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An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pistons' offense stalls in loss to Thunder

The Pistons offense was awful in the second half of a 91-83 loss to the Thunder Friday night. Detroit shot just 27 percent in the second half and had zero assists in the fourth quarter (three in the entire second half).

There was no ball movement by Detroit, especially in the fourth quarter when it seemed like Ben Gordon was the only player being aggressive. Gordon had 13 fourth-quarter points and finished with 25, but couldn’t carry the load by himself.

“We did not trust the offense in the fourth period, don’t kid yourself,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “We didn’t move the ball the way we had. You have to do that to sustain and make teams defend in the fourth period. We basically allowed them to load up on us.”

Not having Richard Hamilton certainly contributed to the poor offense and it’s unclear when Hamilton will return.

“I think it did,” Gordon said when asked not having Hamilton hurt on Friday. “He obviously is a huge part of this team. To start the game we had some decent offensive plays, but in the second half we became stagnant and we stopped moving the ball like we did in the first half. Everything was a one-or-two pass shot.”

Charlie Villanuvea had eight points, but scored just one point in the second half and shot 3 for 12 from the field. The entire Pistons frontcourt combined for six points in the second half.

“The whole team, it just seemed like we couldn’t make a shot,” Villanueva said. “Guys were getting frustrated or what not. It seemed like there was a lid on the rime. It’s a learning process and it’s a long season and we just have to learn from all the things we did wrong.”

Ben Wallace led the Pistons effort defensively, finishing with 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 32 minutes.

Note: Gordon received three stitches above his left eye at halftime after banging his head on the floor on the final shot of the half.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hamilton out for Thunder game

Pistons guard Richard Hamilton is out for tonight’s home-opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder and is likely out at least Saturday’s game at Milwaukee.

“(Hamilton) probably will not play the next two games for sure,” Pistons head coach John Kuester said before Friday’s game. “It’s just a basic day-to-day thing. Arnie’s working real hard at getting him squared away. Arnie’s the best in the league, he’ll have him going.”

Ben Gordon will start in Hamilton’s place Friday. Kuester said it was an easy choice to start Gordon, who scored 22 points in the Pistons win over the Grizzlies Wednesday.

“One of the things we always talk about is his ability and willingness to adjust to whatever we’ve done is incredible,” Kuester said. “I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with (him). His attitude is making my job easier, in regards to saying, ‘Hey listen, coach I’m here for the long haul. I’ll do what you want.’ ”

Chucky Atkins will be active for Friday’s game and be the team’s fourth guard. Rookies Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko will also be active after each served a one-game suspension against Memphis. Rookie DaJuan Summers will be inactive.

“DaJuan Summers is going to be an outstanding player,” Kuester said. “Austin and Jonas have both done a really good job throughout the preseason, but we expect big things out of DaJuan before it’s all over.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hamilton questionable for Friday

The Pistons could be without one of their top offensive weapons in the home opener tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Guard Richard Hamilton is listed as questionable after spraining his ankle during Wednesday night’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Hamilton was hurt when he was fouled late in the fourth quarter and came down on the foot of the Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo.

He missed practice Thursday and was soaking his ankle on the sideline as practice came to a close.

“It hurts a little worse than yesterday, when it actually happened,” Hamilton said. “I been (taped) up all night since it happened so we haven’t even really took off the tape to take a real good look at it yet, so we’ll see.”

Hamilton said strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander wanted to keep the tape on in hopes of limiting the swelling and they planed on taking the tape off later in the day Thursday.

“Because of the throbbing all day, I want to take it off, but Arnie’s trying to not have a whole bunch of swelling on my ankle so he’s trying to keep it compressed and things like that.,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he normally doesn’t get ankle sprains, but he felt his ankle touch the floor Wednesday so he was concerned.

“I don’t have ankle sprains that’s the crazy part about it,” Hamilton said. “I think I’ve only had three my whole life. When I twist my ankle I know it’s pretty bad because I don’t do it. For me to have to leave the game, that’s always a concern of mine because I always try to finish the game.”

Pistons coach John Kuester said he has not made any decisions about a starting lineup if Hamilton can’t go and is discussing several options.

“We are going to discuss that today,” Kuester said Thursday. “We got a number of options, either staying with Ben (Gordon) coming off the bench or starting him. Either way we consider Ben a starter anyway. We are going to make that decision tonight.”

Hamilton was having a great opening night Wednesday when he was injured. He finished with 25 points, four assists and three rebounds.

“Rip was phenomenal last night,” Kuester said. “He really did a tremendous job. He put a lot of pressure on Memphis’ defense. I thought it was a flashback to ’04. The only reason I say that is I haven’t been with him the last (few) years. Watching him in practice and watching him in the preseason, he brought it to a different level last night.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Iverson, Hamilton address last season

The Memphis Commercial Appeal ran an intriguing story on Allen Iverson in Tuesday's paper. Iverson addresses his season with the Pistons and in typical Iverson fashion doesn't hold himself accountable for any of it.

What was interesting about the article was the comments from Richard Hamilton, who throws former Pistons coach Michael Curry under the bus. It was common knowledge Hamilton and Curry didn't see eye-to-eye, but the comments were a little surprising. Here is an excerpt from the piece, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

"M.C. lied to us a million times," Hamilton said of Curry. "He sat me and A.I. down one time and was like, 'I'm going to lean on both of you the whole year, just don't go to the media. Say you'll do whatever for the team and blah blah blah.' This was a week before he brought me off the bench. He lied. So I feel for what Allen said."

He added: "I think the person that we had didn't know how to take advantage of (our roster). Instead of taking advantage of it, he killed it."

Hamilton also discredited the idea that the Pistons, although upset about losing Chauncey Billups in the trade with the Nuggets, were unwilling to accept Iverson as a teammate. Asked if he ever had any problems with Iverson, Hamilton said: "Oh, no, no, no. We loved him, he loved us. We were all friends, we were all brothers. Like I said, certain people make it complicated when it shouldn't be complicated."

Hamilton misses Tuesday's practice

Richard Hamilton missed practice Tuesday with what coach John Kuester called personal reasons. "He was excused," Kuester said. "He'll be here tomorrow." The Pistons open the season Wednesday at Memphis.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Atkins ready for mentor role

Chucky Atkins secured a roster spot Monday, when the Pistons waived rookie guard/forward Deron Washington. The 10-year veteran came to Pistons training camp with high hopes of making the team after being released by Minnesota the week before.

“I thought it was an opportunity to be on a team,” Atkins said of coming to Pistons training camp. “I had nothing to lose when I came into this situation being that I just got released probably three days prior to coming to training camp. I thought it was a good situation for me. I talked to coach (John Kuester). I came in with the expectations of making the team, not necessarily worried about anything else. It worked out for me.”

Atkins role will be much different than his last stint with the team (2000-2004), where he started for two seasons before coming off the bench for two years. Atkins minutes will be very limited and there will be plenty of games where he is inactive.

Atkins said he just wants to help mentor the younger players and thinks his leadership is why he made the team.

“Obviously, you make the team as a long shot, pretty much as the third point guard at the moment, so the only thing I can add is my insight to the game with both Rodney (Stuckey) and Will (Bynum) and be a leader,” Atkins said. “I’ve been around this league for a while, I know what to expect, I know what it takes to win and we got two young guys who I can mentor.”

Atkins did not get much playing time during the preseason, playing a total of 23 minutes in three preseason games, scoring eight points and dishing out three assists. But Atkins did the little things in practice and brought a work ethic that impressed Kuester and Pistons president Joe Dumars enough to keep him around.

"You couldn’t see all the things he did from a positive standpoint," Kuester said, referring to Atkins' role in practice. "He has been a great role model for our young point guards. He’s really done an outstanding job of running the team in practice. I think that’s one of the reasons it came down to us keeping him because he’s challenged both of those players everyday in practice. I’m very impressed with not only what he did on the court, but off the court as well."

Pistons waive Washington

The Pistons waived forward Deron Washington on Monday. Washington averaged 3.3 points and 0.6 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game during the preseason.

Detroit drafted Washington with the 59th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. The former Virginia Tech star played with Hapoel Holon of the Greek League last season, averaging 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds.

"I personally would have loved to see us keep him," Pistons coach John Kuester said. "There’s no question because he’s got a bright future in basketball. I think he’s very athletic. I saw him in the beginning of summer, continually improve, with some of the hard work our assistant coaches did with him. You never want to see someone go, but it’s part of our business. Another player that was with us is Maceo Baston. Maceo Baston did a great job throughout the entire camp. That’s part of our business, but it’s never a pleasant part."

The move puts the Pistons’ roster at 14. Detroit opens the regular season on Wednesday at Memphis.

Dumars still writing legacy as GM

As Pistons president Joe Dumars enters his 10th season as the team’s general manager, there is no question he’s been one of the better GMs in the NBA during his tenure.

Dumars turned a team that went 32-50 in his first year as GM (2000-01), into a 50-32 team during the 2001-02 season. The Pistons went on to win the 2004 NBA championship, reach the 2005 NBA Finals and play in six straight Eastern Conference finals (2003-2008).

The Pistons took a step back last season, going 39-43 and were bounced from the NBA playoffs in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The question now is, “Can Dumars do it again?” Can he rebuild the team and get it back to the level it was at for most of the decade?

To be truly considered one of the NBA’s all-time great general managers, Dumars has to show he didn’t just catch lightning in a bottle and that he can build a championship contender again.

Dumars overturned nearly the entire Pistons roster in the offseason, bringing in eight new players and a new head coach in John Kuester.

The two biggest moves were the signing of Ben Gordon (five years, $55 million) and Charlie Villanueva (four years, $35 million), grabbing two players coming off career years and entering their prime — Gordon is 26 and Villanueva 25.

“It was important for us to come out of free agency with a couple of guys who could really grow with us right now,” Dumars said. “All of those guys are around 25 years old, from Villanueva to Ben Gordon to Chris Wilcox. All those guys are right around the 25 range.

“Then you have the rookies, who are all around the 21-, 22-year-old range. That’s what you have to do when you’re building, you gotta get the right pieces that can grow with you for the next five or six years. That’s kind of the method we used before. We caught guys like Rip (Hamilton), Ben (Wallace) and Chauncey (Billups) and all those guys were around 24, 25 years old. Six-, seven-, eightyear run, then you have to start looking at doing it again.”

The big story nationally has been the free agent class of 2010, which will feature LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh among others. Many NBA teams have positioned themselves to make a run at some of those big names in 2010.

Dumars went another route, adding several pieces this past offseason instead of waiting, and stands by that decision.

“The choice was to either sign two really good players like those guys, or do nothing the whole summer and add no one or lesser players for one year deals,” Dumars said. “What we’ve done over the last decade, there was no thinking like that, ‘We’ll just do nothing for a year, lose and then we’ll hope someone comes here in 2010.’ That’s not a strategy. That’s rolling the dice and not knowing what you’re going to get.

“It’s easy to say that when you’re not sitting in this seat, but when you’re sitting in this seat and you have to put a product on the floor every year, and you’re trying to tell your guys you’ve built a culture here over the past decade, and then all of a sudden you’re going to do nothing except lose for a year. That’s more fantasy basketball people than real GMs. You can do that in fantasy basketball, but not real GMs.”

Dumars’ approach will likely prove to be a smart decision, as most of the 2010 hype will prove to be just that — hype — and most of the big names will resign with their current teams.

During his tenure, Dumars has not been afraid to take a different approach, and it has been widely successful.

Critics of Dumars often bring up the Pistons drafting Darko Milicic No. 2 overall in 2003, ahead of guys like Carmelo Anthony, Wade and Bosh. But people don’t realize that almost every GM in the league would have made that pick.

Dumars’ only other lottery pick during his tenure was also a bust (Rodney White, No. 9 overall in 2001), but most years the draft is a crapshoot if you’re not at the top, and even then it’s not an exact science.

The fact that Dumars has found guys like Tayshuan Prince (23rd overall in 2002) and Rodney Stuckey (15th in 2007) adds to his résumé. People who criticize Dumars’ drafting ability also fail to remember the Pistons didn’t have first-round picks in 2004, 2006 and 2008 because of trades.

Dumars’ second major blemish as GM is last year’s trade of Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson. The Pistons struggled after the trade, as they got an Iverson who had lost a step or four. Chemistry issues added to the problem.

Meanwhile, Billups led the Nuggets to the Northwest Division title and Western Conference finals.

The true impact of the trade has yet to play out, though. The Iverson deal was a one-year experiment, which failed, but mostly a salary-cap move.

How the deal will truly affect the Pistons begins this season, but will play out over the next few seasons.

Dumars said earlier in the offseason this is the first season in a while where the Pistons can’t realistically talk about winning a championship, but followed that by saying he wants to make sure the team is heading in the right direction.

“I won’t sit and judge our team based on a championship or not this year,” Dumars said. “I won’t sit and judge our team based on the win and loss record. When you are building a base like we are right now, what you do is, you look to see is your team getting better as the year goes on. You can see that with the naked eye. You can sit and watch and see if a team is getting better or not. There have been teams before that ended up with great records, but you could say, ‘Man they started off hot and faded down the stretch.’

“Where we are right now, it would be a disservice for me to sit here and try to put a number on, ‘We have to have this number of wins’ or ‘If we’re not in the Finals …’ That’s not who we are right now. We are a team that is building with a new group of guys. Just as back in 2000, 2001, ’02 and ’03, I didn’t try to start to put numbers on it. I just knew how to build and that’s where we are right now.”

How Dumars builds this current group over the next few seasons will help determine his long-term legacy.

If the Pistons never return to the Finals, he will likely be remembered as a good GM. But if he can build another championship team, then he will be talked about as one of the great GMs in NBA history.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Struggles continue for Pistons' defense

The questions about Detroit’s defense look to be legitimate after a fourth straight preseason loss, this time a 122-114 loss to the Timberwolves Thursday night.

The Pistons defense allowed Minnesota to shoot 53.4 percent and score over 100 points for the second time this preseason.

“Right now we’re terrible man,” Ben Gordon said of the Pistons’ defense. “There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. We definitely have to improve in that area. I don’t think we can get any worse than we already are. Guys just got to buy into the system and got out there and try to execute every possession down, you can’t talk plays off because when we do that we have lapses. It’s just disastrous out there in the preseason.”

Detroit’s offense shot 58.6 percent from the field and had 21 assists, but also had 15 turnovers. Numbers that would normally result in a win. Charlie Villanueva said he felt the team was not on the same page defensively and have to get the kinks worked out with the season right around the corner.

“That’s just not acceptable,” Villanueva said of the defensive effort. “We just have to pick it up on defense. Offensively you can see we didn’t have a problem at all. We just have to play together as a team. It seemed like in that third quarter we made a run and it just seems like they picked it up more, and we just kind of got away from what we was doing. That’s just unacceptable.”

Wallace out, Villanueva to start tonight

Ben Wallace will miss Thursday’s preseason game against the Timberwolves with what coach John Kuester said was a sore knee. Charlie Villanueva will start in Wallace’s place. Villanueva is playing his second game of the preseason, after missing the first five with a hamstring injury.

Kuester said both Kwame Brown (hand) and Tayshaun Prince (toe) will suit up. Brown had X-rays on his left hand Thursday, but Kuester said he had not seen the final results. Prince missed the Pistons last two preseason games with a sprained big toe and was unsure Wednesday if he was going to be able to go.

UPDATE: Chris Wilcox started in place of Brown Thursday night and Brown did not play. Kuester said he had not seen results for Brown's X-rays yet and he is questionable for Friday's game in Milwaukee.

“One of the things that happened right before the game, Arnie (Kander) said … he would like to take one off,” Kuester said. “That’s fine because he’s been banged up. Kwame’s done a real nice job the entire preseason and it allowed Chris (Wilcox) an opportunity to play.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brown's injured hand getting worse

Center Kwame Brown admitted Wednesday the injury to his left hand has progressively gotten worse over the preseason. Brown injured his hand during the first week of training camp, but has played through it.

Brown said he didn’t get it officially checked out by a doctor, but planned on getting an X-ray today.

“Every practice I’m getting whacked so it’s getting worse.,” said Brown, who admitted he can’t close his hand. “It’s not frustrating, it’s part of the game. I’m just trying to focus on other things that I can do for us, getting teammates open, rebounding, running, playing good defense. But it’s definitely hindering a little bit of my game. It’s not letting me be as aggressive as I want to be.”

It’s a blow to Brown, who has had a good preseason thus far, starting all six games and averaging 7.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in just over 22 minutes a game.

“He’s practiced everyday,” Kuester said. “He’s worked extremely hard and he’s really improved. That’s the thing I’ve been really pleased with, his ability to come out here and get better each time. I feel that he’s made great strides since the beginning of preseason."

Prince questionable for Thursday
Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince is questionable for Thursday’s game against the Timberwovles with a sprained big toe. Prince practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, but said he was unsure if he will play.

“I practiced that don’t mean I’m back,” Prince said after practice Wednesday. “Obviously, practice is not game speed. I’m out here practicing, but I still feel uncomfortable. I can imagine game speed is going to be worse. We’ll see how it feels the rest of the day, with more treatment. We’ll see how it feels when I come in for shootaround.”

Prince injured the toe when he collided with Washington Javale McGee last week and has missed the Pistons last two preseason games with the injury. Prince also suffered a large cut on the bottom of his toe, which did not require stiches. Prince said the cut has healed and is no longer a problem, just the sprain is bothering him.

“It’s tough when you got a sprained big toe,” Prince said. “A lot of guys have had that injury before. That’s one of the toughest injuries to have, especially me, I’m right-foot dominant. It makes it tough.”

Villanueva ready for Palace debut
Forward Charlie Villanueva has had to wait longer than he expected to make his debut at The Palace as a Piston, but is ready to finally get that chance tonight against the Timberwolves.

“I’m very excited,” said Villauneva, who missed the Pistons first five preseason games with a hamstring injury. “It’s painful sitting on the sidelines and watching the team go out there and play, and you can’t do much about it. But I’m feeling good, which is the most important part. I just can’t wait to get out there.”

Villanueva has used the past three days of practice to get more comfortable with the Pistons’ system and his new teammates, something he didn’t get a chance to do since he injured his hamstring so early in the preseason.

“It’s been going well,” Villanueva said. “I’m just getting more comfortable with the plays, more comfortable with the guys out there. I’m coming along pretty well.”

Pistons waive Baston
The Pistons put forward Maceo Baston on waivers Wednesday. The former Michigan star averaged 0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds in 3.5 minutes per game during the preseason.

The move puts the Pistons roster at 15.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pistons' defense struggles

AUBURN HILLS — It appears the Pistons forgot to pack their defense on their first road trip of the preseason last week. Detroit allowed Dallas and Memphis to shoot a combined 54.2 percent (84-for-155) in two lopsided losses.

“We got exposed in Dallas and in Memphis,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “That’s why they call it preseason, it’s making sure that we continually try to make ourselves better in so many areas.”

The Pistons were playing Dallas tough until the Mavericks went on a late run in the second quarter and then outscored the Pistons 36-23 in the third quarter on their way to a 113-88 victory.

The Grizzlies came out of the gate firing and used a 33-14 first quarter lead to cruise to a 115-94 win.

One area the Pistons struggled in both games was transition defense. The Pistons gave up 20 fast-break points to the Mavericks and 25 to the Grizzlies.

“Poor offense lead to bad defense,” Ben Wallace said. “I’m just trying to teach a little bit. Let the guys know that if we make a commitment to the defensive end the game is going to be fun. If we go out there and play hard on defense, we’ll get good looks on the offensive end. We’ll get everybody involved and we’ll have some fun.

"If we’re not playing well on defense the games not going to be fun. We’re going to have guys going out there and trying to force shots, trying to get us back. It’ll take the fun out of the game. We just go to be solid on defense and everybody work together.”

Detroit’s defense looked good to start the preseason as the Pistons started off 3-0, but has struggled in the last three games, all losses. In Detroit’s three wins it held its opponents to a combined 39.9 percent shooting. In contrast, the Pistons opponents have shot a combined 51.7 percent during the current three-game skid.

Tayshaun Prince has missed the last two games with a cut under his right big toe and Wallace sat out the Dallas game, but Kuester refused to use that as excuse.

“Our team is a no excuse team,” Kuester said. “We don’t make excuses. I really do believe that whoever I put in (the) game is going to get it done. I expect it. That’s where it’s on me to make sure we’re a better team defensively and also in transition.”

Villanueva makes debut
Forward Charlie Villanueva made his Pistons’ debut in the loss at Memphis after missing the first five preseason games with a hamstring injury. Villanueva had 12 points, five rebounds and five fouls in just over 20 minutes of action.

“I thought he looked good,” Kuester said. “From a defensive standpoint, he did some good things. I thought he felt comfortable with the basketball. It was nice to have him out there.”

Rotation decisions coming
The Pistons play their final two preseason games this week, starting with a home game against Minnesota on Thursday and a road game at Milwaukee on Friday. Kuester said his staff is discussing a rotation for the regular season more this week than they have so far in the preseason, but aren’t setting anything in stone.

“There are going to be some tough decisions. There is no question,” Kuester said. “One of the things that you have to realize is, this is a long season. Guys that might not play one night, will play the next night. … That’s the beauty of this team. We’ve got to play more focused than we played in the last two road games.”

Summers struggling
Many expected rookie DaJuan Summers to be the most NBA ready of the three Pistons draft picks this past summer, but Summers has struggled to get much playing time in the preseason.

In the last three games Summers has not played in two (Memphis and Washington) and the game he did play in, at Dallas, he was 0-for-5 from the field in 19 minutes. Kuester downplayed Summers’ struggles and said Summers has shown flashes in practice.

“DaJuan is learning as he goes,” Kuester said. “I tell you this, he has a bright, bright future in this league because he’ll continue to work hard and he’s a great kid. Do not read into that at all.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Prince questionable for Thursday

Pistons coach John Kuester said he was unsure, when asked if forward Tayshaun Prince would be available for Thursday's game at Dallas. Prince suffered a cut on the bottom of his toe against Washington Tuesday night when he was kicked in the foot by the Wizards JaVale McGee.

“Arnie will give me more of an update, but what an unusual injury,” said Kuester, who even joked that he thought someone must have been wearing steel-toe boots. “I thought we were in a James Bond movie. When I saw the blood I went, ‘My gosh, what happened.’ He’s going to be all right, but it’s an unusual place to have a cut.”

Upon further review
Kuester saw things that he liked and didn’t like after reviewing the tape of Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards, the Pistons first loss of the preseason.

“I thought we had stretches where we were outstanding,” Kuester said. “Stretches where we need to continue to work on our rotations. Overall, I was pleased. I wasn’t happy we gave up so many points because they shot 46 percent from the field. That’s something that we got to constantly preach. We gave up too many easy opportunities for them. Another work in progress day. Guys kept working and working, we had some slippage, but we’ll work on that.”

The Pistons play at Dallas on Thursday, the first road game for the team in the preseason. Kuester said he looks forward to another challenge and his team is prepared to face a high-octane Mavericks team.

“Each game is now is starting to get challenging. So that’s one of the things we look forward to, facing a team that (presents) a lot of challenges as Washington did,” Kuester said. “We are looking forward to a different part of the journey. This week is like an NBA week and that’s what we’re approaching it as. We got to start giving other people opportunities. I’m playing a lot of different combinations, as you can tell. But in the same token, I have a lot of faith in all the people we’re playing.”

Jerebko impressing Kuester
To see my story on Jonas Jerebko in The Oakland Press, click here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Villanueva targeting Saturday return

Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva could be closer to making his Pistons debut, possibly even this week. Villanueva has missed Detroit’s first three preseason games with a hamstring injury, but said he is targeting Saturday’s game at Memphis as a possible return date.

“Today I just did running, running up and down, just getting a feel for how it feels,” Villanueva said after practice Monday. “A lot of core stuff. My conditioning is fine. I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about changing directions.”

Villanueva said he heard something pop when he injured his hamstring during the first week of training camp, so he knew right away he was going to miss some time. But he is confident he will be 100 percent when the regular season starts and said he won’t rush it. He wants to get in a full practice before he plays and hopes to do that Friday.

“That’s great news,” Pistons coach John Kuester said when told Villanueva is targeting a Saturday return. “I really haven’t talked to Arnie about him. He did do a few things so hopefully he’s getting a little closer.”

The Pistons have gone with a starting frontcourt of Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace with Villanueva out, but Kuester said nothing is set in stone as far as a starting five.

“We still got a lot more preseason to go, we got two more weeks,” Kuester said. “There are a number of challenges ahead of us. I’m looking to see how this plays out. There are so many guys deserving of time so it’s been challenging that way.”

Villanueva averaged a career-high 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for Milwaukee last season, but said he has no problem coming off the bench. He started 47 of the 78 games he played last season.

“I’ve done it before. It won’t make no difference, I just want to win some games,” Villanueva said. “If that’s the lineup he wants to go with, I’m all for it.”

Washington progressing
Pistons rookie Deron Washington’s big adjustment coming out of college was moving from a frontcourt player to more of a perimeter player. The adjustment is still a work in progress, but is improving everyday according to Kuester.

“Deron is just tipping his talent in regards to how good he can become,” Kuester said. “He’s got a ways to go, but as you can tell it’s been neat to watch how he’s progressed the last week or so.

That first week of practice he was lost. And now all of a sudden he is starting to understand and figure out some of these things because we threw a lot at people.”

At Virginia Tech, the 6-foot-7 Washington was successful as a post player, compiling over 1,400 points, 600 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 blocks.

The adjustment to the perimeter began last season, while he played for Hapoel Holon in the Greek League. Washington averaged 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in 27 games for Hapoel Holon.

“My confidence has grown after playing overseas for a year and being able to stand alone and shoot more because I didn’t shoot that much in college,” Washington said. “(My jump shot) has come a long way and I got more confidence now.”

Kuester envisions Washington as a shutdown defender one day because of his energy and athleticism.

“He’s somebody that’s so gifted athletically, we’ve got to get him to change his mindset and understand he’s got to use athleticism to pressure people (and) become a defensive stopper,” Kuester said. “Then all of a sudden whatever he gives offensively, which obviously he is capable of doing at times, is a big bonus for us.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pistons guards having fun with small lineup

Will Bynum said the Pistons have not practiced at all with their three-guard lineups, but the small lineups looked in mid-season form at times during the Pistons 100-91 win over the Hawks Sunday night.

A large part of the success is the guards are having fun playing with each other.

“It’s fun, especially for me,” Bynum said. “I’m over there cheering when I see Stuckey do a move or Ben do a move, I’m over there cheering even on the court. I find myself cheering on the court. I feel like I did the move and it’s just vice versa when I do move. I think it works out perfectly.”

Detroit’s four guards combined for 68 of the team’s 100 points. Gordon led the way with 22 points, Stuckey added 20 points, Richard Hamilton finished with 15 and Bynum had 11 points.

Jerebko impresses Kuester
Pistons rookie Jonas Jerebko had six points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes, but more importantly impressed Kuester with the little things he did.

“You can’t look at what he did, in regards to six points, six rebounds in 17 minutes and understand the impact that he had on the little things that we want to get accomplished,” Kuester said. “Whether it be shows on the high pick-and-rolls, his second and third energy efforts going after the boards, whether he got it or didn’t get it. I was very proud of him. I’ve seen that in him in practice.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Daye suspended one game

Austin Daye became the second Pistons rookie to be suspended for the season-opener in Memphis. Daye was suspended one game by the NBA for his role in an altercation with the Bucks' Carlos Delfino in a preseason game Wednesday.Delfino was also suspended one game.

Earlier this week Pistons rookies Jonas Jerebko was suspended one game for an altercation with Miami's Jammal Magloire.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jerebko suspended for fight

Pistons rookie Jonas Jerebko will miss the Pistons' opener against the Grizzlies after being suspended by the league for his altercation with Miami's Jammal Magloire during a preseason game on Monday.

Magloire was suspended two games for starting the altercation, while Jerebko got just one game for retaliating. Magloire struck Jerebko in the face as the two fell to the floor during the fourth quarter Monday and Jerebko responded by striking Magloire in the face as the two were on the ground.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brown and Wilcox benefiting from fresh start

The Pistons frontcourt had plenty of question marks entering the preseason, but has played solid through the first two preseason games, in particular Kwame Brown and Chris Wilcox.

Both entered the season with a checkered past and have benefited from getting a clean slate with new Pistons coach John Kuester.

Brown has averaged over 10 points just once in his career and that was back during the 2003-04 season with the Wizards where he averaged a career-best 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. His numbers have continued to drop since that season and he averaged a career-low 4.2 points last season, his first year with the Pistons.

Brown is averaging 9.0 and 6.5 rebounds in just over 23 minutes in the Pistons first two preseason games. Kuester has glowed about Brown throughout the preseason and has started the former No. 1 overall pick in both games.

“I was real pleased with Kwame,” Kuester said after the Pistons 113-104 win over the Bucks Wednesday night. “I thought Kwame did a nice job of having a good pace to his game. He was real comfortable with what he was doing in the post. We are asking Kwame to do a lot defensively.”

Wilcox looked to be a budding star after averaging over 13 points and seven rebounds for three straight years with the Seattle Supersonics. Wilcox had struggled during his three-plus season with the Clippers, but looked like he had found a home with the Sonics.

The Sonics then moved to Oklahoma City and changed their name to the Thunder. Thunder fans had to be wondering if Wilcox left his game in Seattle after he averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 37 games, but then Wilcox was dealt to New York. Wilcox struggled to get any minutes with the Knicks, averaging 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in just 25 games.

Wilcox is hoping another change of scenery can help him get his career back on track. The former Maryland star is averaging 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in the first two preseason games.

“He’s done a really nice job,” Kuester said. “First of all, he’s been just a pleasure to coach. His willingness to learn things that we want to get accomplished on the court is important to me. He is somebody that I’ve been trying to get to play at a different level. Trying to get him to do things at the pace that I want him to do it at is important for the success of our team, because he is somebody that is very gifted athletically. For him to do the things on a consistent basis defensively is going to be important for our team’s success.”

Kuester has praised both Brown and Wilcox all preseason and his positive attitude looks to be working. Kuester has avoided talking about the past of either player and is hoping to see both move their career forward.

“One of the things that I think is important is you treat people how they treat you,” Kuester said. “I’m not treating anybody any differently. ... With Chris Wilcox and a guy like Kwame Brown, hey they’ve been great. For us to have a chance they are going to have to play great. I think that’s where I’m looking at them and I’m very honest with you, I’m very pleased with their progress as a player for us. … Both of those guys have done everything I’ve asked them.”

Three-guard lineup
Kuester went with three-guard lineup for an extended part of the second half Wednesday night. Playing three guards from 8:29 left in the third quarter until the nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Detroit started with Stuckey, Gordon and Richard Hamilton, with Bynum later subbing in for Stuckey, then Stuckey subbing back in for Hamilton.

The three-guard lineup fared well, starting with a one-point lead 62-61 and building an eight-point lead, 89-81.

“As explosive as they all are, they’re very unselfish too, that’s when you have a good combination,” Kuester said of the combination of Bynum, Gordon and Stuckey. “There are going to be variations throughout the entire year. There is going to be situations where we play those guys together, I’m not opposed to it at all. They are basketball players. Other teams might try to use their size to post up those guys, but that’s where we got to do a good job of continually getting better defensively. We’ll have to help out in those situations. Those three guys can explode as can Rip and Tayshaun. It’s a nice problem to have.”

Another rookie ejected
For the second straight preseason game, a Pistons rookie was ejected in the fourth quarter for fighting. Jonas Jerebko was ejected on Monday after getting into it with Miami’s Jamaal Magloire.

On Wednesday, it was Pistons first-round pick Austin Daye, who was ejected after he got into a small shove match with former Piston Carlos Delfino of the Bucks.

“I asked DaJuan (Summers) if he was next,” Kuester said with a laugh. “You never encourage anything like that, but at the same token I’ve said it all along, our young players and veteran players are competitors. This is a great group to coach and they’re not going to back down from anybody.”

Game story
My game story from the win over the Bucks in The Oakland Press

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wallace to start tonight

Ben Wallace will be in the starting lineup in his first game back at The Palace as a Pistons when Detroit hosts the Heat tonight in the preseason opener. Wallace has earned a spot in the starting lineup by his impressive play thus far in training camp.

“Don’t kid yourself there is juice in that body still,” Pistons head coach John Kuester said. “I’m very impressed with what he’s done in practice. I think our players are impressed with him.

Wallace entered training camp with a bit of a head start after playing under Kuester for the last season and a half in Cleveland, something Wallace has used to his advantage. Wallace said he had no expectations entering the preseason, but Kuester said he has seen a motivated Wallace.

“If Ben Wallace was not doing the things that he has been doing in practice, he would not play,” Kuester said. “But if he continues to do what he’s doing right now, he will play because he deserves to play.”

Wallace will be joined in the staring lineup by Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Kwame Brown, who has also impressed Kuester in training camp.

Villanueva out for tonight
Charlie Villanueva will miss Monday’s preseason game with a hamstring injury. Villanueva injured his hamstring during last Thursday’s night practice and has missed practice since, doing only light workouts.

“We’re making sure that he understands we’re in this thing for the long haul,” Kuester said. “He’s slowly but surely working his way into it. Arnie has done a great job with him. I tell you this right now he probably wants to look forward to practices as opposed to be with Arnie the entire practice.

“He’s continually getting more and more involved. We’re going to play that by ear. If it were during the regular season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were capable of playing.”

Hamilton and Gordon pushing each other

The shooting guard duo of Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon having being going for blood on the court and enjoying having another Connecticut Huskie around off the court during Pistons training camp.

Hamilton and Gordon have been pushing each other in practice in hopes of helping turnaround the Pistons this season after a disappointing 39-43 finish last year.

“If you didn’t know Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton had such a special relationship between each other, you would have thought one of them didn’t like the other because they have gone after each other from the get-go,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “Rip has this attitude of, ‘Hey we get in between the lines, I don’t care who you are, I’m going at you.’ And Ben has responded. That’s been pretty neat to know how special their relationship is and seeing how they’ve pushed each other from the beginning.”

Hamilton, who averaged 18.3 points last season, and Gordon, who averaged 20.7 points for the Bulls last season, could pose serious problems for opposing teams, especially if on the court at the same time.

“I love it,” Hamilton said of having Gordon around. “I think he loves it too. One time we was just watching, going over a play and how Boston plays defense, how they jump strong side, I was telling him, ‘With me and you on the floor, there is no way they can play that way because one of us is going to be on the opposite side of the court so they got to pick their poison.’ I think it’s going to be fun because when you got guys that can shoot as well as we can and create and get to the basket, it’s always a tough cover.”

Hamilton and Gordon will get their first chance to play with each other Monday night when the Pistons host the Heat in their first preseason game.

Starting five still in the air
After Sunday’s practice, Kuester said the starting five for Monday’s preseason game is still to be determined, but admitted there is a couple spots set.

“We are going to get together as a staff and discuss a number of issues we have from a minutes standpoint (and) what we want to do from a lineup standpoint too,” Kuester said.

Kuester was asked if the team has named captains and said he would discuss it with team president Joe Dumars. But Kuester acknowledged the team’s unquestioned leaders are Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace.

“I got three guys that, you call them whatever you want, that will tell me exactly what’s on their mind and that’s the bottom line. They’re leaders. That’s all I need,” Kuester said.

Villanueva doubtful for Monday
Charlie Villanueva has battled a hamstring injury during training camp and participated in some light drills Sunday, but will likely miss Monday’s preseason game against the Heat.

“I doubt very seriously that Charlie plays,” Kuester said.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Daye looks up to Prince

AUBURN HILLS — The second Austin Daye was drafted by the Pistons No. 15 overall, the comparisons to Tayshaun Prince began. Daye and Prince have similar builds and coming out of college, the main question was, “Are they strong enough to play in the NBA?”

Prince has no doubt answered those questions during his seven years as a pro. He has not missed a game due to injury and his current consecutive-game streak of 494 is second only to Andre Miller (531).

Daye still has to deal with those questions, but is excited to have a guy like Prince around for advice on how to make it in the NBA.

“He’s always been a guy I looked up to when I watch basketball because he has the same kind of build as me,” Daye said. “He’s so strong mentally and physically because I’ve never seen him hurt, knock on wood. He’s been one of those guys that’s in every game, every season. He’s a grinder. I want to have similarities to that, too.”

The 6-foot-11 rookie has been playing mostly small forward through training camp and matching up directly against Prince. Daye said almost everyday he has picked up things from Prince. Small things like how to get around a pick and roll better, to big things like what the team is trying to accomplish this season.

“To play against him every day is just showing me how to get better,” Daye said. “With my body like his, how I can adjust to the game, how he’s done (it). If you look at all the rosters and a lot of the games, basically every year he should be an All-Star, but that’s just the process of elimination. To have an All-Star caliber small forward playing with you every day is just going to make me better.”

The comparisons to Prince are there, but there are also a number of things Daye can do differently than Prince. Daye comes into the NBA with a reputation of being a solid outside shooter at 6-11. He was a 42.2 percent 3-pointer shooter at Gonzaga. Daye can also put the ball on the floor and create his own shot.

“We got similarities and we got differences,” Prince said. “I think one thing he can do a lot better than me is, he can handle the ball a lot better. Obviously everyone always talks about the strong factor and what not. … I think as he continues to mature and get experience on the court, the strength factor will come, so we can’t worry about that.

“I think what he can do is help us. He can score the basketball. His length is obviously a problem at 6-11. Once again, he’s another versatile guy, that can do several things on the basketball court, so there is definitely similar things that we can do.”

Daye has been working with the Pistons renowned strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander to add strength. Daye said he is up to 202 pounds, from 192 on draft day. But it’s been a long process, and the key for Daye is maintaining it.

“The thing is I’m progressively trying to get stronger as the season goes on,” Daye said. “We are not trying to go crazy right now and then let it die down. We are just trying to gradually let things progress. … It’s a process. I’m not going to lie to anyone and say, ‘I’m going to gain 15 pounds in two weeks.’ It’s going to be a process for me and I understand that. It’s been a process for Tayshaun and other guys like him. I think I’ll do fine.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Villanueva tweaks hamstring

It has not been a great week for Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva, who injured his hamstring earlier this week and has missed the last two days of practice. Villanueva could miss Monday's preseason game against Miami.

Head coach John Kuester said he was unsure if Villanueva will play, especially since they don't want to rush anything during the preseason. “We are just worried about (getting) him healthy,” Kuester said.

Earlier this week Villanueva was dealt another blow when the NBA instituted a policy regarding Twitter and other social media sites that restricts players from filing updates from 30 minutes prior to the game until they have filled all their obligations after a game.

Villanueva made national headlines when he tweeted during the halftime of a game, while with the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

“It sucks,” Villanueva said with a laugh when asked about the rule. “I understand. I guess that’s ‘The Villanueva Rule.’ It’s amazing. I didn’t think I would affect the league like that. I guess I did. But it is what it is. You have to respect it.”

A young veteran
Jason Maxiell is entering his fifth season with the Pistons and is in that middle point of his career, where he's not a rookie, but also not quite a seasoned veteran

Maxiell said he is still trying to learn from the veterans, but also take on a more vocal role. His role minute-wise this season is still up in the air. Maxiell’s minutes have been all over the map throughout his time with the Pistons, but he said he’s just focused on being ready to play regardless if his minutes are going to be up or down.

“It’s going to be a different year, with a different coaching staff,” Maxiell said. “A lot is going be different. With Rasheed (Wallace) and (Antonio) McDyess gone everything is going to change this year. I was coming into the summer just trying to workout and everything. Focusing on facing up and trying to (become) the four-man that can knock down the 15-footer like ’Dyess did and also be a guy that bangs down low.”

Kuester said the preseason is going to be important for Maxiell as he learns what the team wants to get accomplished.

“I think the preseason will dictate a lot about where his plans are because he’s an energy player,” Kuester said. “Once he absorbs what you are trying to get accomplished, he’s a very effective basketball player. I’m real anxious to see as the preseason progresses, what is going to end up happening.

“At first he was sort of getting the lay of the land. Then all of a sudden it clicked in a couple times. He recognizes that it’s very important that his energy is sustained throughout. That’s where I’m looking at him and recognizing his basketball intelligence is there to make us better because he doesn’t have the size that a lot of power forwards have, but he makes up with his intelligence and his energy.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gordon still feeling good

Ben Gordon agreed to a deal with the Pistons on the first day of free agency. A decision he was comfortable with the second he made it and nothing has changed so far.

“I felt great about my decision from the jump,” Gordon said. “It hasn’t changed and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I definitely still have the same mindset and I still feel the same way about my choice.”

Some questioned the decision with the Pistons having a solid core of guards in Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. But Gordon says the four of them all have different styles, which help complement each other.

“I think all our games are really different, whatever one guy is lacking Stuckey, Rip or myself will be able to fill in that area,” Gordon said. “I think if used right, we can all play together.”

Gordon expects to play both guard positions and is excited at the opportunity to play point guard, something he didn’t do last season.

“When coach (Scott) Skiles was (in Chicago) I had the opportunity to play both guard positions, last year not so much,” Gordon said. “I have an opportunity again here. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to and I just think it makes me a bigger threat, being able to play off the ball and play on the ball.”

Kuester impressed with Kwame
Pistons center Kwame Brown has had his share of ups and downs since he was drafted No. 1 overall by Washington in 2001. Brown is hoping to put past struggles behind him and possibly earn a starting spot with the Pistons this season.

Head coach John Kuester said he has been impressed with Brown through the first few days of training camp.

“I expect a lot out of Kwame,” Kuester said. “Kwame Brown has done nothing, but impress me from Day 1, since I met him. I think he is somebody that can be a huge asset for our team. I’m very pleased with where he is right now.”