Parade of Stars
7 All-Stars coming to The Palace in week leading to break
In the heavy home schedule leading up to next week’s All-Star break, no fewer than seven NBA All-Stars will be coming to town. The All-Star parade through The Palace starts Tuesday night when San Antonio, sporting a gaudy league-best 42-8 record, comes to town with two All-Stars in tow, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
The Spurs felt snubbed, too, because they expected point guard Tony Parker to join the party.
After a quick visit to Cleveland on Wednesday night, where the Cavs are expected to be lugging an NBA-record 25-game losing streak – they’ll set the mark, breaking their own record of 24 straight losses set 29 years ago, by losing at red-hot Dallas on Monday night – the Pistons return home on Friday for the first visit of the season by Miami and its three All-Stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Portland then comes to The Palace on Sunday – the Trail Blazers don’t have any All-Stars, but LaMarcus Aldridge was a strong candidate and believed to be next in line as a replacement candidate after Minnesota’s Kevin Love was picked to stand in for Yao Ming – followed by Atlanta on Monday with its pair of All-Stars, Joe Johnson and Al Horford.
The Hawks, like the Spurs with Parker and the Blazers with Aldridge, felt they should have had another representative in the All-Star game, as well, with Josh Smith perhaps getting beaten out by his own teammate, Horford, for the last frontcourt position on the roster.
The Pistons then wrap up the pre-All-Star break schedule by hosting Indiana, without an All-Star, next Wednesday. That could well turn out to be the most important game of the bunch – but the Pistons almost certainly have to register some wins in the five games before the Pacers visit to make it truly meaningful for playoff purposes.
“We always talk about it being a one-game-at-a-time situation,” John Kuester said after Monday’s practice, the first since the Pistons swept New Jersey and Milwaukee over the weekend to keep flickering playoff hopes burning. “We do know we have some games at home and you’ve got to take care of the home court. I was real proud of the guys the last two games. You put yourself in a position to win games and that’s important. Just keep surging on, taking it one game at a time.”
The Pistons go into the Spurs game five games in the loss column behind both Philadelphia and Indiana, currently sitting in the 7-8 spots in the East. That doesn’t give them much room for error. They can’t afford many more losses like last week’s home setback to Charlotte, another of the many East also-ran contenders.
“It’s going to be important for us to get some wins at home,” Austin Daye said. “To play in the playoffs, you’ve got to protect your home court. We’ve done an OK job of that this year” – the Pistons are 13-11 at home – “but we’ve got to be more focused if we’re going to try to make that eighth spot.”
It would be tough to imagine a better momentum booster than knocking off the Spurs, who were one of the eight fastest teams in NBA history of 40 wins, requiring only 47 games to get there. Of the seven previous teams to get 40 wins in 47 games or less, six won the NBA title.
“The Spurs are always one of those teams that are going to be at the top when you think about championship contenders,” said Ben Wallace, who remembers the 2005 NBA Finals the Spurs won in seven games over his Pistons. “I think this year they’ve proven, more so than any other year, that they’re a team to be reckoned with. I enjoy the challenge.”
If Stuckey returns, where does that leave Hamilton, who scored 15 points in Saturday’s win over Milwaukee after not playing since Jan. 10?
“It’s difficult to play three two-guards at one time,” Kuester said. “We’ve got to see how Stuckey is. It’s difficult. It’s simple math.”