Charlie V’s dustup a fitting Palace finish to turbulent Pistons season
Ultimately, the home finale ended the way too many other nights over the course of their season ended – in defeat.
The Pistons – playing without Tracy McGrady, Will Bynum and Ben Wallace, not to mention Jonas Jerebko, whose injury in the first quarter of the preseason opener set an ominous tone – lost 110-101 to Cleveland, which saw four bench players score in double figures.
But the takeaway from the game will be the wrestling and shoving that ensued when Villanueva and Hollins locked up after Villanueva attempted to set a pick. Villanueva made contact low, then Hollins responded by grabbing Villanueva around the shoulders and walking him back. That’s when Villanueva’s arms came up and teammates from both sides moved in to prevent either one from throwing a punch.
After the referees huddled and ejected both, Villanueva needed to be restrained by Rodney Stuckey and others as he attempted to get at Hollins. Villaneuva needed to be restrained again later, underneath the stands, from entering Cleveland’s locker room to further engage Hollins.
What started it?
“He threw an elbow (at the other end on the possession before the incident that led to the dual ejection),” Villanueva said. “Caught me in my lip. Just told him to watch the elbow and he said something real smart, so I got angry. Heat of the moment. That’s about it. It’s something that happened on the court. It should stay on the court. I overreacted. He said some things that kind of got me upset.”
“I saw Ryan Hollins give him a shot down at the other end, then I saw Charlie set a pick on him, then I saw them grab each other,” Austin Daye said. “I thought they were just holding each other, being nice, but then it kind of got physical.”
“I think Hollins got him with an elbow at our end,” John Kuester said. “That’s all I know. They I saw them tangled up. He was upset. He was ready to go. But that’s part of the NBA. It’s an emotional game and Charlie was upset. He’s a competitor.”
Other than that, the game was notable for two things: another big game for Rodney Stuckey, his 29 points and 14 assists giving him three double-doubles in his last four games, and the appearance of Tom Gores, three days after it was announced he had reached agreement with Karen Davidson to purchase the Pistons.
If Gores hadn’t seen too many Pistons games this season, he got a clear example of why the Pistons will take a 29-52 record with them to Philadelphia for Wednesday’s season finale. They took a 10-point lead in the first quarter but again couldn’t maintain it, and largely it was because they again made it too easy for the other team to score. Cleveland, 25th in the NBA in scoring at 95.2, beat its season average by 15 against the Pistons, last in the league in defensive field-goal percentage.
“We didn’t defend the ball very well,” Kuester said. “Pick and roll defense – we couldn’t stop their penetration at times. They kept attacking us.”
The loss locked the Pistons into the No. 7 position for the May 17 draft lottery. That means the Pistons have seven possible draft positions: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 or 10, though the odds of picking ninth or 10th are infinitesimal. The Pistons will have a 4.3 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick, 4.9 percent for No. 2 and 5.8 percent for No. 3. Their likeliest slot by far is to land at No. 7, 59.9 percent, followed by a 23.3 percent chance to pick No. 8. The Pistons picked seventh last June, drafting Greg Monroe.
The draft crop got a little thinner on Monday, though, with the news that Baylor’s Perry Jones, a 6-foot-11 freshman ranked consistently as a top-five pick, is likely headed back to school despite facing an NCAA suspension of five games.
But the draft will merely be the first step in an expected off-season makeover, one that can’t begin in earnest until a new collective bargaining agreement is struck between NBA owners and the Players Association. Unless the sides beat expectations and reach a deal before June 30 – by which time the sale of the Pistons will have closed – Tom Gores will have a hand in not only reshaping the Pistons, but contributing to the NBA’s new business model, as well.