Villanueva targeting Saturday return
“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.”
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.”