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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: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2010 8:30 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Been saying Joe Dumars has been the problem for years, he had a few good trades that I think "panned out" but yet not due to his superior basketball knowledge.

Just sayin'

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2010 8:28 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Been saying Joe Dumars has been the problem for years, he had a few good trades that I think "panned out" but yet not due to his superior basketball knowledge.

Just sayin'

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2010 12:14 am

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

detroitpcb, the problem with a trade is that Hamilton is still owed a lot of money for the next few years.  No team is going to take on that salary for a player who has clearly lost a step.  Whether it is the injuries or all the wear and tear from all those deep playoff runs, he is not the same player anymore. I am not sure about Prince, but he will be the easier of the two to move.  He is a solid defender with an excellent wingspan and brings a winning attitude while always giving 100%.  He needs to be on a winning situation.  No one will take on Big Ben at this stage of his career.  He did not do much for the Cavs when he was on that team.  And the problem is that they are trying to latch on to whatever is left of the championship team and it is mixed with the signings from 2009 (Villanueva and Gordon) and the young draft picks (Stuckey, Daye, Monroe).  It is not the right mix of players and to top it off, they hired a coach who never was a head coach to run the team before.  They need to try to get rid of the old players from the title years.  I am sure some playoff contender would bring on Prince and even Wallace because of his defense and experience, but Rip is going to be very difficult to find a taker given his still large contract with a few years left and the declining production and trouble staying healthy.  As a Knicks fan, I know all about a player whose contract you want to get rid of but can't.  Having Eddy Curry on the end of the bench come to camp out of shape every year and barely even make it on the court while earning $11 million and having no takers is very frustrating.  He does not even care if he plays because he is guaranteed all the money.  The NBA needs a system like the NFL where contracts can be terminated, but at least unlike Curry, Rip is a winner, hates losing, cares, and actually tries his best every night.

Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: November 10, 2010 11:09 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Funny that Prince, Hamiltion, and Wallace were segregated into a group in this article...they are the problem.

Detroit is in love with this idea of having linkages to their championship years, but they've done so at the expense of their long-term viability.

I don't know how much value you can get for these guys, but it seems silly to have Prince when you have Daye, who is more or less the same player.  It's silly to have Big Ben when you already have a big bulky center who can't shoot free throws (Maxiel).  It makes no sense to have Rip, when Gordon plays the same position.

Who knows, maybe the older three leaving would help the team....


Since: Sep 15, 2006
Posted on: November 10, 2010 10:57 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

Since: Jul 29, 2008
Posted on: November 10, 2010 8:19 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

This team is complete trash with a awful coach. There isn't much if anything to be excited about. Joe D. must shake up the roster and pump any life possible into this team. The team is being sold and that could be part of the reason why they haven't made more moves. As of right now I will not watch this team as there is no bright future or players that make you turn your tv on. Its a roster made up of mainly the same kind of players with no big men at all. When you have a washed Ben Wallace starting then you know your going nowhere. I pray we get the # 1 pick and get lucky with some big guy otherwise this could be the new detroit lions for awhile.

Since: Nov 16, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2010 3:50 pm

Pistons, young and old, play like strangers

you obviously did not watch the game. Daye was on Camby most of the night while Wallace was on Aldridge. Daye played very well, scoring 15 and grabbing 8 boards while only giving up one offensive rebound. Aldridge did abuse him on a couple of switches but other than that, Daye was the best player on the Pistons starting unit and the only Piston who boxes his man out every play.

but you are right about the need for a trade. Prince is not going to be ok with the losing. Neither is Rip. The Pistons must move one or both and get a low post presence.

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