Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva haven't done anything noteworthy to earn more playing time. Fortunately for them, circumstances seem to dictate that it's time to shake up the rotation. At this point in the season, coach Lawrence Frank might as well give the disappointing duo a chance to play regular minutes.
The Pistons are reeling again, losing five straight after getting thumped by New York 101-79 Saturday night. With a month left of the season, they have nothing to lose by giving Daye and Villanueva opportunities to finish on a high note and perhaps improve their trade value.
Daye was expected to be a main cog on the second unit during his third season but he shot his way to the end of the bench. He's averaging 31.7 percent from the field and 20.8 percent on 3-point attempts after shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 36.7 percent on threes during his first two seasons.
Frank hadn't used Daye in 13 games since mid-February but has called his number the last two games. Daye played eight second-half minutes against Miami on Friday and contributed six points. Then, with two guards out on Saturday, Damien Wilkins played more minutes at shooting guard, allowing Daye to get 16 minutes of action and score seven points.
When everyone's healthy, Daye could return to his former role as Tayshaun Prince's backup, at the expense of journeyman Wilkins. The Pistons hold a $2.95 million team option on Daye's contract and will probably retain him, hoping they can include him in a deal or that he'll regain his confidence next season. Team president Joe Dumars shopped Daye before the trading deadline, hoping to get a future first-rounder, another young player or some additional salary-cap space in return, but he couldn't find a taker.
Daye's future is still brighter than his frequent bench partner. Villanueva has appeared in just four games this season, including a garbage-time stint against the Knicks when he hoisted up six shots in six minutes. A right ankle injury kept him sidelined until early this month and Frank has stuck with the power forward tandem of Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko since Villanueva began suiting up again.
With Maxiell's production dropping off the past two weeks, Villanueva could at least give the Pistons another offensive threat, starting with their game at Washington on Monday. Villanueva averaged at least 11 points in each of his previous six seasons. No matter how he does the remaining 18 games, the Pistons probably will use the amnesty clause to rid themselves of the final two years of his contract, unless they can buy him out and somehow deal him.
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