Charlie V: Getting Close

After a pain-free practice, Villanueva feels return is imminent

After dedicating himself to Arnie Kander's rehab regimen, Charlie Villanueva is eager to play again.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
The Pistons rank in the middle of the NBA pack in 3-point shooting percentage but way down near the bottom in attempts. That could change. Charlie Villanueva’s return appears imminent.

Villanueva, who has played a grand total of six minutes in two games all season and has missed the last 31 straight, went through his first full practice since early January on Friday and came out of it highly encouraged by feeling … nothing. As in no pain in the right ankle that flared up on him in training camp mysteriously.

“Definitely progress today,” he said. “Felt real good. I went through the whole practice, didn’t sit out at all. My ankle didn’t bother me. My wind was almost there. Felt good. After practice, I was excited, just because I felt good out there. Nothing was bothering me. That work that I put in paid off.”

Villanueva said he’s got his weight down to 235 pounds, the lightest since his second NBA season in 2006-07.

“That was one of my goals was to lose some weight coming into training camp. The fact I had to stay off my feet, I had to do something. Arnie (Kander) got me in this program where he got my weight right where it needs to be. I feel a lot lighter – definitely beneficial for my ankle, too.”

Villanueva said not only was his conditioning level encouraging, but he didn’t experience any rustiness in practice, either.

“I didn’t think today I was rusty,” he grinned. “Ask the guys; they’ll tell you. It was still going in.”

With Austin Daye’s prolonged slump taking him out of the rotation, the Pistons would welcome Villanueva’s unique scoring ability.

“Charlie plays a prize position – a range-shooting four, a guy who can play inside and out,” Lawrence Frank said. “There’s no doubt it provides a definite asset. Charlie’s a very good player, a guy who’s averaged 17 points in the league before. He’s what I call an NBA scorer – he can score the ball.”

As for when he might be scoring it again for the Pistons?

“We’ll see,” Frank said. “As he continues to practice and how we play and how he plays and give him an opportunity to show what he can do. Today I thought he took a big step forward. That’s encouraging.”

After the Pistons play at Memphis on Saturday, they’ll have two days without games on both sides of Tuesday’s visit to The Palace by Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Then they host Atlanta and Toronto next Friday and Saturday. That could mark Villanueva’s return.

“We’ve got the Lakers coming up on Tuesday and we’ve got two days of practice,” he said. “I’m going to utilize those days to see where my conditioning is, see how I feel. Perhaps Friday or Saturday we might be able to do something.”