Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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Cara (Howell, Mich.): Great win in Boston. I didn’t see that coming after playing such a tough game against San Antonio. What do you think the comeback win on the road against the Celtics means?

Langlois: The Pistons are 5-2 in their last seven games. Lawrence Frank, understandably, wasn’t happy with the intensity or the execution in Sunday’s loss to Washington, but even that got put into a different light when the Wizards went to Portland and won two nights later. In the big picture, it’s impressive that the Pistons kept playing hard through the tough times when their offense was really out of whack. It speaks to Frank’s ability to walk the line between demanding accountability yet winning players’ trust. Players really had to take it on faith that what he was preaching would pay dividends when their best efforts were producing a series of one-sided losses three or four weeks ago. That’s a good sign going forward as his systems take root and the roster continues to evolve. In the short term, it’s a nice morale booster – the first road win of the season against a playoff-bound team.

Steven (Canton, Mich.): Two strong games in a row for Rodney Stuckey. Will he keep it up?

Langlois: As I talked about last month with Joe Dumars, Steven, there’s reason to think that Lawrence Frank will have a positive influence on Stuckey for the greater structure he brings to the table. And, really, it goes beyond that. Frank’s genuine desire for the Pistons to play at a faster tempo and be in attack mode plays to Stuckey’s strengths. As Brandon Knight gains experience and learns to harness his speed and quickness, the Pistons will start to play at a higher tempo more consistently, also to Stuckey’s benefit. Time will tell. Stuckey might never be a truly consistent perimeter shooter, but even modest improvements in that area combined with his ability to thrive in a high-tempo offense will draw out the best in him.

Ben (Los Angeles): I’m a longtime Pistons fan living in Lakerland wondering about Brandon Knight’s strength. It’s been often said that he’s a gym rat, but I want to know if that includes time spent lifting weights or only time dedicated to basketball skills. I remember around the draft people commenting about his impressive strength for someone his size.

Langlois: He’s 20, Ben, so Knight has a lot of physical maturity still ahead of him. As far as lifting weights, I’ve seen him head to the back of the team’s practice facility – where all of Arnie Kander’s equipment is housed – plenty of times after he finishes shooting and drill work with assistant coaches. The way players lift weights during the season is different than how they do it during their summers, and the way they lift weights this season is probably different than more normal seasons, too. With so many games packed into too few days, even practice time is greatly curtailed this season. Knight doesn’t have the frame of someone like Rodney Stuckey or Chauncey Billups, for two recent examples of Pistons point guards; he’s leaner than both of those players were even at a similar age. They were naturally thick. Knight won’t ever look like they do, but he’s not exactly slight, either. Knight will do whatever Arnie Kander directs him to do over the off-season and my hunch is he’ll come back next season and Kander will be pleased with gains in Knight’s functional strength.

Robert (Georgetown, Ky.): It sounds like trading for Rashard Lewis’ contract would create cap space for the Pistons and send away players that are underperforming. From what I understand, we could send $20 million to $30 million to Washington for Lewis and then buy him out. Would Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva work in that trade?

Langlois: The numbers work, Robert. No idea if either side would be motivated to make that deal. The Gordon and Villanueva deals both last one year longer than Lewis, so even though he is due to make $24 million next season – about $4 million more than Gordon and Villanueva combined according to reported contract figures – Gordon and Villanueva together are owed about $17 million more after the end of this season than Lewis is in future obligations. If Washington was interested in one player but not the other, it might make sense for the Wizards to do the deal and amnesty one player or the other. But if the Wizards are strictly looking for cap relief, their best move is to amnesty Lewis at season’s end. If they hope to use him to land talent, then using his expiring deal next season would argue that their best move is to keep him through the summer. The Wizards could be in position to reap some assets if a team motivated to clear cap space in 2013 looks to trade for Lewis next season.

Donald (New York City): Will the Pistons reach for John Henson? He looks like a perfect fit next to Greg Monroe – 6-foot-11, 220 pounds with a 7-foot-6 wing span and freakish athleticism. I think he’s one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. He might have a small frame, but he is playing well this season.

Langlois: If the Pistons wind up picking in the same area they’ve picked the past two seasons, then “reach” isn’t going to apply to Henson. I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if Henson pushed his way into the top five. That said, I do think there is a measure of doubt about how Henson will hold up against players who would rank in the upper half of NBA big man on the physicality meter. Even though his frame doesn’t look radically dissimilar to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Davis appears to have the shoulders and chest to handle additional bulk as the years pass. Not so sure how much strength Henson will be able to add. Still think he’s going to be good enough to leave a mark in the NBA.

Robin (Pasadena, Calif.): Jeremy Lin was undrafted and then a free agent. Why couldn’t our scouts find such a talented player? They might have recommended players like Wilkins or Russell to Joe Dumars, but I don’t understand why a team that desperately needs size can’t find some quality bigs from free agency. Kyrylo Fesenko and Keith Benson might be helpful, for example.

Langlois: The fact that Linsanity has swept the nation underscores the reality of how truly rare and unlikely Lin’s success has been, Robin. The Pistons were in New York just two weeks ago and Lin was still buried on the bench at that point; now he’s the hottest story in the NBA. My guess is he’s not going to keep producing at this level, but neither do I believe he’ll head back to obscurity. Let’s keep in mind that two NBA teams had him on their rosters and waived him and even the Knicks, by credible reporting, were very close to letting him go by last week’s deadline for securing non-guaranteed contracts until, out of desperation, Mike D’Antoni turned to Lin and he had his breakout performance. As for big men, the likelihood of someone having a Lin-like epiphany is probably even a longer shot among big men than guards.

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