2 Out, Russell Added

Stuckey, Bynum out for Memphis, so Pistons add D-League star

Walker Russell, Jr. was called up from the D-League to fortify the injury-depleted Piston backcourt.
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Remember last season when the Pistons had too many guards and not enough minutes? Yeah, well that’s not a problem any more.

The Pistons go into a weekend back-to-back set at The Palace against Memphis and Portland tonight without both Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, leaving Ben Gordon and Brandon Knight to devour as many minutes as they can and opening the door for Walker Russell Jr. – rushed up from Fort Wayne of the D-League – to get immediate playing time.

“His plane lands at 11,” Lawrence Frank said after the morning shootaround. “He’ll get in here and we’ll give him a crash course. Not only will he be ready to play, he’ll play.”

At least the Pistons won’t have to worry about Russell getting lost on his way from the airport. Russell is part of Pontiac’s first family of basketball. He grew up in Oakland County and played his high school basketball at Rochester High.

His father, Walker D. Russell, became the third of the Russell brothers to play in the NBA, following in the footsteps of Frank Russell, who played at the University of Detroit and later with the Chicago Bulls for a season, and the great Campy Russell, an All-American at Michigan who became one of the greatest players in Cleveland Cavaliers history, though knee injuries kept him from NBA superstardom. A fourth Russell brother, Walker Jr.’s uncle Larry, also was a top-notch college player at Toledo. Walker D. Russell spent parts of five seasons in the NBA and had three tours with the Pistons, the last one during the 1988 NBA playoffs when they lost to the Lakers in Game 7 of the Finals.

“Pretty strong genes, hey?” Frank said. “I can’t even claim Anne Frank. Or Barney.”

Russell spent training camp with the Pistons and was on the roster for both of their preseason games, so he’s at least familiar with the rudimentary playbook Frank could install in that amount of time. After leaving Rochester High, Russell spent a year at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College and three seasons at Jacksonville (Ala.) State, finishing up in 2006. In addition to his five D-League seasons, he’s spent time playing internationally, as well. He was the top playmaker in the D-League, averaging 16 points and 10 assists so far for the Mad Ants.

“He’s a great kid,” Frank said. “Any time you have someone come from the D-League up here, they’re extremely grateful for the opportunity. We know he’ll play his tail off. He’s played very well down there. He was here. We like to reward those who put forth hard work. Because of the injury situation, it puts us in a situation to reward him and hopefully he’ll contribute.”

Stuckey missed four games earlier this month with a groin strain. He’ll miss at least Friday’s game, Frank said, with general soreness as a result of coming back from that injury.

“Just an accumulation of a lot of games in a small (amount of) time,” Frank said. “We don’t want to push it in terms of him coming back from injury. When you’re out and you play all these games, just with aches and pains … I wouldn’t target it to any one area. Just being safe.”

Bynum suffered a foot sprain in last Friday’s win at Charlotte and hasn’t played since. He took part in Friday’s shootaround but aggravated the injury, Frank said. Charlie Villanueva is “in the ground stages of getting back” from an ankle injury that cropped up in training camp. “Basically, he went through all different types of tests to try to identify what that ankle (injury is). We don’t want to go from treatment to throw him into contact. It’s going to take some time and I leave that up to our training staff.”