, and John Salmons. Anderson is a terrific ball-handler who can pass with either hand and shows amazing creativity with the ball in his hands. He is extremely unselfish, making pinpoint passes right into his teammates’ shooting pocket, spotting up on the wing or running ahead in transition (see video below). Anderson had the fourth highest Pure Point Rating and fifth highest assist to turnover of any player in our Top-100 prospect rankings, and was a major reason why UCLA had the 13th most efficient offense in all of college basketball this season with him running the show.

Highlights

Previously:

Noah Vonleh to Pistons in latest ESPN mock draft

Chad Ford of ESPN published a new mock draft, and he has the Pistons selecting Noah Vonleh with the No. 8 pick:

This Pistons are another team up in the air as far as management goes. It’s unclear exactly what they are going to do now that Joe Dumars has left. Yes, the Pistons are strong up front, but I think Vonleh makes sense for three reasons. One,Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent, and given the Pistons’ salary structure going forward, they might not want to pay him. Two, the Pistons really need a big man who can stretch the floor. Josh Smith thinks he’s that guy, but his 26 percent shooting from 3-point range this season tells a different story. Lastly, Vonleh is, in my opinion, clearly the best player left on the board. You take him and figure things out later.

With Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, Joe Embiid, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart off the board in this scenario, Vonleh would be my choice, too. And for the exact reason gives last: He’s the best prospect available.

Here are my very early tiers:

Tier 1

  • Andrew Wiggins
  • Jabari Parker
  • Joel Embiid

Tier 2

  • Dante Exum
  • Marcus Smart
  • Noah Vonleh
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Julius Randle

Tier 3

  • Gary Harris
  • Tyler Ennis

Tier 4

  • Nik Stauskas
  • James Young
  • Dario Saric

As the draft nears and we gain information, players will certainly move tiers. This is my early board, though.

So, I’d be thrilled if the Pistons draft Vonleh – mostly because that means they kept their pick.

Pistons nearly come back from 15-point deficit in final three minutes, flub Game 2 against Milwaukee Bucks

You thought the Pistons missed the playoffs? Not at PistonPowered.

We’re honoring the 10th anniversary of the 2004 NBA championship team by examining each postseason game on the corresponding 2014 date. We’ll look back at Detroit’s performances, detail our memories of that time and provide insight from the players and coaches who were Goin’ to Work every single night.

So, stick with us this “offseason.” I have a hunch these Pistons will be playing into June.

Milwaukee Bucks 92 Final
Recap | Box Score
88 Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups, PG 40 MIN | 6-18 FG |5-6 FT | 1 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTSBillups had another rough shooting night, but he got to the line more. And, quite frankly, with how the rest of the team was shooting, an attempt from Chauncey wasn’t much worse than from anyone else.
Richard Hamilton, SG 35 MIN | 8-18 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTSHamilton achieved a rare feat in managing to foul out and then still get ejected with his second technical before checking out. So he was doubly ejected I suppose? And it was a godsend for the Pistons with the lousy defense he had been playing. They were down a dozen with under five minutes remaining at the time. Over the next four and a half minutes, Detroit outscored the Bucks 17-7 to very nearly take the game. On the other hand, for much of the game, he was one of few Pistons who could get the ball into the net.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 28 MIN | 5-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTSPrince actually defended reasonably well, but this was a classic instance of good offense beating good defense as Michael Redd surged to a playoff career-playoff-high 26 points. Tayshaun held his own, though, filling up a box score nobody could complain about.

Rasheed Wallace, PF 41 MIN | 7-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 12 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 16 PTSSheed was the best Piston on the court for most of the game. The Wallaces shut down the Bucks’ frontcourt, but were occasionally slow to help out on penetrators. But I have to dock him for mishandling the ball down the stretch and costing the Pistons a chance to take a shot for the tie or the win.

Ben Wallace, C 41 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTSAs alluded to in Sheed’s segment, apart from Toni Kukoc (who did most of his damage outside the paint), Milwaukee’s front court shot 12-38. The Wallaces played some tough defense. Unfortunately, Ben didn’t contribute much at all on offense. Even his offensive rebounding was paltry by his lofty standards. He grabbed under 8% of those available compared to the 12.5% he’s been doing all season.
Corliss Williamson, PF 14 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTSWilliamson was terrible in this one. Besides missing all five shots and giving the ball away three times (two live ball turnovers and one offensive foul–and he threw in another loose ball foul just for good measure) in just 14 minutes, the moment he entered the game, Milwaukee went on a 9-0 run.

Lindsey Hunter, PG 20 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTSHunter was again a beast on defense. And he threw in a bit of playmaking, too.
Mehmet Okur, C 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSMemo’s box score speaks for itself.  

Mike James, PG 10 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTSI’m not sure if it’s completely fair to hold James responsible, but he was in to play defense and Brevin Knight played very well with James guarding him, compiling 2-4 FGs, 3-4 FTs, 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover in those 10 minutes.In other words, Knight severely outplayed James, making James a liability in this game.  
Darvin Ham, SF 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSHam was about as useful as last time.  
Larry Brown, Head Coach
I gave Brown a fair amount of credit for having his team so ready last time so he has to take some blame for the opposite. The Pistons are significantly better than the Bucks. They should be winning at home. Still, they were hardly blown out. I’d expect Detroit to earn at least a split in Milwaukee and recover home court advantage.

-Tim Thielke

The flip-the-switch mentality begins

During the latter stages of Detroit’s elite run in the 2000s, a common criticism of the team was that the relied far too heavily on a ‘flip the switch’ mentality. There were times when the team coasted, didn’t defend as aggressively, got into early holes that made it a necessity to mount furious comebacks and, in general, had no issue with giving their fanbase collective heart attacks. That cruise control mentality ultimately cost the Pistons in later years of their run. But during the 2004 NBA Playoffs, it’s easy to see why it developed.

The game two loss to Milwaukee was a perfect example. The Pistons had dreadful third and fourth quarters. Their top scorers, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, did not shoot well. Other than a strong performance by Lindsey Hunter, their bench provided nothing (including a scoreless effort from key sub Corliss Williamson). Ben Wallace was good but not great. They did not do a good job of containing Michael Redd and, to make matters worse, they let Toni Kukoc have a throwback performance off the bench. And yet … the Pistons never really looked like they were going to lose that game. They might not have, if not for a couple of late mistakes by Rasheed Wallace.

The Pistons were a good come-from-behind team under both Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown, but the 2004 playoffs took that to new heights. The Pistons, no matter how bad they played and thanks in large part to their ability to be a historically good defensive team, never looked out of any game or series. There was always a feeling that they just needed to make one or two plays late, and they’d win. When that confidence began to fail them as East competitors got tougher in later years, it got frustrating and hard to watch. But in 2004, when it was going well, there was not a more fun aspect of that run than the inevitable moments the Pistons would rally to get back into a game or even series they’d fallen behind in.

-Patrick Hayes

From the frontlines

In a funny way, falling behind by 15 points to the Bucks with three minutes in Game 2 proved the Pistons knew their identity.

So did cutting that margin to two with 30 seconds left.

“That was the loosest team I’ve ever played on,” said Mike James, who now plays for the Bulls – his 13th team in a 12-year career.

The Pistons were the only favorite to lose one of its first two first-round games home games in 2004, but they didn’t panic or even show much concern.

“We didn’t feel any doubt at all,” said Tayshaun Prince, who’s now playing for the Grizzlies in their playoff series against the Thunder. “No disrespect to Milwaukee, because I think more so the reason why was because we knew we still had that series in control.

“Once we lost Game 2, we made it important to ourselves, let’s go ahead definitely take care of Game 3 and ride that momentum and wave into Game 4 and go back home and close it out. Especially when you’re dealing with the first round, you don’t want to let a team hang around for six or seven games, because it can cause a problem going on into the next series as far as trying to get rest and being able to prepare and focus the right way – especially knowing that your next opponent is the New Jersey Nets. You really want to get that out of the way.”

-Dan Feldman

Up next

Detroit Pistons, meet Michael Redd.

As strong as the Pistons defense was that season, it was a matter of when, not if, the Bucks All-Star guard would find his stroke — and those 26 points he scored were silky smooth.

But just like the Game 1 win, don’t overreact to one loss.

Aside from the shooting struggles of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, the Pistons out-played Milwaukee in every aspect. If Rasheed Wallace doesn’t fumble a late pass out of bounds, the Pistons could be heading to Milwaukee up 2-0.

Instead, it’s the Bucks who now have home-court advantage as the teams head across Lake Michigan for a pair of games beginning April 24.

The Pistons split their regular-season games in Milwaukee, but Detroit won nine of its final 13 road games.

-Brady Fredericksen

NBA Playoffs viewing guide for Pistons fans

Despite the fact that there’s rarely consensus on this site, I don’t think I’d get much argument if I called this Pistons season the most frustrating of any in their five-year stretch of missing the playoffs. They entered the season with some a vague expectation of “make the playoffs,” and even with the imbalanced roster, that shouldn’t have been out of the question considering the fact that the season was over before it started for several East teams, who were clearly playing for next season.

If you stayed engaged with the team throughout the entire season, it was a chore. When the season ended, I can obviously relate to the need to get away from basketball. The Red Wings are in the NHL Playoffs and the Tigers should be good this season, if you’re into that sort of thing. But I also hope the lack of success of the Pistons doesn’t sour you on this year’s NBA Playoffs. They should be amazingly competitive and, after years of watching a wretched product locally, we could all use a reminder  of what good basketball looks like. Our ongoing series looking back at the 2004 title team should partially provide that, but for a more modern palate cleanser, here are a few reasons you should care about each series as the playoffs start today.

Raptors vs. Nets

Game 1: 12:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN

Why you should care about the Nets: Because the only person who dislikes Lawrence Frank more than Pistons fans is Jason Kidd. It has been since January since the fake Lawrence Frank has filed any of his reports. I wonder if that is still going on? Also, from a basketball standpoint, Paul Pierce has sneakily played his way into another three or four year deal if he wants it. He’s been really good this season as the Nets have figured things out since a bad start.

Why you should care about the Raptors: You can watch and imagine what an Andre Drummond-Jonas Valanciunas frontcourt would’ve looked like if the Raptors had made the logical pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But hey, Terrence Ross has worked out pretty well for a fun, up-and-coming team. Also, pay attention to Amir Johnson. Whenever I write about giving Johnson away as a major Dumars mistake, I get all kinds of, “pssshhh he’s just a role player/backup/shutup your stupid face about Joe Dumars” comments. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Johnson in a while, watch him in this season. He’s a lockdown post defender, possibly the best screen setter in the NBA, a rim protector, an elite finisher and dude is even knocking down open threes now.

Pacers vs. Hawks

Game 1: 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN

Why you should care about the Pacers: Although they’ve struggled down the stretch, the Pacers stylistically are similar to the tough, physical, defensive-minded Pistons teams that fans loved so much. More related to the Pistons, keep an eye on Lance Stephenson, a restricted free agent wing who could potentially be a Pistons target in the offseason.

Why you should care about the Hawks: Well, you can thank them for playing well enough to not be a threat to get worse than the Pistons. Also, you can watch Paul Millsap, a much more productive free agent forward who became an All-Star this season and was a fraction of what Josh Smith cost.

Bulls vs. Wizards

Game 1: 7 p.m. Sunday on TNT

Why you should care about the Bulls: They might be the toughest team in the league, and each year, despite catastrophic injuries, they keep plugging in random scrap heap bargains who produce. Last season, it was Nate Robinson. This season, it is D.J. Augustin who has become a competent starting point guard somehow. Also, last week when it snowed in the Midwest, we were ALL Joakim Noah.

Why you should care about the Wizards: If you like dynamic young guards, John Wall is as fun as it gets. He’s one of a handful of young potential stars in the playoffs this year who has a chance to plug his name into the conversation about elite NBA players if he has some strong performances for the Wizards. Also, expect the Wizards to possibly have interest in Greg Monroe, who played at Georgetown, in the offseason.

Heat vs. Bobcats

Game 1: 3:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC

Why you should care about the Heat: Well … not to be captain obvious, but they are going for a third straight championship this season. They should also make the Eastern Conference Finals for a fourth straight season, getting close to the Pistons’ streak of six straight. Also, it will be interesting to see if LeBron has mastered the Jordan art of resting just enough in the regular season to unveil something new for the playoffs.

Why you should care about the Bobcats: You shouldn’t, since they are still technically a threat to take the Pistons’ lottery pick this season. And next season, the Bobcats technically won’t even exist.

Spurs vs. Mavericks

Game 1: 1 p.m. Sunday on TNT

Why you should care about the Spurs: They’ve always been kind of kindred spirits with the Pistons, despite the obvious rivalry and heartbreaking loss in the 2005 NBA Finals. They’re still arguably the best team in the NBA, and this might be their last chance at a title with this Tim Duncan-led core.

Why you should care about the Mavs: Speaking of nearing the end, we likely won’t have many more opportunities to see Dirk Nowitzki in a playoff series. I don’t think the Mavs are good enough to beat San Antonio, but I’m hoping for a few iconic Dirk performances.

Rockets vs. Blazers

Game 1: 9:30 p.m. Sunday on TNT

Why you should care about the Rockets: Well, if you weren’t a fan of the Dwyane Wade-Shaquille O’Neal team that beat the Pistons in 2006 en route to a championship, you probably won’t enjoy this Rockets team. James Harden is essentially their version of Wade, barreling into traffic in search of contact and getting to the line. If you’re rooting for the opposing team, that style is frustrating, but the Rockets have some key elements that can lead to playoff success — Harden’s ability to get his own shot/draw contact, Dwight Howard’s rim protecting presence and a lot of shooters who create space for everyone.

Why you should care about the Blazers: Portland is young, fun and offense-happy. Those attributes probably won’t lead to a long playoff run, but this series should be high-scoring and fun to watch. Also, what I mentioned about John Wall above goes for Damian Lillard here too — he’s another young point guard who could put his name in the convo of up-and-coming stars in the league with some strong playoff performances.

Clippers vs. Warriors

Game 1: 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC

Why you should care about the Clippers: Because Blake Griffin has gotten really, really good. The knock on Griffin for much of his career was that his game was predicated solely on his athleticism, and that assessment has stuck from critics who haven’t watched him enough the last two seasons. He’s developed an all-around game, and a playoff run by the Clippers could cement him in his rightful place among the absolute best players in the league. Oh, and that Chris Paul-Steph Curry point guard matchup shouldn’t be too bad either.

Why you should care about the Warriors: Michigan State fans, remember prior to Draymond Green’s breakout as a do-it-all force for Michigan State how he was a super-competent, selfless role player who didn’t have great numbers all the time but was a key rotation player? And non-Michigan State fans, remember how Green was a super irritating nuisance who wouldn’t stop running his mouth throughout the game? Well, he’s become all of those things for the Warriors, and with their frontcourt banged up, Green could be in line for a lot of playing time.

Thunder vs. Grizzlies

Game 1: 9:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN

Why you should care about the Thunder: Remember when Rasheed Wallace used to goaltend/block shots whenever an opponent would shoot during a deadball or after a whistle? It was awesome, right? Well, Russell Westbrook has taken that art to new, incredible levels.

Why you should care about the Grizzlies: The GRINDHOUSE is my favorite NBA arena — it’s loud, wrestling-friendly and teams hate playing there. I love the toughness the Grizzlies play with. I don’t think they can beat the Thunder in a series, but their last several playoff runs have proven one thing — they are absolutely going to beat up their opponent, win or lose. I guarantee Oklahoma City wasn’t happy about this draw in round one. Even if they win, it’s going to make their title quest tougher.

 

Pistons open playoffs by shutting down Bucks

You thought the Pistons missed the playoffs? Not at PistonPowered.

We’re honoring the 10th anniversary of the 2004 NBA championship team by examining each postseason game on the corresponding 2014 date. We’ll look back at Detroit’s performances, detail our memories of that time and provide insight from the players and coaches who were Goin’ to Work every single night.

So, stick with us this “offseason.” I have a hunch these Pistons will be playing into June.

Milwaukee Bucks 82 Final
Recap | Box Score
108 Detroit Pistons
Chauncey Billups, PG 34 MIN | 4-15 FG |3-4 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTSThis wasn’t Chauncey’s best game. He missed a ton of shots as he was sometimes prone to do. But he still got the better of his Milwaukee counterparts, most notably by logging six assists and no turnovers to Damon Jones’ and Brevin Knight’s combined ten assists and five turnovers.
Richard Hamilton, SG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 11-12 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTSHow do you score efficiently when shooting 5-13? By getting to the line a dozen times. He also led the team in assists and steals as the Pistons set a playoff game franchise record for the latter.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 36 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTSThe diminutive Prince grabbed five offensive boards to nearly match the entire Milwaukee team’s seven. he was a major part of the reason that the Pistons dominated the Bucks on the glass in spite of having eleven more misses for the Bucks to grab.

Rasheed Wallace, PF 28 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTSSheed anchored the defense more than Ben in this one and he did a phenomenal job. The Bucks were the fourth highest scoring team in the league and tops in the East. So Detroit allowed them 82 points, slightly below an average Pistons opponent.

Ben Wallace, C 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTSWallace contributed significant offense in this one. Besides five offensive rebounds of his own, he outscored every Buck. Ben also had three steals (two of which led to immediate fast break points) and drew at least three charges.
Corliss Williamson, PF 20 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTSCorliss brought enough offense off the bench to keep the Bucks from having any hope of sneaking back into this game when Detroit’s A team wasn’t on the floor.

Lindsey Hunter, PG 17 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTSEarly in the second quarter, the Pistons stole the ball on three of four Milwaukee possessions, all leading to fast break baskets. Hunter was the pickpocket for two of those. Even though he wasn’t credited with either basket or assist, he was the primary cause of those points. Not bad for seven minutes of action.
Mehmet Okur, C 9 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTSSee Williamson, Corliss.  
Mike James, PG 10 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTSJames’ play was completely unremarkable. But since he was really only on the floor to give Billups a breather, that’s not so terrible.  
Elden Campbell, C 5 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTSCampbell was a stereotypical no-offense big body in the paint. So I’m not sure why he attempted a shot virtually every time he touched the ball.  
Darvin Ham, SF 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTSHam literally did nothing in this game. He dodged an F by playing so few minutes.  
Darko Milicic, C 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTSThe human victory cigar didn’t have an opportunity to make an impression one way or the other.  
Larry Brown, Head Coach
Brown didn’t have to do much more than roll the ball out in this one. But credit where it’s due for preparing his tam to defensively suffocate Milwaukee in what steadily turned int an easy blowout.

-Tim Thielke

Claiming vindication very early

The Pistons opened the 2004 NBA Playoffs with a thrashing of the Milwaukee Bucks that was so thorough, it was hard not to imagine them as a title contender. For NBA fans who were unfamiliar with them, their dominant Game 1 effort against Milwaukee put their suffocating defense, which had been brutalizing opponents post-Rasheed Wallace-trade, on full display. For me, it was vindication. At the time, I was a student at Oakland University in my second or third senior year (Maybe fourth? I lost count.) I was helping a friend (who would go on to become Paul Kampe of the Oakland Press) as an on-air "talent" for a sports show he was producing despite the fact that I had no interest in seeing myself on TV ever, I had even less charisma than I have now and I was in a phase where I was making some of the most unfortunate facial hair choices in history. Also, the show was about Detroit sports, and the only team I really followed enough to have expertise on was the Pistons, so three out of the four segments of each episode were pretty light on content from my end.

Anyway, the episodes aren’t all online, but you can get a taste with this clip. One of the things I remain proudest of in my short broadcasting career was my adamant stance (despite being mocked by other panelists on the show) that the Pistons defense that season made them legitimate threats to beat anyone and win the title. Game one against the Bucks was a vindication of all of my ‘Pistons as title contenders’ proclamations. The defense? It not only held the Bucks to 82 points, the Pistons only allowed Milwaukee’s main offensive threat, sharp-shooting Michael Redd, to 10 field goal attempts and one three-point attempt. Ben Wallace, who the casual fan only thought of as a defensive specialist/role player and not one of the elite, game-changing stars in the league? He had 17 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals and a block. And the team’s offense, which critics felt may not be able to score enough? They put up 102 points with six players all reaching double figures and all, at times, serving as focal points of the offense. This was a championship team.

OK, so maybe I shouldn’t have celebrated and claimed vindication so much after one win over a Bucks roster that, looking back, I can’t figure out how they won 20 games, let alone made the playoffs. But for a team like the Pistons that most weren’t yet taking seriously as a title contender, the fact that they opened the playoffs in 2004 with a performance that was not only dominant, it answered every possible question a critic could have about them was a very positive sign going forward.

-Patrick Hayes

From the frontlines

When Pistons games began, Mike James and Lindsey Hunter went to work.

Though neither started, they always sat next to each other on the bench and strategized. They examined opposing guards, looking for weaknesses.

That way, when they entered the game, the Pitbulls were ready to pounce.

Hunter and James, acquired midseason from the Celtics in the Rasheed Wallace trade, were both small guards looking for roles in Detroit. Together, they found one as an ultra-aggressive, trapping, defensive terror.

“Larry Brown wasn’t accepting Lindsey and I coming in the game shooting all the balls,” James said. “We already had two shooters in Chauncey and Rip. They were already shooting all the balls.

“So, we understood that in order for us to get points, we had to get steals. So, we just became ball-hawking defenders, and we fed off each other. It wasn’t like individually we were good defensive players, but together collectively, we were even better because we were able to read each other.”

Since, I’ve never seen anything quite like the tandem. Opposing guards actually looked scared to face these two. Reaching the NBA takes so much basketball experience and competence, it’s rare players at this level outwardly panic. But Hunter and James struck fear with their tenacity.

Perhaps, their high-water mark during the playoff run came in Game 1 against the Bucks. Hunter and James might not have been at their absolute best – though I wouldn’t definitively claim they weren’t – but the entire team followed their lead.

Detroit set a franchise playoff record with 14 steals. Five of them, including three by Hunter and one by James, came in the fewer than eight minutes James and Hunter shared the court.

“Our goal was to be just defensive maniacs,” James said. “…We were just hungry little dogs trying to get steals. All we wanted was the ball. We didn’t want nothing else but the ball.”

At some point during the season, James and Hunter picked up the nickname “Pitbulls” or, occasionally, “Palace Pitbulls.” James still remembers the sounds of growling dogs playing through the speakers when they entered games.

I can’t think of a more-fitting moniker. Through sheer determination, James and Hunter impacted games together, truly exceeding the sum of their parts.

Their cohesion extended to a deep friendship off the court. They pranked each other – Hunter pouring popcorn into James’ car, James hiding Hunters’ car – and as they grew closer, so did their families.

Hunter now serves as an assistant coach with the Warriors, and James, who plays for the Bulls, wants to follow his friend into the profession when his playing career ends.

Ten years ago, the seeds of that path were fertilized as they scouted opposing guards from the Pistons’ bench. Between James and Hunter, much more than a career arc was forged.

“That’s my boy to this day,” James said of Hunter. “We were the Pitbulls.”

-Dan Feldman

Up next

Don’t overreact to one win, but man, that was encouraging.

The Pistons’ 26-point victory was the largest in any team’s playoff opener in three years. Detroit absolutely began its postseason on the right foot. Seriously, that couldn’t have gone any better.

Still, The Pistons hadn’t swept a playoff series in 14 years, dating back to a 1990.

Let cautious optimism rule the day.

With two days off before Game 2, the Bucks have a chance to regroup. Detroit, on the other hand, can stay loose and confident.

There’s no saying with certainty how this series will unfold, but did you see the New Jersey Nets – Detroit’s potential second-round opponent – pound the Knicks by 24 points the day prior? It would be nice to end this Bucks series quickly and rest before facing the Nets, who swept the Pistons in last season’s conference finals.

-Dan Feldman

‘Bad Boys’ shows how little has changed in 25 years – and how wonderful that is

They haven’t changed one bit. Stubborn. Cocky. Proud. Entertaining. The Bad Boys in their modern form are still all those things, and that will become apparent to everyone tonight when the 30-for-30 “Bad Boys” airs at 8 p.m. on ESPN. 

The documentary, which I saw a not fully edited version of,  is directed like an oral history as none of the members of the team appear together on camera during their respective interviews and reflections. The forum is a haven for honesty but also ambiguity. Answers to “Did Isiah Thomas demand that Adrian Dantley be traded for Mark Aguirre”? and “Who led the walkout off the court versus the Chicago Bulls?” receive perspective and reflection but never a straight answer. The interviews probe for answers, at times being so direct that it appears they are attempting to drive a wedge between former teammates who emphatically described themselves as a family and nothing less. If the producers were looking for an informer to give them the absolute truth, they didn’t find one.

Dantley expresses his perspective on the trade with a feverish accusation that borders violence, but his perspective can’t be affirmed by others re-telling their version of the events. Fingers are pointed for the walkout versus the Bulls, but singular responsibility is never relegated and only the collective act is remembered. It’s a post-modern narrative that is sorely lacking in today’s NBA, as agent and “source” leaks, despite strict media availability, have made the league more transparent and divisive at the same time. The documentary provides few answers, like the ones we are accustomed to today, but plenty of commentary, perspective and, for just a brief moment, remorse.

The remorse stems from Isiah Thomas, who reiterated that in hindsight, they shouldn’t have walked off the court versus the Bulls. This isn’t a revelation from a man who has had two decades to reflect on an act that he has been ridiculed for countless times, but is contradictory to the feelings he expressed earlier when discussing the “reverse racism” incident with Larry Bird. Thomas appears genuine, open and honest through the documentary, which offers little reason to question his story, but you still feel as if there’s a veil either covering something or sharing too much in each of those incidents. This feeling is our own because other than Dantley, Thomas is universally adored by his former teammates who independently protect him throughout the documentary as if they were still on the court battling the bruising Boston Celtics team of the 1980s.  

If Thomas is the intellectual challenge of the documentary, then Bill Laimbeer is the heart and Rick Mahorn the soul. Laimbeer admits to little wrong-doing, and his smugness suggests he wouldn’t change anything about how that era in Pistons history played out both on and off the court. It’s apparent throughout the documentary that Laimbeer was integral to the team’s identity and that remains his persona to this day.

Mahorn was not on the second Pistons championship team and his feelings about his absence are devastating as for the first time in the film, a member of that Pistons era let’s their guard down in a moment of vulnerability and emotion. Mahorn’s reaction to leaving the team was my greatest takeaway from the film as it ensures that hardness isn’t immune to love.

The documentary depicts the rise and fall of the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s and how the myth of the “Bad Boys” became an attitude and on-court persona. It became a metaphor they could rely on like a vilified and despised Ubuntu. At one point, Thomas is asked to reflect on the Bad Boys mentality and with a picture-perfect Isiah smile, he explains:

"We wanted to crush you mentally. We wanted your whole city to shake when we walked through the door. We wanted the fans to feel fear."

Nearly 25 years later, chances are you will still feel all those things tonight. They haven’t changed so there’s no reason to believe that our thoughts and feelings about them will. Even in old age, the Bad Boys are still the Bad Boys and our position on them is exclusively dependent only our respective geographies.

Grant Hill won’t consider becoming Pistons’ general manager

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Hill, though, has told people close to him he won’t consider a front-office position this close to retirement, but down the line when his children get older, he would consider it.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Greg Monroe believes Pistons lacked locker-room chemistry

David Mayo of MLive:

Monroe was asked if the Pistons had good locker-room chemistry this season, which ended Wednesday with a 112-111 loss at Oklahoma City.

"Honestly, I would say no," he answered.

Pressed for what the problem was, Monroe retreated.

"I will answer the question," he said, "but I wouldn’t go further than that."

"I don’t really like to say things that are controversial, even though sometimes it may be needed," he said.  "But I don’t think it’s beneficial.  I believe, as a team, we should be able to talk.  But in this platform, I don’t think some stuff should be said, even though some people always choose to do it."

Greg Monroe, via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

“I’ve censored myself, just because of the whole, so much speculation and so much stuff going on,” Monroe said. “I just tried to make sure I was as productive as possible. That I kept a straight head and kept it as positive as possible.”

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Pistons will enter draft lottery with 82.4 percent chance of keeping first-round pick

With the Kings’ loss to the Suns last night, the Pistons’ lottery odds are now set. They’ll have have the No. 8 seed in the lottery – and because their first-round pick goes to Charlotte unless it falls in the top eight – there are only four possible picks they can land: 1, 2, 3 and 8.

  • No. 1: 2.8%
  • No. 2: 3.3%
  • No. 3: 3.9%
  • No. 8: 72.4%
  • Lose pick: 17.6%
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