Full Speed Ahead

Stuckey starts to thrive under Frank’s faster tempo

Rodney Stuckey's skill set should thrive under coach Lawrence Frank's tutelage.
J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
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.

Stuckey’s contract status, of course, meant it wasn’t a sure thing he’d return to the Pistons. While negotiations for the restricted free agent played out, Stuckey missed the week-long training camp that laid the foundation for the Pistons’ assimilation of Frank’s offensive and defensive systems.

Six games into the season, almost predictably, Stuckey tweaked a groin muscle and missed four games, then another one five games later as it continued to nag. The injury, the reality that he was using NBA games to achieve the level of conditioning the usual month-long preseason allows, and the fits and starts that have accompanied the team’s sometimes painful transition to Frank’s system have all contributed to inconsistency, both among individual players and the team as a whole.

But the inconsistency is slowly weeding itself out. The Pistons nearly knocked off San Antonio after erasing all of a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter Tuesday, then sprung an upset at Boston on Wednesday against a well-rested Celtics team by dominating the fourth quarter.

Nobody was better those two nights than Stuckey, who followed a 23-point effort against the Spurs with 25 at Boston. His 48 points came on 28 shots – supplemented by 21 free-throw attempts, 18 of them makes. He had 12 assists and only two turnovers. And when Rajon Rondo appeared on the verge of carrying the Celtics on his back to the win, scoring 31 points through three quarters, it was Stuckey who got him under control.

“I think he has really played at a real high level the last few games,” Frank said after the Boston win. “The fact that he played 24 consecutive minutes and he is playing both ends hard. We had a hard time with Rajon .. and Rodney, not just his ability to guard Ray Allen but also to guard Rondo. That is tough because you have to chase Ray Allen off baseline screens and then you have to chase Rondo off pick and rolls and transition. I thought Rodney was excellent.”