Thursday, October 30, 2008
You don't want to read too much into opening night. Milwaukee came into The Palace two years ago and stomped the Pistons. But there were some things about this opener, a six-point win over Indiana, that might foreshadow what we'll see this season:
1. Reduced minutes - No one played more than 35 minutes. Michael Curry is going to rely on the bench a lot, with 10 or 11 seeing action every game.
2. Tay town - Tayshaun Prince could lead the team in scoring. That's not a wild conclusion. With Antonio McDyess coming off the bench, Prince will get more touches with the starting lineup. And he'll have the ball in his hands a lot more.
3. J to the Max - It's hard to see Kwame Brown playing much with Sheed, Amir Johnson, McDyess and Maxiell in front of him. Maxiell brings too much to the table to get his workload significantly reduced.
4. Herrmann's head - Fabio wasn't healthy most of the preseason but he took advantage of his opportunities, showing a nice 3-point touch. He'll play more than he did under Flip Saunders, who stuck with the defenseless Jarvis Hayes until Hayes' lousy defense made him a playoff liability.
5. Biggest disguise - Some Palace workers were dressed in Halloween gear on opening night. Some seats in the upper regions behind the basket were disguised as, well, empty seats. Economic conditions and three straight empty trips to the conference finals have made Pistons tickets a tougher sell than I've seen in 6 or 7 years.
Monday, October 27, 2008
PACERS WON'T HAVE DUNLEAVY
Indiana seems like a soft opponent for an opener and the Pistons' task got even easier with the news that Pacers leading scorer Mike Dunleavy won't play. Dunleavy has a right knee injury and will be out at least this week. Marquis Daniels will replace him in the lineup.
Pistons reserve center Kwame Brown has practiced the past two days and will be available for Wednesday's home opener. Brown missed the last two exhibition games with a right shoulder strain.
There are still 1,200 tickets available. You can contact the Pistons box office, TicketMaster or go online to purchase tickets.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
WHO WINS IT ALL?
Didn't have room to put my picks in our season preview section Sunday, so let's tackle that issue here.
Boston is a threat to repeat but you have to wonder what its hunger level is. Validation can make the heart - and the team - grow soft. But looking at the Eastern Conference picture, it's still going to come down to the Celtics and Pistons.
They have basically the same rosters back from last year, though the Celtics did lose key reserve James Posey.
I'm still not sold on Orlando's backcourt being good enough to get to the Finals. Philly helped itself with Elton Brand and plays solid defense but it still has a major problem with its perimeter shooting. If the Sixers can pull off a deal for a gunner, they'll make the East the Big Three.
Cleveland is also a threat as long as LeBron is breathing. But the Celtics and Pistons would have to play below their potential to lose a playoff series to the Cavs.
Hate to think I'm a homer but is the really a better team than the Pistons? They have one heck of a backcourt trio and a deeper frontcourt with Kwame Brown coming off the bench. So far what I've seen from Michael Curry, the Pistons have another fine coach running the show.
Out West, everything runs through Los Angeles. There are still health issues with Andrew Bynum but if all their pieces are healthy in the playoffs, who's going to beat the Lakers?
San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas are getting old and Houston can't stay healthy. Utah always seems to be one player away from taking the next step. Portland will be very good very soon but it won't go far in the playoffs just yet. The biggest threat to the Lakers is New Orleans. The Hornets were not a fluke last season. Chris Paul is one of the top five players in the league and the frontcourt is solid. With the addition of Posey, they're even more dangerous.
So, I'll say Pistons beat the Cavs in the conference finals and the Lakers will knock off Paul & Co. in the West.
That leaves a Pistons-Lakers Final, which sounds a whole lot better to the networks than Tampa Bay-Philadelphia. And it's the Lakers prevailing in six games.
Monday, October 20, 2008
President of basketball operations Joe Dumars didn't make a lot of changes or moves this offseason after hiring Michael Curry as head coach. But he'll have a very active summer this year, the way things are shaping up.
Jason Maxiell's agent has said publicly that his client won't sign an extension by the end of the training camp. The Pistons have offered Maxiell a three-year, $15 million deal.
Unless there's a change of heart, Maxiell will become a restricted free agent. This is a pretty big gamble by Maxiell. The market for restricted free agents is pretty thin because offer sheets can be matched by the original team. Also, there's a good possibility that Maxiell won't play as much this year as he did last season. The plan right now is for Maxiell to share a rotation spot with Kwame Brown, while Antonio McDyess will be the primary 'big' off the bench.
Maxiell could sign a one-year contract with Detroit in the summer and then become an unrestricted free agent but he may have been wiser to take the $5 million per and run.
Rasheed Wallace's contract expires and if he's not traded during the season, Dumars will have to decide whether to keep Sheed around a couple more years or shop for another center.
Richard Hamilton can, and probably will, opt out of his contract after the season. Do you lock up Hamilton or find another player to replace him at a reduced price, in order to secure a quality big man?
Decisions, decisions. But, as usual, the Pistons are in good shape in terms of the salary cap. The team is $2 million under the luxury tax threshold this season despite having so many vets making big money.
"We will be in position this summer to do everything we need to do from a financial standpoint and still be as we've always been, very prudent and responsible in our salary structure," Dumars said. "We'll continue to be in great shape from a financial standpoint."
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
NOT HARD TO SAY I'M SORRY
How refreshing is this? A coach who's not afraid to admit he was wrong.
Pistons coach Michael Curry played for a lot of coaches during his 11-year career and rarely heard them say they screwed up. Under his system of accountability, he won't make the same mistake if he makes a mistake. Got it?
"You've got to admit to your players when you mess up because you're going to mess up every day, just like the players do," Curry said. "If you come in and you never (say you) made a mistake as a coach, how are your players going to respect you for what you're trying to teach them? When I make mistakes, I come in and let them know and we grade accordingly."
Curry took most of the blame for the defensive mistakes made in the Pistons' first preseason loss, a 86-64 stinker against San Antonio in Grand Rapids Tuesday night. During practice Monday, Curry focused his pick-and-roll defense on the premise that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker would play. Parker sat out, so the Spurs relied more on their perimeter shooters off pick-and-rolls. The defenders didn't rotate properly, as San Antonio knocked down 10 of 24 3-point attempts. In Wednesday's practice, Curry taught his team three simple coverages for pick-and-rolls, regardless of who's playing.
"When someone is wrong, if you can admit that you were wrong or probably caused some of the problems that occurred, then they know you're in this with them, that you're not above them," he said. "We're in this together. If I'm going to get on guys every day for when they mess up, I've got to admit when I don't prepare them the best that I can."
Chauncey Billups, who missed the Spurs game with a mild ankle sprain, practiced Wednesday and is probabe to play Thursday against Dallas.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
MAKING THE GRADE
Class is in session with Michael Curry as head coach.
Players will be given offensive and defensive grades for each game on a scale of 0-100. They'll get points for doing their job correctly and minuses for missteps, including technicals.
"On a possession in which Rasheed (Wallace) gets a technical, he'll get a minus on that possession," Curry explained. "It's no different than a possession when someone didn't close out and contest a shot."
Curry has also come up with 16 Keys to Winning Basketball, though even he gets them mixed up at times. Curry said on Wednesday that Rule No. 1 was Be Professional. He then amended that after practice Thursday, saying that was Rule No. 2. Rule No. 1 is No Excuses. Two others are Always Be The Aggressor and Leave the Refs Alone.
The other 12? He'll reveal those one at a time.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
BACK TO THE BENCH
It's still the early days of camp and the exhibition schedule. But one thing is clear: Antonio McDyess will come off the bench.
The biggest issue coming into camp was determining who would start alongside Rasheed Wallace up front. Amir Johnson has emerged as the clear favorite.
McDyess has more opportunities to score with the second unit. Moreover, his skill set complements high-energy banger Jason Maxiell. That was apparent in the Pistons' opening-night, overtime victory at Miami. McDyess had 10 points and Maxiell added 13, including the first four points of OF.
"One of the reasons why we're bringing McDyess off the bench is he can be in there in the fourth quarter," coach Michael Curry said. "He made of a lot of big baskets down the strength and he took a lot of pressure off Max from being the primary scorer on that unit. Maxiell flowed really well in that game. That was good to see and good for the guys."
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
PRACTICING THE CURRY WAY
In the early days of training camp, Michael Curry and his Pistons staff are dividing the team into three groups of five, then letting them go at it toward the end of practice while working on specific plays.
He's not going with a first team, second team, third team pecking order. Instead, he's mixing and matching his starters with the reserves in order to keep each group relatively even in terms of talent.
During the second day of camp, the groups were divided in this fashion:
Orange Team - Rasheed Wallace, Amir Johnson, Walter Sharpe, Arron Afflalo, Rodney Stuckey
Blue Team - Kwame Brown, Antonio McDyess, Walter Herrmann, Alex Acker, Chauncey Billups
White Team - Cheikh Samb, Jason Maxiell, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, Will Bynum
Some quick observations: Sharpe, the team's top draft pick, won't play much this season but he didn't look out of place. He stroked a sweet 20-footer during the half-hour that the media was allowed to watch. He also made a nifty putback, fighting off Prince for a rebound and then scoring on a jump hook in the lane.
The pairing of Johnson and Wallace might have been by design. The staff hopes that Johnson will seize a starting role alongside Wallace. The more times they play together in practice, the more rapidly they'll develop chemistry.
Curry likes to emphasize a couple of sets each practice. He introduced seven of them during the opening night of camp and now wants his players to learn them at a steady pace.
"What we'll continue to do is take about two sets each day and concentrate and try to break them down, so as guys get familiar with them and figure out ways they can score, we can continue to add to it," he said.
They're also working on late-game situations, in which eight seconds are placed on the clock with the offensive unit trailing by two or three points. He's allowing the veterans like Prince and Wallace to diagram plays off those sets during a timeout before their group runs them.
If you're a high school or college coach, you're welcome to watch some of the practices. There were about 20 coaches and invited guests Wednesday, including South Florida coach Stan Heath and ex-Detroit Mercy coach Perry Watson.
Fans who want to see a practice, or some semblance of one, should head to Oakland University Thursday night when an open practice will be conducted at 6:30 p.m.