Blogs > Pistons' Point

An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Curious ongoings before the Pistons' shootaround in Toronto this morning.
The media was banned from going into the locker room for a few minutes while the Pistons held a team meeting. Afterward, they were vague about what was going on.
I didn't appear to be anything major, like a rift between Flip Saunders and the players or in-fighting among the team. It was more of re-focusing, if you will. Apparently, some players had been coasting or blowing off stretchng exercises, weight-room work, etc.
Richard Hamilton and Juan Dixon both suffered injuries in recent days - Hamilton a sore hip, Dixon a strained calf. Dixon hasn't been around long enough for anyone to get mad at him, so Rip was probably one, if not the main, target.
The last thing the Pistons want is for people to coast into the playoffs and lose their sharpness when they need it most.
"Just something that needed to be said," Tayshaun Prince said. "Trying to gear up for these last 12 games or so, just to kind of finish off the right way."
Hamilton, by the way, is doubtful to play tonight. He and Dixon worked on the side with strength coach Arnie Kander during the shootaround.

Friday, March 21, 2008


The Pistons' latest offensive meltdown in Cleveland
Wednesday night was a continuation of what we've seen
in the last two playoff series against the Cavs.
Cleveland's halfcourt defense is solid and the Pistons
are reduced to taking jump shots late in the shot clock.
Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince offered solutions
after the 89-73 debacle that make sense. First, the
Pistons have to speed up the tempo. The best way to do
that is to press and trap defensively, which gets the
other team scrambling a bit. That leads to turnovers
or bad shots, which in turn leads to transition
Another thing the Pistons must do if they play
Cleveland in the playoffs again is drive more often to
the basket. They shot just seven free throws
Wednesday, a clear sign that no one is being
aggressive by driving or drawing coverage in the post.

Monday, March 17, 2008


The original plan for the Pistons in terms of their
playoff rotation was quite simple - get the young guys
experience during the regular season, then throw
Lindsey Hunter into the mix as the season winds down.
Theo Ratliff and Juan Dixon have altered that plan
dramatically. Right now, I don't think the coaches or
the front office know quite how this will unfold when
the postseason arrives.
They seem committed to Rodney Stuckey as the backup
point, as they should. His ability to get into the
paint is sorely needed because the Pistons' offense
tends to bog down against the better teams over a
seven-game series.
Jarvis Hayes can feel comfortable with his role as the
backup small forward and could see action at shooting
I also think Jason Maxiell will continue to play,
though his minutes will be reduced.
Beyond that, it's wide open. Theo Ratliff will get
some burn when they face some bigger opponents. He'd
definitely be a factor if the Pistons play Orlando in
the second round (Dwight Howard) and the Celtics in
the conference finals (Kevin Garnett).
Hunter will get some opportunities as a defensive
spark and Juan Dixon might get a few chances to help
energize the offense.
That would leave Amir Johnson and Arron Afflalo out of
the mix, which would upset some fans (particularly
Johnson's legion of supporters).
There's one guarantee - if the Pistons don't make the
Finals, there will be plenty of people screaming that
Flip Saunders screwed up his rotation, right or wrong.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


A few more random thoughts about a potential Celtics-Pistons conference finals matchup:
1. The additions of Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown on Boston's side and Juan Dixon and Theo Ratliff in the Pistons' corner will make the game films of the regular-season meetings less valuable. Cassell will change the dynamic of the Celtics' bench with his scoring ability. Dixon seems to be settling in as the backup shooting guard and Ratliff showed in his first game that he's still a defensive presence with his long arms and shotblocking ability.
2. I don't think Flip Saunders wants Amir Johnson to be guarding Kevin Garnett any longer, at least not this season.
3. Rajon Rondo tends to get into foul trouble but he's been effective against the Pistons at getting into the lane and finishing, at least in short bursts.
4. Tayshaun Prince cannot disappear, like he did in Boston and he's been prone to do in recent conference finals. When he's assertive and making shots, the Pistons elevate themselves to the best team in the NBA.
In the 'So You Want To Be An NBA Beat Writer' file:
I jinxed myself by booking flights to Boston and White Plains, NY with US Airways. That was the same airline that left me stranded in Philly for seven hours in December instead of holding up my connector a few minutes.
Anyway, there were weather problems along the East Coast and Midwest on Saturday morning for my return trip. I was supposed to connect through Philly again from White Plains.
While my friend and pseudo-taxi driver Marty was driving me to the airport, I got a message that my flight was delayed, I wouldn't make my connector on time and that I couldn't get home until Sunday.
After a long wait to talk to a US Airways rep, the rep refused to rebook me on a direct Northwest flight at 4 p.m., then said I might make my connector after all. That was all a moot point minutes later after I got dropped off, since my first flight was cancelled.
Following 5 1/2 mind-numbing hours in a small airport, I was eventually placed on the Northwest flight but that wound up being delayed 1 1/2 hours. After finally getting back at 7 p.m. and taking a crowded shuttle to the Green Lot, I pushed my automatic car door opener and nothing happened. My car battery was dead, so I had to call for help and shiver for a half-hour until I got a jump.
Thank God winter is almost over!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


You hear it on the local sports talk shows. The media gets inundated with e-mails about it. Flip Saunders receives constant grief over it.
I'm referring to the Amir Johnson Fever that has inflicted an amazing amount of Pistons fans.
The people who cover the team regularly are amused and somewhat annoyed by the infatuation over the third-year forward. During the first three months, there were constant cries for Johnson to play. Saunders finally appeased those fans by putting Johnson in the rotation. When he made the mistake of not playing Johnson in Utah last week - mainly because Jason Maxiell played probably his best half in a couple of months - there was a flood of anti-Saunders e-mails from Johnson's followers.
I don't understand all the fuss. The team is rolling, the starters are getting plenty of rest and everyone's healthy. Maybe the fervor over Johnson just gives fans something to get riled up about because they can't simply enjoy rooting for a perennial contender.
Don't get me wrong. While Johnson isn't the second coming of LeBron or Dr. J, he's been quite impressive. He's blocking shots, working hard for rebounds, running the floor on breaks and even showing some nifty work on his post moves. It's fair to argue that Saunders should seriously consider him for Maxiell's role.
But as I stated in my last Sunday column, the Pistons' playoff fate will be determined almost solely by the starters. Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace are going to be on the court longer than they've played in the regular season. That's not a bad thing. McDyess and Wallace are terrific, experienced defenders who can guards power forwards and centers will equal aplumb.
McDyess' offense has been spotty but his effort is always there. He's been one of the league's top rebounders the last few months. Rasheed is still the most talented, versatile big man on the roster and one of the NBA's smartest players, though his second-guessing of Saunders' strategy at times makes him too smart for his own good.
Johnson can contribute to the Pistons' postseason effort but let's not get carried away. He's still only 20 years old and the club has done the right thing by bringing him along slowly. Johnson's playing time is not going to make or break their season, so all of his fans should just relax and enjoy the ride.