True Blue Pistons - February 2012

About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined Pistons.com as the web site editor on October 2, 2006. Langlois, who brings over 27 years of professional sports journalism experience to Palace Sports & Entertainment, serves as Pistons.com's official beat writer and covers the team on a daily basis.

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Posted Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Leap Day Leapers

Leap Day comes around once every four years. But great leapers – truly great leapers – happen upon a franchise with even less frequency. The Pistons might not boast one of the legendary leapers of the game – David Thompson, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and Dr. J would be a pretty good starting five for the Leapers Hall of Fame – but they’ve had their share of high flyers.

On Leap Day, here’s a snap shot of some of the best jumpers to wear Pistons Blue:

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Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Starting Over

Teams come back from the All-Star break focused on a fresh start. The Pistons came back and started from scratch. The progress they’d shown since Feb. 1? Not in evidence. The team that began the season 4-20, struggling with turnovers and to find anything approaching an offensive rhythm? Yeah, that team is the one that reassembled at The Palace.

Lawrence Frank knew what to expect, sort of. He talked before tipoff of the travails teams experience in their first game back after the break.

“That’s why you’ve got to grind,” he said after the 97-68 loss to Philadelphia in which the Pistons tied their season-worst scoring output. “You’re not going to have rhythm. For the Sixers, they were able to turn their defense in order to get easy baskets. You’re able to get some rhythm. For us, did we have some open shots we missed? Of course. But it’s a grind game. These games are always funky.”

Two things made it especially funky: Pistons turnovers and unspeakably errant Pistons shooting. The Pistons committed 15 first-half turnovers for 22 Philadelphia points. It was the third quarter before the Pistons made their first basket outside the paint, and they were 1 of 22 outside the paint through three quarters, finishing 5 of 36.

“Everything was a problem tonight,” Damien Wilkins said. “We turned the ball over, didn’t handle the ball very well, didn’t get back in transition. That was pretty much it, start to finish.”

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Posted Monday, February 27, 2012
Back to Work

Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are diligent students who adhere religiously to the tenets of winning basketball. So the real challenge for the young Pistons stars in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge game, as it turned out, was figuring out how to steer a free-for-all game into something more closely resembling the basketball they know.

The first half of the Pistons’ season was played at a sprinter’s pace. For the second half, they’ll be more like middle distance runners.

The Pistons crammed 35 games into 59 days leading to the All-Star break, a schedule that allowed them a mere five practices in all of January and six more in February before they reconvened from the break Monday night at the team’s practice facility.

And now Lawrence Frank gets six practices in the next 11 days if he chooses to use days off that way. For a Bobby Knight disciple who believes the practice court is where teams are built, this period represents a gaping opportunity to gain traction toward the “process” he’s talked about for grooming the Pistons into the team he envisions.

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Posted Friday, February 24, 2012
Future Stars

Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are diligent students who adhere religiously to the tenets of winning basketball. So the real challenge for the young Pistons stars in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge game, as it turned out, was figuring out how to steer a free-for-all game into something more closely resembling the basketball they know.

Maybe the most telling moment of a night designed to inspire “SportsCenter” Top 10 fodder came in the final seconds, when Monroe drew boos from the Orlando crowd because he had the audacity to intercept a John Wall pass intended to set up his own dunk.

Monroe filled up the stat sheet across the spectrum of categories, not merely the points and shot attempts that generally reflect the emphasis of All-Star games. He had 19 points, a team-high 10 rebounds, a game-high five steals and four assists.

Knight, who leads all rookies in 3-pointers made this season, didn’t have his usual stroke from the arc, hitting 2 of 9. He finished with 14 points and seven assists as their Team Shaq lost 146-133 to Team Chuck, led by 2011 No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, who hit 8 of 8 from the arc and won MVP honors in scoring 34 points.

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Posted Thursday, February 23, 2012
Review, Preview

The Pistons have crammed 35 games into 60 days, which barely leaves enough time for the uniforms to come out of the dryer before they need to be worn again. It leaves no time for introspection. But the All-Star break has arrived – five days with no Pistons games until Philadelphia visits The Palace on Tuesday. Here’s a look at what went right in the season’s first half and what to look for over the season’s final 31 games.

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Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Trumped in Toronto

Lawrence Frank’s vision for the Pistons is resolute: They will be a defense-first team. We know how practice is going to go when he reconvenes them Monday night for their next practice after the All-Star break: defense first.

The Pistons, who tightened up remarkably on that end in winning 7 of 10 games prior to the two-game trek to Cleveland and Toronto that carries them into the All-Star break, sprung leaks over these last two games. The Raptors, 28th in the NBA in scoring, built a 23-point lead early in the fourth quarter before a cheap shot from Jerryd Bayless on Greg Monroe ignited a comeback that saw the Pistons get within nine points with under five minutes to go.

“It’s disappointing, yet it’s just a reality check. We have a lot of work to do,” Frank said after the 103-93 loss that gives the Pistons an 11-24 record. “You don’t let the wins and losses get caught in your eyes about the process.

“This gives us a healthy break to reflect on which kind of team we want to be. Do we want to be the group that played the first 24 games (4-20 record) or the group that put together consistent basketball for a little bit of a stretch? We want to be that group. You have to be mentally and physically engaged every night to do it and that’s what we want to commit to.”

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Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Fourth-Quarter Fade

Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving split the vote of college recruiting analysts a few years ago as to who was the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2010. As college freshmen a year ago, they were the consensus top two NBA draft prospects at their position. The fact they wound up on teams in the Central Division sets them up as enduring rivals.

Credit Irving with a first big notch in the belt.

But no one would have guessed as much with a little more than three minutes left in Tuesday’s third quarter, when the Pistons held a 17-point lead and appeared all but certain to win their eighth game in the last 10.

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Posted Monday, February 20, 2012
The Max Factor

Jason Maxiell has averaged 6.2 points and 6.7 rebounds since moving into the starting lineup, nice numbers but hardly the kind that would suggest how the Pistons went from a 4-19 team without Maxiell in the starting lineup to a 7-3 team since the move was made.

Then again, it would seem a stretch to say the turnaround that started when Lawrence Frank made the lineup move is merely coincidental.

Jonas Jerebko began the season as the starting power forward next to Greg Monroe and that lasted 13 games. Then Ben Wallace took over at a point where the Pistons were due to face a number of teams with tough interior scoring matchups for which Frank felt Wallace was better suited than Jerebko, who as a starter was frequently running into early foul trouble.

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Posted Sunday, February 19, 2012
Pistons Bully Boston

As agonizing as too many nights of the past few season have been for the Pistons, Joe Dumars had to look at what unfolded at The Palace on Sunday night and know he’s well down a path that the Boston Celtics will soon be forced to travel.

Oh, the Celtics are more than likely going to the playoffs this season and the Pistons, barring a remarkable second half of the season and some stumbling from teams ahead of them, are a postseason long shot.

But the Pistons made the Celtics look old Sunday, beating them for the second time in five nights, 96-81. Boston played without Kevin Garnett, but the truth is the 15-point margin could have been much wider. The Pistons missed 17 free throws, but the fact they got to the line a whopping 46 times – 33 had been their season’s best – underscored just how wide the gap was between these two teams.

Want a few more examples of how the Pistons were the aggressor on a night Lawrence Frank, who knows the Celtics well after spending last season as Doc Rivers’ top assistant coach, fully expected Boston to try to impose its will defensively to atone for being embarrassed at home by the Pistons earlier in the week? Try this: In second-chance points, the Pistons hammered Boston 29-6. In points in the paint, it was 42-20.

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Posted Saturday, February 18, 2012
Team Turnaround

Lawrence Frank closes his eyes and sees a Pistons team that plays fast but takes care of the basketball, shares it and always takes good shots, one that makes its paint impenetrable, smothers every pick and roll the opponent attempts to execute and contests all jump shots.

Every coach understands that day never comes, but no coach worth employing ever stops pursuing it.

The Pistons host Boston on Sunday, and when fans file out of The Palace after that ends the 2011-12 season will be officially half over, 33 of the lockout-abbreviated season’s 66 games in the books. It was just a few weeks ago the season crossed the one-third milepost.

My, how far the Pistons have come in that time. Their scoring is up about three points per game, the opposition scoring down a point over that span.

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Posted Friday, February 17, 2012

Rodney Stuckey scored 36 points but wanted to talk about Brandon Knight. Knight racked up a double-double without turning the ball over and made three consecutive huge plays in winning time but wanted to talk about Ben Wallace.

Winning, the Pistons have discovered, is so much more fun than losing.

Lawrence Frank talks of the Pistons becoming a defense-first team, but then there are nights like Friday when the game takes on a life of its own and if you don’t score in bunches you get left behind. He’d prefer to stick to the blueprint, but the biggest takeaway from Friday’s 114-108 win over Sacramento was the fact the Pistons trailed for 95 percent of the game and by double digits in three distinct junctures but never quit pushing forward.

“We continued to fight,” Frank said. “That’s an encouraging thing. We’re going to have to continue to raise our level of play on both ends, but from a standpoint of having resolve, we’re getting more and more along the lines of establishing that we’re not just going away. We’re going to just keep fighting.”

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Certain players become forever linked by happenstance. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird represent the ultimate example or two people whose paths likely would never have crossed if not for the fact they both happened to be pretty good basketball players who took wildly divergent paths to college basketball’s ultimate game. After elevating that sport to popularity it had never imagined, they pushed the NBA several rungs up the ladder of national relevance.

Greg Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins, at least for the foreseeable future, are going to be measured against the other similarly. Which one can emerge as an elite NBA big man? Who’ll turn his lottery team into a playoff contender first?

That’s the subplot for tonight’s Pistons-Sacramento Kings game: second-year centers drafted two spots apart in the 2010 lottery and putting up strikingly similar numbers in points and rebounds.

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Posted Thursday, February 16, 2012

Joe Dumars chose Lawrence Frank after the most thorough coaching search he’s conducted, given the luxury of time as a rare benefit of the NBA lockout, with the big picture in mind. He was struck by the breadth of Frank’s basketball knowledge and the depth of his philosophical beliefs.

It wasn’t necessarily with the thought that Frank would bring out the best in any particular player that Joe D plucked him from a wide field of candidates. But it did occur to him that Frank’s impact on Rodney Stuckey could be especially positive.

“I had that conversation with Lawrence,” Dumars told me last month. “I said, ‘You can have a tremendous impact on Stuckey. Rodney will function well under organized, disciplined accountability.”

It’s not only the environment Frank has created that works to Stuckey’s advantage, but his insistence on playing at a faster tempo. That’s something that will take time to make a part of the Pistons’ DNA, but there’s no doubt it suits Stuckey’s strengths. In the times when it translates to the court, as it has for chunks of the past two games, Stuckey shines.

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Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sometimes gauging NBA progress is like watching a potato plant grow. All the really interesting stuff goes on below ground level. But sometimes it’s right there in full view. Mark down what the Pistons did in Boston on a mid-February weeknight in the latter category – a big, loud, neon-encrusted sign of progress.

Twenty-four hours after the Pistons came back in the second half to lead San Antonio but lost, they came back against another NBA titan – this time on the road, this time against a fully rested opponent – and planted a big foot in the chest of the Boston Celtics, winning 98-88 Wednesday on the strength of a dominant fourth quarter.

The comeback started late in the third quarter, when the Pistons outscored Boston 8-2 inside the final two-plus minutes to take a one-point lead headed to the fourth. Then they pulled away, Ben Gordon taking the baton from Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey before him, knocking down a series of critical deep jump shots. The run reached 28-10 at one point.

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You’d think Lawrence Frank offers a cash reward to the two Pistons who first arrive at the scene of a fallen teammate. That’s a message he delivered back on Dec. 9, the first day of training camp, and it took hold and hasn’t yet been shaken.

It would no doubt please him to know his Pistons have taken the next logical step in the bond of brotherhood that Frank has emphasized is essential to any refortification of the culture that made the Pistons his New Jersey team lost to in the 2004 playoffs one of the NBA’s most unified forces.

That logical next step is helping a teammate up figuratively as well as literally, offering the mental pick-me-ups that are even greater evidence of the bonding process than the physical variety.

So it was a few weeks back, when rookie Brandon Knight was struggling through an unproductive few games, that Greg Monroe put his arm around his teammate and offered words of encouragement.

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Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Valentine’s Day, the Pistons’ heart was in the right place. It just wasn’t always in sync with their arms and legs or head. That got them 15 points behind the San Antonio Spurs early in the fourth quarter, when the last thing anyone expected was a finish that evoked the 2005 NBA Finals.

But that’s what happened, right down to an epic battle of two All-Star staples of the first decade of the new millennium, Ben Wallace and Tim Duncan. The Pistons came all the way back to take a lead, but the Spurs – as they seem to have done since Duncan walked into the league 15 years ago – made just enough more plays in the last two minutes to pull out a 99-95 win, their eighth straight.

The romantic ending to close Cupid’s day would have called for Wallace – on the occasion of setting the modern-day NBA record for most games played by an undrafted player at 1,055 – to go out a winner on a day he played like he was 27, not 37.

With Greg Monroe frustrated by easy missed shots and no favorable whistles, Lawrence Frank went to Wallace unusually early in the second half – 6:12 left in the third quarter. The old guy never took a seat.

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In a span of 24 hours, the three greatest defensive forces of the NBA’s most recent generation will share the same air space. Ben Wallace and the Pistons host Tim Duncan and San Antonio tonight, then travel to play Boston and Kevin Garnett on Wednesday.

Ben Wallace, four-time Defensive Player of the Year; Tim Duncan, eight times an All-Defense first-teamer; and Kevin Garnett, also an eight time first-teamer who won Defensive POY when Boston won the 2008 NBA title.

Is that the list of your defensive peers, Ben Wallace?

“Well, yeah,” he says, after first resisting the notion he be lumped with Duncan and Garnett, “that’s the list.”

They’re also a reminder of the different pathways that lead to the NBA. Garnett was a schoolboy legend, first in South Carolina and later in Chicago, who was hounded by all the college basketball powers before ultimately becoming the first player since the days of Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins to bypass college altogether. He still went No. 5 in a loaded draft and changed the way NBA scouts felt about the readiness of preps.

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Posted Monday, February 13, 2012

Sometime Tuesday night, probably around 8 p.m., either late in the first quarter or to start the second, most likely, Lawrence Frank will turn to his left and yell “Body!” – the perfectly apt nickname the Pistons long ago gave the man who came to embody the lunchpail demeanor of the Goin’ to Work Pistons that won the 2004 NBA title and came within a heartbeat of repeating – and Ben Wallace will enter his 1,055th game.

And that will establish a new record: most games played by an undrafted player since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, inching ahead of Avery Johnson.

It was one thing when Wallace cracked Washington’s roster in 1996 after getting a brief look as a shooting guard over the summer with Boston. But to last 16 seasons?

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Posted Sunday, February 12, 2012

It was just a few days ago when Lawrence Frank, talking about the turnaround the Pistons had made since losing seven straight, declared that in basketball more than any sport things can go from good to bad and bad to good in a heartbeat.

He probably wouldn’t have minded having to wait a little while to be proven right.

The Pistons had everything on their side: momentum, home court and an opponent even more conditioned to losing than the Pistons were just a week or so ago, the 5-22 Washington Wizards, losers of two straight and seven of eight.

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Posted Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lawrence Frank offers players a tantalizing bargain: play good defense and you don’t have to worry about mastering the playbook.

“We give the ultimate gold ticket to players,” he said after a Saturday practice carried out with the lively tempo of a team riding a four-game winning streak. “If we get stops, we just play out of basketball principles. We don’t run set plays off of misses. So if I’m a player and I want freedom, I’m going to get stops.”

Frank counted 27 solid defensive stands in Friday night’s 17-point win over New Jersey in which the Pistons went over 100 points in regulation for the first time this season, finishing with 109. And they produced 24 transition points, even though the official box score listed 17.

It made for a thoroughly entertaining game, not just for the fans but for players, too. It was as animated a bench as the Pistons have had in … well, since four-game winning streaks were taken for granted around The Palace.

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Posted Friday, February 10, 2012

When a coach can throw a dart while blindfolded at the final box score and know it will land on the name of someone who contributed, chances are he’ll sleep pretty well. Lawrence Frank ought to sleep like a baby over the weekend.

The Pistons, 10 days ago dragging a seven-game losing streak home from a spirit-crushing road trip, suddenly own a four-game winning streak, the latest their most thorough, most convincing win of the Frank regime, a 109-92 spirit crushing of the New Jersey Nets – the last team to beat them.

“We’re just trying to get better,” said Frank, refusing to bask in success just as he declined to wallow in failure. “This is going to be a process. We’re far from figuring it out. Are we getting better? Yes. But it’s an everyday grind of trying to get where we want to go.”

The Pistons even spotted New Jersey a 7-0 lead – and then went on a 23-4 run to administer exactly the swift, emphatic knockout punch they’d been absorbing too often in a 4-20 start to the season. Ten days after they reached that nadir, they’ve doubled their win total.

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Lawrence Frank likes to see at least five Pistons in double figures when he checks the postgame box score. He’s searching for an offense-defense balance both in his starting five and the lineup combinations that ensue once the starters are established. In Ben Gordon, he has a fast-heating scorer with a history of success in coming off the bench.

Add it up. Then mix in the evidence – still not much to go on, but all he has so far – of what happened the other night in New Jersey, when the Pistons scored 99 points, 13 above their average, and won their second road game.

With Gordon and Will Bynum out, Frank had a tough time keeping a second unit largely intact for long because it lacked scoring punch. But the Pistons hung 31 points on the board at New Jersey in a second quarter that for a long stretch included a unit composed entirely of backups: Gordon, Jonas Jerebko, Ben Wallace, Austin Daye and Walker Russell. Gordon missed his first shot, then knocked down his next six in a variety of ways.

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Posted Thursday, February 9, 2012

A team that loses five games for every one it wins is bound to wonder about the ability of the guy with his hands on the wheel to keep the rubber on the road. Lawrence Frank fully understands that much. And he can explain it in terms that everyone – from Pistons fans to Pistons owners – can readily grasp.

That’s where the Pistons were at a week ago, winning four and losing 20. Three games later, they’re 7-20. There are many X and O explanations that Frank could delve into to explain the turnaround, but at its root is the fact the Pistons kept the faith through a seven-game losing streak.

“Any time you struggle, it’s the nature of professional athletics – and probably the nature of business,” Frank said, an analogy that Pistons owner Tom Gores, whose Platinum Equity rose to industry giant on its ability to identify underperforming companies and engineer dramatic turnarounds, would surely appreciate. “Let’s say there’s a failing company, borderline bankrupt. Well, the employees are going to start to question what is going on here. Same thing on a basketball team or a football team – but that’s called character, players’ character.

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Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. – An 18-point Pistons lead had melted to one, Deron Williams going into full superstar mode to lead a comeback, delivering the Pistons to what Lawrence Frank calls the moment of truth: the last six minutes of an NBA game hanging in the balance.

It’s the time that defines every champion, but it also defines teams destined for history’s dustbin. The Pistons, predictably, have struggled with those moments this season under a first-year coach with a roster Joe Dumars acknowledged all along is a work in progress.

But something clicked in the fourth quarter on a damp night in New Jersey. And it started with Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko. After a Williams four-point play made it 78-77, Monroe threaded a pass through the lane to Jerebko for a dunk. A Rodney Stuckey fast-break layup stretched the lead to five and then a Jerebko defensive rebound started another possession finished when he fired a laser to Monroe for a layup.

The 99-92 win was punctuated a few minutes later when Monroe drove the lane, Jerebko sealing it off and drawing defenders to him, and finished with an emphatic dunk that caught even his teammates by surprise.

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NEW YORK – Walker D. Russell knew at least that it wasn’t bad news when he hadn’t heard whether or not the Pistons had decided to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season before boarding their team flight on Tuesday for tonight’s game at New Jersey. He was making the trip, wasn’t he?

The good news came when he arrived in New York and got word from Joe Dumars letting Russell know that he’d be a member of the Detroit Pistons for the rest of the season, wearing the uniform of the team he grew up rooting for and the one his father donned during the 1988 NBA Finals.

“He said, ‘You earned it. You deserve this opportunity. Continue to work hard for us and welcome to the Pistons organization,’ ” Russell said after Wednesday’s morning shootaround. “Oh, man. I was ecstatic. I told him I’m going to continue to work hard and I want to be a Piston until I get done playing ball.”

Damien Wilkins and Vernon Macklin, the two other Pistons on non-guaranteed contracts, also had their deals picked up for the rest of the season. Wilkins’ spot seemed pretty certain, but he took the news with the same joy as Russell.

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NEW YORK – Jason Maxiell moved into the starting lineup one week and three games ago. In his second start, Friday’s win over Milwaukee at The Palace, he logged a season-high 37 minutes, giving the Pistons eight points, 12 boards and two blocked shots. He came back the next night to log 33 more, his second longest run. It was the Pistons’ fifth game in six nights, their seventh in nine.

“It was Sunday that got me,” Maxiell grinned. “Just waking up in that bed – did not want to move. It’s tough, but it’s a shortened season. You’ve got to be prepared for it.”

Lawrence Frank didn’t make Maxiell the starter next to Greg Monroe out of dissatisfaction with Ben Wallace, just as his decision to make Wallace the starter after 13 games wasn’t a reflection on Jonas Jerebko. With a one-week training camp and a two-game preseason necessitated by the lockout, Frank’s hand is forced by the schedule to do his tinkering during the course of the regular season.

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Posted Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lawrence Frank prepares for every contingency, which means he must be running a million different scenarios through his mind where Wednesday’s game at New Jersey is concerned – and that’s just for his backcourt.

He knows Rodney Stuckey will be available and Walker D. Russell Jr. got on Roundball One as players around the league in his situation – those on non-guaranteed contracts – began to be cut in advance of the looming deadline for guaranteeing contracts for the remainder of the season.

So that’s two guards. As for Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and Brandon Knight … stay tuned.

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Posted Monday, February 6, 2012

If Greg Monroe grabs 13 rebounds in his next game, he’ll be averaging a double-double. He’s at 16.3 points and 9.9 rebounds right now, numbers that loudly announce his candidacy for the All-Star team. The Pistons’ 6-20 record, fairly or not, drags down his chances. But Lawrence Frank’s projection for Monroe’s future sure makes it sound like he expects future All-Star appearances to be routine.

“You see great growth from him,” Frank said after Monday’s practice with the Pistons enjoying their first consecutive days without a game to be played since the Dec. 26 season opener. “He works at it. He’s committed. He wants to be a really special player, yet the thing that’s amazing is unbelievable upside and growth. He literally is just scratching it. There’s so much more to come.”

Like what?

“Just tons. Those are conversations I have with him – not necessarily with the media – and it may not translate into 45 (points) and 25 (rebounds), but he just has so much more in him. He’s getting better, but he has great upside – he really does.”

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Posted Sunday, February 5, 2012

When it is suggested to Lawrence Frank that on a Super Bowl Sunday that includes his favorite team he might actually take a day off, he looks like you’ve instead suggested he root for the New England Patriots and not his favorite team, the New York Giants – who play in his native New Jersey, he points out.

“Look, this is the season,” he says. “You did see our record, right? We have a lot of work to do.”

But the record is two wins and zero losses better than it was 48 hours ago. And the Pistons, going non-stop since the day training camp opened on Dec. 9, suddenly have three days off before hosting New Jersey on Wednesday night. They’ve jammed 26 games into 41 days since the season opened on Dec. 26 without more than a day between games. Though the day after back-to-back (or back-to-back-to-back, in this most unusual of seasons) games – of which the Pistons have played nine sets involving all but seven of their games – does not include a formal practice, that doesn’t mean it’s a day off, either.

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Posted Saturday, February 4, 2012

Broken at The Palace: Brandon Knight’s nose, yes; the Pistons’ winning streak, no.

Playing their seventh game in nine nights – all without three key players – the Pistons lost their electric rookie point guard five minutes into the game when he caught an elbow that wobbled him and broke his nose. And it had already started ominously, the Pistons falling behind 6-0 and misfiring on their first four possessions.

“That’s what we talked about in the locker room – the spirit and the fight,” Lawrence Frank said following the Pistons’ 89-87 win over New Orleans, completing a weekend sweep at The Palace after knocking off Milwaukee the night before. “Seventh game in nine nights, go down shorthanded again without your starting point guard and instead of, ‘Oh, man, here we go again,’ there was fight.”

Knight, who a night earlier dropped a career-best 26 points to lead the Pistons in snapping their seven-game losing streak, went down in a heap under the New Orleans basket when Greg Monroe and his ex-Georgetown and Pistons teammate DaJuan Summers went after a rebound and somebody’s elbow – Monroe says it was Summers’ – caught Knight in the face.

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Posted Friday, February 3, 2012

After being as cold as ice four nights earlier in Milwaukee, Brandon Knight was as smooth as vanilla in the Pistons-Bucks rematch.

On a night ’90s star Vanilla Ice performed, Brandon Knight – born in 1992, two years after “Ice Ice Baby” dominated the airwaves – made sure the Pistons didn’t have to take second billing to the halftime act. The Pistons won their second straight NBA title when Vanilla Ice was the chart-topper. By the time Knight’s ready to consistently put up performances like the one he recorded in his team’s 88-80 win over Milwaukee, maybe the Pistons will be ready to challenge at that level again.

“He was outstanding,” Lawrence Frank said after Knight’s 26-point night, a career high, to go with seven assists and zero turnovers as he won the head-to-head battle with Brandon Jennings, who helped limit Knight to zero points as Milwaukee beat the Pistons on Monday. “He really rose to the challenge. Brandon really responded.”

“I didn’t take it as an individual matchup,” Knight said. “He’s a great player. He’s been playing at an All-Star level. I just wanted to make it tough on him and play to the best of my ability. My teammates helped me get open shots. That put a lot of confidence in me. I just wanted to lift them up throughout the game and become one of the bright spots on the team as far as energy, to be contagious. Everyone did a good job of staying focused for 48 minutes. I really felt we put a good game together tonight.”

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The Pistons might get Will Bynum, out for three weeks with a foot injury, back for tonight’s game against Milwaukee. Ben Gordon, missing almost that long with a sore shoulder, looked spry firing up shots with Brandon Knight after Friday morning’s shootaround.

But there might be a place for Walker D. Russell Jr. on the roster, regardless.

“Walker’s been great,” Lawrence Frank said. “Not just his play, but his spirit, his leadership, his guidance. He’s a point guard. Walker is an NBA player. I can’t say enough good things about him. You guys were at the New Jersey game – you saw how well he played, how effective he was. He plays with confidence. His spirit is so healthy that I love it.”

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Posted Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Pistons didn’t win any games a week ago, but when they hit the road for a four-game road trip that included their first three-in-three set of the season they left feeling pretty good about themselves. They’d led both Miami and Atlanta late before losing and saw evidence of real progress. Less than a week later, they return home in a different place after losing four straight on a dizzying road trip, the first three by an average of 23 points.

Yet the notes struck in the locker room after Tuesday’s one-sided loss to New York seemed to take hold a night later in New Jersey, when the Pistons played with a fight and a unity that had been elusive throughout the first three games of their most daunting road trip to date.

Tayshaun Prince spoke after the Knicks game about the ball sticking on offense and of plays breaking down and forcing too frequent one-on-many attacks. Ben Wallace stressed the need to stick together through tough times. In a game that saw Prince and Brandon Knight bounce game-tying shots off the rim in the closing seconds, the Pistons scored 58 points in the second half and spilled their souls on the Prudential Center’s court.

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Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2012

If misery loves company, the Pistons couldn’t have asked for a better gym mate to wind up a crushing road trip than the New Jersey Nets. Down to eight healthy players – one of them, Keith Bogans, signed earlier in the day – the Nets gave the Pistons a chance to end a four-game, five-night venture into the jaws of the NBA schedule on an uptick.

The Pistons weren’t exactly the picture of health – physical, mental or otherwise. With Ben Gordon, Will Bynum and Charlie Villanueva unavailable and Rodney Stuckey subpar after spraining his right ankle in the first half, they managed to overcome an 11-point deficit anyway to take a brief lead late in the third quarter and were tied at 88 midway through the fourth.

After three straight 20-point beatings and playing their third game in three nights, maybe the legs weren’t willing and maybe the psyche was a little too bruised. But they showed something, at least to themselves, in fighting back and having a chance to win despite their frailties and hardships. New Jersey had to withstand a tying shot attempt from Tayshaun Prince with two seconds left and a Brandon Knight three to tie at the buzzer to win 99-96, handing the Pistons their seventh straight loss.

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