Trouble in Motown for the Detroit Pistons

Posted: November 17, 2010 by sabetodo in Professional

By Andrew Bolton | GLH

A tough start to the season…and it’s gonna get worse

First, the obvious: I may have been overly optimistic when I predicted the Pistons would nab the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with 38 wins. I misinterpreted the close losses as signs of a competent team that just had to figure out how to hold a lead. Four wins in five games after the 0-5 start seemed to reaffirm my theory that the Pistons were going to put it together. I hadn’t counted on the schism in the locker room, Tayshaun Prince turning into a prima donna, and Jon Kuester not being able to stick to any semblance of a rotation.

The Story So Far

The Pistons beat the Clippers and Kings on their recent western road trip, and looked pretty good doing it.  Bookending these two wins was a blowout loss to Portland and a close loss to the Warriors. Let’s take a look at the dominant storylines from these games:

Portland: Close first half, terrible second half. Portland’s size in the paint was way, way too much for the Pistons. Some hot shooting and inspired play from Tracy McGrady kept the score respectable, but the Pistons had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge. I really think that this was the game that sealed the Pistons’ fate: everyone realized that Austin Daye at power forward wouldn’t work anymore. Aldridge got whatever he wanted in the paint, and the Pistons had no answer.

Clippers: Kuester started Daye at power forward again this game, and while Austin had a few points, he couldn’t slow down Blake Griffin (though, to be fair, not many people can). Jason Maxiell came in and did a respectable job down the stretch, coming up with a few key plays at the end of the game to help the Pistons preserve the win.

Of course, Kuester overreacted to this by giving the start to Maxiell the next game and giving Daye a DNP-CD. Let me get this straight: a guy who was out of the rotation gets to start because of one good quarter, and the starter, who won the job in preseason, now doesn’t play at all. How does that make any sense?

Sacramento: Despite having Mad Max on the floor, the Pistons were massacred on the boards, especially on the offensive glass. Fortunately, they shot so well that it didn’t matter; they came away with a win.

Golden State: Of course, they couldn’t sustain the momentum, falling behind by 30 at Golden State. They rallied to only lose by four, but not before Tayshaun had to be removed from the bench by team security after nearly getting into a fight with Jon Kuester. The argument got pretty heated, at least, though both downplayed it afterwards. This just highlights the disconnect that there is between the team and the coach; as has been spelled out in many media outlets, the older players don’t care for the newer players and vice versa, and they all seem to be against the coach.

I’m not sure what the problem is here. It sounds as though Prince wants the team to be like it was when he started out, priding itself on defense and exploiting mismatches to win games. Unfortunately, Tayshaun, this team isn’t built like that. This team can’t rebound and can’t guard anyone (besides Ben Wallace), so they are going to have to outscore people to win. The guards are the strength of this team, and Kuester has, seemingly, installed an offense predicated on letting the guards attack. This makes sense to me; playing to the strengths of your team is what you want to do. What I don’t see is any sense of urgency from the players on either end, and that’s on the players, not the coach. Maybe some of this has to do with the weird mix of youth and experience on this team, but that doesn’t excuse not playing hard. Tayshaun, you should be pointing the finger at yourself and your teammates, not the coach. A good veteran brings the team together. He doesn’t undermine the coach’s authority and create rifts in the locker room.

Some Player Notes

–Greg Monroe looks like an elite rebounder in the making. If he ever gets a vertical leap, he could be amazing.

–Tracy McGrady is on his way back. He does two or three things per game that make you say, “wow, that’s vintage T-Mac.” Of course, as I type this, he twists his ankle so badly his shoe comes off. That’s not a joke.

–Ben Wallace is really good. Witness him shutting down Demarcus Cousins. He’s still got it.

–Ben Gordon needs to start. Like, yesterday.

–Austin Daye needs to play small forward. He’s too talented to not play at all, and at 6’11” could really take advantage of opposing small forwards. Of course, Kuester would have to sit Prince to do that. And if Kuester didn’t bench Prince for yelling at him, he’s not going to bench him ever.

Around the NBA

–KevinLoveKevinLoveKevinLoveKevinLove. Kevin. Love.

–JohnWallJohnWallJohnWallJohnWall. John. Wall.

–The Hornets are 8-1. I don’t think in Chris Paul’s wildest dreams he could’ve envisioned a start like this. Emeka Okafor has even remembered how to play basketball. Who saw that coming?

–Kevin Durant (my favorite player since he was in college) and the Thunder are struggling now that they can’t sneak up on anyone. Their defense has slipped several notches. Serge Ibaka needs to start for Jeff Green, who has not played well thus far.

–Yao is out again. I think he’s going to retire pretty soon here.

–The Spurs are back, led by a rejuvenated Richard Jefferson. Anyone else notice that most of the stories are in the Western Conference? That’s not a coincidence. They play better basketball out there.

–I will say this, though. If I was starting a team from scratch, I would take Rajon Rondo as my point guard without hesitating.

–Not that you asked, but here’s who I would take at the other positions:

Shooting Guard–Stephen Curry

Small Forward–Kevin Durant

Power Forward–Blake Griffin

Center–Dwight Howard

Let me know what you think.

Next Time: A discussion on the odds that the Pistons will, at some point this season, lose by more points than they score.

  1. Jared Field says:

    I’d take Rondo too. He’s the most dynamic player in the league.

    I know he has issues defensively, but Gordon is my favorite Piston right now.

  2. I would take Westbrook, Wade, Bron, Melo, Howard….I would like to see Rondo play without the “old” big three to give him all of the accolades as the most dynamic. BTW, did we thin these other guys were old when mentioning starting a team from scratch? A player at PG being overlooked…Tyreke Evans. In three years, he will be the best in the league at the position out west.

    • Jared Field says:

      They are old. You have that right. I don’t know how those three really help Rondo be among the best defensive players in the league.

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        What makes him one of the best defenders? Gave up 30 to Cleveland PG’s, 29 to New York’s, 17 to Detroit, 23 to Milwaukee’s, 18 to D. Rose, 22 to OKC’s, and 25 to Memphis PG’s. Now don’t get me wrong, points don’t mean everything, but I only use that to illustrate. But the question of what makes a player a defensive stallwart remains. Some stats have to be in play such as steals, rebs, and blocks. Rondo is number 2 in the league in steals. He is averaging almost 5 boards which is great for a PG. But, you also can’t dismiss the team defense that they employ in Boston either. Ask Tayshaun Prince how much a team can affect you being considered a great defender. So, I am interested in everyone’s opinion on how we should judge a defender?

    • sabetodo says:

      Tyreke isn’t a point guard. He’s Brandon Roy without a jumpshot.

      • sabetodo says:

        Being labeled a good defender is much more subjective than you would think. We assume Wade, LeBron, and Kobe are good defenders because we see highlights of them stealing the ball and blocking people from behind on fast breaks. What’s going on the other 90-some plays of the game? I’ve never watched a game with any of those players and thought, “wow, those guys are amazing defensively.” I HAVE thought that about Ben Wallace many times.

        I guess I would sum it up like this: good defenders disrupt the other team’s offensive rhythm. They make the offense unable to function normally. Guys like Dwight Howard and Josh Smith are good defenders because they make the offense think twice about attacking the basket. Guys like Tony Allen can bother superstars enough to make the offense go through worse players. Anderson Varejao guards the pick-and-roll so well you can’t run it with the big man he’s guarding. Chris Paul makes guards think twice before passing. Rajon Rondo makes guards either make jumpshots or take their chances in the paint against Kevin Garnett. All would be considered good defenders.
        With regard to the starting a team from scratch thing, yes I did think those guys were too old. Wade is injury-prone and nearly 30 if he isn’t already. LeBron is only 25, but I would still rather have Durant for the next 10 years. Carmelo doesn’t play defense.

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        D Wade is not 30 and Greg Oden is injury prone, not Wade. A few injuries that 90% of the players in the league get is not injury prone. Old? Wow. You take Durant, while my group wins the next 5 titles…who will still have their job? By that time, there will be a new superstar that makes Durant look old I guess. BTW, Melo doesn’t play defense in Denver, but neither does the team. Check out his olympic play…best player on the team for that run. Speaking of defense, I like your definition, but Rondo’s commentary makes no sense. Opponents have to take jumpshots or take their chances in the paint against KG? No kidding! Isn’t that the choice of every player? That sounds like KG makes Rondo a good defensive player…gonna need a different explanation of that one….

      • Oh yeah, that non-PG is averaging aboout 20 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg, and almost 2 spg….while impersonating a PG

      • sabetodo says:

        Yeah, I watched that game. Westbrook destroyed Rondo. I would still take Rondo, though, because of what I saw out of Westbrook on the offensive end: forced shot after forced shot. You wouldn’t see that from Rondo. He’s a much better game-manager.

      • Westbrook was 9/14 from the field…forced? Oh yeah, no Kevin Durant, no Jeff Green. Everyone on the Celtic team focused on him.

      • sabetodo says:

        Actually, Westbrook was 9 for 21, with most of those misses coming in the fourth quarter when he refused to acknowledge his teammates’ presence on the court.

      • True…9/21…but like Westbrook said at halftime, his job was to get the team involved early that night, then take over at the end without Durant. He did that.

  3. My fav Piston right now? Vinnie Johnson. That should tell you something about that team. Ok, on the team now has to be Daye.

  4. Anybody see Westbrook last night?

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