True Blue Pistons - January 2013
For the parameters of a trade that serves the Pistons’ interests – now and in the future – this makes perfect sense. This deal – saying a fond goodbye to Tayshaun Prince, who forever carries the luster of the 2004 NBA championship, and Austin Daye for Toronto point guard Jose Calderon as part of a larger deal that lands Memphis’ Rudy Gay in Toronto – does what Joe Dumars has maintained would be the only type he’d consider.
A deal that might or might not move the needle dramatically in the here and now – though Calderon’s tantalizing playmaking skills fill an obvious void – but one that nudges open the door to the future that much wider.
That was the blueprint. The Pistons made their commitment to this path clear with last June’s trade of Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette, dealing their largest contract – one that ran two seasons – for Maggette’s expiring deal. This trade is the next logical step. The numbers are a little fuzzy, but the Pistons could have conceivably gone into July free agency as much as about $25 million under the cap before this trade; now, they could push that number to about $33 million.
Posted Wednesday, January 29, 2013
There was a game? Yes, there was a game. Overshadowed by the trade that nets the Pistons one of the NBA’s slickest playmakers and cost them the last vestige of their 2004 title team, the Pistons scrambled with a hastily remade rotation and lost 98-79 to one of the East’s new powers, Indiana.
With both Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye off to Memphis in the three-team trade that adds Toronto’s crafty Jose Calderon, Lawrence Frank had to shuffle both his starting lineup and his backup unit.
Kyle Singler, the starter at small forward since the season’s ninth game, moved to his more natural small forward spot as Prince’s successor. Jonas Jerebko, out of the rotation since late November when he was supplanted amid a shooting slump by Charlie Villanueva as the backup power forward, returned to his first NBA spot as the backup to Singler.
Rodney Stuckey went back in the starting lineup and Kim English backed him up at shooting guard.
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Lawrence Frank identified Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Jennings as Milwaukee’s X-factors before the game. As he watched first Dunleavy and then Jennings take a blow torch to the 15-point lead the Pistons built in the first quarter on their way to a 117-90 Bucks win, here’s guessing the thoughts occupying his mind were X-rated.
Other than the eye-popping numbers Andre Drummond put up – 18 points and a new high of 18 rebounds, all accomplished in 27 minutes – there wasn’t much worth filing away in the memory banks from this one, though Frank surely will try his best to extract lessons in focus and poise and basketball IQ from a game that got completely out of control with the Pistons unable to reel it back in.
“It doesn’t really matter what I did tonight – we lost the game,” Drummond said. “I’m just worried about bouncing back tomorrow against Indiana. I just think we took our foot off the gas and let them get comfortable. They took a lot of threes and a lot of them went in because we let them get comfortable.”
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Pistons will have all hands on deck for a game that might require a batten-the-hatches mentality.
The Milwaukee Bucks have morphed into one of the league’s top-scoring teams under interim coach Jim Boylen, who took over earlier this month for Scott Skiles, averaging 102.9 points in Boylen’s 10 games and 109.3 over the last four. The Pistons handed the Bucks one of only three losses incurred on Boylen’s watch when they played what was likely their strongest road game of the season to win 103-87 on Jan. 11.
The Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings backcourt makes the Bucks go, so Lawrence Frank’s decision to reactive Rodney Stuckey – who sat out Sunday’s 104-102 win at Orlando in what Frank would describe only as a “coach’s decision – helps the cause in a game that could have playoff ramifications.
The Pistons are 17-27, yet only tailspinning Philadelphia (18-26), 3-9 in its last 12 games, and Boston (21-23), which snapped a six-game losing streak on the day it lost Rajon Rondo for the season, stand between them and a playoff berth.
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013
Even as their second unit was racking up eye-popping scoring numbers and setting the Pistons on a winning path, the coaches knew there would come a time when they would need to integrate the two units, starters and bench. That there would be games when Greg Monroe’s post scoring presence or Brandon Knight’s defense and 3-point shooting would be needed to complement the pick-and-roll artistry of Will Bynum or the rim-protecting presence of Andre Drummond.
One of the most notable successes of the hybrid unit came down the stretch in Sunday’s win over Orlando, when Lawrence Frank closed out the game with Bynum and Knight in the backcourt and Charlie Villanueva at power forward next to Monroe and Tayshaun Prince.
While Villanueva and Bynum have been on the floor to close games – even games that hang in the balance – it’s almost without exception been with their second unit intact, especially in Villanueva’s case.
Posted Sunday, January 27, 2013
ORLANDO – The news out of Boston before the Pistons tipped off at Orlando on Sunday was at once sobering yet motivating. If the East’s last playoff spot appeared in play as the Celtics stumbled to six straight losses, it became an enormous dangling carrot with the revelation that Rajon Rondo would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
That raised the stakes a few notches for the Pistons and Magic, who can entertain postseason thoughts only if they start routinely winning games against the handful of teams now reasonably positioned to capitalize on Boston’s vulnerability.
The Pistons did exactly that Sunday, beating Orlando for the second time in a week, but they took a circuitous route to get there – losing a 13-point lead when the Magic scorched them during a 33-point third quarter but pulling it out behind Brandon Knight’s 31-point outburst, 104-102.
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2013
MIAMI – Lawrence Frank is aware that, ready or not, he’s going to have to take the plunge and increasingly engage in a “game of chicken” – forcing the matchups with other teams by going big while they go small – required to pair Greg Monroe with Andre Drummond.
The stakes don’t get any higher in “chicken” than they do against the Miami Heat, who have the NBA’s ultimate Swiss Army knife in LeBron James. When he plays power forward, as he does for major chunks of 48 minutes, the matchup becomes exponentially problematic for most teams.
But on a Friday night where the Pistons played starting power forward Jason Maxiell just 19 minutes, Frank played Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond together for more than 11 minutes. That’s nearly twice as many as they’ve averaged together this season.
And for almost all of those minutes, Miami was playing small. In the first quarter, the Heat played James up front with Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. In the second quarter, it was Chris Bosh with Battier and Mike Miller. In the third, it was Joel Anthony with Battier and James. And in the fourth, while Drummond and Monroe were together, the Heat really downsized, going with three guards – Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Norris Cole – together with Anthony and Battier.
Posted Friday, January 25, 2013
MIAMI – The Pistons outplayed Miami for about as many minutes as the Heat outplayed them on a partying Friday night in South Beach. But when the Heat were better, they were at their best, which is to say they were great. They were NBA championship-level, Dream Team, Harlem Globetrotters good, led by their two future Hall of Famers playing Hall of Fame basketball.
The Pistons led Miami by nine four minutes into the second quarter, 43-34. Barely five minutes later, Miami led 54-45 – a 20-2 run that was nothing but a flurry of Pistons turnovers and Miami dunks, elbows at the rim. Dwyane Wade scored 17 of his 29 in the second quarter and LeBron James added nine and they made 11 of their 13 shots in a devastating tsunami of basketball.
“They energize the crowd, they energize their teammates,” Greg Monroe said after the 110-88 decision of the turnovers – the Pistons committed seven of their 19 miscues in the quarter and the Heat converted them into 12 points in the quarter, 26 for the game. “They were timely. They changed the momentum. It’s something we have to do a better job of controlling.”
Posted Thursday, January 24, 2013
MIAMI – Lawrence Frank knew when the Pistons left Orlando last July that they potentially had a very special player in Andre Drummond. He just wasn’t sure he was ready to play as a rookie.
“But what no one knew,” he told me this week, “is how great a kid he was. No one knew that. Nice guy, but no one knew how coachable he was. I didn’t know that.”
What the Pistons found when they got their hands on Drummond – after Summer League, when he came to Auburn Hills and began working with Arnie Kander and his training staff and assistant coach Roy Rogers for on-court drills – is a player with vast athletic skills. Kander marveled at the results he saw, the type of testing skills he might expect out of a point guard or elite wing athlete, not a virtual 7-footer who weighed 285 pounds with 7 percent body fat.
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013
CHICAGO – The last time the Pistons were in the playoffs, Greg Monroe was a Georgetown freshman, Kyle Singler a Duke sophomore and Brandon Knight was roaming the halls of his Florida high school as a junior.
So what everybody, really, save for Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell, experienced in a throbbing United Center on a frigid January Wednesday was as close to playoff basketball as the Pistons have experienced in their current iteration.
There was some cruel irony, I suppose, in the fact that in their attempt to avoid a 17th consecutive loss to Chicago, the Pistons built a 17-point lead, saw it wiped out, came back from six down to lead and then – with all the quick-twitch fury 7-footer Joakim Noah could muster – they lost on a you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it play in the last 10 seconds.
Noah dived headlong across the baseline and whipped a blind saving pass that hit Marco Belinelli in stride for a layup as Rodney Struckey clutched helplessly at him, fouling him in the process to put the Pistons behind 85-82 with 7.5 seconds left. The Pistons got two clean looks to tie, first from Prince and then from Stuckey, both bouncing off the rim.
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Anybody seeing the Pistons for the first time would have had a hard time picking out Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond as their future at halftime of Tuesday’s game with Orlando. Monroe missed his first four shots and his only field goal came off a breakaway dunk following an Orlando miscue. Drummond picked up two quick fouls and grew tentative as Orlando attacked the rim for three straight easy baskets.
Anybody who walked in at halftime and saw Monroe and Drummond for the first time in the final two quarters would wonder if the Pistons’ 16-25 record had been transposed and what two Eastern Conference big men would have to give up their spots in the All-Star game to make room for them.
After trading punches with Orlando in a first half played to the Magic’s liking, the Pistons played on their terms in the second half – which is to say they played to the strengths of Monroe and Drummond.
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Of their 25 losses over the season’s first half, perhaps the two most galling and most glaring for the Pistons were the two suffered six days apart at Orlando’s hands. Over the next six days, the Pistons get two chances to do something about it.
“Those were two games we definitely had a chance to win,” Greg Monroe said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “They made the plays they needed to make to win those games. At that time of the game where it could go either way, in both games they made the run you need to win the game. We know we let two games slip away, but that’s a long time ago. We just need to win this game tonight.”
The Pistons were coming off their first win – an 18-point dousing of Philadelphia on the road – when they first played the Magic on Nov. 16 at The Palace. They controlled the majority of the game, leading by 13 at one point and by four headed to the fourth quarter, when they scored 31 points. That should have been enough to win by double digits with even a representative defensive showing. Instead, the Pistons surrendered 39 points and lost 110-106.
Posted Monday, January 21, 2013
The Pistons opened their season, now one game removed from the halfway point, on Halloween. Sort of fitting. Because the team that’s gone 8-4 over its last 12 games resembles that team about as much as the CPA who dresses up for Halloween resembles his Freddy Krueger costume.
They’re still a long way from completing their transformation, they’re still too inconsistent for Lawrence Frank’s liking and they still have areas of need. But for the first time since the transition phase from the Goin’ to Work era began, the identity the Pistons are seeking is taking a recognizable form.
And that starts with Andre Drummond. I’d tick off a list of first-half accomplishments for the Pistons, but to give you a 1 through 10 list would shortchange Drummond’s impact –unless you listed him 1 through 7.
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013
Their season one game from the 82-game mid-point, the Pistons took a decisive step toward making sure the second half will matter Sunday. They throttled Boston by 15 points, drawing them a game closer not only to the Celtics but to the back end of the Eastern Conference playoff field.
“At the end of the day, the more games we win, the better position we’re in,” said Greg Monroe, who racked up his fifth straight double-double with 15 points and 11 boards and hit two ice-breaking free throws in the fourth quarter to stave off Boston’s last rally. “We just try to focus on the game at hand. We don’t want to lose any games worrying about who’s in front of us or who’s not. We just want to focus on the game at hand, make sure we win that game and get ready for the next game. Once all that’s done, the chips will fall where they are.”
The X factor Sunday was how the Pistons would respond to their trek to London, a whirlwind that saw them spend nine hours on a plane getting back on Friday and needing to reset their body clocks in time for a critical conference game.
Nothing to worry about, it turned out. The Pistons had an obvious bounce to their step early, Brandon Knight engaging Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo defensively, Kyle Singler chasing down loose balls at both ends and Jason Maxiell blocking shots and causing his usual havoc in the paint.
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2013
The season’s midway point is two games away and by the time the Pistons get there – after home games Sunday and Tuesday – they’ll be that much closer to knowing whether the playoffs are indeed within their reach or as far off as they seemed in the throes of their 0-8 start.
The teams that currently occupy the last two spots in the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee and Boston, are both hovering barely above .500. If those two spots are within play, then there are four teams currently on the other side of the playoff divide that are positioned to overtake the Bucks and Celtics.
The Pistons are one of them, currently 14-25 and six games behind Boston in the loss column for the final playoff berth. Philadelphia is 17-23 and fading, Orlando’s 14-25 record matches the Pistons and Toronto is a tick behind at 14-26 and on a four-game losing streak after a rash of frontcourt injuries.
It stands to reason that games among those six teams – Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando, Toronto and the Pistons – will be especially critical in shaping the East’s playoff field.
Posted Thursday, January 17, 2013
LONDON – The Pistons came a long way to play a game, then came from a long way down to get back in the game, but they’ll leave London only with souvenirs and memories, not a win.
“We came here to win a game, so it’s very, very disappointing,” Lawrence Frank said after the 102-87 loss. “I don’t want to say anything negative about the experience in regard to London, but when you lose a game, it’s negative. This is not a vacation. We’re not tourists. We came here to play a competition – not a performance, a competition, on an international stage, which is a privilege and an honor to be selected. So it’s disappointing that we came up short and didn’t play our best.”
The Pistons scored the game’s first two points, then surrendered 16 straight, 12 of them on four 3-pointers, two from Carmelo Anthony. It was particularly vexing that the Knicks did such damage early from the 3-point arc. The Pistons’ No. 1 defensive objective was to limit New York’s effectiveness from the arc. The Knicks lead the NBA in both 3-pointers made (11 per game) and attempted (29). And while their final numbers fell almost perfectly in line – 11 of 31 – it was the early carnage that defined the game.
Posted Thursday, January 17, 2013
Joe Dumars has been to London before, more than once. He appreciates that many in the Pistons’ traveling party have been a little wide-eyed at seeing in person such iconic places as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London they’ve seen all their lives through pictures or video. But he hasn’t done much of the typical tourism thing since the Pistons touched down Tuesday morning.
“I just haven’t had a chance,” he said Thursday morning as the Pistons went through their paces at shootaround in preparation for the 8 p.m. London time tipoff – 3 p.m. back in Detroit – against the New York Knicks. “I’ve been busy since I’ve been here. I’ve been to London quite a bit over the years. I’ve done all the sightseeing. On the customs card, it asks you to mark whether it’s a personal or a business trip. I checked business. This is not so much a personal trip – this is a business trip.”
And despite the logistical headaches it caused for many in the organization, Dumars thinks it’s something the team can use to its advantage.
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013
LONDON – The court will be 94 feet long when the Pistons and Knicks tip off Thursday’s NBA game at London’s O2 Arena. The game will last 48 minutes and the shot clock will still start at 24.
Until tipoff, though, not much is business as usual.
Take Wednesday’s post-practice media session, where somewhere between a flock and a horde of European journalists of all types, sporting every hybrid microphone/camera/video recorder ever manufactured asked questions that raised the eyebrows of players who get asked questions as part of their daily routine.
Posted Tuesday, January 15, 2013
LONDON – It wasn’t necessarily by design, but the 75-minute ride from Heathrow Airport to the Pistons team hotel eliminated the need to try to squeeze in a double-decker bus sightseeing tour of London for many in the team’s traveling party.
Maybe not for Greg Monroe, who established his bona fides as a world-class sleeper on both the charter flight over the Atlantic and the bus ride through the heart of London.
“I was asleep on that, too,” Monroe said of the slow crawl through London’s winding roads as the caravan took the Pistons past Harrod’s department store, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the London Eye – the ferris wheel along the Thames River so visible in aerial views of the city.
Posted Monday, January 14, 2013
Travel is a part of everyday NBA life, but traveling across oceans to other continents is not. So Monday night’s trip to London offers a different set of challenges. It would be one thing if the Pistons were headed there to see where the Beatles strolled across Abbey Road or to visit Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard.
But they’re going to play a for-real basketball game – a home game, at that – against the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, New York. They don’t need the further impediments made possible by extended air travel, including dehydration, joint inflammation and jet lag.
To that end, Pistons players began preparing their bodies immediately after Saturday night’s game with Utah, the second of a back-to-back set that started with Friday’s win at Milwaukee.
Posted Monday, January 14, 2013
In Pistons parlance, Big Ben forever will refer to the menacing defender who anchored the 2004 NBA title defense won at The Palace of Auburn Hills, not the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. And the crown jewels? They’re the three NBA championship trophies that adorn The Palace’s trophy cases, not the dazzling baubles housed under heavy security at the Tower of London. Prince is Tayshaun, not Charles, William or Harry. Knight is Brandon, not Gallahad, Lancelot or Gawain.
All that said, sure, the Pistons are looking forward to taking a turn on the international stage when they’ll play a “home” game at London’s O2 Arena on Thursday against the New York Knicks, though the prospect of flying through the night and landing, wobbly-legged, on Tuesday morning and then being soon whisked off to practice is exhausting merely at the thought.
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Pistons are off to London. To play a regular-season NBA game. Against the Knicks. If you don’t find that just a little bit staggering, then you surely came into this world after they’d already hoisted the first two NBA championship banners to the rafters out at 6 Championship Drive.
Those titles came at the end of the most remarkable decade the NBA, and perhaps any other domestic professional sports league, has ever known.
Let’s try to put it into perspective: When the decade opened, the deciding game of the NBA Finals was shown at 11:30 at night by CBS – on tape delay! It wasn’t for lack of technology that CBS decided the nation didn’t really want to know the results of the title-clinching game in real time, but for what it perceived as lack of interest. The NBA wasn’t worthy of a prime-time slot on a Friday night in mid-May in 1980.
Posted Saturday, January 12, 2013
The Utah Jazz, continuing a tradition begun under Jerry Sloan, are one of the rare teams that chooses to play defense on the end opposite their bench in the second half on the road. The vast majority of coaches prefer their defense closest to them at winning time to make communication clearer in calling out opposition plays.
That put Lawrence Frank out of the coach’s box early in the fourth quarter, the game tied at 68, and technically – ironic word – in violation of the rules as he tried to talk to his defense. Referee Scott Wall wouldn’t let it slide. Gordon Hayward made the free throw to give Utah a one-point lead in a game where every point would be precious.
“I was just communicating to our team, but they said I was on the court and automatically gave a T,” Frank said. “I’m not going to get into officiating, but all those things add up.”
It certainly appeared a big point when the Pistons were inbounding the ball with 4.1 seconds left, trailing by three instead of two – severely limiting their options and giving Utah carte blanche to overextend its defense to the 3-point line. DeMarre Carroll did just that, coming off of Austin Daye to flash at Brandon Knight as his 26-footer only traveled about 24 feet.
Posted Friday, January 11, 2013
MILWAUKEE – The Pistons first unit went all second unit on Milwaukee. Putting together the type of explosive, dominant quarter their bench had lately made a pattern, Detroit’s starters busted Milwaukee with a 23-5 run to start the second half Friday night on their way to a 103-87 road win.
Coming off the rare four-day break, the Pistons were a little wary of how they’d start the game. But they started just fine, holding a five-point lead over Milwaukee after one quarter, turning the game over to the bench that’s been so good for them. But the Bucks went on a 16-1 run that forced Lawrence Frank to go back to his starters five minutes before halftime.
They stabilized the game at that point, cutting an 11-point deficit to eight by the break, then suffocated Milwaukee with their most dominant road quarter of the season, outscoring the Bucks 33-11.
“We came out with great energy tonight,” said Greg Monroe, who scored 12 of his game-high 26 points (plus 11 rebounds) in the decisive quarter. “It was definitely one of our best quarters of the season, by far, and we have to find ways to duplicate that quarter.”
Posted Friday, January 11, 2013
MILWAUKEE – There’s nothing glamorous about a Tuesday night in November spent in Sacramento or a snowy February Thursday in Cleveland, so one of the delights for NBA players held prisoner to the schedule is finding their alma mater’s basketball game on TV while holed up in a road hotel.
Even better, perhaps, is finding a younger sibling’s game – on a night he stars and knocks off an undefeated, highly ranked team, then gets mobbed by students rushing the court.
Kyle Singler experienced that vicarious thrill on Thursday night in Milwaukee when he got to watch his younger brother, E.J., lead Oregon past 14-0 and No. 4 Arizona in a Pac-12 game.
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013
The Pistons wrapped up Camp Frank on Thursday – the last of their four straight days off, the longest stretch of a season that saw them set the pace for games played until now. Even at that, only five other NBA teams have played more than the 36 games the Pistons have logged and only San Antonio, which has played 38, by more than one additional game.
But a coach can always find the dark lining of a silver cloud, so of course there is a downside to having four days off between games, right? Worries of rust or getting out of the routine? Fretting about preparing for a team you played recently – but now plays for a different coach? Worrying about putting their rest to the test?
The Pistons took Monday off, then had individual workouts for players on Tuesday followed by an extended practice on Wednesday and one more typical of a regular-season session in duration on Thursday before leaving for Milwaukee and Friday’s game with the Bucks, who fired Scott Skiles earlier in the week and elevated assistant Jim Boylan to replace him.
So … time well spent?
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Here’s the flip side of being the NBA’s busiest team for two months: four days off between games in January. For coaches, it was a chance to step back and view the season – what’s transpired and what’s ahead – from a new perspective. For players, it was a few days of rest and recovery before plunging back into the deep end.
The Pistons took Monday off, then Tuesday players rotated through the practice facility for mandatory individual workouts with assistant coaches and weight training under the supervision of Arnie Kander and his staff. On Wednesday, Lawrence Frank put the team through the type of practice usually reserved for training camp – a full 2½ hours with the last big chunk devoted to full-court scrimmaging that afforded Frank the opportunity to look at different playing groups to put to the test some of the thoughts that the schedule hasn’t allowed a fair trial until now.
“You definitely evaluate,” Frank said. “That’s why through practice we had a bunch of different combinations” – two in the first quarter, then three per quarter after that, he said. “I’ll go back, watch the tape, see what fits. We all get a chance to see games and we had the benefit of practice. You’re constantly going to manipulate and see. Maybe you want to look at different guys in different spots.”
Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Coaches of teams in search of the winning formula tinker with playing combinations until they’re satisfied they’ve exhausted all possibilities in attempting to wring every ounce of potential out of their rosters.
Lawrence Frank has found something with the second unit the Pistons have put together recently: rookie Andre Drummond at center with lanky shooters Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva on either side of him and attacking guards Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt.
“Andre has functioned very effectively with shooting around him and a pick-and-roll point guard,” Frank said the other day. “Now, if he doesn’t have shooting around him, he’s not getting those lobs.”
So that’s a coach’s perspective, thinking in the ways a coach thinks: the present, dealing with the players at his disposal right now.
But what about from a general manager’s perspective?
Posted Monday, January 7, 2013
The Pistons haven’t made the playoffs for three seasons and have ground to make up to prevent the streak from reaching four. But there’s more than a pinprick of light at the end of their tunnel. Whether the playoff drought ends this April or not, Joe Dumars and his staff are confident that the worst is well behind them.
And the overwhelming reason for their optimism – for their full-fledged belief that the Pistons aren’t merely close to returning to the playoffs, but capable of staying in the field for years and progressing toward a third championship era – is the success they’ve had in the draft for the past several years. Many franchises have had far steeper falls from far less lofty heights than where the Pistons began – six straight trips to the conference finals surrounding the 2004 NBA title – and have had to endure droughts that span entire NBA careers.
Of the 10-man Pistons rotation that’s sparked a 6-2 stretch of games and made talk of the playoffs a possibility, five players have been procured in the last four drafts. Go back to the 2007 draft and you can include a sixth, Rodney Stuckey, and keep in mind that although 2009 draftee Jonas Jerebko is currently outside the rotation he remains prominently in their plans.
Posted Saturday, January 5, 2013
Remember the first eight games? Of course you do. The Pistons lost all of them. And they didn’t just get beat, they got beat up – outrebounded per game by an average of 7.5, outscored in the paint by 5.7 points.
Now look at their last eight games. They’re outrebounding opponents by a whopping 12.8 a game, outscoring them in the paint by 11.9 per game.
That’s not just incremental improvement, that’s going from the proverbial 98-pound weakling to the bouncer at the hottest nightclub in town.
Posted Friday, January 4, 2013
If the Pistons somehow manage to dramatically turn around a season that saw them scrape bottom at 14 games under .500 just a little over two weeks ago, as now at least appears more than a fuzzy possibility, there likely will be a handful of wins as candidates for launching points.
But there will only be one loss in the running as the season’s pivotal game.
The Pistons built a 17-point fourth-quarter lead at The Palace on Friday night, then weathered Atlanta’s 16-0 run, an apparent tying 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left later reduced to a 2-pointer, and finally a game-winning attempt at the buzzer out of Lou Williams’ hand for an 85-84 win – their fourth straight.
Posted Friday, January 4, 2013
The Pistons are getting the band back together again. Maybe. Probably. And just in time to re-create their greatest hit. Or at least their breakthrough hit.
When the Pistons host Atlanta at The Palace tonight, they’ll be looking to win their fourth straight game since losing a whacky double-overtime decision at Atlanta last week – a game marked by a ferocious fourth-quarter comeback crafted entirely by their five-man bench unit of Will Bynum, Rodney Stuckey, Andre Drummond, Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye.
That game crystallized the viability of that unit, which only recently came together with Daye brought out of deep storage, Bynum back in the rotation when Lawrence Frank bumped his backcourt mix back to four from three and Villanueva holding on to the job he won in late November. The bench scored 39 points in the fourth quarter to wipe out Atlanta’s 22-point lead and Frank rolled with them through both overtimes before they finally ran out of steam.
But in the final seconds of regulation, Stuckey twisted his left ankle that night and hasn’t played in any of the three games since. The bench was even better two nights later at Miami without him, scoring 41 points in a dazzling second quarter to erase a 15-point lead and spark the season’s signature win, and a net plus again in Sunday’s win over Milwaukee.
Posted Thursday, January 3, 2013
As a fellow UConn Huskie, Charlie Villanueva’s interest in Andre Drummond was perhaps more keen than that of his teammates. When Villanueva traveled to Orlando to partake in a handful of practices before Drummond and other rookies and young players dived into their Summer League schedule, he was immediately struck by the traits of Drummond that are immediately striking: the sheer size, strength and eye-popping athleticism in one so frightfully young. So Charlie V expected big things from Andre Drummond.
He just didn’t expect them so soon.
“I knew he was going to be a tremendous player,” Villanueva said a day after being fined $25,000 by the NBA for his flagrant-2 foul that saw him ejected just before halftime of the New Year’s Day win over Sacramento. “You can see it. But this early? No. I thought it was going to take him a little bit, but he’s proven me wrong. He’s proven a lot of people wrong. He’s playing very well.”
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Since their whirlwind six-game road trip on the heels of the 2012-13 home opener, the Pistons have led the NBA in at least one category: games played. After playing one of just four league games on New Year’s Day, the Pistons have 34 in the books – 3.3 games above the average of the other 29 teams and 3.6 more than the average for the East’s 14 other teams.
Now things slow down. Considerably. Apart from the three-day break the Pistons had leading to and including Christmas day, there have been only two occasions when they had more than one day between games since the Oct. 31 opener, two-day breaks on Nov. 19-20 and Dec. 12-13.
Their third such two-day break starts today. The Pistons next play on Friday, when they host Atlanta and look to extend their winning streak to four. Next week features a four-day break and so does the week of Jan. 14, which coincides with their trip to London to “host” the New York Knicks.
Posted Tuesday, January 1, 2013
To welcome the new year, the Pistons hope they extinguished bad old habits. To the extent they did so – allowing a 16-point lead with eight minutes remaining to become a one-point lead five minutes later – maybe it’s because they turned to new hands. Or new old hands.
Who would have imagined, a month ago, that Charlie Villaneuva, Austin Daye and Will Bynum would all not only be in Lawrence Frank’s rotation but critical in their own ways to the 103-97 New Year’s Day win over Sacramento?
Bynum was the quarterback with the ball in his hands in the game’s crucial possessions, while Daye confidently stroked the 3-point bomb that iced it. As for Villanueva, his newfound stature was underscored by his absence, ejected for a flagrant-two foul in the second quarter, and the way the Pistons’ offense floundered without his deep shooting threat in the fourth quarter as the Kings clawed back into the game.