True Blue Pistons

The Official Blog

Keith Langlois
About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined as the web site editor on October 2, 2006. Langlois, who brings over 27 years of professional sports journalism experience to Palace Sports & Entertainment, serves as's official beat writer and covers the team on a daily basis.

Questions and comments on Keith's posts can be submitted via the Pistons Mailbag. Or follow Keith on Twitter.

Read Keith's Blog Archives

Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Among the many changes ahead for the Pistons before they get back on the court in October is where you’ll find them on your radio dial. Both the Pistons and new carrier WMGC 105.1 FM see their marriage as much more than a traditional broadcast partnership.

“There were several things that were very appealing about it,” said Charlie Metzger, Palace Sports & Entertainment executive vice president of creative and communications as well as chief marketing officer. “First was Greater Media’s view of the relationship, which was broader than just a radio deal. It really is a content partnership deal. We will be using multiple platforms.”

Among the fan-friendly changes coming: You’ll now be able to listen to Pistons broadcasts on-line at both the team and station’s websites as well as on mobile devices via Pistons and 105.1’s apps.

“It’s much more than a rights deal; it’s a true partnership for content, marketing opportunities and events for sports and entertainment fans,” said Steve Chessare, Greater Media market manager. “And also social media. I don’t want to leave that out, because it’s a huge part of both of our success stories.”

Continue reading A Win-Win Deal >>

Posted Monday, April 21, 2014

If the Pistons who scattered to far-flung homes upon the conclusion of their regular season could bring themselves to peek at the playoffs, Atlanta’s win over Indiana must have induced coast-to-coast winces.

For all of the disappointments their 29-win season produced, the frustration accelerated in the days and weeks following the All-Star break when both Indiana and Miami showed vulnerabilities that made the final two playoff berths more alluring than in a typical season.

With Atlanta waiting to be caught, the Pistons simply couldn’t find their footing. The Hawks made the playoffs with 38 wins, nine games ahead of the Pistons. There were 15 games alone this season that the Pistons lost after leading by double digits, most in the Eastern Conference.

Continue reading 10 Tough Ones>>

Posted Thursday, April 17, 2014

Losses are like dogs. They come in all shapes and sizes. But the two that burn ulcers in a coach’s gut are (1) the ones where his team meets every expectation but doesn’t get the reward it deserves and (2) the ones where they just don’t put up a competitive fight.

The Pistons, strangely enough for a team that endured 53 losses in a season that underperformed expectations by a mile, didn’t have a ton of either. (Too many of other types, alas.) John Loyer said before Wednesday’s finale he could think of three games in his then 31-game experience where he left disappointed in effort.

The finale surely didn’t pad that total, but it will be Exhibit A for the season in that other type of loss that causes sleepless nights.

When whomever Pistons owner Tom Gores and his inner circle choose as the new Pistons general manager pops in the videotape of the 112-111 loss to Oklahoma City, on the other hand, it likely will spur a very different reaction.

Continue reading Exhibit A>>

Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY – Nothing that happened in the season finale could salvage the Pistons’ present, but the way it went down in Oklahoma City sure makes their future look that much more intriguing.

The two youngest Pistons, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, saw to that.

Drummond, of course, already was established as the core of the franchise’s future. Already a dominant rebounder at 20, he’s shown glimpses of a blossoming low-post game throughout the season. But the three hooks he scored over one of the league’s most sound defensive centers, Kendrick Perkins, in Wednesday’s first quarter were eye openers.

His rookie season ended four minutes prematurely, though, Drummond fouling out with 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Pistons led by six points. It became a tough-to-swallow 112-111 loss to Oklahoma City in one of the season’s most entertaining games, and if it was possible to go into an off-season with a good taste in their mouths after a dispiriting 29-win season that fell dramatically short of expectations, this game did it.

Continue reading Out with a Bang>>

Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Pistons lost to Toronto by nine points in their regular-season home finale. They attempted 48 free throws, 13 more than the Raptors. When you get 13 more chances for easy points, you should win 9 of 10 times. Except the Pistons outscored Toronto at the line by all of three points.

Which is, of course, the value of one 3-point shot – of which Toronto sunk four more than the Pistons in only three more attempts.

It’s not all that tough to find reasons why the Pistons enter Wednesday’s season finale at Oklahoma City with a 29-52 record when the more optimistic projections for how their season would unfold after a dramatic summer makeover guessed at something closer to 52-29.

The Pistons don’t shoot it very well from either the foul line or the 3-point line. They rank 30th in the former and 29th in the latter – ahead of only Philadelphia, which has suited up enough players this season to populate three NBA franchises after gutting the roster last summer.

Continue reading Focus on Fixes >>

Posted Monday, April 14, 2014

A team of genius engineers gathered once to figure out the most economical way to fit a fleet of semi trucks 16 feet off the ground under a bridge with a clearance of 15 feet 11 inches. In the end, a kid on a bicycle rode up and suggested they let just enough air out of the tires to slide under.

Sometimes, it just takes a fresh perspective.

The Pistons are chasing that fresh perspective today, announcing that Joe Dumars will step aside as president of basketball operations. He’ll remain a part of the only pro sports organization he’s ever known – 29 mostly glorious years – since stepping outside his native Louisiana for the first time in 1985 when Jack McCloskey stunned owner Bill Davidson by picking Dumars over local hero Sam Vincent, serving as an adviser.

The new general manager won’t find a bare cupboard, that’s for sure. If the NBA were to terminate all player contracts and start over with an open draft, we wouldn’t get to the first commercial break before Andre Drummond would come off the board. Joe D found him after eight other teams, focused on his perceived flaws, decided otherwise.

But there is no getting around the fact that the Pistons, headed into Wednesday’s season finale, have won only 29 of 81 games this season. They have overwhelming strengths – first in offensive rebounding by a wide margin, first in points in the paint, top five in transition scoring – but glaring weaknesses, too.

Continue reading A Fresh Perspective >>

Posted Sunday, April 13, 2014

From the top of the organizational chart to the bottom, the Pistons universally lament the season that closed out its home schedule with Sunday’s 116-107 loss to Toronto. But the reason they’re not about to curl up in the fetal position and resign themselves to lottery fates into the foreseeable future was on full display in the third quarter.

That’s when the Pistons outscored Toronto 37-24, atoning for a porous defensive first quarter precipitated by foul trouble that sidelined both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe for the bulk of it.

But there they were, Drummond and Monroe, leading the charge after halftime as the Pistons chewed up all that ground they lost in the first half to actually take a lead. Monroe used all the tools in his offensive belt, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

Drummond has had louder statistical quarters, for sure, than the two points and four rebounds, but his presence was felt everywhere along the 94-foot continuum of The Palace court – from the one-handed bullet pass from 30 feet out to Kyle Singler for a dunk to the swatting of 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas’ hook shot into the expensive seats.

Continue reading Topped by Toronto >>

Posted Friday, April 11, 2014

CHICAGO – Seemingly every night, John Loyer mused before Friday’s date in Chicago with the Bulls, Andre Drummond does something to amaze.

Then Drummond went out and made Loyer look prescient. By halftime, Drummond had 19 rebounds, two more than the Bulls managed. More than anyone, he accounted for an 18-point halftime lead over a team fighting to get to 50 wins and lock up the East’s third-best record over Toronto.

He finished with 26 points and 26 rebounds, the latter matching his career best set in a March win over New York, and who knows how high the total might have grown had the Pistons defended better in the second half when Chicago scored 68 points.

But the night ended like so many over the past handful of seasons have for the Pistons in Chicago, with a loss and the din of another raucous United Center crowd burning their ears.

The Bulls shot 62 percent in the second half after shooting 38 in the first. The Pistons knew the run was coming, of course, and their knees wobbled a little in the third quarter but not all that much. They were still ahead by 10 points, after all, headed to the fourth quarter.

Continue reading Amazing Andre >>

Posted Thursday, April 10, 2014

CHICAGO – Gigi Datome never expected to come to the NBA and lead the Pistons to a the Finals or capture league MVP honors as he’d done in Italy. But he didn’t envision shooting 17 percent from the 3-point arc, either. Or sitting on the bench without taking off his warmups for 50-odd games.

“When I came in July, I said my goal was to show I could play also in this league,” he said as the Pistons entered the last week of their season, their playoff hopes snuffed out. “I was sure it wouldn’t be something easy the first day, that the things I did in Italy I could do here, for sure. I hope that maybe now, maybe next season is going to be the right moment and I’ll have the right opportunity to show my skills.”

Datome came to the NBA at the peak of his game and his bargaining power, having led Rome to the Finals and rising to captain status on the Italian national team. But the timing was also unfortunate in that the critical off-season leading to his debut synced up with the 2013 EuroBasket tournament, held last September, for an Italian national team that had to lean heavily on Datome with Danilo Gallinari and Andrea Bargnani both unavailable.

Continue reading Waiting His Turn>>

Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CLEVELAND – The good news is the Pistons took a big step toward hanging on to their first-round draft pick Wednesday night in Cleveland. The bad news? Well, sit down. This might take a while.

The Pistons trailed by 32 at halftime, which required an amazing confluence of dazzling plays by Cleveland and not-so-dazzling sequences from the Pistons. The highlights for the Cavs, who did their best to fend off their inevitable playoff elimination by sucking the suspense from this one very early, included a 26-7 edge in first-half assists – a franchise record for assists in a half – when they shot 64 percent.

The lowlights for the Pistons included committing eight first-quarter turnovers and flirting with the Mendoza Line – 20 percent shooting – until a flurry late in the second quarter lifted them up to 28 percent by the half. They finished at 35 percent while Cleveland finished at 57 percent, staying above 60 percent until late in the fourth quarter. For most of the game, there was a 30 percentage points or more difference in the two teams’ shooting numbers.

Continue reading Crash Landing>>

Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Pistons were supposed to have wrapped up their visits to Atlanta way back in January. But an ice storm that brought the city to its knees forced postponement to April, with the azaleas in full bloom and the grass a vibrant green. The only ice in Atlanta this time around extended from the shooting hands of Atlanta Hawks players. And the Pistons, thank you very much, won’t deny some credit.

“We held them to 38 percent defense. I told ’em that was the No. 1 stat to me,” John Loyer said after the 102-95 win, which at least put on hold a playoff clinching for the Hawks. “You hold a good offensive team like them to 38 percent, you’re going to give yourself a good chance to win the game.”

The Pistons had to find a new blueprint to win this one, too, because they played without native Atlantan Josh Smith. He sat with left knee tendinitis, replaced in the starting lineup by Rodney Stuckey, with Loyer riding his starters to get off to a good start but deftly juggling a three-man bench to great effect down the stretch.

Stuckey scored 29 and Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 40 points and 30 rebounds. But when the Hawks went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to erase a 10-point Pistons lead, Loyer threw Jonas Jerebko and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the game and the Pistons immediately answered back and regained the lead. Down the stretch, Peyton Siva sunk a couple of big 3-point baskets and continued to play with the magnetic aura that made him such a dynamic college star at Louisville.

“Not just this game, but for the past few games they’ve been playing really well,” said Monroe, who chalked up 21 points and 13 rebounds, about the newly configured bench. “So tonight, they just continued what they’ve been doing for the past few games.”

Continue reading Storming Atlanta>>

Posted Monday, April 7, 2014

On a night the Pistons finished with three 20-point scorers and he put up another eyebrow-raising line – 19 points, 20 rebounds – Andre Drummond cut through the typical round of postgame questions right to the chase.

“The reason we really won this game,” Drummond said, a comeback from 19 down to beat Boston, “is Peyton Siva.”

He played 15 minutes and missed all three of his shots, but before John Loyer was asked a specific question about Siva after the game, he volunteered, “How couldn’t you root for Peyton Siva down the stretch?”

He’s sat far more often than he’s played this season with Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum ahead of him and staying mostly injury free, but when opportunity tapped once at his door – Bynum’s sore foot – Siva answered before its echo faded, in full uniform.

Continue reading Just a Winner>>

Posted Saturday, April 5, 2014

In the smoldering ruins of Friday night’s loss at Brooklyn, John Loyer found something that raised his eyebrows. Trailing by 22, he began the fourth quarter with little-used rookie Peyton Siva at point guard, along with Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko also from his bench. He lined them up with starters Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler and watched as something that’s proven maddeningly elusive for the Pistons this season – chemistry – arose out of the mist.

They got within nine points before losing to the red-hot Nets, who won their 15th straight at home. But against a lesser opponent Saturday at home, that unit summoned a defensive energy missing all night, outscoring the Celtics 30-16 in the fourth quarter to complete a comeback from 19 points down.

“They got us back in with their energy,” Loyer said. “They moved the basketball, they fed off each other. You could see general excitement when each guy scored for the other guy.”

Stuckey scored 10 of his game-high 26 in the fourth quarter. Drummond grabbed six of his 20 rebounds. Jerebko hit consecutive 3-pointers 36 seconds apart, the second giving the Pistons their first lead since the game’s fourth minute. Siva contributed a couple of steals and a couple of assists and, for the second straight game, didn’t commit a turnover.

Continue reading Winning Rally>>

Posted Friday, April 4, 2014

NEW YORK – First time the Pistons saw Mirza Teletovic, he took three 3-pointers in the span of just a few minutes and missed the rim – and everything else – on all three. That was last season. He’s come a long way since then. Teletovic didn’t touch the rim much Friday night, either, but only because his shots were so pure they barely made the net flutter.

The 6-foot-9 Bosnian changed the game when he started launching triples. The Pistons led 22-16 late in the first quarter, but over a span of 8:34 the Nets would outscore them 35-9. They hit their first seven 3-point shots of the second quarter in that stretch and were 9 of 14 from the arc when they’d stretched their lead to 51-31. Teletovic led the charge, hitting 4 of 5 triples in the first half.

“That’s what he does,” John Loyer said after Teletovic scored 20 points in 23 minutes off of Brooklyn’s bench, hitting 6 of 10 threes, a line dragged down by misses of his last two attempts. “He’s a terrific shooter. He’s made shots against us. He’s made shots against a lot of teams.”

But Loyer wasn’t willing to shrug his shoulders and chalk it up to a great shooter having a hot night. The Pistons, he felt, were complicit in their own demise.

Continue reading Net Loss>>

Posted Thursday, April 3, 2014

NEW YORK – For all the cyberspace occupied by analysis of the offensive failings of the Pistons and their supersized frontcourt, it’s been defense – lack of, specifically – that has cost them a playoff run.

The Pistons are an average offensive team, or close to it, depending on your metric of choice. They rank 15th in scoring, 17th in field-goal percentage and 20th in offensive efficiency. Their comparable defensive ratings: 27, 27 and 23. I think we can all agree: The Pistons have bigger issues on the defensive end.

And the numbers argue that if you’re going to be below average on one end or the other, you’re better off being a poor offensive team than a defensive one. Among the teams that rank below the Pistons in offensive efficiency are Charlotte (22), Indiana (23) and Chicago (29) – all safely in the East playoff field.

Continue reading Catching Up>>

Posted Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When the Pistons won at Indiana back in December – all things considered, still the best win of the season – not much seemed beyond their grasp. They were in the playoff field and, by all appearances, headed toward a postseason berth, possibly even a top-four spot given the growth potential they seemed to hold. Remember, they’d won at Miami a few weeks before that amid a four-game road winning streak.

Things went south for the Pistons not long after that, of course, but a little lost in the shuffle is it hasn’t exactly been straight-line progress for Indiana, either. The Pacers were 20-3 when the Pistons beat them on Dec. 16. They were 40-11 just before the All-Star break, but they’ve been a .500 team since then, 12-12 over their last 24 games – more than a quarter of the season. That looks like more than just a bump in the road.

Down in South Florida, meanwhile, Miami is also bumping along at .500 in a slightly smaller sample size, the Heat 8-8 in their last 16 games.

What seemed so inevitable not that long ago – a Miami-Indiana Eastern Conference finals – no longer appears a lead-pipe lock.

Continue reading Closing the Gap>>

Posted Monday, March 31, 2014

There was nothing head scratching about the underlying causes of the nine-point deficit the Pistons faced when they gathered at halftime.

Milwaukee, which doesn’t fit the definition of an offensive juggernaut, piled up 61 first-half points mostly because the Bucks were scoring without resistance. By John Loyer’s count, they scored seven points in transition after Pistons baskets, which is on the list of cardinal sins no matter how short your list gets.

“We just have to get back because a few of those possessions when they got those points fast, they got ’em off of made shots and that’s unacceptable,” Greg Monroe said after the 116-111 win over the Bucks snapped a three-game losing streak, including two weekend losses by a combined 57 points in which the defense was less than stout. “We did a good job of not turning the ball over, because that led to a lot of their fast breaks. And when we scored, everybody made a better effort to get back early.”

Continue reading Bouncing Back>>

Posted Saturday, March 29, 2014

Today’s lesson: the power of humiliation as a motivational factor. The Philadelphia 76ers were one loss from joining the post-LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA infamy. A loss to the Pistons would have meant their 27th straight defeat, dating to Jan. 29.

Instead, the Pistons had to pack that humiliation in their overhead compartment for the return flight on Roundball One, victims of a 123-98 humbling by a team that’s been administered its share of humblings this season.

“There was no effort tonight,” Greg Monroe bluntly assessed. “Absolutely no effort.” Why? “I don’t have a clue. I can’t speak for everyone. I’m trying every game. I don’t care what the circumstances and it shouldn’t be circumstances. I’m trying to win every game. … It’s tough. It’s really tough. It definitely hurts how we played last night (a 32-point loss to Miami, missing four players). To play like that two nights in a row …”

The turning point – if there can be a turning point in a game decided by 25 points – might have come late in the first quarter when Brandon Jennings, seconds after not getting the benefit of a whistle as he drove to the basket and twisted in mid-air while throwing up a prayer, drew two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. The Pistons were down six at the time. They were down double digits a minute later and never got it under 10 the rest of the night.

Continue reading Flattened in Philly>>

Posted Friday, March 28, 2014

Of the 20,000-plus to cram The Palace for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Bad Boys, nobody had a more unique perspective than a guy who left town a year before the place opened for business.

Ron Rothstein was the man at Chuck Daly’s side for the two seasons that ended more agonizingly than any since Fred Zollner moved the Pistons north from Fort Wayne 57 years ago.

Rothstein was there in 1987 when the Pistons lost at Boston on a sweltering afternoon in late May in a Game 7 and there a year later when they lost on a fine Sunday at the Fabulous Forum in a Game 6 where the corks were all put popped on the champagne cooling in their locker room as Bill Laimbeer was whistled for a crime he never committed.

Continue reading The Innocent Climb>>

Posted Friday, March 28, 2014

If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers this year, blame the guys the Pistons took in the lottery ahead of him. The Georgia rookie came to a far different roster than Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond before him did.

The Pistons never anticipated that Caldwell-Pope would play a role as significant as their other recent lottery picks when they drafted him, in part because those other young players had established their value but also because the cap space they took into last summer gave the Pistons the opportunity to further stock the roster.

Their record isn’t what they’d hoped or expected – 26-45 with 11 games to play – but there aren’t nearly as many holes on the roster as before Monroe and Drummond were drafted, Brandon Jennings came in trade at the price of Knight and Josh Smith signed on as a free agent.

Continue reading Starting Point >>

Posted Thursday, March 27, 2014

DETROIT – Twenty-five years before Detroit started grabbing national attention for a comeback before the ink on its bankruptcy filing had dried, a cast of characters that would have done an Elmore Leonard novel proud foreshadowed its city’s fighting spirit.

They Bad Boys got back together Thursday night to raise money for charity and, for those who remember their heyday, you’ll be pleased to know that not much has changed. Isiah Thomas’ smile is still blinding. John Salley remains as big a cutup as ever. And time hasn’t done a thing to smooth Bill Laimbeer’s blunt edge.

Ask Laimbeer about the essence of the Bad Boys and he cuts straight to the chase, not sparing the feelings of one of the teams his Pistons had to step over – or on, grinding their heels in the victims on the way – in the process.

“Determination,” he began, expounding on the legacy of the Bad Boys. “We were so determined to do something and have something accomplished. The mental toughness was another one. So many brutal losses over time, trying to get to where we wanted to be. Many teams quit. Many teams give up. Individuals give up. Portland is an example. They got there a couple of times and they never made it and they gave up. I think those are two great traits of individuals and teams.”

Continue reading Still the Bad Boys >>

Posted Thursday, March 27, 2014

If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers this year, blame the guys the Pistons took in the lottery ahead of him. The Georgia rookie came to a far different roster than Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond before him did.

The Pistons never anticipated that Caldwell-Pope would play a role as significant as their other recent lottery picks when they drafted him, in part because those other young players had established their value but also because the cap space they took into last summer gave the Pistons the opportunity to further stock the roster.

Their record isn’t what they’d hoped or expected – 26-45 with 11 games to play – but there aren’t nearly as many holes on the roster as before Monroe and Drummond were drafted, Brandon Jennings came in trade at the price of Knight and Josh Smith signed on as a free agent.

Continue reading Starting Point>>

Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Last time the Cleveland Cavaliers visited The Palace, it was John Loyer’s second game and the Pistons were headed for their fourth straight win. They led comfortably for much of the night and by 10 with eight minutes to play. And then things unraveled, the Pistons lost by four and went into the All-Star break staggered, losing two critical games on the other side to Charlotte.

That one will loom larger when the story of the Pistons’ thoroughly disappointing 2013-14 season is written. By the time the Cavs made their return visit Wednesday, the playoffs were a fleeting dream for both franchises.

But the magnitude of Detroit’s 97-96 loss was even more staggering. This time they led by 16 points after three quarters and still by nine with 3:38 to play after Kyle Singler’s 12-foot jump shot seemed to give them breathing room when Cleveland had chopped its deficit to seven.

Jarrett Jack scored the game’s next eight points – a 3-point shot, a long 2-point jumper and a conventional three-point play – to pull Cleveland within one with 54 seconds remaining. The Pistons then took all but 3.2 seconds off the clock, awarded possession after Josh Smith missed a jump shot with 28.5 seconds to play and given a fresh 24-second shot clock.

Continue reading Killer Comeback>>

Posted Monday, March 24, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY – Since he arrived from Sweden by way of Italy nearly five years ago, Jonas Jerebko’s default line is “I just want to play.” Whether the subject is starting or coming off the bench, power forward or small forward or role within the team framework, his answers always circle back to “I just want to play.”

Since John Loyer took over for Maurice Cheeks 18 games ago, he’s gotten just that chance. Probably not for the duration he’d like, but only in one of those 18 games did Loyer not summon Jerebko from the bench. In 50 games under Cheeks, Jerebko didn’t doff his sweats 17 times. When he did play, he averaged eight minutes a game. It’s been 12 a game under Loyer.

“He always plays with tremendous energy,” said Loyer, who spent two years as an assistant under Lawrence Frank with Jerebko and came to appreciate the things he does that the box score doesn’t always capture. “When Jonas plays within what he’s very, very good at, he’s a good player.”

With a much more consistent role has come a gradual restoration of … confidence? Not quite right.

Jerebko has always displayed a brashness that seemed out of place in someone who arrived from a country known far more for producing hockey players or skiers than elite basketball players. But anyone’s faith in his abilities would be tested by the apparent lack of faith displayed by others, not to mention the rust that needs to be knocked off when sitting idle for unaccustomed lengths.

Continue reading 'I Just Want to Play'>>

Posted Saturday, March 22, 2014

LOS ANGELES – The Pistons played 40 minutes of sublime offensive basketball. Eight of their worst minutes of the season rendered it moot.

After hanging 55 first-half points on the scoreboard despite a first-quarter turnover spurt that dug them a 10-point hole, the Pistons went stone-cold silent for eight interminable minutes of the third quarter. As easily as quality shots came to them in the first half, suddenly nothing went right.

They missed their first 12 shots. Over 14 possessions, they shot 1 of 15. And then the turnovers struck again. Six miscues in the first quarter and six more in the third, five of them in that eight-minute stretch when the Pistons were outscored 18-3, produced 22 Clippers points – way too much largesse for a team with the firepower that All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul supply.

Continue reading Outgunned >>

Posted Friday, March 21, 2014

PHOENIX – The NBA has become amazingly sophisticated with its intricate analysis of every nuance of the game and development of statistical categories that would make Dr. Naismith’s head swim. But you don’t need a doctorate degree to figure out what undermined the Pistons on a Friday night in the desert southwest.

“There’s a lot of things you look at that you wish you could go back and correct,” Josh Smith said after the 98-92 loss to Phoenix, Detroit’s 12th straight road defeat. “We just weren’t able to make free throws and we didn’t take care of the basketball like we normally do.”

Those two categories – foul shooting and turnovers – were glaring red welts on the game’s box score.

The Pistons have been dead last in the NBA in free-throw shooting all season, but they sunk to new depths against the Suns, making just 10 of 26. If they make their average – about two of every three free throws – they probably win the game and deal the Suns a heavy blow in their playoff pursuit.

Continue reading Suns Sink Pistons >>

Posted Friday, March 21, 2014

PHOENIX – The last player off the practice court at US Airways Arena Thursday afternoon was Andre Drummond – chased off, at that. “Save your energy,” Pistons video coordinator Ryan Winters kidded with Drummond as he rounded up the last few loose balls not already bagged up to prevent having to rebound any more Drummond shots while his teammates were filing out toward the team bus.

A few minutes earlier, at the other end of the court, Rasheed Wallace turned his back and Drummond pounced, dribbling from the right wing and tomahawking a vicious dunk with his right hand while he used his left to catapult himself over Wallace’s shoulder.

The Pistons still call him “questionable” for tonight’s game with Phoenix, pending the morning shootaround, but they might have to use a horse tranquilizer on him if they’re going to tell him he can’t play.

Continue reading Looks Like Andre >>

Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DENVER – When the Pistons beat Denver soundly in early February, the game turned when Ty Lawson went out early and the Nuggets had no one to replace him, having banished veteran Andre Miller after clashing with coach Brian Shaw. They addressed their point guard depth at the trade deadline, picking up Aaron Brooks. That trade cost the Pistons a game Wednesday night, a loss they could ill afford with their playoff hopes fading by the day and three more games awaiting them on their Western road swing.

Brooks finished with 27 points and a career-high 17 assists for Denver, 17 points and 11 assists in the second half alone when the Nuggets erased an 11-point deficit.

“He was tough tonight,” said Will Bynum, something of an authority on explosive quarters or halves from backup point guards. “Especially on the pick and roll. You get picked, he’s coming downhill. It’s a tough battle, but when given the opportunity he’s played great in this league. Everybody knows he’s a great player. There’s pretty much no difference between him and Ty Lawson.”

Continue reading Caught Short >>

Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Among the 15 players on their roster, the Pistons count two American-born players who never spent time on a college campus and two Europeans who can say likewise. But there will be no shortage of Pistons keeping tabs on the NCAA tournament this week while the team treks through four Western states on a critical road trip as the NBA season hits the home stretch.

Most of the focus will be on the Midwest region, where three perennial powers – Kyle Singler’s Duke Blue Devils, Peyton Siva’s Louisville Cardinals and Josh Harrellson’s Kentucky Wildcats – were funneled. Duke and Louisville are the highest-seeded teams among Pistons alma maters, the Blue Devils a No. 3 and the Cardinals a No. 4.

Singler, Siva and Harrellson all wrung everything they could from March Madness, each of them playing all the way to the final Monday of the college basketball season with Singler and Siva winning it all and Harrellson’s Kentucky team losing to Connecticut in the 2011 championship game.

Continue reading March Memories >>

Posted Monday, March 17, 2014

The Pistons can’t afford an extended absence from Andre Drummond. Maybe they won’t have to endure one.

Drummond, sidelined after five minutes of Saturday’s overtime loss to Indiana when his head collided with Roy Hibbert’s leg and “sent a shock through my entire body” as Drummond recounted it, won’t play when the Pistons open a four-game road trip Wednesday at Denver.

But they’re not ruling him out for Friday’s game at Phoenix. Drummond didn’t practice on Monday but he was at the practice facility without the neck brace he wore back to The Palace from the hospital after undergoing tests Saturday night.

Continue reading Headed West >>

Posted Saturday, March 15, 2014

First the Pistons lost Andre Drummond. Then they lost a 25-point lead. And then they lost a critical game in overtime. Coupled with wins by New York and Atlanta, it leaves the Pistons’ playoff chances dimmer than when the day dawned, when they weren’t so bright to begin with. With 16 games remaining, the Pistons are five games behind Atlanta in the standings and six down in the loss column. Eleven of those 16 remaining games come on the road, starting with a four-game swing to the West Coast.

Continue reading Ousted in OT >>

Posted Friday, March 14, 2014

John Loyer’s offensive tweaks introduced more movement and more structure to the Pistons. That’s cut down the number of 3-point attempts from a team that’s spent much of the season ranked last in the NBA in accuracy significantly.

Some of those possessions that used to end in errant triples are now going to Greg Monroe. In the 15 games since Loyer succeeded Maurice Cheeks, Monroe’s numbers are up and that starts with opportunity. He averaged 11.1 shots in 50 games under Cheeks, but 13.6 – better than a 20 percent jump – under Loyer.

“It’s more just the flow of the offense,” Monroe said after Friday’s practice. “Running a little bit more movement plays and pinch-post or high-post plays with movement and cuts.”

Monroe’s numbers in 15 games under Loyer are 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, over his season averages of 14.7 and 9.2. He’s playing about three more minutes a game, nearly 36, than he was over the first 50 games.

Continue reading Monroe Rising >>

Posted Thursday, March 13, 2014

The best part about Wednesday for the Pistons? Getting caught in a blizzard. Their loss in Toronto combined with wins by New York and Cleveland leaves them in a tie for the 10th playoff spot with the Cavs, a half-game back of the Knicks. They hoped to use Tuesday’s win over Sacramento, in which they held the Kings to 35 second-half points to end a run of leaky defensive performances, as a springboard to mount a charge at Atlanta for the Eastern Conference’s last postseason berth.

They forgot about the sneak attack from the rear. Since losing big and looking awful at The Palace 10 days ago, the Knicks have won five straight. And convincingly – all by double figures and by an average of 15.2 points. It started with a 12-point win at Minnesota, where the Pistons would fall behind by 31 points two nights later in the third quarter.

It’s exactly the out-of-nowhere turnaround that John Loyer keeps … predicting? Expecting? Hoping for? He’s said over and over again in the month-plus since succeeding Maurice Cheeks what winning just two or three games in a row would mean for the Pistons’ playoff chances.

Continue reading Caught From Behind >>

Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A three-game winning streak, John Loyer marveled earlier this week, was all that separated the Pistons from perhaps vaulting themselves into a potential playoff berth. But before you can win three in a row, you must win two straight. The Pistons haven’t done so in more than a month now, when a win over San Antonio in Loyer’s debut as head coach gave them that elusive three-game winning streak.

They missed another chance to win consecutive games Wednesday in snowy Toronto . They ran out of comebacks in a game of wild mood swings and now they’re beginning to run out of time to make a comeback in the standings, falling five games back of Atlanta in the loss column for the final playoff spot in the East with 17 games to play after the 101-87 loss to the Raptors.

The Pistons, playing their third game in four nights, looked a half-step slower than they did in Tuesday’s win over Sacramento . Their closeouts on shooters weren’t as crisp, their blockouts when Toronto shots went up not as firm as required, their cuts off of screens sluggish. It was the perfect recipe to produce a big man for the likes of ex-Piston Amir Johnson, who remains the bundle of energy he was when he joined the Pistons out of high school in 2005.

“They made a conscious effort of putting a body on our bigs and they were able to limit us to one shot tonight,” said Josh Smith after a 13-point night on 5 of 17 shooting that typified his team’s missed opportunities. “They’re hard workers, all their bigs. They play hard. They have high motors and we knew that coming in. We weren’t able to match their intensity tonight.”

Continue reading Snowed Under >>

Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It’s this simple for the Pistons. If they play defense as consistently hard and as steadfastly disciplined as they managed to do for the second half of Tuesday’s 99-89 win over Sacramento, they’ll make the playoffs.

Anything less – or anything that more closely resembles the defense they’ve put into evidence for the past month or so up until Tuesday’s halftime – and they almost certainly will pack the equipment away after the April 17 regular-season finale.

The Pistons gave up 54 points to Sacramento in the first half of a game that put them exactly on course to give up the 108 they’ve averaged over the past 13 since John Loyer took over from Mo Cheeks.

They gave up 11 in the third quarter, 35 in the second half when Sacramento managed all of 14 baskets, three of them coming in the last 90 seconds when the Pistons had safely tucked their 99-89 win away.

Continue reading There's the D >>

Posted Monday, March 10, 2014

The box score from Sunday’s game at Boston – the Detroit half of it, at least – looked a lot like Pistons fans might have envisioned it last summer when they signed Josh Smith in free agency to slot alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in a frontcourt that held every promise of being consistently productive verging on dominant.

The Pistons bludgeoned Boston up front. Drummond, Monroe and Smith combined for 68 points and 47 rebounds, which breaks down to 22.7 points and 15.7 rebounds a man across the front. Staggering numbers.

Yet the Pistons had to rally to lose by seven.

When John Loyer was asked after the 118-111 loss if his team’s shot selection contributed to the loss, he made it pretty clear where he felt the real problem was rooted.

“We score enough to win,” he said. “We’ve got to defend. You score 111 points, you better have a good chance to win the game. We didn’t defend.”

In Loyer’s 13 games, the Pistons are 3-10 largely because they’re surrendering 107.8 points a game, allowing teams to shoot 48 percent. The Pistons now rank 27th in scoring defense at 103.8 for the season, ahead of only Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia. The Pistons have sunk to a tie for last with Philadelphia in opponent field-goal percentage at .469.

Continue reading Dealing with Defense >>

Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014

BOSTON – If there’s one thing the Pistons did consistently well in John Loyer’s first dozen games, it was take care of the basketball: 11 a game, No. 2 in the NBA, as Loyer volunteered after Sunday’s latest damaging loss. Sure enough, turnovers conspired with a few other flaws to be their undoing in Boston.

That’s the way it goes when you’re going bad. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Or, as Loyer would say after the 118-111 loss to Boston, “You fix one little hole and another one pops up.”

Against a Boston team that effectively conceded its playoff chances when it traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer, a new problem reared its head in virtually every quarter.

The Pistons allowed six offensive rebounds in the first quarter, turned the ball over five times in the second quarter and then watched the Celtics drop 8 of 13 triples in the third quarter when the Pistons fell 17 points behind. The fourth quarter saw the Pistons fight back within four with less than a minute to play and they were a Kyle Singler layup from pulling within two with 28 seconds left, a shot Jared Sullinger contested.

Continue reading Boston Blitz >>

Posted Saturday, March 8, 2014

BOSTON – The Pistons are a mere 3-9 since John Loyer replaced Mo Cheeks a little less than a month ago. But Loyer took the keys just as the Pistons were about to enter a road filled with more potholes than the winter-battered Michigan byways. Of the 12 games under Loyer, nine have come against teams currently holding a playoff position.

The schedule softens – a little, at least – starting now. The weekend trip that took them first to Minnesota and now to Boston will double the number of current non-playoff teams the Loyer-coached Pistons have faced from two to four, though Minnesota – which entered Friday’s game at .500 – surely would be in favorable playoff position if it played in the East. Of their final 20 games, the Pistons will play nine teams that currently are lottery bound.

That gives them a chance, at least, to make the final quarter of their season look more like their first quarter rather than their middle two. The Pistons were 10-10 through 20 games, but 14-28 – two losses for every win – through the 42 games that take them into Sunday’s meeting with the Celtics.

Continue reading Fourth-Quarter Push >>

Posted Friday, March 7, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS – Remember back in December when the Pistons went 6-1 over a stretch of seven road games? That seems like a very long time ago. The Pistons lost their eighth straight roadie Friday at Minnesota. Like their last game away from The Palace – last Saturday at Houston – they got buried early, virtually ceding any chance for a win long before the first quarter was over.

“It’s always surprising when you don’t play your best and we didn’t play our best,” John Loyer said after the 114-101 loss to the Timberwolves. “We probably had our best shootaround or second best in my 12 games here, had a good little practice yesterday. We need to do a better job of starting the game. They’re the No. 1 first-quarter team in the league and we talked about that this morning. You’ve got to get off to a better start. You-can’t play catch-up against a team with that many offensive weapons.”

Minnesota scored inside at will and in transition with ease to burst to a double-digits lead less than seven minutes after tipoff. It was a 20-point deficit before the 10-minute mark. It was 30 before the third quarter was out. The Pistons outscored Minnesota 32-17 in the fourth quarter to make the final score as close as the game had been since midway through the first quarter.

Continue reading Over Early>>

Posted Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chauncey Billups came home not to take a victory lap around the NBA in a Pistons uniform, but to restore the pride that name across the front of the jersey not so long ago fostered in those lucky enough to wear it.

He came to lead, but not from the rear. Joe Dumars sold him on the value his 3-point shot and fourth-quarter savvy would hold for a young team built around Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and fortified with marquee veteran pickups Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

A balky left knee that has limited him to 19 games has made that impossible. Billups – who said his rehabilitation from minor surgery late last month is going well and he still hopes to return before the season ends – knows that, at 37, the clock is ticking on him. And while it’s frustrating enough to hear that ticking while the games keep flying by with him in street clothes, it’s made more painful to sit while his team repeats mistakes in March that cost them games in November.

Continue reading A Message From Chauncey>>

Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Pistons were 10-10 when they walked out of the United Center with a win for the first time in 15 trips to Chicago nearly three months ago. It was their fourth straight win. Heading out into the frosty December air that night, it seemed like that would be the last of .500 the team Joe Dumars assembled over the off-season would see for a good long while. The Bulls, still absorbing the shock of losing Derrick Rose to another devastating knee injury, fell to 8-10 that night. Not too much farther along, they would essentially give Luol Deng – an All-Star whom Tom Thibodeau leaned on for 40 minutes most nights – to the Cleveland Cavaliers to slash their luxury tax bill.

It sure seemed like two teams passing as ships in the night.

Fast forward to March, the Midwest still in the relentless clutches of a brutal winter. Chicago came to The Palace with a 25-17 record since the Pistons strangled the Bulls 92-75 that night. The Pistons, who lost their next three games after that rousing win in Chicago, have lost nearly two of every three games, a 14-26 record, since then.

Continue reading Bulls Rush Late>>

Posted Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The game wasn’t a minute old when Andre Drummond blocked Tyson Chandler’s dunk attempt in Monday’s win over New York. Pretty good bet that was in the back of Chandler’s mind about eight minutes later when he absorbed a hard foul by Greg Monroe and did a little aggravated jostling with Drummond in the aftermath.

It could have escalated but for Amar'e Stoudemire’s intervention.

“Amar'e came over to me and said, ‘It’s gonna be a battle tonight,’ ” Drummond said after the game. “That made me cool down and made me realize what I was up against. Guys are really starting to respect me now and they’re talking to me on the floor. It was pretty cool to have him give me input to calm me down.”

Continue reading A Dominant Drummond>>

Posted Monday, March 3, 2014

Andre Drummond punched in and logged another quietly effective, borderline dominant first half against the Knicks on Monday. He had 13 boards and three blocks by halftime, but the Knicks – selling out to take away lanes for lob dunks from him – limited Drummond to only five points and two shot attempts.

But the big picture wasn’t good. In a game about as close to must-have as it gets with 23 left to play and the Pistons sitting four back in the loss column of Atlanta for the final playoff spot, the Pistons trailed by five at the break.

Midway through the third quarter, Drummond took the wraps off.

In a span of less than three minutes, he scored nine straight Pistons points as they stretched a two-point lead into a seven-point cushion that was never threatened. He finished with 17 points and a career-best 26 rebounds, the most by any Piston in a dozen years since Ben Wallace grabbed 28 in March 2002 against Boston.

Continue reading Knicks Knocked Down>>

Posted Saturday, March 1, 2014

HOUSTON – Here’s what happened in the first three minutes on a deflating Saturday night: two Kyle Singler fouls, three Houston Rockets dunks, two Pistons turnovers, a Houston triple, a Pistons timeout and a double-digits deficit. Even given the inevitable momentum swings contained within seemingly every NBA game, this one’s fate appeared sealed just that fast.

Houston led 41-20 after a first quarter in which the Rockets dunked eight times on their way to 13 dunks and 11 layups for the game. The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first quarter, 17 of 24, though 12 of those 17 baskets were either dunks or layups.

“I told our guys, we played harder in practice yesterday (than) for the first 24 minutes,” John Loyer said after the 118-110 loss. “We had more juice, more energy running the three-man weave than we did playing here. Really, our first half, we didn’t play with the energy, the enthusiasm, the desire you have to play at to play against any NBA team, let alone a high-level team like Houston.”

Continue reading Too Far to Climb >>

Posted Friday, February 28, 2014

HOUSTON – Since moving into the starting lineup 11 games ago, Kyle Singler is making better than 50 percent of his 3-point shots: 22 of 43. If that comes as a surprise to you, it doesn’t to his NBA opponents.

“The word’s out – Kyle can shoot the basketball,” John Loyer said after Wednesday’s game at San Antonio, where Singler was limited to one attempt – good – by the Spurs. “You saw some of those closeouts to Kyle in the corner. They weren’t closeouts to a foot and a half away. They were closeouts right to his body.”

Singler brings a 3-point shooting touch to a Pistons starting lineup with a great need for that skill. In fact, if they had a little more 3-point punch, it would have been a little tougher for the Spurs to hold him to one attempt. But to label Singler a 3-point shooting specialist would badly undersell the totality of what he brings, which was an NBA-ready game when he arrived prior to the 2012-13 season and has added nuance ever since.

“It’s got to be a part of his game,” Loyer said of Singler’s 3-point stroke, but, “Kyle is going to give your team a lot more than that.”

Continue reading Word's Out >>

Posted Thursday, February 27, 2014

Will Bynum went undrafted out of Georgia Tech in 2005 and spent the next winter in the D-League trying desperately to catch the eye of NBA teams. He got a cameo with the Golden State Warriors, but it became clear to him that if he was to realize the dream tattooed on his left forearm – the NBA logo, inked when he was a young Chicago high school player – he would need to go another route.

It was in France, as he joined his new team Maccabi Tel Aviv in the late summer of 2006, where he got some words of advice that stuck with him. They came from a Hall of Fame-bound coach leading his NBA team in the annual international exhibitions David Stern committed to as part of the effort to globalize the game.

“Actually, you know whose words helped me out a lot was Gregg Popovich,” Bynum said. “We played them on the NBA European tour and he told me to go over there and use that time and work every day and win the championship and keep working on your game and when you come back, you’ll be ready. I used those words as encouragement, motivation.”

Continue reading Where There's a Will... >>

Posted Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The championship window might be about to close on the San Antonio Spurs, but they still have some tread on their tires. Off the road after their annual Rodeo Trip, the Spurs broke open a tight game by running the younger Pistons into the ground in the third quarter when they scored 33 points – a whopping 14 of them on the fast break.

To put that into perspective, the Pistons – for whom transition defense has proven troublesome all season – surrender an average of 13.6 fast-break points a game, which is leaky enough to place them 24th in the league. They more than blew their game allotment in that chaotic third quarter alone.

“There were spots really the whole game where they got behind us,” John Loyer said after the 120-110 loss. “I thought when we got our defense set, we were pretty solid. We just gave them way too many layups. A little of it could be fatigue, but you’ve got to look behind you. It takes five guys to get back. We talk about loading to the basketball and there were times we had two or three guys in the backcourt. We just didn’t get back.”

Continue reading Rough Road >>

Posted Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The sample sizes on the stats the Pistons have generated in John Loyer’s tenure as Pistons coach are still too small to be conclusive, but seven games is almost 10 percent of the season. So, yeah, inconclusive but likely not insignificant.

And what the turnover numbers say is promising. The Pistons averaged 15.8 turnovers in 50 games before Loyer took over for Mo Cheeks. They’ve turned it over that many times only once since then – 16, in Loyer’s second game – and have cut their turnovers by nearly 50 percent, down to 11 a game.

The Pistons had three single-digit turnover games in their first 50 and have matched that in Loyer’s seven games, including nine in Monday’s narrow loss to Golden State.

“I think it always should be a point of emphasis the whole year,” Loyer said. “If you don’t get quality shots or if you turn it over, you can ignite (the opposition’s) break. Our guys have done a good job. We’ve tried to be solid in our half-court sets and we’ve done a better job of not turning it over when we do get out and run. But to have a good offense, you have to have low turnovers and we’ve done a good job.”

Continue reading Precious Possessions >>

Posted Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three of the teammates Chauncey Billups considered brothers no longer play in the NBA. He knows he’ll be joining Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton soon enough. But he’s not ready to concede just yet that the clean-up surgery on his left knee last week was enough by itself to chase him into retirement.

“My gas light is on, but I don’t know if I have 15 miles left or 30,” he said. “The light is on, though.”

That troublesome left knee – first diagnosed as tendinitis back in November, when he played only six minutes before limping to the bench at Golden State in the season’s seventh game – finally demanded a more permanent resolution than the rest and rehabilitation they’d attempted to prevent an extended absence. The procedure last week smoothed the rough edges in Billups’ cartilage that were causing pain and inflammation.

Continue reading Fighting Time >>

Posted Monday, February 24, 2014

The Pistons digested a tough loss Monday, dropping a game that was always within their grasp by eight points when they never trailed by more than five at any point in the second half until a little more than two minutes remained, and now things really get tough.

Four games out of the playoff field and a season-low 11 games under .500, the Pistons hit the road now for a daunting two-game trip to San Antonio and Houston, a collective 44 games over .500. The good news is that the Pistons have been about as successful on the road this season – 10-15 there, 13-19 at The Palace – but playing 16 of your final 25 games away from home when you need to make up as much ground as the Pistons must cover is a long way from favorable.

“Our next couple of road games are going to be tough,” Kyle Singler said after the 104-96 loss to Golden State in which the Pistons scored just six points in the final seven minutes. “San Antonio and Houston, those are two very good teams. We’re going to have to play well and continue our success like we had on the road early in the season. It’s going to be tough, but we can do it, for sure.”

Monday was a weird game, played at a 1970s era pace for the first half when Golden State became the third straight opponent over the past four nights at The Palace to break 60 points by halftime. Yet the Warriors led by just a point, 63-62.

Continue reading A Warriors Win >>

Posted Saturday, February 22, 2014

When Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki entered the NBA as top-10 picks in the fall of 1998, Andre Drummond had just celebrated his fifth birthday. You want Saturday’s Pistons loss to Dallas in a nutshell, there it is.

Two certifiable Hall of Famers made big plays – none bigger than the dagger 3-pointers planted in the Pistons’ collective chest less than two minutes apart early in the fourth quarter – on a night one budding young star who might one day join them in Springfield, Mass., acted his age.

Nowitzki and Carter, both in their 16th NBA seasons, combined to score 42 points to power a Dallas offense that ranks with the league’s elite to 113 points and an 11-point win. The Mavs shot 49 percent and registered assists on 31 of their 44 baskets. A good scheme executed by smart players will dice up even hardened defenses a lot of nights and the Pistons, who’ve struggled on the defensive side of the ball all season, just couldn’t get enough stops to give their own flourishing offense a chance to establish the traction it needed to complete a comeback that kept firing and falling back.

Continue reading Star Power>>

Posted Friday, February 21, 2014

When John Loyer was an assistant coach on Philadelphia’s bench, one of the players he worked out daily was Kyle Korver. Before Friday’s game with Korver’s Atlanta Hawks, with whom he this season has established a new NBA record for consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer made at 123 and counting, Loyer said he considers Korver “the best shooter in the game today.”

By the end of the game – a desperately needed 115-107 Pistons win to snap a three-game skid – Korver wasn’t the best-shooting Kyle in the NBA.

That would have been Kyle Singler, who made 4 of 6 3-pointers to Korver’s 2 of 6 and finished with 20 points, including two dagger triples in the final two minutes.

“It felt great to be in that position,” Singler said. “To be in that moment was awesome and to knock down those shots was great for the team.”

Continue reading Comeback Win>>

Posted Thursday, February 20, 2014

If the Pistons mount a playoff push, it will be done without reinforcements. The trade deadline came and went Thursday afternoon without a move to add anyone to the roster on another largely uneventful deadline day that saw mostly fringe players swapped around the league.

Their lack of a trade hardly registers as a surprise. Without a first-round pick in the widely anticipated 2014 draft to offer, the Pistons didn’t have great flexibility to pursue roster upgrades. Trade speculation around the league centered on Greg Monroe for his status as a pending restricted free agent and on Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva for their expiring contracts.

But the Pistons have staunchly maintained their view of Monroe as a franchise cornerstone and Stuckey’s contributions off the bench, where he anchors the second unit and is often the focal point of their fourth-quarter offense, will be critical to their playoff drive. Falling out of the rotation while struggling all season to find his 3-point stroke likely minimized Villanueva’s trade appeal.

Continue reading Status Quo >>

Posted Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A 17-3 Charlotte run to open the third quarter ended all realistic possibilities for the Pistons to win the game. And if they don’t execute a quick and decisive turnaround with a meat grinder of a schedule awaiting them, that 17-3 run Wednesday night might have done the same to their playoff chances.

In the span of about 27 hours coming out of the All-Star break, the Pistons made their quest for the postseason that much harder, going from one-half game out of the final playoff spot – now Charlotte’s to lose – to 2½ out with 28 games to play. And 16 of those will come on the road.

“It’s two games,” John Loyer shrugged after the stinging loss. “It’s two we wanted to get and two we needed to get, but we didn’t get ’em. So you move on, you figure out your next plan and just go try to win the next game.”

Continue reading Instant Replay >>

Posted Tuesay, February 18, 2014

When the Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats met on Dec. 20, the Pistons led by 20 in the third quarter and by 14 headed to the fourth. Then Charlotte outscored them 41-17, won by 10 and sent the Pistons into something of a tailspin.

Comebacks like that require a hundred pieces to fall into place, a reality that bit the Pistons hard Tuesday after they went down by 19 in the third quarter.

The return match came nearly two months later with playoff implications unusual for this point of the season. But with likely available postseason berths in the East down to two and the Pistons one-half game behind Charlotte – the teams that came out of the All-Star break sitting eighth and ninth in the conference – even the Pistons weren’t playing the “just another game” card coming into the night.

Continue reading Not Quite Enough >>

Posted Monday, February 17, 2014

John Loyer spent his All-Star break pushing a pencil on the changes he’d like to implement on both ends as the Pistons open the final 32 games with a critical two-game set against the team they’re battling for the No. 8 playoff seed.

Any grand scheming is tempered by this reality: He’ll have virtually no practice time at his disposal. The Pistons jump into the NBA’s “second half” – though the reality is they’re almost at the two-thirds pole with 50 games behind them – with both feet. They’ll host Charlotte on Tuesday, then fly to Charlotte immediately after the game for Wednesday’s return match against the Bobcats, who are one-half game ahead of them in the standings but even in the loss column.

“It’s a big game,” Loyer said. “It’s a big series. They’re a team we’re fighting with to get in the playoffs. When you play a team on a back to back it puts added meaning on a normal, regular-season game. We’re going to treat it like a two-game series and try to go get Game 1 and see what happens and try to get Game 2.”

Because the Pistons play five games over the next seven days, including another back-to-back home set Friday and Saturday, the Pistons won’t hold another practice until next Tuesday. So Monday’s late practice – pushed back to 5 p.m. to allow players who’d left town for the All-Star break to use the morning and early afternoon for return flights – went a full two hours, longer than typical for this time of the NBA season.

Continue reading Back with a Bang >>

Posted Friday, February 14, 2014

The Pistons lost a chance to jump ahead of Charlotte and into the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot when they got outscored 27-13 in the final eight minutes and lost by four points to Cleveland in their final game before the All-Star break. It won’t take them long to get another chance.

When the Pistons reconvene on Monday after the four-day break for practice, it shouldn’t take John Loyer long to rivet their attention. They host the Bobcats at The Palace on Tuesday, then get on Roundball One and fly to Charlotte for the return match 24 hours later.

And those two games, when April 16 rolls around and the curtain drops on the NBA regular season, could well determine the identity of the East’s No. 8 playoff seed.

Continue reading Into the Fire>>

Posted Thursday, February 13, 2014

Next year’s All-Star game is in New York. The year after that, Toronto. That figures as relevant information for Andre Drummond’s travel plans. He’ll be in New Orleans this weekend, but only for the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, not Sunday’s crown jewel of All-Star weekend. If his career arc continues on its current ascendancy, 2014 is probably the last year for a while he won’t be sticking around for the big show.

Drummond hits the All-Star break with averages of 13.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots a game. He leads the NBA in offensive rebounds by a mile over DeAndre Jordan. He’s had 39 double-doubles, second only to Minnesota’s Kevin Love. His 13 games with 15-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and two-plus blocks trail only Dwight Howard, who’s done it 14 times.

Yet think about this: Despite the company he’s keeping, prevailing wisdom around the league is that Drummond has so much more to offer.

Continue reading Rising Star, Indeed>>

Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014

They’d won five straight at home. Three straight overall. They got up by 13 in the first quarter and their offense was on the same soaring trajectory as it had been in those last three wins, when the Pistons averaged 117 points. They’d weathered an offensive lull and absorbed what they assumed was Cleveland’s best punch, growing the lead back to 10 points after the Cavs had crept within one. They led for the first 46 minutes and were that close to dancing into the All-Star break with a four-game winning streak and plenty to feel good about under the direction of newly installed head coach John Loyer.

And then … well …

“We were up seven going into the fourth quarter and we gave up 34 points,” Loyer shrugged. “I’d start there.”

If the Pistons are going to get to the playoffs – an objective that slipped a little further from their reach with Wednesday’s 93-89 loss, though Charlotte’s loss at Brooklyn means the Pistons remain just one-half game out of the last postseason berth – they’re going to have to win slugfests like this one as well as free-for-alls like they’d won against Brooklyn, Denver and San Antonio their last three times out.

Continue reading Streak Snapped >>

Posted Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It could have been his 100th game, or his 1,000th, as easily as his first, for all outward signs of anxiety John Loyer expressed during Monday’s win over San Antonio, his NBA debut coming on barely 24 hours notice.

His level of involvement, possession to possession, was apparent to anyone who diverted their gaze from the basketball long enough to check out the sideline, where Loyer orchestrated, finessed and exhorted as solid a 48-minute effort as the Pistons have registered in a while.

Asked after the 109-100 win if that was his style, Loyer deadpanned, “It was my first game. I have no style.”

And that’s a pretty good glimpse into who the new Pistons coach really is. He’s going to be low key and self deprecating. He doesn’t do anything to invite the spotlight – he’s as egoless as anyone you’ll ever come across in the business – but it has nothing to do with an aversion to heat. He’ll handle that part of it just fine.

Continue reading Positive Force >>

Posted Monday, February 10, 2014

Not much not to like about John Loyer’s first game in the first chair.

The Pistons played hard and they played smart, two traits that young teams often find maddeningly elusive. They were for the Pistons over the season’s first 50 games, for certain, which explains why they came into Monday’s game at 21-29 and outside the playoff field.

Make it 22-29 now and in a dead heat with Charlotte for the final Eastern Conference postseason berth, courtesy of a thorough 109-100 win over a perennial title contender, San Antonio.

They had six players in double figures after three quarters and a seventh one point away. Shots and responsibilities in general were distributed in doses appropriate with the roster’s skill sets. They played sound defense, inside and out, and the decision-making that often left Mo Cheeks with a furrowed brow left little room for criticism.

Continue reading Fast Start >>

Posted Monday, February 10, 2014

Trite bromides are never in short supply when it comes to analysis of sports teams. But the ones about chemistry’s role in producing winning basketball teams, yeah. They have merit.

For whatever reason, the Pistons never forged a winning chemistry over their first 50 games. And so the tough call was made to fire Mo Cheeks, a good man who over the last few weeks admitted after what became his team’s calling card – losing games after surrendering leads – that he was groping for answers.

John Loyer takes over now, a man who comes to the job with a lifetime’s worth of preparation. He played for Bob Huggins at Akron and coached under him at Cincinnati and he’s worked for Cheeks, Lawrence Frank and Avery Johnson, among others, during his run in the NBA. He’s coached offense, he’s coached defense and he’s drawn praise for his work with young players.

Continue reading Loyer's Turn >>

Posted Saturday, February 8, 2014

Maybe, just maybe, the Pistons are forming an identity. Perhaps, and only perhaps, The Palace is again becoming their fortress.

Their quest to make the playoffs was not only boosted by back-to-back weekend wins over Brooklyn and Denver but also by the way those games were won and where they were won.

The Pistons were 7-15 at home before beating Orlando and Philadelphia a week ago and that home record – and their inability to protect second-half leads – dragged them down and outside of the playoff field. Now they’re 11-15 at home and with their win Saturday, coupled with Charlotte’s loss to San Antonio, the Pistons are one-half game out of the playoff field and even with the Bobcats in the loss column.

Game on.

The similarities of Saturday’s 126-109 win over Denver, in which the Pistons scored their most points in regulation since a 136-120 win over the same Nuggets in March 2008, and Friday’s 111-95 win over Brooklyn were many.

Continue reading Hot at Home >>

Posted Friday, February 7, 2014

The Pistons clinched their season series with Brooklyn, making it 3-for-3 against the Nets. If it comes to a tiebreaker for the final playoff spot, they’ll have that in their back pocket. Now let’s see if they get to make use of it.

They came into the game four back of the Nets in the loss column and one behind Charlotte for the last playoff spot in the East. They’ll have to leapfrog at least one of them to make the playoffs and they took the court with exactly that sense of urgency Friday, rolling up 67 first-half points and expanding the lead to 29 late in the third quarter.

“Hang on” should not have been part of the storyline, but it was. Protecting fourth-quarter leads has been troublesome for the Pistons much of the season and it was again. Up 29 with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Pistons were outscored 21-6 over the next 11 minutes. The Nets got as close as nine with 1:19 to play before the Pistons closed on a 7-0 run to win 111-95.

Continue reading Net Gain >>

Posted Thursday, February 6, 2014

That stuff about 82 games and all of them counting the same? Mo Cheeks is willing to put an asterisk next to certain games. The next opponent on the schedule gets one.

The Pistons host Brooklyn on Friday night and if they’re serious about making a run at the playoffs, beating the Nets is strongly advised. It’s not quite “must win” territory with 34 games remaining, but the Pistons only get so many chances to beat the teams they’ll need to leapfrog to crack the eight-team playoff field and Friday is one of their best.

So are those back-to-back games coming up in two weeks, just after the All-Star break, against Charlotte – home on a Tuesday night, at Charlotte 24 hours later. The Nets occupy the seventh spot, the Bobcats the eighth and the Pistons the ninth in the current Eastern Conference standings.

In essence, that means those games count double. The Pistons are four games down in the loss column to the Nets, who host injury-depleted San Antonio tonight – the Spurs won’t have either Tony Parker or Tim Duncan in addition to Kawhi Leonard – before coming to The Palace. Assuming a Nets win over the Spurs, the Pistons could be either three down or five down in the loss column depending on Friday’s result.

Continue reading Red-Letter Game >>

Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ORLANDO – Mo Cheeks juggled a lineup that had been essentially static since Game 8 in mid-November when Chauncey Billups sat with knee tendinitis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope became the starter. On Wednesday at Orlando, the rookie sat in favor of Kyle Singler, a move designed to thwart the fast starts the Magic have had against the Pistons, fueled by Arron Afflalo, in previous matchups.

In that narrow sense, the move worked. The Pistons were tied with Orlando after one quarter. It was the start of the second quarter that derailed the Pistons. With a lineup of Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Caldwell-Pope out against a makeshift Orlando second unit, the Pistons scored one basket in seven possessions, committed two turnovers and shot 1 of 5.

The Magic outscored them 31-17 in the quarter with the Pistons committing seven turnovers and shooting 39 percent. Orlando shot past its 95.9 scoring average with 5:22 left in the game, shot 49 percent and scored 58 points in the paint – a whopping 22 more than its average in that area.

“The second quarter hurt us,” Singler said. “We weren’t able to bounce back, for whatever reason. Why we didn’t play well, I don’t know. I think the turnovers hurt us the most and we never really got into a rhythm after that.”

Continue reading No Magic >>

Posted Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MIAMI – The Pistons won at Miami two months ago, but the Heat had the Pistons on the ropes in the second half when they whittled a 17-point deficit to three. Miami did it largely by ganging up on Brandon Jennings, smothering him 30 feet from the basket and taking big chunks off the shot clock while the Pistons struggled to get into their offense.

Mo Cheeks stabilized the ship that night by having Jennings execute a dribble handoff to Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons wound up winning by 10. Jennings committed six turnovers.

Before Monday’s rematch at Miami, where the Pistons battled Andre Drummond’s foul trouble and the full force of a two-time defending champion bent on avenging their December defeat in a narrow 102-96 loss, Cheeks talked about working with Jennings.

“I’m teaching Jennings how to run his team,” he said. “I think he’s a student – that’s the best part of it – and trying to understand that position instead of just being an offensive player. He’s learning little things about the game, which is pretty fun teaching and watching him show maturity in that area.”

Continue reading Continuing Education >>

Posted Monday, February 3, 2014

MIAMI – The Miami Heat have won two straight NBA titles and have taken everybody’s best shot since the moment LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh signed off on their corporate merger nearly four years ago.

So it’s not as if the Heat would fear or dread a playoff matchup with the Pistons. No one is suggesting otherwise. But it’s probably fair to guess the Heat would prefer a different first-round opponent, if it comes to that.

The Pistons beat Miami here in December and did it pretty convincingly, winning by 10 points. Dwyane Wade didn’t play that night, OK, but he misses his share of games and the Heat have managed to do quite nicely without him.

A lot went wrong for the Pistons in Monday’s rematch. Andre Drummond played four first-half minutes due to foul trouble. They missed a lot of point-blank shots. They committed too many unforced turnovers against a team that expertly forces more than its share of miscues.

Continue reading Too Many Turnovers >>

Posted Monday, February 3, 2014

MIAMI – Josh Harrellson watched his new Miami teammates receive their 2012 championship rings that November but was gone before they doused themselves in champagne to celebrate a successful title defense a few months later.

He might spend a wistful moment or two thinking about what might have been, but mostly Harrellson is thankful for the lessons learned by rubbing shoulders with not only some of the most talented basketball players of his generation but also some of the smartest and most competitive.

“It was awesome,” Harrellson said of his nearly four months spent as a member of the Heat last season. “Those guys are very knowledgeable and they go every day. They don’t take days off. They go out there and practice hard every day they’re on the court and they’re competing just like they do in games. That’s how I think they’re so successful – because it just transitions over for them.

“It’s easy for those guys. Not only LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, but also Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier – players like that have been around the game so long and are very good players. They taught me a lot, too.”

Continue reading Heat Treatment >>

Posted Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tom Gores built a business empire by digging into the numbers that allowed him to see opportunity where others saw failed businesses. So while the ultimate number that matters with his basketball team – a 19-27 record – has caused him frustration for a season that began with playoff expectations, he also understands that the numbers say his Detroit Pistons field the NBA’s youngest starting five.

“We’re not that far out,” he said after Saturday’s 113-97 win over Philadelphia left the Pistons one-half game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “I think it’s frustrating because we’re better than our record. At the same time, there’s a lot of hope right now. I see a lot of possibilities. We have to come together. We have to gel. I don’t think you could say our team and our players don’t work hard. I think they work hard. So we just have to figure out how to work together.”

Gores watched as young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe dominated Philadelphia’s frontcourt, combining to make 18 of 21 shots, score 43 points and grab 26 rebounds despite playing well under their normal minutes allotment. He also saw rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, like Drummond only 20, spark a third-quarter rally when the Pistons put the hammer down, outscoring the 76ers 36-21.

Continue reading Tom Gores: ‘A Lot of Hope’ >>

Posted Saturday, February 1, 2014

It hasn’t happened with nearly the regularity they expected, or at least as they’d hoped, but when nights like Saturday come around and Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith flex their muscles, the Pistons see the team they want to become.

Granted, it came against the Philadelphia 76ers, 3-11 over their last 14 games and destined to be among the most legitimate of hopefuls to land a top-three pick when the NBA draft lottery is held on May 20.

But the Sixers have a solid frontcourt of veterans Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner – all believed to be available and coveted pieces as the NBA trade deadline countdown stands at 19 days – that the Pistons dominated in their 113-96 win Saturday at The Palace.

The tone was set early as the Pistons grabbed nine of the game’s first 10 rebounds and finished the first quarter with 10 offensive rebounds to just four Philadelphia defensive boards. Drummond put up eye-popping numbers despite being limited to 23 minutes by first foul trouble and then the blowout: 22 points, 14 boards and five blocked shots, making 10 of 11.

Continue reading One for the Road >>

Posted Friday, January 31, 2014

On David Stern’s last day on the job he’s held for exactly 30 years, Chauncey Billups – one of the very few NBA players who can say they’ve been around for the majority of Stern’s tenure – pondered his influence over the changes he’s seen since leaving Colorado for the 1997 NBA draft.

Stern was a driving force behind the NBA softening the rules on what was allowed defensively – not once, but twice, each time to the detriment of Pistons championship-era teams.

Mr. Big Shot didn’t like the result, but couldn’t blame Stern for the initiative.

Continue reading So Long, David Stern>>

Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014

Andre Drummond’s low-post game is in its infancy, a fact no one who’s spent much time watching him over his first 1½ NBA seasons would dispute. Less discussed, and virtually unnoticeable from the stands or your living room, is the fact that his competency as a communicative defensive quarterback – equally critical to his quest for greatness – is equally in its cocoon stage.

“In high school, I didn’t have to talk,” he said after Thursday’s practice a day after the Pistons’ schedule was disrupted by the ice storm that ripped through the Southeast and forced postponement of Wednesday’s scheduled game in Atlanta. “All I had to say is ‘left’ or ‘right’ when a screen was coming. I didn’t have to say when a back-door (cut) was coming because we played a 2-3 zone, so it didn’t really matter. But in college, I wasn’t the best at it, either. That’s when guys are a lot better and they’re smarter with their cuts.”

It is perhaps the area where Rasheed Wallace, one of the NBA’s all-time great defensive communicators, can have the most influence in Drummond’s development. Wallace’s voice cuts through the din even today in NBA arenas from his seat one row behind the Pistons’ bench, barking out warnings of oncoming screens to Pistons guards or instructions for their big men.

Continue reading Talking That Talk>>

Posted Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The latest impediment to the Pistons building even the modicum of momentum necessary to make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference: the one in a thousand odds of an NBA postponement.

Throw in the likelihood of a Southern snow and ice storm of the sort that gripped Georgia just in time to postpone Wednesday’s Pistons-Hawks game and you get the sort of luck that’s dogged the Pistons since Rodney Stuckey slammed his thumb in a car door to get training camp off on the wrong foot. Or hand, as it were.

When you’re winning, you want games, not postponements and practices. The Pistons are now off until Saturday, when they host Philadelphia. The Pistons (18-27) are tied with New York for ninth in the East, but tied in the loss column with Charlotte (19-27). Recent surges by Washington, Chicago and Brooklyn have given them some separation from the field and increased the sense of urgency for the Pistons to pick up the pace.

As Mo Cheeks said when asked before Tuesday’s game with Orlando if the Pistons still believed they were a playoff team, “You’ve got to believe.”

So the Pistons will look at the glass as half full coming out of their convincing win over the Magic.

Continue reading Snow Day >>

Posted Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Andre Drummond began Tuesday’s game the way Usain Bolt begins the 100-meter dash: at a full sprint. He was already well on his way to his season’s 33rd double-double with eight points and four rebounds midway through the first quarter.

But when he stayed under the basket after tipping in Greg Monroe’s miss as play went the other way, his left shoe ripped off and his face twisted in agony, a season in danger of slipping away from the Pistons flashed before all of their eyes.

After a minute that felt like an hour, Drummond sat up and tugged his shoe back on, then walked to the bench under his own power. When play resumed after a timeout, he was back on the court, smiling and dominating.

Continue reading That's a Start >>

Posted Monday, January 27, 2014

Mo Cheeks has thought out loud for the past week, admitting that lineup changes are possible. When losses mount – the Pistons have dropped four straight and 11 of 14 since Christmas – Cheeks says the stronger the case becomes to tinker.

He’d probably have done so already but for one critical factor: There’s no obvious change to make.

Check that. The obvious change – the one that Cheeks hinted at broadly last week – is Rodney Stuckey in and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out. Stuckey, at least until knocked back by knee and shoulder injuries, has been the team’s most consistent offensive force; Caldwell-Pope, a rookie who wasn’t counted on for the type of role he’s assumed, figures to have less trouble accepting a move to the bench than more established teammates.

Continue reading Lineup Logic>>

Posted Sunday, January 26, 2014

DALLAS – The Pistons did a lot right. They forced 17 Dallas turnovers and converted them into 23 points, winning that game within the game by 11 points. They hit the offensive glass 17 times and dominated second-chance points, 19-1.

But what the Pistons did wrong, they did very wrong. And they did it against the wrong team.

Dallas might have the most expansive playbook in the league and Rick Carlisle can afford the complexity because of the offensive IQ of his basketball team, starting with but hardly limited to the singularly gifted Dirk Nowtizki.

Continue reading Downed in Dallas >>

Posted Saturday, January 25, 2014

There’s a reason Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis are two of just three 20-year-olds to be part of USA Basketball’s most wanted list that goes beyond the genetics which blessed them with a rare combination of size and agility. Let their coaches explain.

“He’s a delightful kid to coach,” Maurice Cheeks said of Drummond a few weeks ago. “He gets better every game. He’s like a sponge. He likes guys to tell him certain things and he goes out and tries to do it. When you get a guy like that – with his size and ability and agility, the way he’s capable of playing – he’s just a joy to coach.”

“The best thing about Anthony is he accepts coaching and most young guys don’t,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams told me before Friday’s matchup of the two wunderkinds to emerge from the 2012 draft. “I think that’s a problem in our league is the ability to accept coaching.”

The most coveted commodity in the NBA, even with the game evolving to place greater emphasis on shooting, remains the athletic young 7-footer who can dominate the boards and protect the rim. Throw in a thirst for greatness and you have the stuff that launches championship eras.

Continue reading 'Cornerstone Big' >>

Posted Friday, January 24, 2014

New Orleans won the lottery and took Anthony Davis No. 1 in 2012, then missed by one lousy pick of landing Andre Drummond nine spots later. The Pistons were all that stood between the Pelicans and a draft haul for the ages.

Both 20-year-old franchise cornerstones earned invitations from USA Basketball this week to be among the 28-player pool from which the rosters for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic national teams will be chosen. Both showed why those invitations were fully merited Friday night at The Palace.

Drummond won the battle, but Davis won the war.

Drummond was a dynamo, recording his first career 20 and 20 game – 21 points, 20 rebounds, two blocked shots – but Davis’ Pelicans finished the game on a 14-5 run, he in the thick of it, to erase a 10-point deficit in the final six minutes and win 103-101.

“It doesn’t even matter,” about his 20-20 and string of seven straight double-doubles a clearly downcast Drummond said after the game. “We’ve lost quite a few games, so it doesn’t feel quite as satisfying. I don’t even pay attention most of the time. I’d rather win.”

Continue reading Gut-Wrenching Loss>>

Posted Thursday, January 23, 2014

Andre Drummond’s ability to maintain his levels of productivity despite a drastically increased workload over his rookie season might have happened without the benefit of his week at the USA Basketball minicamp last July.

But one rather important opinion on the matter wonders.

“I really got to see how hard guys played to play for our country,” Drummond said Thursday. “I’ve seen guys do things I’ve never seen before just to put ‘USA’ on your chest. For me, it was a learning experience. To see guys really take this seriously to represent our country was really a big deal.”

Drummond is guaranteed a similar experience this July as one of 28 NBA players named by USA Basketball as part of the player pool for the next three years, which encompasses the World Cup this summer in Spain and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. The roster Team USA will take to the World Cup will be determined after the team’s July minicamp in Las Vegas.

Continue reading Making the Cut>>

Posted Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MILWAUKEE – Knees made Rodney Stuckey and Caron Butler virtual non-factors the last time the Pistons visited Milwaukee, Stuckey limited by tendinitis to one basket and Butler out altogether.

Maybe the Pistons should have offered to hold Stuckey out of Wednesday’s rematch if the Bucks would’ve kept Butler in street clothes again.

And Stuckey was very good, scoring 23 points in 33 minutes as the bulwark of Mo Cheeks’ shortened bench. But Butler was even better, dropping 30 points on the Pistons, including two momentum-swinging 3-pointers late in the third quarter to turn a 10-point Pistons lead into a mere four-point edge that put the game squarely in Milwaukee’s sights.

“He made some big shots,” said Brandon Jennings, who matched Butler’s 30 in his return to the place he spent his first four NBA seasons. “He was definitely carrying the team.”

Continue reading Bucks Bounce Back>>

Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Pistons head to Milwaukee amid questions about the compatibility and balance of their starting frontcourt, which counts as ironic because the last time they were in Milwaukee they appeared close to putting that issue to bed.

Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond combined for 59 points and 42 rebounds when the Pistons coasted to a 105-98 win in early December. Smith had 19 shots, Monroe 15 and Drummond 13. Monroe and Smith both picked up three assists. The frontcourt combined for eight blocked shots.

It was a thoroughly dominant performance, and even if came at the expense of the lottery-bound Bucks, it also came 24 hours after a win at Miami and a flight diverted to Chicago by fog and a bus ride that delivered the Pistons to their Milwaukee hotel about 12 hours before the same bus would bring them to the Bradley Center for that night’s tipoff.

Continue reading Second Half>>

Posted Monday, January 20, 2014

We can talk about spacing issues and the fit of Detroit’s jumbo frontcourt and yada yada yada, but at halftime of their Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee the Pistons were shooting 50 percent, had put up 53 points and should have been more than halfway to a victory.

Instead, they trailed by 11. And lost by nine. Despite scoring 103 points on a day they got a combined six from Greg Monroe and Brandon Jennings yet still shot 51 percent.

Defense remains Detroit’s vexing issue. The Pistons came into Monday 26th in defensive field-goal percentage, 24th in scoring defense and 21st in defensive efficiency, a hat trick that makes a pretty compelling case that they own one of the league’s 10 worst defenses. And it’s tough to win in the NBA with a bottom-third defense unless your offense is elite.

The Clippers have an elite offense. Even without Chris Paul – who missed his eighth straight game with a shoulder injury – the Clippers continue to rack up points. They’re now 6-2 since Paul left the lineup in early January and they’d averaged 114.6 in the five previous wins with the only losses coming at San Antonio and Indiana, a combined 38-7 on their courts.

Continue reading Clipped>>

Posted Saturday, January 18, 2014

When the Pistons visited Washington three weeks ago, Josh Smith had a first half so nightmarish he never got off the bench in the second. Mo Cheeks is happy he didn’t go back to that playbook the second time around.

And if the Pistons can execute a second-half-of-the-season turnaround of the sort that Smith pulled off Saturday night at Washington, they can start printing playoff tickets now out at 6 Championship Drive.

“We made plays down the stretch,” Cheeks said as the Pistons outscored Washington 58-44 in the second half, rallying from 10 down early in the third quarter to win 104-98 over one of the East’s rising teams. “I talked to our group about just continuing to play hard. Last night was not one of our better games, but I thought the effort we put in tonight was better.”

The Pistons came off a five-day break to lose big at home to Utah on Friday, then headed to Washington where the Wizards had won three straight to reach .500.

Continue reading A Win in Washington>>

Posted Friday, January 17, 2014

Teams have limited control of the NBA scheduling process, providing the league availability and preferred dates for their arenas and letting the process unfold from there. The Pistons next season ought to limit their requests to one: no more five-day breaks.

They came out of their first one of the season on wobbly legs – getting outscored by an average of 16 points in third quarters of the first three games – before recovering to win back-to-back games heading into their second five-day break.

Vacation ended Friday and reality hit them as rudely as a polar vortex. The Utah Jazz, who carried a 13-27 record into The Palace, went on a 20-3 run that bridged halftime and romped to a 110-89 win on a Friday night when The Palace was filled with plenty of Trey Burke fans sporting University of Michigan maize and blue.

“We just couldn’t come out and compete,” said Rodney Stuckey, perhaps the lone bright spot for the Pistons with 21 points and a return to his pre-injury form. “I don’t know. I don’t get it. We had four days of good practice this week and we came out and laid a goose egg. That’s on us tonight.”

Continue reading Rough Return>>

Posted Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mo Cheeks has been around the NBA for 36 years. It’s possible his memory needs a little jogging, but when he says he’s “never seen anything like it” – the two five-day gaps in the schedule the Pistons have endured over the past 18 days – his point is clear. This is weird.

But he feels a little better about the Pistons coming out of this five-day break than the one that carried them into 2014, when they entered it having lost three straight games and by an average of 16 points.

“I feel a little bit better,” Cheeks said after a fourth consecutive practice day on Thursday. “We got a lot accomplished out of these days, some things we needed to work on.”

“The coaches have been on us,” Rodney Stuckey said. “We’ve been practicing hard. Guys have been getting here early, an hour before practice.”

Stuckey, it turns out, is one of the reasons Cheeks feels a little better. When he’s been healthy this season, Stuckey’s been superb, the de facto go-to guy for the season’s first month. But health has proven elusive for Stuckey, who missed training camp with a broken thumb, two games with left knee tendinitis and five more with a painful right shoulder.

Continue reading What to Watch>>

Posted Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Pistons have played 38 games, three shy of the halfway mark. Toss in their eight preseason games, and they’re one past the mid-point of a 90-game preseason plus regular-season commitment. And for the 6½ months from the early October start of training camp until the mid-April regular-season finale, the mid-point came a week ago.

Throw in the five-day break between last weekend’s back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and Phoenix and Friday’s visit from Utah and you have the appropriate time to evaluate where the Pistons have been and where they’re headed.

Their 16-22 record qualifies as disappointing, but it’s so easy to pick out a half-dozen games that could have turned it into the 22-16 record that wouldn’t have been far off anyone’s estimate to offer legitimate optimistism about what their season promises.

Here’s a quick look at what the Pistons can bank on as their bedrock strengths over the season’s final 44 games and what they’ve spent their five-day hiatus working to improve.

Continue reading Almost Halftime>>

Posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Joe Dumars pulled no punches about the state of his roster on draft night last June after spending the eighth pick on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

“We are basically desolate at the wing positions,” he said. “It was such a major focus of ours going into this draft. We had to upgrade the wing, athletic, shooting – just don’t have enough wing, long athletes.”

The Pistons knew there were more finished products available to them, but they loved the Georgia native’s high motor, his size at his position, the way he embraced defense, his passion for the game and the potential of his feathery jump shot.

Continue reading Growth Spurt >>

Posted Monday, January 13, 2014

The Pistons picked up two much-needed wins over the weekend, then reported back to work on Monday and picked up two players.

Rookies Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell were back for a 2½-hour practice on Monday, the first of four consecutive practice days before the Pistons play again on Friday night, after a two-week stint in the D-League.

Aside from minor injuries both players incurred that diminished their production, both came back lauding their Fort Wayne experience.

“I think I got a lot of experience,” Siva said. “I had a main focus of just being aggressive down there, going out to play and really working on my guard skills. The first couple of games, I think I did a really good job of showcasing that. Unfortunately, I fell and sprained both of my wrists, then just tried to play through it. At least we got some wins down there.”

In four games, Siva averaged 12 points, 5.8 assists and two steals. But he had a 27-point, 10-assist, eight-steal game while going up against Chicago Bulls point guard and 2012 No. 1 pick Marquis Teague and another game with 24 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals before the wrist injuries caught up to him.

Continue reading D-League to Detroit >>

Posted Saturday, January 11, 2014

Josh Smith played a game on Friday that only Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon ever matched: 22 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, five blocked shots, four steals.

He was better on Saturday.

Oh, the numbers weren’t quite as gaudy, though they were still the stuff of superstars: 25 points, requiring just 16 shots, 11 rebounds, five assists.

But the Pistons might have won at Philadelphia without his heroics. Against Phoenix on Saturday at The Palace, with a five-game home losing streak and the weight of second-half failures bearing down on the Pistons’ collective shoulders, Smith stacked one big play atop another down the stretch to deny a Suns comeback that appeared almost inevitable.

Smith hit a triple with the shot-block buzzer about to blare with 27 seconds remaining to break a 105-all tie, then after his brush foul with four seconds left allowed Gerald Green to tie the game with three free throws, Smith bulled his way through traffic to score on a tough layup.

“Tough shot, but that’s what big-time players do,” Will Bynum said. “And that’s what he did tonight.”

Continue reading Surviving the Suns >>

Posted Friday, January 10, 2014

New strategy. The Pistons might not have figured out a way to put a 48-minute game together yet, but Friday night they got their worst basketball out of them early and then knew exactly what they were looking at. Down 16 points after a thoroughly dysfunctional opening six minutes – outscored by an average of 15 points in the first three third quarters of the new year – the Pistons used a most unlikely formula to snap a six-game losing streak and win their first game of 2014.

“We don’t want to be in that predicament, but we stuck in there, kept fighting and – opposite of how we’ve been losing – we actually won a game like that,” Greg Monroe said after the 114-104 win at Philadelphia. “Took control in the third quarter and kind of kept control in the second half.”

The 76ers made their first seven shots and nine of their first 10, including four 3-pointers, and they scored a staggering 38 first-half points in the paint, a testament to how porous the Pistons’ perimeter defense was in the early going.

Mo Cheeks called his first timeout barely two minutes into the game, by which time Philly already led by double digits. Two minutes later, he was already going to his bench for answers. He found two in Kyle Singler and Will Bynum, both of whom came up two rebounds shy of a double-double.

Continue reading Roaring Back >>

Posted Thursday, January 9, 2014

PHILADELPHIA – The Pistons still rank last in the NBA in 3-point percentage, but you don’t have to dig very far beneath the surface to see evidence of progress. Since November turned into December, the Pistons essentially have been an average 3-point shooting team.

They were, at least, until the calendar flipped to 2014 and a new issue reared its head: third-quarter collapses. The Pistons have been outscored 94-48 in the three third quarters of the new year, the overriding reason why they’re still looking for their first 2014 win.

One contributing factor: The Pistons are shooting 21 percent from the 3-point arc in 2014. They hope it’s just a blip on the radar, and they can point to December as evidence. Because in 17 December games, the Pistons drained 35 percent of their 3-point attempts, just a shade below the NBA average of .357.

The turnaround can be largely credited to two young players: Kyle Singler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Continue reading Shooting Up >>

Posted Wednesday, January 8, 2014

TORONTO – We’ll wait another decade or more to close the book on the 2012 NBA draft, when Toronto took Terrence Ross with the eighth pick to set off a wild celebration a few hundred miles to the west around an Auburn Hills conference table tucked in the woods behind The Palace.

The choice of Ross left Andre Drummond for the Pistons, a player around whom Joe Dumars now plots the construction of the franchise.

There will be plenty of time for Toronto – which might not have been in the hunt for a new general manager last spring if Bryan Colangelo had selected Drummond, instead – to rue that night.

But Wednesday wasn’t it.

Ross hit a triple 13 seconds into the second half and then another 59 seconds later to fuel a quick 8-0 Toronto run to open the third quarter, and if you’ve heard that one before, well, don’t congratulate yourself on a remarkable memory. You’ve heard it three times in the last four days if you’ve been paying attention to the Pistons.

Continue reading Instant Replay >>

Posted Tuesday, January 7, 2014

NEW YORK – Another comeback for the ages came up about seven seconds and 2 feet short. It wouldn’t have been quite as dramatic as climbing out of a 21-point hole at Boston last month, but coming back from 17 down late in the third quarter at New York would’ve been a bigger salve to a more desperate team.

As it is, the Pistons will have to take whatever solace and confidence boosting they can find from their near-miss at New York, from the resolve they showed this time when things turned against them.

“We had a very good effort,” Mo Cheeks said after Josh Smith missed a 17-foot jump shot from the right wing that didn’t come close to grazing the rim, a shot that would have given the Pistons a one point lead inside of 10 seconds. “Got down 17, able to fight back and just didn’t make any shots toward the end to help us get over the hump. But we played hard.”

That stook in stark contrast to the taste in their mouths following Sunday’s loss to Memphis, when they could muster little resistance in getting outscored by 33 points in the second half to wipe out a five-point halftime lead.

Continue reading Rally Ruined >>

Posted Monday, January 6, 2014

There is vague talk in NBA circles, fueled in part by comments from incoming commissioner Adam Silver, about shortening NBA games to 40 from 48 minutes. If it comes to a vote, they likely can count on a “yes” from the Pistons, whose 14-20 record might be reversed had that rule been on the books in time for this season.

A day after Brandon Jennings called the Pistons a “first-half team” and Mo Cheeks admitted he was groping for answers to how Memphis managed to outscore his team 61-28 in Sunday’s second half to win going away after trailing by five at halftime, Josh Smith broke it down to very simple terms: communication, selflessness and fun.

This is a team, after all, that within the past month has won games at Miami and Indiana and came out on top after spotting Boston a 21-point lead.

“I just think that we’ve got to start back having fun playing the game,” Smith said after Monday’s practice. “In those wins we came together as a unit, we were very unselfish on both ends of the court. We need to watch and see what we did right in those games to be able to make us be successful. We’ve just got to enjoy playing the game of basketball and not look at it as just coming to work.”

Continue reading Road Remedy? >>

Posted Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Pistons scored 56 points in Sunday’s first half, 28 in the second. It might be grossly simplistic to say twice the points means they were twice as good before halftime as after, but it’s close enough to the truth. And since it continued a recent trend of losing traction after halftime at home – where the Pistons have now lost five straight games and are 6-12 this season – and since it also came on the heels of a five-day break where the focus was on eradicating late-game execution breakdowns, well, that explains why Mo Cheeks was about 15 minutes late to his own postgame press conference.

“When you lose a game like that, you have a little conversation,” Cheeks said after the Pistons were outscored 61-28 in the second half of a 112-84 loss. “It took a little longer than I expected. I was just trying to get a little insight for myself because I didn’t have it. Normally, I do. This time, I didn’t have it.”

Five days between games is so far outside the norm for an NBA team that it wouldn’t have been a stunner if the Pistons had been outscored 61-28 in the first half. But they seemed to survive the break from routine OK, shooting 49 percent and getting the type of ball movement that produced 15 assists on 23 first-half baskets.

Continue reading Snowed Under >>

Posted Saturday, January 4, 2014

One of the few common elements over the stretch where the Pistons have lost of their last six games: Rodney Stuckey’s shoulder injury.

Stuckey got hurt three weeks ago when the Pistons lost a 13-point lead and then fell in overtime to Portland. They won with a subpar Stuckey the next night at Indiana – one of the highlights of their season to date – and overcame a 21-point deficit to win at Boston two nights later without him.

When they lost a 20-point lead two nights after that, outscored 41-17 in the fourth quarter by Charlotte at home, it began their backslide that carried the Pistons to their current standing of five games below .500, their low-water mark.

Continue reading The Stuckey Correlation >>

Posted Friday, January 3, 2014

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scoring 17 points in a half against Washington gives the Pistons a glimpse of their future. For their present, they’re asking that he emulates Kyle Singler.

“I’m not looking at his scoring, but I look at the way he plays defense, running the floor,” Mo Cheeks said after the Pistons practiced on day four of their rare five-day break between games Friday. “I told him to take a cue out of Kyle’s book. We don’t run a lot of plays for Kyle, either, but he ends up getting a three here, a three there, he gets some open runs to the rim for baskets. Those kind of guys just have to do things like that.”

Caldwell-Pope began the season safely inside the playing rotation because both Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey missed virtually the entire preseason with injuries. Once they returned, Caldwell-Pope was the No. 5 guard in a rotation Cheeks says has room for only four. He didn’t get off the bench in two early November games, but when Chauncey Billups couldn’t go on Nov. 15 in Sacramento with left knee tendinitis that would cost him nearly a month, the 2013 first-rounder went into the starting lineup so Cheeks could continue to bring Rodney Stuckey off the bench as the second unit’s featured scorer.

Continue reading Keeping it Simple >>

Posted Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Pistons owned fourth quarters in Chauncey Billups’ first go-around as a Piston and he was at the center of it. Point guards or superstars who have the ball in their hands in all those lonely moments always are. Teammates take their cues from those players. If he projects an aura of confidence and calmness, so do their teams.

“There’s no question about it,” Mr. Big Shot said after Thursday’s practice, one he declared the best one the Pistons have had this season. Of course, the games have come so fast and furious – 33 of them in the first 62 days of the NBA season – that the Pistons simply haven’t had many days available to hold truly meaningful practices.

“At some point, your team is going to take on the personality of your head coach and your point guard. You don’t know what point of the season that is. But I think it’s inevitable that most teams take on that personality.”

While the Pistons can use the virtual minicamp now afford them – they get two more practice days before their next game, a Sunday home matinee against Memphis – to work on fixing issues of execution, perhaps the down time also will help heal their bruised psyches. Over their last five home games, the Pistons have been outscored by 13.8 points a game in the fourth quarters. They’re 1-4 over that span with the only win coming against Brooklyn despite seeing a 20-point lead cut to two.

Continue reading Precious Practice Time >>

Posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013

There’s a reason the Pistons were able to sign Gigi Datome without having to spend a draft choice on the 2013 Italian league MVP. It’s because when he was last eligible to be drafted, in 2009, no one chose him. And that’s because Datome, though a pro in Italy since he was 15, had yet to establish himself as en elite international player.

He’s drawing on that experience – the watching, waiting and learning – now in his first season in the NBA.

“I’ve been through this,” Datome said. “Also, national team, first years I was struggling and like now didn’t have much playing time. I had to keep working like I’m doing now. I’m pretty confident because I already passed through something like that. Also, I’m very happy because it’s big for me to be here in the NBA, so I have great motivation every day.”

Truth be told, the slow integration of Datome into the NBA has been more difficult for his countrymen to grasp than it’s been for him. He finds himself explaining to friends and family back home how a player who carried Italy in EuroBasket competition last summer hasn’t found instant success in the NBA.

Continue reading Patience Pays >>

Posted Monday, December 30, 2013

If inconsistency is the hallmark of young teams, then it probably shouldn’t shock anyone that the Pistons – with the NBA’s youngest starting five – would probably rank correspondingly high if there was a universal means to accurately quantify inconsistency. Theirs isn’t merely game to game, but a half to half or quarter to quarter inconsistency.

Alas, the one area where the Pistons have managed to find a hint of consistency is in their fourth-quarter ineffectiveness. They came into Monday night’s game with Washington last in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring margin at minus-2.8, then saw that number inflate to minus-3.1 as the Wizards outscored them 28-12.

That ruined a night that was on the verge of redeeming their wipeout weekend, lopsided losses at Orlando and Washington in which they trailed from wire to wire and played fourth quarters that didn’t matter either night.

Continue reading Wizards Win >>

Posted Sunday, December 29, 2013

When a team loses by a basket or two, it’s usually easy to pinpoint a shortcoming, or at least to rationalize a loss by saying, “If only we had been better in Category X, we would have won that game.”

When it loses so thoroughly that fourth quarters are played faster than first quarters and coaches take multiple timeouts with them to the locker room, you can throw darts at a board and hit on something that needs fixing.

So it was for the Pistons over the weekend in lopsided losses at Orlando and Washington, two sub-.500 Eastern Conference rivals. And that explains why Mo Cheeks took the unusual step of calling the team together for a Sunday practice after a back-to-back set of games, the second time this season he’s felt so compelled.

“We haven’t really had a lot of practice time,” Cheeks said after practice. “We needed some practice time on the floor. We needed that. We have a breakfast meeting, go to a game, don’t have a shootaround … we’ve never really had any practice time. This is not conventional, to have a practice now, but we needed to have it.”

Continue reading Back to Work >>

Posted Saturday, December 28, 2013

WASHINGTON – With a little over four minutes to go in the third quarter, Brandon Jennings took a shot to the face, leaving a trail of blood behind him as he made his way to the bench. There couldn’t have been a more apt metaphor for the lost weekend the Pistons endured in losing twice, one more disheartening than the other.

The Pistons, in line with the experience of many young teams, have had great difficulty repeating performances this season. On Saturday, they repeated one they’d rather they hadn’t, closely following the script from Friday’s lopsided loss at Orlando in losing at Washington 106-82.

“We are going through a rough patch,” Kyle Singler said. “Whatever that is, with time it’ll work itself out. But we have to start playing better basketball.”

The Pistons trailed by 23 points when Jennings went to the bench with a bloody nose. He was able to return in the fourth quarter, about the only bit of good news the Pistons received during a night when injury – Rodney Stuckey’s recurring shoulder problem limited him to six minutes – was heaped atop insult.

Cheeks disapproved of what he saw in the first half, which ended with a 14-0 Washington run and a 21-point Pistons deficit, enough that he made two lineup changes to start the second half. Singler and Will Bynum were in, Josh Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out. Smith didn’t play at all in the second half. Caldwell-Pope came back in the fourth quarter with the game well out of hand.

Continue reading Trip-ped Up>>

Posted Friday, December 27, 2013

ORLANDO – The Pistons have stayed afloat in the eminently forgiving Eastern Conference despite a 6-10 home record by virtue of their surprising ability to win road games.

They’d won seven of their last eight away from The Palace entering Friday’s game at Orlando, an 8-20 team that had lost its last three games – all at home – against opponents with a cumulative record of 25-61.

So their 109-92 loss, in which a seven-point halftime deficit quickly doubled and ruptured to21 points by the late third quarter, was something of a warning to them: Road wins are nice, but you’d better make your stand at home.

“From the start of the game, we couldn’t get anything going,” Maurice Cheeks said. “Offensively, defensively, we just couldn’t get anything going from the start.”

The Pistons can win on nights they don’t have all three of their frontcourt aces flying, but on nights when all of them lay an egg – pretty much what happened at Orlando – they really have few places to turn.

Continue reading Disappearing Acts>>

Posted Friday, December 27, 2013

After the Pistons complete their sixth set of back-to-back games in December by playing at Orlando tonight and at Washington on Saturday, their schedule ratchets back markedly. In fact, after hosting Washington on Monday the Pistons will play only five games in 17 days and have two rare five-day gaps in their schedule.

So it was the right time for Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva to visit the D-League.

The Pistons sent their two second-round rookies to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Thursday as they left for Orlando. Mitchell and Siva watched in street clothes Thursday night as Fort Wayne routed Reno 114-89, but Joe Dumars said they would practice with the Mad Ants today and play Saturday against Rio Grande Valley.

Continue reading D-League for Rookies >>

Posted Thursday, December 26, 2013

ORLANDO – If all player-coach conversations Mo Cheeks conducts prove as fruitful as his recent chat with Josh Smith, it’s going to be a fun ride ahead for the Pistons.

Since Cheeks and Smith shared ideas for how to make better use of him for the good of the team, the numbers reflect a dramatic course alteration. Over the last six games, not only is Smith’s scoring up a full 10 points per game – 13.8 in his first 24 games, 23.8 since – but he’s scoring much more efficiently, too.

Much of that has to do with the type of shots he’s getting. Smith is shooting 49 percent in his last six after scuffling along at 38.5 percent over his first 24, when nearly one of every three of his attempts, 31 percent, came from the 3-point line. Since his talk with Cheeks – with the Pistons now making a point of establishing Smith in the low post early and often – just 16 percent of Smith’s shot attempts have been triples.

Continue reading Major Impact >>

Posted Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No one’s been busier than the Pistons in the pre-Christmas portion of the NBA season. Well, check that. The Utah Jazz have played 31 games, one more than the Pistons. But nobody else has played as many or more games than Maurice Cheeks’ team, which has meant practice time – especially in a jam-packed December – has been a precious commodity.

That’s about to change.

After beating Cleveland on the road Monday, the Pistons don’t play again until Friday, their first three-day break of the season. They’ll play three games over a four-day period, including a back to back with Washington on Saturday and back home on Monday, and then cool their heels for five days before their first 2014 game on Jan. 5. They’ll have a similar five-day gap in the schedule between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17 home games.

They’ve played their 30 games in 55 days since the Oct. 30 opener, a win over Washington at The Palace when the Pistons played without both Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings. Consider this: Over the next 51 days – which takes the Pistons to the All-Star break – they’ll play only 23 games.

Continue reading Christmas Fast Break >>

Posted Monday, December 23, 2013

The Pistons swept the Cavs all four games last season. That was without Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. They took turns in the last game before Christmas demonstrating to Cleveland fans who might still be booing the hometown team exactly what Joe Dumars had in mind with his major off-season acquisitions.

Smith sparkled during the first half as the Pistons built an 18-point lead and Jennings took over from there with a dominant third quarter in a 115-92 win.

The Pistons continued to play efficiently on offense, shooting 48 percent with 27 assists and seven players in double figures, all signs of great ball movement and quality shot selection that really started with Smith scoring and dishing from the post or wing.

“We’re putting the ball in his hands a little more down there, taking him off that perimeter so much,” Maurice Cheeks said. “They ran two or three guys at him and it allows other guys to be open, so the more times we get the ball to him down there, he’s more comfortable, he’s got a nice shot down there and it opens the floor for other people.”

Continue reading Road is Easy Street >>

Posted Sunday, December 22, 2013

Steve Clifford was between jobs in the summer of 2012, dismissed along with Stan Van Gundy and the rest of his staff when Orlando cleaned house once ownership became convinced that trading Dwight Howard and starting over was its best course.

So the long-respected assistant coach did some consulting for Lawrence Frank, observing Pistons Summer League practices in Orlando that involved not just the 2012 rookie class – draftees Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton and Kim English and 2011 draftee Kyle Singler off of his season in Spain – but young veterans led by Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight.

At the end of it, Frank asked Clifford for his assessment.

“Your most talented player by far is Andre Drummond,” Clifford said he told Frank. “That’s what I got out of those practices. And I thought Greg Monroe practiced very well.”

Clifford worked not only with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando, but also for Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. That means he spent seasons with both Dwight Howard, who put on a show for Drummond and the Pistons with a 35-point, 19-rebound performance in Houston’s win at The Palace on Saturday, and Yao Ming at the peak of their careers. So Clifford knows what an elite big man can do to lift a franchise and carry a team. And he sees Drummond having a real chance to reach that level.

Continue reading Spotting Greatness >>

Posted Saturday, December 21, 2013

Andre Drummond had a two-word message for Dwight Howard after a performance that sent the loud and clear message that he’s not ready to pass the baton any time soon.

“Thank you.”

Howard smiled back and said, “Any time.”

“I thanked him for teaching me something today,” Drummond said after Howard packed a semester’s worth of lessons into a few horrifying hours for the Pistons, who absorbed a 114-97 loss to complete a thoroughly disappointing weekend after the highs experienced earlier in the week with road wins at Indiana and Boston.

“I learned a lot playing against him. It was actually my first time playing against him longer than 10 minutes, so I got a good feel for how he plays. He gave me different pointers after the game, too. So it was a learning experience for me today.”

The Rockets played without leading scorer James Harden, backup guard Jeremy Lin and trade candidate Omer Asik, then lost starting point guard Patrick Beverly to a hand injury in the first half. All that meant: More Dwight.

Continue reading Too Much Dwight>>

Posted Friday, December 20, 2013

The juxtaposition of the last two Pistons games neatly encapsulates their potential, their failings and their stage of development. Two nights after flexing their muscles to come from 21 down to win on the road against a team with the same record, the Pistons squandered a 20-point lead and lost to a team also from the Eastern Conference’s vast middle class.

For all of the exhilaration and swagger they took from their win over Boston, there was that much soul searching and doubt to endure after melting down at home against Charlotte.

“We just lost focus,” Brandon Jennings said in a somber Pistons locker room. “It happened so fast. I really don’t know what to say. It’s kind of unbelievable what just happened.”

Continue reading Turnaround Hurts>>

Posted Thursday December 19, 2013

The Pistons went to bed sometime Thursday morning, weary from a crazy stretch of schedule, as the only NBA team with a winning road record and a losing home mark. They’ve won six of their last seven away from The Palace and they’re now putting one remarkable win atop the next.

Did you like Monday’s win at Indiana – the first home loss for the Pacers all season – in which the Pistons never trailed best? Or did you prefer Wednesday’s woolly comeback from 21 points down to edge Boston by a point? Or are you a traditionalist and still prefer the methodical takedown of the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat from earlier this month?

The flip side, of course, is that the Pistons have lost three of their last four at home, including the rematch with Miami, a 27-point shellacking at Minnesota’s hands and the spirit-bending overtime loss to Portland.

But lost, perhaps, in the 6-8 home record is the quality of the teams the Pistons have faced at The Palace. The eight home losses have come to teams with a current combined winning percentage of .633 (129-73), with Indiana (20-5), Oklahoma City (20-4), Portland (22-5) and Miami (19-6) sporting four of the league’s five best records.

Continue reading Skipping a Step>>

Posted Wednesday December 18, 2013

BOSTON – You know what they say about crime scenes: No two eyewitnesses ever give the exact same account.

So when the Pistons recounted the crimes their defense committed in the first half at Boston – and especially the first quarter, when they allowed the Celtics 42 points – there were contrasting recollections.

“We came in the locker room and there wasn’t a lot of yelling, wasn’t a lot of cursing,” Mo Cheeks said after the Pistons came back from 21 down to win 107-106 at Boston, their sixth win in the last seven road games. “We just needed to pick our energy up, play a little harder and get out defense in check and that’s what we did.”

And with an opposing view, we present Brandon Jennings: “Mo went off on us and it kind of woke us up. That third quarter was amazing for us. He was a coach. If you’re down 20-something points, any coach would go off or be mad, but it was a good thing. It woke us up.”

Let’s recount the last four days for the Pistons: They lose a heartbreaker at home on Sunday, seeing a 13-point fourth quarter lead dissipate in an overtime defeat against the hottest team in the West, Portland; the next day, against a rested Indiana team – unbeaten at home and, at 20-3, owners of the NBA’s best record – they rebounded to score an eyebrow-raising win; and then, the capper, a comeback from 21 down to beat a surging Boston team that leads the Atlantic Division.

Continue reading Epic Comeback>>

Posted Tuesday December 17, 2013

BOSTON – A lot of NBA teams would have been beaten before the ball got thrown up in Indianapolis. Less than 24 hours after trying to swallow an indigestible overtime loss to Portland, the Pistons were out of the frying pan and into the fire. After almost beating the West’s best, and the NBA’s most prolific offense, they were playing the East’s best Monday night in Indianapolis, and the league’s stingiest defense.

It won’t be all seashells and balloons for the Pistons just because they beat the odds and handed Indiana its first home loss of the season. But make no mistake: Their 12-14 record notwithstanding, the NBA raised its collective eyebrow at the response of the Pistons to Sunday’s loss and the near-miss of an amazing sweep of conference leaders under difficult circumstances.

There are still many leaps of growth necessary for the Pistons to emerge from a muddled field of would-be contenders as the No. 3 team in the East, behind Indiana and Miami. But it’s worth noting that the Pacers and Heat are a combined 22-3 at home this season with two of the three losses inflicted by the Pistons.

Continue reading Attention Getters >>

Posted Monday December 16, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS — So much for the lingering effects of the season’s most devastating loss.

After losing a spirit-crushing overtime game to Portland on Sunday night at The Palace, the Pistons fired a shot across the NBA’s bow Monday night in Indiana. They dented the league’s best defense for 101 points – 12 above Indiana’s average yield – and handed the Pacers their first home loss of the season.

They did it with Rodney Stuckey going scoreless in just 16 minutes after opening the game with ice bags strapped to both his left knee and right shoulder. They did it with Andre Drummond limited to three first-half minutes by foul trouble. And they did it with Chauncey Billups in street clothes, part of his regimen for back-to-back sets.

“It was a little hard for me to sleep last night, but we came here and kept playing basketball,” said Brandon Jennings, who scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter of the 101-96 win, just Indiana’s fourth loss in 24 games. “This is the NBA. One thing about the NBA is you’ve got a game the next day or the next day. It’s not like the NFL, where you have to wait a whole week.”

Continue reading Great Response >>

Posted Sunday, December 15, 2013

When you struggle to win close games, as young teams are wont to do, it’s almost never a single glaring weakness that undermines winning. For the Pistons, the thing that tripped them up Sunday wasn’t what they could have possibly expected: an inability to grab a key defensive rebound.

Three times in the final seconds of regulation, Portland gained critical points by corralling offensive rebounds, allowing the Trail Blazers to complete a fourth-quarter comeback and force overtime. Twice more in overtime, Portland grabbed rebounds that had they gone the other way would have made a Pistons win not only possible, but likely.

The Pistons led from the middle of the second quarter on and by 13 points early in the fourth quarter. They were doing everything within reason to control the league’s best offensive team – herding Damian Lillard away from the paint in pick-and-roll action, guarding the 3-point line with certainty a night after the Blazers sunk 21 of 37 and doing as well as anyone has in limiting the damage inflicted by LaMarcus Aldrige, who has thrust himself into MVP discussion.

Continue reading That's a Crusher >>

Posted Saturday, December 14, 2013

It’s the best of the West, followed by the beast of the East. Thanks a lot, Mr. Schedule Maker. To cap off a stretch of playing three games in four days, the Pistons face the back to back from hell. Not only do they get the teams with the league’s best records – Portland at home on Sunday, at Indiana on Monday – they go from one extreme to the other.

In Portland, they get the NBA’s No. 1 team in offensive efficiency. In Indiana, they get the league’s top-rated team in defensive efficiency.

“I haven’t even looked at it like that,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said the day after snapping a three-game losing skid by building a 21-point lead over Brooklyn and hanging on to get a four-point win. “I just know we’re playing two great basketball teams and our first obstacle is Portland. And then we’ll see where we go after that.”

The Trail Blazers take a 19-4 record into their game at Philadelphia tonight, so at least the Pistons will have the rest advantage over Portland. Not so when they play at Indiana – where the Pacers are a perfect 11-0 this season – on Monday. Indiana beat Charlotte at home on Friday night and has the rest of the weekend off.

Continue reading Bests and Beasts >>

Posted Friday, December 13, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago when those Pistons would have been killed by these Pistons. In the early days of the Lawrence Frank era, when an aging Ben Wallace often was their center and the undersized Jason Maxiell lined up at power forward, long, athletic frontcourts overwhelmed the Pistons.

Adios to all of that. The Pistons are now the long, athletic frontcourt that gives teams lacking those qualities massive trouble. Without Brook Lopez, the Nets fit the typical victim’s profile.

Only a torrid 3-point shooting second half kept Brooklyn from being run out of The Palace after the Pistons established a 17-point halftime lead and stretched it to 21 early in the fourth quarter. The Nets simply couldn’t handle Andre Drummond’s power and athleticism, Greg Monroe’s size and scoring touch and Josh Smith’s speed and aggression.

They combined for 54 points and 30 rebounds, just enough on a night the Pistons spotted the other guys a 27-point advantage from the 3-point line. The Nets came back and made it way too uncomfortable – Paul Pierce’s triple with 11 seconds left made it a two-point game – but the Pistons won to snap a three-game losing streak and hailed it as an opportunity to learn how to execute in the lonely moments of close games.

Continue reading A Needed Win >>

Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013

If Andre Drummond keeps showing up on lists populated by present or future Hall of Famers, he’s probably going to wind up there himself.

There’s the one where Drummond ranks first for players 20 or under in rebounding with his current average of 12.7 a game, slotted one ahead of Dwight Howard. When his streak of six straight games of six or more offensive rebounds was snapped as he sat out the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game with Minnesota, he found himself in the company of Dennis Rodman.

He’s drawing notice for the consistent impact he has on games, but it should be remembered that Drummond is still not only frightfully young but truly in his infancy as a basketball player, more so, perhaps, than many AAU stars who identify themselves as elite players in their pre-teen years. That wasn’t Drummond, who had to catch up to his body, though it was a frame that had college coaches intrigued even when the production lagged well behind his potential.

Continue reading Good Company>>

Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For three quarters, Big Easy aptly described the way New Orleans got to the rim and scored against the Pistons. Playing their fourth game in five nights against a team that hadn’t played since last Friday, a road comeback from 12 points down seemed about as likely as Bourbon Street running out of, well, bourbon.

But come back the Pistons did. Outrebounded by 38-22 through three quarters, they grabbed 21 in the final quarter and overtime and closed the gap by half. They shut down the paint that New Orleans guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans penetrated repeatedly in wracking up 83 points through three quarters. And they rode Greg Monroe, who grew up down the street, to put themselves in position to win.

They might have, too, but Brandon Jennings, whose hot shooting in the first half kept the Pistons from being run out of the building, missed two long jump shots on the final possession of regulation and Ryan Anderson – an elite 3-point shooter who missed 10 of 12 shots behind the arc in regulation – nailed two big ones in overtime to send the Pistons to their third straight loss after they won four straight last week.

Continue reading Comeback Comes Up Short >>

Posted Tuesday, December 10, 2013

As it turns out, Tina Turner, Love’s got plenty to do with it.

Kevin Love, at least. Look at the start of his line from Tuesday’s 121-94 Minnesota humbling of the Pistons at The Palace and you’d think he had a lousy night: 6 baskets, 15 attempts. Look at the rest and you wonder where the Pistons went to treat their burns.

Love scored 26 points and he did it mainly in two ways: 3-point shooting and free throws, a testament to his unique ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and take it inside and bait the opposition into fouling. Love made 4 of 6 from the 3-point line, 10 of 10 from the foul line, for 22 of his points. When he’s locked in from distance, well …

“He’s more effective,” Josh Smith said. “He can use the pump fake, he can drive, he’s good around the rim at finishing. It’s tough to guard a person like that, especially when he’s knocking down 3-pointers. We’ve got to be able to take away something from his game and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”

Continue reading Love Prevails >>

Posted Monday, December 9, 2013

When Mo Cheeks sent the Pistons back out to start the second quarter Sunday night, not a starter was among the chosen. Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups were still in street clothes, nursing leg injuries, and they were joined this night by Rodney Stuckey. Kyle Singler, along with Stuckey the other staple of Detroit’s bench through the first quarter of the season, wasn’t out there, either.

That meant not a player among the preferred first eight was on the floor for a game the Pistons already trailed by eight points – against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, bent on avenging a home loss against the upstart Pistons just five nights earlier.

To be sure, all five players Cheeks sent out to prevent their deficit from swelling had been outside his rotation at some point over the first 20 games.

Continue reading Be Prepared >>

Posted Sunday, December 8, 2013

Getting off to a slow start against the defending NBA champion in one half is playing with fire. Getting off to a slow start in both halves is pouring gasoline on yourself and lighting a match.

The Pistons survived a sluggish start to the game, coming from 11 back early to within two points. But a similarly disastrous start to the third quarter undid them, especially when they were playing without three of their top four guards in Rodney Stuckey (left knee tendinitis), Chauncey Billups (ditto) and Will Bynum (left adductor strain, an upper leg injury).

Yes, Miami was without Dwyane Wade. And they replaced him with a Hall of Famer, Ray Allen, while the Pistons had to lean heavily on rookie guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva to provide a modicum of relief for the only other healthy guard left, Brandon Jennings.

Continue reading Heat Snap Streak >>

Posted Saturday, December 7, 2013

CHICAGO – A time-honored NBA axiom holds that it takes a good 20 games before a team figures out what it is. The standings say that after 20 games – essentially, a quarter of the NBA season – the Pistons are a .500 team. But they’re .500 with a bullet.

They won their fourth straight game on Saturday night, with two of those wins coming at Miami and Chicago. Sure, the Bulls were badly depleted – missing All-Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng in addition to a third starter, Jimmy Butler – but the Pistons weren’t exactly at full strength, either, playing virtually the entire game without three of their top four guards.

And the Pistons won this one in a way the Bulls surely recognized. When the game turned into hand-to-hand combat in the third quarter – for nearly seven minutes, the Pistons had scored six points, the Bulls four – it was the Pistons who imposed their will and forced the Bulls to cave, the reverse of what happened 10 days ago at The Palace when a close game ruptured via a 21-0 Chicago run.

Continue reading Bull Market >>

Posted Friday, December 6, 2013

Ever since Rodney Stuckey slammed his thumb in a car door and X-rays revealed Brandon Jennings’ cracked jaw within 30 minutes of each other a week into training camp, the Pistons have had beds filled in their guard infirmary.

One might be opening up soon, though.

Chauncey Billups, out three weeks with left knee tendinitis, practiced for the first time on Friday.

Continue reading Close to a Return >>

Posted Thursday, December 5, 2013

If Joe Dumars had allowed himself to think about it, an apocalyptic shiver surely would have convulsed his spine.

As the Pistons lined up for the opening tip Wednesday night at Milwaukee, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond were matched against players from their draft classes, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson. If those two drafts had played out just a hair differently, Udoh and Henson might have been Detroit’s starters, instead.

But Golden State picked Udoh sixth, sparing the Pistons from a decision they’d yet to reach, less than 24 hours before the 2010 draft, between Udoh and North Carolina’s Ed Davis with the seventh pick. After New Orleans made the slam-dunk choice of Anthony Davis at No. 1 two years later, seven teams picking ahead of the Pistons passed on Drummond.

I’m tempted to write “inexplicably” before “passed,” but it’s really only unfathomable now, in light of Drummond’s remarkable assimilation as a pro. The results of his one year at UConn would be generously described as uneven. Anyone attempting to characterize the selections of Monroe and Drummond now as “no-brainers” for Dumars is rewriting history.

Continue reading Time Well Spent >>

Posted Wednesday, December 4, 2013

MILWAUKEE – Brandon Jennings ruffled some feathers in Milwaukee when he said he’d never had the chance to play with big men as talented as Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

They can dock him for political incorrectness, but not for honesty.

Jennings posted a double-double in his return to the place he spent his first four NBA seasons, where they marked the occasion by booing him lustily whenever he touched the ball. But the real story was the domination of the frontcourt Jennings extolled upon coming to the Pistons in late July.

Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith combined for 59 points and 42 rebounds and the Pistons beat Milwaukee 105-98 for their third straight win, completing a two-game road trip that also included a win at Miami 24 hours earlier and a diverted flight that required a bus ride to foggy Milwaukee from Chicago, arriving at 4 a.m. Central time Wednesday morning.

“Drummond played big, Greg Monroe played big,” Jennings said. “I was just telling Greg, there was one point in the game where I was just looking at all three of ’em crashing the boards and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ Like, that’s a scary sight down there. Those guys played big tonight. They came in here and did a great job. They took a lot of heat off me.”

Continue reading 3 Straight >>

Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013

MIAMI – The Pistons got their signature win. Now they want to know if they can duplicate it, time after time, signature after signature, so that even the most accomplished hand-writing experts won’t be able to tell the difference.

The Pistons beat Miami. At Miami. And, yeah, Dwyane Wade sat one out. But it was still a game that’s followed a script the Heat have acted out – and won – scores of times over the past three-plus seasons, since Wade coaxed buddies LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach to be his wing men.

It was also a script the Pistons knew a little too well. They let winnable games against the Bulls and Lakers get away at home last week, ceding 21-0 and 12-0 runs in the fourth quarters to undermine a home stand that might have turned their season around.

Now they hope their stand in Miami, when the Heat whittled a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to three in five minutes but couldn’t get over the hump as the Pistons won 107-97, becomes their turning point, the game that’s a part of their DNA the next time somebody’s charging in the fourth quarter.

Continue reading Signature Win >>

Posted Monday, December 2, 2013

Miami has won two straight NBA titles and 10 straight games in its quest for a third. But the Pistons have a fighting chance against the Heat these days because they can now match up against Miami’s big three better than at any time since they joined forces 3½ years ago.

It’s probably not a fair fight no matter who guards LeBron James, but Josh Smith’s length and athleticism gives him the tools to mitigate the damage the four-time MVP inflicts. It’s a similar story for rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard against Dwyane Wade, who’ll also get a heavy dose of Rodney Stuckey, who also has the type of size and strength that can make it tough for Wade to get to his sweet spots consistently. Chris Bosh’s quickness and shooting range gives him a decided edge over most centers, but not so much against Andre Drummond.

Maurice Cheeks cautions that it goes far beyond individual physical matchups, of course.

“These guys are seasoned, been around, won a couple of championships in a row,” he said after the Pistons practiced Monday at American Airlines Arena. “Size-wise, yeah. We just have to try to play at the level that they play at, because these are great players and they play hard. When you get great players that play hard, your recipe is championships that’s what they have.”

Continue reading Heat Checkers >>

Posted Sunday, December 1, 2013

For all the fits and starts the Pistons have endured over the season’s first 17 games, there remains one compelling reason their season – and their future – is one rippling with possibilities: Andre Drummond. For all the rough edges to him and all the hurdles yet to be cleared, rarely has a 20-year-old affected NBA games quite the way the Pistons’ wunderkind now does almost routinely.

It isn’t always as dramatic as Sunday, when he put career bests in points (31), rebounds (19) and steals (six), but it was his 12th double-double in 17 games this season. And it gave the Pistons a win they badly needed, 115-100 over Philadelphia, after two disheartening home losses.

When Maurice Cheeks interviewed last summer, he had a vague idea of what Drummond could do. But the Pistons played Oklahoma City, for whom Cheeks served as an assistant coach, twice in the season’s first eight games during his rookie year, so he really had little feel for what Drummond was ready to shoulder early in his second season.

Continue reading Drummond's Day >>

Posted Friday, November 29, 2013

Sooner or later, somebody in the morass that is the Eastern Conference outside of Indiana and Miami is going to get hot and string wins together. It could’ve been the Pistons. They might now be on a four-game winning streak. But Friday’s loss to the Lakers was dishearteningly akin to Wednesday’s loss to the Bulls, and instead of soaring into December with the wind at their backs, the Pistons were left to look inward and ask tough questions of themselves after Friday’s 106-102 loss to the Lakers.

Just as the Bulls won at The Palace without Derrick Rose, the Lakers won without Kobe Bryant. Just as Chicago used a 21-0 fourth-quarter run to pull away from the Pistons, the Lakers used a 12-0 fourth-quarter run to wipe out an eight-point deficit with five minutes to play.

And the loss had too much else in common with other season-long storylines – vulnerability to 3-point shooting, free-throw woes and stretches of stagnant offense – that have saddled the Pistons with a 6-10 record, not at all what they expected over the first 20 percent of the season.

“You have an eight-point lead with three, four, five minutes to go, you’ve got to be able to hold that,” said Brandon Jennings, who finished with 19 points and nine assists but missed the first two of three free throws when he was fouled with 16.7 seconds left and the Pistons trailing by three. “Once a team gets rolling and gets momentum, it’s tough, especially for a team like the Lakers, who travel with fans everywhere. Once they start scoring, the momentum changes.”

Continue reading A Bitter Loss >>

Posted Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Pistons are bumping along near the bottom of the league in defense, by any way you’d care to measure it.

They are dead last in opponent’s effective field-goal percentage, which accounts for the greater value of a 3-point shot. They’re also last in field-goal percentage by traditional measure, allowing the opposition to make 48.1 percent of shots. They’re 23rd in 3-point percentage and last – again – in 2-point percentage, allowing teams to make 51.8 percent of shots inside the arc, where it figured that the presence of Andre Drummond and Josh Smith would dissuade drivers.

They’re a more reasonable 17th in points per game allowed at 99.9, but 26th in defensive efficiency, a measure of the damage per possession opponents have inflicted. They rank just 22nd in rebounding, though they’re in good company – San Antonio is 21st, Memphis 23rd – and 15th in rebounding percentage, a disappointing number for a team that anticipated it would be dominant in that area.

Continue reading Hanging In >>

Posted Wednesday, November 27, 2013

From a seat near mid-court along press row, the change in the Chicago Bulls’ defensive temperament from the first half was apparent within the first three minutes of the third quarter. It looked pretty much the same way to Rodney Stuckey a few feet down the sideline from the perspective of the Detroit bench.

“They just came out and hit us first and never looked back,” Stuckey said after the Bulls turned a first-half romp into a second-half mud bath, holding the Pistons to 26 points in the final two quarters after spotting them 29 in the first quarter alone. “We didn’t start the third quarter out well. We didn’t match their energy in the second half, offensively or defensively, and that was pretty much the ballgame.”

Pretty much. The Bulls were without Derrick Rose, but the Bulls are accustomed by now to playing without the NBA’s 2011-12 MVP. Out for the year with torn knee cartilage, Rose will have played but 49 of 230 regular-season games over the past three seasons when this one ends. And they were still good enough to get to the second round of last spring’s playoffs, where they made life uncomfortable for Miami despite missing not only Rose but Luol Deng and other key players, as well.

Continue reading Bulls Pull Away >>

Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In a matter of about 30 hours starting at mid-afternoon on Sunday and extending to mid-evening Monday, the Pistons pushed the misery they felt the previous few days off to the side. But if the headline was the two double-digit wins on consecutive days, one on the road, the lasting value to come from toppling Brooklyn and Milwaukee could well prove to be finding the identity of their bench.

Maurice Cheeks has been a daring chemist in mixing and matching combinations over the season’s first month with every player on the roster except rookie Tony Mitchell getting a shot at a spot in the rotation, though injuries opened the door for the opportunities given fellow second-rounder Peyton Siva.

But Cheeks might have found something over the past two wins with Charlie Villanueva’s awakening and Will Bynum’s return from a hamstring injury that cost him five games.

With Rodney Stuckey, the season’s most consistent force, anchoring the second unit along with Kyle Singler, who has endeared himself to Cheeks as surely as he did to Lawrence Frank as a rookie, the Pistons figure to start most second quarters with those two on the court along with Bynum at point guard, running the pick and roll with Andre Drummond and Villanueva spotting up at the 3-point line on the strong side.

Continue reading A Bench Identity >>

Posted Monday, November 25, 2013

The Pistons have many hurdles yet to clear before they’ll declare themselves ready for the next phase in an NBA team’s evolution, but count Monday’s 113-94 domination of Milwaukee as a positive.

One mark of mature teams is taking care of business at home against visitors with fragile psyches. The Bucks came to The Palace fresh off a 24-point home loss – their eighth straight defeat – at the hands of Charlotte, during which their starting five combined for 18 points. That prompted Bucks first-year coach Larry Drew to plug in two new starters – coincidentally, ex-Pistons Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton – in a move he admitted was more groping for a spark than anything.

Middleton helped the Pistons stay close for six minutes. But at 17-14, the Pistons went on a 21-0 run that saw them stone Milwaukee on 11 straight possessions and force six of the Bucks’ 15 first-half turnovers that they converted into 21 points. The Pistons were both selfless when they had the ball and selfish when they didn’t. They finished the first half with six players with at least two assists and eight players with at least one steal.

The balance extended to their scoring: seven Pistons reached double figures before the third quarter was out and all seven finished the game attempting between nine and 11 shots. It won’t be quite like that every night, of course, but it speaks to the formula likely to lead this team to its greatest potential. They don’t have a dominant scorer, but they have several capable of leading them on a given night.

Continue reading Deer Season>>

Posted Sunday, November 24, 2013

NEW YORK – There are many issues the Pistons have yet to resolve as they try to make a bunch of new pieces fit, but it certainly appears as if one thing is settled: When Rodney Stuckey comes off the bench, the offense is in his hands.

“He’s our go-to guy once he’s off the bench, no doubt about that,” Brandon Jennings said after he happily stepped aside and let Stuckey dominate in a brilliant second-half run as the Pistons won at Brooklyn 109-97 in a Sunday matinee. “He’s a big spark once he comes off the bench. He can score, he’s really strong and he takes a lot of pressure off everybody.”

Stuckey scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, leading the Pistons to their most productive half of the season. They outscored the Nets 65-46 after trailing at halftime, including a dominant 34-15 third quarter.

It was their defense that really lit the fuse, the Pistons forcing eight Brooklyn turnovers that led to 10 Detroit points in the quarter. Jennings scored 10 points in the third, scoring two layups off of Nets turnovers and knocking down all six of his free throws.

Continue reading Stuckey's Sunday >>

Posted Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mo Cheeks has a message for anyone studying the Pistons for signs of fissure or implosion: Nothing to see here, move along. And if he senses any residual frustration over the 4-8 start to a season of elevated expectations, well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“In terms of the way we think we should be better, yeah, there is such a thing as good frustration,” Cheeks said following Saturday’s practice, the day after a home loss to one of the teams the Pistons figure to be fighting for a playoff berth, Atlanta. “We’ve got good guys, good energy guys. Today was a good energy day. I don’t let ’em sulk. I don’t let that happen. And I told them, we’ll be better. Every day is a learning day, whether you win a game or lose a game. So we’ve got to learn things from it.”

Friday’s 96-89 loss sprung from a game that had a weird feel to it, the Pistons never really finding a rhythm yet managing to do enough to stay close and actually take the lead with less than four minutes to play before a rash of late turnovers undermined their chances.

Continue reading Mo: No Sulking >>

Posted Friday, November 22, 2013

For the few players who lingered in the locker room after the toughest loss to figure this season, the frustration and bewilderment was palpable after the Pistons fell 96-89 to Atlanta, a game that will be remembered as the one Josh Smith didn’t start.

“You can see by everybody’s face, nobody likes to lose,” Andre Drummond said. “It’s tough to swallow, but we’ve just got to get back to the drawing board. We can’t keep using the same excuse, that we’re a new team. We’re 12 games in now, so it comes down to us figuring things out and just coming together as one.”

They seemed like anything but a seamless unit from start to finish against Atlanta, and yet there they were, somehow ahead by a point with 3:30 to play despite suffering another shaky shooting night – last in the league in 3-point percentage, the Pistons dipped another notch by making 3 of 13 from the arc – and Maurice Cheeks tinkering with lineup combinations in search of one that might light a fire.

Continue reading A Stinging Loss >>

Posted Thursday, November 21, 2013

On one level, Mo Cheeks probably connects very easily to Peyton Siva. Siva spent four years in college, as Cheeks did more than three decades earlier at a time that was the norm, and came to the NBA with little expected of him as a second-round pick, just like Cheeks.

On another level, Cheeks holds a sophisticated opinion of what a point guard must bring to his team, based both on his innate feel for the position and a lifetime of observation both as player and coach. There’s no fooling Cheeks if you’re trying to catch his eye as a point guard.

Siva has clearly passed muster with the Pistons coach, who displayed his faith in the Louisville rookie each of the past two nights, turning to him in competitive games against Eastern Conference teams that figure to be competing for the same playoff spots the Pistons are eying.

Continue reading Staying Ready>>

Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On a 15-man team, the Pistons have dedicated more than a quarter of their roster spots to point guards. It was the one you won’t find there who saved them.

With Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum out again with leg injuries and Brandon Jennings’ night over early after he gave them 27 minutes while dealing with an upset stomach, the Pistons put the ball in Rodney Stuckey’s hands.

Pretty tidy line he put up, too, scoring 21 points and handing out five assists while making 8 of 14 shots and knocking down all five of his free throws. Stuckey scored 12 straight points as the Pistons stretched their lead from 64-59 late in the third quarter to 76-63 early in the fourth, then he ended the streak by penetrating and firing a perfect laser to set up an Andre Drummond dunk. That gave the Pistons a 15-point lead with 10 minutes to play.

When it got hairy, Carmelo Anthony leading the Knicks with 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to pull the Knicks within five points on three occasions, it was Stuckey who again made the plays that led to the 92-86 win, hitting two free throws and hitting Smith for another layup that both times pushed their lead back to seven.

Continue reading Back on Track>>

Posted Monday, November 18, 2013

The Pistons’ West Coast trip was a mixed bag, ultimately falling short of expectations. They snapped their 21-game road skid against Western Conference teams, yet couldn’t produce the four-game split that appeared within their reach until the Lakers pulled away in Sunday’s fourth quarter. Their season has been painted in similar strokes, some good and some bad, which is what you’d expect any team with playoff aspirations might say about a 3-6 record.

There are many good reasons to explain the record, of course, including an unusually top-heavy run of opponents, the rigors of an extended road trip and the backcourt injuries that scuttled their best intentions to use preseason to set chemistry.

Good teams rise above reasonable challenges, though, and the Pistons are already getting a little testy that they haven’t yet dispelled doubts they’ll prove to be a good team – a playoff team, and a feared opponent once they get there – with a little more than 10 percent of the season behind them.

In keeping with the good news-bad news theme of their season to date, here’s a quick look at three things that have gone right and three areas worthy of the Pistons’ attention as the season chugs along to the quarter pole.

Continue reading Mixed Results>>

Posted Sunday, November 17, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Their game, and the Pistons’ road trip, both ended the same way: with a thud. Both the Pistons and Lakers had one great offensive half. Somehow, that added up to a 15-point Pistons loss, ending their four-game road trip on a low after an exhilarating win at Sacramento two nights earlier.

The Pistons simply didn’t do enough with their 62 percent first half when they dominated in the paint. By halftime, all three of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith were on their way to double-doubles, having combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds. Only Drummond got there (14 points, 13 rebounds), and the double-double that leaps off the box score wasn’t Brandon Jennings’ 23 points and 14 assists – he scored 19 in the fourth quarter as the Pistons fought from 19 down – but the 24 points and 17 rebounds of Jordan Hill, both career bests.

For all the gaudy numbers the Pistons could point to on their side, it was Hill’s monster night, the 16 assists of Steve Blake and the 19 off the bench from Nick Young – especially the two triples late in the third quarter that sparked a 16-0 Los Angeles run – that told the story of a game the Pistons expected to win after Friday’s victory at Sacramento ended their Western Conference road drought.

Continue reading Flat Finish>>

Posted Saturday, November 16, 2013

LOS ANGELES – There was a bounce in the Pistons’ collective step Saturday as they walked across UCLA’s campus to get to the student gym where they would hold practice, the morning after their rousing win at Sacramento snapped a four-game losing streak, but nobody was lighter on his feet than Henry Bibby.

As a three-time national champion for John Wooden’s dynasty of the early ’70s, UCLA will always hold a special place in the heart of an 18-year-old kid from rural North Carolina who went to the other side of the country on a leap of faith and never imagined the impact it would have on the rest of his life.

“I didn’t have any idea what I was doing when I made the decision,” Bibby said, standing on the court not far from where Wooden’s old slate blackboard is encased in glass. “My family didn’t have any idea what I was doing and I don’t know how we came to this conclusion. But there is a God, I guess, and it put me on the right track to where I am today. I would never have gotten there without coming out here to UCLA.”

Continue reading Memory Lane>>

Posted Friday, November 15, 2013

On a night Sacramento set a contrived record for the world’s loudest indoor arena, it was the Pistons who spoke loudest.

Bearing the burden of not only a four-game losing streak against the cream of the NBA but a 21-game skid in road games against Western Conference opponents, the Pistons started strong and finished stronger in a 97-90 win over Sacramento. The Kings were coming off a 21-point crushing of Brooklyn two nights earlier and looking to give a jacked-up home crowd something to really holler about in addition to their 126-decibel outburst that earned an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. As good as Drummond was, Josh Smith’s name goes on the Pistons’ marquee for this one. After two subpar games to start their four-game road trip, Smith stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and four blocked shots.

Continue reading Pistons Snap Skid>>

Posted Friday, November 15, 2013

SACRAMENTO – Ben McLemore and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came out of high school in the same graduating class and were drafted on consecutive picks five months ago, so they’ll forever be linked. Their parallel paths probably will find another common link tonight at Sleep Train Arena, where the two NBA rookies appear headed for a matchup as starting shooting guards.

McLemore moved in Sacramento’s starting lineup in its most recent game, Wednesday’s rout of Brooklyn. Caldwell-Pope seems the favorite to make his first NBA start tonight for the Pistons, who will be without Chauncey Billups for at least one game as he recovers from a case of tendinitis in his left knee.

Maurice Cheeks said at Friday’s shootaround that he hadn’t yet decided between Caldwell-Pope and Stuckey for the starting job, but he said several times in discussing the choice that he liked how Stuckey has performed coming off the bench.

“KCP’s been good, but I like the way Stuckey plays coming off the bench,” Cheeks said. “I like his energy, I like his defense, I like his offense. … I’m comfortable with either guy.”

Continue reading Rookies Collide>>

Posted Thursday, November 14, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Maurice Cheeks wouldn’t tip his hand after Thursday’s practice as to potential lineup changes he said would be considered after the Pistons lost to Golden State on Tuesday. But he was perfectly willing to discuss the focal point of practice: defense.

“The whole practice,” he said. “You’re working on offense when you’re working on defense, but it was mostly trying to get out defense back intact.”

The Pistons have played a tougher schedule than 28 other NBA teams, based on winning percentage, and during their four-game losing streak they’ve played three worthy title contenders and teams mostly known for their offensive potency. Over those last four games, the Pistons have played teams with a cumulative winning percentage of .774. Aside from their most recent loss, an 18-point outcome, they’ve been competitive in every game despite their 2-5 record.

Continue reading Focus on Defense>>

Posted Wednesday, November 13, 2013

They might have named the NBA’s annual award for sportsmanship the Joe Dumars Trophy, but that doesn’t mean its namesake doesn’t understand that in creating a championship stew a few spicy ingredients are as necessary as the meat and potatoes.

When Joe D surveyed the landscape last summer, armed with $20 million in cap space, his first objective was to upgrade his roster’s talent level. But another consideration, as he gauged what else a roster filled with recent draft choices worthy of Boy Scout badges could use, was bringing in someone who’d know how to survive in the woods if the handbook got lost.

“This guy’s got an edge now,” Dumars said in July after signing Josh Smith. “And so, Boy Scout he is not. And I think that’s exactly what this team needs right now.”

Continue reading 'A Perfect Piston'>>

Posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013

OAKLAND – It’s not like the Pistons were unaware of the possibilities. Brandon Jennings warned of Golden State’s 3-point efficiency 24 hours earlier after Portland bombed 11 triples to put down a Pistons rally.

They knew all about the raucous Golden State crowd. They were equally aware it was their first back-to-back outing of the season. They probably knew that in Golden State’s two other home games this season, they led at some point by at least 27 points. And of course they knew about the millstone of their 20-game road losing streak to Western Conference teams.

So they knew what might happen. But they probably never imagined it would get that bad, that fast. And when the 113-95 outcome was mercifully over, the Pistons pointed the finger right at the mirror.

Continue reading One to Forget>>

Posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Even before Maurice Cheeks knew the composition of his roster, he said he wanted a team that forced turnovers and got easy points in transition. Then the Pistons signed Josh Smith to play small forward next to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, giving them one of the NBA’s most powerful frontcourts, and Cheeks naturally anticipated an offense that would do much of its damage near the rim.

That part of the blueprint couldn’t be hewing to form with much more accuracy. The Pistons lead the NBA in steals (10.2) per game, they’re No. 5 at forcing turnovers (18.2), No. 2 in fast-break points (18.2) and No. 1 at scoring in the paint (52.0).

But Cheeks also figured the big and athletic frontcourt would make the Pistons a formidable defensive team. And there’s still ample reason to believe that will be the case. They’ve only played six games and their four losses are to teams with a cumulative 21-7 record. Yet the numbers that show promise in their ability to create turnovers, score in transition and near the rim also paint a bleak picture of their defense so far.

Continue reading By the Numbers>>

Posted Monday, November 11, 2013

PORTLAND – If Portland was the frying pan, Golden State might be the fire.

The Pistons expected their defense to carry them while they figured out how best to use their jumbo frontcourt and how their new backcourt pieces would fit together offensively. For all the hand-wringing about their lack of perimeter shooting, offense simply hasn’t been the issue so far.

The Pistons started their four-game Western Conference road trip hovering in or very near the top 10 in offensive efficiency (eighth) and scoring (12th), but in or near the bottom third in points allowed (22nd) and defensive efficiency (19th).

Alas, those defensive numbers took a hit Monday at Portland, where the Blazers scored 107 points in the game’s first 44 minutes before the Pistons – maybe – figured ’em out. Portland was up 13 at that point. The Pistons rallied to pull within four and had two chances to get closer, but wound up losing 109-103.

Continue reading Just Short>>

Posted Monday, November 11, 2013

PORTLAND – Brandon Jennings spotted his teammates two games but still leads them in steals after five games with 10. Some people might be impressed by that. Mo Cheeks doesn’t figure to be one of them.

“He tells me all the time, he’s top five in steals in history,” Jennings laughed as the Pistons prepared to play Portland on Monday night to start a four-game trek down the Pacific Coast that ends Sunday night in Los Angeles. “I hear it every day.”

Indeed, Cheeks is No. 5 on the NBA’s all-time steals list, sandwiched between a virtual Mount Rushmore of NBA history: John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan and Gary Payton ahead of him; Scottie Pippen, Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon on his heels.

Continue reading Back in the Groove>>

Posted Sunday, November 10, 2013

Their fall term in its infancy, the Pistons are already staring at their final examination.

Five games into a regular season begun on the heels of a preseason that didn’t pass muster due to injuries, the Pistons next face the most severe test of an NBA team’s mettle: the extended road trip.

In the meat of Chauncey Billups’ first tour of Pistons duty, treks like the ones the Pistons embarked upon today – leaving for Portland, where they’ll launch a four-game trip spanning a week against the Trail Blazers on Monday night – were looked upon with relish. Those Pistons embraced the challenge of the road. Nothing satisfied them more than that moment when a hostile arena grew eerily still, the issue of superiority settled in the minds of the home team and their fans.

Continue reading Riddle of the Road >>

Posted Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tom Gores and Jalen Rose, sons of Michigan who’ve done well for themselves, are teaming up to do good for Detroit.

The Pistons owner and the former University of Michigan and NBA basketball star see a critical need for improving the lives of children who lack the support systems that allowed them to overcome their own humble beginnings, Gores near Flint and Rose in Detroit.

Rose launched the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy two years ago as a tuition-free public charter school in the heart of Detroit. This week, Gores and his wife Holly became the academy’s largest individual donor, Rose said, with a $250,000 gift that will go toward improving facilities and recruiting and retaining faculty and staff.

Continue reading A Major Assist >>

Posted Friday, November 8, 2013

The overtime loss at Memphis stung badly. A week later, it stings worse. The Pistons played three NBA title contenders in the season’s first 10 games, which explains while they’ll lug a 2-3 record with them to the West Coast to open a four-game road trek Monday at Portland.

Two or three months from now, maybe it won’t much matter. But in the here and now, a young team robbed by injury of the preseason acclimation process sure could have used the psyche massage that a winning record and a signature road win over a playoff-tested team like the Grizzlies would have provided.

As in Tuesday’s loss to Indiana – which remains the NBA’s lone unbeaten team, now at 6-0 – Oklahoma City led the majority of Friday’s game but never really seized control. The Pistons were four down with nine minutes to play despite a foul-plagued, low-impact game from Andre Drummond (four points, three boards, 23 minutes) and another wayward 3-point shooting night.

But just as Indiana’s Paul George kept making plays to keep them at bay, so did OKC’s Kevin Durant (37 points on only 15 shots, but 17 of 19 free throws) in a 119-110 win.

Continue reading Rolling Thunder >>

Posted Thursday, November 7, 2013

Oklahoma City won 23 games the year Philadelphia fired Maurice Cheeks 23 games into its season. The next year under Scott Brooks and his new lead assistant, Cheeks, the Thunder won 50 games.

It was Kevin Durant’s third year and Russell Westbrook’s second, that 2009-10 season, and Cheeks will be the first to tell you that the radical U-turn OKC navigated had much more to do with their transcendent talents than did the addition of an assistant coach.

But down in Oklahoma City, which comes to The Palace on Friday night, they’ll tell you Cheeks’ steady hand helped nurture their young stars and moved them down the path to stardom at an accelerated pace. His presence – the calming aura Cheeks projects – struck just the right note with players who already possessed the drive required of greatness.

Continue reading Mo-KC >>

Posted Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Maurice Cheeks faced a quandary. He needed more shooting in his lineup, he knew that much, and he was pretty sure that nobody offered more of it than Gigi Datome. But how to find minutes for him?

Josh Smith was the prize of Pistons free agency over a transformational summer and his ability to affect games across the spectrum – scoring, playmaking, defending, rebounding – puts him in line for major minutes. Kyle Singler endeared himself to Cheeks from the first day of training camp with his sheer hustle, basketball IQ, size at his position and defensive temperament.

That didn’t leave many minutes – or any, really – for Datome, who came to the Pistons from Italy pigeon-holed as a small forward.

So it was more than a little noteworthy when Cheeks summoned Datome late in the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss to Indiana and sent him back out to start the second along with Singler and Andre Drummond up front. Even though Singler played shooting guard as a rookie until the trade of Tayshaun Prince, the Pistons drafted him viewing him as a small forward who could swing to power forward in the right matchups.

Continue reading The Gigi Twist >>

Posted Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The easy answer is Indiana shot it better than the Pistons. Way better. And especially better from the 3-point line. In a game the Pacers – the NBA’s last unbeaten team at 4-0 – would win by eight points, they outscored the Pistons by 12 from the 3-point line. And they took four fewer shots from the arc to do it.

So that’s the easy answer. That and Paul George, who looked every bit worth the maximum contract the Pacers handed him in the off-season. He scored 31 points and he did it effortlessly on a night, pitting two of the league’s brawniest teams, when others required Herculean feats to score.

The tougher answers will be the ones the Pistons spend the season’s remaining 78 games trying to get to. They’ve had fewer games together than the Pacers have had seasons as a core. Brandon Jennings started his first game after preseason was a complete washout for him. Greg Monroe is the only holdover starter from a year ago. For the many ways these teams resemble each other, the familiarity edge goes to Indiana by landslide.

Continue reading Pacers Pull Away >>

Posted Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And then there was one.

After Monday night losses by Philadelphia, Minnesota and Houston, the NBA’s lone remaining unbeaten team – the Indiana Pacers – puts its record on the line tonight.

At The Palace.

The Pacers, who took Miami to seven games in last spring’s Eastern Conference finals, are led offensively by Paul George, a fourth-year player who received a five-year maximum contract extension over the off-season in keeping with his emerging superstar status. George comes into tonight’s game tied for fifth in the NBA in scoring at 25.7 per game.

Continue reading Last Man Standing>>

Posted Monday, November 4, 2013

There aren’t many NBA statistics after three games that deserve your trust, but you can take this one to the bank: It’s no fluke that the NBA defensive leader in scoring and field-goal percentage in the first week is the one coming to The Palace on Tuesday night, the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana’s first three opponents averaged 83.7 points and shot 37.9 percent. In Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George, the Pacers have one of the NBA’s few frontcourts that won’t come into games against the Pistons this season fretting about being overpowered in the paint.

In fact, Tuesday’s game will be a classic case of irresistible force vs. immovable object. Through three games, the Pistons are No. 2 in the NBA in points in the paint at a whopping 55.3 points a game, just 0.7 behind the surprising Philadelphia 76ers. At the other end of the spectrum, Indiana is No. 1 in fewest points in the paint allowed, 30 per game.

Continue reading Power vs. Power>>

Posted Sunday, November 3, 2013

Maurice Cheeks never came out and said that Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey were ticketed to be his starting backcourt. But if you read between the lines through the first week of training camp, that’s where the Pistons sure appeared to be headed.

Two nights after Stuckey returned from a 23-day absence due to a broken thumb and on the night Jennings came back off of a 25-day break to let his fractured jaw heal, it became all but official.

Neither Jennings nor Stuckey started in the 87-77 win over Boston, but both finished. They finished Boston strong, too, Jennings playing the last 17:33 and Stuckey the final 16:51 straight after entering the game midway through the third quarter. It wasn’t often pretty, except when the Pistons were pounding the ball inside to a frontcourt that again flashed signs of dominance, and they again committed way too many turnovers: 21, leading to 27 Boston points and allowing the Celtics to erase a 15-point third-quarter deficit.

But they also forced nine turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, spearheaded by Jennings and Stuckey’s backcourt pressure. Jennings had three of his four steals in the final quarter, Stuckey one of his three, and they forced three straight Boston turnovers in a critical late stretch after the Celtics – who went ahead by two points after a 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter, then fell behind by eight when the Pistons ripped off 10 straight points – cut their deficit to two points. The Pistons finished the game on an 8-0 run after that.

Continue reading Pistons Power Past Celtics>>

Posted Saturday, November 2, 2013

You’re tempted to say Brandon Jennings is chomping at the bit to make his Pistons debut, but two days removed from having his jaw unwired he’s not yet chomping on much.

“It’s just a process,” he said following Saturday’s Pistons practice the morning after their overtime loss at Memphis that left them both emotionally gutted and encouraged for their future. “When you have a broken jaw, you can’t just come back and start chewing everything. I’m still eating soft food right now.”

What he’s seen from his teammates over their first two games is something Jennings would love to sink his teeth into. And he hopes to start doing so as soon as Sunday night’s game against Boston, when the Pistons will break out their new Motor City alternate uniforms. Whether he’ll play will be a game-time decision, he said.

Continue reading Jennings Almost There>>

Posted Friday, November 1, 2013

If the Pistons put themselves in position to win on the road against NBA title-worthy teams and it comes down to Chauncey Billups at the free-throw line and the 3-point line, well, they’re going to win a lot of games this season.

He missed a free throw that would’ve put the Pistons up five with 52 seconds left and a triple at the buzzer that forced overtime and Memphis won, 111-108 in overtime. It was the kind of loss that stings, but it was also the kind of loss that forged the souls of the Goin’ to Work Pistons in Billups’ first go-around with the Pistons.

“Both,” Billups said when I asked him if the takeaway from the game was letting a big road win wiggle off the hook or a huge measuring stick performance from a young team whose knees would have buckled a year ago when Memphis took the game’s first double-digit lead, 10 points, midway through the third quarter.

Instead, the Pistons led by two before the third quarter was out and by six with 1:09 to play after a Josh Smith triple.

“We definitely let this game get away,” Billups said. “Oh, man. This kind of game just sits on you. You hate to lose like this. You’re in control, but it happens. It’s the NBA. You’ve just got to learn from it. You’ve got to learn – be better, execute down the stretch, take care of the ball. With all of that, you have a shot to win it, a shot we wanted. I didn’t knock it down, but that’s basketball. That’s how it goes.”

Continue reading Ousted in Overtime >>

Posted Friday, November 1, 2013

MEMPHIS – The Pistons have weathered the bizarre run of preseason injuries to their backcourt about as well as they could have hoped. Without anticipated starters Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings in the opener, they held off Washington to win. Tonight they get Stuckey back. And if all goes well Sunday, Jennings will join him.

Jennings has been fitted with a protective mask, one that extends past his jawline to protect the hairline fracture discovered more than two weeks ago when he was experiencing pain relating to an impacted wisdom tooth. Maurice Cheeks said, “I think we’re going to figure it out tomorrow and see what his status is and see when he’s available. If all goes well, possibly Sunday.”

Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum will remain the starters tonight at Memphis, Cheeks said. But Stuckey will come in first off the bench at guard, a role filled in the season-opening win by rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Continue reading Bolstered Backcourt >>

Posted Friday, November 01, 2013

Memphis, home of the blues, might as well also be home of the blueprint for the Pistons.

Built around their dominant frontcourt tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies won 56 games last season, reached the Western Conference finals and enter the 2013-14 season as among the half-dozen or so most legitimate NBA title contenders.

In considering the possibilities ahead of him for playing alongside Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe spent a chunk of his summer studying Randolph in particular. In plotting his playbook after being hired by the Pistons last June, Maurice Cheeks consulted longtime friend Lionel Hollins and wound up hiring Henry Bibby, an ex-Philadelphia 76ers teammate who was on Hollins’ staff in Memphis before the Grizzlies made a coaching change following their playoff loss to San Antonio.

Continue reading Memphis Blueprint >>

Posted Thursday, October 31, 2013

All those butterflies Kentavious Caldwell-Pope admitted were fluttering in his belly as he anticipated the whirlwind of his first night as an NBA basketball player were calmed, if just a little, by a familiar face on the opposite bench.

The latest in a line of lottery picks who’ve enabled the Pistons to hasten their rebuilding, Caldwell-Pope played 27 minutes in Wednesday’s opening night win over Washington, much of them spent guarding a player he first met long before they would become McDonald’s All-American teammates in the spring of 2011 and then departed for competing SEC schools.

But Bradley Beal was targeted as a one-and-done player even before launching his first 3-point basket at Florida, while Caldwell-Pope needed to prove his merits to NBA scouts for all of his two seasons at rival Georgia.

Continue reading What a Start >>

Posted Wednesday, October 30, 2013

America turns its clocks back Saturday night, but as with most aspects of life Chauncey Billups is a few steps ahead of everyone else.

Mr. Big Shot ratcheted the clock back six or seven years in his first game that counts at The Palace since being traded away in November 2008, not only making big shots but infusing a team bristling with promise but aching for his leadership with the confidence to withstand the kind of late runs commonplace in the NBA.

“Feels like home. Feels like old times,” Billups said of hearing The Palace roar to life after a huge fourth-quarter triple, of which he dropped two in and around more subtle moments every bit as critical to the 113-102 opening night win over Washington. “It felt good. The energy in this building sounded familiar. I hadn’t seen that in a while around here. It felt really good. We fed off of that.”

Continue reading What a Start >>

Posted Wednesday, October 30, 2013

If the season goes the way Tom Gores envisions it, there’ll be a lot more celebrations just like the kind that erupted when Josh Smith’s buzzer 3-pointer beat Washington in the preseason finale at The Palace. And he’ll be there to high-five players more often than not.

“I was behind the scenes in many ways the first couple of years,” the Pistons owner said before Wednesday’s season opener, his third since buying the team. “Trust me, I’ve spent so much time on the Pistons. My house is consumed with it, my family is consumed with it, I’m consumed with it. The first few years were really transition time and a lot behind the scenes, and I feel like now that things have developed, it’s time for me to be here.”

Planning for the summer of 2013 began virtually from the moment Gores purchased the Pistons two years earlier and picked up momentum with the June 2012 trade that sent Ben Gordon’s contract to Charlotte, opening the way for the $20 million-plus in cap space the Pistons carried into July. They used it to sign Josh Smith in free agency and acquire Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups and Gigi Datome.

Gores said those signings showed something about the Pistons and opened eyes, even among his inner circle.

Continue reading Gores: ‘We Want to Win Now’ >>

Posted Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It wouldn’t quite reflect the Pistons’ preseason to say Maurice Cheeks didn’t extract all the answers he’d hoped to get out of it. It would be more accurate to say Cheeks barely had time to ask the questions before Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey and Gigi Datome went on the injured list.

With Jennings and Stuckey ruled out for tonight’s season opener with Washington – Stuckey, after this morning’s shootaround, said he would be ready for Friday’s game at Memphis – Cheeks will start Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum at guard. That has enormous ripple effects on the rotation Cheeks might have anticipated, of course, though getting Stuckey back before the week is out and Jennings perhaps as soon as a week from now would restore order quickly.

But the Pistons go into the opener feeling confident that even if they don’t know all they’d like to about themselves, they can confidently state the following:

Continue reading Ready to Roll >>

Posted Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If you’ve ever put together a jigsaw puzzle, you know the frustration of getting close to finishing only to discover a few missing pieces. Now imagine putting it together without an idea of what the finished product looks like.

Maurice Cheeks had a few months to contemplate how he would utilize eight new pieces handed to him by Joe Dumars, but the NBA demands the puzzle be completed by 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and he’s still scrambling to figure out what form the completed picture should take.

What’s certain is that Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond will start in the frontcourt. Drummond will be the first to come out of the game, probably with about four minutes left in the first and third quarters. He’ll likely be replaced by Kyle Singler, nudging Smith to power forward and Monroe to center.

Continue reading Decisions, Decisions >>

Posted Monday, October 28, 2013

The Pistons might not get Rodney Stuckey back in time for Wednesday’s season opener, but they know it won’t be long before he’s in the lineup. Brandon Jennings should follow in short order, hopefully before the first week of November closes.

The Pistons knew from the moment they signed Josh Smith last July that the frontcourt of Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond would be their bedrock. Until their backcourt is fully reloaded, the Pistons will lean on those three even more than they anticipated.

Continue reading Frontcourt Fit >>

Posted Sunday, October 27, 2013

The status of their backcourt has dominated Pistons health concerns, obscuring the absence of a player 99 percent of their fans have never seen and know little about. But Gigi Datome’s ability to penetrate their consciousness could take a dramatic turn for the better as soon as Monday.

He’ll test the foot that began bothering him during September’s EuroBasket tournament, in which he played 11 games as the offensive focal point of the Italian national team, and the hamstring he clutched at during the Oct. 5 open practice the Pistons held at The Palace, the only fleeting glimpse fans have had of the 6-foot-8 Italian league MVP who comes to the Pistons with a reputation as a remarkable shooter. And if they feel as good as they felt on Sunday, he’ll plunge into his first full practice in more than three weeks.

“If everything is OK, I practice a whole practice,” he said. “If not, I’ll step out when my body will tell me. There is no rush. I want to come back at the right moment, for sure as fast as possible, but if you rush this stuff maybe you’re going to become a bigger problem later. So better to listen to my body and wait for the right moment.”

Continue reading Gigi Getting Close >>

Posted Saturday, October 26, 2013

It won’t appear on their lengthy injury report, but the Pistons these days are sporting a stiff upper lip. Their goal of incorporating eight new players into a cohesive unit was undermined less than a week into training camp. By the 10-day mark the availability of their expected starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey for the season opener was imperiled.

They got a dose of relatively good news on Saturday, though, when Stuckey – who had his thumb X-rayed and re-examined on Friday, two days after breaking the tip of it by slamming it in his car door – was cleared for limited basketball activities. Stuckey, now wearing a hard plastic splint over the end of the thumb, which he said he wouldn’t wear when playing, wouldn’t rule out being ready for the opener. It will come down to his pain tolerance and the functionality of the thumb.

Maurice Cheeks said he wouldn’t necessarily have to see Stuckey go through a five-on-five practice before using him in a game, but would prefer it. The Pistons have three more days of practice scheduled before the opener.

Continue reading A Dose of Good News >>

Posted Friday, October 25, 2013

Among the half-dozen or so attributes that elevates Andre Drummond to the 99th percentile of the world’s 7-footers in athleticism is his sideline-to-sideline quickness. What will elevate him to a similar stratosphere in the pantheon of NBA centers is that he’s every bit as quick from ear to ear. For the many ways he’s impressed the Pistons in the 16 months since they drafted him, his mental acuity ranks right near the top of the list.

Combine his quick-study proclivity with his work ethic and you get the week over week gains Drummond has put into evidence. The leap the Piston saw from him from Summer League to training camp to the regular season a year ago exceeded their hopes for him, which were already considerable.

And that’s why that while the Pistons aren’t banking on Drummond to develop into a go-to scorer at any time in the immediate future, neither would they be surprised if he assumes such a role well ahead of anyone’s timetable

Continue reading Quick Study>>

Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It might be playing out on a level a few planes below Andre Drummond’s, but the nascent career arc of Tony Mitchell’s is following the same trail: impressive but raw in Summer League, progress made in the intervening months before training camp, flashing signs in preseason that the part of the sky his outrageous athleticism allows him to touch is the only limit.

After watching Mitchell in Orlando three months ago, Joe Dumars said, “The word for Tony Mitchell is intriguing. He’s an exceptional athlete, but Tony also has a good feel for the game.” He also said, “We can bring Tony along and not have to rush him and allow him to grow and learn and figure things out.”

A few months later, just before training camp opened and he’d seen Mitchell working with Rasheed Wallace in the team’s practice facility, Dumars said, “There’s no rush to throw him out there, but I think Tony’s going to compete. He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to just stand at the back of the line and wait. I think he’s going to try to fight his way out there to see if he can get minutes.”

Continue reading Mitchell's Mission>>

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If Chauncey Billups could have scripted it, he might have done it just the way Tuesday’s seventh preseason game played out. Big lead, big collapse, now … let’s find out about ourselves.

“I was kind of happy it was a tie game with six minutes to go,” he said after the Pistons held on for a 99-96 win over Washington after losing every inch of a 22-point halftime lead. “That’s how you learn. You learn to execute and slow down and make the right plays when the game’s on the line, not necessarily when you’re up 18.”

Indeed, if the Pistons could take their sublime first half – when they shot 67 percent and assisted on 22 of 26 baskets – and their poised finish and forget about the messy 18 minutes in between, it was a beautiful night.

Continue reading Pistons Hold On >>

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Pistons came into training camp with three broad evaluations to be made with regard to Maurice Cheeks’ playing rotation to carry into the regular season. Now down to the final two preseason games on which to base that evaluation – the two games Cheeks declared last week to be his targeted dress rehearsals – in appears likely that they’ll go into next week’s season opener with 2½ of those evaluations still incomplete.

That pushes some or all of the following decisions into the regular season:

Whittling the backcourt to four contributors – Rookie Peyton Siva was always a long shot to crack the rotation, given the three veteran point guards ahead of him in the pecking order. But lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – because of his ideal size and defensive and 3-point-shooting potential – was at least a candidate to unseat one of the four veteran guards available to Cheeks.

Continue reading Preseason: Incomplete >>

Posted Monday, October 21, 2013

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has taken his job title – shooting guard – to heart, leading the Pistons in shot attempts until Greg Monroe nudged ahead of him by one in Sunday’s game at Orlando, the sixth of the preseason. The Pistons love everything they’ve learned about their 2013 lottery pick since choosing him eighth last June – his defense, his motor, his character and his commitment – and they’re unshaken in their belief that his shot will eventually fall.

But first they know he needs to take a deep breath, slow down a little and exercise a tad more discretion regarding the quality of shot he’s taking.

“He’s just trying to find his way because he really is a good shooter,” said Chauncey Billups, who’s counseled Caldwell-Pope and spent time watching videotape with him, reviewing his shot selection. “As I’m trying to tell him, good shooters take good shots.”

Maurice Cheeks, whose great gift as a point guard was setting up shooters in their sweet spots, also has talked to Caldwell-Pope about the importance of choosing shots wisely.

Continue reading Learning Curve >>

Posted Monday, October 21, 2013

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has taken his job title – shooting guard – to heart, leading the Pistons in shot attempts until Greg Monroe nudged ahead of him by one in Sunday’s game at Orlando, the sixth of the preseason. The Pistons love everything they’ve learned about their 2013 lottery pick since choosing him eighth last June – his defense, his motor, his character and his commitment – and they’re unshaken in their belief that his shot will eventually fall.

But first they know he needs to take a deep breath, slow down a little and exercise a tad more discretion regarding the quality of shot he’s taking.

“He’s just trying to find his way because he really is a good shooter,” said Chauncey Billups, who’s counseled Caldwell-Pope and spent time watching videotape with him, reviewing his shot selection. “As I’m trying to tell him, good shooters take good shots.”

Maurice Cheeks, whose great gift as a point guard was setting up shooters in their sweet spots, also has talked to Caldwell-Pope about the importance of choosing shots wisely.

Continue reading Learning Curve >>

Posted Sunday, October 20, 2013

ORLANDO – If bad things indeed happen in threes, the Pistons can exhale. On top of Rodney Stuckey breaking his thumb by getting it caught in his car door and Brandon Jennings suffering a fractured jaw courtesy of an impacted wisdom tooth, food poisoning took down Will Bynum. Tack on Chauncey Billups taking a scheduled maintenance day off and Maurice Cheeks was down to two healthy guards for the sixth preseason game Sunday night at Orlando, rookies Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva.

Hey, at least it made his decision-making process pretty easy.

Cheeks tried to give Siva, the only one available with any meaningful point guard experience, a short rest early in the second quarter. In three possessions, the Pistons committed two turnovers and missed a shot rushed as the shot clock was winding down. Their eight-point lead shrunk to three and one minute later, Cheeks rushed Siva back into the game.

Continue reading Caught Short >>

Posted Saturday, October 19, 2013

Upon further review, maybe all the hand-wringing over Greg Monroe’s transition to power forward was for naught.

Most of the analysis of Monroe’s move focused on how he’d adapt defensively, specifically how he’d cope guarding “stretch fours” – the burgeoning crop of power forwards comfortable shooting 3-pointers.

Monroe got a major dose of it in the Pistons’ second preseason game when Miami started Shane Battier at the position, but the Heat are more the exception than the rule.

Continue reading Big vs. Small >>

Posted Friday, October 18, 2013

The Pistons are still figuring out exactly what role Chauncey Billups will play this year. Does he start or come off the bench? Will he function as the point guard or play off the ball next to Brandon Jennings or Will Bynum?

And while those aren’t trifling decisions, in a larger sense they won’t really affect the substance of what Billups will provide. He’ll be the guiding force in how the team harmonizes away from the basketball court and he’ll provide a sense of order for them whenever and however he’s used over the course of 48 minutes.

But his return to action Thursday night at Cleveland – after taking three games off as he sets his own path during his 17th NBA preseason – had one subtle yet important effect on how Maurice Cheeks employed the players expected to fill out the rest of his rotation.

Continue reading One Healthy Return >>

Posted Thursday, October 17, 2013

CLEVELAND – The Pistons were down 13-8 midway through Thursday’s first quarter. Two possessions later, they were up 14-13 on 3-point baskets from Josh Smith and Will Bynum. The passes that set them up were fairly unremarkable, elegant only in their simplicity. They had one other thing in common. Both were delivered by Chauncey Billups.

“That’s just kind of my game,” Mr. Big Shot said after returning from a three-game absence as he sets his own pace in his 17th NBA preseason. “Even though I never played baseball, my motto is just to hit singles. Make the game easy. I’ve never been the home run type of player. But I believe that when I play that way, it’s contagious. You make the easy play as opposed to making the home run play. Hopefully, these guys will take heed of that and say let’s everybody play like that.”

The Pistons made too many tough plays look tortuous in their 96-84 loss to Cleveland, turning the ball over 22 times. The Cavs turned their miscues into 29 points, 12 in the fourth quarter when they outscored the Pistons 26-17. Billups was responsible for only two of the turnovers despite logging 28 minutes, 17 in the first half.

Continue reading Cold in Cleveland >>

Posted Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sometime between 90 and 120 minutes before tipoff of every NBA game, head coaches are obligated to meet with reporters. In smaller markets where the home team is scantily covered, those sessions usually don’t amount to much. In media-saturated markets – New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles – they take on a different tone.

That’s where many writers assigned not to a single team but to the league at large call home base. And so when Maurice Cheeks met the media before Wednesday night’s game at Chicago, there was a fair amount of national NBA writers swooping in to take the temperature of a Pistons team that offers compelling new storylines – Andre Drummond’s ascension, the free-agent additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and, of course, how Drummond, Smith and Greg Monroe will manage to simultaneously thrive in an oversized frontcourt.

Somebody asked Cheeks about the training camp battle at shooting guard – the only starting position seemingly up for grabs, when everyone’s healthy.

Continue reading Battles Deferred >>

Posted Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CHICAGO – Maurice Cheeks wants the Pistons to force turnovers, pressure for 94 feet, play constricting half-court defense otherwise and get out and run. The Chicago Bulls gave his team a working seminar in his preferred style during brilliant stretches of basketball Wednesday night at the United Center.

A full house came mainly to see the return of Derrick Rose, playing before the home crowd for the first time since shredding his knee in the 2011 playoffs, and that contributed to an unusual preseason atmosphere. Rose is back, all right – he had 18 points on just six shots, hitting 9 of 10 free throws, in 14 first-half minutes and finished with 22 points in 22 minutes – and the Bulls are again the gold standard in the Central Division.

“He looked like the old Rose is what he looked like to me, the old Rose,” Cheeks said. “One time he got in front of our bench, got a handoff from somebody and two, three dribbles, he was at the rim. He didn’t look like he lost a stop to me. He was as quick as he’s ever been.”

For the Pistons to challenge the Bulls this season, they’ll need to develop the type of defensive cohesion and mind-set Chicago has manufactured over time since adding Rose and hiring Tom Thibodeau five seasons ago. It’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t happen overnight and is especially elusive when a team is without its top three guards, as the Pistons again were missing Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey and Chauncey Billups.

Continue reading Bull-Rushed >>

Posted Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If freak injuries happen in threes, the dwindling number of healthy Pistons guards better avoid black cats, ladders and all other symbols of doom and superstition.

Within a few minutes last week, the Pistons got news of Rodney Stuckey slamming the tip of his right thumb in his car door and Brandon Jennings experiencing stabbing tooth pain. Turns out Stuckey had a broken thumb that required surgery and the insertion of a screw and Jennings, the team announced Tuesday afternoon, has an impacted wisdom tooth and a hairline fracture of the jawbone at the base of that tooth.

Stuckey will have an X-ray taken at the end of next week, two weeks removed from his surgery, while Jennings will be immobilized for three weeks and re-evaluated at that time.

Continue reading Banged-Up Backcourt >>

Posted Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If Rodney Stuckey makes it back for opening night, as the Pistons legitimately hope, and Brandon Jennings’ lingering issue with his wisdom teeth resolves itself, then they won’t have to rely on this year’s lottery pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to nearly the same extent as they did on Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond before him.

And second-round rookies Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva happen to play at the two deepest positions on the team, power forward and point guard.

So it could be a while before the results of the 2013 draft come into evidence. But the Pistons feel like they went 3-for-3 on draft night based on early returns.

Continue reading Rookies Rising >>

Posted Monday, October 14, 2013

When Flip Saunders arrived to take over the Pistons from Larry Brown, he scanned his roster and fairly salivated at the thought of employing the zone defense schemes he learned at the feet of his college coach, Bill Musselman, via a five-man Pistons unit peppered with All-Defense candidates.

There was only one problem.

“We looked at it like, ‘We don’t need that. We’re just going to stop ’em,’ ” Chauncey Billups recalls. “We were always such a great one-on-one team. Obviously, this team is a little different. This team is a lot more athletic than we ever were.”

Continue reading Zoned In >>

Posted Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Pistons, nearly halfway through the preseason and just 17 days away from the season opener, are beginning to see the outline of their likely playing rotation come into focus.

There are a few certainties that won’t be much affected by the final five preseason games. Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings are virtual locks to be in the starting lineup Oct. 30 when Washington opens the regular season at The Palace. Chauncey Billups will play a significant role, either as the starter next to Jennings or coming off the bench at either guard spot.

Rodney Stuckey likely would have been the starter next to Jennings, based on Cheeks’ praise for him as the team’s best defender, before breaking his thumb last week. He had surgery on Friday to repair a broken distal phalanx – in layman’s terms, the tip of his thumb – and the Pistons announced he’ll wear a splint and be evaluated in two weeks. If all goes well, there’s a fair chance Stuckey could be back in time for the regular-season opener.

Beyond that, here are three players who have solidified their status in the first two weeks of training camp:

Continue reading In or Out >>

Posted Saturday, October 12, 2013

NEW YORK – Andre Drummond went to the foul line three times in the first quarter at Brooklyn, which employed a Hack-a-Dre strategy against him in Summer League, and made all three.

The NBA winced.

The Pistons threw the ball into Drummond, mid-post to the right of the basket, midway through the second quarter, with massive Brook Lopez guarding him. Drummond turned and coolly flicked in a 10-foot hook shot.

The NBA shuddered.

Drummond wreaked his share of havoc as an NBA rookie despite a limited role in which his offensive post game was non-existent and his foul shooting was execrable.

And the Pistons would live with holes in those parts of his game as long as he still dunked, rebounded, blocked shots and provided a generally menacing presence. But he’s showing signs of becoming more than just a dominant specialist.

“It’s amazing,” Maurice Cheeks said of Drummond’s superb second-quarter stretch in which he scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds, collected two steals and blocked a shot as the Pistons, now 2-1, took the lead and went on to a 99-88 win over Brooklyn before a packed Barclays Center crowd ready to cheer on the refortified Nets.

Continue reading Pistons Snip the Nets >>

Posted Saturday, October 12, 2013

When Joe Dumars took over the Pistons 13 years ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were the reigning NBA superpower, having lured Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent to join a precocious hot-shot named Kobe Bryant. While every other team in the league searched for a superstar duo to match the Lakers strength for strength, Joe D was busy mining the draft, trade and free agency routes to put together a team that within four years of his ascension to Pistons president would beat those Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals.

His thinking: Unless I find two better than Shaq and Kobe, that’s not a realistic formula.

The NBA is a copycat league, always has been. Today’s reigning power is the Miami Heat, who came to The Palace this week as two-time defending NBA champions, a team assembled in one day three years ago when Pat Riley signed LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in free agency.

What works for the Heat is surrounding those three with shooting, placing an ever greater premium on 3-point marksmen. Good luck to the franchise building off of that model, though, unless it starts the construction with someone in James’ stratosphere at the core of it.

Continue reading The View from Miami >>

Posted Friday, October 11, 2013

When Kyle Singler checks into games this season, he’ll almost always be playing with two of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe or Josh Smith up front. Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are on board since Singler’s rookie season ended.

It doesn’t take Singler’s Duke bachelor’s degree to acknowledge the talent around him is up dramatically over last year, which Singler split between starting at shooting guard and small forward.

The Pistons believe Singler will be a better player in year two, in part because of the unexpectedly heavy work load he won as a rookie but even more because they see in Singler a player who performs better when he’s surrounded by talented players.

Continue reading Singular Singler>>

Posted Thursday, October 10, 2013

Remember when the Pistons had a crowded backcourt? Like, two days ago? The ranks were thinned, swiftly and bizarrely, in the hours leading to Thursday’s second preseason game with Miami, a 112-107 loss despite huge games by Andre Drummond and Will Bynum.

First came news that Rodney Stuckey broke the tip of his right thumb when it was smashed against his car’s door jamb Wednesday. He’ll undergo surgery on Friday. The Pistons gave no timetable for his return, though when Stuckey broke his hand in the preseason as a rookie he missed about eight weeks. A typical time frame for a broken bone is six to eight weeks, but the Pistons will know more after Friday’s scheduled surgery.

Also unavailable to Maurice Cheeks against Miami were Brandon Jennings (discomfort from a wisdom tooth), Peyton Siva (a lingering calf injury that has caused him to miss all of training camp) and Chauncey Billups, whom Cheeks said would pick and choose which preseason games he would skip. Billups played 20 minutes in Tuesday’s opener.

Continue reading Heat Hang On >>

Posted Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Pistons have five guards, each offering Maurice Cheeks something a little different, for four spots in his rotation. That means somebody from the group of Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is destined to be on the outside looking in.

“You can’t,” Cheeks said of squeezing all five into the rotation. “How can you do it? I don’t think you can do it. It wouldn’t be fair to the guys that are playing.”

Jennings is the likely starter at point guard and Billups offers shooting and game management hard to replace. It might not be conclusive of anything that they lined up as the starters in Tuesday’s preseason opener, but neither should it be dismissed. They’re the two surest to include in Cheeks’ four-guard rotation.

You can pretty much move Rodney Stuckey into the same category, based on Cheeks’ unsolicited praise of him after Wednesday’s practice.

“All I can say is that Stuckey has been … concepts, the way he’s played, has been very good,” Cheeks said. “Very conscientious of the things we’ve been doing. It would be easy for me to say that he’s probably been the best defensively, in terms of knowing where to be, what to do. Defensively, he’s been very good.”

Continue reading 5 Guards, 4 Spots >>

Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It was three minutes into the third quarter and a good hour after the Pistons had safely tucked away their first preseason win. Nursing a 29-point lead, they dug in for another adventurous Maccabi Haifi possession, which ended in a turnover 14 times in the first quarter alone.

Two ball reversals and three options blunted, Haifa found Brian Randle along the baseline about 20 feet from the basket. Josh Smith, in precisely the spot required, sprinted out from the block to challenge the shot, which fell meekly into the hands of a teammate.

If the Pistons are going to play defense with that much effort and that much commitment to their assignments, they can get away with at least a few of the offensive inefficiences and perceived weaknesses some expect after their summer roster makeover.

“We’ve got to be long and athletic and that’s what we were doing,” said Smith, headliner along with Brandon Jennings of the eight new players Joe Dumars added to the roster since last season. “We were keeping those guys out of our paint, affecting shots if they got in there and when they did, we were trying to limit them to one shot and get out and run.”

Continue reading Pistons Ride Defense >>

Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Teams don’t spend much time scouting the opposition in preseason, focusing instead on their own training camp experimentation with the playbook and lineup combinations. That goes double for tonight’s Pistons preseason opener against a completely foreign opponent, Israeli Super League reigning champion Maccabi Haifa.

Since that June win over the dynastic Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise – Will Bynum’s old team – Haifa has lost its star point guard, Gal Mekel, to the Dallas Mavericks and on Monday night lost 130-89 at Phoenix before a police escort to the airport and a commercial flight to Detroit.

“I don’t know anything about ’em, but we’re mostly going to focus on ourselves,” Maurice Cheeks said. “That’s what I’m going to do in these preseason games, focus on the things we’re trying to do as opposed to worrying whether they run 20 screen and rolls or 30 down screens. We’re going to try to do the things we’re capable of doing.”

Continue reading Billups to Start>>

Posted Monday, October 7, 2013

A half-dozen Pistons wrapped up Monday’s practice with a spot shooting competition from around the 3-point arc. Chauncey Billups smoked the field, a nod to not just his acknowledged shooting prowess but to his competitive streak and ability to embrace a challenge.

They’re the qualities that propelled him to leadership and made him an attractive target in free agency when Joe Dumars, after refortifying his roster, knew what was still missing was what Billups offered in volume – the ability to project a confident aura amid the chaos of an NBA season or a game down to its critical final possessions.

That’s why he’s likelier to finish games than to start them, where it would be more difficult to keep a 37-year-old’s minutes in check. And Billups expects to be on the court to shepherd a young team rippling with athleticism and potential through those turbulent moments. “Yeah, absolutely,” he said Monday. But if he’s not, well …

“One thing I will tell you, if I’m not, I’m just not,” he said. “Ain’t no riff. No big deal. Hopefully, we win it and no big deal. I’m not going to ruffle no feathers. I’m not here for that.”

Continue reading Still a Big Shot>>

Posted Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Pistons found out a few things about themselves in the opening week of training camp, but there’s only so much to be learned in an intramural setting. This week, they get to beat up on somebody else, and the variety of opponent will stretch their boundaries in a hurry.

From Israeli league member Maccabi Haifi on Tuesday to the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Thursday, both at The Palace, the Pistons will face opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of style and athleticism. Their week will end with a trip to Brooklyn to face a Nets team fortified with ex-Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Both Miami and Brooklyn figure to have very stable starting units and nearly established rotations. For the Pistons, starting jobs and rotation spots are on the line. Here are three issues that should start to come into focus for the Pistons in the week ahead.

Continue reading Week 2: Looking Forward>>

Posted Saturday, October 5, 2013

They’re a long way from an open book just yet, but Saturday’s open practice at least revealed a few things to the estimated 5,000 fans who showed up at The Palace to see the public unveiling of Maurice Cheeks’ first Pistons team.

Here are three quick impressions of the Pistons based on Saturday’s scrimmage and glimpses of practices over the past week:

KCP ahead of schedule – Just as a year ago, when Andre Drummond showed the Pistons flashes of greatness in the Orlando Summer League but gave no assurances coming out of July that he’d be ready for anything approaching a significant role during the regular season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is on a similar trajectory.

The Pistons left Orlando three months ago convinced they’d made the right call on taking Caldwell-Pope with the eighth pick. They loved both his physical gifts and his willingness to stick his nose into the fray. But they were no more certain he’d crack the rotation than they were a year ago with Drummond.

Continue reading Week 1: Looking Back >>

Posted Friday, October 4, 2013

Andre Drummond followed up the worst game of his entire rookie season – no points, one rebound – with his first game that gave glimpses of greatness.

Two nights after earning only six minutes at Sacramento in his fifth NBA game, Drummond put up 22 points and eight boards, hitting 8 of 10 shots, as the Pistons pushed Oklahoma City to the final minute before losing on the road.

Sitting on the Oklahoma City bench that night, Maurice Cheeks was struck by what could be.

“I saw his potential – we saw his potential,” Cheeks said after wrapping up the fourth day of a Pistons training camp where Drummond, by all accounts, has left his mark. “Even now, just watching him, the way he rebounds the ball, the way he runs the floor, the agility that he has is something special. Just watching him on a daily basis now, you see how special a player he can be because of his agility and his hands.”

Continue reading Bread and Butter>>

Posted Friday, October 4, 2013

Maurice Cheeks has been churning his lineups pretty consistently in training camp workouts, but the one consistent element has been Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith playing together as a frontcourt unit, the better to speed their comfort level.

One byproduct of that is to limit Josh Harrellson to playing only one position: center.

“They’ve been putting Dre and Greg on the same team,” said Harrellson, whom the Pistons signed to put the finishing touches on their summer roster makeover. “So other than that, I’m probably the only big we’ve got that can go against Dre, so I’ve been playing mostly the five.”

But when the Pistons stop beating up on each other and start playing other teams in preseason games next week, might Harrellson get a chance to work his way into the mix at power forward, where his outside shooting and rugged frame offers a unique blend of talents that could help spread the floor on one end and clog the paint on the other?

Continue reading No. 3 With a Bullet>>

Posted Thursday, October 3, 2013

Maurice Cheeks could go several different ways with the one starting position likely up for grabs in Pistons training camp, but a lot of things fall easily into place if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope wins the shooting guard spot.

And he just might.

“Today, he had an excellent day,” Cheeks said after the Georgia rookie knocked down a few long jump shots and got after it defensively in his one-on-one battle with Rodney Stuckey in a highly competitive scrimmage.

Continue reading KCP Makes a Move>>

Posted Thursday, October 3, 2013

Joe Dumars and Maurice Cheeks would get it if Gigi Datome’s head was swimming and his legs wobbly after playing 11 tough games for his national team in EuroBasket competition, hopping on a plane and landing in Detroit, immersed in a new culture, less than 48 hours before Pistons training camp began.

His teammates? That’s another story.

“Those guys that are trying to get his minutes, they don’t care,” Cheeks said of the 6-foot-8 dead-eye shooter the Pistons signed off of an MVP season in the top Italian league, where he led Rome to the finals. “In fact, they’re glad he was over there playing. It’s the NBA. You’ve got to come in and fit in and try to make your mark.”

Continue reading ‘So Happy to be Here’ >>

Posted Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Maurice Cheeks has ended his morning two-a-day practices by singling out a player to shoot a free throw to decide whether or not the Pistons can hit the showers or run sprints. On Tuesday, rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped to the line and knocked it down. On Wednesday, Italian sharpshooter Gigi Datome – a 93 percent foul shooter during his MVP campaign last season – saw his shot go in and out.

Cheeks offered a reprieve and called on Chauncey Billups, who closed out too many wins to remember for the Pistons by draining clutch free throws in the final minute to protect narrow leads.

Billups declined the opportunity, instead nominating Andre Drummond to carry his team’s hopes of avoiding extra duty. A 37 percent foul shooter as a rookie who can expect to be intentionally fouled until he makes teams rue such strategy, Drummond stood before the entire team, coaching staff and front office and swished his do-or-die try.

Continue reading Exclamation Points >>

Posted Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Pistons might not figure out exactly what they have on offense in time for their Oct. 30 season opener. The best way to ensure they don’t have to tunnel out of trouble whenever the light comes on is to play lock-down defense from opening night forward.

And that’s their expectation.

“We’re a defense-first team,” Will Bynum said. “We’ve got the length, we’ve got the size, we’ve got the quickness. We know defense wins games and that’s what we’re all about right now, just trying to get the principles down and get through this rough training camp.”

Andre Drummond’s presence was felt on the defensive end during his rookie season even as he was only learning NBA personnel and style of play. With a greater role ahead this year, his impact projects upward. Adding Josh Smith’s defensive versatility gives the Pistons two defensive game-changers in the frontcourt. Cheeks will demand on-ball pressure from his point guards, and in Brandon Jennings, Bynum and rookie Peyton Siva he has players with the quickness to accommodate his vision – to force turnovers, steer defenders to his shot-blockers and create transition scoring chances.

Continue reading Defense First >>

Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fans clamored for more of Andre Drummond during a season the Pistons entered with organizational caution for expectations on their callow rookie. They can stop the hand-wringing, it would appear.

“I’m going to put him out on the floor, for sure,” Maurice Cheeks said as the Pistons opened training camp. “I’m not looking not to play him. I’m looking to play him. He’s going to be out on the floor. I don’t know any other way to say it. He’s going to be out on the floor and I think with him on the floor we can be pretty good.”

Drummond said Monday that he weighed in at 275 pounds when the team went through their pre-camp physicals, which puts him 20 pounds under his weight last winter even though his body fat index hovered between 5 and 6 percent at the time, he said. The conditioning issues that contributed to limited minutes over the early months last season are no longer a factor.

Continue reading More Minutes >>

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