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An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Villanueva questionable for Wednesday

Charlie Villanueva could return as soon as Wednesday from a broken nose after having his nasal fracture repaired on Monday. The Pistons released an official press release that read: Charlie Villanueva underwent a successful surgical procedure this afternoon to repair a nasal fracture. The procedure was performed by Dr. Gene Rontal at the DMC Berry Center in Farmington Hills. Villanueva is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game at Chicago.

Villanueva suffered the injury during Sunday's win over the Hawks when his head collided with Ben Wallace's hip as he feel to the ground after being fouled. Villanueva was able to knock down both of his free throws with a large piece of tissue stuck in his nose to stop the bleeding before exiting the game.

"Just letting everyone know that, I had successful surgery today for my broken nose, thanks everyone for showing me love, I greatly appreciate it," Villanueva wrote on his twitter page.

The injury means the Pistons' could be without their four highest paid players against Chicago on Wednesday. Ben Gordon is questionable with an ankle sprain, while Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) remain out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Atkins Sunday's unsung hero

Pistons head coach John Kuester showed a lot of confidence in veteran Chucky Atkins Sunday by putting Atkins in the starting lineup in hopes the change would spark the team. It was Atkins first start of the season and first NBA start since April 2007. After the game, Kuester called Atkins the unsung hero of the game.

“I’ve been talking about our leadership in regards to Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton, but I need to add a fourth,” Kuester said. “That fourth is Chucky Atkins because he has been somebody since Day One that has tried to do things the right way every time in practice, every time when he’s been sitting on the bench, he’s been a great cheerleader and a great coach. He’s going to be a coach in this league someday and I tip my hat to him. He did a wonderful job for us and kept that energy up.”

Atkins had two points and one assist, but more importantly gave the short-handed Pistons a valuable 19 minutes.

“My role is to, regardless of what I do, whether I came off the bench or starting, is just be an energy guy and a mentor to these younger guys,” Atkins said. “Today, I was able to start. I wanted to come and set the tone for our team defensively, get out and make some things happen. Obviously, I did not play a lot of minutes all year so I was a little off rhythm, but it felt good and guys responded really well.”

NBA power rankings — Nov. 29

1. L.A. Lakers — Lakers could distance themselves from the pack with next six at home (1)
2. Phoenix — Channing Frye averaging in double figures for first time since rookie year (2)
3. Orlando — Jason Williams filling in nicely with Jameer Nelson sidelined (5)
4. Atlanta — Hawks suffered first home loss and in convincing fashion to Orlando (3)
5. Dallas — Drew Gooden has a double-double in 5 of 7 games since becoming a starter (4)
6. Boston — Rasheed Wallace has nearly 30 more 3-point attempts than Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (6)
7. Denver — Chris Anderson should legally change his name to Birdman (8)
8. Cleveland — Shaq returns and Cavs get blown out by Bobcats? (7)
9. Portland — Someone explain the Blazers insistence on starting Steve Blake (9)
10. San Antonio — Spurs finally getting healthy and have won four straight (14)
11. Miami — Upcoming West Coast road trip will tell us a lot more about the Heat (10)
12. Milwaukee — Bucks have used 10 different players in its starting lineup (11)
13. Oklahoma City — Rookie James Harden providing nice spark off the bench (13)
14. Utah — Jazz 7-2 when Carlos Boozer scores 20 or more (15)
15. Houston — Rockets have four players averaging more than 15 a game, none more than 18.3 (12)
16. New Orleans — Hornets 4-2 with Chris Paul sidelined by ankle injury (22)
17. Sacramento — Rookie Tyreke Evans leading a potent Kings offense with over 19 points a game (18)
18. Chicago — Joakim Noah averaging more rebounds (11.7) than points (11.1) (16)
19. Indiana — Dahntay Jones has improved his scoring average by 11.8 per game (20)
20. Toronto — Chris Bosh leading the league in rebounds and seventh in scoring (17)
21. Charlotte — Stephen Jackson trade looking good for the Bobcats (26)
22. L.A. Clippers — Owner Donald Sterling breaks his silence, but doesn’t say much (23)
23. DETROIT — Injuries seem contagious for the Pistons right now (19)
24. Philadelphia — Louis Wiliams broken jaw a huge blow to the Sixers (21)
25. Memphis — Starting five talented, while most of the bench shouldn’t be on a NBA roster (25)
26. Washington — Gilbert Arenas finally beat Dwyane Wade, was 0-19 against him (24)
27. Golden State — Raja Bell played one game before having season-ending surgery (27)
28. New York — Paying Eddy Curry and Darko Milicic a combined $18 million to ride the bench (28)
29. Minnesota — Timberwolves have dropped 10 straight and lone win is over th
e Nets (29)
30. New Jersey —
Nets can tie worse start in NBA history with a loss today (30)

Villanueva suffers broken nose

Charlie Villanueva suffered a broken nose in the Pistons 94-88 win over the Hawks Sunday, a team spokesman confirmed after the game. Villanueva suffered the broken nose when his head collided with Ben Wallace’s hip after he was fouled by Marvin Williams.

"Surgery tomorrow, wish me luck, I will send a tweet during surgery, lol, the mask is on its way, lets go," Charlie Villanueva posted on his twitter page Sunday.

Villanueva’s nose was bleeding profusely as he lay under the basket. He returned to the game to shoot two free throws with a piece of tissue stuck in his nose because it would not stop bleeding. Villanueva knocked down both free throws and then quickly exited the game. He went back to the locker room and did not return.

"Well broke my nose in today game against the Hawks, all I really cared about was to make those two free throws, great win for us," Villanueva wrote on his Twitter page.

"Let me tell you, that guy got popped pretty good, had blood everywhere and was very courageous in regards to going back and knocking down those foul shots," Pistons coach John Kuester said. "Those ended up being big foul shots."

It is unclear how much time, if any, Villanueva will miss at this point. Villanueva had 13 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes before leaving the game. He came off the bench for the first time this season, with Jason Maxiell starting at power forward.

Pistons to change starting lineup

UPDATE: The Pistons starting five will by Chucky Atkins, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace.

Putting Chucky Atkins in the starting lineup and leaving Will Bynum on the bench, gives the Pistons some firepower coming off a bench that will also feature Charlie Villanueva now. We'll see how these lineup changes work out against the 12-4 Atlanta Hawks.

Expect some changes in the Pistons starting lineup today when they host the Atlanta Hawks. Pistons coach John Kuester was vague about the changes, but said there will be some.

“We are going to hold off on talking about our lineup, but we’re going to make some changes,” Kuester said. “There is some changes. We’ll hold off until a little bit later because we’re just making sure.”

Ben Gordon (ankle), Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) remain out of the lineup.

Austin Daye started in place of Gordon against the Clippers on Friday so it could be a case where the matchup against Atlanta won’t allow Detroit to start Daye. Starting Will Bynum at point guard and moving Rodney Stuckey to shooting guard would allow Detroit to have Bynum defend Atlanta’s Mike Bibby and Stuckey defend Joe Johnson.

The changes could also be in the frontcourt where Charlie Villanueva has struggled as of late, while Jason Maxiell has played well of the bench. It’s unclear what the changes are at this point, but Kuester feels adjustments need to be made with the team on a seven-game losing streak.

“We been on a streak that we’re not comfortable with,” Kuester said. “Let me you tell you this our lineup changes don’t really reflect the person or persons that are taken out of the lineup. We just have to make some adjustments. It’s not their fault is what I’m saying. You’ve go to go through and make some adjustments and stuff like that. The whole idea is trying to continually get better. That’s the whole purpose.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Prince making progress

Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince continues to make progress as he tries to return from a small rupture of a disc in his lower back.

Prince put in some extra work with strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander after the morning shootaround Friday. Kander had Prince doing some side-to-side movements and then putting up some set shots.

“Most of the stuff we’re trying to work on, is make side-to-side movements or diagonal, anything straight and back I’m pretty much fine,” Prince said. “I haven’t had the opportunity to go for a long period of time to see if it will stiffen up and things like that. We been keeping it short and sweet right now. We’ll continue to make progress each day.”

Prince said he doesn’t have any limitations running up and down, the problems come when he tries to push off or make cuts. He is trying to ease into being able to make those moves and said there is still no timetable for his return.

“We didn’t talk about it,” Prince said of his return. “The doctors, nobody has talked about it. It’s just a situation where they put me in a position where I feel good in consecutive days as opposed to up and down, things like that. Once things start to be on a consistent basis then we’ll schedule that time.”

With a back injury Prince wants to make sure he is 100 percent before returning because the risk of having more back problems is so high.

“I’ve had other nagging injuries throughout my career, those weren’t a situation where they’ll keep coming back,” Prince said. “This is definitely a situation where I’ll have to take my time with it. It’s frustrating because the team is not doing well right now, you kind of want to jump back out there and help them. Especially me being a guy that hasn’t missed any games throughout my career. At the same time, you have to be patient with it.”

While sidelined, Prince has leaned on other players in the NBA that have had back injuries for advice. Rehabbing from a major injury is something new to Prince, who played in 496 consecutive games before suffering the back injury.

“It’s tough because I’ve never been hurt,” Prince said. “I been getting great support around the league from guys who have had back injuries, who had disc problems. Some of the things that they’ve been saying are something that has been going through my mind too. One day you feel bad, the next day you feel great. That day you feel great you don’t want to go out there and try to push yourself to do something because you going to feel it the next day. I’ve had a day where I feel unbelievably well then the next day it won’t be the same. They said to get it four or five consecutive days and then at that time if you feel great then that’s when you’re on the road to recovery.”

Clippers at Pistons preview

The opponent — The L.A. Clippers enter Friday’s game 6-10 after suffering a 86-73 loss at Indiana on Wednesday. The Clippers are 2-5 on the road this season.

Former Central Michigan star Chris Kaman is the team’s leading scorer at 19.8 per game, but has cooled off after a hot start to the season. Kaman has failed to score 20 or more points in the Clippers’ last five games, averaging 14.4 points, after scoring 20 or more in 9 of their first 11 games and averaging 22.2 points.

Kaman, who is also averaging 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors and there are a lot of Pistons fans that would like to see the big man come home to Michigan.

Part of the reason Kaman is possibly available is Marcus Camby (8.3 points, 10.0 rebounds). Camby is coming off his best game of the season, a 15-point, 21-rebound effort against the Pacers.

Shooting guard Eric Gordon (17.3 points) returned on Wednesday from a groin injury that kept him sidelined for eight games. Gordon came off the bench and scored just six points on 2 for 7 shooting.

Baron Davis (15.5 points, 6.9 assists, 1.94 steals) is having another solid season, but is not having the impact the Clippers hoped for when they singed him to a 5-year $65 million before last season.

Third-year small forward Al Thorton (12.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) is a young and talented player for L.A., but has struggled to stay consistent this season. Rasual Butler (9.7 points) has been starting while Gordon was out, but it’s unclear who will get the start on Friday.

Key matchup — Pistons’ Rodney Stuckey vs. Clippers Baron Davis: With Richard Hamilton (ankle), Tayshaun Prince (back) and Ben Gordon (ankle) all sidelined, the scoring load is on Stuckey’s shoulders. Stuckey is just one of three healthy Pistons players averaging more than five points a game, with the other two being Will Bynum and Charlie Villanueva. Stuckey scored 25 against Cleveland Wednesday, but had no assists. He will have to find that balance of looking for his own shot and getting his teammates involved.

“I’m just going to play within myself,” Stuckey said. “I’m not going to try and go out there and do too much. We still have a lot of guys on this team that can score. There is probably going to be some times where I’m more aggressive than I usually am, but I’m just going to try and play my game.”

Defending Davis will also have to be a priority as Davis has proved he can go off at any point. Stuckey will likely start on Davis, but also defend other positions like he has for most of the season.

The skinny —
The Pistons (5-10) are short-handed, but no one is going to feel sorry for them or remember that when the season is over. Detroit has to try and stop the bleeding against the Clippers, and end its six-game losing streak, especially with Atlanta (11-4) coming to The Palace on Sunday.

It’s a long season, but Detroit can’t afford to dig itself too deep of a hole while it gets healthy. The Pistons have to win games like Friday’s to keep pace in the East and make the playoffs, especially since it’s still unclear when any of the injured players will return.

“We know the Clippers are a good team individually, hopefully they don’t play as a team tonight,” Stuckey said. “Defense is going to be key for us tonight.”

Detroit will likely need a big game out of Charlie Villanueva to be the Clippers, but Villanueva will have a combination of Camby and Kaman defending him and both are solid defenders.

Austin Daye will start in place of Ben Gordon. The 6-foot-11 rookie will give the Pistons a very tall and long starting lineup with 6-10 Jonas Jerebko, 6-11 Villanueva, 6-9 Ben Wallace and 6-5 Stuckey the other starters.

“We’re a young team,” Stuckey said. “We got a lot of players that can play different positions. Tonight is going to be a good night four our young guys, a good test for DaJuan (Summers) and Austin.”

Prediction: Pistons 95, Clippers 92; Pemberton's record 9-6

Gordon out for Friday

Ben Gordon is officially out for Friday's game against the Clippers a team official confirmed after the morning shootaround. Gordon is listed as day-to-day and will be reevaluated on Saturday.

Austin Daye will start in his place. The 6-foot-11 rookie will give the Pistons a lot of size to start the game, with 6-10 Jonas Jerebko, 6-11 Charlie Villanueva, 6-9 Ben Wallace and 6-5 Rodney Stuckey the other four starters.

"Ben is a scorer, we are going to miss him," Stuckey said. "He’ll be back soon though. We are without Rip (Hamilton) and Tay (Prince) too so it’s a good opportunity for our young guys to come in and play."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Summers making the most of minutes

The Pistons went 0-4 on their recent West Coast road trip, but one positive that came out of the trip was the emergence of rookie DaJuan Summers.

Summers found a spot in the rotation on the trip after spending most of the first 10 games on the bench. Summers averaged 14.5 minutes in the four West Coast games after playing a total of 15 minutes in Detroit’s first 10 games.

The second round pick out of Georgetown played 23 minutes in the Pistons last game, a loss at Phoenix, scoring a career-high 13 points and he was a perfect 3 for 3 on his 3-point attempts.

Summers said his confidence was never down when he wasn’t playing, he was just working hard so he would be ready if an opportunity to play came his way.

“I know the season is a long season. I knew the opportunity would come, hopefully sooner than later, which it did,” Summers said. “My confidence was always good. I think I had a good summer league so it wasn’t like I was low on confidence. The opportunity just didn’t present itself yet.”

Summers said he believes taking his time has helped him improve since the preseason. Summers minutes were limited even in the preseason so when he did get out on the floor he was anxious and more prone to making mistakes. Now he has slowed down and as a result became more comfortable out on the floor.

“When I was getting minutes in the preseason, the little minutes they were, I was rushing things, I was moving too quick, I wasn’t letting the game come to me,” Summers said. “But now I just play relaxed. I’m more comfortable with my role, knowing where my shot is going to come from, know when to takes shots, when it’s a good shot for me. I’m just being relaxed.”

Pistons Pulse - Nov. 25




Pistons beat writer Dave Pemberton is joined by bluecollarsports.blogspot.com's Matt Penridge to discuss the Pistons upcoming three-game homestand and give three things they are thankful for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cavaliers at Pistons preview

The opponent — The Cavaliers (10-4) are in first place in the Central Division and have won 7 of their last 8 and 10 out their last 12 after starting the season out 0-2. This will be the first meeting between the Pistons and Cavs since Cleveland swept Detroit in convincing fashion in the first round of the playoffs last season.

LeBron James is not letting his impending free agency at the end of the season distract him from having another MVP type year. James ranks among the league leaders in points (29.4 per game, 3rd in the league), rebounds (6.8, 39th), assists (8.1, 6th), steals (1.5, 26th) and field goal percentage (52.7 percent, 20th).

Offseason acquisition Shaquille O’Neal (11.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) has missed the Cavaliers last five games with a shoulder injury, but is expected to return Wednesday against Detroit. O’Neal returned to practice on Monday.

Point guard Mo Williams (17.3 points, 4.6 assists) is Cleveland’s second-best option offensively and free-agent pickup Anthony Parker (8.6 points) has fit in nicely in the Cavs system.

Power forward J.J. Hickson has started the last eight games for Cleveland and is averaging 13.6 points and 3.5 rebounds since entering the starting five. Anderson Varejao has come off the bench the last two games after returning from a hip injury.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas (7.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.29 blocks) is another low-post presence for Cleveland and will come off the bench if O’Neal returns.

Key matchup — Pistons Jonas Jerebko vs. Cavaliers LeBron James: Jerebko will face his toughest defensive assignment to date in James. Jerebko guarded Kobe Bryant at times last week, but will start out on James Wednesday night. James is able to hurt you in a number of ways and completely shutting him down is nearly impossible, but limiting him will go a long way for the Pistons.

“I can’t guard him by myself every time, I got to get some help,” Jerebko admitted. “People staying in the lane and things like that. We are going to a good job with helping and I’m going to do a good job with my defense too. ... He can do a little bit of everything. Everybody knows who LeBron is, he can do everything. You just have to try and stay in front of him and not give him easy shots, and easy stuff so that’s what I’ll do.”

The skinny — The Pistons (5-9) have lost five straight after going 0-4 on last week’s West Coast road trip. Detroit will certainly be happy to be back at The Palace Wednesday night, but hosting Cleveland is hardly a welcome homecoming.

Most of the Pistons current rotation, including four starters, were not with the team last season when it was swept by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs, so that will have no factor in Wednesday’s game, but Detroit will be eager to show it’s still a threat to Cleveland in the Central Division.

Pistons coach John Kuester said despite losing all four games on the West Coast trip, he feels the team gave a great effort and have a chance to turn things around Wednesday.

“Any time you lose it’s not pleasurable,” Kuester said. “The players realize it’s always more fun to win and learn from your mistakes as opposed to lose and learn from them. That’s what we’re trying to do right now, get on the right track. Our guys gave great effort. I know the Phoenix game was not the way we had played most of the season — pretty much the entire season — and we’re looking forward to bouncing back.”

It will also be an important game for Kuester, who was an assistant coach for Cleveland last season. Kuester was credited for Cleveland’s high-powered offense last season, but said the players deserve the credit.

“We had a wonderful group to work with last year,” Kuester said. “The players deserve all the credit. They worked so hard as a unit and were so unselfish, and really did a wonderful job. They made all of our jobs easier.”

The last few games of the West Coast trip Chris Wilcox and DaJuan Summers played more minutes than Kwame Brown and Austin Daye, who appeared to be ahead of Wilcox an Summers prior to the trip. Kuester said not to read too much into the minutes the last few games.

“Chris Wilcox and all of our young players have worked real hard in practice and deserve an opportunity,” Kuester said. “We just gave Chris an opportunity the last few games, but Kwame is a big part of this picture of what we have, so don’t read into that. ... The same thing (with Austin).”

Prediction: Cavaliers 99, Pistons 92; Pemberton’s record: 8-6

Pistons lose ESPN game

The NBA announced that Detroit's game at Philadelphia on Dec. 9 will no longer appear on ESPN. The Chicago at Atlanta game will now be televised by ESPN. The Pistons still have three ESPN games this season and four NBA TV games.

Nationally televised games
Jan. 29 vs. Miami — NBA TV
Mar. 5 at Cleveland — ESPN
Mar. 10 vs. Utah — NBA TV
Mar. 15 at Boston — ESPN
Mar. 21 at Cleveland — ESPN
Apr. 3 at Atlanta — NBA TV

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pistons at Suns preview

The opponent — The Suns (10-3) are a half game behind Atlanta for the best record in the NBA and are coming off a loss at New Orleans on Friday.

Steve Nash is playing like an MVP candidate again despite being 35-years-old and is averaging 16.8 points and 11.8 assists.

Amare Stoudemire (19.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1 block) remains one of the top offensive big men in the league and his frontcourt partner Channing Frye (13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds) is having a career year and is second in the league in 3-pointers made (36).

Jason Richardson (16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds) and the timeless Grant Hill (12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds) round out one of the best starting fives in the NBA.

Leandro Barbosa (11.0 points) and Jared Dudley (9.7 points) are key players off the Suns’ bench.

Key matchup — Pistons Rodney Stuckey vs. Suns’ Steve Nash: The Suns whole offense runs through Nash so Stuckey will have to make Nash work not only for his offense, but try to keep the ball out of Nash’s hands as much as possible so Nash can’t create for others. As good as Nash is offensively, his defense is nearly as bad so Stuckey will have to make him pay at that end of the floor. Stuckey has scored in double figures in every game this season.

The skinny — The Pistons conclude a disappointing and brutal West Coast road trip at Phoenix Sunday night. Detroit lost in overtime to the Jazz on Saturday night, while the Suns had the night off so once again Detroit will have heavy legs against a fresh team.

The Pistons have now lost four straight and could use a victory before returning home for a three-game home stand against the Cavaliers, Clippers and Hawks. Three games that are not exactly easy wins with the Cavs and Hawks being two of the top teams in the East and the Clippers a talented team that is better than their 5-9 record.

After being on the road all week, most teams would be ready to get this game over with and go home, but Pistons coach John Kuester has shown he can get this team to come out with an inspired effort in every game. The problem is the Pistons likely don’t have much left in the tank and the Suns are one of the top teams in the league, so this game has loss written all over it.

Prediction: Suns 106, Pistons 97; Pemberton’s record: 7-6

NBA Power Rankings - Nov. 22

1. L.A. Lakers — Pau Gasol put up 23 points and 14 rebounds in season debut (2)
2. Phoenix — Amazing how Nash makes players like Jared Dudley look good (1)
3. Atlanta — Joe Johnson is approaching superstar status (9)
4. Dallas — Mavs’ found a steal in France’s Rodrigue Beaubois (11)
5. Orlando — Something is wrong when Carter is averaging more shots than Howard (10)
6. Boston — So much for 72 wins, Celtics have lost three of their last four (3)
7. Cleveland — Anthony Parker fitting in nicely as a LeBron sidekick (4)
8. Denver — Arron Affalo another steal from Detroit for Denver (6)
9. Portland — Three-guard lineup of Blake, Roy, Miller working for Blazers (7)
10. Miami — Heat back down to earth, have lost four of their last five (5)
11. Milwaukee — Can anyone figure out how to stop Brandon Jennings? (13)
12. Houston — Never thought Trevor Ariza would lead a ‘good’ team in scoring (12)
13. Oklahoma City — The Thunder in the playoffs? No, just a weak schedule so far (21)
14. San Antonio — Richard Jefferson only Spurs’ starter to play in every game this season (8)
15. Utah — Carlos Boozer enjoying a season of contract-year-itis (20)
16. Chicago — Bulls offense struggling to replace Ben Gordon, averaging 89 points a game (15)
17. Toronto — Amir Johnson quickly approaching bust status (14)
18. Sacramento — Head coach Paul Westphal getting the best out of this group (19)
19. DETROIT — Pistons are treading water with Hamilton and Prince out (16)
20. Indiana — Dahntay Jones enjoying a career year (18)
21. Philadelphia — Speights knee injury means 76ers are stuck with Dalembert (17)
22. New Orleans — Peja Stojakovic good for a 20-point game once a week (25)
23. L.A. Clippers — Marcus Camby only starter not averaging in double figure (24)
24. Washington — Jamison is back, but can he save the Wizards? (22)
25. Memphis — Dumping Iverson the best move this team could make (27)
26. Charlotte — Hey, Larry, good luck with Stephen Jackson, you’re going to need it (23)
27. Golden State — Don Nelson now feuding with Monta Ellis, just can the guy (26)
28. New York — Not even the Knicks want Allen Iverson (29)
29. Minnesota — Wonder if T’wolves regret passing on Brandon Jennings, twice (28)
30. New Jersey — By this time next week, Nets could tie the NBA record for worst start (30)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pistons at Jazz preview

The opponent — The Utah Jazz are .500 (6-6) and coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season. The Jazz won their first game in San Antonio since 1999 on Thursday and will put their own streak on the line Saturday against Detroit.

The Pistons have not won in Utah since Nov. 6, 2002 and have lost 17 of their last 19 in Salt Lake City. Overall Utah has won eight of the last nine meetings. Detroit’s last win was back on March 13, 2005.

Point guard Deron Williams (20.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.8 assists) does it all for the Jazz and is one of the premier point guards in the league. Utah also features a solid frontcourt in power forward Carlos Boozer (18 points, 11.4 rebounds) and Mehmet Okur (14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds). Okur has missed Utah’s last two games with an illness.

Wes Matthews (7.3 points) has started Utah’s last four games, with Andrei Kirilenko (14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds) coming off the bench. The lineup has seemed to work as the Jazz have won three of their last four.

Ronnie Brewer (11.6 points) starts at shooting guard and Paul Millsap (9.4 points, 6.1 rebounds) is a solid frontcourt player off the bench.

Key matchup — Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva vs. Utah’s Carlos Boozer: The matchup between Rodney Stuckey and Deron Williams will be huge, but the key matchup for Detroit will likely be between Villanueva and Boozer. Villanueva has struggled at times during the Pistons three-game losing streak and is averaging 11.7 points in his last three, after averaging 23.7 points during the Pistons three-game win streak last week. The Pistons need Villanueva to be a more consistent scoring threat in the frontcourt.

Utah is a dangerous team when Boozer is playing well and are 5-1 this season when Boozer scores 20 or more and 1-5 when he doesn’t. Boozer has nine double-doubles this season so keeping him off the boards will have to be a priority for Villanueva.

The skinny — Detroit does not want to go winless on this West Coast swing and winning at Phoenix on Sunday won’t be an easy task, so this could be the game the Pistons have to get.

Detroit has made two inspiring comebacks in its last two games, but both came up short, the first at Los Angeles (Lakers) and the last one at Portland. The Pistons need to come out with the type of intensity they’ve showed in the comebacks to start the game against Utah.

Leading scorer Ben Gordon (21.1 points ) is shooing 27.9 percent from the field during the Pistons three-game losing streak, after staring out the season shooting 49 percent. Detroit needs Gordon to find his shot again.

Detroit’s bench players like Austin Daye and Jason Maxiell have played well in the last two games and the Pistons could use another consistent offensive threat off the bench besides just Will Bynum.

Prediction: Pistons 101, Jazz 97*; Pemberton's record 7-5
*Predicting the Pistons to win on a hunch, Detroit has to win one in Utah sooner or later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pistons Pulse - Nov. 19



Pistons beat writer Dave Pemberton talks Pistons with freshprinceoftheblog.com's Jake Bondarek.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pistons at Blazers preview

The opponent — The Blazers were a darkhouse contender by many in the Western Confernce and are 8-4 after staring out the season 2-3. Portland is 6-1 since inserting free-agent acquisition Andre Miller into the staring lineup, the lone loss being in overtime at 9-2 Atlanta on Monday.

With Miller in the starting lineup, the Blazers start three guards in Miller, Steve Blake and Brandon Roy. The Pistons can do one of two things against this smaller lineup, roll with the same starting five and try to make the Blazers adjust to Jonas Jerebko’s size or the more logical approach would be to start Will Bynum at point guard and move Rodney Stuckey to the 3.

Roy is Portland’s franchise player and is averaging 20.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Roy presents all kinds of defensive headaches for teams and limiting him will have to be one of the Pistons keys to victory.

LaMarcus Aldridge (14.7 points and 8.0 rebounds) is the Blazers top low-post presence and is joined in the frontcourt by former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden (9.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks).

Top reserve Travis Outlaw is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. That leaves Rudy Fernandez (8.3 points) and former starter Martell Webster (7.3 points) as Portland’s top two players off the bench. Joel Przybilla adds depth along the Blazers frontcourt.

Portland’s defense is allowing a league-best 87.1 points per game and the Blazers lead the league in free-throw percentage at 83.1 percent.

Key matchup — Pistons Charlie Villanueva vs. Blazers LaMarcus Aldridge: Villanueva is coming off his worst offensive game as a Piston, where he finished with two points on one for six shooting, but he also played just over 23 minutes as he remained on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. It was the first time Villanueva failed to reach double figures since the home opener against the Thunder.

Villanueva’s defense will likely be as important as his offense and the former UConn star is playing some of the best defense of his career. He is averaging 1 block and 0.7 steals per game, along with 5.6 rebounds. Aldridge is difficult to guard and is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He also shoots a high percentage (49.3 percent).

The skinny — Detroit is playing its fourth game in five days, but the good news, if any, that came out of the loss to the Lakers was most of the starters didn’t play many minutes. Ben Wallace played just 19 minutes and Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey both played just over 31 minutes.

Pistons coach John Kuester elected not to put his starters back in the game when Detroit pulled within seven in the fourth quarter and let the reserves try to complete the comeback. I have to believe the idea was to save his starters’ legs for tonight’s game.

The Blazers had Tuesday off after falling in overtime at Atlanta on Monday. The loss was the final game of a five-game road trip for Portland, which went 4-1 on the trip.

The game will likely come down to which trio of guards plays better, the Pistons Stuckey, Bynum and Gordon vs. the Blazers Roy, Miller and Blake. It will be interesting to see what starting five Kuester goes with and for how long. Bynum has been the Pistons most consistent scorer as of late and is averaging 21.8 points in his last four games.

Prediction:
Blazers 94, Pistons 90; Pemberton’s record 6-5

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pistons Pulse - Nov. 17, 2009



Pistons beat writer Dave Pemberton sits down with Jake Bondarek of freshprinceoftheblog.com to discuss the Pistons and the early surprises in the NBA.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pistons at Lakers preview

The opponent — Where do you start with the L.A. Lakers? They are the defending NBA champions and one of the top contenders for the NBA title again this season. The Lakers (7-3) have lost two straight entering Tuesday’s game after starting out the season 7-1. L.A. fell at Denver and lost at home to Houston.

Kobe Byrant is having another MVP-type season, averaging 30.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals. He was held to 18 points in the loss to Houston and left the game late in the fourth quarter with a strained groin.

Center Andrew Bynum is healthy and averaging 20.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Bynum has the potential to be an elite NBA center, but must stay healthy to do so.

The Ron Artest signing has worked out well for the Lakers so far. Artest is a tough defender and is averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

Lamar Odom has started in place of the injured Pau Gasol, who has yet to play this season. Odom is averaging 10.1 points and playing over 35 minutes a game with Gasol out. It is still unclear when Gasol will return, but he is not expected to play Tuesday.

The 35-year-old Derek Fisher remains the Lakers starting point guard and is a solid role player.

Key matchup — Pistons’ Ben Gordon vs. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant: Both players are coming off season-low outputs. Gordon was just 1-for-16 from the field and had five points in a loss to Dallas Sunday. Gordon was feeling a little under the weather, but made no excuses. He had a chance to tie the game, but missed a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left. The Pistons will need more out of Gordon to have a chance to beat the Lakers.

Bryant scored just 18 points against Houston, which is not a bad game for most, but bad for Bryant considering he is averaging more than 30 a game. Bryant’s groin injury doesn’t appear to be serious and he should be ready to go for Tuesday. The Pistons Rodney Stuckey will likely get the defensive assignment on Bryant and will have to try to limit his good looks.

The skinny —
The Pistons are in the midst of a brutal schedule right now. Detroit will be playing its third game in four days on Tuesday after playing at Washington on Saturday and at home against Dallas on Sunday, and play at Portland on Wednesday. The Pistons follow that up with road games at Utah on Saturday and at Phoenix on Sunday.

“Whoever did that schedule, man. That’s brutal right? All playoff teams,” said Stuckey, who is from Seattle. “It’s going to be a challenge for us. We’ll see what happens. … It’s going to be fun though. I get to go back home and see some family too as well. We’ll be good.”

The Lakers won’t care about the Pistons’ schedule though and will be hungry for a win after losing two straight. Detroit will have to weather the storm early against L.A. and try to keep things close.

Ben Wallace has been playing great defense and will have his hands full with Andrew Bynum. Containing the Lakers big man will be key. As will the matchup between Charlie Villanueva and Odom. Villanueva had a double-double against Dallas, but was 6 for 16 form the field. The Pistons need Villanueva to shoot a better percentage against the Lakers.

Backup point guard Will Bynum has averaged 21 points in the Pistons last three games and Detroit will need his spark off the bench on this West Coast swing with Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) not expected back. Hamilton and Prince did make the trip with the team according to an official with the team, but their playing status has not changed.

Prediction:
Lakers 103, Pistons 93; Pemberton's record 5-5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cramps end Stuckey's spectacular night

Rodney Stuckey was having a spectacular night against the Mavericks Sunday and had 28 points in the first three quarters, but then went down with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter with cramping in both of his legs.

The cramps could have been a result of Stuckey playing 45 minutes in a win at Washington Saturday night and playing over 40 minutes up to that point.

Pistons coach John Kuester said Stuckey could have went back into the game for the final possession, but he elected to stay with Jonas Jerebko. Ben Gordon missed a 3-pointer to tie the game with 1.9 seconds left and the Pistons fell 95-90.

After the game, Stuckey said he was fine and didn't think there would be an lingering affects. He expects to be ready to go for the Pistons four-game West Coast road trip, which starts with a game at the L.A. Lakers on Tuesday.

“Just both my legs when I jumped in the air for that jump shot, just both my calves cramped up,” Stuckey said. “Arnie (Kander) is a good trainer. He told me to just take it easy. We have a lot of games coming up so I just have to get my rest and drink a lot of water.”

Up to that point, Stuckey was having his way with Dallas point guard Jason Kidd and the Mavericks even switched to a zone defense to try to slow down Stuckey and the Pistons.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Stuckey said. “Coming off a back-to-back we knew it was going to be a fight. Dallas was waiting for us. I was just trying to come out, be aggressive, get to the free-throw line a couple times and we just feel short tonight. We had a chance at the end to tie up, we just missed the shot.”

“Oh he was phenomenal,” Kuester said of Stuckey. “His ability to take the ball to the basket — he was really focused on attacking. I thought that was the thing that I was most impressed with him. He’s getting better and better each game. I thought his defense at times was outstanding.”

Backup Will Bynum also had a solid game and finished with 27 points, including the Pistons final nine.

Mavericks at Pistons preview

The opponent — Dallas comes into Sunday’s game 6-3 and in first place in the Southwest Division. The Mavericks are 2-2 on the road this season and won at Minnesota on Friday.

Power forward Dirk Nowitzki (25.8 points, 9.1 rebounds) is the Mavericks’ franchise player and is having another All-Star season. Point guard Jason Kidd is no longer the elite player he once was, but is still a solid point guard and is averaging 8.3 assists this season.

Guard Jason Terry (18.1 points) is a dangerous 6th man for Dallas and can change the momentum of a game with his offense. Shawn Marion (13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) is showing flashes of his old self and seems to be fitting in better in Dallas than he did in his last two stops, Miami and Toronto.

Center Erick Dampier looks rejuvenated and his scoring (7.6), rebounding (6.7) and blocks (2.2) are all the best they’ve been since the 2004-05 season.

Josh Howard (ankle) is out indefinitely after returning for three games and then determining he needed more time to rest his ankle.

"All the teams I’ve been with we’ve gone to Dallas or played Dallas and realized how talented they are, especially with Jason Kidd, who is one of the premier point guards in our league," Pistons coach John Kuester said. "You got Dirk Nowitzki, who presents so many different problems in regards to be able to hound the basketball, create his own shot, shoot with distance, (he’s) able to take a guy to the basket, he presents all kinds of issues. Then you have Jason Terry, who is explosive, very explosive. He continually gets better, it seems each year."

Key matchup — Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva vs. Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki. Stopping Nowitzki is the key to beating Dallas. Detroit could have Ben Wallace defend Nowitzki, but the job could be left to Villanueva. Nowitzki can score points in a hurry and even scored 29 points in one quarter earlier this season. Nowitzki is not a great defender so Villanueva will have to attack him on the offensive end and possibly try to get Nowitzki into foul trouble.

The skinny — This is a typical NBA trap game for the Pistons, who are coming off a hard-fought win at Washington last night and leave for a West Coast trip on Monday. The Mavericks had an off day after winning at Minnesota on Friday.

"A trap game is only if you feel like all of a sudden you’re feeling too good about yourself," Kuester said. " You should feel good about a win like that that you just had against Washington, but everybody understands you’re talking about one of the premier teams in the West, so I think the focus has to be even more going into this type of game, offensively and defensively, understanding your game plan."

The matchup between Rodney Stuckey and Kidd will be key. Both teams are capable of putting points on the board so which ever point guard can get their offense going first will have an advantage.

Dallas started rookie Rodrique Beaubois at shooting guard on Friday. I’ll be honest I know little about Beaubois other than he was the Mavs first round pick in the draft, but Ben Gordon will have to go at the rookie and test his defense early.

Prediction: Dallas 103, Pistons 95; Pemberton’s record 4-5

NBA Power Rankings - Nov. 15

(Last week's rankings in parentheses)
1. Phoenix —
Nash playing like MVP again and Hill likes it’s 1997 (5)
2. L.A. Lakers — Bynum looks like an All-Star, but can he stay healthy? (2)
3. Boston — Rasheed showing maturity by accepting bench role (1)
4. Cleveland — Cavs are rumored to be interested in Stephen Jackson (7)
5. Miami — Key to Heat’s season is Jermaine O’Neal’s health (6)
6. Denver — Call me Earl, no wait JR, come on Smith make a decision (3)
7. Portland — Blazers like having a (Travis) Outlaw come off the bench (9)
8. San Antonio — Spurs got a steal in IUPUI’s George Hill (8)
9. Atlanta — Bibby said his scoring would go down, but shouldn’t his assists be up? (12)
10. Orlando — Rashard Lewis eligible to comeback for Monday’s game (4)
11. Dallas — Erick Dampier making sure Drew Gooden stays on the bench (11)
12. Houston — McGrady talking about coming back this month (10)
13. Milwaukee — Brandon Jennings is a stud, who needs college? (23)
14. Toronto — Turkoglu playing well, but that contract is still bad (15)
15. Chicago — Joakim Noah making Chicago writers eat their words, literally (13)
16. DETROIT — Jerebko playing well in place of Prince, he’s a rock star in Sweden (21)
17. Philadelphia — Elton Brand deal is going to doom this franchise (16)
18. Indiana — Danny Granger carrying this rag-tag group right now (24)
19. Sacramento — Kings have won four straight since losing Martin (29)
20. Utah — If Jazz continue to struggle, could this finally be the end of Sloan in Utah? (14)
21. Oklahoma City — Former 1st-round pick DJ White has played a total of 16 minutes (20)
22. Washington — Return of Jamison and Miller will be huge for the Wizards (19)
23. Charlotte — Larry Brown’s group playing like a bunch of strangers right now (18)
24. L.A. Clippers — Eric Gordon out with groin injury, can this team catch a break? (22)
25. New Orleans — Fired their coach and then saw Chris Paul get hurt, not good (17)
26. Golden State — Warriors scoring over 109 points a game, but giving up nearly 112 (25)
27. Memphis — If being drafted by the Grizz wasn’t bad enough, Thabeet breaks his jaw (26)
28. Minnesota — Oleksiy Pecherov staring for Wolves, enough said (27)
29. New York — Knicks playing musical chairs with staring lineup, this week’s flavor Toney Douglas (28)
30. New Jersey ·— Could we have our first 0-82 team on our hands? (30)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bloggers needed

I am staring up a weekly Pistons' video podcast on the blog and am looking for any Pistons bloggers or NBA bloggers period to join me on the show. We will shoot at the OP office in Pontiac each week. Times and days will vary depending on my schedule and whoever joins me that week and their schedule. You don't have to make any type of commitment, you want to come do one that's fine or come once a month, doesn't matter.

If you're at all interested e-mail me at dave.pemberton@oakpress.com. So far I have just the first one lined up with Jake Bondarek from freshprinceoftheblog.com. You will be allowed to promote your blog on the video as well as post the video to your blog. Plus you get to talk Pistons to a large audience.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pistons at Wizards preview

The opponent — Injuries have plagued the Wizards, who are off to a disappointing 2-6 start. But Washington expects both Antawn Jamison (shoulder) and Mike Miller (shoulder) to return from injuries on Saturday against the Pistons. Mike James (hand) and Randy Foye (ankle) will remain out for Saturday.

Jamison is a former All-Star, while Miller has won the Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year awards during his career, so having them both back will be a huge boost.

Gilbert Arenas (knee surgery) and Brendan Haywood (wrist) have both returned to form after missing most of last season due to injury. Arenas is 11th in the league in scoring at 24.0 per game and is averaging 5.9 assists per game. Haywood is sixth in the NBA in rebounds (10.8 per game) and is averaging 11.5 points per game.

Two-time All-Star Caron Butler is having another stellar season and is averaging 16.9 points and 7.6 rebounds this season. Andray Blatche has started off the season hot and is averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.

“We got our hands full, Washington is an outstanding team,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “We played them in the preseason, we know how talented they are. They’ll have Jamison back. We got to make sure the pace of the game is what we need. We got to do a great job of rebounding.”

Key matchup — Pistons Rodney Stuckey vs. Wizards Gilbert Arenas: Arenas is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league so containing him will have to be a priority for Stuckey and the Pistons. Stuckey (16.0 points) has done a nice job shouldering some of the scoring load left by the injuries to Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, and will need to continue that, but his defense will on Arenas’ will likley be the key to the game.

“Stuckey is potentially one of the best defensive guards in our league,” Kuester said. “Anytime you face a player of (Arenas’) ability, you just want to keep him in check. Make sure you do a great job of contesting all his shots. Don’t allow him to get into the teeth of your defense, that’s where he can create not only opportunities for himself, but others. We got to do a great job of keeping him in front of us and make sure we don’t just give him easy opportunities.”

The skinny — This is an important game for the Pistons, who are playing the first game of a back-to-back (they host Dallas on Sunday) before heading to the West Coast next week for games at Los Angeles (Lakers), Portland, Utah and Phoenix. Detroit then hosts Cleveland after its West Coast trip.

Charlie Villanueva is coming off a huge 30-point game against the Bobcats, where he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. The Pistons will need a big game out of him and Ben Gordon (23.8 points per game).

Jonas Jerebko will once again have a tough defensive assignment in Butler, but will have Austin Daye to back him up if he gets in foul trouble. Daye struggled against Charlotte, but had two solid games before that.

Facing Ben Wallace won’t be a fun return from the shoulder injury for Jamison. Wallace is back among the league leaders in rebounds and blocked shots and looking like the Wallace that won four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The Pistons will be without starters Hamilton (ankle) and Prince (back).

“Our guys have done a great job,” Kuester said of his team overcoming injuries to two starters. “Losing Tayshaun and Rip is part of the NBA, where you have injuries. But Jonas, Austin and (DaJuan) Summers are all going to be contributors to this organization in time. Jonas has done a real nice job being a starter the last few games. We just have to have other people pick it up. Ben Gordon and Stuckey and Bynum have done a great job of running our team. I’m very proud of what they’ve done and accomplished. The whole key has been we’ve tried to defend, when you defend it gives you a chance to win games.”

Prediction: Wizards 97, Pistons 91; Pemberton’s record 4-4, on a four-game win streak

Bynum dunks impress even Kuester

Will Bynum’s two dunks against Charlotte Wednesday have made him a popular YouTube search over the past few days. Blogs like Need4Sheed.com and Fanhouse's Stinkface Chronicles have chronicled the two ‘Bynumite’ dunks. But the dunks have even impressed Pistons coach John Kuester

“That was some dunk,” Kuester said of Bynum’s first dunk. “The thing that was impressive, I don’t know if you guys realize it, you know who was guarding him? You had Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler, two of the better defenders and that was some move. I was impressed.”

Here’s the video courtesy of Need4Sheed, the NBA and FSD.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kuester looking for a big man to emerge

Ben Wallace and Charlie Villanueva have likely cemented their spots in the starting lineup, but the rest of Kuester’s frontcourt rotation remains unsettled. The trio of Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox are competing for what will likely be two spots.

Brown looks like the front-runner for one spot. Brown has played in all seven games entering Wednesday night and is averaging 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game.

Maxiell played in the Pistons first three games before getting a DNP in the Pistons win over Orlando last week. But he looks to be back in Kuester’s rotation, playing 21 minutes in both the loss at Orlando and win at home over Philadelphia. Maxiell is averaging 3.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 17 minutes this season.

Wilcox could be the man out. He has missed three games this season due to a coaches decision and is averaging 0.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game.

“For us, you watch Ben Wallace and what he’s created for our team … he’s led by example, and that’s what I wanted (for) somebody else to separate them self in regards to that position,” Kuester said. “It’s not that I’m disappointed in any one of those guys. It’s just a matter of getting them to play at the level that Ben’s been playing at.”

Hamilton and Prince remain out
There is still no timetable for when Richard Hamilton (ankle) or Tayshaun Prince (back) will return to the Pistons lineup, but Kuester said both looked better Wednesday.

“The only update I can say is that they both looked better today than I have seen in the last few days,” Kuester said before the game Wednesday. “They won’t play tonight, but we’ll see how the next two days go.

“We’ll just see what happens the next two days. Try to get a gauge on what’s going on. That’s probably the best I can do right now. Just to see them walking around the way they were walking, it was so much better.”

Brown adding arc to shot

Pistons center Kwame Brown put in some extra work with head coach John Kuester on his shot Tuesday after practice. Brown is still adjusting to trying to get more arc on his shot.

“It’s different, like anything when it’s new to you,” Brown said of his new shot. “I been shooting the same way for so long, it’s a work in progress.”

Kuester has been pleased with Brown’s progress and work ethic in practice and has praised Brown whenever his name has come up.

“He’s been a pleasure to work with,” Kuester said. “We need his contributions. His size is very important to us. He’s worked extremely hard, getting more and more comfortable with the basketball. It’s important to us.

“We need him to attack the basket, especially offensive rebounding. When he does get those opportunities, take advantage of getting close to the basket and feeling comfortable when he gets fouled, getting to the foul line. He’s worked extremely hard throughout the preseason and season itself.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bobcats at Pistons preview

The opponent — The Bobcats enter Wednesday’s game (3-4) after a home loss to the Magic Tuesday night. Charlotte is 0-3 on the road this season and 3-1 at home.

Forward Gerald Wallace leads the team in scoring (14.3* per game), rebounding (13.8) and steals 2.0. Wallace has battled injuries throughout his career, but when healthy shows flashes of being an elite NBA player.

Boris Diaw is a multi-dimensional threat and can play nearly every position on the court. He is second on the team in scoring (12.3) and assists (4.8). Raja Bell is averaging 12.3 points after missing Charlotte’s first three games with a wrist injury.

Point guard Raymond Felton (11.8 points, 5.8 assists) and backup D.J. Augustin (9.8 points, 2.7 assists) are both talented young guards learning what head coach Larry Brown expects out of his point guards.

Tyson Chandler (7.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) mans the middle for the Bobcats. Chandler was traded to Charlotte in the offseason by New Orleans for Emeka Okafor, but has struggled early on.

Key matchup — Detroit’s Jonas Jerebko vs. Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace. Pistons coach John Kuester said Jerebko is in the starting lineup because of his defense. The rookie for Sweden will have his hands full with Wallace. Charlotte is (2-0) this season when Wallace scores 18 or more points. Jerebko must also keep Wallace, who leads the NBA in rebounding, off the boards.

Jerebko is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game since entering the starting lineup, but must also look for his shot. Jerebko scored a career-high 10 points in the win over Philadelphia and was 5-for-10 from the field, but it was also the first time he took more than five shots in a game.

“Jonas has kept his energy level up pretty high,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “We need him to be focused on defense because the matchups in this league at the 3 spot are very, very difficult to guard. Gerald Wallace from Charlotte is outstanding and some of the other people (Jonas) will be facing are also. It will be a big challenge for him.”

The skinny —
Charlotte is playing a back-to-back after hosting Orlando Tuesday, while Detroit (3-4) has been sitting at home since Sunday and had two days off to prepare. The well-rested Pistons should have an advantage late in the game or could do themselves a favor and build a lead early against the possibly tired Bobcats.

Detroit is coming off a home win over the 76ers and will be looking for consecutive wins for the first time this season. The Pistons have lost two straight after both of their previous wins.

The Pistons will need Ben Gordon to continue his hot shooting. Gordon is averaging 24 points per game, while shooting 47.3 percent. Gordon has scored 19 or more in all seven games this season.

The point guard duo of Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum will have to make sure Charlotte’s Felton and Augustin work on the defensive end, but also control the tempo for the short-handed Pistons. Stuckey and Bynum will also have to look to get others involved for Detroit, which is currently dead last in the league in assists.

Defense will also be key. Led by the rejuvenated Ben Wallace, the Pistons are second in the league in field goal percent defense at 41.7 percent, while Charlotte is dead last in scoring at 85.3 per game and field goal percentage (38.6 percent). If Detroit can hold the Bobcats to those numbers it should go a long way into securing the ‘W’.

“Our main focus has been field goal percentage (defense), making sure we keep people down,” Kuester said. “Now if we start doing a good job of not fouling people and putting them on the line, we’ll be in good shape. Like we keep saying these words, ‘It’s a work in progress.’ All things are taking time. They are starting to gear into what I want to get accomplished defensively. (There’s) still going to be nights where it’s not going to be as pretty. If we can start getting the mindset that we can get stops, boy that’s going to be huge for our team in the future.”

Kuester will no doubt be fired up for Wednesday’s game when he face his mentor Brown for the first time as a head coach.

Prediction: Pistons 97, Bobcats 89; Pemberton’s record (3-4, on a 3-game win streak)
* — All Stats entering Tuesday night

Kuester ready to face mentor Brown

Pistons guard Ben Gordon said he saw a little more fire in head coach John Kuester during Tuesday’s practice. The extra fire could be a result of who Kuester and the Pistons will face today, Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats.

Kuester considers Brown a mentor and was an assistant coach for Brown for six seasons in Philadelphia and one season in Detroit, where the two helped the Pistons win the 2004 NBA championship.

“You can tell he’s a little more fired up today,” Gordon said after practice Tuesday. “He wanted us to be a little more attentive on just some details on the defensive end and things on offense. He didn’t say anything, but you can kind of tell he had that edge. He had an edge with himself today.

“He wants to compete against (Brown), he wants to do well against his former mentor. That was definitely evident today. He brought it in practice. I know he is expecting the same from us tomorrow.”

Likely in his mind Kuester would love to beat his former mentor in their first head-to-head matchup, but Kuester said he wants this win just as much as any other when he asked if he wanted to beat Charlotte a little more.

“I don’t think we are playing one-on-one so that’s the good news,” Kuester said with a laugh. “Coach Brown has meant so much to my life. He’s been very special to not only me, but my family. I’m very appreciative of what he’s done for me. He’s a competitor. He’s somebody that I learned so much from. I’m looking forward to seeing him.

“Seeing coach, Dave Hanners and Phil Ford, people from (North) Carolina is special, but as soon as the ball gets thrown up, everybody’s focused on what needs to be done.”

Five Pistons on All-Star Game ballots

The NBA released its 2010 NBA All-Star ballot on Tuesday and it features five Detroit Pistons in Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Taysahun Prince and Charlie Villanueva.

Looking at the ballot I couldn’t help, but laugh at a few names. My favorite is the Grizzlies’ Allen Iverson listed on the guards ballot in the Western Conference. AI fans better vote him into the starting lineup because you know he won’t come off the bench.

Ben Wallace is the one Piston name missing that is likely deserving of being on the ballot. But these things are clearly made well in advance of the season starting, but Wallace fans can still write in ‘Big Ben.’

All-Star voting has begun on NBA.com. Fans can also vote through text messaging by texting a player’s last name from their phone to MYNBA (69622). This season’s All-Star game is on Feb. 14, 2010 and will by played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas and is expected to draw more than 80,000 fans, the largest number ever to witness a live basketball game.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hamilton out for Wednesday

Pistons coach John Kuester said Richard Hamilton will not be available when the Pistons host Charlotte on Wednesday night. Hamilton has missed the Pistons last six games after spraining his ankle in the season opener at Memphis.

“He’s still getting treatment and walking better, so that’s the good news,” Kuester said. “He won’t be available.”

Tayshaun Prince remains out indefinitely with a small rupture of a disc in his lower back.

Pistons hope to improve assist numbers

Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Pistons’ rank dead last in the NBA in assists per game and by a wide margin. Detroit is averaging 14.42 per game, while New Jersey in 29th with 17 per game.

“Would we like to be higher? Of course,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “We don’t have selfish players. That’s one thing I will say straight out. We got guys that want to make plays (and) are trying to help each other out. We would like to get better in that area, there is no question, but we’re not selfish that’s for sure.”

Injuries to Richard Hamilton, who had four assists in his only game this year, and Tayshaun Prince, who averaged 2.3 in three games, have hurt the Pistons assist total.

Backup point guard Will Bynum leads the team in assists with 4.1 per game, starting point guard Rodney Stuckey is second with 3.7 and Ben Gordon is third with 3.3. Next is Ben Wallace, who averages just 0.7 per game, no other Piston averages more than 0.3 per game.

“We’re getting more comfortable playing with each other,” Bynum said. “We are getting better and better everyday. It’s a learning process. I think in due time our assist number will definitely go up. We just have to keep learning how to play with guys and we got incredible one-on-one players. That’s probably it too.”

Stuckey and Bynum are both young point guards, who are also talented offensively and look for their own shots at times. Stuckey’s 118 field attempts leads the team and Bynum is fourth with 68 attempts.

Kuester has been known to spend extra time after practice talking to his young point guards and Bynum even joked he’s been in Kuester’s office so many times he knows all the pictures on the wall. But Bynum knows it’s for the good and appreciates Kuester’s attention to detail.

“He’s always positive all the time,” Bynum said. “He’s always on me. He’s always on me, but that’s a good thing though. When the coach is not saying much to you, that’s when you should be worried. When he is always on me, I know that he wants me to get better and better.

“He’s always on me about film (and) body language out there on the court,” Bynum added. “Teams could not have scored on that possession when we watch film, but he’s still on me about the small things, being in the right position. I could be an inch or two from being in the right position and he’s making sure I know that I’m right there. That’s big for me.”

Kuester believes a big key to the Pistons offense right now is controlling the tempo of the game. With two starters out due to injuries, Kuester wants him to team to choose when it runs and not get into a shootout.

“We gotta control it right now,” Kuester said of the tempo. “When you are down in numbers, you have to make sure that the pace is the way you need it, depending on the game situation. I feel very strong that, if we got into a rat race right now with our group right here, it wouldn’t be to our advantage. We are trying to make sure we control the pace of the game and making sure we do run when the opportunity presents itself, but in the same token (make sure) we get a good quality shot each time.”

For the most part, Detroit has limited opposing team’s good looks and is tied for second in the league in field goal percentage defense (41.7 percent).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wallace looking like the old 'Big Ben'

Ben Wallace has been turning plenty of heads with his play over the first two weeks of the season. Wallace had 16 rebounds (seven offensive), three blocks and three steals in the Pistons 88-81 win over the 76ers Sunday.

Wallace is now averaging 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals this season and has many people saying he looks the old Wallace, who was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year four times during his previous stint in Detroit.

“Going into this thing, I knew Ben would be an asset talking to our bigs,” Pistons head John Kuester said. “I never imagined the impact he would have playing that he is right now. He looks like the old Ben. There are things that he’s doing on second and third efforts, that was the Ben of old.”

Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva joked after the game that Wallace was stealing rebounds from him.

“He grabs all the rebounds,” Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva joked. “He’s costing me a lot (of rebounds). It’s amazing. That man is 35 years old. That’s something to look up to, when I’m 35 hopefully I can do the things he does.”

Ben Gordon, who led the Pistons with 23 points Sunday, said he thinks what’s helped rejuvenate Wallace is returning to Detroit.

“Ben seems like he’s at home here in Detroit,” Gordon said. “Playing for his last few teams the last few years, he never really seemed like he was at home. You can tell Big Ben is definitely at home here. He plays with energy, he seems rejuvenated.”

Jerebko establishing himself

The loss of Tayshaun Prince for an extended period has opened the door for some of the Pistons young players to get more playing time. The one guy that has separated himself from the pack and cemented himself at the starting small forward spot is Jonas Jerebko.

Jerebko has secured the spot despite not playing much small forward in the preseason. Pistons coach John Kuester said Jerebko's energy and commitment to defense were so impressive that he felt comfortable plugging Jerebko in at small forward.

“Jonas has far exceeded all my expectations,” Kuester said. “I never expected him to be able to play (at) the consistent level that he has. Don’t look at his stats from an offensive standpoint. He brings a lot to the table. His energy and the extra possessions that he gives us have been outstanding."

Kuester said when he was making the decision to replace Prince in the starting lineup, it was Jerebko’s defense that separated him from the other options. Kuester believes Jerebko can defend guys like Vince Carter, Andre Iguodala and other NBA small forwards.

“The 3 men in our league are tall and strong,” Kuester said. “Right now … he can guard the Vince Carters on a consistent basis. Vince Carter is going to get his numbers and there are a lot of great players that are going to get their numbers, but his energy and his ability to do whatever it takes to get to his man is the thing that impressed me the most. He’s consistently done that. That’s what I saw in the preseason, that he can guard a number of people. That’s our biggest concern losing Tayshaun, ‘Can we defend these positions?’ ”

Kuester is also confident in rookie Austin Daye, who will see his share of minutes at small forward. Daye had his best game as a pro in the loss to Orlando, finishing with 11 points (5-for-7 shooting) and five rebounds in 18 minutes.

“Austin is going to be an outstanding player in time,” Kuester said. “His basketball IQ is very impressive. That’s where he is going to come in and at times show people that he can really play. He’s got a lot of confidence on the offensive end.”

Rodney Stuckey will also see time at small forward when the Pistons go to their three-guard lineup and Kuester said don’t be surprised if DaJuan Summers gets an opportunity soon. But Kuester said he hasn’t really explored the possibility of playing Charlie Villanueva at the 3.

Hamilton getting closer
Richard Hamilton remains day-to-day with a right ankle sprain, but Kuester said Hamilton is making progress.

"He’s not started running, but he’s walking a lot more comfortably than I’ve seen him in the past," Kuester said.

NBA Power Rankings 1108

1. Boston — Celts look great, but Rasheed’s 72 wins prediction is still ludicrous
2. L.A. Lakers — Not even Pau Gasol injury can slow these guys down
3. Denver — Carmelo Anthony the very, very early MVP front runner
4. Orlando — Chucking 3-pointers and Dwight Howard a winning combo
5. Phoenix — Channing Frye pickup looking good for Suns
6. Miami — Anybody else surprised Quentin Richardson has made this team better?
7. Cleveland —Having O’Neal and Ilgauskas clog the lane hurts James
8. San Antonio — Bigger problem: 0-3 on the road or Ginobili killing bats?
9. Portland — Good to see Greg Oden with two working legs
10. Houston — No Yao or McGrady and still atop the Southwest Division
11. Dallas — The Matrix showing he still has some game left
12. Atlanta — Jamal Crawford as a 6th man makes this team dangerous
13. Chicago — Losing Tyrus Thomas to a broken arm hurts
14. Utah — Deron Williams could be the best PG in the NBA
15. Toronto — Bargnani finally playing like a No. 1 overall pick
16. Philadelphia — Lou Williams making Philly fans forget Andre Miller
17. New Orleans — Okafor has four double-doubles in Hornets first five
18. Charlotte — Don’t be surprised if LB has this team in the playoffs
19. Washington — Arenas it’s not the media’s fault you got bad knees, end the ‘boycott’
20. Oklahoma City — Love the young trio of Durant, Westbrook and Green
21. DETROIT — Gordon as good as advertised, but injuries have set this team back
22. L.A. Clippers — Comb-over Kaman playing like an All-Star
23. Milwaukee — Michael Redd injuries becoming as common as cheese in Milwaukee
24. Indiana — Roy Hibbert showing he may not be a stiff after all
25. Golden State — Stephen Jackson playing nice with Don Nelson for now
26. Memphis — Someone explain why this team signed Iverson? Why???
27. Minnesota — Signing Sessions makes little sense if they believe Flynn is the guy
28. New York — Knicks might regret signing David Lee to only a one-year deal
29. Sacramento — Losing Kevin Martin could make this team unwatchable
30. New Jersey — Wonder if Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov kept his receipt

Rip-less Pistons haven't looked pretty

Pistons fans calling for the team to trade Richard Hamilton have gotten to see a glimpse of what the team looks like without Hamilton over the past five games.

Wonder if they like what they see?

The results —1-4 — have not been pretty.

Why Hamilton — who has been a huge part of the Pistons’ success over the past decade — has not been able to win over some of the Pistons fan base is surprising.

Before the ink could dry on Ben Gordon’s contract, people were ready to ship Hamilton out of town and toss him aside like yesterday’s news.

How many leading scorers on an NBA championship team have been treated in such a fashion and without showing a decline in their skills?

Hamilton, for all his faults as a player, was the least of the Pistons’ recent problems. In my humble opinion, it’s another member of the 2004 championship team (not named Wallace) that has gotten the free pass from fans, despite being vastly overrated, but that’s another column for another day.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out what Hamilton has to do to get the respect he deserves in Detroit. He’s already came out and said he would like to stay here for the rest of his career and one day have his No. 32 retired.

Does he have to pull a Chauncey Billups and lead another team to the conference finals before people appreciate what they have?

I know what people who want to trade Hamilton are saying, ‘This team needs a big guy.’ Well if you trade Hamilton, this team will need a shooting guard.

Offensively, Gordon is one of the top guards in the league. But a starting backcourt of Gordon and Rodney Stuckey can’t get the job done defensively. And Will Bynum, who has been unbelievable, can’t back up both guys.

Trade Hamilton for a big guy and who is your backup shooting guard, Chucky Atkins? DaJuan Summers? Wonder if Deron Washington would come back?

The Pistons’ best option is Stuckey and Hamilton in the starting guard spots, with two great backups in Gordon and Bynum. The Pistons’ four guards, when healthy, are one of the better units in the league.

Nobody is going to argue the Pistons will need to improve their frontcourt to become an elite team again, but are any of the rumored big men on the trading block going to do that either?

If you trade for Carlos Boozer, is he going to help the Pistons overtake the Celtics, Cavaliers and Magic? I think not. And do the Pistons want to give him the max deal he is going to want in the offseason?

Another name out there is Chris Kaman, who is playing great for the Clippers right now. But is he really going to propel the Pistons back to the NBA’s elite? I think he’s got a better chance of getting Baron Davis to invest in his farm.

I could list more guys, but you get the point. There is a reason these guys are ‘available.’

Do you really want to give up Hamilton and likely something else to get them?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Hamilton is untouchable by any means, but he is certainly not a weakness for the Pistons.

Hamilton is a solid scorer and defender, whose presence on offense helps open up things for others.

The only knock I have on Hamilton is his leadership. Can Hamilton step up and be a leader? I don’t know the answer to that. He hasn’t had to do it up to this point in his career with the Pistons, but they need him to be a leader this season.

It should be noted, though, that the last time Hamilton was asked to be a team’s unquestioned leader was at Connecticut and he led them to the 1999 national championship.

Pistons fans just have to be patient with this team, which I know is hard to do when you’re used to success. Make a wrong move and it could take years to fix.

Hamilton has earned the right to get a chance to lead this team. But if you don’t believe me, then, hey, run him out of town.

Just don’t be surprised when whatever team Hamilton lands on is still playing in May and June, while the Pistons are counting their ping-pong balls.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

76ers at Pistons preview

The opponent — The 76ers are 3-2, but their three wins have been over the Knicks, Bucks and Nets. Philadelphia has been blown out by the Magic and Celtics in its other two games.

Elton Brand’s play this season has many people questioning why the 76ers signed him to that huge deal. Brand, who has really struggled to stay healthy since arriving in Philly, is averaging 11 points and 5.6 rebounds.

The high-flying Andre Iguodala has emerged as the team’s franchise player and is averaging 18.4 points, 6 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season. Iguodala led the league in minutes played last year and is averaging just over 38 minutes a game this season.

Forward Thaddeus Young (13 points) and point guard Louis Williams (17.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists) are two young and upcoming players that have played well for the 76ers so far this season.

Second-year big man Marreese Speights has played well off the bench and is the team’s third leading scorer at 13.2 per game.

Key matchup —
Pistons’ Rodney Stuckey vs. 76ers Louis Williams. Williams has rewarded the 76ers, who showed faith in him and let Andre Miller walk in the offseason. He is second on the team in scoring and is averaging over five rebounds and five assists per game. Containing him will be a key for Stuckey, who has to make Williams work on the defensive end. Stuckey also needs to get his teammates involved. Stuckey has dished out more than four assists just once (8 at Milwaukee) this season.

The skinny — Detroit and Philadelphia are two teams expected to contend for the last few playoff spots in the East. The Pistons need to protect their homecourt and get a win after two straight losses on the road.

The 76ers are allowing an average of 106.4 points per game (6th most in the NBA).

The Pistons have to play a full 48 minutes to get a win. One-quarter lapses have cost Detroit dearly in its four losses this season.

The Pistons gave up 40 points to Orlando in the first quarter Friday and never recovered. A 44-point second quarter by the Raptors was the difference on Wednesday. The Pistons were outscored 36-14 in the third quarter after leading 49-38 at halftime in their loss at Milwaukee and a third quarter funk (outscored 24-16, after leading 45-38 at the half) cost them in their home opener against the Thunder.

Charlie Villanueva had his best game of the season in the loss at Orlando, scoring 22 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. If Villanueva can become more consistent offensively it will go a long way in helping ease the scoring load off the guards.

“I was just trying to give life to the team,” Villanueva said of his effort in Orlando. “It was a bad situation that first quarter, we allowed them to score 40 points. Dug ourselves in a big hole so I just tried to give the team a little bit of energy, a little bit of a spark and I made some shots in that fourth quarter.”

Austin Daye also played well in Orlando and had his best game as a pro, finishing with 11 points (5-for-7 shooting) and five rebounds in 18 minutes.

Pistons coach John Kuester put in some extra work with the Pistons big men after practice Saturday and is hoping to see someone step up and secure a spot in the rotation.

“We needed to make sure we got some extra work,” Kuester said. “We have a number of guys that have done some good things. We’re looking to see who is going to separate themselves from the pack.”

The Pistons will once again be without Tayshaun Prince (back) who is out indefinitely and Richard Hamilton (ankle).

The early 1 p.m. start was not kind to the Pistons last year, but with a younger group of guys this season, it may not be a big deal.

“It changes your routine,” Kuester said of the early start. “Now all of a sudden your focused on trying to get things sped up, preparing for a 1 o’clock game. Sometimes the juices are flowing at the right time and sometimes they’re not. But I’m real excited about our game tomorrow. Philadelphia is a well-coached team with Eddie Jordan and also they got some tremendous talent.”

Prediction: Pistons 101, 76ers 96; Pemberton’s record 2-4