True Blue Pistons - April 2011

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.

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

Read Keith's Blog Archives

Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011
Lottery FAQ
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

The Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers ended the 2009-10 season with identical 27-55 records, necessitating a draw to determine which one would go into the May lottery slotted in the No. 6 position and which in the No. 7 position in case neither drew into the top three.

The 76ers won that tiebreaker. And it also allowed them to draw into the top three. Even though each team had the same chance to land the No. 1 pick – a 5.3 percent chance, combining the 6.3 percent chance the No. 6 position merited with the 4.3 percent chance allotted the No. 7 position – the NBA needed to differentiate one from the other not only to determine who would pick sixth and seventh, but also to identify which lottery combination belonged to which team should one get lucky and draw a top-three pick.

Confused?

The following FAQ will answer most of your questions about how the NBA draft lottery works. But first consider how different things might have played out had the Pistons won that coin flip.

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Posted Monday, April 25, 2011
Closing the Gap
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

How wide is the gulf between 30- and 60-win teams in today’s NBA? Maybe not as pronounced as conventional wisdom suggests.

Chicago got to 62 wins this season despite playing large chunks of the schedule without either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer. Indiana won 25 fewer games to earn the East’s No. 8 seed. The Bulls are almost certain to win their first-round playoff series after taking a 3-0 lead, but the Pacers could just as easily be up 3-1 instead of down by that count heading to Tuesday’s Game 5.

And even the most pessimistic Pistons fan would concede it’s not a stretch to believe the Pistons could finish ahead of Indiana in next year’s standings.

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Posted Thursday, April 21, 2011
Silver Lining
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Jonas Jerebko can’t be 100 percent certain he’ll still be a Piston whenever the next NBA season picks up, but he’s already envisioning playing in a frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Austin Daye.

“You obviously do think about it,” he said this week. “My, Greg and AD could do some good things. All of us want to get better and work hard. It would be fun.”

That frontcourt got limited time together in Las Vegas last summer, during the NBA Summer league, but Jerebko and Daye both missed games with minor injuries and Monroe was a long way from the player who began posting routine double-doubles once he moved into the starting lineup in January. Monroe’s metamorphosis, Jerebko admits, is something he could not have envisioned.

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Posted Monday, April 18, 2011
Taking Shape
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

On the 83 percent likelihood that the Pistons will draft seventh or eighth – they have a combined 15 percent chance to move into one of the top three spots – the decisions by Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Harrison Barnes to return to college will shrink the pool of candidates capable of making an immediate impact for them next season.

The draft evaluation process doesn’t stop when the college season ends, of course. That’s just one phase of it. So opinions of many players can and will change in the two months between now and the June 23 draft. A year ago at this time, it was unfathomable that Ekpe Udoh would be picked ahead of Greg Monroe, yet that’s just what happened.

So we can’t definitively say that Sullinger, Jones and Barnes, had they undergone the draft process – been measured and interviewed in Chicago at the May draft combine and gone through the paces at individual workouts for lottery teams – would have wound up being taken ahead of the No. 7 pick. But all three seemed very likely to be picked in the top six, based on potential and production.

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Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011
On Deck
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Joe Dumars was sifting through the remains of his team’s 30-win season on Thursday, darting in and out of meetings. That’s a process that will continue over the next several days, but not much longer than that. The focus is about to go full bore on the future. And the most immediate channel that must be navigated to get there is the draft.

On all calendars in the offices that back up next to Joe D’s on the second floor of the Pistons’ practice facility, a few key dates are circled. The first is April 24, the deadline for players not automatically eligible for the draft to declare their intention to be included.

Next is May 8. That’s the NCAA-mandated deadline for underclassmen who wish to retain their college eligibility to withdraw from the draft. May 17 will be the draft lottery, where the Pistons will learn how narrow or broad their focus will be in poring over candidates for their first-round pick. Then comes June 13, the NBA’s deadline for withdrawal from the draft, which has become a de facto deadline date only for internationals. Finally, the draft itself is set for June 23.

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Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011
One for the Road
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

A season that saw the Pistons find a new owner and a big man to build around but never the chemistry to foster momentum toward a playoff push ended with a modicum of momentum: four wins in five games, highlighted by Rodney Stuckey’s renaissance, including his 29 points to lead the 104-100 win over playoff-bound Philadelphia in the finale.

That left the Pistons at 30-52, a three-win improvement over their injury-scuttled 2009-10 season. It will go down as an eminently disappointing year for the Pistons, one that began with hopes that a deep and versatile roster would compensate well enough for the lack of a certified All-Star to challenge for a bottom-four playoff spot in an Eastern Conference weighted at the top with legitimate NBA title contenders.

The Pistons lost too many winnable games over the first half of the season, dropping their first three games despite holding either last-minute or double-digit leads into the second half. Now their future rests in the hands of Joe Dumars, who must decide if he can trust that what he saw over the final five games from Stuckey can be sustained over 82 games.

The answer won’t necessarily decide whether or not Stuckey returns – as a pending restricted free agent, Stuckey is a player Dumars has consistently included as among the future core – but what other moves Joe D prioritizes on a roster heavy with wing players.

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Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The Road to Return
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Parents instinctively break into a cold sweat when the phone rings in the lonely predawn hours, no matter what age their children have reached. So Chris and Elaine Jerebko weren’t banking on good news when they were jarred to consciousness on the first Wednesday of October last fall.

In the grand scheme of things, the news certainly could have been worse. But it was devastating enough: Jonas, their firstborn, coming off a banner summer when he carried the Swedish national team on his shoulders to first place in its group in pre-Olympic qualifying, and very much looking forward to a big second season with the Pistons, hadn’t gotten out of the first quarter of the first preseason game unscathed.

“Arnie (Kander) called from the training room,” Chris recalled. “It was about 3 in the morning and it was just … the phone rang, we woke up and it was a shocker.”

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Posted Monday, April 11, 2011
Furious Finale
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

The last glimpse home fans got of the Pistons was their 2010-11 season in microcosm, complete with a Charlie Villanueva ejection after a confrontation with Cleveland’s Ryan Hollins that symbolized the frustration and tumult of a year that never quite gained the traction needed for an honest run at the playoffs.

Ultimately, the home finale ended the way too many other nights over the course of their season ended – in defeat.

The Pistons – playing without Tracy McGrady, Will Bynum and Ben Wallace, not to mention Jonas Jerebko, whose injury in the first quarter of the preseason opener set an ominous tone – lost 110-101 to Cleveland, which saw four bench players score in double figures.

But the takeaway from the game will be the wrestling and shoving that ensued when Villanueva and Hollins locked up after Villanueva attempted to set a pick. Villanueva made contact low, then Hollins responded by grabbing Villanueva around the shoulders and walking him back. That’s when Villanueva’s arms came up and teammates from both sides moved in to prevent either one from throwing a punch.

After the referees huddled and ejected both, Villanueva needed to be restrained by Rodney Stuckey and others as he attempted to get at Hollins. Villaneuva needed to be restrained again later, underneath the stands, from entering Cleveland’s locker room to further engage Hollins.

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Posted Sunday, April 10, 2011
3-Game Streak
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Sluggish start, fast finish. It wasn’t just the story of the Pistons’ night, when they allowed Charlotte 40 first-quarter points and trailed by 15 only to win by 11, it looks like it’s becoming the story of their season. Sunday’s win was their third straight, though the comeback began too late to put the Pistons in position to make a run at the playoffs.

The Pistons won the game the way they thought they would win a lot of them this season – with their depth.

A second unit that consisted of Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, Austin Daye and Jason Maxiell first helped cut into that early 15-point deficit by holding Charlotte to 19 second-quarter points, then preserved a lead the starters built in the third quarter so well that John Kuester allowed them to go the distance in the fourth quarter.

“We weren’t playing defense in the first quarter,” said Stuckey, who led them with 24 points and 11 assists and played the entire second half, starting for Tracy McGrady after halftime on a night Will Bynum (knee strain) was again unavailable. “We just came out in the second quarter, the second group came in, we got back in the game. Then the third quarter, we came out and got stops. We were running on them and got some easy baskets and that gave us the lead.”

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Posted Friday, April 8, 2011
Finishing Kick
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Joe Dumars and John Hammond shared great successes during their run together as president and vice president of the Pistons, but this year what they’ve mostly shared is frustration and disappointment. When the NBA schedule came out last summer, the Pistons president and Bucks general manager almost surely figured that their April 8 meeting at The Palace would have playoff implications.

Instead, it was two teams waiting for a season of hard knocks to come to a close and shifting their organizational focus to the June draft and the May lottery where franchise fortunes can be changed by the drop of a ping-pong ball.

The Pistons missed the playoffs a year ago, after an injury-wracked season, following eight straight years of postseason play including six straight trips to the conference finals and an NBA title. The Bucks, in Hammond’s second year since leaving the Pistons, ended their playoff drought last season and fortified over the summer by picking up talents like Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden.

But not much went right for either team this season. One of the biggest drags on Milwaukee’s season was the uneven return from serious elbow injury by Andrew Bogut, who was in street clothes Friday night, shut down for the season and scheduled for more surgery on the elbow he injured late last season.

That tipped the misfortune scales to the Pistons, who capitalized on Milwaukee’s lack of punch with a 110-100 win on the day it was announced that owner Karen Davidson had struck a deal with Tom Gores to buy the team, pending NBA approval.

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Posted Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Twilight Zone
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Rodney Stuckey went from never leaving the bench to never getting back to it.

Benched for the past two games by John Kuester, Stuckey returned to the lineup late in Wednesday night’s first quarter. By the time the second half started, he was the only point guard standing. Kuester said he didn’t plan on playing Tracy McGrady after he gave him nearly 30 hard minutes the previous night and Will Bynum came up with a strained right knee just before halftime.

“He said, ‘I’ll go the whole half for you,’ ” Kuester said “He was very engaged during the game, did a great job.”

Stuckey looked a little overeager at times, with three quick turnovers, but he gave the Pistons 22 points and 10 assists in 34 minutes as they overcame a sluggish first half and snapped a four-game losing streak by beating a diminished New Jersey team – minus All-Star Deron Williams, leading rebounder Kris Humphries and sharpshooter Anthony Morrow – 116-109.

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Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Tough-Luck Loss
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

Since Flip Saunders took over a Washington team he saw as an Eastern Conference darkhorse contender less than two years ago, the Wizards have dumped Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, won the lottery and turned the franchise over to the fruits of that good fortune, John Wall.

Right about now, the Wizards might be the only one of the six teams that picked ahead of the Pistons last June not rethinking their draft-day decision. Greg Monroe, who fell to the Pistons at No. 7, made his NBA debut in the arena he called home for his two years at Georgetown and didn’t disappoint those who came to the Verizon Center to see him.

Monroe played perhaps his finest all-around game yet, scoring 22 and grabbing 14 rebounds while chipping in with four assists, four steals and a blocked shot. He went to the foul line 10 times and knocked down the first eight of them.

It will be the last two he took, though – misses with 10 seconds left and the Pistons trailing by two – that will haunt him.

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Posted Sunday, April 3, 2011
Out of Gas
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

The Pistons last visited Boston for Game 42, the start of the season’s second half, and though they lost that night, they left the TD Garden feeling as optimistic about their season as they had since its start.

They were coming off an impressive home win over Dallas and made the Celtics go to their passing gear that night of Jan. 19, when they lost by four points after leading deep into the fourth quarter.

Those good feelings have long since evaporated. This time the Pistons came to Boston fresh off of a Friday loss to Chicago that made official what has seemed inevitable for weeks: They would not participate in the playoffs for the second straight year after having the NBA’s third-longest active streak of postseason participation, behind only San Antonio and Dallas, snapped in the 2009-10 season.

The Pistons played a spirited first half, but when Boston went to that passing gear in the third quarter the Pistons didn’t have a lot of fight left in them in Game 76 with a season’s worth of disappointments behind them.

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Posted Friday, April 1, 2011
Misfiring in Milwaukee
by Keith Langlois, Pistons.com | @Keith_Langlois

The video compilation that began Dennis Rodman’s jersey retirement ceremony showed him in all his familiar poses.

Rodman parallel to the court, a heat-seeking missile in pursuit of the basketball, crashing into the expensive seats, oblivious to the likelihood he would arise short a tooth or with a finger pointed in the wrong direction.

Rodman springing from out of the frame to engulf a rebound, toss an outlet pass to mid-court, sprint by everyone to fill a wing, take a return pass, cradle the basketball like an orange in his oversized mitt, toss it from one hand to the other, suspended in mid-air while the mortals around him alit, and finish what he began at the other end with a basket.

Rodman with that right index finger in the air, Rodman running with those arms and legs pumping, Rodman picking up Isiah in a bear hug, Rodman taking a charge, Rodman putting the essence of Dennis Rodman into everything he ever did while wearing the Pistons No. 10 that Friday night took its rightful place in The Palace rafters next to Isiah’s 11 and Joe D’s 4 and Chuck Daly’s 2.

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