Posted on: April 27, 2010 12:40 pm
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Pistons-Fail to Even Lose Well

Disappointment.  That is about the mildest way that I can describe the 2009-10 Detroit Pistons season.  The lottery is not a place that Pistons fans are familiar with, nor do we care to be.  Hell, we are not even comforted knowing we get a lottery pick as the last time the Pistons were there Detroit ended up with Darko Milicic in arguably the most stacked draft class ever.  However, after finishing the season with a 27-55 record, the #7 spot in the lottery is where the Detroit Pistons find themselves.  Even getting the #7 spot in the draft was a disappointment: #3 was easily in their grasp as the season wound down and the Pistons then went on a 3 game winning streak and won 4 of their last 6 games to drop to #7.  They were so bad this year they coulnd't even lose the right way!  Us few fans remaining wonder how did it go so bad and how quickly can it turn around.

The offseason of 2009 was a very busy one.  The frontcourt disappeard with Rasheed Wallace signing with the Boston Celtics and Antonio McDyess deciding he was better off chasing the elusive ring with the San Antonio Spurs.  This solid front court was replaced with the free agent signing of Charlie Villanueva and the return of Ben Wallace.  To no one's surprise Allen Iverson left his unpleasant stint with Detroit (actually before the offseason) and he was replaced with the signing of Ben Gordon.  Also, Joe Dumars got stuck in a rut during the draft taking 3 small forwards: Austin Daye, DeJuan Summers, and Jonas Jerebko.  From the signing of Gordon and the drafting of 3 SFs, I thought the writing was on the wall that there was going to be moves for Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton for some big men to shore up the front court.  No such moves occured during the offseason and the Pistons headed into the season with a roster of: PG-Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Chucky Atkins, SG-Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, SF-Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, DeJuan Summers, Jonas Jerebko, PF-Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell, C-Kwame Brown, Chris Wilcox, Ben Wallace.

Going into the season I didn't have high hopes for this lineup.  I predicted that they would compete for the #8 spot in the Eastern playoffs; clearly they fell way below that.  I predicted (hoped) that Rodney Stuckey would step up and become the much needed team leader and improve his court vision; clearly he fell short of that.  I predicted trades at the trade deadline of Tayshaun and/or RIP to get big men to shore up the front court; there were no trades for the Pistons and there was no movement of the big name FA's as I predicted (I thought teams sure to lose their key guy [read Toronto] would move them to try and get something).  I predicted that the Pistons would have trouble defending (they did) but would be able to light up the scoreboard with all their scorers (they weren't).  So what went wrong, how did a team I predicted to be in the 8th playoff spot end up the 7th worst team in the league (tie for 6th, actually)?

Injuries.  I don't accept injuries as an excuse for a teams performance.  A team should be built to have backups who can step in for an injured guy.  The Pistons, in a clear transition year, were not yet built to accomodate the massive number of injuries they sustained.  RIP went down the first game with a mangled ankle and shortly after Tayshaun starts missing time for the first time in his career with a herniated disk in his back.  These injuries were covered by the newly aquired Gordon and surprise rookie Jerebko.  While the depth was hurt, the Pistons were doing okay, at one point getting as high as #5 in the East early.  Then it seemed that everyone blew their ankles in succession; it was such a plague that the Pistons trainer banned the Kobe shoes that the guys were wearing as they didn't give the needed ankle support (Kobe must have titanium ankles as he didn't miss time from his shoes).  The continuing shuffling of lineups rendered any chemistry that was forming null and led to a lot of one-on-one type ball played by the Pistons who don't have a Kobe, LeBron, or Wade to make it work and the losses mounted.  By the time that RIP and Tayshaun returned the trade deadline was quickly approaching; they were not yet up to form and no one wanted to touch them for anything and the Pistons ended up with the same lineup to close the season as they did to open it.  Tayshaun and RIP did start performing better, but the personal stats did not equate to wins as the team never developed any chemistry and never learned to play team defense (which is the only way they could stop anyone as they do not have many strong defenders).  Not accepting injuries as an excuse, the Pistons were simply a poorly constructed team in a clear transition year that performed even worse than expected.

Although the year overall stunk there were a couple of bright spots (but just a couple).
Ben Wallace.  When Big Ben came back to the Pistons after a few disappointing years away I had little expectation of him other than to teach Kwame Brown and Chris Wilcox how to play with some heart.  While he could not do this (these guys are beyond hope) he performed like he was the Ben Wallace of 2004.  The Pistons red, white, and blue took years off Ben's legs and he was the defensive presence of old, which was greatly appreciated and needed on this team that was weak defensively.

Jonas Jerebko.  The rookie Swede became a fan favorite with his hustle and hard work.  He took the starting job when Tayshaun went down and did a good job, especially as a rookie.  Took the toughest defensive assignments almost every night, and while he couldn't stop a lot of them, he did do a good job.  Just his effort alone was greatly appreciated, especially when compared to what some others on the team did (read Charlie Villanueva).

Disappointments
Free Agents:
Ben Gordon-Signed for big money, didn't produce like big money.  To his defense, he was injured a lot and when healthy at the end of the year he did look good.  But that is not enough to make up for a disappointing year.  Hopefully he comes back in the end of season form for the duration next year.

Charlie Villanueva-We all knew what we were getting when he was signed.  A mid-range scorer that plays little defense.  We all hoped he would be willing to work a little in the post and learn some team defense from Ben.  Unfortunately, he didn't seem to do either and that mid-range scoring was not as consistant as expected.  I think his offensive game was hampered by not having a down low presence on the offensive end to work beside and that is clearly a priority for this offseason.  There is also talk that CV was playing though some injuries that he simply didn't talk about.  He also has said already this offseason he is hitting the training hard.  I love the attitude to come back and show us fans this season was not the real CV.  I was for the signing and still think Charlie can work for the Pistons if surrounded with the right complemetary parts; this offseason is big as to how CV's future with the Pistons could look.

Rodney Stuckey-This was his first year coming inot the season with the starting job clearly his.  I expected leadership and court vision improvements.  Basically, I wanted to see him run the offense smoothly.  It never developed.  He can get his own, but hasn't shown the ability to really get others going, something needed from the point.  I have said in the past that some of this is due to all the lineup changes, but he has to be able to adjust.

Leadership-I didn't see one Piston step up into the leadership role, take accountability, and call his teammates out for poor play.  I don't care what the lineup looks like, if noone is going to lead on the floor this team will end up at the bottom again.  I would like to see it be Stuckey as PG is a natural spot for leadership to come form, but they really need someone to step it up.

Jury Still Out
John Kuester-I'm not sure what his role was in this car wreck of a season.  I think he could have been more assertive, less of a players coach.  I think he could have been a little more stable in his lineups.  But I think he gets a pass this year.  There is no doubt his ability was limited by roster and injuries but I still think the team underperformed, and that has to come back to coaching.  He surely should get a second year, but if it is not better I'm giving Bill Laimbeer a call (who would then have two years as NBA assistant coaching experience [and shown he can get Darko, of all people, to work] to all those who complained he had only coached girls).

Austin Daye-Can see the potential, but HIGHLY inconsistant.  I guess that is expected for a rookie, but he better start being able to compete for playing time with Jonas Jerebko soon or he will end up trade bait.

Moving Forward
Clearly the 2010 offseason is a major one for the Pistons.  Unfortunately with the contracts they have on the books they will not be a player in the most hyped free agent class ever, so let's rule out dreaming of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, and even David Lee.  The Pistons are going to have to rebuild through the draft and trades.  In the draft they can end up 1-3 or 7-10.  I think it is obvious if they luck into #1 they have to take John Wall, he is that type of player you take on talent alone, not need.  If 2-3 they have their choice of big man as Wall will go first and I think the Timberwolves will take Evan Turner if #2.  This would likely be Cousins as he is the most ready to contribute right away-just need that leader to step up and keep him motivated and in line.  The 7-10 range is far trickier as it is harde to predict who is still on the board.  There should be some good big men, but they may be more projects that will take 2-3 years before seriously contributing.  No matter what, the draft alone won't rebuild the Pistons for next season-it will take some of the old Joe Dumars trade Magic if they are going to get anywhere near competitive next year.

The glaring need for the Pistons is big men with some offense.  They can clearly use more than just what they can get in the draft. Two big men whose teams reportedly have their ears open are Emeka Okafor and Al Jefferson.  I would love for the Pistons to go after either or both of these guys. And while getting young talent in the draft is great, I would take a proven NBA player over a draft pick almost every time.  If I were Joe D I would try and get New Orleans to swap Okafor for Prince (and Wilcox if we can get him in there) and swap first rounders.  Out of this the Pistons get a solid defensive big man who can score a little and still stay high in the first round of the draft.  The Hornets get a SF they can desperately need with an expiring contract (big plus for NO) and move up in the draft to get a big man they would need with Okafor leaving.  I would then package the pick from the Hornets and Richard Hamilton for Minnesota for Al Jefferson.  Pistons get another high quality big man.  Minnesota gets a shooter they need and a second first rounder to get whatever else they want to fill in.  Then in the second round of the draft the Pistons could take a flyer on either Omar Samhan or  Artsiom Parakhouski, both big men who put up big numbers at small schools and could develop into quality centers given time.  Then I would try and get Raymond Felton for the MLE.  Many will say giving up RIP and Tay will be too much to shore up the front when we could do some of it in the draft, I am willing to give them up since the Pistons are overloaded at those spots and I would take the known quantity over the draft.  These moves would give a lineup of:
PG-Felton, Bynum
SG-Gordon, Stuckey
SF-Jerebko, Daye, Summers
PF-Jefferson, Villanueva, Maxiell, Wilcox
C-Okafor, Wallace, 2nd Round

That starting froncourt would be a rebounding power.  Both Okafor and Jefferson play down low and when running with CV would make life a little more open and hopefully open his scoring up.  In Felton we would have the true PG people are crying for (that is actaully a late add in on the fly on my part, I haven't given up on Stuckey developing and still expect him to run the point some).  The defese may need some work, but this lineup give some down low scoring to balance the jump shooting.  I would love to see this happen, but think it is unlikely that both NO and Minnesota would go for it----more of an example of things that could be done besides relying on the draft.

Okay, I've rambled way too long on a season that stunk and a hope for a recovery.  Thanks for the read, now go back to soemthing that matters like debating whether Kobe or LeBron is going to be Finals MVP.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 24, 2010 10:40 am
 

Detroit Pistons--Hit Rock Bottom

Well, look on the  bright side Pistons fans: There is no where to go but up.

You've hit bottom when you lose twice in a week, including a 15 point loss at home, to the team that has dominated the bottom of your division.  To top it off, it made a season sweep for the Pacers over the Pistons for the first time EVER.  And they are not the only ones, the Pistons were also swept by their arch-rival Cleveland Cavaliers: yes, they are two teams currently heading in different directions--but a sweep!?  Yes, the Pistons have sunk so far as to have a solid hold on the bottom of the division and have worked their way to having nice odds in the lottery.  There is only once chance to even sink lower, and that comes Friday night when they visit NJ: lose a team that is fighting to be the worst ever and you've been knocked down like you were hit by Mike Tyson before the facial tattoos.

But swimming in this season of sewage I can still faintly smell roses.  How, you ask?  I am one of the few remaining who still think that Joe Dumars has a plan that he is executing.  There have been a lot of articles written and people talking that Joe has lost it and his time has past.  They didn't like moving Chauncey Billups and they don't like the signing of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  And looking through the lens of this season it is easy to understand.  But clearly this is not the finished product, but a work in progress.  Let's step back and look at where we were, what was done to get us where we are, and where I think we are going to be so optimistic.

Flashback, 2008:  After being knocked out of the ECF last year by the up and coming Cavaliers the Pistons finish 2nd in the division and on the opposite side of the draw of th e4th seeded Cavaliers.  They have a surprisingly hard time in the first round with the 76ers and then get to face a team they have owned for some reason in the Magic to make the ECF.  Rodney Stuckey has a coming out party, playing a huge roll filling in for an injured Billups in the Magic series.  Here they are handled easily by the Celtics on their way to the Finals.  It becomes clear that while this team can be solid in the East still that development and moves by other teams have moved them past the Pistons.  The lineup has hit a point people are talking about the 'old' Pistons.

2009: Pistons get off to a fast start to the season, but in an early season shocker Joe Dumars starts his rebuilding by trading away Billups for the expiring deal of Allen Iverson.  Feelings are mixed on this move as Billups is a big part of the Pistons, but Iverson is also an undeniable talent and is saying the right things about being a team player and even coming off the bench.  It starts off okay, but soon the wheels come off as Iverson and a mopey RIP can't coexist, Rasheed forgets he's 6'11" and camps at the 3 line, and in the abscence of the solid menotring of Billups and Lindsey Hunter (now a Bull) Rodney Stuckey does not even look the point guard he did in last years playoffs.

Somehow the Pistons manage to have won enough games early in the season to limp into the playoffs as the #8 seed to be thouroughly embarrassed by the Cavaliers.  Clearly the Iverson move didn't pan out as hoped, and not only did he not work but losing Chauncey dissolved any bond the team had.  The only bright spots of the season were the play of Antonio McDyess, the hustle and hair of Walter Herrmann, both of who are free agents, and the late emergence of Will Bynum.

The 2009 offseason found the influx of a lot of money with the departure of Iverson and Wallace.  The question was what to do.  There were not that many big name free agents this year, but 2010 was only a one year wait with all the big names to be had.  This is where the fanbase gets really unsettled with Joe Dumars.  He decides not to wait and play the 2010 bidding game, but to spend his money now.  On the opening day of free agency he shoots his wad on Ben Gordon, who is coming off an amazing playoff series against the Celtics, and Charlie Villanueva, who put up solid number when he could get on the floor for the Bucks.  Here were the concerns: 1)neither brings defense, soemthing that the Pistons pride themselves on, 2)Is RIP-Gordon going to be RIP-Iverson II, 3)We got no money left and no real big man to play the post. 

Here is why I think Joe did it and what I think his plan was.  There are those who wanted to target David Lee.  Let's face it, the Knicks were not going to let him go, they would have matched any offer Joe D. put out there.  Even if the Pistons did manage to land him the Pistons would have spent all their money on him and I don't think he would have been as good as advertised: don't get me wrong, Lee is a solid player, but if you look at his numbers the big ones come after D'Antoni arive and that is not the style of ball played in Detroit.  Yes, we would have a post prescence that is missing now,but I don't think it would be as strong as people think it would be.  Next, if the had not made a move in 2009 free agency what would the team have looked like?  Like it does now, but without the scoring of CV and Ben and holding a big bank roll: not any better, likely worse.  And what was the chance if Joe held the money with a bad team he would be able to land a big name 2010 guy?  About the same as if he had no money to spend.  I believe what Joe saw in these guys was range and ability to get their own shot.  The Pistons roster had slashers in Stuckey and Bynum and jump shooters in RIP and Tayshaun Prince, but none of these guys htis the 3 with regularity, and RIP and Prince aren't really adept at getting their own shot.  Both Ben and CV can shoot from anywhere and manage to get it away when you think they can't.  Also, Chalie is 6'11" and, though not a post guy usually, does add size for some boards.  Joe D. drafted a team's worth of small forwards in the off season which was a pretty clear indication that he had at least one more move in the plans for this season, moving Tayshaun Prince.  Likely he planned on moving both Price and Hamilton to try and get some size down low.  I, for one, thought there was going to much more movement of the 2010 free agents with sign and trades because I didn't think that teams would risk them walking for nothing and the guys becoming free agents wouldn't want to risk getting less money if FA with the salary cap likely to fall due to the economy. Turned out I was wrong, but it didn't matter anyways because unfortunately, with the extended injuries that Prince and Hamilton sustained neither could be moved for a bag of turds.  But I think this was a solid plan on Joe D's part that got seriously derailed by injuries.  The Pistons might not be back to their glory days with one big man, but they would certainly be respectable: look at how much better they are with Ben Wallace healthy to defend the center, no imagine if he could score some points too.

So on to now-yes, the Detroit Pistons are in a world of hurt.  But I don't think they are as far gone as their record indicates and I don't think they are rudderless.  The Pistons will have a high draft pick and there are a number of good big men coming out this year that can fill the Pistons clear need.  Hopefully Joe can convince Big Ben to come back another year to help in the center and teach the young guy some NBA-caliber D.  They still have RIP and Tayshaun as piece that they could move, though their value is way down, there may be a steal out there (like the Mav's picking up Haywood).  An idea that I've sent out there on a Pistons thread is to try and work a deal with the cash conscious Hornets.  Taysahun will only have a year left on his contract and the Hornets could use a solid SF.  Trade Prince for Okafor, who has 3 more years on his deal, and swap picks.  This gives the Hornets a top 5 pick where they can get a young cheaper big man than Okafor and a SF.  It gives the Pistons as stable big man and a pick around 12 where they could take a chance on someone like either Artsiom Parakhouski at Radford or Omar Samhan from St. Mary's.  I think with a good draft, or better yet a nice solid trade and draft the Piston will be back to respectabilty, and hopefully truely competitive sooner than people think.  I'm not going to blindly say I Joe I trust, but I think people are too quick to dismiss what he has done by simply looking at the results mid-process.  Yes, it is a world of manure right now, but used correctly that manure can be good fertilizer for the future and Joe has shown an ability to work the land before- just have a little patience until harvest time.
Category: NBA
Posted on: January 21, 2010 2:09 pm
 

Detroit Pistons--How Far Away?

The springs on the Detroit Pistons' band wagon are getting a workout.  Everyone had jumped off before the season.  They came out looking pretty good to start the year despite the injuries to Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince and fans started climbing on again.  Then the Pistons got healthy (for about 1 game) and started losing for an entire month, 13 games, and getting re-injured; of course, everyone jumped off as they plummeted in the standings and looked worse in the last 10 game column than even the New Jersey Nets.  Now, with key players still on the bench with injuries, the Pistons have managed to win 4 of 5 and creep back to 3.5 games out of the #8 spot held by Chicago; however, it seems people are a little slower this time to jump back on the band wagon--understandable.

But really, how far away from a solid team are the Pistons?  Yes, they did just lose to the Knicks (to be fair they split the home-and-home), but they bounced right back and beat the Celtics.  Yes, Boston is on its own 4 game losing streak and is missing Kevin Garnett, but that is why they shored up the bench this season with Rasheed, who played last night; so that should be as good or better a lienup that took Orlando to 7 last year in the second round of the playoffs (I know they aren't playing like it now).  But also consider the Pistons situation: they don't have Ben Gordon, a scorer who gives punch behind RIP; they don't have Will Bynum who was tearing it up early at the point, so much so people were asking to have Stuckey benched; and they don't have Prince, while Jonas Jerebko has surprised everyone as a rookie he still is not as good as a healthy Prince at the SF.  I beleive all these guys are about to come back pending getting some practice time under their belts.  This should make the team better, though last time it happened started the 13 game losing streak.  However, let's believe that it does make them a better team, as the return of some stars should; where can the Pistons end up?  They currently are better than any of the teams below them in the East and with the guys coming back I think they will pass the Knicks and Milwakee in short order.  This puts them in the playoff hunt, fighting Chicago for the #8 seed; and that is assuming Toronto can keep playing well (never a given) and Charlotte can keep up its pace (9-1 in the last 10, they are improved but I'll be shocked if they can keep moving up).  So I think that there will be these 4 teams battling for the last 3 potential playoff slots (still way too early to really be talking playoffs), and Miami ain't much better so it could be 5 teams battling for the bottom half.  So, I don't think this team is that far off.

And then, you have to consider Joe Dumars is planning a move.  I'm sure he would have liked to have pulled the rabbit out of his hat already, but with the injuries the Pistons have had it has hampered the effort some.  To anyone who watches the Pistons there are two spots that stick out like a sore thumb that are needed: Inside scoring and assists.  In the front court Charlie Villanueva is the only scorer for the Pistons; and CV comes off the bench for now and isn't exactly what I would call an inside scorer.  A trade for a solid big man, not neccessarily a star name, but a guy who can give quality minutes on both ends--10pts 10rbs regularly--would go a long way to transforming this team.  They wouldn't need to rely on the jumper all the time, which gets really ugly when you aren't hitting.  As to the assists, I am one of the few who this a trade here is not needed, just patience and coaching.  I still like Rodney Stuckey and think he can get it done at the point.  He is only in his third year and his first as a starter.  His numbers have improved as the season has progressed, and if you check out the numbers they aren't that different than Chauncey Billups' and are definitely better than Chauncey's in his third year.  What Stuckey is missing is the consistant movement on the offense; too often both the ball and players off the ball are just not moving.  Things simply need to get set up faster and moving more freely; I'm not sure this is on Stuckey or Kuester's offense, but with these players you can't use what worked for Kuester in Cleveland--give one guy the ball and watch.

So, in short (well not so short) I still think the Pistons are in good shape for both the short-term and long term future.  They need a trade for one solid big man (which I think they have the pieces for if they can find their guy), some guys to get helthy, and the offense to be a little more dynamic.  Not too big of changes really and I think they could be a solid team this year.  Even without a move I think they can be a lower seed playoff team if they can get players on the floor.  Yes, it looks ugly now, but I'll take bets they don't go on another 13 game skid.
Category: NBA
Posted on: January 12, 2010 12:43 pm
 

Detroit Pistons--Worst Team in the NBA

January 12, 2010--Today makes one month since they last won a game.  Thirteen straight losses!  Losses to teams such as the Thunder, the Knicks, the Raptors twice and the Bulls twice.  It is not that these teams are all pushovers, but the Pistons should have been able to pull out at least one in the stretch.  Yes, record-wise they are only tied for 3rd worst, but right now I'd argue they are playing the worst ball (okay, I haven't seen any of the other bottom teams as only the people in their areas even gets to see them).  I think this team has more potential than any of the other bottom 3 teams and had shown flashes of using this potential, which easily makes them the most underperforming team in the NBA currently.

And things aren't getting better.  This streak started when the Pistons finally got healthy and had all their stars for the first time since opening night.  As the losses have piled up the games have not gotten closer with the desperation, but have steadily marched to less competitive blow outs.  Last night's loss to the Chicago Bulls, a sub-.500, barely playoff team in the still weak East, was by 33 points !

So, what has happened?  I haven't seen all the games, but from what I have seen this team has become complacent.  The guards are not attacking the rim like they did when they knew how to win.  Jonas Jerebko is the only forward who is crashing the glass regularly.  Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, who won me over with their shot making abilities as starters earlier in the season when the team was shorthanded, can't seem to find the bucket.  And then there is the defense.  Simply put: it is non-existant.  Anyone, anywhere can get to the rim at will.  Even Ben Wallace has fallen off to look more like the Ben of recent years than the Ben of old he looked like early in the year.  And there has been little sign of team defense which is what solidified (as mush as they were) this team early in the season.  A team with this many weak man-to-man defenders needs to play solid team D, historically a Detroit strength, but this team has lost it.  They often look like they don't believe they can win; and they are proving themselves right.

They tried a lineup shakeup last night, to obvious disasterous results.  When rookie, Jerebko, is your leading front court scorer, you obviously have serious issues.  Maybe a bigger shakeup is needed.  Play the guys who actually won a game.  Go back to starting CV and BG; get some points on the board and get them in rhythem.  At this point, it can't hurt.

Lastly, when is that trade happening?  The Pistons are desperate for some front court scoring and any defense.  I think at this low point no one should be sacred, everyone should be on the block to get something up front.

Good god, at this point do something, anything to get a win.  Otherwise the Pistons may snap NJ's losing streak for the longest of the year.
Category: NBA
Posted on: January 4, 2010 9:54 am
 

Pistons Week???- A New Year

Well, I'll have to admit that I have been a bad fan.  I have not watched a Pistons game since their last win; and since they are on a 9 game losing streak, that has been a while. No, it is not because I am a bandwagon fan and I'm abandoning them for thier poor play.  It was the Holidays, and with the kids out of school, the wife with time off, relatives visiting, and going to visit relatives I just haven't seen them.  I hate excuses, and it is a poor excuse for a real fan; I should have found a way to see them so I could pass on analysis as I usually do.  But like the Lions and UM have already shown me, it is easy to just not make the effort when the team is playing poorly.  I appologize for my failing as a fan and resolve to do better in the new year.

Since I haven't seen the games it is hard for me to say what it is that is going wrong.  I had been watching a shorthanded team that was surviving on hustle and teamwork which I expected t get better as their best players returned from injuries.  What I've seen in the box scores is that at full strength this team isn't even competing, losing badly to some bad teams.  I know Charlie Villanueva, though playing, isn't at full strength, and that kills any inside scoring which the Pistons desperately need.  It also looks like Stuckey has been trying to do it all himself; while his scoring numbers have climbed his assists have dipped, and since the Pistons usually win with team play this doesn't bode well (though when other guys fail to score he's got to do something).  I don't know what Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, and Will Bynum have been doing since their return, but clearly it is something that is not good enough.  In my hiatus they have gone from potentially challenging for the 5 spot in the playoffs to potentially challenging for the 1 spot in the lottery.  The wheels simply came off in the second half of December, hopefully the New Year will bring a renewed fire.

So now we are into the sacred year of the 2010 free agents.  I have posted before and will state again that I think very few of the big names teams are hunting will actually make it to free agency.  It is just too much to lose for the teams holding them; I expect to hear a lot of trade talk and see a lot of player movement with an icreased frenzy as we approach the trade deadline on February 18th.  Now, if any team needs to make a move it is the Detroit Pistons. I don't expect them to really make a splash for any of the big name 2010 guys; with the signing of CV and BG over last summer it fills the spots that Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire, Carlos Boozer, and Dwayne Wade would take and drafting 3 guys who play SF in addition to still having Prince fill LeBron James spot on the floor.  Not that any of these guys wouldn't improve the Pistons, it is just that Joe Dumars made his moves at these spots last summer, choosing not to place all his stock on the limited chance of getting one of the few 2010 guys and tying up a huge chunck of change in one guy (though he dropped a bunch of Gordon).  Also, the one glaring hole for the Pistons is a true center who can play both ends of the floor, and there aren't any in the 2010 class of free agents.  However, there are some guys that I would like to see Joe Dumars make a move for and whether it is a straight trade or multiple team deal with some of the 2010 guys I think it will be possible to do something with all the movement that will start happening soon.  Joe Dumars has some trading pieces that may be of value to some in RIP and Prince, in addition to young guys at the SF, Will Bynum, and draft picks.

My first choice to try and get is Michigan native Chris Kaman.  This guy simply goes to work and gets it done quietly on both ends of the floor.  I think he would be a perfect fit for the Pistons and he still maitains a residence here so I don't think moving from LA would be an issue for him.  The problem is he is producing so well for the Clippers, who have a lot of talent and not a lot of need for what the Pistons have to offer.  The other option with the Clippers would be DeAndre Jordan if Joe D wanted to continue a youth movement; he would be cheaper and likely easier to get and has potential, but is still a big question mark and a project.  I think Emeka Okafor would be a nice fit for the Pistons also.  A trade for Prince and Kwame for Emeka and Posey work money-wise and would give the Hornets a SF and contracts that expire sooner than the ones they hold, but leaves them with a laughable center rotation.  The only other guys I have on the list are on the Washington Wizards:  Brendon Haywood and JaVale McGee.  I think Haywood could be a solid double double guy on the Pistons, though he is getting up there in years, and McGee is another unkown project guy.  The Wizards pose the same issue as the Clippers though, they don't really need what the Pistons have to offer.  I wouldn't mind going after Marcin Gortat as he is good enough to start and would put up nice numbers given starters minutes, but the Magic showed how much they value him by resigning him and a straight trade is hard to get the money to work, but maybe a multiple team deal could be found.  Of course Roy Hibbert or Andrew Bogut would be nice too, but I think they are in their team's long term plans and aren't going anywhere.  Lastly, Joe could just hold, have a second year like last year and take a shot at a center in the draft; there are likely to be more and better big men than there were last year and at this point it looks like the Pistons would draft high in this scenario to get their pick of players.  I don't like this option as the lottery is all based on promise which some fullfill and others never do and it takes a while to truely develop a big man.  I'd rather go after DeAndre Jordan or JaVale McGee who have a little experience and have shown they can play some and work on developing them since I'm not sure anyone in college is a sure fire NBA center at this point.
Category: NBA
Posted on: December 14, 2009 12:24 pm
 

Pistons Week 7 -- A Perfect Week!!

The Detroit Pistons managed to top their first winning week with a week in which they went a perfect 3-0.  That makes a 5 game winning streak and 6 out fo their last seven after dropping the previous 7 straight.  Have the Pistons turned it around?  The easy answer is yes, looking at wins and losses, but I think it is still too early to say as this section of the schedule hasn't been overly taxing.  However you can only play the games that are scheduled for you, and the wins have managed to move them from near the bottom of the conference into the 7th playoff spot currently, only 1/2 game behind the 5 spot, so there can be no complaints.

The week started Wednesday with a trip to Philldelphia to play the 76ers and meet up with last years' Detroit scapegoat Allen Iverson who recently found his way back to his NBA home.  The Pistons have struggled on the road so far, so even though Philly hasn't been playing well lately this game was to be a good test for Detroit.  The Pistons came out flat, in part due to AI doing what he is NOT known for: playing great defense.  AI was able to slow down the Pistons offense, not letting it even get set up effectively in the opening minutes of the game.  It initally looked as if this game may turn into the kind of lackluster effort that led to a blowout in Chicago. Luckily, the solid Pistons defense kept the score close until the offense could get their feet under them.  While this game was close all the way through which should have made it exciting, I found it to be snooze-fest, literally putting me to sleep at times.  The basketball was solid, but nothing exciting happened.  You could say it was old-style Pistons ball, but that would be wrong, the old Pistons defense was exciting in shutting people down; this was just two medicre teams going at it half court set after half court set; no exciting offense or defense for the most part.  The Pistons managed to get ahead and hold on down the stretch, so it was all good in the end.  But it made me worried as the Pistons had the Denver Nuggets coming to Detroit the next night and it woudl take a much better effort to beat a good Nuggets team.

Thursday night brought former Pistons Mr. Big Shot Chauncey Billups and Arron Afflalo back to the Palace.  I had written this game off as a loss with the Pistons coming home from Philly the night before and having to face a rested Nuggets team near the top of the West.  Luckily, I was way off base.  The Pistons came out and competed for everything, as we have come to expect from this squad, but were able to keep up with the Nuggets.  They were only down one after the 1st and managed to take a 2 point lead in at the half.  In the third, which has been where the Pistons have often faultered this year, they managed to take a lead, but give it back.  Just when I thought it may be over, they finished the third strong and led by 7 going into the fourth.  Denver managed to tie it up with 4 1/2 minutes left behind Carmelo Anthony's stong play, but Detroit managed to muscle out the win when Billups missed a tough layup at the buzzer.  This was a huge win for the Pistons and a big step for Rodney Stuckey as he played Chauncey Billups pretty much even (though there weren't too many head to head matchups between the two).  The defense for the Pistons played very solidly, while 'Melo did go for 40 points he was never allowed to completely take over the game, adn outside of Anthony and Billups, who will score anyhow, no one else was allowed to get hot and do serious damage.  This is easily the best win of the Pistons season and will give them confidence to face the top teams.

And now for something completely different.  The Golden State Warriors came to town Saturday.  The Warriors lived up to their running, no defense reputation against the Pistons, and it was pretty effective for three quarters.  The Pistons started off with good defense, slowing the Warriors running game initally, but started to allow them to bread out by the end of the first and found themselves down 30-24 after 1.  The Warriors managed to open up a 12 point lead by the middle of the second and looked like they might run the Pistons out of their own housebefore the Pistons defense and missed shots Golden State evened the score.  A late surge kept the 6 point lead for the Warriors at half time.  The Pistons then dominated the third by slowing the pace and rebounding the ball, they gave up only 12 point and scored 22 to take a 4 point lead into the fourth.  The Pistons opened up an 8 point lead to start the quarter and the Warriors tried to run back, closing it to 2 points mid-quater, but the Pistons controlled the end of this game, closed it out effectively and won by 9 hitting free throws downt he stretch until it was out of reach.
As an aside, this Warriors team is fun to watch when they can play at their pace.  They can score on the break from almost any position and do it effectively as at least one guy releases on every shot.  Unfortunately, this adds to them getting killed on the glass as with injuries they are already small inside, with their style it leasves them small and shorthanded  for the boards, leading to easy points off rebounds.  On the defensive end again they can be good if they get the team to try and keep pace with them.  They are good at getting in passing lanes and creating turnovers.  But in the halfcourt on both offense and defense they are terrible: ti is all one on one play.  If this team ever decides to learn to play half court basketball on either end they could be dangerous, and if they learn on both ends they could be deadly; but in the mean time they are jsut entertaining as who doesn't like to watch fast pace scoring.


Positives:
Richard Hamilton returned from injury to start the game against Golden State.  While he played well, it was not great, or even even very good by his standards.  He hit some nice shots but still needs to get his range back and his chemistry with his teammates.  Don't get me wrong, it is great to see him back on the floor, but I think we will see even grater things as he continues to play.

Moving on up the standings.  No need to even try and make injury excuses; this team's hustle and hard work pays off in a 3-0 week moving to within 1/2 game of second in the division and 5th in the East.  Heck, only 5 1/2 back from the division lead (a guy can dream).

Road win.  Yes, it is only against the 76ers, who are playing horrible, but considering they were 2-8 on the road with those being against Memphis opening night and the Wizards any road win wil lhelp.

Win against a top team.  Yes, Denver was at the end of an extended road trip, but the Pistons were on the second night of a back-to-back.  Beating a team of the Nuggets calibur, who are tied for second in the West, is huge any time and any how it occurs for the Pistons.

Negatives:
Injuries still/again. Tayshaun Prince is still on the bench.  His return has been said to be imminant, but still not target date.  Ben Gordon's ankle is bad enough to send him back to the sidelines and Will Bynum now has two bad ankles.  Luckily the Pistons do well with a shorter guard rotation and the Richard Hamilton returned.  All these guys could be back in the next week, it will be very interesting to see how minutes get distributed and how the Pistons do at full strength.

The road ahead:
Back on the road to the West.  Back-to-back games at the Houston Rockets Tuesday and at the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday followed by a Friday night game at the Oklalhoma City Thunder.  The Pistons and all three opponents are 6-4 in their last 10 and have overall records in the same ballpark so it should make for some interesting games.  Hopefully the poor road showing (3-8) for the Pistons is shown to be a product of how tough their first West Coast swing was (@Lakers @Portland back to back, @Utah, @Phoenix back to back) and not just general road issues.  They then get to come home to the Lakers at the end of their first extended road trip.

I think this may be the week we get to see this team full strength again.  Though it will take time to get all the chemistry right again, it will be interesting to see what we have got.  And then more interesting to hear the trade rumors (Is New Orleans still interested in trading Okafor with his recent good play?  I'd be willing to go Prince and Kwame for Okafor and Posey (works on trade machine).  Can Kaman be bought from the Clippers?  Kaman for Prince works straight up, or coudl throw in some other pieces.  Rather have RIP, we could work something out).





Category: NBA
Posted on: December 8, 2009 11:33 am
 

Pistons Week 6 -- A Winning Week!!!

Finally, a week with a positive record!!!!  This week was big as the Pistons faced three teams whom they will likely be battling with for palyoff position in the Spring.  The Pistons went 2-1 and actually moved up in the standings!  They moved out of the bottom of the woeful Central overtaking Chicago (by % points) and the Pacers and moved up to 9th (by % point) in the Conference.   All while still having significant injuries to players who are out (Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince) and slowing guys on the floor (Ben Gordon and Will Bynum). 

Although the week ended positively, it started dreadfully with the Pistons trip to Chicago.  The Pistons took the floor looking like they were still hung-over from their Sunday win versus Atlanta although it was Wednsday already.  They started their "hustle" lineup of Chuckey Atkins, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell, and Ben Wallace and proceeded to get out worked in the paint, on the glass, and all over the floor.  They managed only 10 points on 25% shooting for the first quarter.  I can not recall seeing a poorer quarter of Pistons basketball.  The Pistons managed to work it to a 10 point deficit by half and to as little as 3 points early in the third, mostly on horrific Bulls offense.  Unfortunately, they seemed content to just be back in the game and make it respec table and never put in the conssitant effort needed to take the lead and win the game.  For a team that has gotten by on hard work and hitting the boards it was ugly watching them get out hustled.  They ended up only losing by 7, but it was an uglier loss than the score revealed.  Ugly enough that Gordon's return to Chicago was not really worth noting.


Friday night brought the Milwakee Bucks to the Palace.  The Pistons again started their "hustle' lineup, this time having a much better result than in Chicago.  Big Ben was able to shut down Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings was slowed down and had an off shooting night, in fact he ended up being outplayed by his backup Luke Ridnour.  Ex-Piston Carlos Delfino had a very good game, but the current Piston squad opened up a 34-23 lead at the end of one and never looked back.  The ball was moving, the players were moving, and they were crashing the boards.  Everything that was lacking in Chicago as far as effort was on display against the Bucks and the team ended with 28 assists (Suckey had 9) and 46 rebounds.  I don't know if the difference is being at home, the matchups, or if the Bucks were having an off night but this is the way the Pistons need to play if they want to compete every night.


Sunday brought the Wizards, who are off to a horrilbe start, to the Palace for the second game of the new Pistons against their old coach Flip Saunders.  Thye first game was close with the Pistons taking it at the end 106-103 after giving up a sizable lead in the 3rd.  Again the Pistons started the "hustle" lineup and again got off to a fairly good start on hard work, opening up a 12 point lead in the second quarter.  The Wizards were able to trim that to just 3 by the half with a late quarter run though.  The rest of the game was fairly close with the Pistons opening a lead early in the fourth, the Wizards making a run to tie, but the Pistons answering and finishing the game at the line for a 98-94 victory, making the first winning week the Pistons have finished.
As a side note, what is up with the Wizards?  All thier important players are healthy except Mike Miller and they have A LOT of talent on the team.  I expected tehm to be MUCH better than this, maybe even pushing the big boys in the East.  Gilbert Arenas looked awful against the Pistons, and his "the arena was cold" excuse is just pathetic, it was the same temperature for everyone.  Wasn't Antwan jamison an All-Star?  He sure didn't put in the effort against the Pistons; in fact none of the Wizards put out consistant effort.  It is almost like they think "we can just turn it on any time"....wait, who is the coach again?  Seriously, this team seems to lack chemistry and steady effort from their two games against the Pistons; they need some attitude adjustment because they should be WAY better than they are performing.


Positives:
A week with a positive record: 2-1.  Now if they can win on the road...

Ben Gordon is back, though not quite 100% he is contributing.

Charlie Villanueva is back, in a mask.  Looked off in first game back, but much better in his second.

Tayshaun Prince says he is close to being back; maybe as soon as a week.

Jonas Jerebko is finding some offense.  he's palyed some solid defense, but with Big Ben and Max as the other starter up front some points are much needed.

Negatives :
Effort in the Chicago game.  It was on the road, but they were so flat it was disgusting.  And against a division rival.  Yes, they were shorthanded, but I refuse to use that excuse, everyone goes through injuries.

Road continues to be a problem. 2-8 with only wins opening night against the Grizzlies and against the Wizards.  Thsi team needs to find a way to win away from the Palace.

Only beating teams they should beat.  This team needs to steep up and win some games they are not supposed to win if they want to be taken seriously.  Like road games in Chicago and games against potential playoff teams.

On tap:
This week would be a good week to start stepping it up.  The team goes to Philly to see the 76ers and their old buddy Allen Iverson (though he'll pretty much only recognize Stuckey and Bynum on the floor there has been so much change) on Wednseday and back home for Denver Thursday for their old chums Chauncey Billups and Arron Afflalo to pay a visit.  These will be good games to see how they Pistons compete on the road and against good teams at home.
Then the Warriors come in on Saturday.  This will be a good test of how much hustle the hustle lineup really has.  It should be a fun track meet, I think the Pistons can keep up in, but someone is going to have to slow down Monta Ellis--is Stuckey capable of doing that?


Category: NBA
Posted on: November 30, 2009 12:48 pm
 

Pistons Week 5 -- Who are we?

"Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in."

After their loss to the Clippers I was ready to write the Pistons off as dead, rip into their play and coaching and start looking seriously the draft and forward to next year.  Then they come out even more shorthanded, with a lineup change and compete for 48 minutes to knock off one of the East leaders in the Hawks.  The Pistons finished the week 1-3, what I would have expected, but did it in a fashion that leaves me scratching my head as to who these guys are and what they are capable of.

The Pistons week started with their first game back home from the rough West coast road trip facing their arch enemy Cleveland Cavaliers.  Last seen sweeping last year's dysfunctional crew from the playoffs everyone in Detroit was interested to see how the new lineup would fare.  The Cavaliers jumped on the Pistons throat early and the game was over by half time with an 18 point deficit that could have easily been more.  The Pistons made a second half run of sorts to cut the lead to 5 and finish only 10 down, but at no point were the Cavaliers ever at risk of dropping this game.  I can't say I was surprised or disappointed in this game; I didn't really think that the Pistons squad as assembled and playing right now could compete with the Cavaliers, but a guy can dream, right?  The biggest story for the Pistons out of this game was that Ben Gordon sprained his ankle and hasn't returned since.  Added to Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince on the sidelines makes for a lot of points that need to be made up due to injury.

Austin Daye got his first start  the day after Thanksgiving, filling in at the SG, as the Clippers came to town.  This game should have been the easy one of the week for the Pistons but proved a tough battle throughout the game.  It was a back and forth battle for most of the first half with the Pistons going on a nice run to close the half up 7.  The Clippers surged back during the third to make it a one point Piston lead going into the 4th quarter.  Unfortunately, Fox Sports Detroit had technichal difficulties and I couldn't see most of the fourth quarter; by the time I got a picture back the Clippers had taken a  seven point lead with about 4 minutes left.  The Pistons tried to close in as the clock wound down, but Chris Kaman just proved to solid as he had all day, not even the great D of Ben Wallace could stop him as he finished with 26 points to lead the Clippers to victory.
A side note regarding the Clippers.  It is all fun to jump on the GM of the always out of it Clippers, but Mike Dunleavy Sr. has assembled a very talented lineup with draft picks and trades that eluded Baylor.  It should be a lineup that can compete.  Now he just has to have the balls to get a coach, which would mean realizing that he can't do both the GM job and coach well and repalcing himself.  This team should be MUCH better than it is, even with Blake Griffin sidelined.  If Dunleavy can't see it the upper management needs to pull the trigger and bring in a coach as it is clear that Dunleavy has done a better job as GM than as a coach for this team.

Then came the Hawks.  A Sunday day game does not usually bode well for the Pistons, even when playing well last year early on they couldn't win one of these Sunday matinees.  And against a conference leader...let's jsut say I had low expectations after the loss to the Clippers as was formulating a complete write off of the rest of the season unless some major changes were made.  Then the starting lineup was displayed: Chuckey Atkins, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell, and Ben Wallace--let's see the small, third string PG, a guy who has been playing all year at the point, a rookie playing D well but not known for scoring, a hustle guy not known for scoring, and a defensive powerhouse who simply can't score----I'm thinking, where the hell are any point coming from!?!?!?  They tipped it up and the points came; from hustle, hard work, and rebounds.  More importantly the rebounding kept the Hawks from having many second chance points and the hard work made it difficult for them to get anything inside.  Villanueva and Bynum provided a nice spark off the bench and the defensive minded centers, Ben Wallace and Kwame Brown, even contributed 18 points between the two of them.  Even when Charlie Villanueva had to leave the game in the fourth with a nose that wouldn't stop bleeding (broken?) from a collision with Big Ben's hip the team managed to score enough points to hold off the surging Hawks for the 94-88 win and both Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko ended the game with double-doubles.

Positives:  
I'm tired of writing the same thing about continueing to compete and working hard as it hasn't ended up reflected in the win total, but they do continue to do these things and hopefully it will become evident in more wins soon.

A win over an Eastern power, the Atlanta Hawks.

Jonas Jerebko becoming more confident on the offensive end, scoring 22 and 10 in consecutive games (though he was shut down by the Cavs earlier in the week).

Tayshaun Prince news--he's working out, some days pretty well by reports--still no return date though.

Negatives:
A loss to the Clippers--though they are an improving team and the Pistons are rebuilding it is still a loss to one of the historically worst franchises in the NBA, so no excuses.

Injuries--Ben Gordon rolls his ankle and misses 2.5 of the 3 games this week and is still listed as questionable.
--Charlie Villanueva breaks(? very likely) his nose on his teammate and is listed as questionable.
--Though working out now Tayshaun Prince is still out indefinitely.
--Just what the hell did Richard Hamilton do to that ankle?  He's been out over a month now, that is some serious time with no return date still.

Alone as an 11 seed in the East and at the bottom of the division.  They need to put together some more W's because I for one am not happy missing the playoffs, let alone not even competing for a playoff spot.

Looking Ahead:
The next few games may tell a lot about where the Piston are in the Division and the playoff race even though it is early.  They have division rivals Milwakee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in addition to Washington Wizards and Philly 76ers who I expect them to compete with for lower seeding;  time to show us who you are and what you are made of Pistons.

Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
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