True Blue Pistons
Here’s what the Pistons would tell you about the process through which the NBA determines draft order: It’s better to be lucky on draft night than on lottery night.
The Pistons haven’t moved into the top three in any of the previous three lotteries, their standing unchanged in 2010 and ’12 while getting bumped down one rung in 2011. But they’ve come away with franchise cornerstone big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to go with the fiercely competitive Brandon Knight, a backcourt staple. Combined with the ample cap space Joe Dumars takes to the marketplace this July, those three players are at the heart of what the Pistons believe will be a playoff push under a new coach in 2013-14.
The odds are long that the Pistons will land the No. 1 pick or pull into the top three when the NBA holds the lottery at 8 tonight from Times Square in New York, televised by ESPN prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference finals between San Antonio and Memphis. In fact, they’re longer than they were in both 2010 and ’11, though slightly better than they were a year ago.
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013
(Editor’s note: First in a recurring series leading to the June 27 NBA draft. Coming Wednesday: A look at Michigan point guard Trey Burke.)
In a draft pocked by uncertainty, this much the Pistons can take to the bank: The only two players they won’t have any shot to draft without moving into the top three when the NBA draft lottery is held Tuesday night are Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore.
It’s not a lock that those two players will go 1-2 or 2-1, necessarily, but no one believes they’ll last to No. 7 – the earliest the Pistons could pick unless they are one of the three teams that vaults to the top of the lottery when the results are made public before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
Most lottery teams, it’s widely believed, would take Noel with the No. 1 pick. But it speaks loudly to the lack of sure-fire impact talent that a player coming off a torn ACL, who won’t be available until late December at the earliest and who weighed a mere 206 pounds at last week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago, is not only a lottery lock but the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick.
Posted Friday, May 17, 2013
CHICAGO – Beauty – or a red flag – is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the NBA’s measurements registered as part of the league’s annual draft combine. Some organizations place more of a premium on what the numbers say than others, but nobody really lets the numbers scare them away from a player they believe can improve their roster.
Then again, nobody wants to put up a number that furrows eyebrows.
So it was big for Trey Burke that he measured a little better than 6-foot-1 in shoes after some fears he’d check in at under 6 feet. Victor Oladipo’s athleticism and work ethic are likely to outweigh most concerns that he’s a tad undersized, at 6-foot-4¼, for shooting guard, but a 6-foot-9¼ wing span will give him an offsetting boost.
Cody Zeller was relieved that his wing span measured 6-foot-10¾ – the same as his height. Anything less than an even ratio between height and wing span is considered a negative for a big man.
“It’s still not good,” he shrugged, “but it’s better than 6-8,” a figure that had been making the rounds before Chicago set the record straight.
Posted Thursday, May 16, 2013
CHICAGO – The Pistons ended last season with a four-guard rotation that consisted entirely of players who’ve spent the bulk of their careers as point guards. Yet it’s conceivable they’ll draft one with their lottery pick on June 27.
Both Jose Calderon and Will Bynum are scheduled to hit free agency less than a week after the draft and there’s no guarantee either one, let alone both, will be back. Rodney Stuckey has only a year left on his contract before he hits free agency, but he could be perhaps the most attractive trade chip in Joe Dumars’ arsenal in what shapes up as an active summer. And Brandon Knight’s ability to shoot off of screens – and a motor that figures to get him open frequently to do just that – means his move to shooting guard could become permanent.
So it’s not hard to see the way to an opening for the Pistons to grab one of the three point guards considered top-10 picks: Michigan’s Trey Burke, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum.
They all bring something different to the table. Burke carried Michigan to the NCAA title game and oozed the qualities of a leader and winner in a player who can score in a variety of ways but also set up his teammates. Carter-Williams is more of an old-school point guard with the great size that remains Burke’s biggest question mark. And McCollum is more of a scoring point guard who many teams like for his ability to handle either backcourt spot.
Posted Thursday, May 16, 2013
A year ago, Kim English and his class of 2012 draft mates were in the shoes – some of them stuffed with extra-thick socks to pad height – of the hopefuls who’ll be filing from one hotel conference room to the next and station to station for testing and measurements this week at Chicago’s Harrison Street Athletics Facility.
Many approach the NBA draft combine as a job interview, and English did to a degree, as well. But he went confident that showing what he was – both on the court and in conversations with the NBA executives who ultimately would decide his fate – would be enough to sell his case. He did no exceptional preparation, either to dazzle scouts with his athleticism or executives with his interpersonal skills.
“The team staff and front office know what you can do,” he said. “They bring you in, they know what you can do. They’ve watched you to a crazy extent. Four years of them watching. So I wasn’t going to come in here and try to reinvent myself. I was just going to play hard and make shots and show them what I was going to do in the league.”
Some prospects spend the time between the end of their college seasons and the draft working out under trainers far away from campus, going to training centers in Los Angeles, Arizona or Florida. English eschewed all of that, choosing to stay in school – he earned his degree from Missouri last spring – and work out under the supervision of Bryan Tibaldi.
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Many of the hands David Stern will shake six weeks from Thursday, when NBA teams will parcel out the next wave of incoming talent at the draft, will belong to players teams have been tracking for three, four and five years. Even one-and-done prospects like Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett were identified as NBA prospects long before they got to college campuses.
That said, these next six weeks will account for a huge chunk of the evaluation process. There are no more games to evaluate, of course, but individual workouts, formal interviews, more casual conversations over lunch, background probes, videotape review, medical evaluations and even psychological profiles will be conducted to gauge NBA readiness and potential, roster and cultural fit.
That process shifts into a higher gear starting Wednesday, when approximately 60 players – mostly college products with a few international prospects sprinkled in – gather in Chicago to be poked and prodded by representatives from all 30 NBA teams.
Posted Monday, May 13, 2013
Between the 7-foot extremes of Andre Drummond, taken in the lottery, and Slava Kravtsov, signed as an undrafted free agent, came the three other Pistons rookies on last season’s roster: second-round picks Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton and Kim English.
English was the first player off the bench in the season opener when Lawrence Frank was still auditioning for a more manageable rotation. Singler moved into the starting lineup when Rodney Stuckey came up ill in the ninth game with the Pistons still winless and never left. Middleton came from the back end of the bench to finish the season as Singler’s backup at small forward.
The window can open and close on second-round picks in a flash, but all three of Singler, Middleton and English go into a critical off-season in the plans for 2013-14 as it stands now. There are certain factors out of their control, including what happens in the June draft, July free agency and a summer-long trade market enhanced for the Pistons by the cap space they’ll have at their disposal.
Posted Friday, May 10, 2013
Given that the strong consensus heading into the June 27 draft holds that Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore are 1-2 or 2-1 atop the board, followed by a thick muddle, you wonder if the GM who’ll have to work hardest at forcing a grin come lottery night will be the guy who pulls the No. 3 pick.
Noel and McLemore are considered potential stars from a draft otherwise thought to be devoid of them. If you buy that a similar talent can be had through the top 10 as at No. 3, then the reality is that you’re paying 50 percent more – last year’s No. 3 pick, Bradley Beal, was slotted at $4.1 million; last year’s No. 7, Harrison Barnes, at $2.8 million – for a similar player.
Given that the Pistons will be well under the cap this year, and intend to use their cap space to leverage more talent on to the roster, that extra $1.3 million might come in very handy on the open market.
The Pistons have a 5 percent chance (OK, 4.91 percent) of landing the No. 3 pick, slightly better than their chances of getting the No. 2 (4.16 percent) or the No. 1 pick (3.6 percent). Their likeliest landing spots, far and away, are at No. 7 (59.93 percent) or No. 8 (25.3 percent).
But just for fun, what would they do if they landed at 1, 2 or 3?
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013
Arnie Kander sees glimpses of elite explosiveness in Brandon Knight – the transition dunks where he breaks from a pack and gets to the rim in a heartbeat, the dynamic drive for the game-winner against Toronto last season – and envisions the frequency of those instances multiplying.
He’ll start by slowing Knight down.
“I’m going to really work at his process for changing speeds,” the Pistons strength and conditioning coach said. “Slowing way, way down. Getting better at the task, but more importantly getting better at what’s between tasks.”
Think Chris Paul, perhaps, or Tony Parker. Knight is in their ballpark for speed and quickness, but just as not every pitcher who throws 100 mph is as effective as Justin Verlander, neither is a steady diet of full-throttle pace a recipe for consistently beating defenders off the dribble.
Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Two things – odds of the Pistons moving into the top three during the May 21 lottery and the emerging consensus at the top of the draft – likely mean there are six players who won’t be joining the young core of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond culled from the last three NBA drafts.
Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke and Otto Porter certainly aren’t a unanimous top six for the June 27 draft, but they have risen to the status of “consensus” top six, it appears. Both DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony and ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, the two most credible independent draft evaluators, have them in their top six, with Noel and McLemore – in that order – their first two.
The Pistons have a 12.67 percent chance to draw into the top three and 85.23 percent odds of picking either seventh (59.93) – that’s the spot at which they enter the lottery draw – or eighth (25.3).
So if you concede that Noel, McLemore, Bennett, Oladipo, Burke and Porter will be gone before David Stern has to step to the podium a seventh time, where do the Pistons turn for help?
Posted Monday, May 6, 2013
Greg Monroe’s move to power forward doesn’t fundamentally change the summer Arnie Kander has planned for him, but there will be tweaks made in his training regimen to acknowledge the change.
It might sound curious at first blush that the Pistons’ strength and conditioning coach will focus on getting Monroe stronger to play a position that will demand greater defensive range and mobility. Until you hear his logic, at least, and then it all makes perfect sense.
For the increased lateral mobility Monroe will need to guard the expanding number of range-shooting power forwards, Kander says, he’ll first need to strengthen his legs and hips.
“You have to first work on muscle strength to be able to get in those positions,” he said. “It means get better at basketball movement. What gets in your way? What blocks things? For Greg, it’s getting better at stances. On offense, he can get away with an upright stance. Defensively, he has to really learn defensive stance – stay wide. When you start narrowing your stance, it’s hard to go lateral. Great defenders stay wide.”
Posted Friday, May 3, 2013
Among the many expectations Andre Drummond exceeded in his rookie season? Andre Drummond’s.
“Yeah, I definitely did,” he said. “I think I did a lot better than I thought I was going to do. I knew it was going to be tough coming in with a lot of bigger guys, more athletes. We all know I don’t have much of an offensive game as of yet, so I just used what I know I was good at to help my team win games and help me get more comfortable in the league.”
While Drummond’s rookie performance for the Pistons – he finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting despite missing 22 games and starting only after he returned for the season’s final 10 games – might have surprised him, it didn’t fulfill him. A little success has only served to fuel his desire for a lot of success.
“I know when I start to get more adjusted to the league and learn different things, I’ll be a lot more successful and hopefully be one of the greatest players to play,” he said. “That’s my goal – to be great, never good.”
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013
Tom Gores’ vow to use every available resource to restore the Pistons to greatness has led him to Phil Jackson, who has agreed to serve in an advisory capacity in the franchise’s search for a head coach.
“Phil Jackson is a friend and one of the best minds in the business,” Gores said. “We are thrilled to have him as an adviser as we make some very important decisions for this franchise. Joe (Dumars) and I discussed this and he and I are in full agreement that this is a great opportunity.”
A spokesman for Gores indicated that this is an advisory role and not a formal position inside the Pistons organization. Joe Dumars, president of basketball operations, said he welcomes Jackson’s input.
“Tom and I discussed using a consultant as part of our decision-making process in our search for a head coach and we feel that Phil Jackson is a great resource to use,” Dumars said. “I look forward to talking with Phil next week.”
Dumars is directly linked to all three NBA titles won by the Pistons, more than all but four other franchises. The Hall of Famer won two titles as a player with the 1989 and ’90 Bad Boys and as president of basketball operations built the 2004 NBA champions.
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013
There are certain players Arnie Kander doesn’t want to see for a month. Brandon Knight, dealing with plantar fasciitis that stretches back to last summer, is one of them. Kyle Singler, who’s had precious little time off since signing to play in Spain in the summer of 2011, is another.
Andre Drummond is on a different list. Because he’s the youngest player on the team, still a teenager. Because until last summer, he’d never really been in a supervised weight-training program. Because just a few months under the eye of the Pistons’ esteemed strength coach in the months between last June’s draft and the October opening of training camp produced such dramatic results.
“I go back to last summer,” Kander said. “There are certain things I measure – stride length, stopping angles, how quick getting up, speed getting down the court, change of direction, how quick sideline to sideline – the level of improvement was off the charts. Everyone heard the word ‘potential,’ but it went way beyond that for me. Because when I saw the focus, the commitment, the dedication, potential becomes very easy to attain if you’re willing to put the work in and he did that all season. For me, he’s not even a piece of clay. He’s beyond a piece of clay.”
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Mike Abdenour is good at barking orders and establishing timelines for athletes in their recovery from physical setbacks, but he’s got some work to do at following instructions and adhering to timelines others set for his recovery.
He’s back at work this week after 32 days off – he could give you the minutes and seconds breakdown if you give him a chance to update the standings – and doesn’t plan on going away again anytime soon. He’d have been back a lot sooner, if he’d had his way. Like five days after the March 24 heart attack that sidelined him – doctor’s orders, with an assist to Joe Dumars – for the remainder of the season.
And he’s already making up for lost time, which explains why he recounted his month away while walking briskly on a treadmill inside the Pistons practice facility, attacking his job with a zeal that would bring knowing smiles to the hundreds of paths he’s crossed during his nearly four decades with the Pistons.
Posted Monday, April 29, 2013
The NBA deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the June draft passed at midnight Sunday with fewer than a handful of players who mattered still waffling. Adreian Payne and Isaiah Austin decided to stay in school at Michigan State and Baylor, while Andre Roberson chose to leave Colorado for the NBA.
None of those decisions will affect the Pistons with respect to their lottery pick. The only player considered a probable top-five pick who chose not to enter the draft is Marcus Smart, the Big 12 Player of the Year who announced his intention to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season.
What does it mean for the Pistons?
Posted Friday, April 26, 2013
For as long as Greg Monroe had to envision the product of his pairing with Andre Drummond, for as much as he prepared for the switch to power forward to accommodate Drummond’s ascension to the starting lineup, nothing was more instructive – or more encouraging – than experiencing the reality for the season’s final 10 games.
“It’s an unofficial attachment when it comes to big men playing together,” he told me this week. “You have to know where each other is on the court – spacing, movement. Learning where he’s going to be and his habits was the key this year as far as us moving forward. Summertime, we’ll work out. Once the season starts back up, we’ll get more acclimated. But I think we played very well and I think we’ll only get better with time.
“The plan is for us to move forward playing together, so I have to be as comfortable playing with him as anybody could be.”
Posted Thursday, April 25, 2013
George David’s first draft as Pistons assistant general manager isn’t much different for him than the past several as personnel director. He’s added some duties outside of draft prep in his new role, but he remains the central figure in the run-up to draft night for the Pistons – the guy who directs the scouting staff, puts the draft board together and makes sure Joe Dumars sees every viable candidate for their No. 1 pick in person.
The decisions on draft night are Joe D’s. Making sure he is as well-prepared to make those decisions is perhaps the best way to describe David’s draft role.
As such, he goes by the Boy Scout creed: always be prepared. So when the Pistons were awarded the second-round clip of the Los Angeles Clippers that once seemed unlikely, it was a nice bonus but not something that caught David unprepared.
The Pistons will be picking from one extreme to the other in the June 27 draft – a top-10 pick, a bottom-10 pick and one very near the middle.
Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Greg Monroe doesn’t know who’ll be filling out the lineup card next season, but he’s fairly certain whoever it is will pencil him in next to Andre Drummond at center.
Back in the gym to get in some weight-lifting under Arnie Kander’s supervision on Tuesday, less than a week after his third season wrapped up, Monroe will prepare this off-season to come back with a game more suited to power forward than center.
He’ll split his summer similarly to a year ago – back home in Louisiana for a month, then off to Georgetown for a summer session in the classroom with plenty of ex-Hoyas available to partner up in the gym, then set up shop in Auburn Hills alongside a core of teammates in the weeks leading up to the start of training camp.
Posted Monday, April 22, 2013
It barely registered a blip on the Richter scale of Pistons fandom, but there were a few high fives around the executive offices late Friday afternoon when the Pistons won both of the NBA draft tiebreakers that involved them.
One puts them ahead of Washington in the lottery pecking order, the other gives them a bonus late second-round pick. Assistant general manager George David wasn’t in position to exchange any of those high fives – he was in Portland along with scouting director Doug Ash at the Nike Hoop Summit – but it’s safe to say he cracked a smile.
The tiebreaker win with Washington gives the Pistons a slightly better chance to draw a top-three pick, but the bigger benefit is being slotted one spot ahead of the Wizards.
Posted Friday, April 19, 2013
For a franchise that hasn’t gotten many breaks lately, the Pistons got two Friday afternoon – perhaps an omen that better fortune lies ahead. They won both tiebreakers that involved them for determining lottery position and draft order.
As a result, the Pistons will go into the May 21 lottery in the No. 7 spot. They’ll pick ahead of Washington, with which they shared a 29-52 record, if neither team moves into the top three for the June 27 draft. Washington will thus pick ahead of the Pistons in the second round, which means the Pistons will have the 38th pick. They will also choose 56th as a result of the Los Angeles Clippers winning their tiebreaker with Memphis.
The Pistons were in a similar spot going into the 2010 draft, when they tied with Philadelphia for the sixth spot but lost the tiebreaker. Philadelphia wound up drawing the No. 2 pick and the Pistons picked seventh, selecting Greg Monroe.
Posted Friday, April 19, 2013
In an increasingly polarized world where there is no patience for nuanced positions, we sort coaches into two bins: dictators or pushovers, often coded as “a player’s coach.”
Except the best coaches rise above those labels. Chuck Daly, the best coach in Pistons history, certainly did.
If he were available, Joe Dumars would hire him. Alas, he’s not. So the search goes on.
As it will for roughly a quarter of the league, perhaps a third, in the days and weeks ahead. Philadelphia will be looking for its fifth coach since 2006 with Doug Collins’ departure. Milwaukee might be looking for its fifth, depending on what happens with Jim Boylan. Minnesota could be on the hunt for its sixth coach in that time if Rick Adelman walks away, as he’s said he’s considered. Phoenix will be looking for its fifth coach if Lindsey Hunter isn’t retained.
Posted Thursday, April 18, 2013
Tom Gores made good on his word to thoroughly but “very, very quickly” make the tough decisions necessary for the future of the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons on Thursday fired coach Lawrence Frank, less than 24 hours after what Frank described as a “very tough, very turbulent” season came to an end with a loss at Brooklyn.
“We thank Lawrence for his hard work and dedication, but we feel it is in the best interest of the franchise to make a change at this time,” Joe Dumars, president of basketball operations, said in a prepared statement released by the team. “Decisions like this are never easy and we wish Lawrence well in the future.”
Posted Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Their four-game winning streak came to an end in the season finale. Now the Pistons wait on word whether the Lawrence Frank era ended in Brooklyn, as well.
The Pistons fell 103-99 to the Nets, finishing a season Frank described after the game as “a very tough season, both personally and professionally.” He now awaits a decision on his future with the franchise after owner Tom Gores, while attending Monday’s home finale, promised a swift review of team leadership.
Asked whether he was optimistic about his chances to return, Frank said, “I think very realistic. Tom and I have very honest dialog. We’ll just kind of see how it plays out. You go into it eyes wide open. We both have mutual respect for each other, so we’ll figure it out.”
Frank thanked the players for staying the course, his coaching and support staffs in the locker room after the game, which left the Pistons with a 29-53 record. The Pistons went 25-41 in his lockout-shortened first season.
Posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The cap space Joe Dumars carved out for the looming off-season creates a gaping opportunity to upgrade the Pistons’ talent base. Given the success rate the Pistons have had in the previous three lotteries, adding another top-10 pick likely means a fourth building block will be secured in June. But the greatest source of optimism for a great leap forward in 2013-14 lies in the potency, individually but particularly in the collective, of the Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond tandem.
The Pistons have now had roughly 10 percent of an NBA season – nine games with only Wednesday’s season finale at Brooklyn remaining – to gauge the effectiveness of Monroe and Drummond together.
Ten percent is an amply sufficient sample size to paint an accurate portrayal of the situation as it exists – precise polling can be done with far less of a slice – but it’s still not a lot to go on when projecting the future.
Posted Monday, April 15, 2013
When Tom Gores spoke before the Pistons’ home finale about his excitement for the future, he wasn’t solely referencing the cache of cap space the franchise will take into the July free agency period. He also had in mind the young nucleus built in the first two years of his stewardship.
A few hours later, he might have been feeling even more optimistic about that young nucleus.
Even with Andre Drummond playing on a testy right ankle, the one he sprained three nights earlier and made him a game-time decision for Monday’s home finale, the Pistons gave their owner a glimpse of what might be with a 109-101 win over Philadelphia.
Greg Monroe racked up his 36th double-double by the first minute of the second half and finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds. Brandon Knight’s bounce fueled a 33-21 third-quarter advantage that put the Pistons squarely in control. Rookie small forwards Kyle Singler (16 points) and Khris Middleton combined for a high-efficiency job sharing role, contributing 26 points and seven rebounds on 10 of 18 shooting.
Drummond didn’t dent the stat sheet with quite the same authority as he’s done frequently since returning from injury nine games ago, accumulating two quick fouls that likely further inhibited his aggressiveness on top of the ankle injury. But he flashed his athleticism and havoc-inducing defensive presence often enough in the second half, when he grabbed five rebounds and added two steals in addition to altering or dissuading several shots.
Posted Monday, April 15, 2013
Tom Gores understands the coming off-season presents the Pistons with an opportunity for a magnitude of change that might not come around again for several years. To ensure those personnel decisions are made with all due consideration, Gores will make the decisions he needs to make soon, he said before Monday’s home finale.
“We’re assessing everything fast,” Gores said when asked if he had a timeline in mind for decisions on the futures of team leadership. “It’s a very important time, a critical time for the franchise. We’re fortunate enough to have a good young group of people, so we’ll do it fast, like we did when we came in and bought the team. We’re going to do this very, very quickly, but thoroughly.”
Gores said he met with president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and head coach Lawrence Frank on Sunday.
“I expected better results,” he said. “I met with Joe and Lawrence yesterday and let them know that. They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.”
Posted Sunday, April 14, 2013
The front office that scouted Khris Middleton for three college seasons and saw him hold his own against NBA players in summer camp pickup games wasn’t fazed by his performances in Orlando’s Summer League. But the coaching staff that didn’t have that history with him? Well …
“In Summer League, look, there were a lot of questions,” Lawrence Frank said as the season headed to its final week with Middleton now in the rotation as Kyle Singler’s backup. “Part of it is him getting healthy with his knee. I think he has a lot more confidence in his legs. A lot of work he’s put into his game. He’s very studious. He knows that he has to continue to work and get stronger. He’s in the weight room. He watches film every day. At the end of practice, he’s working on his individual skills, one on one.”
When Joe Dumars huddles his inner circle at season’s end and plots a future that includes the opening that an estimated $25 million or more in cap space this summer provides, he’ll write the names of his last three No. 1 draft choices in ink: Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond. He’ll have Kyle Singler on that list, too, and now Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko have grown into the class of young veterans, both putting strong finishing kicks onto disappointing seasons.
Posted Friday, April 12, 2013
Charlotte stumbled to the league’s worst season ever a year ago by winning percentage, going 7-59 and praying with every loss for the payoff that never came. They wanted Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, as did all teams that landed in the lottery. But the Bobcats came up with the No. 2 pick instead. They could have taken Andre Drummond.
And that possibility could well haunt the franchise for years. Drummond gave the Bobcats a glimpse into what might have been on Friday, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds, just as he likely turned Cleveland wistful two nights earlier with a 29-point, 11-rebound outing for passing on him with the No. 4 pick.
“He puts a presence on the offensive boards,” Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap said before Friday’s 113-93 Pistons win, their third straight. “It’s like there’s a piece of meat on the tip of the rim and he’s going after that sucker like a hound dog that hasn’t been fed for seven days. Defensively, he’s just a good athlete who covers a lot of mistakes at the rim and he’s willing to leave his man to block shots, take charges. I think he’s gritty.”
Drummond’s numbers might have been better, but he left the game just 2:40 after returning in the fourth quarter when he stepped on Bismack Biyombo’s foot and rolled his right ankle. He said X-rays revealed nothing more serious than a sprain and felt he’d be ready for the season’s final two games, Monday vs. Philadelphia at The Palace and Wednesday’s finale at Brooklyn. The team called him day to day.
Posted Thursday, April 11, 2013
About 20 minutes before tipoff of Wednesday’s game at Cleveland, Cavs TV analyst Austin Carr, doing a live in-arena interview to preview the Pistons-Cavs game, proclaimed Cleveland shooting guard Dion Waiters “the best rookie in the Eastern Conference.”
Perked my ears up a little bit. Fans in Washington (Bradley Beal) and Charlotte (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) would probably object, but fans in Detroit – perhaps the only place where Andre Drummond’s impact is fully appreciated – surely would.
But, OK. Waiters has been pretty good, scoring almost 15 points a game despite low shooting percentages, and Carr, a Notre Dame legend who averaged 38 points a game as a junior and senior 40-plus years ago, is likely inclined to value scoring above all else.
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013
CLEVELAND – Andre Drummond diligently practices his free throws every day, despite what his 34 percent success rate in an otherwise revelatory rookie season might suggest. He just usually doesn’t get to practice them with 14,000 onlookers. But when Cleveland coach Byron Scott dragged out the Hack-a-Dre strategy with a little more than five minutes left in Wednesday’s fourth quarter, Drummond took a philosophical approach.
“I got a chance to work on my free throws today. That’s how I look at it,” the rookie said after scoring nine points in 17 attempts at the line as part of a career-best 29-point outburst in a 111-104 Pistons win that swept the four-game season series from Cleveland. “I just got a chance to work at it. Now I know I can do it, so there’s no excuse not to do it again next game. The more and more they foul me, the more and more I got confidence. I just said to myself, ‘You get the next one.’ If I missed one, ‘You get the next one.’ I was focused. That’s what I call it. I was focused.”
Seven times in a span of nine possessions over 3:15, Cleveland players mugged Drummond. He split the pair on the first six trips and made both on the final one.
Posted Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Lawrence Frank admits he comes at this from the perspective of a man who dreamed of being a coach the way other kids hope to become an astronaut or movie star. Outsiders making sweeping assumptions and proclamations armed with a fraction of the proprietary knowledge the coach possesses drive him a little crazy.
And when he hears the rumblings directed at Michigan coach John Beilein after Monday’s championship game loss to Louisville in one of the most competitive and entertaining title games of its era, he bristles.
When Michigan’s national player of the year, Trey Burke, picked up his second foul before the mid-point of the first half, Beilein put him on the bench. He left him there for the rest of the half as freshman backup Spike Albrecht’s shooting allowed Michigan to build a double-digit lead with 17 first-half points. Louisville wound up cutting Michigan’s halftime lead to one when Luke Hancock drilled four 3-pointers in the final two minutes.
Posted Monday, April 8, 2013
As a rookie, Jonas Jerebko left little doubt that no one could possibly have more fun than he derived from playing basketball. When his stints on the court ended, he’d come to the bench with red cheeks that more often than not matched red floor burns on his knees and elbows.
The Pistons weren’t abundantly talented that season, 2009-10, but with Jerebko starting in place of an injured Tayshaun Prince, they put together a five-game November winning streak with a starting five that consisted of two players making the veteran minimum – Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace – plus Jason Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey and the second-round rookie from Sweden. Together, they were earning less than $10 million, a sum dwarfed by more than 70 individual NBA players that season.
That Jonas Jerebko wasn’t much in evidence this season. Of course, any Jonas Jerebko wasn’t much in evidence over a 28-game span from late November to late January in which he played in just six minutes of one game.
Posted Sunday, April 7, 2013
In a season filled with too many near-misses and nights lamented for the lack of the one or two plays that weren’t made, the Pistons might not look back more fondly at any game than the 99-85 win over Chicago in Game 78.
It was made doubly satisfying for the way it obliterated the burden of the 18-game losing streak the Pistons dragged into the game at Chicago’s hands, symbolically washed away in the chest bump Andre Drummond and Jonas Jerebko shared when Drummond charged off the bench to meet Jerebko near mid-court after the Swede’s dunk put the Pistons up 14 with seven minutes to play and forced a Chicago timeout.
“We hadn’t beaten them since Andre was born,” Lawrence Frank grinned. “That’s a long time – 18 straight times. Not that we know the date – Dec. 23, 2008.”
Posted Saturday, April 6, 2013
When the Pistons look back at a season that will vex them, one of the most perplexing elements of it will be their road performance against Western Conference teams. Saturday was their last shot to get a win against the West and they gave themselves a chance they haven’t often had in their previous 14 such games. But their inability to hang on to the basketball – on their offensive end for the first 59 minutes and at Minnesota’s end in the final 60 seconds – cost them in a 107-101 loss.
The Pistons were within a point after Brandon Knight’s 3-pointer made it 102-101, but couldn’t corral an offensive rebound with 20 seconds left that went off Andre Drummond’s fingers. Forced to foul, they failed to grab Luke Ridnour’s miss on the second attempt, allowing him to make it a four-point game when they were again forced to foul with 15 seconds to go.
They lost a key jump ball also in the last few minutes with Andre Drummond up against point guard Ricky Rubio, and Brandon Knight – who played a gutty game, scoring 25 points after tossing away the protective mask for his broken nose five minutes into the game – fouled Rubio on a desperation 3-pointer at a time Rubio was 0 of 11.
Posted Friday, April 5, 2013
The four horsemen of Brandon Knight’s apocalyptic season: plantar fasciitis, hyperextended knee, sprained ankle, broken nose. For all of that, he’s missed seven games: three with the knee, four with the ankle.
“It’s always something,” he said, palming the hard plastic face mask he abhors but has been ordered to wear for the remainder of the season, “but normally it’s one thing. My entire college season, it was tendinitis. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many minor things added together at one time.”
They’ve all converged down the stretch of the season, too, with the plantar fasciitis that first flared last summer causing him stabbing pain again now. On Thursday, when the Pistons returned from their three-game road trip and before they headed back out to Minnesota on Friday, Knight and teammate Corey Maggette had their broken noses reset.
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013
The pairing of Andre Drummond with Greg Monroe, an experiment less than a week in the making, opens the door to a world of possibilities for the Pistons. It also poses a number of questions, the answers to which are only in the infancy of being formed.
The Pistons are getting a taste of how teams are going to defend them, though Lawrence Frank says the young pair hasn’t yet risen to the level that they become the focus of opposition defensive schemes. But in the minutiae that makes up a game plan, teams are deciding who guards Monroe and who guards Drummond, and how they can force Frank into having to choose one or the other late in games – or take his chances that a mismatch on one end of the floor will play to his advantage more than a mismatch on the opposite end will inflict damage.
“It’s all about combinations,” Frank said. “If they’re more worried about Andre’s rolls, they’ll probably use their best pick-and-roll defender on Andre. If they’re worried about Greg’s postups, they’ll put their better postup defender on Greg.”
So Monroe isn’t going to automatically be able to go against power forwards over whom he might have a significant size and strength advantage. Teams might still guard Monroe with their center and let their power forward take his chances against Drummond, whose strengths are offensive rebounding and finishing lob dunks off pick-and-roll plays – not posting up.
Posted Wednesday, April 3, 2013
BOSTON – Lawrence Frank struck gold with an unlikely lineup to win Monday at Toronto and nearly did it again with a new mix Wednesday at Boston. Down 18 midway through the third quarter, the Pistons came within three minutes by the midway mark in the fourth.
But for miserable 3-point shooting numbers and a half-dozen turnovers in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pistons would have left Boston with a five-game winning streak over the Celtics and a comeback for the ages. Instead, they sat in a locker room with dumbfounded looks as the reality of some staggering shooting numbers sunk in.
“Two for 17?” Jonas Jerebko repeated when he heard Charlie Villanueva’s shooting numbers. Nobody takes more 3-pointers as a percentage of his shots than Villanueva and there’s nobody the Pistons would rather have taking them, either, but he missed all eight of his shots from distance against the Celtics, including two in the final minute – one for the lead, one for a last-possession tie.
“Charlie’s a shooter. He’s going to keep shooting it. Two for 17 – we could have won by 10. But the ball didn’t bounce our way. We got great looks. We shared the ball. I’m happy with the way we played. We had some unfortunate missed ones.”
Posted Tuesday, April 2, 2013
There could not have been a more intimidating NBA roster on which Jason Maxiell would attempt to make an impression than the 2005-06 Pistons. They were coming off back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, beating the vaunted Lakers in the 2004 “five-game sweep” and pushing the equally star-laden San Antonio Spurs to seven grinding games into late June the next season.
A few days later, the Pistons used the 26th pick of the 2005 draft to select Maxiell, a conventionally undersized post player even by the standards of college basketball. But the Pistons saw in him a certain fearlessness and toughness they instinctively viewed as a fit for grooming behind Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace and the player Joe Dumars would sign days later as a free agent, Antonio McDyess.
All three of those veterans could spot a phony a mile away. No rookie, no matter how decorated or hyped upon arrival, would win an ounce of their respect until it was earned.
It speaks volumes that all three quickly took Maxiell under their collective wing because they saw in him a kindred spirit, a player who believed the only NBA currency that mattered was tied to work ethic, selflessness and team success.
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013
TORONTO – When the halftime buzzer sounded at Air Canada Centre, Jose Calderon headed to the locker room. The wrong locker room. The one he called home for the first seven-plus seasons of his NBA career.
“I went to the wrong tunnel,” Calderon grinned sheepishly after the game. “But they called me out really quick. It was just like three or four steps. That’s all.”
Those were the only three or four missteps of Calderon’s homecoming, which the Pistons made a triumphant one by putting up 33 fourth-quarter points with a group that probably hadn’t logged two meaningful minutes together all season.
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013
Save for an ankle injury that cost him a mid-March game at Utah, Jason Maxiell started all of the Pistons’ first 72 games this season – until the last one he played, last Friday, when Andre Drummond returned from a back injury.
That will stand as Maxiell’s last game of the season, the Pistons announced on Monday – and it could be the last game of his eight-year run with the franchise that made him its 2005 first-round pick. Maxiell, a pending free agent whose return is questionable with Drummond and Greg Monroe established as the starting frontcourt of the future, will miss the season’s final eight games after undergoing surgery to repair a detached retina.
“You feel horrible for Jason,” Lawrence Frank said before Monday’s game at Toronto. “He’s a very, very professional guy. You know exactly what you’re going to get every day. You hate to see any of your guys get injured and especially like that, where your season is over.”
Posted Sunday, March 31, 2013
CHICAGO – The Pistons avoided the third-quarter meltdown that led to embarrassing home losses to Minnesota and Toronto last week. They got 29 points off their bench in the first half alone. They dominated the glass, a testament to the difference Andre Drummond makes.
But the Chicago Bulls might as well be a vampire to them, defeated only by having a stake driven cleanly through the heart.
The streak now stands at 18 and stretches to the George W. Bush administration. In both of their previous meetings this season, the Pistons saw Chicago overcome 17-point deficits to win. In this one, the Pistons led by 13 early and for all of the first three-plus quarters.
“I don’t even know that our guys know the last time we beat them was Dec. 23, 2008,” Lawrence Frank said after the 95-94 win in a game the Pistons nearly tied with six seconds to play on a Charlie Villanueva triple. “I know that, but I don’t even think they know it. The bottom line is we’ve given ourselves three chances to win and that’s such a fine line. They’re a 40-win team. You think about it: We hold them to under 40 percent, we shoot 50 percent from the field, 43 percent from three, you think you’re going to win the game.”
Posted Saturday, March 30, 2013
Andre Drummond moved fluidly, got 10 shots within arm’s length of the rim and made 80 percent of them. His four rebounds in 19 minutes didn’t jump out of the box score, but the way he speared them – darting from one side of the rim to the other – underscored the rare combination of length and athleticism the Pistons so dearly missed in his absence. He blocked two shots but appeared to get his hands on at least two others and altered or dissuaded another handful. He was credited with two steals.
But Drummond’s first game back was so eerily like his last game missed – both lopsided losses to teams with records nearly identical to the Pistons, both games essentially decided by one-sided third quarters – as to be a sobering reminder of what Lawrence Frank emphasized in the days and hours leading to Drummond’s Friday return: Good to have him back, but it’s not a magic bullet.
With the postseason no longer even a remote possibility, the focus of outsiders and fans, at least, is on Drummond and the ripple effects of his return. With Drummond starting, Greg Monroe – who has played nothing but center for his first three NBA seasons – slides to power forward. For Frank, well, the focus is on something else.
“This is bigger,” Frank said. “What we’re dealing with, our play post All-Star break and what it’s been quite frankly for the last five years, we have to find a way. We’ve got to stop talking about individual players and start talking about the team. We’ve got to get where we’re playing much more competitive basketball.”
Posted Friday, March 29, 2013
It was simultaneously painful yet fitting that Andre Drummond returned to the Pistons – and this time as a starter – one day after they’d been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Drummond’s return was both a reminder of what might have been had he not missed the past 22 games and a blueprint for what they hope to be.
With Drummond presenting an inviting above-the-rim target, the Pistons got off to a fast start and led Toronto by 10 points five minutes into the game. But another third-quarter meltdown served to underscore what Lawrence Frank warned before the game: “The last thing I want to do is, OK, Andre’s back, our problems are solved. That is the furthest thing from the truth there is.”
Toronto outscored the Pistons 36-15 in the third quarter, breaking open a one-point halftime game, and rolled to a 99-82 win that looked and felt much like Minnesota’s 105-82 win three nights earlier.
“Very similar to the Minnesota game,” Frank said. “Competitive game. Third quarter, 25-8 run. It just doesn’t add up. When you’re competitive for a half and then it just snowballs on us and we don’t have the resolve right now to put more into it. This is embarrassing. You’re got to sustain your focus, effort, discipline for 48 minutes. We’re not doing it.”
Posted Friday, March 29, 2013
Andre Drummond not only returns to the Pistons tonight, he’ll make his first NBA start, alongside Greg Monroe.
“We’re going to try, as much as we can, to maximize those guys’ minutes in terms of when they’re on the floor,” Lawrence Frank said after Friday’s morning shootaround. “Especially with Andre building up his minutes, another good reason to start him and make sure those guys are together.”
Frank, who dropped pretty strong hints on Thursday that Drummond’s return would come tonight against Toronto, said Drummond had been told just before he got hurt that he was moving into the starting lineup. The move would have come in the days just before the All-Star break, Frank said.
Posted Thursday, March 28, 2013
Never having been drafted, Jose Calderon came to the NBA unlike the vast majority of players who wind up leaving anything approaching a legacy. Or maybe not so much unlike them after all. Yes, Calderon signed with Toronto as a free agent – but only because Toronto was the one NBA team that went after the slight point guard from Spain.
“I really didn’t have so many options at that time, I’ve got to say,” Calderon smiled. “It’s not like I had five or six teams out there making me an offer. Toronto, they wanted me to travel to Toronto and see the city, they were really interested, so they give me the contract I was looking for so I could pay my way out. It wasn’t too many offers I had to choose. It was just them.”
Twice over the next four days, Calderon will compete against players who wear the only NBA uniform he’d donned until the late-January trade uprooted him and dropped him in Detroit. He’s not expecting to be emotionally overwrought when the Raptors play at The Palace on Friday, but when the Pistons repay the visit on Monday at Air Canada Centre … well, that might shake him a little.
Posted Thursday, March 28, 2013
Lawrence Frank wouldn’t commit to Andre Drummond being in uniform and available to play when Toronto comes to The Palace on Friday, but he certainly circled close to such an admission.
“In terms of tomorrow, I’ll give you that answer tomorrow,” Frank said after a Thursday practice he described as one with “good spirit, good energy, good effort” – perhaps, in some measure, because Drummond was again a full participant and spent a good chunk of it playing alongside Greg Monroe.
“We may want to create a competitive situation where we may not want to tell Toronto exactly what we’re doing,” Frank grinned. “That may be a part of it, too.”
Posted Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Lawrence Frank anticipated giving the Pistons the day off on Wednesday. That was clearly what the calendar dictated with 72 games of pounding on the knees and backs of his players and two days off before the Pistons host Toronto to start another stretch of three games in four nights.
But the ghoulish specter of Tuesday’s 23-point dousing by the Minnesota Timberwolves needed to be purged and so …
“They needed to watch it,” Frank said after a practice light on the physical and heavy on the mental. “When you get embarrassed like we got embarrassed, it’s important to see it as opposed to waiting another day and letting it linger – address it.”
Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2013
During a home losing drought that now stretches out nearly six weeks, the Pistons could at least say they had lost to all quality basketball teams. Until Tuesday night, at least. The Minnesota Timberwolves, whose season ran off the rails a long time ago due to an overwhelming run of injuries, outscored the Pistons by 22 in the third quarter and led by 28 after three quarters.
They heard those diehard home fans who’ve stuck with them through a disappointing season boo them off the floor at that point.
“They deserve to,” said Lawrence Frank, upbeat after the 1-1 road trip last weekend that included hanging tough with the rampaging Miami Heat and winning in the final minute against a Charlotte team that had won two straight and three of five, after the 105-82 final. “We get what we deserved. The fans that are coming out, these guys are loyal fans. We have 24 wins and we only have a handful of home games left. These guys are loyalists. We deserve to be booed. That comes with the territory. We have to give them a better product and we didn’t do it tonight.”
Posted Monday, March 25, 2013
If you were looking for a compelling reason to pay attention to the final 11 games of the Pistons’ season, how about the anticipated return of Andre Drummond? It’s probably coming soon – but it won’t be Tuesday when the Pistons host Minnesota.
“He’s on course to get back and we’ll just read it,” Lawrence Frank said on Monday after Drummond went through his second full practice, in addition to participating in the last two game-day shootarounds, since suffering a stress fracture in his lower back in early February, 21 games ago. “It’s very encouraging, what you see, but as much as you try to simulate it, practice isn’t an NBA game. But he’s working hard and it’s great to see him back on the court.”
Drummond’s first practice came on Thursday before the Pistons played a weekend back-to-back set at Miami and Charlotte, where their losing streak was extended to 10 games on Friday before it was snapped on Saturday. The team didn’t practice on Sunday, but Drummond worked with Frank’s staff and got in another conditioning session.
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013
The last time Joe Dumars made an in-season trade for a high-profile veteran on an expiring contract he intended to pursue in free agency, it was 2004. The player was Rasheed Wallace and the best sales tool Joe D had at his disposal was the NBA championship run on which the Goin’ to Work Pistons embarked.
He has no such aphrodisiac by which to woo Jose Calderon.
“Obviously, it’s a different, different team – a younger team that’s trying to build vs. a team that’s vying for a championship, so that in itself makes the experience completely and totally different,” Dumars told me last week. “But a guy can still make a decision based on the environment, based on the culture, based on the surroundings, the way an organization goes about its business.
Posted Saturday, March 23, 2013
CHARLOTTE – For the second time in 24 hours, the Pistons found themselves up against an opponent working on a rare winning streak: 24 straight in Miami’s case, two in Charlotte’s. Snicker if you will, but the last time the Bobcats had done so was way back in mid-November, and the redemptive combination of two wins plus two days off made Charlotte a more formidable opponent than its 16-40 record suggested.
Especially at a time the Pistons are enduring the throes of their own streak, 10 straight losses after Friday’s setback to the sizzling Heat in which they invested what energy and emotion they had left following a disheartening stretch of basketball.
So their 92-91 win over Charlotte will get lost in the hubbub of March Madness, but the mixture of joy and relief on all of their faces was palpable when Charlie Villanueva secured a loose rebound before the buzzer sounded and his teammates converged on him in celebration.
Posted Friday, March 22, 2013
MIAMI – It was the loss the world expected but for the longest time it didn’t follow the plot anyone anticipated. And the 103-89 loss to Miami – the Pistons’ 10th straight setback, the Heat’s 25th straight win – or at least the first three quarters of it, should serve as the blueprint for how they conduct their business over the final 12 games of a season fraught with disappointment.
“I think this is our team,” Jose Calderon said. “This is the team we’ve got to be. It’s not about winning or losing at this time of the season. It’s about showing what we can do, have pride, play 48 minutes. They’re a great team, but I think we gave it our best. It’s not like they just beat us. They beat 24 teams before us. I think a lot of people expected us to come here and they beat us by 40 or 50. That’s not going to happen. We’ve got to be positive with the effort we (gave) tonight. That’s for sure.”
The Pistons led for almost all of the first three quarters, and by as much as 11 points in the first half. Miami came with all of its defensive fury in the second half, holding the Pistons to 35 points and 30 percent shooting after a 54-point first half in which the Pistons shot 52 percent. Turnovers were especially costly: The Pistons committed 22 and the Heat pounced on them for 27 points.
Posted Friday, March 22, 2013
Joe Dumars wasn’t really worried about how Brandon Knight would take the news of Jose Calderon, the dictionary definition of a point guard, joining the Pistons in a late January trade. Dumars knows ultimately that Knight’s abiding interest is in winning. But he had a few good, long heart-to-heart talks, anyway, with the player who had occupied that position for virtually all of his first 100-plus NBA games.
“I said, ‘Brandon, just understand something. This doesn’t mean you’re not going to handle the ball any more. We’re going to get stops and rebounds and we’ll kick it out to you. You’re going to push the ball and attack, run drag screens and come off and, yeah, you’re going to do all of that. Trust me. You can have two guards in the backcourt who can handle the ball. It’ll work. It’ll work.’ ”
Between the first two injuries of his career that cost Knight games – a hyperextended right knee that sidelined him for three games in late February and a sprained left ankle that will keep him out of his fourth consecutive game at Miami tonight – the 21-year-old Knight has given clear signs that he could flourish playing off of the ball.
Posted Thursday, March 21, 2013
Joe Dumars spent all of last week scouring the talent pool for June’s NBA draft at various conference tournaments from Las Vegas to New York. So where would Andre Drummond go if he had waited for the 2013 draft instead of leaving UConn after an uneven freshman season?
“Let’s just say he would go really high,” Dumars said after a good belly laugh. “Really high.”
If the low point of the Pistons season was learning of the diagnosis of a stress fracture in the rookie’s lower back, it’s overwhelmed by the transformative effect Drummond’s emergence has had on the future of the franchise.
Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Assuming Miami survives the anti-LeBron James fervor in Cleveland tonight, the Pistons’ nine-game losing streak will collide head-on with a 23-game winning streak in the cauldron of a party atmosphere on a Friday night on South Beach.
“If we’re going down there, we better have the belief that we can win,” Lawrence Frank said after Wednesday’s practice. “If not, then why go? Someone’s going to beat them. Why not us?”
In late December, before the Heat turned invincible, the Pistons beat Miami 109-99 in front of their own partying Friday night crowd. Miami was firing on about half of its cylinders at the time and went 9-7 over its next 16 games, a stretch that included a 110-88 revenge victory over the Pistons on another Friday night in Miami.
Nine days later, on Super Bowl Sunday, the fates of the two franchises’ seasons diverged. The Heat won at Toronto and haven’t lost since. The Pistons played well but lost by a point to the Lakers. But they lost far more than a game that day. Though they didn’t know it at the time, they also lost Andre Drummond, whose impact on games and value to the team had been expanding by the week.
Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2013
When the Pistons scout upcoming opponents, they look at the most relevant information – which is the most recent information. They look, specifically, at the last five games to gauge lineup combinations, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.
They hold themselves up against the same standard – the last five games.
Lawrence Frank isn’t going to like what he sees when that report hits his desk.
The Pistons gave up 112 points a game on their 0-4 West Coast road trip last week when opponents shot 55 percent and only Portland, which scored 112 on the nose, made fewer than half of its shots. The Palace proved no elixir upon their return, either, as Brooklyn started a stretch of eight consecutive road games on the right foot by dropping 119 points on the Pistons and shooting 54 percent.
Posted Monday, March 18, 2013
Andre Drummond was a big part of the Pistons’ improved defense over the season’s first 50 games – and maybe a bigger part than even they realized at the time – but Lawrence Frank’s faith that defense will be the touchstone for a franchise renaissance transcends roster makeup and goes to mind-set.
“The thing that we have to restore is pride in being a Piston,” Frank said. “As we’ve struggled post-All-Star break, that’s one of the things that stands out. As you have time to reflect, that’s something that stands out to me. We have to, every single day, figure out a way to restore the pride in being a part of this team, because we’re a whole lot more capable than what we’re doing.”
He said that before Monday’s game, when the Pistons suffered a particularly one-sided loss, falling by 37 points – their worst home loss of the season and second only to their March 3 39-point loss at San Antonio among all games – to the Brooklyn Nets. Almost every ugly loss of the season has come over the past month since returning from the All-Star break.
Posted Saturday, March 16, 2013
PORTLAND – On a list that also must include David West and Luis Scola, count LaMarcus Aldridge as a power forward who bedevils the Pistons. Aldridge did it again Saturday night, opening the fourth quarter by scoring on each of Portland’s first four possessions on his way to another monstrous night at Detroit’s expense.
Aldridge scored on increasingly tough jump shots on Portland’s first three trips of the final quarter, after the Pistons had lost an 11-point first-half lead but were still squarely in contention. On the fourth trip, Jason Maxiell, already giving Aldridge precious little breathing room, got too close and fouled him, and Aldridge drained both free throws.
“As great a job as Jason Maxiell was doing on him, he made two or three shots that I don’t even know how he made them, quite honestly,” Brian Hill said after Portland’s 112-101 win. “He hurt us in the second half.”
Posted Friday, March 15, 2013
PORTLAND – When Pistons executive George David dug into Kyle Singler’s Duke career and talked to the staff that had coached him for four years, he kept hearing a similar refrain: We don’t feel comfortable when he’s not on the floor. Pistons coaches discovered the same thing in Summer League, playing him all 20 minutes of the second half one game and then shutting him down to remove the temptation to keep doing so.
So imagine how Dennis Murphy felt while coaching Singler in high school.
“It gets back to he’s so competitive, so tenacious and so smart,” Murphy said. “The result is, how do you take the guy off the floor? That’s exactly who he is.”
Murphy has grown South Medford High School in Medford, Ore., a city of 75,000 about 270 miles south of Portland near the California border, into a state power during his 25 years at the school, winning 17 conference championships. But his best teams were the ones that included Singler, a four-year varsity letter-winner who led the Panthers to consecutive state title appearances where they ran into a familiar opponent led by another pretty fair player: Lake Oswego and Kevin Love.
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013
If a point guard is the equivalent of a quarterback when his team is on offense, then a center’s responsibilities translate with equal appropriateness to those of a middle linebacker. A center must serve as the eyes for perimeter defenders unaware of what’s happening behind them, must help teammates get in the proper position as he anticipates the action of the play unfolding.
One critical component of the smothering defensive ability of the Goin’ to Work Pistons was the communication skills of Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, not only intelligent individual defenders but players able and willing to vocalize their observations.
And that quality might be the key to Slava Kravtsov carving out a career in the NBA. Gifted with a rare combination of size and athleticism to be a premier shot-blocker and intimidating defensive presence, Kravtsov’s ability to force his way into a more prominent role with the Pistons depends on his abilities to learn the nuances of NBA post defense and to communicate the proper defensive calls as part of a big man’s responsibilities.
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013
OAKLAND, Calif. – Down two key players in Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight, the Pistons saw in Wednesday’s loss at Golden State what could be when they’re healthy and they get the kind of production out of two key positions lacking for much of the season.
Rodney Stuckey, starting for the injured Brandon Knight, scored 22 points and got to the foul line six times. Hard to believe he went three straight games earlier this month without a basket, but when Stuckey is attacking the basket and getting to the foul line the Pistons have a much different offensive dynamic. Stuckey led five Pistons in double figures as they came back from double-digit deficits in both halves and pushed a hot Golden State team to the final minute before losing 105-97.
“We’re dangerous with Stuck attacking like that,” said Will Bynum, who added 16 points and four assists off the bench. “Nobody can guard him when he’s attacking. We need that from him.”
Stuckey, who added five assists, has had success both as a starter and a reserve, so he wasn’t assigning his success to being back in the starting lineup after Knight rolled his left ankle in Monday’s loss at Golden State. But he did attribute it to having more opportunities to play to his strength.
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO – Lugging a six-game losing streak with them up the West Coast, it speaks to the turn the Pistons’ season has taken that the first questions put to their coach is now the injury report. It really speaks to the turn the season has taken that the coach is Brian Hill, standing in for Lawrence Frank, who has been away from the team for 10 days at the side of his wife, Susan, as she deals with a health issue in New Jersey.
Jason Maxiell, who missed Monday’s loss at Utah after spraining his right ankle in Sunday’s game with the Clippers, went through shootaround and is expected to play tonight at Golden State.
That’s the good news. Two players central to their future, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight, remain sidelined. Both worked with strength coach Arnie Kander on conditioning and rehabilitation as shootaround concluded, Knight – minus the crutches that carried out of him Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City two nights earlier – walking in place while Kander directed hand movements for him at one point.
Posted Tuesday, March 12, 2013
To be certain, what happens in Las Vegas this week will not stay in Las Vegas. It will be taken back to 30 NBA cities and discussed among colleagues openly and at length.
It might be late in the college basketball season, but it’s early in the process of assessing college players. And that assessment is going to take place this week mostly in Las Vegas, where four separate conference tournaments will be held.
That explains why the top two Pistons executives, Joe Dumars and George David, merely hitched a ride west on Roundball One over the weekend with the Pistons headed to Los Angeles to start a weeklong, four-game trip up the Pacific Coast.
Dumars and David watched the Pistons lose to the Clippers on Sunday night, then stayed behind when the team left for Utah after the game. They both headed instead to Las Vegas, which this week serves as the intersection for the West Coast Conference, which wrapped up its tournament Monday night with Gonzaga beating Saint Mary’s for the title at Orleans Arena; the Pacific-12, which starts Wednesday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; the Western Athletic, which starts today at Orleans; and the Mountain West, which starts today at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
Posted Monday, March 11, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY – After the insult for Brandon Knight came the injury.
One night after he challenged a DeAndre Jordan dunk and lost, Knight went down in a heap under the basket early in Monday’s loss at Utah with a sprained left ankle. Knight clutched at his leg as he was falling to the court and appeared to be in tremendous pain. As Pistons trainers Arnie Kander and Mike Abdenour tended to him, he removed his mouthpiece and flung it over the backboard. When he was assisted to his feet, Knight could put no weight on his left leg.
On crutches afterward, Knight said he feared it might have been something worse than a sprain at first.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure,” he said. “Normally, when I sprain my ankle, I have the power to at least walk off the court. I turn ’em and I can walk it off. But this one, the pain wasn’t going away and I couldn’t put any pressure on it.”
The pall of Knight’s injury overshadowed a much better performance by the Pistons than they registered in Sunday’s 32-point loss to the Clippers. Trailing by 18 late in the first half, they put up 33 points in the third quarter to close to within six and had it at five with eight minutes to play. But playing shorthanded – they went the whole game without Jason Maxiell, as well – the Pistons simply didn’t have enough firepower to win in a building where they last won nearly 11 years ago.
Posted Sunday, March 10, 2013
LOS ANGELES – The Pistons are 0-11 on the road against Western Conference teams this season. If they’re going to pick up any wins on the four-game swing up the Pacific Coast this week, they’re going to need to be better by a wide margin at both ends of the floor and between the lines than they were in getting thumped 129-97 by the Clippers in Sunday night’s opener.
Mostly, they’re going to have to be better between the ears and, as the Pistons themselves asserted, they’re going to have to display a lot more heart.
“There was just no effort, no fight,” Greg Monroe said, clearly upset and clearly sending a message. “It was an embarrassment. Maybe guys don’t care. Something has to change, though. This can’t continue. If you don’t want to play, just say it. This has got to stop. This is unacceptable.”
The Clippers scored a dozen more points than the Pistons had allowed in any previous game in regulation this season – they also scored three more than Atlanta managed in double overtime in December – and they did it with six minutes to spare. It was a parade of uncontested dunks and unguarded 3-pointers as the Clippers shot more than 60 percent in every quarter except the third, when they shot 58 percent.
Posted Saturday, March 9, 2013
No one is more central to the future of the Pistons than Andre Drummond. They hope Jose Calderon becomes a part of that future, as well. But Calderon hits free agency when the season ends and there’s no guarantee that one component critical to his evaluation process – how he meshes with Andre Drummond – will have entered anything into evidence for him when he weighs all factors.
“It would be great, for sure,” Calderon told me before the Pistons headed out on a weeklong Western Conference road swing. “It was great, the way he was playing and the way he was playing the pick and roll – and that’s what I do. I’d love to have time to play with him, for sure. It could be fun, but the more important thing is for him to get fully healthy and ready. When he’s ready, he’ll be back. If it’s 10 games, good. If it’s three, good. Whatever it is will be is OK.”
Drummond has missed the last 14 games with a stress fracture in the fifth lumbar vertabra. The initial timetable given for his return was four to six weeks. There have been no setbacks in his recovery, but logic dictates that the Pistons are going to err on the side of caution twice over where Drummond is concerned. The worst case would be to come back too soon and suffer a setback that wipes out a good chunk of Drummond’s off-season program, a time when the Pistons hope they can really accelerate his growth.
Posted Friday, March 8, 2013
Before Brian Hill pulled a lineup out of the hat and Friday night turned sideways, it looked like you could cross out the names of Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert and substitute Mike James, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter. It looked, in other words, as if the story of Friday’s loss to Dallas was going to basically steal its plot line from Wednesday’s loss to New York: a flurry of 3-pointers doing in the Pistons once again.
The Pistons were hanging around, as they’d done with the Knicks, when three triples on three possessions turned a tie into a runaway. Against the Mavs, a five-point hole after three quarters became a 15-point canyon in the course of just 137 seconds as ex-Piston Mike James and ex-superstar Vince Carter each drained a pair of triples over the span of six Dallas possessions.
A 24-8 run later, the Pistons most improbably led 97-96, the comeback spurred by two players who didn’t play in the loss to New York. Rookie Khris Middleton scored a career-high 14 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter, and Charlie Villaneuva added 12, all in the final period after not entering the game until very late in the third quarter.
Posted Thursday, March 7, 2013
Brian Hill isn’t sure how long he’ll keep Lawrence Frank’s seat warm while the Pistons coach is home in New Jersey as his wife deals with an illness, but it didn’t take him long to adjust to sliding over 12 inches on the bench.
Make that “readjust.” Hill isn’t exactly an NBA head coaching novice. Over nine seasons – two stops in Orlando sandwiched around a stint with the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies – he coached 613 NBA games. And his 298-315 record would look a lot better if not for the two-plus seasons nursing the baby Grizzlies along to a 31-123 record.
“It didn’t really feel a whole lot different,” Hill said the day after the shorthanded Pistons – playing without not only Andre Drummond but Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva – rallied to take a 10-point lead over the Knicks but ran out of gas in an 87-77 loss. “Probably the hardest part was the opponent in that New York is one of the more difficult teams to play against when you’re making an adjustment like this from one coach to another because they’re a much different team defensively than any other team that we play. But as far as reading defensive situations and making offensive adjustments, it’s basically the same. I don’t know that you lose anything just because you’re one seat removed.”
Hill’s primary role during games at Frank’s side is to be his eyes and ears defensively, just as John Loyer takes the lead on the offensive side. Dee Brown moves into that role while Hill stands in for Frank.
Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The Pistons ran out of big guys, ran out of gas and ran out of runs. Against a team that had thumped them in their first three meetings, it didn’t help that the Pistons were without Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva on top of Andre Drummond, meaning three-quarters of the frontcourt rotation employed for the bulk of the season’s first 50 games watched the game in street clothes.
Yet there they were, sprinting out of the halftime locker room on an 18-4 tear to eventually stretch their lead to 10 points with less than three minutes left in the third quarter.
And all that against the Knicks, who’d won the season’s first three games by a combined 50 points and led at halftime by an average of 18.7 points. They eventually won by double digits again, though barely at 87-77, but how they got there was … well, weird.
Posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013
If the Pistons needed any motivation beyond erasing the sting of the season’s worst defeat – Sunday’s 39-point loss at San Antonio – to rivet attention for their next game, the New York Knicks ought to do it.
Struggling defensively over the past month, no opponent figures to perk up their ears quite like the Knicks, who have averaged 107.3 points against the Pistons in three easy wins.
The most competitive of the three – which have finished with margins of 21, 15 and 14 points – was the January game in London, when the Pistons recovered from an early 18-4 hole to climb within four points late in the third quarter. The other two games were both at Madison Square Garden. Their average deficit after one quarter against the Knicks has been 12.3 points and the average halftime margin has been 18.7 points.
Posted Monday, March 4, 2013
After enduring the season’s most thorough thrashing Sunday at San Antonio – a team armed with motivation on many fronts – Lawrence Frank laid bare the challenge now facing the Pistons. With the playoffs all but officially out of reach, the driving motivational force on a collective level is pride.
Taken a step beyond, many Pistons have ample reason to play out the season to the fullest extent of their capacity – and the front office and coaching staffs will focus their full attention on evaluation with a critical off-season a few short months off.
Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013
SAN ANTONIO – If San Antonio’s hottest pursuers in the West believe the Spurs vulnerable without Tony Parker over the next month, they might want to avoid watching the tape of their Sunday dismantling of the Pistons.
“It was a clinic tape,” Lawrence Frank said after the 114-75 hurting the Spurs applied. “You know what’s coming but we couldn’t stop it. We could have done a whole lot more to put more into the game to give ourselves a chance, but we didn’t. That’s a credit to the champs. That’s the blueprint. That’s what it looks like.”
Nobody has faced a worse confluence of factors here since 100 brave Texans tried to defend the Alamo.
Posted Saturday, March 2, 2013
NEW ORLEANS – Jose Calderon’s assists-to-turnover ratio is almost perfectly aligned with his games-to-practices ratio with the Pistons. Both are running at slightly better than four to one.
When the Pistons practiced on the campus of Georgetown University between the Washington and New Orleans legs of their three-game road trek that concludes Sunday at San Antonio, it was Calderon’s third practice with the Pistons since coming in trade in late January but needing to wait five days for visa issues to be resolved.
Six hours after government hurdles were cleared, Calderon was in the starting lineup at Madison Square Garden. A game-heavy schedule and the All-Star break further limited Calderon’s opportunity to practice, which means game days – from the hour-long morning shootarounds to the games themselves – have been used for on-the-fly acclimation: Calderon to his teammates and them to him.
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013
When the NBA schedule comes out, players trace their fingers down the list of road games looking for the dates that bring them back to familiar haunts. For Greg Monroe, the NBA dropped him in his two most meaningful cities for consecutive games.
Monroe and the Pistons beat Washington at the Verizon Center, where Georgetown plays its home games, on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Pistons practiced at McDonough Gymnasium, where he not only spent his practice days during two seasons with the Hoyas but returns in the summer to continue refining his game. And then it was on to New Orleans, where Monroe spent his first 18 years and led Helen Cox High to the 2008 Louisiana state title.
“I’ve got to thank the NBA for this trip,” Monroe said after Friday’s shootaround at New Orleans Arena in preparation for tonight’s game with the Hornets. “Got to see some friends in DC, got all my family down here. So, thank you. Shoutout to the NBA.”