Subplot: Pistons Lose

Overshadowed by Calderon trade, Pistons fall at Indiana

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

White Hot – The post-Tayshaun Prince era began with the Pistons down two rotation players – Austin Daye also was involved in the trade that nets them ace playmaker Jose Calderon from Toronto – and Lawrence Frank had to scramble a little with his rotation missing a small forward on both the starting and bench units. Kyle Singler moved from shooting guard to starting small forward in Prince’s stead, elevating Rodney Stuckey back to the starting lineup. Jonas Jerebko returned to his original NBA position, playing behind Singler. The Pistons recovered from a slow start to pull within two points five minutes before halftime, then saw Indiana starters close on an 18-2 run. An early third-quarter surge halved their 18-point deficit, but Indiana pulled away again in a 98-79 win. Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 18 points and nine boards.

BLUE COLLAR – One night after smashing his previous career high of 14 rebounds by putting up 18 points and 18 boards, Andre Drummond came back to match his previous best of 14, adding three blocked shots and a deft assist to set up Greg Monroe for a layup in his 24 minutes. The big rebounding numbers are encouraging for what it shows about Drummond’s ability as a young player past the mid-point of his rookie season – and we’re right about the time many hit the rookie wall, just before the All-Star break – to withstand the rigors of a schedule far more ambitious than he’s ever experienced as a 19-year-old.

RED FLAG – Andre Drummond made his first free throw of the night, then missed eight of his next nine. Drummond came to the Pistons with well-documented troubles at the line, shooting 29 percent in his only college season. But he’s worked exhaustively on technique under the tutelage of assistant coach Dee Brown and seemed to be making solid strides in trying to get the ball more on his fingertips and less on his palms. Drummond, given his elite offensive rebound ability, is going to make himself an easy target to be grabbed by opponents unless he can thwart that strategy by knocking down free throws. He’s at least got to get to 50 percent and build gradually from there.

There was a game? Yes, there was a game. Overshadowed by the trade that nets the Pistons one of the NBA’s slickest playmakers and cost them the last vestige of their 2004 title team, the Pistons scrambled with a hastily remade rotation and lost 98-79 to one of the East’s new powers, Indiana.

With both Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye off to Memphis in the three-team trade that adds Toronto’s crafty Jose Calderon, Lawrence Frank had to shuffle both his starting lineup and his backup unit.

Kyle Singler, the starter at shooting guard since the season’s ninth game, moved to his more natural small forward spot as Prince’s successor. Jonas Jerebko, out of the rotation since late November when he was supplanted amid a shooting slump by Charlie Villanueva as the backup power forward, returned to his first NBA spot as the backup to Singler.

Rodney Stuckey went back in the starting lineup and Kim English backed him up at shooting guard.

And all of that happened on the fly with trade talks reaching the point of no return about an hour before tipoff and becoming official in the game’s closing minutes. Frank, who spoke eloquently of the legacy Prince leaves and the difficulty of seeing two brothers yanked from the mix as game time neared, acknowledged the effect of learning the news in such a manner.

It was Frank who delivered the news to Prince and Daye as Joe Dumars hammered out the details and participated in the trade call with NBA headquarters to make things official.

“I know Joe felt horrible it had to be right before the game,” Frank said. “The accomplishments of Tay – I know how grateful people who’ve been here a whole lot longer than I have are. I’m eternally grateful for his professionalism and how he handled himself. Austin, with his professionalism and growth, dealing with adversity and showing maturity.

“This is the tough part of the business. I can’t them thank enough for their contributions and both represented the organization in a first-class way. These are difficult moves to make, but we feel going forward that these are the moves we need to make.”

Prince spoke to reporters after the game, touching on the bittersweet elements of the trade – the shock of leaving the only NBA home he’s known for 11 years mixed with the excitement of a new challenge with a team that has a shot at a title run and clearly needs him after dealing Rudy Gay to the Raptors.

“I didn’t find out until I got here,” he said. “Shocked, but like I’ve told you guys before, business, man. You never know what’s going to happen. Definitely a tough, tough time, but now it’s time to move on to the next page, next chapter, and make the best out of it. … It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m pretty sure it will once we get on the floor. It was just a culture shock to everybody in the locker room, but it will once I put that uniform on. I’m excited at the same time.”

His stunned teammates started slowly, missing shots on their first six possessions and not grabbing an offensive rebound on any of them. They trailed by nine points early but fought back and pulled within two points at the five-minute mark of the second quarter. Then Indiana waved its starters back and the Pacers – outstanding with an 18-3 home record – closed the half on an 18-2 run.

The Pistons sliced their 18-point halftime deficit in half in the early going of the third quarter, but Indiana reversed momentum and pulled away for the 19-point win. Greg Monroe had 18 points and nine boards and Andre Drummond, one night after his loud 18-point, 18-rebound night, came back with 14 rebounds in 24 minutes.

Where Frank goes with his rotation once Calderon lands will be intriguing. The top four in the backcourt – Stuckey, Calderon, Brandon Knight and Will Bynum – have all played primarily at point guard over their careers, though Stuckey has played more as a shooting guard since Knight and Frank arrived.

If Frank opts for a four-guard rotation, then it might well be that Knight spends more of his time off the ball, as well. Calderon and Bynum, given their size and skill sets, are strictly point guards, while Knight has often been highly effective spotting up at the 3-point line when playing next to either Stuckey or Bynum.

“We are pleased to welcome Jose Calderon, knowing that he fits our mold as a high-character individual who is a great competitor,” Dumars said in a prepared statement. “We want to thank Tayshaun for his professionalism and contributions over the last 10 years.”

“We’ve always had a high value on Jose,” Frank said. “He’s a tremendous competitor, a guy who’s been top-five in the league in assists for the last four, five years, plus international competition. It gives us flexibility moving forward, gives other guys an opportunity and see how they step up. Right now, I kind of want to make today the focus on Tay and Austin. And as an organization, we’re going to move forward and we’re excited about continuing in the direction we’re going.”

They won’t have much time to get Calderon up to speed before their next game, Friday against Cleveland at The Palace. But they’ll have more time to adjust than they did after learning of the trade that saw the last remaining link to the Goin’ to Work generation leave minutes before taking the court.

How soon they can integrate Calderon’s rare playmaking skills and he learns the favorite shooting areas of his new teammates will determine what becomes of the season’s second half – one that sets the Pistons up for a future whose possibilities grew a little more intriguing with the spillover effects of this trade.