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The Pistons and Rockets found out what happens when Halloween festivities attack just before halftime of Wednesday’s game. A fog machine underneath the basket started going off, causing a delay while Palace employees tried to get it shut off. Best comment, via Jose3030 on Twitter:
“Prince is about to show up in Detroit” = favorite comment from someone in my timeline on smoke machine woes twitter.com/jose3030/statu…
— jose3030 (@jose3030) November 1, 2012
Yet another highlight video of Andre Drummond has popped up this preseason, but this one has the added bonus of starting with some of the more depressing aspects of recent Pistons basketball (hint: Charlie Villanueva is involved) only to be heroically saved by a bevy of Drummond highlights. Zach Harper of CBS Sports provides a play-by-play of the video:
He gave them so much hope that one guy decided to capture his first magical six preseason games.
The beauty of this video is it starts out by reminding you that Charlie Villanueva is really bad at his job. Since signing a five-year, $35 million contract in 2009, Villanueva has been less than exciting for Pistons fans. He hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with a long-term contract like that and he’s left fans calling for his head on an amnesty-clause platter.
You get to see Vllanueva throwing up terrible shots in preseason action before showing Rodney Stuckey in pain and glory. There are even a couple of shots of Ben Gordon with the lyrics playing, “when you love someone and it goes to waste.” That’s followed by more bad Villanueva.
And then the turning point. The music starts becoming more hopeful as Drummond enters the game and Pistons fans’ lives.
“I will try to fix you …”
Just use this for your Sunday afternoon viewing pleasure, or feel free to discuss last night’s big James Harden trade to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks. I like the trade all-around — the Rockets get a guy with star potential, the Thunder get a replacement who will be a good fit with that team (albeit not as good in Harden), a player with upside in Lamb, who at one time was considered a lottery talent, and picks so that Sam Presti can pursue other deals down the road. The downside? Since Harden will likely get a max extension from Houston, he won’t be a restricted free agent next summer, meaning the Pistons, one of few teams potentially with cap space to make a max offer to free agents, won’t be in the running for his services.
Here’s Hollinger’s light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel overview of the Pistons:
Meanwhile, the roster still looks overloaded with combo forwards and shoot-first point guards who pound the shot clock into oblivion. It’s glaringly lacking in terms of shooting without Gordon, and now looks very iffy depth-wise in the backcourt.
The good news it that Detroit has a genuinely good building block in Monroe, and that the two huge seven-footers the Pistons added should allow him to play more at power forward and spare him some of the physical mismatches that gave him trouble as a center.
I didn’t agree with the decision to let Macklin walk, as he had a fairly positive rookie season for a late-second round pick. But the interest in Kravstov is understandable. He comes from a low-level European league but posted good numbers there and his size is an obvious asset. The Pistons didn’t have a true center a year ago, but between Kravstov and Drummond, they now have two seven-footers to help protect Monroe inside.
Sports Illustrated: Pistons should be focused on developing young players rather than wins and losses
In the above video, Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix gives his take on the Detroit Pistons, including his belief that the Pistons will be best-served by giving their young players the bulk of the minutes, even if it means the team falls short of the playoffs.
I mentioned the other day that I couldn’t find video of Andre Drummond‘s second of two impressive dunks against the Charlotte Bobcats. Thanks to commenter Lake Side Live, I found that and then some. A YouTube user going by the screen name Grant Hill — interesting, since Drummond might be the most entertaining rookie the Pistons have had since Hill — has a nice collection of Drummond highlights from the preseason. Check out his page for more, and hopefully more videos keep coming all season. I’d post a video of Drummond dunking every day if I could.
Update: A couple of commenters below rightfully pointed out that Need4Detroit is also a fantastic source for Pistons-related highlight videos on YouTube.
I’m still adjusting to having a player on the Pistons who creates highlight reel plays virtually every game. Against the Bobcats last night, Andre Drummond added a few more to his growing collection. Two of them — an impressive up and under move on a layup and a put-back dunk — are in the video above. He also had a third dunk in the game that was nice, but I couldn’t find video of that this morning.
Slava Kravstov is ready to play right away, and other observations, sights and video from Detroit Pistons open practice
I made the trek out to Oakland University to watch the Detroit Pistons open practice on Saturday. It’s the third time I’ve gone to the open practice (you can see my irrational excitemetn from the other two times here and here), and I have to say, this was by far the most entertaining. Lawrence Frank barely talked, other than thanking the fans, then he just got out of the way and rolled the balls out to let the team get as much scrimmage time in in front of fans as possible. The previous ones I watched featured the team running through drills (sometimes with long explanations by the previous coaches) for a significant portion of the practice which, even to the biggest basketball junkies, is a little on the boring side.
The players also made it entertaining. As you’ll read below, it was physical. They went at each other, and if that’s the intensity level they play with in a public practice, I can only imagine what is going on behind the scenes. Below are some observations I jotted down, some photos and some video clips I was able to snap in between trying to keep my 2-year-old son from stealing Skittles from the family sitting next to us. If anyone else was there, feel free to leave your own observations in the comments. Keep in mind, I tend to get way to excited about this kind of thing (I once thought Walter Herrmann would win Sixth Man of the Year based on an open practice), so I reserve the right to backtrack from these to more measured opinions in the future).
Slava Kravstov is for real
Virtually every team is on the lookout for young, tough, athletic, defensive-minded big men, so it’s hard to believe Joe Dumars simply plucked one out of essentially nowhere when most teams have similar abilities to scout international players these days. That appears to be exactly what has happened though. When I wrote my preliminary projections for how the Pistons rotation will shake out on Friday, I expressed a hope that one of the young bigs, Slava Kravstov or Andre Drummond, would get the starting center spot, even if it only meant that player would play minimally at the start of each half. After watching Kravstov today, I’m convinced he will be Detroit’s starting center for one reason — defense.
When he guarded Greg Monroe, he successfully pushed Monroe way out of the paint. He moved his feet quickly and stayed in front of Monroe on drives. He was physical, and that will likely result in him picking up a lot of fouls as a rookie, but that’s OK — it’s doubtful the Pistons will be counting on him to play big minutes.
His shot-blocking looked as good as advertised. He didn’t bite on pump fakes, kept his feet and blocked shots facing up. He also came from the weak side and caught shots by penetrating guards.
This is probably more a statement on the overall lack of defense the Pistons frontcourt played last season, but Kravstov in the limited time I watched him today already looked like the most natural defensive player on the Pistons roster. His skillset is so rare on this team, that it’s going to get him on the court.
Offensively, as you’ll see in the highlights along with a couple of his blocks, he finishes well around the basket. The reports of him having no offensive game outside of the immediate area around the basket seem accurate (although he looked like he sets good, physical screens), but any baskets he gives the Pistons are a bonus. If he can defend, he’s going to play right away and add a dimension to the Pistons they sorely need.
Andre Drummond needs work
We all knew that already, of course, but Drummond’s rawness was on full display. He’s incredibly gifted athletically, moves up and down the court well and, when he’s in traffic, has the ability to go up and dunk over anyone at any time. He had a great one-handed dunk over about three players after grabbing a pass in traffic.
But the scouting reports on him coming out of college — that he lacks any real schooling in fundamentals and mainly relies on his immense physical gifts — seemed about right. He rushed offensively a few times when he got touches in the post and took low percentage shots. He looks to dunk all the time, which is exciting for fans, but not always the most prudent decision and could lead to drawing some offensive foul calls. Love the aggression though.
He was really uncomfortable looking at the free throw line. On one of his stranger attempts, he started his shot, caught himself and made a motion like he was going to wipe his forehead, then continued with his motion. I can’t really describe accurately how it looked, other than just reiterating that he didn’t seem super comfortable when he wasn’t right under the basket. That’s not a huge issue for the Pistons, considering they don’t need much offense out of him.
Defensively, the difference between him and Kravstov is discipline and footwork. While Kravstov didn’t leave his feet much on fakes, Drummond bit on a couple. Kravstov also seemed to be a bit better at anticipating where offensive players were trying to get with the ball and beating them there.
Overall, he’s a freakish athlete, ran the floor well, he’s an elite finisher and there was absolutely nothing about his performance that was disappointing. He’s a project, though, so the Pistons are probably right to bring him along slowly, and if Kravstov is as legit as he looks, they’ll have that luxury.
Jonas Jerebko’s jumper looks better
Jonas Jerebko is not a bad perimeter shooter, but he’s not a good one, and it’s frustrating how close he is to being good.
Now, Oakland’s three-point line is the college line, not the NBA one, so it was hard to tell if Jerebko was shooting actual threes or the long twos Dan complained about in his post. I also didn’t see him attempt a corner three, a place Feldman noted Jerebko shoots 38 percent from. But what I did see, and a couple of the highlights in the video should show, is that Jerebko’s release is quicker and there was no hesitation when the ball was swung to him. Those have been problems in the past — he’s passed those shots up or he didn’t get them off quick enough before the opportunity closed.
Beyond that, Jerebko also looked much more comfortable in the open court and handling the ball. He looked — dare I say it — like a small forward. He initiated the fast break, he found teammates with great passes, he moved without the ball and he hit perimeter jumpers.
Is Brandon Knight figuring out the point guard thing?
Brandon Knight may never be a traditional pass-first point guard, but Saturday, he looked like a more efficient guard. His passing was crisp, his decision-making as to when to look for his offense and when to simply run the offense was better and there wasn’t the occasional sloppiness with the ball that plagued him last season. He particularly looked more comfortable running pick and roll, which is a great sign for the Pistons.
Is Tayshaun Prince back to the old Tayshaun Prince?
The Pistons’ young players need Tayshaun Prince to be not quite so ball-dominant in the offense to see if they can develop into the centerpiece type of players the front office hopes they can become. On Saturday, Prince rarely touched the ball when initiating the offense. He made quick decisions when he caught in on the wings rather than holding the ball. He made good, quick entry passes into the post and he moved without the ball.
If the team develops to the point that the Isolayshaun offense becomes a thing of the past this season, that will be a huge win for the Pistons, the fans who watch and for Prince himself, who is much better as a third or fourth option than when he’s forced into being a primary option.
Greg Monroe’s evolution
The biggest question with Greg Monroe is simply whether or not it was even possible for him to make as big a leap forward this offseason as he did between his rookie and sophomore seasons. There were good signs on Saturday that he can.
He might never be a great defender. He can be an improved one by making use of his quick hands to get more steals. On Saturday, he had at least four steals and deflections in the lane, either getting a hand in passing lanes or stripping the ball from the big men he was guarding. He made a better effort to hold his position in the post. If Kravstov or Drummond (or, hopefully, both) emerges this season as a viable defensive stopper up front, allowing Monroe to always guard the worst of the opposing team’s two frontcourt positions, he could once again make a huge leap.
He has more room to grow on defense than he does on offense at this point, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see new things. Several times, Monroe took steals or rebounds and immediately looked to start the break himself. He’s a solid ball-handler and great passer for a big man. If this allows the Pistons to get into their offense quicker, I’m all for him doing this more often.
He also showed a bit more range on his jumper and more comfort taking it. Any time he was given a crack of space in the 15ish feet range, he shot with no hesitation, and I didn’t see him miss from that spot. He struggled a bit around the basket against Kravstov and Drummond, but off the dribble or shooting jumpers, they really couldn’t guard him.
His biggest improvement on offense will simply be him being more assertive. He’s clearly the Pistons best player, and if he’s not getting enough touches, he needs to demand them.
Don’t close the book on Charlie Villanueva yet
Not only did the reports that Charlie Villanueva is in great shape look to be true, he was more active than I’ve ever seen him as a Piston. He made a passable effort on defense — coming up with at least two steals — and he stayed around the basket on offense. In the video, you’ll see an incredible move he made on Jason Maxiell. He looked like a different player. Of course, he’s tantalized with flashes like that before, so until he does it for a season, there’s no point in getting hopes up, but he definitely looks like he’s in line for a rotation spot if he’s been playing that well in practice.
A couple of things stood out to me about Kyle Singler. First and foremost, he’s much slimmer than he was at Duke. He legitimately looks more like a small forward than a power forward based on his build now.
Secondly, he struggled with his shot — a couple were way off. He’s the type of player whose contributions will probably not show up statistically, but if he’s going to earn minutes as a rookie, he’ll have to hit his jumper more consistently. With Jerebko, Maggette and Austin Daye all competing for minutes at Singler’s position, there’s little margin for error in camp.
- Joe Dumars was there, sitting courtside. As I wrote above, I’ve been to two of these, and don’t remember seeing Dumars, let alone courtside. I know he prefers to be behind the scenes, but it is nice to see him out observing things like this up close every once in a while, even if for sybolic reasons.
- Corey Maggette and Rodney Stuckey are going to cause a lot of bruised sternums this season and probably already have in practice. It’s amazing how much contact they take, even in a scrimmage.
- Kim English looked much more comfortable as a slasher and open court player. It’s not that his shot looked bad, it’s just that he was maybe the most aggressive player on the floor (other than Kravstov) and he excelled in open court situations where he could fill lanes or attack the basket.
- Jason Maxiell appears to be in even better shape than last season, which makes sense since he’s entering another contract year. He told the crowd during an interview that he did a lot of work on the track this season.
- Khris Middleton didn’t stand out either way. He hit one shot that I remember — a corner three — but it didn’t count because he stepped out of bounds.
- Will Bynum looked healthy. I don’t know how much Bynum will play, but if he’s healthy, he’s always an instant offense and change of pace threat off the bench. There was nothing that suggested he isn’t the best bet to open the season as the backup point guard despite two high profile camp invites who play that position. Speaking of …
- Pistons P.A. announcer Mason would love for Jonny Flynn to make the team — he said ‘FLYNN AGIN’ several times despite Flynn not really doing much when he was on the court. Flynn didn’t look bad, but he didn’t stand out as doing anything remarkable either.
- Terrence Williams, on the other hand, is intriguing. He looked comfortable as a point guard and his height allows him to make passes others can’t. He’d give the Pistons a dimension they don’t really have off the bench in their backcourt with his size. Backup guards Bynum and English are on the smallish side. Still don’t think he makes the team, but I can see why Frank likes his skillset.
- Here is some coverage of the open practice from others: Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News; Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press; David Mayo of MLive; Ryan Hegedus of Life on Dumars.
- Enjoy the highlights: