True Blue Pistons - December 2013

Keith Langlois
About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined as the web site editor on October 2, 2006. Langlois, who brings over 27 years of professional sports journalism experience to Palace Sports & Entertainment, serves as's official beat writer and covers the team on a daily basis.

Questions and comments on Keith's posts can be submitted via the Pistons Mailbag. Or follow Keith on Twitter.

Read Keith's Blog Archives

Posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013

There’s a reason the Pistons were able to sign Gigi Datome without having to spend a draft choice on the 2013 Italian league MVP. It’s because when he was last eligible to be drafted, in 2009, no one chose him. And that’s because Datome, though a pro in Italy since he was 15, had yet to establish himself as en elite international player.

He’s drawing on that experience – the watching, waiting and learning – now in his first season in the NBA.

“I’ve been through this,” Datome said. “Also, national team, first years I was struggling and like now didn’t have much playing time. I had to keep working like I’m doing now. I’m pretty confident because I already passed through something like that. Also, I’m very happy because it’s big for me to be here in the NBA, so I have great motivation every day.”

Truth be told, the slow integration of Datome into the NBA has been more difficult for his countrymen to grasp than it’s been for him. He finds himself explaining to friends and family back home how a player who carried Italy in EuroBasket competition last summer hasn’t found instant success in the NBA.

Continue reading Patience Pays >>

Posted Monday, December 30, 2013

If inconsistency is the hallmark of young teams, then it probably shouldn’t shock anyone that the Pistons – with the NBA’s youngest starting five – would probably rank correspondingly high if there was a universal means to accurately quantify inconsistency. Theirs isn’t merely game to game, but a half to half or quarter to quarter inconsistency.

Alas, the one area where the Pistons have managed to find a hint of consistency is in their fourth-quarter ineffectiveness. They came into Monday night’s game with Washington last in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring margin at minus-2.8, then saw that number inflate to minus-3.1 as the Wizards outscored them 28-12.

That ruined a night that was on the verge of redeeming their wipeout weekend, lopsided losses at Orlando and Washington in which they trailed from wire to wire and played fourth quarters that didn’t matter either night.

Continue reading Wizards Win >>

Posted Sunday, December 29, 2013

When a team loses by a basket or two, it’s usually easy to pinpoint a shortcoming, or at least to rationalize a loss by saying, “If only we had been better in Category X, we would have won that game.”

When it loses so thoroughly that fourth quarters are played faster than first quarters and coaches take multiple timeouts with them to the locker room, you can throw darts at a board and hit on something that needs fixing.

So it was for the Pistons over the weekend in lopsided losses at Orlando and Washington, two sub-.500 Eastern Conference rivals. And that explains why Mo Cheeks took the unusual step of calling the team together for a Sunday practice after a back-to-back set of games, the second time this season he’s felt so compelled.

“We haven’t really had a lot of practice time,” Cheeks said after practice. “We needed some practice time on the floor. We needed that. We have a breakfast meeting, go to a game, don’t have a shootaround … we’ve never really had any practice time. This is not conventional, to have a practice now, but we needed to have it.”

Continue reading Back to Work >>

Posted Saturday, December 28, 2013

WASHINGTON – With a little over four minutes to go in the third quarter, Brandon Jennings took a shot to the face, leaving a trail of blood behind him as he made his way to the bench. There couldn’t have been a more apt metaphor for the lost weekend the Pistons endured in losing twice, one more disheartening than the other.

The Pistons, in line with the experience of many young teams, have had great difficulty repeating performances this season. On Saturday, they repeated one they’d rather they hadn’t, closely following the script from Friday’s lopsided loss at Orlando in losing at Washington 106-82.

“We are going through a rough patch,” Kyle Singler said. “Whatever that is, with time it’ll work itself out. But we have to start playing better basketball.”

The Pistons trailed by 23 points when Jennings went to the bench with a bloody nose. He was able to return in the fourth quarter, about the only bit of good news the Pistons received during a night when injury – Rodney Stuckey’s recurring shoulder problem limited him to six minutes – was heaped atop insult.

Cheeks disapproved of what he saw in the first half, which ended with a 14-0 Washington run and a 21-point Pistons deficit, enough that he made two lineup changes to start the second half. Singler and Will Bynum were in, Josh Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out. Smith didn’t play at all in the second half. Caldwell-Pope came back in the fourth quarter with the game well out of hand.

Continue reading Trip-ped Up>>

Posted Friday, December 27, 2013

ORLANDO – The Pistons have stayed afloat in the eminently forgiving Eastern Conference despite a 6-10 home record by virtue of their surprising ability to win road games.

They’d won seven of their last eight away from The Palace entering Friday’s game at Orlando, an 8-20 team that had lost its last three games – all at home – against opponents with a cumulative record of 25-61.

So their 109-92 loss, in which a seven-point halftime deficit quickly doubled and ruptured to21 points by the late third quarter, was something of a warning to them: Road wins are nice, but you’d better make your stand at home.

“From the start of the game, we couldn’t get anything going,” Maurice Cheeks said. “Offensively, defensively, we just couldn’t get anything going from the start.”

The Pistons can win on nights they don’t have all three of their frontcourt aces flying, but on nights when all of them lay an egg – pretty much what happened at Orlando – they really have few places to turn.

Continue reading Disappearing Acts>>

Posted Friday, December 27, 2013

After the Pistons complete their sixth set of back-to-back games in December by playing at Orlando tonight and at Washington on Saturday, their schedule ratchets back markedly. In fact, after hosting Washington on Monday the Pistons will play only five games in 17 days and have two rare five-day gaps in their schedule.

So it was the right time for Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva to visit the D-League.

The Pistons sent their two second-round rookies to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Thursday as they left for Orlando. Mitchell and Siva watched in street clothes Thursday night as Fort Wayne routed Reno 114-89, but Joe Dumars said they would practice with the Mad Ants today and play Saturday against Rio Grande Valley.

Continue reading D-League for Rookies >>

Posted Thursday, December 26, 2013

ORLANDO – If all player-coach conversations Mo Cheeks conducts prove as fruitful as his recent chat with Josh Smith, it’s going to be a fun ride ahead for the Pistons.

Since Cheeks and Smith shared ideas for how to make better use of him for the good of the team, the numbers reflect a dramatic course alteration. Over the last six games, not only is Smith’s scoring up a full 10 points per game – 13.8 in his first 24 games, 23.8 since – but he’s scoring much more efficiently, too.

Much of that has to do with the type of shots he’s getting. Smith is shooting 49 percent in his last six after scuffling along at 38.5 percent over his first 24, when nearly one of every three of his attempts, 31 percent, came from the 3-point line. Since his talk with Cheeks – with the Pistons now making a point of establishing Smith in the low post early and often – just 16 percent of Smith’s shot attempts have been triples.

Continue reading Major Impact >>

Posted Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No one’s been busier than the Pistons in the pre-Christmas portion of the NBA season. Well, check that. The Utah Jazz have played 31 games, one more than the Pistons. But nobody else has played as many or more games than Maurice Cheeks’ team, which has meant practice time – especially in a jam-packed December – has been a precious commodity.

That’s about to change.

After beating Cleveland on the road Monday, the Pistons don’t play again until Friday, their first three-day break of the season. They’ll play three games over a four-day period, including a back to back with Washington on Saturday and back home on Monday, and then cool their heels for five days before their first 2014 game on Jan. 5. They’ll have a similar five-day gap in the schedule between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17 home games.

They’ve played their 30 games in 55 days since the Oct. 30 opener, a win over Washington at The Palace when the Pistons played without both Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings. Consider this: Over the next 51 days – which takes the Pistons to the All-Star break – they’ll play only 23 games.

Continue reading Christmas Fast Break >>

Posted Monday, December 23, 2013

The Pistons swept the Cavs all four games last season. That was without Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. They took turns in the last game before Christmas demonstrating to Cleveland fans who might still be booing the hometown team exactly what Joe Dumars had in mind with his major off-season acquisitions.

Smith sparkled during the first half as the Pistons built an 18-point lead and Jennings took over from there with a dominant third quarter in a 115-92 win.

The Pistons continued to play efficiently on offense, shooting 48 percent with 27 assists and seven players in double figures, all signs of great ball movement and quality shot selection that really started with Smith scoring and dishing from the post or wing.

“We’re putting the ball in his hands a little more down there, taking him off that perimeter so much,” Maurice Cheeks said. “They ran two or three guys at him and it allows other guys to be open, so the more times we get the ball to him down there, he’s more comfortable, he’s got a nice shot down there and it opens the floor for other people.”

Continue reading Road is Easy Street >>

Posted Sunday, December 22, 2013

Steve Clifford was between jobs in the summer of 2012, dismissed along with Stan Van Gundy and the rest of his staff when Orlando cleaned house once ownership became convinced that trading Dwight Howard and starting over was its best course.

So the long-respected assistant coach did some consulting for Lawrence Frank, observing Pistons Summer League practices in Orlando that involved not just the 2012 rookie class – draftees Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton and Kim English and 2011 draftee Kyle Singler off of his season in Spain – but young veterans led by Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight.

At the end of it, Frank asked Clifford for his assessment.

“Your most talented player by far is Andre Drummond,” Clifford said he told Frank. “That’s what I got out of those practices. And I thought Greg Monroe practiced very well.”

Clifford worked not only with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando, but also for Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. That means he spent seasons with both Dwight Howard, who put on a show for Drummond and the Pistons with a 35-point, 19-rebound performance in Houston’s win at The Palace on Saturday, and Yao Ming at the peak of their careers. So Clifford knows what an elite big man can do to lift a franchise and carry a team. And he sees Drummond having a real chance to reach that level.

Continue reading Spotting Greatness >>

Posted Saturday, December 21, 2013

Andre Drummond had a two-word message for Dwight Howard after a performance that sent the loud and clear message that he’s not ready to pass the baton any time soon.

“Thank you.”

Howard smiled back and said, “Any time.”

“I thanked him for teaching me something today,” Drummond said after Howard packed a semester’s worth of lessons into a few horrifying hours for the Pistons, who absorbed a 114-97 loss to complete a thoroughly disappointing weekend after the highs experienced earlier in the week with road wins at Indiana and Boston.

“I learned a lot playing against him. It was actually my first time playing against him longer than 10 minutes, so I got a good feel for how he plays. He gave me different pointers after the game, too. So it was a learning experience for me today.”

The Rockets played without leading scorer James Harden, backup guard Jeremy Lin and trade candidate Omer Asik, then lost starting point guard Patrick Beverly to a hand injury in the first half. All that meant: More Dwight.

Continue reading Too Much Dwight>>

Posted Friday, December 20, 2013

The juxtaposition of the last two Pistons games neatly encapsulates their potential, their failings and their stage of development. Two nights after flexing their muscles to come from 21 down to win on the road against a team with the same record, the Pistons squandered a 20-point lead and lost to a team also from the Eastern Conference’s vast middle class.

For all of the exhilaration and swagger they took from their win over Boston, there was that much soul searching and doubt to endure after melting down at home against Charlotte.

“We just lost focus,” Brandon Jennings said in a somber Pistons locker room. “It happened so fast. I really don’t know what to say. It’s kind of unbelievable what just happened.”

Continue reading Turnaround Hurts>>

Posted Thursday December 19, 2013

The Pistons went to bed sometime Thursday morning, weary from a crazy stretch of schedule, as the only NBA team with a winning road record and a losing home mark. They’ve won six of their last seven away from The Palace and they’re now putting one remarkable win atop the next.

Did you like Monday’s win at Indiana – the first home loss for the Pacers all season – in which the Pistons never trailed best? Or did you prefer Wednesday’s woolly comeback from 21 points down to edge Boston by a point? Or are you a traditionalist and still prefer the methodical takedown of the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat from earlier this month?

The flip side, of course, is that the Pistons have lost three of their last four at home, including the rematch with Miami, a 27-point shellacking at Minnesota’s hands and the spirit-bending overtime loss to Portland.

But lost, perhaps, in the 6-8 home record is the quality of the teams the Pistons have faced at The Palace. The eight home losses have come to teams with a current combined winning percentage of .633 (129-73), with Indiana (20-5), Oklahoma City (20-4), Portland (22-5) and Miami (19-6) sporting four of the league’s five best records.

Continue reading Skipping a Step>>

Posted Wednesday December 18, 2013

BOSTON – You know what they say about crime scenes: No two eyewitnesses ever give the exact same account.

So when the Pistons recounted the crimes their defense committed in the first half at Boston – and especially the first quarter, when they allowed the Celtics 42 points – there were contrasting recollections.

“We came in the locker room and there wasn’t a lot of yelling, wasn’t a lot of cursing,” Mo Cheeks said after the Pistons came back from 21 down to win 107-106 at Boston, their sixth win in the last seven road games. “We just needed to pick our energy up, play a little harder and get out defense in check and that’s what we did.”

And with an opposing view, we present Brandon Jennings: “Mo went off on us and it kind of woke us up. That third quarter was amazing for us. He was a coach. If you’re down 20-something points, any coach would go off or be mad, but it was a good thing. It woke us up.”

Let’s recount the last four days for the Pistons: They lose a heartbreaker at home on Sunday, seeing a 13-point fourth quarter lead dissipate in an overtime defeat against the hottest team in the West, Portland; the next day, against a rested Indiana team – unbeaten at home and, at 20-3, owners of the NBA’s best record – they rebounded to score an eyebrow-raising win; and then, the capper, a comeback from 21 down to beat a surging Boston team that leads the Atlantic Division.

Continue reading Epic Comeback>>

Posted Tuesday December 17, 2013

BOSTON – A lot of NBA teams would have been beaten before the ball got thrown up in Indianapolis. Less than 24 hours after trying to swallow an indigestible overtime loss to Portland, the Pistons were out of the frying pan and into the fire. After almost beating the West’s best, and the NBA’s most prolific offense, they were playing the East’s best Monday night in Indianapolis, and the league’s stingiest defense.

It won’t be all seashells and balloons for the Pistons just because they beat the odds and handed Indiana its first home loss of the season. But make no mistake: Their 12-14 record notwithstanding, the NBA raised its collective eyebrow at the response of the Pistons to Sunday’s loss and the near-miss of an amazing sweep of conference leaders under difficult circumstances.

There are still many leaps of growth necessary for the Pistons to emerge from a muddled field of would-be contenders as the No. 3 team in the East, behind Indiana and Miami. But it’s worth noting that the Pacers and Heat are a combined 22-3 at home this season with two of the three losses inflicted by the Pistons.

Continue reading Attention Getters >>

Posted Monday December 16, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS — So much for the lingering effects of the season’s most devastating loss.

After losing a spirit-crushing overtime game to Portland on Sunday night at The Palace, the Pistons fired a shot across the NBA’s bow Monday night in Indiana. They dented the league’s best defense for 101 points – 12 above Indiana’s average yield – and handed the Pacers their first home loss of the season.

They did it with Rodney Stuckey going scoreless in just 16 minutes after opening the game with ice bags strapped to both his left knee and right shoulder. They did it with Andre Drummond limited to three first-half minutes by foul trouble. And they did it with Chauncey Billups in street clothes, part of his regimen for back-to-back sets.

“It was a little hard for me to sleep last night, but we came here and kept playing basketball,” said Brandon Jennings, who scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter of the 101-96 win, just Indiana’s fourth loss in 24 games. “This is the NBA. One thing about the NBA is you’ve got a game the next day or the next day. It’s not like the NFL, where you have to wait a whole week.”

Continue reading Great Response >>

Posted Sunday, December 15, 2013

When you struggle to win close games, as young teams are wont to do, it’s almost never a single glaring weakness that undermines winning. For the Pistons, the thing that tripped them up Sunday wasn’t what they could have possibly expected: an inability to grab a key defensive rebound.

Three times in the final seconds of regulation, Portland gained critical points by corralling offensive rebounds, allowing the Trail Blazers to complete a fourth-quarter comeback and force overtime. Twice more in overtime, Portland grabbed rebounds that had they gone the other way would have made a Pistons win not only possible, but likely.

The Pistons led from the middle of the second quarter on and by 13 points early in the fourth quarter. They were doing everything within reason to control the league’s best offensive team – herding Damian Lillard away from the paint in pick-and-roll action, guarding the 3-point line with certainty a night after the Blazers sunk 21 of 37 and doing as well as anyone has in limiting the damage inflicted by LaMarcus Aldrige, who has thrust himself into MVP discussion.

Continue reading That's a Crusher >>

Posted Saturday, December 14, 2013

It’s the best of the West, followed by the beast of the East. Thanks a lot, Mr. Schedule Maker. To cap off a stretch of playing three games in four days, the Pistons face the back to back from hell. Not only do they get the teams with the league’s best records – Portland at home on Sunday, at Indiana on Monday – they go from one extreme to the other.

In Portland, they get the NBA’s No. 1 team in offensive efficiency. In Indiana, they get the league’s top-rated team in defensive efficiency.

“I haven’t even looked at it like that,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said the day after snapping a three-game losing skid by building a 21-point lead over Brooklyn and hanging on to get a four-point win. “I just know we’re playing two great basketball teams and our first obstacle is Portland. And then we’ll see where we go after that.”

The Trail Blazers take a 19-4 record into their game at Philadelphia tonight, so at least the Pistons will have the rest advantage over Portland. Not so when they play at Indiana – where the Pacers are a perfect 11-0 this season – on Monday. Indiana beat Charlotte at home on Friday night and has the rest of the weekend off.

Continue reading Bests and Beasts >>

Posted Friday, December 13, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago when those Pistons would have been killed by these Pistons. In the early days of the Lawrence Frank era, when an aging Ben Wallace often was their center and the undersized Jason Maxiell lined up at power forward, long, athletic frontcourts overwhelmed the Pistons.

Adios to all of that. The Pistons are now the long, athletic frontcourt that gives teams lacking those qualities massive trouble. Without Brook Lopez, the Nets fit the typical victim’s profile.

Only a torrid 3-point shooting second half kept Brooklyn from being run out of The Palace after the Pistons established a 17-point halftime lead and stretched it to 21 early in the fourth quarter. The Nets simply couldn’t handle Andre Drummond’s power and athleticism, Greg Monroe’s size and scoring touch and Josh Smith’s speed and aggression.

They combined for 54 points and 30 rebounds, just enough on a night the Pistons spotted the other guys a 27-point advantage from the 3-point line. The Nets came back and made it way too uncomfortable – Paul Pierce’s triple with 11 seconds left made it a two-point game – but the Pistons won to snap a three-game losing streak and hailed it as an opportunity to learn how to execute in the lonely moments of close games.

Continue reading A Needed Win >>

Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013

If Andre Drummond keeps showing up on lists populated by present or future Hall of Famers, he’s probably going to wind up there himself.

There’s the one where Drummond ranks first for players 20 or under in rebounding with his current average of 12.7 a game, slotted one ahead of Dwight Howard. When his streak of six straight games of six or more offensive rebounds was snapped as he sat out the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game with Minnesota, he found himself in the company of Dennis Rodman.

He’s drawing notice for the consistent impact he has on games, but it should be remembered that Drummond is still not only frightfully young but truly in his infancy as a basketball player, more so, perhaps, than many AAU stars who identify themselves as elite players in their pre-teen years. That wasn’t Drummond, who had to catch up to his body, though it was a frame that had college coaches intrigued even when the production lagged well behind his potential.

Continue reading Good Company>>

Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For three quarters, Big Easy aptly described the way New Orleans got to the rim and scored against the Pistons. Playing their fourth game in five nights against a team that hadn’t played since last Friday, a road comeback from 12 points down seemed about as likely as Bourbon Street running out of, well, bourbon.

But come back the Pistons did. Outrebounded by 38-22 through three quarters, they grabbed 21 in the final quarter and overtime and closed the gap by half. They shut down the paint that New Orleans guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans penetrated repeatedly in wracking up 83 points through three quarters. And they rode Greg Monroe, who grew up down the street, to put themselves in position to win.

They might have, too, but Brandon Jennings, whose hot shooting in the first half kept the Pistons from being run out of the building, missed two long jump shots on the final possession of regulation and Ryan Anderson – an elite 3-point shooter who missed 10 of 12 shots behind the arc in regulation – nailed two big ones in overtime to send the Pistons to their third straight loss after they won four straight last week.

Continue reading Comeback Comes Up Short >>

Posted Tuesday, December 10, 2013

As it turns out, Tina Turner, Love’s got plenty to do with it.

Kevin Love, at least. Look at the start of his line from Tuesday’s 121-94 Minnesota humbling of the Pistons at The Palace and you’d think he had a lousy night: 6 baskets, 15 attempts. Look at the rest and you wonder where the Pistons went to treat their burns.

Love scored 26 points and he did it mainly in two ways: 3-point shooting and free throws, a testament to his unique ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and take it inside and bait the opposition into fouling. Love made 4 of 6 from the 3-point line, 10 of 10 from the foul line, for 22 of his points. When he’s locked in from distance, well …

“He’s more effective,” Josh Smith said. “He can use the pump fake, he can drive, he’s good around the rim at finishing. It’s tough to guard a person like that, especially when he’s knocking down 3-pointers. We’ve got to be able to take away something from his game and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”

Continue reading Love Prevails >>

Posted Monday, December 9, 2013

When Mo Cheeks sent the Pistons back out to start the second quarter Sunday night, not a starter was among the chosen. Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups were still in street clothes, nursing leg injuries, and they were joined this night by Rodney Stuckey. Kyle Singler, along with Stuckey the other staple of Detroit’s bench through the first quarter of the season, wasn’t out there, either.

That meant not a player among the preferred first eight was on the floor for a game the Pistons already trailed by eight points – against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, bent on avenging a home loss against the upstart Pistons just five nights earlier.

To be sure, all five players Cheeks sent out to prevent their deficit from swelling had been outside his rotation at some point over the first 20 games.

Continue reading Be Prepared >>

Posted Sunday, December 8, 2013

Getting off to a slow start against the defending NBA champion in one half is playing with fire. Getting off to a slow start in both halves is pouring gasoline on yourself and lighting a match.

The Pistons survived a sluggish start to the game, coming from 11 back early to within two points. But a similarly disastrous start to the third quarter undid them, especially when they were playing without three of their top four guards in Rodney Stuckey (left knee tendinitis), Chauncey Billups (ditto) and Will Bynum (left adductor strain, an upper leg injury).

Yes, Miami was without Dwyane Wade. And they replaced him with a Hall of Famer, Ray Allen, while the Pistons had to lean heavily on rookie guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva to provide a modicum of relief for the only other healthy guard left, Brandon Jennings.

Continue reading Heat Snap Streak >>

Posted Saturday, December 7, 2013

CHICAGO – A time-honored NBA axiom holds that it takes a good 20 games before a team figures out what it is. The standings say that after 20 games – essentially, a quarter of the NBA season – the Pistons are a .500 team. But they’re .500 with a bullet.

They won their fourth straight game on Saturday night, with two of those wins coming at Miami and Chicago. Sure, the Bulls were badly depleted – missing All-Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng in addition to a third starter, Jimmy Butler – but the Pistons weren’t exactly at full strength, either, playing virtually the entire game without three of their top four guards.

And the Pistons won this one in a way the Bulls surely recognized. When the game turned into hand-to-hand combat in the third quarter – for nearly seven minutes, the Pistons had scored six points, the Bulls four – it was the Pistons who imposed their will and forced the Bulls to cave, the reverse of what happened 10 days ago at The Palace when a close game ruptured via a 21-0 Chicago run.

Continue reading Bull Market >>

Posted Friday, December 6, 2013

Ever since Rodney Stuckey slammed his thumb in a car door and X-rays revealed Brandon Jennings’ cracked jaw within 30 minutes of each other a week into training camp, the Pistons have had beds filled in their guard infirmary.

One might be opening up soon, though.

Chauncey Billups, out three weeks with left knee tendinitis, practiced for the first time on Friday.

Continue reading Close to a Return >>

Posted Thursday, December 5, 2013

If Joe Dumars had allowed himself to think about it, an apocalyptic shiver surely would have convulsed his spine.

As the Pistons lined up for the opening tip Wednesday night at Milwaukee, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond were matched against players from their draft classes, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson. If those two drafts had played out just a hair differently, Udoh and Henson might have been Detroit’s starters, instead.

But Golden State picked Udoh sixth, sparing the Pistons from a decision they’d yet to reach, less than 24 hours before the 2010 draft, between Udoh and North Carolina’s Ed Davis with the seventh pick. After New Orleans made the slam-dunk choice of Anthony Davis at No. 1 two years later, seven teams picking ahead of the Pistons passed on Drummond.

I’m tempted to write “inexplicably” before “passed,” but it’s really only unfathomable now, in light of Drummond’s remarkable assimilation as a pro. The results of his one year at UConn would be generously described as uneven. Anyone attempting to characterize the selections of Monroe and Drummond now as “no-brainers” for Dumars is rewriting history.

Continue reading Time Well Spent >>

Posted Wednesday, December 4, 2013

MILWAUKEE – Brandon Jennings ruffled some feathers in Milwaukee when he said he’d never had the chance to play with big men as talented as Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

They can dock him for political incorrectness, but not for honesty.

Jennings posted a double-double in his return to the place he spent his first four NBA seasons, where they marked the occasion by booing him lustily whenever he touched the ball. But the real story was the domination of the frontcourt Jennings extolled upon coming to the Pistons in late July.

Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith combined for 59 points and 42 rebounds and the Pistons beat Milwaukee 105-98 for their third straight win, completing a two-game road trip that also included a win at Miami 24 hours earlier and a diverted flight that required a bus ride to foggy Milwaukee from Chicago, arriving at 4 a.m. Central time Wednesday morning.

“Drummond played big, Greg Monroe played big,” Jennings said. “I was just telling Greg, there was one point in the game where I was just looking at all three of ’em crashing the boards and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ Like, that’s a scary sight down there. Those guys played big tonight. They came in here and did a great job. They took a lot of heat off me.”

Continue reading 3 Straight >>

Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013

MIAMI – The Pistons got their signature win. Now they want to know if they can duplicate it, time after time, signature after signature, so that even the most accomplished hand-writing experts won’t be able to tell the difference.

The Pistons beat Miami. At Miami. And, yeah, Dwyane Wade sat one out. But it was still a game that’s followed a script the Heat have acted out – and won – scores of times over the past three-plus seasons, since Wade coaxed buddies LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach to be his wing men.

It was also a script the Pistons knew a little too well. They let winnable games against the Bulls and Lakers get away at home last week, ceding 21-0 and 12-0 runs in the fourth quarters to undermine a home stand that might have turned their season around.

Now they hope their stand in Miami, when the Heat whittled a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to three in five minutes but couldn’t get over the hump as the Pistons won 107-97, becomes their turning point, the game that’s a part of their DNA the next time somebody’s charging in the fourth quarter.

Continue reading Signature Win >>

Posted Monday, December 2, 2013

Miami has won two straight NBA titles and 10 straight games in its quest for a third. But the Pistons have a fighting chance against the Heat these days because they can now match up against Miami’s big three better than at any time since they joined forces 3½ years ago.

It’s probably not a fair fight no matter who guards LeBron James, but Josh Smith’s length and athleticism gives him the tools to mitigate the damage the four-time MVP inflicts. It’s a similar story for rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard against Dwyane Wade, who’ll also get a heavy dose of Rodney Stuckey, who also has the type of size and strength that can make it tough for Wade to get to his sweet spots consistently. Chris Bosh’s quickness and shooting range gives him a decided edge over most centers, but not so much against Andre Drummond.

Maurice Cheeks cautions that it goes far beyond individual physical matchups, of course.

“These guys are seasoned, been around, won a couple of championships in a row,” he said after the Pistons practiced Monday at American Airlines Arena. “Size-wise, yeah. We just have to try to play at the level that they play at, because these are great players and they play hard. When you get great players that play hard, your recipe is championships that’s what they have.”

Continue reading Heat Checkers >>

Posted Sunday, December 1, 2013

For all the fits and starts the Pistons have endured over the season’s first 17 games, there remains one compelling reason their season – and their future – is one rippling with possibilities: Andre Drummond. For all the rough edges to him and all the hurdles yet to be cleared, rarely has a 20-year-old affected NBA games quite the way the Pistons’ wunderkind now does almost routinely.

It isn’t always as dramatic as Sunday, when he put career bests in points (31), rebounds (19) and steals (six), but it was his 12th double-double in 17 games this season. And it gave the Pistons a win they badly needed, 115-100 over Philadelphia, after two disheartening home losses.

When Maurice Cheeks interviewed last summer, he had a vague idea of what Drummond could do. But the Pistons played Oklahoma City, for whom Cheeks served as an assistant coach, twice in the season’s first eight games during his rookie year, so he really had little feel for what Drummond was ready to shoulder early in his second season.

Continue reading Drummond's Day >>