Blog Entry

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Posted on: November 10, 2010 1:42 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:40 pm

The Detroit Pistons are caught between the past and the future, without a workable present. Posted by Ben Golliverdetroit-pistons

Tuesday night ended for the Detroit Pistons with a shirtless Richard Hamilton seated, hunched over a box score placed between his legs on the locker room floor, silent, oblivious to his teammates and the world for at least five minutes. Hamilton just stared and stared and stared at the numbers, which, once again in this young season, revealed a franchise stuck between the past and the future, with a hodge-podge present that simply doesn’t function.

The Pistons had just been worked by the Portland Trail Blazers, 100-78, with Portland’s litany of injuries not affecting their ability to dominate the game on both ends, and the glass. Pick just about any statistic on Hamilton’s box score and Portland dominated the category. Rebounds: 45 to 33. Assists: 26 to 16. Shooting: 50% to 42.5%. If Hamilton was searching for a silver lining, he wasn’t immediately finding one, and by the time he finally trudged off to the shower room, some of his younger teammates had already cleaned up, dressed, conducted their post-game interviews and headed to the waiting bus.

You need not spend more than a few minutes glancing at Detroit’s roster to realize this is a team divided, a group that, even with maximum effort and improvement from all of its rising players, isn’t constructed for short-term success. “We played like strangers,” Pistons coach John Kuester said after the game, making reference to his team’s ability to register just five second-half assists, but the statement fairly encapsulated the 2010-2011 Pistons as a whole.

Hamilton and old guard championship teammates Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince occupied one side of the post-game locker room, heads down, voices monotone, after the loss. Prince didn’t mince words when discussing his frustration. “It’s everything. Not just one thing. Everything. It’s always that way when you’re not winning. Even our wins didn’t feel like wins. When that happens, you know it’s a problem.”

A problem for Prince, perhaps, but his younger teammates on the other side of the locker room didn’t seem as touched, as Charlie Villanueva laughed and smiled, second-year forward Austin Daye exuded a flat air of relative indifference, and a shell-shocked Greg Monroe looked like he was trying to escape his decision to turn pro as he hustled quickly out of the locker room with headphones drowning out the world.

The night ended with that distinct divide, but it started that way too. Two hours before the game, Daye, Monroe and DaJuan Summers worked through their shootaround routines together, looking to develop skills under the tutelage of the team’s assistant coaches, and to enjoy a few laughs. Only after the young trio ceded the court did Prince and Wallace take the court, briefly and mostly in silence, to get their blood going before the game.

Asked to define the team’s identity after he completed his pre-game workout, Daye stuttered briefly before admitting the group feels like two halves of a team that haven’t yet joined together. “We’ve got older guys, younger guys, we’re trying to mesh it all together,” Daye said. He also pointed to himself, Monroe, Villanueva, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon as possible core pieces for Pistons president Joe Dumars going forward. “He’s just trying to get a good nucleus and we’ll see where he goes.”

The in-game product evinced this generation gap, as Detroit’s offense was predicated almost entirely on which one of four perimeter players would shoot a jump shot, while Wallace was tasked with claiming any and all rebounds by himself. On defense, the Pistons leaked points, giving up 36 in the first quarter to the Blazers, the most Portland has scored in a quarter all season long. Multiple times Prince snapped at Daye for either missing a rotation or losing contact with his larger opponent, Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who ate the lithe Daye alive on the block, to the tune of 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Prince said he was only trying to help Daye. “I’m talking to him a lot because he’s in a tough position. Usually when you’re at a disadvantage, guarding a bigger guy, playing out of position, you want him to stay in contact with that guy so he can work the boards at all times. We’re asking him to do a lot. Not only asking him a lot to do a lot on defense but also keep a 7-footer off the boards every game. His job is harder than everybody else’s.”

Daye’s task isn’t just harder than everyone else’s though, it’s impossible. A pure shooting prototypical small forward who has worked to develop his NBA range, Daye is mismatched against just about every NBA power forward when the Pistons play him at the four spot in their undersized starting lineup. The positional switch is by necessity, so that Daye can get enough minutes to develop with Hamilton and Prince ingrained as mainstays, but given the directionless path Detroit is on, the lineup feels short-sighted. For his part, Daye says doesn’t mind it. “The playing time is a lot better,” he said with a smile before the game. Better to be playing out of position, than not playing at all.

But  the playing time would be even better for Daye, who is averaging 21 minutes a night, should the Pistons move either Hamilton or Prince in a midseason trade, allowing him to transition into a more natural perimeter role. League sources tell that trade speculation surrounding Prince is accurate. Watching him slowly pull on his leather boots one by one after another defeat, it seems like a move is in the best interest of all involved parties. 

Should either Hamilton or Prince be moved, a big man capable of manning the glass and establishing a low post presence would seem to be the clear target. “It obviously hurts just having Ben as our only primary rebounder out there … I’m pretty sure all but one game we’ve been out-rebounded so we’ve just got to do better,” Prince said.

But he didn’t sound convincing when he uttered those words. Surely he realizes that Detroit’s biggest problem, rebounding -- they’re currently ranked No. 28 in the league in overall rebound rate -- is a matter of personnel and not effort. “Doing better” is not a viable solution for this team's rebounding ails. Better players is.

Nevertheless, after an extended post-game conversation with his team, Kuester finally faced the media and was asked how the Pistons might play more consistently throughout the course of a game. “I can’t pinpoint what we can do, but I do know we have to become better,” he said.

And that said it all. Hoping to do better, but with no specific plan to make it happen.

There really are no answers for this group, no matter how long you stare at the box score or how you juggle the lineups. It’s time to hit the trade market, and get started on the future.


Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2010 11:00 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

"After that, they need to somehow get ride of either Gordon or Villanueva's contract, then use their first round pick this year on either a TRUE point guard or a shooting guard to replace Rip".

Gopack, I agree with all your points, but these contracts still have years and money attached to them.  And none of these players will bring another team to the next level.  Gordon or Rip could help a solid team get in, but at this stage of his career with all the miles on him, Rip will not make a team a major threat if they get in and Gordon is an energy player who will score a ton, but is very streaky. He fit his role in Chicago perfectly.  But no team will want to pay him his contract or Villanueva's for that matter.  Teams will balk at these contracts.  Hamilton, Gordon, and Villanueva are pretty much unmoveable with those contracts.  And with the link to the championship years in Rip, an old Big Ben, and Prince mixed with the youngsters and Villanuenva and Gordon, it is not a bad group of players, but they just do not go together.  You have experienced veterans who have won a title, decent players in their prime years, and then the young guns.  However, like the pieces of a puzzle, these pieces just do not seem to fit together.  Yes, Dumars should never have traded Billups for Iverson, but this team was already getting old and their championship window had closed.  After the Finals appearances, they had lost 3 straight conference finals and the Big 3 in Boston had just been put together, Orlando was developing into a conference powerhouse, and Cleveland had a squad with the potential to win the East.  With all the miles this team already had on its tires, there was no way they would have beat Orlando, Cleveland, or Boston over the last few seasons in the playoffs, even with Dumars.  I am not defending him, but he saw their championship window with this core had closed.  But the mistake he made was signing Gordon and Villanueva to enormous contracts and expecting them to win with what was left of their championship years and the youngsters.  Instead of signing them, he should have rebuilt through the draft and blew the whole thing up.  And you still have valuable trade pieces in Detroit.  Prince has an expiring contract and is an excellent defender who can come in and give a winning team a boost come playoff time.  And if he does not live up to expectations, he is off the books next summer.  Big Ben, although not the player he was, can still get boards and play defense, and his experience can be very valuable for a playoff contender.  Rip will be the hardest to move because of his health and his contract.  Being a Knicks fan, I know all too well about mismanagent.  Isiah Thomas brought in terrible contracts, many of whom Walsh has been able to dump, but there were two that ended ugly and will end ugly:  Marbury and Eddy Curry.  The second guy was traded for two draft picks who ended up being Lamarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah.  Meanwhile, Curry got a huge contract and has come to camp every year out of shape and overweight.  He has sat on the end of the bench for the last two full seasons and is earning top dollars.  But because he is such a waste of space even though he is finally an expiring contract, no one wants him because he has not even made an effort to play.  But back to the Pistons scenario:  Your team was one of the best in the NBA for almost a decade, which is a long time to have a core of players co-exist and win.  You had two finals appearances and a title out of the run.  But wear and tear from all those deep playoff runs and age has caught up.  All good things must come to an end.  There is solid young talent and if they make solid draft picks and if Stuckey blossoms the way I think he can, there is a bright future.  But this team is going to need a few years.  If the Knicks had taken this approach when Isiah first came to town, we would have been competitive by now.

Since: Dec 18, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2010 5:03 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Dead horse..

Since: May 16, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2010 4:29 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

I agree, Laimbeer would be the perfect hire, and if you're not playing hard for him, and hitting the boards, he will litterally kick your a$$!!!!
I thought for sure he would be coaching in the association by now!

Since: May 16, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2010 4:25 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

On paper, you have a decent collection of talent.  Problem is, is there is no leader.  Ben Wallace is a shell of his former self, Rip isn't a leader and Prince, is exactly that.  This team needs a King.   And I'm not talking King James, but they need a go to guy.  Ben "Black Hole" Gordon isn't the answer, Stuckey could be but I think the age division is keeping him from becoming the floor general that he has the potential to be.  Joe Dumars has stunk up the joint ever since taking Darko over Mello.   Unbelievable.  What a disgrace.   Go Blazers!

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2010 2:51 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

it seems silly to have Prince when you have Daye, when they are similar players

How are they similar players?  Body style?  That's about all I can see.  Prince has a better post up game, but most importantly, he's an excellent defender.  Daye is a shooter who doesn't exploit his ample physical talents in any other facet of the game.  I don't see their games being similar at all.

Since: Nov 11, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2010 9:37 am


DUMARS First and Biggest Mistake was drafting DARKO over CARMELO......No Brainer that he messed up......Probably wouda never traded Billups and theyd still be competitng for a Championship every year.......His Next move should be to hire BILL LAIMBEER as Coach.....His WNBA track record is undenyable.

Since: Sep 19, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2010 9:24 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

I think this article hit the nail on the head.  The Pistons look lost most of the time and it is a gap between young and old.  What hurt this team was when Joe Dumars decided that they were done a few years ago.  He should have never traded Chauncey Billups.  That was his first mistake.  Since then he has added three more.

He signed Ben Gordon to an awful contract.

He signed Charlie Villanueva to an awful contract.

He hasn't pulled the trigger on a Tayshaun Prince deal.

Prince has an expiring contract, he is a solid perimeter defender and he is a winner.  Belive me, there are plenty of teams out there that would love to have his services.  To me, he would be a perfect fit in Orlando for the remainder of the year.  Prince for Pietrus and Marcin Gortat.  That gives the Pistons the big guy that they really need along with a solid bench player in Pietrus and allows Daye to move to his natural position of SF.

It works for the Magic too in that they get a defensive minded 3 and they get some cap relief at the end of the season.  Gortat is expendible at this point and Pietrus is burried at the end of SVG's bench.

After that, they need to somehow get ride of either Gordon or Villanueva's contract, then use their first round pick this year on either a TRUE point guard or a shooting guard to replace Rip.

Since: Oct 5, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2010 9:19 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

The Pistons demise started when they traded Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson. The chemistry has never been the same and they play like 12 individuals. The team has a lot of people that play the same position and they have no rebounders or low post game. Furthermore, they have a coach that doesn't exactly inspire. Joe Dumars and Pistons management have had way too much turnover and no stability at the coaching position. The coach they have now is useless and should have been fired like Larry Brown, Rick Carlisle, Flip Saunders and Michael Curry. Kuesters is the worst out of the bunch and he is the one who is still coaching. LOL

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2010 8:36 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Posting pretty much the same thing three times in a row is NOT from my CBS "posting genious."

Just sayin'Wink

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2010 8:33 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

I've been saying Joe Dumars has been the problem from the get go, I really don't think he is as "great" a basketball mind as Detroit fans think he is and it's bedginning to show NOW.

I said before that he mad a few trades that in my opinion "panned out" for him but were in no way from his basketball assessment genious.

In other words.....he got lucky.

Looks like the luck has run out out.

Just sayin'

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or