Early Returns

Frank still in evaluation mode of Singler’s move to starting lineup

Kyle Singler
The Pistons are 2-1 since Kyle Singler moved into the starting lineup.
Jesse D. Garrabrant (NBAE/Getty)
Lawrence Frank hasn’t committed to making the move to Kyle Singler in the starting lineup and Rodney Stuckey to the bench permanent. The Pistons’ rotation has been in flux throughout the first 11 games and – chances are, Frank says – will be for quite some time.

“Not until we start defending better,” he said Monday, a day after a 20-point win over Boston in which the Pistons defended well. But that game followed arguably the Pistons’ worst defensive game, 110 points surrendered to Orlando, which came on the heels of holding Philadelphia to 76 points and under 30 percent shooting. “If we can get our defense where it needs to be. Until then, we’ve just got to keep on searching for different answers to get our defense right.”

In three starts, Singler has scored 16, 14 and 14 points and made better than half his shots. Two or three times a game, Singler will score an easy basket off of nothing more than sheer, focused hustle. His constant motion, cutting in the half-court offense or filling a lane harder than most in transition, makes him a frequent target for teammates’ passes.

“Regardless of who you’re playing with, he’s very efficient,” Frank said. “For guys, he’s a very easy guy to support because he just does his job. There’s not a thirstiness about him. Defensively, he competes his tail off. Offensively, he tries to follow the game plan. He stays within his limitations. He plays to his strengths. Off the ball, he’s a very active cutter. He just makes things easy. They just flow when he’s on the floor.”

But the move to make Singler a starter won’t solely depend on how he functions in that role. It will also come down to how Stuckey plays off of the bench and how well he fits with a second unit that also includes Corey Maggette. Frank openly admits it remains to be evaluated. The starting lineup went through a few revolutions last season before he settled on the right mix 24 games into the season.

“You don’t know how it’s going to work,” he said. “(Against Orlando), it didn’t work and (against Boston), it did. You don’t quite know, being that it’s the first time that group has ever really played together. You don’t want to rush to judgment one way or the other, not to celebrate it or not to condemn it.”

Maggette, even though he’s not yet in peak form after missing nearly three weeks with a calf injury, has shown flashes of the instant offense he can provide in his three games back. He had his most productive game against Boston, scoring 11 points in less than 14 minutes, getting to the line four times and pitching in with two assists. Above all, Maggette brings his trademark aggressiveness to the mix.

“That’s the only way I know how to play,” he said. “I think I’m being a little more cautious, not going too hard to the basket, but I am still being aggressive. For guys off the bench, you have to be aggressive. You have to bring the energy off the bench and that’s what I want to do to help this ballclub.”

How that meshes with Stuckey’s attacking mentality will go a long way toward determining how the second unit shakes out. Frank said one remedy could be to stagger minutes to find the most compatible units.

“You’ve just got to be smart,” Maggette said about making the best use of both his and Stuckey’s attributes in the same lineup. “Stuck is a guy who can play the one or the two. But it’s no problem. You’ve just got to go out there and play. Whenever coach puts you in a position, you have to be ready. When you have two attackers on the floor, you just have to know what to do and when to do it.”

Maggette lauded Stuckey for taking the initiative to suggest the move to Frank, coming as it did after fellow Duke alum Singler’s emergency start at Philadelphia with Stuckey ill produced the first Pistons win following eight losses.

“It’s a sense of unselfishness from Stuck,” he said. “He was the one who came to coach and said it would be a great opportunity for Kyle to start and himself to try to switch it up. That’s great, what he did for this team. And I’m really proud of Kyle. He’s going a tremendous job for this team. He plays hard and he comes in with great professionalism. What would you expect from a Duke guy?”