Power Couple

Maxiell, Jerebko turn power forward into Pistons strength
When you look at how this season has gone for the Pistons, you can’t help but look at the timing of moving Jason Maxiell into the starting lineup at power forward and how that move really made everything fall into place for Lawrence Frank’s frontcourt rotation. The power forward position with the Pistons has become one of absolute strength. It took a lot of experimentation before Lawrence decided to start Jason, bring Jonas Jerebko off the bench but give him significant minutes, and let Ben Wallace play significant minutes as the backup to Greg Monroe at center.

The results show they were dead-on in terms of what was the right thing to do for this team. The Pistons are 17-14 since Jason began starting at power forward. They’re obviously surging despite facing a tough road trip, but they left on this trip winners of five of six and nine of the last 11 at home. This particular rotation has worked out perfectly.

Jason is absolutely at the top of his game. Consistency of minutes – knowing that you’re not only part of the plan, but you’re being counted on to do what you do best and given an opportunity to do what you do best – has been a perfect recipe for Jason.

Despite the fact he’s 6-foot-7, Jason’s a classic power forward who can bang with the best. He’s a terror on the offensive boards, a very good shot blocker, and add to that the mid-range jump shot. I always kid him about his feathery jumper. He’s got a great touch. You look at a guy that size, who does that much banging, it doesn’t seem to go together, but it’s a great thing to have in your arsenal.

What Greg Monroe has done speaks for itself, which allows Ben Wallace to do what he does best: come in and play consistently great defense – not good, not very good, but great – and do it with his incredible basketball IQ.

Then throw in what Jonas Jerebko can give you off of the bench, which on more nights than not is borderline sensational. As his dad Chris told me when we talked before the game against Washington – and Chris played some basketball at Syracuse and over in Sweden before settling down and deciding to make his life there – Jason is a classic power forward and Jonas is probably a three/four, a small forward type of power forward.

Jonas runs the court probably as well as anybody who plays that position. He has a real arsenal of offensive weapons. Give him time to get his feet set behind the long line and he’s going to knock down threes. He gets to the basket and jams or finger rolls, he can shoot the short jumper and his big, sweeping hook shot is very reliable.

He and Ben Wallace have always had a great chemistry. When those two guys are on the court together – are they are a lot in their roles these days – they make great plays together. The give and go against Orlando in a tight crowd around the basket, where Jonas went inside to Ben with a great pass, made a hard cut to the hole and Ben – the excellent passer that he is – found him with perfect timing for an easy score had the Magic shaking their heads.

I love having Jonas around. Let’s give Joe Dumars some props for getting him at pick 39. You don’t get players like that, at that depth of the draft, very often.

Both Jonas and Jason pick up their teammates with their style of play. Not only do they pick up their teammates, they pick up the crowd. They’ve had a lot to do with the fact the Pistons have become very, very difficult to beat at The Palace. When Jason makes a big block or a dynamite dunk or one of his patented stick-back slams, the place goes crazy and, of course, his teammates love it.

When you have Jonas on the floor, all he does is run the court. I’d say that 20 to 25 percent of his points come from never giving up on a play. If there’s a fast break, he’s always going to be following the play, whether it’s defensively or offensively. He’s liable to get a late shot block or be there for a quick defensive rebound if he’s trying to run somebody down on a break. Offensively, if somehow or other the shot doesn’t go or a last-second pass has to be made, Jonas is there to clean it up. That’s just what he does.

I don’t think you can measure what that means to his teammates. He’s more than willing to be assertive offensively, but just like Jason, you won’t see one bit of selfishness in his game. Both those guys want to make the right play, not for themselves, but for the Detroit Pistons. Those two, sharing that power forward position, are a big, big reason why the Pistons have been playing like a playoff team for the past two months.