Pistons Digest:  Grimes, Fontecchio offer glimpses of complementary fit with Pistons - and more

The first Pistons home game since they turned over half the roster featured Exhibit A of why it’s been a Murphy’s Law type of season. Whatever can go wrong seemingly has, indeed, gone wrong for the Pistons.

Paolo Banchero’s awkward prayer of a jump shot while blanketed by Jalen Duren – during which he did not travel, the NBA declared in its Last 2-Minute Report issued Sunday – with less than a second to go robbed the Pistons of a win they put themselves in position to land by holding Orlando to 44 points in the second half before Banchero played the villain.

But since their four trade-deadline deals were done with next season and beyond in mind, the lasting impact of Saturday’s loss was more about the home debuts of the two players acquired this month that factor in their long-term plans, Simone Fontecchio and Quentin Grimes.

It was Fontecchio’s fifth game but Grimes’ debut after spending the days since his acquisition from New York rehabilitating a knee strain suffered in late January. Grimes, 23, showed the expected rust with his timing and touch, but also put on display the toughness and defensive impact that made him such an attractive trade-deadline target of many teams, a fact reflected by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie calling Grimes “the best asset traded by any team on deadline day.” Grimes projects as an ultimate complementary player who can fit in any combination of lineups that involve the Pistons’ core perimeter players.

“His tenacity, getting over screens and staying in front of the ball,” was Monty Williams’ foremost impression of Grimes’ debut, understandably given the value of those traits and the need that fills for the Pistons. “Once he figures out what we’re doing in real time … you can do all that stuff in walk-throughs and practice, but in the game it’s a bit different. I like what he brings to the table. His shot, it’s big-time from a technique standpoint – legs, everything you want in a jump shot. That’s going to come as he gets his rhythm and his cardio.”

Grimes hit just 1 of 5 from the 3-point line, scoring five points in 26 minutes, but he’s a proven shooter – 37.8 percent for his career including 38.6 percent last season, his second, when he started 66 games for a playoff team. He also had four assists, two rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Fontecchio, another efficient complementary player, had 17 points, five assists, three boards and a steal while knocking down 3 of 5 from the arc. Together, Fontecchio and Grimes committed a single turnover.

The hidden appeal of landing Fontecchio and Grimes at the trade deadline, besides the obvious roster fit given a young core heavy on big men (Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart) and guards (Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Marcus Sasser) but lighter on wings (Ausar Thompson), was how they bolster long-term roster depth while barely denting the trove of cap space the Pistons will carry into the summer. The functional outcome of that is allowing the Pistons to concentrate their resources in one or two high-value targets rather than spreading money around to cover multiple needs.

And given the NBA’s economic reality, where perhaps a third of the 30 franchises will be making tough decisions to avoid the more punitive luxury-tax consequences imposed by the new collective bargaining agreement, it’s widely anticipated that there will be a lot of intriguing names made available.

With Cunningham, Ivey, Sasser, Duren, Stewart, Thompson, Grimes, Fontecchio and a high lottery pick putting the Pistons at nine roster spots, they can afford to be highly selective with their off-season plan. And they’ll be taking somewhere around $65 million into the marketplace to facilitate their shopping. They’ll use the remaining seven weeks and 26 games of the season to pinpoint the precise right players to pursue. In Fontecchio and Grimes, they’ve landed two of them and done it with great economy.


What is the Pistons all-time record for most assists in a game?

A: 24


C: 27

D: 25


On March 2, 1990, the Pistons won a wild overtime game over Philadelphia, 115-112, after overcoming a four-point deficit in the final six seconds of regulation and surviving to get to the extra period when Charles Barkley missed one of two free throws. The Pistons were down 103-99 when Rick Mahorn – playing for Philadelphia the season after helping the Pistons win their first NBA title but being taken by Minnesota in the expansion draft while the Pistons were celebrating with their parade – made two free throws with 10 seconds to play. Isiah Thomas hit a 3-point basket with five seconds left to cut the deficit to one, then stole Mike Gminski’s inbounds pass and fed Joe Dumars for a layup to put the Pistons ahead 105-104 with two seconds left. But Dennis Rodman fouled Barkley to put him at the line for a chance to win the game. After making the first to tie, Barkley missed the second. Dumars scored a season-high 34 points to lead the Pistons and hit 18 of 19 free throws, including all five in overtime. “It was a tough game. Physical. A lot of ups and downs,” Dumars said. “We were looking like we were closed out – and then we came back.” Barkley crossed the 10,000-point barrier for his career during the game and led Philadelphia with 26 points, but he was blanked in overtime while being guarded by Rodman. James Edwards added 26 points and nine rebounds for the Pistons and Thomas finished with 21 points and 12 assists. The Pistons improved to 43-15 with the win as Philadelphia fell to 36-22.


After making sweeping changes at the trade deadline, when they pulled off four trades that added six players, saw four dealt away and five waived, the Pistons continued to make changes at the bottom of the roster coming out of the All-Star break. They waived one player on a two-way contract, Malcolm Cazalon, to make room for Buddy Boeheim, who spent last season on a two-way deal, came to training camp with the Pistons last fall and spent the season playing for the Motor City Cruise. Another player on a two-way contract, Stanley Umude, was elevated to a standard contract to fill the last vacant roster spot created when the Pistons waived Danilo Gallinari to allow him to seek a spot with a contender; Gallinari eventually landed with Milwaukee. Umude’s elevation created an opening for a third two-way contract which the Pistons filled by converting Tosan Evbuomwan from a 10-day deal to a two-way. Evbuomwan signed with the Pistons as an undrafted free agent last summer and came to training camp with them, then was signed out of the G League by Memphis on a 10-day contract on Jan. 30 and appeared in four games for the Grizzlies. The Pistons then signed him to a 10-day deal on Feb. 12. Jared Rhoden remains on a two-way contract with the Pistons.


  • MONDAY – The Pistons visit New York, a game originally scheduled for Little Caesars Arena but switched to accommodate scheduling imbalance for the Knicks as a result of their In-Season Tournament results. New York, dealing with injuries, has lost five of its last six games and sits at 34-23, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference. Ex-Pistons Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks have become mainstays of New York’s second unit since their trade to the Knicks earlier this month, Bogdanovic averaging 14.0 points in 24.5 minutes a game and Burks averaging 10.8 points in 20 minutes a game. New York remains without Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.


  • TUESDAY – The Pistons change time zones for a back-to-back that takes them to the Windy City to play the Bulls, their first meeting since Nov. 12. The teams have split their first two games of the season with the Pistons winning in their home opener 118-102 despite a 51-point outburst from Zach LaVine. He’s out for the season after undergoing foot surgery earlier this month. The Bulls stood pat at the trade deadline and hung on to veterans like DeMar DeRozan, Nic Vucevic and Alex Caruso. After Sunday’s win over New Orleans, Chicago sits in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference at 27-30, two games ahead of Atlanta. Chicago will have the rest advantage, having Monday off while the Pistons play at New York. The major development for the Bulls this season has been the ascent of fifth-year guard Coby White, averaging 19.6 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line.

8 p.m. on BALLY SPORTS EXTRA and WWJ-AM 950

  • FRIDAY – The Pistons host Cleveland, which starts the week with a 37-19 record after Sunday’s win over Washington that snapped a two-game losing streak. Until those losses to Orlando and Philadelphia, the Cavaliers had been the hottest team in the league, going 17-1 from Jan. 3 through Feb. 10. Cleveland is gunning for a top-two seed, which would guarantee home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Donovan Mitchell leads Cleveland in scoring at 28.5 points a game. Caris LeVert is in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 14.0 points a game off the bench. The Cavs are 3-0 against the Pistons on the season, winning all three by single digits.

             7 p.m. on BALLY SPORTS DETROIT and 97.1 FM THE TICKET

  • SUNDAY – The Pistons go to Orlando, which got a game-winning three-point play from Paolo Banchero on Saturday night at Little Ceasars Arena to deal the Pistons a gut-punch of a loss. The Magic start the week in a dogfight with Indiana and Miami for the No. 6 spot, the last playoff berth that doesn’t require entry via the play-in tournament. Orlando had won five of its last six games before falling Sunday at Atlanta and will be wrapping up a three-game home stand when they host the Pistons. The Magic will be going for the season sweep of the Pistons, winning twice in Detroit this month after posting a Dec. 8 home win. Saturday’s win included a rarity for Orlando: winning a game in which no player scored more than 15 points. Eight Magic players scored between 11 and 15 points.

             6 p.m. on BALLY SPORTS DETROIT and 97.1 FM THE TICKET


The all-time Pistons record for assists in a single game is 25 and it’s shared by Kevin Porter and Isiah Thomas. Porter did it twice in the span of a month late in the 1978-79 season under first-year Pistons coach Dick Vitale. Porter’s first 25-assist game came on March 9 when the Pistons rolled to a 160-117 win over Boston. Porter scored 30 points in addition to setting the franchise record for assists to lead eight players in double figures that night. The Pistons scored just 105 points against Phoenix in an 11-point loss to the Suns, meaning Porter assisted on 64 percent of the 39 buckets scored by his teammates that night. Porter, who held the NBA record of 29 assists set in the previous season while playing for the Nets, at one time held NBA marks for assists in a season (1,099 when he averaged 13.4 a game for the 1978-79 Pistons), a game (29) and a quarter (13 on Nov. 28, 1978 while playing for the Pistons against the Lakers). Porter played four seasons over two stints for the Pistons in a 10-year career. Thomas, who has nearly twice as many assists as second-place Joe Dumars (4,612) with 9,061 on the Pistons career leader board, recorded his 25-assist game vs. Dallas on Feb. 13, 1985 in a 124-119 Pistons win.

(Eddie Rivero, Pistons basketball information specialist, contributed to this report.)