Macklin to Mad Ants

Pistons rookie likely to get 5-game stint in Fort Wayne

Rookie Vernon Macklin will play a short stint with the Pistons' D-League affiliate.
If there was ever a Pistons draft choice for whom the D-League made a lot of sense, it’s Vernon Macklin. Two-thirds of the way into the lockout-affected NBA season, he’ll at last get the chance.

Plans are for Macklin to debut for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants, the Piston’s D-League affiliate, on Thursday when they host Erie. Fort Wayne then has four more games next week, concluding with a back-to-back set March 23-24 at Idaho, before a lull in its schedule likely would lead to Macklin rejoining the Pistons.

“It will be great,” Lawrence Frank said. “Vernon has worked extremely hard with us. Getting Charlie (Villanueva) back and more bodies, we really wanted to give Vernon more of an opportunity to play. The schedule is conducive.”

With Villanueva out since early January until returning last weekend, Macklin was always just one injury or foul trouble away from being in the rotation as the No. 4 big man. But with Villanueva added to the mix behind starters Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell and second-unit big men Jonas Jerebko and Ben Wallace, the five-game stint in the D-League gives him a chance to apply the individual skills work he’s been undergoing daily with assistant coaches, led by Roy Rogers, in game action.

“The D-League has really changed,” Frank said. “When you look at it, the number of guys who have played in the NBA from the D-League – some guys even starting – and then look at the number of former NBA players going to the D-League, there’s no longer the stigma of getting sent. It’s an opportunity to play and compete against other good players.”

The Pistons’ philosophy over the years has been to keep their young players with them for the first part of the season to get them indoctrinated into their way of doing things and to work with the coaching and training staffs. Then, as the schedule dictates on both ends, give them opportunities to apply the lessons in the D-League.

“Our guys are excited to follow him,” Frank said. “We’ll be tracking his progress and it will be great for him.”