True Blue Pistons - March 2013

Keith Langlois
About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined 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's official beat writer and covers the team on a daily basis.

Questions and comments on Keith's posts can be submitted via the Pistons Mailbag. Or follow Keith on Twitter.

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Posted Sunday, March 31, 2013

CHICAGO – The Pistons avoided the third-quarter meltdown that led to embarrassing home losses to Minnesota and Toronto last week. They got 29 points off their bench in the first half alone. They dominated the glass, a testament to the difference Andre Drummond makes.

But the Chicago Bulls might as well be a vampire to them, defeated only by having a stake driven cleanly through the heart.

The streak now stands at 18 and stretches to the George W. Bush administration. In both of their previous meetings this season, the Pistons saw Chicago overcome 17-point deficits to win. In this one, the Pistons led by 13 early and for all of the first three-plus quarters.

“I don’t even know that our guys know the last time we beat them was Dec. 23, 2008,” Lawrence Frank said after the 95-94 win in a game the Pistons nearly tied with six seconds to play on a Charlie Villanueva triple. “I know that, but I don’t even think they know it. The bottom line is we’ve given ourselves three chances to win and that’s such a fine line. They’re a 40-win team. You think about it: We hold them to under 40 percent, we shoot 50 percent from the field, 43 percent from three, you think you’re going to win the game.”

Continue Reading Bulls Down Pistons>>

Posted Saturday, March 30, 2013

Andre Drummond moved fluidly, got 10 shots within arm’s length of the rim and made 80 percent of them. His four rebounds in 19 minutes didn’t jump out of the box score, but the way he speared them – darting from one side of the rim to the other – underscored the rare combination of length and athleticism the Pistons so dearly missed in his absence. He blocked two shots but appeared to get his hands on at least two others and altered or dissuaded another handful. He was credited with two steals.

But Drummond’s first game back was so eerily like his last game missed – both lopsided losses to teams with records nearly identical to the Pistons, both games essentially decided by one-sided third quarters – as to be a sobering reminder of what Lawrence Frank emphasized in the days and hours leading to Drummond’s Friday return: Good to have him back, but it’s not a magic bullet.

With the postseason no longer even a remote possibility, the focus of outsiders and fans, at least, is on Drummond and the ripple effects of his return. With Drummond starting, Greg Monroe – who has played nothing but center for his first three NBA seasons – slides to power forward. For Frank, well, the focus is on something else.

“This is bigger,” Frank said. “What we’re dealing with, our play post All-Star break and what it’s been quite frankly for the last five years, we have to find a way. We’ve got to stop talking about individual players and start talking about the team. We’ve got to get where we’re playing much more competitive basketball.”

Continue Reading Shifting Gears>>

Posted Friday, March 29, 2013

It was simultaneously painful yet fitting that Andre Drummond returned to the Pistons – and this time as a starter – one day after they’d been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Drummond’s return was both a reminder of what might have been had he not missed the past 22 games and a blueprint for what they hope to be.

With Drummond presenting an inviting above-the-rim target, the Pistons got off to a fast start and led Toronto by 10 points five minutes into the game. But another third-quarter meltdown served to underscore what Lawrence Frank warned before the game: “The last thing I want to do is, OK, Andre’s back, our problems are solved. That is the furthest thing from the truth there is.”

Toronto outscored the Pistons 36-15 in the third quarter, breaking open a one-point halftime game, and rolled to a 99-82 win that looked and felt much like Minnesota’s 105-82 win three nights earlier.

“Very similar to the Minnesota game,” Frank said. “Competitive game. Third quarter, 25-8 run. It just doesn’t add up. When you’re competitive for a half and then it just snowballs on us and we don’t have the resolve right now to put more into it. This is embarrassing. You’re got to sustain your focus, effort, discipline for 48 minutes. We’re not doing it.”

Read More>>

Posted Friday, March 29, 2013

Andre Drummond not only returns to the Pistons tonight, he’ll make his first NBA start, alongside Greg Monroe.

“We’re going to try, as much as we can, to maximize those guys’ minutes in terms of when they’re on the floor,” Lawrence Frank said after Friday’s morning shootaround. “Especially with Andre building up his minutes, another good reason to start him and make sure those guys are together.”

Frank, who dropped pretty strong hints on Thursday that Drummond’s return would come tonight against Toronto, said Drummond had been told just before he got hurt that he was moving into the starting lineup. The move would have come in the days just before the All-Star break, Frank said.

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Posted Thursday, March 28, 2013

Never having been drafted, Jose Calderon came to the NBA unlike the vast majority of players who wind up leaving anything approaching a legacy. Or maybe not so much unlike them after all. Yes, Calderon signed with Toronto as a free agent – but only because Toronto was the one NBA team that went after the slight point guard from Spain.

“I really didn’t have so many options at that time, I’ve got to say,” Calderon smiled. “It’s not like I had five or six teams out there making me an offer. Toronto, they wanted me to travel to Toronto and see the city, they were really interested, so they give me the contract I was looking for so I could pay my way out. It wasn’t too many offers I had to choose. It was just them.”

Twice over the next four days, Calderon will compete against players who wear the only NBA uniform he’d donned until the late-January trade uprooted him and dropped him in Detroit. He’s not expecting to be emotionally overwrought when the Raptors play at The Palace on Friday, but when the Pistons repay the visit on Monday at Air Canada Centre … well, that might shake him a little.

Continue Reading Hello, Goodbye>>

Posted Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lawrence Frank wouldn’t commit to Andre Drummond being in uniform and available to play when Toronto comes to The Palace on Friday, but he certainly circled close to such an admission.

“In terms of tomorrow, I’ll give you that answer tomorrow,” Frank said after a Thursday practice he described as one with “good spirit, good energy, good effort” – perhaps, in some measure, because Drummond was again a full participant and spent a good chunk of it playing alongside Greg Monroe.

“We may want to create a competitive situation where we may not want to tell Toronto exactly what we’re doing,” Frank grinned. “That may be a part of it, too.”

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Posted Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lawrence Frank anticipated giving the Pistons the day off on Wednesday. That was clearly what the calendar dictated with 72 games of pounding on the knees and backs of his players and two days off before the Pistons host Toronto to start another stretch of three games in four nights.

But the ghoulish specter of Tuesday’s 23-point dousing by the Minnesota Timberwolves needed to be purged and so …

“They needed to watch it,” Frank said after a practice light on the physical and heavy on the mental. “When you get embarrassed like we got embarrassed, it’s important to see it as opposed to waiting another day and letting it linger – address it.”

Continue Reading Home Stretch>>

Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2013

During a home losing drought that now stretches out nearly six weeks, the Pistons could at least say they had lost to all quality basketball teams. Until Tuesday night, at least. The Minnesota Timberwolves, whose season ran off the rails a long time ago due to an overwhelming run of injuries, outscored the Pistons by 22 in the third quarter and led by 28 after three quarters.

They heard those diehard home fans who’ve stuck with them through a disappointing season boo them off the floor at that point.

“They deserve to,” said Lawrence Frank, upbeat after the 1-1 road trip last weekend that included hanging tough with the rampaging Miami Heat and winning in the final minute against a Charlotte team that had won two straight and three of five, after the 105-82 final. “We get what we deserved. The fans that are coming out, these guys are loyal fans. We have 24 wins and we only have a handful of home games left. These guys are loyalists. We deserve to be booed. That comes with the territory. We have to give them a better product and we didn’t do it tonight.”

Read More>>

Posted Monday, March 25, 2013

If you were looking for a compelling reason to pay attention to the final 11 games of the Pistons’ season, how about the anticipated return of Andre Drummond? It’s probably coming soon – but it won’t be Tuesday when the Pistons host Minnesota.

“He’s on course to get back and we’ll just read it,” Lawrence Frank said on Monday after Drummond went through his second full practice, in addition to participating in the last two game-day shootarounds, since suffering a stress fracture in his lower back in early February, 21 games ago. “It’s very encouraging, what you see, but as much as you try to simulate it, practice isn’t an NBA game. But he’s working hard and it’s great to see him back on the court.”

Drummond’s first practice came on Thursday before the Pistons played a weekend back-to-back set at Miami and Charlotte, where their losing streak was extended to 10 games on Friday before it was snapped on Saturday. The team didn’t practice on Sunday, but Drummond worked with Frank’s staff and got in another conditioning session.

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Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013

The last time Joe Dumars made an in-season trade for a high-profile veteran on an expiring contract he intended to pursue in free agency, it was 2004. The player was Rasheed Wallace and the best sales tool Joe D had at his disposal was the NBA championship run on which the Goin’ to Work Pistons embarked.

He has no such aphrodisiac by which to woo Jose Calderon.

“Obviously, it’s a different, different team – a younger team that’s trying to build vs. a team that’s vying for a championship, so that in itself makes the experience completely and totally different,” Dumars told me last week. “But a guy can still make a decision based on the environment, based on the culture, based on the surroundings, the way an organization goes about its business.

alt= "Continue Reading Joe D on Calderon: ‘A Big Fan’>>

Posted Saturday, March 23, 2013

CHARLOTTE – For the second time in 24 hours, the Pistons found themselves up against an opponent working on a rare winning streak: 24 straight in Miami’s case, two in Charlotte’s. Snicker if you will, but the last time the Bobcats had done so was way back in mid-November, and the redemptive combination of two wins plus two days off made Charlotte a more formidable opponent than its 16-40 record suggested.

Especially at a time the Pistons are enduring the throes of their own streak, 10 straight losses after Friday’s setback to the sizzling Heat in which they invested what energy and emotion they had left following a disheartening stretch of basketball.

So their 92-91 win over Charlotte will get lost in the hubbub of March Madness, but the mixture of joy and relief on all of their faces was palpable when Charlie Villanueva secured a loose rebound before the buzzer sounded and his teammates converged on him in celebration.

alt= "Continue Reading Skinning the Cats">>

Posted Friday, March 22, 2013

MIAMI – It was the loss the world expected but for the longest time it didn’t follow the plot anyone anticipated. And the 103-89 loss to Miami – the Pistons’ 10th straight setback, the Heat’s 25th straight win – or at least the first three quarters of it, should serve as the blueprint for how they conduct their business over the final 12 games of a season fraught with disappointment.

“I think this is our team,” Jose Calderon said. “This is the team we’ve got to be. It’s not about winning or losing at this time of the season. It’s about showing what we can do, have pride, play 48 minutes. They’re a great team, but I think we gave it our best. It’s not like they just beat us. They beat 24 teams before us. I think a lot of people expected us to come here and they beat us by 40 or 50. That’s not going to happen. We’ve got to be positive with the effort we (gave) tonight. That’s for sure.”

The Pistons led for almost all of the first three quarters, and by as much as 11 points in the first half. Miami came with all of its defensive fury in the second half, holding the Pistons to 35 points and 30 percent shooting after a 54-point first half in which the Pistons shot 52 percent. Turnovers were especially costly: The Pistons committed 22 and the Heat pounced on them for 27 points.

Continue Reading Streaks Stay Alive>>

Posted Friday, March 22, 2013

Joe Dumars wasn’t really worried about how Brandon Knight would take the news of Jose Calderon, the dictionary definition of a point guard, joining the Pistons in a late January trade. Dumars knows ultimately that Knight’s abiding interest is in winning. But he had a few good, long heart-to-heart talks, anyway, with the player who had occupied that position for virtually all of his first 100-plus NBA games.

“I said, ‘Brandon, just understand something. This doesn’t mean you’re not going to handle the ball any more. We’re going to get stops and rebounds and we’ll kick it out to you. You’re going to push the ball and attack, run drag screens and come off and, yeah, you’re going to do all of that. Trust me. You can have two guards in the backcourt who can handle the ball. It’ll work. It’ll work.’ ”

Between the first two injuries of his career that cost Knight games – a hyperextended right knee that sidelined him for three games in late February and a sprained left ankle that will keep him out of his fourth consecutive game at Miami tonight – the 21-year-old Knight has given clear signs that he could flourish playing off of the ball.

Read More>>

Posted Thursday, March 21, 2013

Joe Dumars spent all of last week scouring the talent pool for June’s NBA draft at various conference tournaments from Las Vegas to New York. So where would Andre Drummond go if he had waited for the 2013 draft instead of leaving UConn after an uneven freshman season?

“Let’s just say he would go really high,” Dumars said after a good belly laugh. “Really high.”

If the low point of the Pistons season was learning of the diagnosis of a stress fracture in the rookie’s lower back, it’s overwhelmed by the transformative effect Drummond’s emergence has had on the future of the franchise.

Continue Reading Joe D: On Drummond>>

Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When the Pistons scout upcoming opponents, they look at the most relevant information – which is the most recent information. They look, specifically, at the last five games to gauge lineup combinations, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

They hold themselves up against the same standard – the last five games.

Lawrence Frank isn’t going to like what he sees when that report hits his desk.

The Pistons gave up 112 points a game on their 0-4 West Coast road trip last week when opponents shot 55 percent and only Portland, which scored 112 on the nose, made fewer than half of its shots. The Palace proved no elixir upon their return, either, as Brooklyn started a stretch of eight consecutive road games on the right foot by dropping 119 points on the Pistons and shooting 54 percent.

Continue Reading Defensive Doldrums>>

Posted Monday, March 18, 2013

Andre Drummond was a big part of the Pistons’ improved defense over the season’s first 50 games – and maybe a bigger part than even they realized at the time – but Lawrence Frank’s faith that defense will be the touchstone for a franchise renaissance transcends roster makeup and goes to mind-set.

“The thing that we have to restore is pride in being a Piston,” Frank said. “As we’ve struggled post-All-Star break, that’s one of the things that stands out. As you have time to reflect, that’s something that stands out to me. We have to, every single day, figure out a way to restore the pride in being a part of this team, because we’re a whole lot more capable than what we’re doing.”

He said that before Monday’s game, when the Pistons suffered a particularly one-sided loss, falling by 37 points – their worst home loss of the season and second only to their March 3 39-point loss at San Antonio among all games – to the Brooklyn Nets. Almost every ugly loss of the season has come over the past month since returning from the All-Star break.

Continue Reading A Long Night>>

Posted Saturday, March 16, 2013

PORTLAND – On a list that also must include David West and Luis Scola, count LaMarcus Aldridge as a power forward who bedevils the Pistons. Aldridge did it again Saturday night, opening the fourth quarter by scoring on each of Portland’s first four possessions on his way to another monstrous night at Detroit’s expense.

Aldridge scored on increasingly tough jump shots on Portland’s first three trips of the final quarter, after the Pistons had lost an 11-point first-half lead but were still squarely in contention. On the fourth trip, Jason Maxiell, already giving Aldridge precious little breathing room, got too close and fouled him, and Aldridge drained both free throws.

“As great a job as Jason Maxiell was doing on him, he made two or three shots that I don’t even know how he made them, quite honestly,” Brian Hill said after Portland’s 112-101 win. “He hurt us in the second half.”

Continue Reading Trip-ped Up>>

Posted Friday, March 15, 2013

PORTLAND – When Pistons executive George David dug into Kyle Singler’s Duke career and talked to the staff that had coached him for four years, he kept hearing a similar refrain: We don’t feel comfortable when he’s not on the floor. Pistons coaches discovered the same thing in Summer League, playing him all 20 minutes of the second half one game and then shutting him down to remove the temptation to keep doing so.

So imagine how Dennis Murphy felt while coaching Singler in high school.

“It gets back to he’s so competitive, so tenacious and so smart,” Murphy said. “The result is, how do you take the guy off the floor? That’s exactly who he is.”

Murphy has grown South Medford High School in Medford, Ore., a city of 75,000 about 270 miles south of Portland near the California border, into a state power during his 25 years at the school, winning 17 conference championships. But his best teams were the ones that included Singler, a four-year varsity letter-winner who led the Panthers to consecutive state title appearances where they ran into a familiar opponent led by another pretty fair player: Lake Oswego and Kevin Love.

Continue Reading 'A Tremendous Ornery Streak'>>

Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013

If a point guard is the equivalent of a quarterback when his team is on offense, then a center’s responsibilities translate with equal appropriateness to those of a middle linebacker. A center must serve as the eyes for perimeter defenders unaware of what’s happening behind them, must help teammates get in the proper position as he anticipates the action of the play unfolding.

One critical component of the smothering defensive ability of the Goin’ to Work Pistons was the communication skills of Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, not only intelligent individual defenders but players able and willing to vocalize their observations.

And that quality might be the key to Slava Kravtsov carving out a career in the NBA. Gifted with a rare combination of size and athleticism to be a premier shot-blocker and intimidating defensive presence, Kravtsov’s ability to force his way into a more prominent role with the Pistons depends on his abilities to learn the nuances of NBA post defense and to communicate the proper defensive calls as part of a big man’s responsibilities.

Continue Reading Communication the Key>>

Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. – Down two key players in Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight, the Pistons saw in Wednesday’s loss at Golden State what could be when they’re healthy and they get the kind of production out of two key positions lacking for much of the season.

Rodney Stuckey, starting for the injured Brandon Knight, scored 22 points and got to the foul line six times. Hard to believe he went three straight games earlier this month without a basket, but when Stuckey is attacking the basket and getting to the foul line the Pistons have a much different offensive dynamic. Stuckey led five Pistons in double figures as they came back from double-digit deficits in both halves and pushed a hot Golden State team to the final minute before losing 105-97.

“We’re dangerous with Stuck attacking like that,” said Will Bynum, who added 16 points and four assists off the bench. “Nobody can guard him when he’s attacking. We need that from him.”

Stuckey, who added five assists, has had success both as a starter and a reserve, so he wasn’t assigning his success to being back in the starting lineup after Knight rolled his left ankle in Monday’s loss at Golden State. But he did attribute it to having more opportunities to play to his strength.

Continue Reading Battling in the Bay>>

Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Lugging a six-game losing streak with them up the West Coast, it speaks to the turn the Pistons’ season has taken that the first questions put to their coach is now the injury report. It really speaks to the turn the season has taken that the coach is Brian Hill, standing in for Lawrence Frank, who has been away from the team for 10 days at the side of his wife, Susan, as she deals with a health issue in New Jersey.

Jason Maxiell, who missed Monday’s loss at Utah after spraining his right ankle in Sunday’s game with the Clippers, went through shootaround and is expected to play tonight at Golden State.

That’s the good news. Two players central to their future, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight, remain sidelined. Both worked with strength coach Arnie Kander on conditioning and rehabilitation as shootaround concluded, Knight – minus the crutches that carried out of him Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City two nights earlier – walking in place while Kander directed hand movements for him at one point.

Continue Reading Max Expected Back>>

Posted Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To be certain, what happens in Las Vegas this week will not stay in Las Vegas. It will be taken back to 30 NBA cities and discussed among colleagues openly and at length.

It might be late in the college basketball season, but it’s early in the process of assessing college players. And that assessment is going to take place this week mostly in Las Vegas, where four separate conference tournaments will be held.

That explains why the top two Pistons executives, Joe Dumars and George David, merely hitched a ride west on Roundball One over the weekend with the Pistons headed to Los Angeles to start a weeklong, four-game trip up the Pacific Coast.

Dumars and David watched the Pistons lose to the Clippers on Sunday night, then stayed behind when the team left for Utah after the game. They both headed instead to Las Vegas, which this week serves as the intersection for the West Coast Conference, which wrapped up its tournament Monday night with Gonzaga beating Saint Mary’s for the title at Orleans Arena; the Pacific-12, which starts Wednesday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; the Western Athletic, which starts today at Orleans; and the Mountain West, which starts today at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Continue Reading Vegas Revue>>

Posted Monday, March 11, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY – After the insult for Brandon Knight came the injury.

One night after he challenged a DeAndre Jordan dunk and lost, Knight went down in a heap under the basket early in Monday’s loss at Utah with a sprained left ankle. Knight clutched at his leg as he was falling to the court and appeared to be in tremendous pain. As Pistons trainers Arnie Kander and Mike Abdenour tended to him, he removed his mouthpiece and flung it over the backboard. When he was assisted to his feet, Knight could put no weight on his left leg.

On crutches afterward, Knight said he feared it might have been something worse than a sprain at first.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure,” he said. “Normally, when I sprain my ankle, I have the power to at least walk off the court. I turn ’em and I can walk it off. But this one, the pain wasn’t going away and I couldn’t put any pressure on it.”

The pall of Knight’s injury overshadowed a much better performance by the Pistons than they registered in Sunday’s 32-point loss to the Clippers. Trailing by 18 late in the first half, they put up 33 points in the third quarter to close to within six and had it at five with eight minutes to play. But playing shorthanded – they went the whole game without Jason Maxiell, as well – the Pistons simply didn’t have enough firepower to win in a building where they last won nearly 11 years ago.

Continue Reading That Hurts>>

Posted Sunday, March 10, 2013

LOS ANGELES – The Pistons are 0-11 on the road against Western Conference teams this season. If they’re going to pick up any wins on the four-game swing up the Pacific Coast this week, they’re going to need to be better by a wide margin at both ends of the floor and between the lines than they were in getting thumped 129-97 by the Clippers in Sunday night’s opener.

Mostly, they’re going to have to be better between the ears and, as the Pistons themselves asserted, they’re going to have to display a lot more heart.

“There was just no effort, no fight,” Greg Monroe said, clearly upset and clearly sending a message. “It was an embarrassment. Maybe guys don’t care. Something has to change, though. This can’t continue. If you don’t want to play, just say it. This has got to stop. This is unacceptable.”

The Clippers scored a dozen more points than the Pistons had allowed in any previous game in regulation this season – they also scored three more than Atlanta managed in double overtime in December – and they did it with six minutes to spare. It was a parade of uncontested dunks and unguarded 3-pointers as the Clippers shot more than 60 percent in every quarter except the third, when they shot 58 percent.

No one is more central to the future of the Pistons than Andre Drummond. They hope Jose Calderon becomes a part of that future, as well. But Calderon hits free agency when the season ends and there’s no guarantee that one component critical to his evaluation process – how he meshes with Andre Drummond – will have entered anything into evidence for him when he weighs all factors.

“It would be great, for sure,” Calderon told me before the Pistons headed out on a weeklong Western Conference road swing. “It was great, the way he was playing and the way he was playing the pick and roll – and that’s what I do. I’d love to have time to play with him, for sure. It could be fun, but the more important thing is for him to get fully healthy and ready. When he’s ready, he’ll be back. If it’s 10 games, good. If it’s three, good. Whatever it is will be is OK.”

Drummond has missed the last 14 games with a stress fracture in the fifth lumbar vertabra. The initial timetable given for his return was four to six weeks. There have been no setbacks in his recovery, but logic dictates that the Pistons are going to err on the side of caution twice over where Drummond is concerned. The worst case would be to come back too soon and suffer a setback that wipes out a good chunk of Drummond’s off-season program, a time when the Pistons hope they can really accelerate his growth.

Continue Reading Test Run>>

Posted Friday, March 8, 2013

Before Brian Hill pulled a lineup out of the hat and Friday night turned sideways, it looked like you could cross out the names of Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert and substitute Mike James, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter. It looked, in other words, as if the story of Friday’s loss to Dallas was going to basically steal its plot line from Wednesday’s loss to New York: a flurry of 3-pointers doing in the Pistons once again.

The Pistons were hanging around, as they’d done with the Knicks, when three triples on three possessions turned a tie into a runaway. Against the Mavs, a five-point hole after three quarters became a 15-point canyon in the course of just 137 seconds as ex-Piston Mike James and ex-superstar Vince Carter each drained a pair of triples over the span of six Dallas possessions.

A 24-8 run later, the Pistons most improbably led 97-96, the comeback spurred by two players who didn’t play in the loss to New York. Rookie Khris Middleton scored a career-high 14 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter, and Charlie Villaneuva added 12, all in the final period after not entering the game until very late in the third quarter.

Continue Reading Downed by Dallas>>

Posted Thursday, March 7, 2013

Brian Hill isn’t sure how long he’ll keep Lawrence Frank’s seat warm while the Pistons coach is home in New Jersey as his wife deals with an illness, but it didn’t take him long to adjust to sliding over 12 inches on the bench.

Make that “readjust.” Hill isn’t exactly an NBA head coaching novice. Over nine seasons – two stops in Orlando sandwiched around a stint with the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies – he coached 613 NBA games. And his 298-315 record would look a lot better if not for the two-plus seasons nursing the baby Grizzlies along to a 31-123 record.

“It didn’t really feel a whole lot different,” Hill said the day after the shorthanded Pistons – playing without not only Andre Drummond but Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva – rallied to take a 10-point lead over the Knicks but ran out of gas in an 87-77 loss. “Probably the hardest part was the opponent in that New York is one of the more difficult teams to play against when you’re making an adjustment like this from one coach to another because they’re a much different team defensively than any other team that we play. But as far as reading defensive situations and making offensive adjustments, it’s basically the same. I don’t know that you lose anything just because you’re one seat removed.”

Hill’s primary role during games at Frank’s side is to be his eyes and ears defensively, just as John Loyer takes the lead on the offensive side. Dee Brown moves into that role while Hill stands in for Frank.

Continue Reading Back in the Saddle>>

Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Pistons ran out of big guys, ran out of gas and ran out of runs. Against a team that had thumped them in their first three meetings, it didn’t help that the Pistons were without Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva on top of Andre Drummond, meaning three-quarters of the frontcourt rotation employed for the bulk of the season’s first 50 games watched the game in street clothes.

Yet there they were, sprinting out of the halftime locker room on an 18-4 tear to eventually stretch their lead to 10 points with less than three minutes left in the third quarter.

And all that against the Knicks, who’d won the season’s first three games by a combined 50 points and led at halftime by an average of 18.7 points. They eventually won by double digits again, though barely at 87-77, but how they got there was … well, weird.

Continue Reading Snowed Under>>

Posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If the Pistons needed any motivation beyond erasing the sting of the season’s worst defeat – Sunday’s 39-point loss at San Antonio – to rivet attention for their next game, the New York Knicks ought to do it.

Struggling defensively over the past month, no opponent figures to perk up their ears quite like the Knicks, who have averaged 107.3 points against the Pistons in three easy wins.

The most competitive of the three – which have finished with margins of 21, 15 and 14 points – was the January game in London, when the Pistons recovered from an early 18-4 hole to climb within four points late in the third quarter. The other two games were both at Madison Square Garden. Their average deficit after one quarter against the Knicks has been 12.3 points and the average halftime margin has been 18.7 points.

Continue Reading High Alert>>

Posted Monday, March 4, 2013

After enduring the season’s most thorough thrashing Sunday at San Antonio – a team armed with motivation on many fronts – Lawrence Frank laid bare the challenge now facing the Pistons. With the playoffs all but officially out of reach, the driving motivational force on a collective level is pride.

Taken a step beyond, many Pistons have ample reason to play out the season to the fullest extent of their capacity – and the front office and coaching staffs will focus their full attention on evaluation with a critical off-season a few short months off.

Read More>>

Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013

SAN ANTONIO – If San Antonio’s hottest pursuers in the West believe the Spurs vulnerable without Tony Parker over the next month, they might want to avoid watching the tape of their Sunday dismantling of the Pistons.

“It was a clinic tape,” Lawrence Frank said after the 114-75 hurting the Spurs applied. “You know what’s coming but we couldn’t stop it. We could have done a whole lot more to put more into the game to give ourselves a chance, but we didn’t. That’s a credit to the champs. That’s the blueprint. That’s what it looks like.”

Nobody has faced a worse confluence of factors here since 100 brave Texans tried to defend the Alamo.

Continue Reading "Trouble in Texas>>

Posted Saturday, March 2, 2013

NEW ORLEANS – Jose Calderon’s assists-to-turnover ratio is almost perfectly aligned with his games-to-practices ratio with the Pistons. Both are running at slightly better than four to one.

When the Pistons practiced on the campus of Georgetown University between the Washington and New Orleans legs of their three-game road trek that concludes Sunday at San Antonio, it was Calderon’s third practice with the Pistons since coming in trade in late January but needing to wait five days for visa issues to be resolved.

Six hours after government hurdles were cleared, Calderon was in the starting lineup at Madison Square Garden. A game-heavy schedule and the All-Star break further limited Calderon’s opportunity to practice, which means game days – from the hour-long morning shootarounds to the games themselves – have been used for on-the-fly acclimation: Calderon to his teammates and them to him.

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Posted Friday, March 1, 2013

When the NBA schedule comes out, players trace their fingers down the list of road games looking for the dates that bring them back to familiar haunts. For Greg Monroe, the NBA dropped him in his two most meaningful cities for consecutive games.

Monroe and the Pistons beat Washington at the Verizon Center, where Georgetown plays its home games, on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Pistons practiced at McDonough Gymnasium, where he not only spent his practice days during two seasons with the Hoyas but returns in the summer to continue refining his game. And then it was on to New Orleans, where Monroe spent his first 18 years and led Helen Cox High to the 2008 Louisiana state title.

“I’ve got to thank the NBA for this trip,” Monroe said after Friday’s shootaround at New Orleans Arena in preparation for tonight’s game with the Hornets. “Got to see some friends in DC, got all my family down here. So, thank you. Shoutout to the NBA.”

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