Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, September 13, 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.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

Greg (Charlevoix, Mich.): What can you tell us about how Jonas Jerebko and Slava Kravtsov played for their national teams? Is the competition over? Are they back in Detroit now?

Langlois: The competition ended on Tuesday for Sweden, on Saturday for Ukraine. Both teams wound up qualifying for Eurobasket 2013 play, Sweden on tiebreakers with a 4-4 record and Ukraine by going 6-2 with both losses narrow ones, one in overtime, to unbeaten Croatia. Jerebko was the unquestioned star of his national team, averaging 20.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 52 percent overall and 58 percent on 2-point shots. In a tough 91-86 loss to Germany in the seventh game, Jerebko racked up 32 points, 10 boards and six assists in 34 minutes. He had to leave the game for the last few minutes when he cramped up. Kravtsov averaged 8.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots. He shot 66 percent from the floor (no 3-point attempts) and 58 percent from the line. The fact he took nearly five foul shots a game despite not being a featured part of the half-court offense speaks to his ability to run the floor and be a threat on the offensive glass. Lawrence Frank has spoken to Mike Fratello, Ukraine national coach, throughout the tournament to get updates on Kravtsov. Both players are due to be in Detroit next week, Jerebko scheduled to leave Sweden on Sunday and Kravtsov departing Ukraine on Monday after a minor visa snafu.

Jason (Warner Robins, Ga.): Before the season ended, Stuckey stated how he wanted to spend a lot of the summer working up a chemistry with Brandon Knight. I’ve seen and heard that Stuckey has been in the practice facility a lot, but it seems Knight has been out and about working elsewhere. Did they get to spend the time Stuckey wanted to build chemistry?

Langlois: No one’s spent more time at the team’s practice facility this summer than Stuckey, but several others – Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight foremost among them excluding the rookies – have also spent a great deal of time in Auburn Hills. Knight and Monroe, along with Andre Drummond, attended the Tim Grgurich camp in Las Vegas in August and Knight did a promotional appearance for the NBA in Canada in advance of the Pistons-Timberwolves Oct. 24 preseason game, then spent time working out at his home in Florida. But he returned to Auburn Hills in early September and is participating, along with Stuckey and seven or eight other players who project to be a part of the 2012-13 roster. They’ll have had nearly a full month together going into training camp in addition to all the time they had in May and June. In the pickup games they’ve played this week after Arnie Kander’s supervised conditioning portion of daily sessions, Stuckey and Knight have often been on the same team, furthering their familiarization process.

J.B. (Pioneer, Ohio): The two NBA teams I follow closely are the Pistons and Raptors. It looks to me like they are well-positioned to correct each other’s imbalances this season. How would a GM assess an Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon for Corey Maggette and Charlie Villanueva trade?

Langlois: There could be one compelling reason for either team not to pursue such a deal, J.B. Doing so would hamstring their flexibility with regard to exercising the amnesty clause. Villanueva, essentially, is the only player on the Pistons eligible for the amnesty action. (Greg Monroe also would be, but obviously is not a plausible candidate.) Since teams can only amnesty players that they signed – not acquired via trade – then once that trade were to be completed, neither Villanueva nor Johnson would be amnesty eligible any longer. (Maggette and Calderon are expiring deals, Maggette for about a half-million more than Calderon.) The Pistons, by rough guess, could get as much as $25 million under the cap next July were they to exercise the amnesty on the final year of Villanueva’s deal. Johnson’s deal also has three years remaining to Villanueva’s two, though at a slightly lower annual commitment.

Cesar (San Juan, Puerto Rico): What do you think about a trade of Charlie Villanueva for J.J. Barea of Minnesota?

Langlois: It has merit (at least if Minnesota is confident in Ricky Rubio’s healthy and prompt return), but it’s unworkable, Cesar. Both teams are over the cap. Under the new CBA, teams over the cap but not taxpayers – in a trade of players making less than $10 million annually – can take back 150 percent plus $100,000 of the outgoing salary. So in Minnesota’s case, in sending out Barea and the approximately $4.4 million he’s due in 2012-13, the Timberwolves could take back approximately $6.7 million. But Villanueva comes in over that figure. While the deal would make some sense from a roster standpoint – the Pistons could use another player capable of playing point guard, but might prefer someone who offers more size than Barea to complement current backup Will Bynum – it would, as the proposed Pistons-Raptors trade above, hamstring the Pistons next summer from the standpoint of eliminating their amnesty options.

Sebastian (San Marcos, Texas): With all the new additions at small forward and center, it leaves only two point guards – three, if you count Stuckey. How much playing time do you envision for Will Bynum?

Langlois: He’ll be fighting to solidify his role during training camp and the preseason, Sebastian. As he told me earlier this week, he sees the trade of Ben Gordon to Charlotte as an opportunity for him to earn a more significant role than he had a year ago. Of course, much will depend on Bynum’s ability to stay healthy and avoid the nagging leg injuries that have plagued him the past few seasons.

Larry (Battle Creek, Mich.): How does Corey Maggette fit in with the team? Is he going to start? Also, what do you think about the new European center?

Langlois: To be determined regarding Maggette, Larry. It seems probable that Tayshaun Prince will be the starter at small forward, though Lawrence Frank’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as an incumbent starter and every position on the team is up for grabs come training camp. (More on that in Friday’s True Blue Pistons, so check Pistons.com tomorrow for the details.) If he’s healthy, he’s a unique player whose ability to get to the rim should be a great addition. As for Slava Kravtsov, I’ve talked to at least five people who’ve seen him play and the reports are pretty similar: really athletic for his size and a defensive menace who blocks shots with either hand. He’ll have a big adjustment, both culturally and professionally, but he’s got a chance to make his mark.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): Training camp opens for most teams on Oct. 2. What contact is allowed and what exactly can the coaching staff do with the players before that? We have a lot of new players who can benefit from more coaching before Oct. 2.

Langlois: The team’s practice facility on The Palace grounds – the basketball court, the training room and the coaching and training staffs – have been available to players all off-season, Ken. It’s been well-staffed and well-used. Teams cannot make off-season participation at their facilities mandatory, of course, and veteran teams that make playoff pushes are less likely to congregate than young teams with longer off-seasons. The Pistons’ facility got notably busier this week with all coaches and Arnie Kander’s full complement of trainers on hand to assist 10 of the team’s 15 players. The two Europeans will be in next week. It doesn’t get much closer to full capacity than that. These aren’t akin to what training camp practices will be, of course, where Lawrence Frank is directing offensive and defensive schemes. Players work on conditioning drills with the training staff, then on individual skills with assistant coaches. Starting this week, the players have then played pickup games strictly on their own. That’s the norm for a player’s off-season: limited, if any, full-court play until about a month before camp opens.

Donald (Howell, Mich.): I think this is a very exciting time for Pistons fans. The building of a new system and new personnel and watching the young players grow and take steps toward becoming respectable is the main objective. I’m wondering how big Drummond really is? They have been all over the map – 6-10, 6-11 or 7-0?

Langlois: Drummond measured at 6-foot-11¾ in shoes at the Chicago draft combine in June, Donald. The measurement in shoes is the one commonly listed by all NBA teams, which makes sense since players are wearing shoes when they play. I’m going to round that up to 7 feet when I have cause to list his height, also a common practice. His wing span is 7-foot-6¼ and he weighs 280 pounds or so, which means he’s likely to play like a legitimate 7-footer.

Anthony (Spokane, Wash.): Everyone seems to be talking about Brandon Knight being the future point guard for the Pistons, but where does Rodney Stuckey fit into that statement? I still feel Rodney is the better point guard because he has shown many times over his short career that he can be an aggressive scorer. Rodney just needs to become more consistent. What are your thoughts?

Langlois: Being “an aggressive scorer” is a pretty good trait to have in a shooting guard, too, Anthony, and Stuckey is destined to play more shooting than point guard as long as he and Knight remain intact. But any backcourt combination that stays together for any length of time is going to strike its own balance and this one, Knight and Stuckey, is probably going to have more shared responsibilities than most. In other words, based on matchups and the rhythm of the game, Stuckey might find himself as the de facto point guard for long stretches of certain games, allowing Knight the freedom to play off of the ball to exploit his strengths. It will be fun to see how their partnership progresses this season.

Jermane (Detroit): Are the Pistons going to have an open scrimmage for the public this year? If so, when will it be held?

Langlois: I have not been informed yet of any specific plans for an open scrimmage, Jermane, but it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be held barring any complicating circumstances with scheduling and venue availability. Pistons.com will have the announcement at the appropriate time, probably right around the time training camp opens on Oct. 2, if there is one to be scheduled.

George (Madison, Wis.): I heard Rasheed was working out with some of the Pistons. Is there any thought he might be coming back to the NBA?

Langlois: I was pretty careful to caution against comeback talk when I reported via Twitter last week that Rasheed was in the building working out with Pistons players and some ex-college players from the area. There’s no reason to think anything has changed regarding Rasheed’s playing status. But if he wanted to play, trust me, he showed more than enough to convince me contenders would be lining up to land him. If he wasn’t in game shape, he was close enough to get there with a few weeks of focused conditioning work. And he still moves as fluidly as any big man of his generation.

Steve (Northport, Mich.): Is Chris Kaman still on the back burner? He would be a nice fit. I know it would have to be a trade. The trouble with our two rookie centers is always foul trouble. You can never have too many bigs.

Langlois: Kaman is off the burner and off the table, Steve. Dallas is happy to have him and the Mavs have a need for his size and mid-post ability. As for Andre Drummond and Slava Kravtsov and foul trouble, there’s not much evidence that they’re foul prone. Drummond played 34 games as a UConn frosh and fouled out of just two games, picking up more than three fouls only seven times. Kravtsov, in the recently completed Eurobasket qualifying competition, committed a total of 14 fouls in eight games, picking up more than two in any game only twice and more than three just once. He did get in early foul trouble in the overtime loss to Croatia, but managed to play 26 minutes and finished with three fouls. It wouldn’t surprise if they accumulated fouls at a more rapid clip as rookies, but once they adjust to the speed and physicality of the NBA their totals are likely to follow their previous patterns.

Darrin (Mio, Mich.): Will any Pistons preseason games be televised?

Langlois: There will be some news on that shortly, Darrin. It’s been typical in recent seasons to air a few preseason games. No reason to think that won’t again be the case.