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An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Milicic done with the NBA

AUBURN HILLS — Former Piston and No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic returned to The Palace Tuesday for what could be the first of his final two visits.

Milicic has publicly stated he plans to play in Europe next season and didn’t hold back any of his feelings towards the Pistons organization during an interview before Tuesday’s game.

Milicic was asked about his memories of Detroit and said he had fond memories off the court, but all bad memories on the court.

“I don’t know why the took me with the second pick if you’re not going to play me,” Milicic said. “I never understood that, you know. I was happy being the second pick and all that kind of stuff, but I never knew what I got myself into. I never knew I was coming here not to play. Nobody was telling me anything. Coming from Europe, you know, what do I know? I just wanted to play basketball.

“I should be more aggressive I think,” Milicic continued. “I made a mistake because I was listening to them all the time — be ready, your chance is going to come, stuff like this — all that kind of (crap).

“I was listening to them,” Milicic added. “I might be better off making a move early, when I didn’t play the first year, asking for a trade right away. But I was waiting, waiting, waiting, my mistake. Who knows? Maybe things would be different right now, but who knows?”

Milicic played sparingly during his two-plus seasons in Detroit, averaging less than seven minutes in the few games he actually got into.

He was even given the nickname ‘The Human Victory Cigar’ because he would often only play in the final minutes of Pistons blowouts.

Milicic believes he could have contributed to the team and even said the Pistons misled him during his time with the team.

“They lie to everybody,” Milicic. “It’s the NBA. The NBA, all around the league, same (crap). Be ready. Your chance is going to come. All that kind of (crap). (Bleep) that. … I’ve got enough of that kind of stuff, so I decided I’m going to go play in Europe and enjoy a little bit play.

“I’ve go to be real, there is no team in the league that is going to give me the chance that I’m looking for,” Milicic continued. “My only chance is back in Europe. I’m going to do that. I want to be happy. I want to play. So for me, to go to Europe and have a good chance.

“The play is going to go through me,” Milicic added. “I’m going to have (the ball) more in my hands in the post where I’m going to create for others. That’s what I do, pass to others, create for myself. That’s how I’m going to get my confidence back and that’s how I’m going to get my love for the game back, because without that, I can’t play, because the kind of player I am, I’m all-in or I’m all-out. I play with my heart.

“I know I do some stupid stuff, but that’s what I do play with my heart, all-in. If I see things are not working well and I see people lying to me and stuff like that, I’m all out. That’s it.”

Milicic has appeared in just eight games for the Knicks this season and has not played since Nov. 13. When asked what his goals where for the rest of this season, Milicic simply said “Nothing.”

“Nothing, because I got myself really ready, like, I was working in the summertime to get in shape, working really hard for this season and very mentally ready and then just play a little bit, little bit, little bit and then not playing at all, so I’m disappointed in the league,” Milicic said. “I really cleared my mind. I’m not ready right now to play for any other team, because I just want to finish this chapter in my life — the NBA chapter in my life — and go back and get 100 percent ready for next season and just go on a team that’s going to let me do my stuff and give me a chance.

“I’m not looking for big money,” Milicic continued. “I’m not looking for a team, for a city. It doesn’t matter. I’m just looking for a team that’s going to sit down and talk — I’m going to promise you I’ll give you 100 percent and you promise me you’re going to give me what I’m looking for. That’s it. Money’s not a problem. City, team, it doesn’t matter.”

Bynum sits out
Pistons guard Will Bynum missed his fourth game of the season Tuesday as he continues to recover from sprains in both of his ankles.

Bynum injured his right ankle back in mid-November and then sprained his left ankle against Philadelphia on Dec. 9. He sat out three games after the second sprain, but then played six games before deciding to shut it back down on Tuesday.

“He feels that he need to get this thing right,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “He’s done some awfully good things for us this season so we got to make sure he gets healthy.”

Bynum started off the season hot, but has not been that same as of late. He has not had the same expressiveness he showed early in the season.

“He wants to be able to get that explosion back,” Kuester said. “More importantly for us, is his ability to change the complexion of the game defensively because he is able to get up and pressure people.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Villanueva battling plantar faciitis

Charlie Villanueva is likely rid of one nagging pain, the protective mask for his nose, but still has to battle through another, plantar faciitis in his right foot.

“I’m done with the mask. I graduated from the mask. I’m done with it,” Villanueva said with a laugh Monday.

Villanueva played some of Sunday’s game without the mask and admitted he has not officially been cleared to play without it, but expects to be before Tuesday’s game.

The plantar faciitis is another story, Villanueva has no idea how long the injury will linger.

“With plantar faciitis you really can’t tell,” Villanueva said about when it will get better. “You just to have treat it and hopefully it will get better sooner rather than later.”

Villanueva does not expect to miss any time with the injury, but admitted it’s a frustrating injury.

“It’s frustrating because there is a sharp pain every step I make,” Villanueva said. “I can’t really move out there, very limited. Every step I take I’m feeling a little bit of pain.”

Gordon, Hamilton remain questionable
Ben Gordon (ankle) and Richard Hamilton (hamstring) went through some of Monday’s practice, but their status for Tuesday’s game is still questionable.

“They were out on the floor,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “They were there, they went some script and stuff so that was encouraging.”

Starting five status quo
Earlier this season the Piston lost seven straight and made a change to the starting lineup. Detroit went on to win six out of seven after the change, but have now lost four straight. Kuester was asked Monday if he is thinking about making a change again and said it’s something that he is constantly evaluating.

“It’s something you do try to evaluate and you want to make sure you’re making the right decision for the team,” Kuester said. “We’ll just sort of sit on that right now. I don’t want to give you a definitive answer because you never know who is going to be healthy and who’s not going to be healthy. We made a change and will probably not make a change for the Charlotte game, but we just don’t know. I would say it’s a good question because we did do that (before). Right now, I’m status quo … in the same token, we’ll have to evaluate it again.”

Important stretch
Tuesday’s game against Charlotte starts an important five-game stretch to end December for the Pistons. Detroit faces the Bobcats, Toronto twice, New York and Chicago, all Eastern Conference teams either right ahead or right behind the Pistons (11-16) in the standings.

“Each game is important, especially these games where we’re all in that bubble, in that mix,” Villanueva said. “We are taking it a game at a time and try to win every game, it’s possible to be honest. All these are winnable games, but we have to learn how to win on the road, that’s going to be very important for us.”

The Pistons are just 3-11 on the road this season and will be playing a Charlotte team that has added Stephen Jackson since the last time the two teams met at The Palace on Nov. 11.

“It’ s a Charlotte team that we’ve beaten so we know that they’re going to be prepared for us,” Villanueva said. “I think Stephen Jackson helps them a lot. He’s another offensive weapon out there, another guy we have to focus on. I think they’re a better team with him.”

Pistons notes - Dec. 21

AUBURN HILLS — What a difference a week can make. Just ask Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey.

Stuckey earned the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for the games played between Dec. 7-13. He averaged 27 points and six assists and helped the Pistons pull within one game of .500 thanks a to a five-game win streak.

The past week did not go as well for Stuckey and the Pistons.

Detroit lost three-straight on a road trip to Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, and then suffered an embarrassing, 93-81, loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at home Sunday to fall to 11-16.

“We’re just losing, that’s pretty much it,” Stuckey said after Sunday’s loss. “I know one thing, a lot of us don’t like losing. We just got to find a way to win a game.

“I think everybody was happy when we were on the five-game winning streak and now we’re on a (four)-game losing streak,” Stuckey added. “We’ll be fine. We know we’re down three of our top scorers and stuff like that. Hopefully we’ll get through that soon. It’s no excuse that we’re coming out and losing.”

Stuckey had a frustrating start to Sunday’s game. He picked up his second foul with 7:25 left in the first quarter and left the game with his team up 9-4.

He didn’t return until the 10:36 mark in the second quarter with his team already trailing by 13, 36-23.

Stuckey scored five quick points within three minutes of re-entering the game, but was held scoreless in the half from there.

He scored six points in a 10-2 Pistons run to start the fourth quarter, but it appeared to be too little too late.

“We could probably play a little bit harder and things like that,” Stuckey said. “The games that we are losing, some of them we were in and we just gave up. We gave those games up. I think overall we’ll be fine. The most important thing is we all stick together. We (have to) stick together and just grow from this experience. We just go a lot of guys out now, but we’re fighting though.”

With Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince out with injuries, a large portion of the Pistons’ scoring load has been placed on Stuckey, who is averaging 19.7 points on the season and 4.5 assists.

Some have questioned if he can strike the right balance between scoring and getting his teammates involved, but Stuckey insisted it’s not hard.

“It’s not hard, I’ve been a scorer ... since I been playing basketball,” Stuckey said. “There is just times where I gotta look to my teammates. I just got to pick and choose. If I have a lane take it, but if not I got to give it up.”

Healing up
The Pistons don’t have a lot of time to heal their injuries, with one day off before a back-to-back consisting of a game at Charlotte on Tuesday and a game at home against Toronto on Wednesday.

Gordon (ankle) was questionable for Sunday, but missed his seventh straight game and ninth in the last 13. Gordon remains day-to-day and his status remains up in the air for Tuesday.

Hamilton missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Hamilton returned for two games from a severe right ankle sprain that caused him to miss 21 games before injuring his hamstring against Houston on Dec. 15. Hamilton said Saturday he hopes to return sometime this week.

There is still no timetable for the return of Prince, who has missed the last 24 games with a ruptured disc in his back.

Will Bynum and Charlie Villanueva are playing through injuries. Bynum has played two straight games after missing three with sprains in both of his ankles. Villanueva continues to wear a mask to protect the broken nose he suffered back on Nov. 29 and is also battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Snowed in
There was no Los Angeles Lakers beat writers in Detroit for the Lakers-Pistons game after they got stuck in New Jersey because of the winter storm that hit the East Coast.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn’t seem to miss them though.

“Too bad, so sorry,” Jackson said with a laugh. “They will have to write about it from New York.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

NBA Power Rankings — Dec. 20

(Last week’s ranking in parentheses
1. L.A. Lakers — Pau Gasol rebounding at an unbelievable rate (1)
2. Boston — Loss to 76ers snaps 11-game winning streak (2)
3. Atlanta — Hawks have won six games by at least 20 points this season (8)
4. Orlando — Magic end December with five straight at home (4)
5. Cleveland — LeBron James has led the team in assists in 20 of 27 games (6)
6. Dallas — Dirk Nowitzki had to pull Carl Landry’s teeth out his elbow (3)
7. Denver — Nuggets are 10-3 against Western Conference opponents (7)
8. Phoenix — Entire Suns starting five averaging more than 12 points a game (5)
9. Utah — Sloan benched starters in third quarter of loss at Atlanta (9)
10. San Antonio — Spurs have won 2 of 3 on the road after staring out 1-5 (10)
11. Houston — Tracy McGrady’s return has been unimpressive (11)
12. Portland — Joel Przybilla averaging 9.5 rebounds since Oden injury (12)
13. Oklahoma City — Jeff Green quietly having another solid season (13)
14. New Orleans — Hornets 10-3 at home, 2-10 on the road (15)
15. Miami — Heat promote Carlos Arroyo to starter and win two straight (14)
16. Milwaukee — Bucks are 2-6 with Michael Redd in the lineup (16)
17. L.A. Clippers — Eric Gordon second among NBA sophomores in scoring (21)
18. Sacramento — Kings 10-3 at home and 1-11 on the road (20)
19. DETROIT — Pistons asking Rodney Stuckey to do too much (17)
20. Memphis — Zach Randolph playing at an All-Star level (24)
21. Charlotte — Bobcats one of three teams with one road win (23)
22. Toronto — Rookie DeMar DeRozan has started all 29 games this season (18)
23. New York — Darko Milicic already planning escape route to Europe (22)
24. Chicago — Rookie Taj Gibson a bright spot for the Bulls (19)
25. Indiana — Mike Dunleavy scoring more than 15 a game since return (25)
26. Washington — Amazing how bad Wizards have been this season (26)
27. Golden State — Warriors 1-9 in the month of December (27)
28. Philadelphia — Early return of Marreese Speights should be a boost (28)
29. Minnesota — Jonny Flynn third among rookies in scoring (29)
30. New Jersey — Bonds for a new arena selling well, tickets not so much (30)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gordon questionable, Hamilton out for Lakers

Ben Gordon is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Lakers, while Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are listed as out.

Gordon said he will test the ankle Sunday morning at the shootaround and make a decision from there.

“I’m just working with Arnie every day and pretty much going off what he suggests Right now, I don’t know,” Gordon said Saturday. “I don’t know what he has in store for me. Hopefully I’ll be ready by tomorrow. It’s feeling stronger each day, but we are just taking it day by day right now.”

Gordon is trying to build strength in the sprained ankle and hopes to have the ankles pretty even in terms of strength before he returns.

“(I’m) just trying to get it strong as possible,” Gordon said. “Right now there is a big difference between strength in the two ankles. I’m just trying to strengthen it up so I won’t have any imbalance when I’m playing out there.”

Hamilton’s ankle is not quite 100 percent, but it’s his hamstring that is keeping him out of the lineup right now. Hamilton injured the hamstring during the Pistons’ loss to the Rockets on Tuesday.

“It’s a frustrating thing because when you think you’re back and then something happens, it’s like one of those things that it’s hard for you to get over, because you want to be out there,” Hamilton said. “You want to be with your guys and playing. And I’ve never been injured like this in my whole career. It’s frustrating. I just try to stay positive, try to stay around the guys and still try to work out, do the things I can do so I can be ready when I come back and play.”

Hamilton hopes he can return this week, but admitted it’s kind of a day-to-day thing.

“They said that with my ankle last time and I sure wasn’t day-to-day,” Hamilton said with a laugh. “Hopefully sometime this week coming up (I’ll return).”

Hamilton doesn’t see the ankle being a problem once he returns and said the hamstring is a different type of injury.

“It’s totally different,” Hamilton said. “The ankle was one of them things where I couldn’t walk and was on crutches. I can still walk some. There’s still pain there and things like that. It’s frustrating to me just not suiting up and going on the floor. That’s very, very hard and difficult for me right now. I just got to get better.

“The ankle still swells up at times, but I’m getting more and more confident with it. I knew it was going to get swollen every now and then after I played. The one thing I just wanted, was to be confident in it. If I’m confident in it, I’ll be fine.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stuckey named Player of the Week

Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey was named the NBA's Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the games played between Dec. 7-13. Stuckey led Detroit to a 3-0 week, averaging 27.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting, 6.0 assists and 1.3 steals.

Stuckey had 27 points, eight assists and five rebounds in a win at Philadelphia on Dec. 9 and hit the game-winning shot with 8.7 seconds left. He followed that up by scoring 25 points in a 101-99 win at home over the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 10 and capped off the week with a 29-point and seven-assist effort in a 104-95 win over Golden State on Dec. 12.

Gordon, Bynum questionable for Tuesday

AUBURN HILLS — The Pistons are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel after suffering so many injuries early in the season.

Ben Gordon (ankle) and Will Bynum (ankles) both practiced on Monday and are questionable for Tuesday’s game at Houston.

Richard Hamilton returned on Saturday from a severely sprained ankle that caused him to miss 21 games, while Tayshaun Prince (back) is getting closer and closer to returning.

The theme on Tuesday for Gordon and Bynum was take your time and make sure you’re ready to return so you don’t suffer a setback. Both felt they already set themselves back by the way they originally handled their injuries.

Gordon sat out two games after spraining his ankle against Cleveland on Nov. 25. He played limited minutes off the bench for three games before shutting it down again and missing the Pistons last three games.

“I think it was obvious, I was out there limping around and stuff,” Gordon said. “Any time someone is out there hobbling it’s definitely probably too early. The second time around I’m just trying to get it right and be patient with it so I can help the team when I’m out there.

“I kind of have to learn from the last time, I came back a little too early, I had to come back out, so I just got to be patient.”

Bynum is battling sprains in both of his ankles, but it’s the original sprain that he suffered back on Nov. 17 that is bothering him the most now. Bynum said the left ankle he sprained last week against Philadelphia is already close to 100 percent.

“I’m feeling better. It’s more so my right ankle now. It’s back to my right ankle again, but I’m good. If I can just get over one ankle then I’m good enough to play,” Bynum said. “I think I probably should have took a break when I first sprained my right ankle, it’s kind of came back to haunt me a little bit. I’m going to play through it.”

Bynum said he can’t ever remember seeing a player have two sprained ankles at the same time in his career and admitted he had to get through a little depression over the injuries after working so hard in the summer to have a good season.

“I was depressed,” Bynum said of his reaction after suffering the second sprain. “You kind of doubt yourself and start asking a bunch of questions, ‘Why me?’ I talked to Arnie Kander, he was telling me he can see it in me. He can see me starting to doubt myself. I put in a bunch of work so it’s time to just forget about the injuries and get back to work.”

Hamilton went through his first practices Sunday and Monday after returning Saturday without getting a practice in first. Hamilton said the ankle swelled up after Saturday’s game, but he’s just going to try to play through it.

“Oh my goodness, it hurts,” Hamilton said after practice Monday. “I feel like my age. My whole body. Being out six weeks, not playing, no basketball, no contact, no nothing, no getting hit or anything, it takes a toll. I’m hurting right now.”

Hamilton played 36 minutes in his return, a number Pistons coach John Kuester did not expect him to play. But Hamilton said he felt good Saturday and wanted to stay in the game.

“The first night they was only going to play me 15-20 minutes,” Hamilton said. “Kue said him and Arnie (Kander) were like, ‘Hey I’m only going to play you 15-20 minutes.’ Once I got out there, Kue was about to pull me out, I said, ‘Kue I’m good leave me in.’ When I get out there, I hate coming off the floor. It’s hard for me to say, ‘Hey they going to limit my minutes’ because I know once I get out there I’m not going to want to come out.”

Kuester said they will continue monitor Hamilton as he recovers from the injury and make the final decision on how much Hamilton will play.

“Arnie and myself will continually watch his body language of what he’s doing on the floor and (whether) we can expand his role or shorten his role,” Kuester said. “I’m not going to lie to you, 36 minutes, I didn’t expect that. I thought it was going to be more in the 20-24 range, but I had planned on taking him out at that 5:59 mark in the first quarter and he said, ‘No, I want to play two more minutes.’ That’s where I have to make sure I’m making the right decision in regards to whether he’s playing or not playing. That was a lot of minutes for the first time being out.”

Hamilton admitted he battle some depression while he was out and now he’s trying all sorts of things to make sure he stays healthy.

“Swimming pool, ice, hot tub,” Hamilton listed as things he does after practice to help the ankle. “Today, Arnie told me I had to take a cold shower, but I don’t know if I can do that. I’m trying everything. Massage. It’s been tough, but I just have to figure out a way to get through it.”

The Pistons (11-12) have won five straight and six of their last seven despite the injuries and are getting a closer by the day to being able to show what they can do at full strength, rather than speculating on it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pistons notes - Dec. 13

Pistons coach John Kuester decided to make a change after his team lost seven straight in November. One of the changes Kuester made was to bring forward Charlie Villanueva off the bench.

The change might not be permanent, but the results have been outstanding. The Pistons are 6-0 with Villanueva coming off the bench. Part of that success has been Villanueva’s unselfishness and accepting the role rather than viewing it as a demotion.

“I don’t have an ego at all. I’m as humble as they come,” Villanueva said. “It doesn’t affect me at all. I’m comfortable coming off the bench, starting, whatever coach wants me to do that’s what I’m going to do. It’s been working so far.”

Villanueva’s minutes have not declined, in fact he is averaging more than 33 minutes a game in his last four and he is averaging 17 points as a reserve.

“I’m getting starter minutes anyways,” Villanueva said. It’s not a challenge at all. Once coach calls my number I’m ready to go. ... In the beginning of the game you’re trying to get into a flow versus off the bench, they want a spark. I think I’ve done a great job of that so far.”

Villanueva has also had to adjust to playing with a mask after suffering a broken nose against Atlanta on Nov. 29. He’s shooting percentage has not suffered though, in fact it has slightly improved. He is shooting 51.4 percent with the mask as opposed to 47 percent without the mask.

Stuckey emerging as go-to guy
The Pistons injury situation has allowed Rodney Stuckey to emerge as the team’s go-to player offensively.

In the nine games that Ben Gordon has been in and out of the Pistons lineup, Stuckey is averaging 23.4 points and 5.3 assists.

“He’s done a great job,” Kuester said. “He’s showing people that he has a chance to be one of the premier guards in this league, but he’s got such a big upside. And that upside is scary both offensively and defensively.”

Kuester is hopeful Stuckey will continue that aggressiveness once the team is healthy because he has a lot of faith in Stuckey’s ability.

“It’s important he understands he doesn’t have to defer to anybody and realizes he’s one of the up-and-coming guards in this league,” Kuester said.

Wallace an All-Star?
None of the Pistons were in the top 10 at their position in the first returns on All-Star voting, but that didn’t stop Kuester from saying he believes center Ben Wallace is playing like one.

“He’s been amazing, an All-Star as far as I’m concerned,” Kuester said. “The reason that we won a few games has been Ben’s tenacity on defense and how he’s rebounding. That’s been a big key for us.”

Wallace is 11th in the league in rebounding at 10 per game, 21st in steals (1.5) and 28th in blocks (1.2).

Wallace is also fourth in the league in offensive rebounds (4.2), while the Pistons are fourth in the league as a team in offensive rebounds (12.7).

NBA power rankings - Dec. 13

(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. L.A. Lakers — Not even a broken finger can slow down Kobe Bryant (1)
2. Boston — Celtics have used the same starting five in every game this season (2)
3. Dallas — Return of Josh Howard should be a boost for the already hot Mavs (6)
4. Orlando — How is Dwight Howard fourth on the team in field goal attempts? (3)
5. Phoenix — Suns are the only team in the NBA undefeated at home (4)
6. Cleveland — James should be thankful Kevin McHale is no longer in the league (5)
7. Denver — Nuggets continue to struggle on the road (6)
8. Atlanta — It appears Mike Bibby has misplaced his offense (8)
9. Utah — Jazz paying a lot of money to have Paul Millsap play 26 minutes a game (9)
10. San Antonio — Spurs have just one road win this season (11)
11. Houston — Luis Scola is one of the leauge’s most underrated players (12)
12. Portland — Injuries piling up, even coach Nate McMillan is hurt (10)
13. Oklahoma City — Kevin Durant averaging 30.7 points in his last seven (15)
14. Miami — Heat searching for a third option behind Wade and Beasley (13)
15. New Orleans — Hornets were playing well until a lop-sided loss to the Knicks (20)
16. Milwaukee — Second half of December will show if Bucks are playoff contenders or pretenders (16)
17. DETROIT — Coach John Kuester has to be in the Coach of the Year discussions (21)
18. Toronto — The more games the Raptors lose, the less likely Chris Bosh stays (18)
19. Chicago — Bulls have cracked 100 points just twice this season (17)
20. Sacramento — Kings continue to be a streaky team this season (14)
21. L.A. Clippers — Clippers not willing to give away Marcus Camby (19)
22. New York — Don’t look now, the Knicks have won four straight (27)
23. Charlotte — Believe it or not Bobcats are the eighth seed in the East (25)
24. Memphis — Jamaal Tinsley providing very little since signing with the Grizzlies (22)
25. Indiana — Losing Danny Granger pretty much cements the Pacers spot in the lottery (23)
26. Washington — Wizards need Gilbert Arenas to be a leader to win (24)
27. Golden State — Don’t understand why Warriors fans are booing Corey Maggette (28)
28. Philadelphia — 76ers losing streak now up to 12 (26)
29. Minnesota — Kevin Love averaging a double-double, 13.2 points and 11.6 rebounds (29)
30. New Jersey — Brook Lopez continues to be a bright spot for the Nets (30)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hamilton glad to be back

Piston guard Richard Hamilton needed a little push from his wife to decide to comeback from a sprained ankle that kept him out of 21 games. Hamilton returned Saturday night in a 104-95 win over the Warriors despite not going through a full practice since suffering the injury.

“At shootaround (Saturday) I told (Kuester) I wouldn’t be able to go because it wasn’t feeling right,” Hamilton said. “I went home and talked to my wife and the one thing she told me was pretty much, ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Go out there play. Go out there and give it a try. You never know how you’re going to feel till you go out there and try to play.’

“I haven’t practiced, I haven’t ran, I haven’t done sprints or anything like that. So when I laid down for my nap, I said, ‘I’m going to make my mind up right now that I’m going to go ahead and play’ Once I put my mind to it, I just went out there and tried to do it tonight.”

Hamilton was able to play more than 36 minutes and scored 18 points. He also became the seventh player in franchise history to score 10,000 points as a Piston, something he was one-point away from when he got hurt. Hamilton said he felt a little rusty Saturday, but was just happy to be on the floor.

“It felt alright, it felt pretty good,” Hamilton said. “I was just happy to be out there on the floor. I didn’t care what anything felt like. I just felt joy being able to play something that you love to do and that’s the game of basketball.

“I haven’t practiced. Tonight was the first time I came off a screen and actually dribbled the ball against somebody. It was just one of those games where I said, ‘I’m going to really see if I’m the best-conditioned athlete in the NBA.’ ”

Hamilton was glad to finally put an injury behind him that took 45 days to recover from. He was all smiles after the game, a welcome sight for his teammates that were somewhat worried about him.

“It’s been tough because everyone around me thought I was depressed,” Hamilton said. “Everybody was like, ‘Hey Rip, you ain’t talking, you ain’t doing nothing.’ And things like that. It was one of those things where you go home and you just sit in your room, you don’t turn the TV on and you don’t do nothing because it’s like, ‘When is this thing going to get better?’ Once you get past five games, it’s like, ‘Aw man. What’s going on?’ Then I’m at 10 games, then I’m at 15 games. It was hard. I’m happy that I got an opportunity to play tonight.”

A sprained ankle was something new to Hamilton, who said he never really had them prior to the major sprain he suffered against Memphis on Oct. 28 when he came down on the foot of the Grizzlies O.J. Mayo.

He knew the injury was bad right away, but didn’t know how bad until strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander broke the news that it was the worst sprain he had ever seen in his 18 years with the team.

“I knew it was bad because when I looked at my leg, my calf all the way down to my toes was black and blue,” Hamilton said. “Arnie would say, well he didn’t want to tell me at first, but he was like, ‘Yo this is the worst looking sprain that I’ve ever seen.’ It was tough. I just tried to stay positive. It’s hard to stay positive when you’re looking at your foot and it’s black and blue the whole time. I’m happy it’s better and hopefully I can continue to go on.”

Hamilton to play Saturday

Richard Hamilton will be active for Saturday's game against the Golden State Warriors. Hamilton missed 21 games after spraining his ankle in the season opener on Oct. 28. He scored 25 points in the win over Memphis.

Hamilton went through a work out Friday and participated in the morning shootaround Saturday. It's not clear how much Hamilton will play or if he play at all.

UPDATE: Hamilton is starting in Saturday's game at shooting guard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pistons Pulse - Dec. 10

The Oakland Press Pistons beat writer Dave Pemberton talks Pistons with's Neal Ruhl.

Bynum, Gordon out Thursday

The injuries continue to pile up for the Pistons, who have been without Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) for nearly the entire season.

Ben Gordon (sprained ankle) will miss his second straight game and will be joined on the sideline by Will Bynum, who sprained his left ankle against Philadelphia on Wednesday. Bynum had been playing through a sprained right ankle when he sprained his left ankle against the 76ers.

“Right now, it’s pretty much confirmed, I don’t think Will Bynum will play tonight,” Pistons coach John Kuester said before Thursday’s game. “Tayshaun, Rip, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon will not play tonight.”

The injuries leave the Pistons awful thin at guard. Chucky Atkins and Rodney Stuckey will have to play major minutes, with Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers likely providing some depth at guard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pistons at 76ers preview

The opponent — Not even the return of Allen Iverson could keep the Philadelphia 76ers from losing their 10th straight on Monday. Iverson returned before a packed house, but couldn’t lift the 76ers (5-16) over the Nuggets.

Iverson had 11 points, five rebounds and six assists in the loss and will likely get better as he gets into game shape and develops chemistry with his teammates.

Andre Iguodala (19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists) is Philadelphia’s go-to player and had 31 points in the loss to Denver. The addition of Iverson could be a boost to Iguodala, who has commanded a lot of attention from opposing teams. Now teams will also have to be aware of Iverson.

Elton Brand has been playing well as of late and is averaging 14.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in his last four. Samuel Dalembert had one of his better games of the season against Denver and is a double-double threat. Thaddeus Young (15.8 points) has started all 21 games for Philadelphia and is capable of going off for 20 in any game.

The 76ers will be without two of their bright young players. Lou Williams (jaw) and Marreese Speights (knee) are both out indefinitely.

Key matchup — Pistons Jonas Jerebko vs. 76ers Andre Iguodala: Containing Iguodala has to be the Pistons main focus defensively and that starts with Jerebko. So much will be made out of Iverson facing his former team, but as Iguodala showed Monday he is the 76ers main threat. Jerebko, who is averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds in his last five, will also have to keep up his recent offensive surge.

The skinny — Wednesday’s matchup appears to be two teams heading in two different directions, with the Pistons winners of three of their last four and the 76ers on a 10-game losing streak, but that could all change with a 76ers win.

The Pistons (8-12) have struggled on the road and are 2-8 this season, but need to be able to win road games like this one if they are going to make a push back to .500 and eventually for the playoffs.

Detroit got 53 points out of its bench in its win over the Wizards Sunday and could use a similar effort Wednesday. Charlie Villanueva and Will Bynum led the charge offensively off the bench with help from Austin Daye in the second half.

Veteran Chucky Atkins has provided a steady hand in the starting lineup and the Pistons have won three of four with Atkins as a starter. Atkins hasn’t done anything overwhelming, but has provided solid minutes and done a nice job defending the likes of Brandon Jennings, Mike Bibby and Gilbert Arenas.

Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) remain out for at least the next two games. Ben Gordon (ankle) was limited in practice Tuesday, but is expected to play Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hamilton, Prince remain out

Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) did some light work at practice on Tuesday, but will still be listed as out for Wednesday’s game at Philadelphia and Thursday at home against Denver.

“We are seeing some things that are progressing in the right direction,” Pistons head coach John Kuester said.

Ben Gordon (ankle) was very limited at practice on Tuesday and was held out of any contact drills. But the team is optimistic he will play on Wednesday.

“We are really monitoring him right now,” Kuester said. “We just want to make sure that he feels comfortable because he’ll try to play whether he’s 60 percent, 70 percent or 80 percent.”

The Pistons have balltled injuries all season and have had their full lineup for just one game, the season opener at Memphis. Kuester was asked if it’s been frustrating not having his whole team and he said it’s just been disappointing.

“It’s disappointment only in the sense that every team would love to have their full complement of players, but it’s very encouraging because you people have recognized what some of these young people have done,” Kuester said. “Our young guys are going to be very good before it’s all over.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pistons lose another ESPN game

The Pistons lost another nationally televised game, this time the March 21 game at Cleveland, which was scheduled to be on ESPN. The San Antonio at Atlanta game will now be carried by the network. The Pistons-Cavaliers was one of four games dropped by ESPN Friday and replaced by other games.

It is the second ESPN game the Pistons have lost so far this season, the other being their Dec. 9 game at Philadelphia, which was switched to Chicago at Atlanta. That leaves the Pistons with just two games on ESPN, Mar. 5 at Cleveland and Mar. 15 at Boston, that is of course barring any more switches.

Bucks at Pistons preview

The opponent — Milwaukee (9-8) comes into The Palace having lost five of its last six after starting the season 8-3.

Rookie Brandon Jennings has cooled off during the Bucks’ current slump after starting out the season lightning hot. He has failed to score 20 points in the Bucks’ last six games, averaging 14.7 per game. He averaged 25.3 per game in the Bucks first 11 games, which included a 55-point game against the Warriors. Jennings is still a huge threat offensively and is also averaging nearly six assists per game (5.8).

Center Andrew Bogut (15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) has played in the Bucks last two games after missing six with a bone bruise on his left knee. Having Bogut back is a huge boost the Bucks’ frontline that also features Ersan Ilyasova (11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Hakim Warrick (12.1 points, 5.8 rebounds).

Meanwhile, Michael Redd remains out with a sore knee. Charlie Bell (8.4 points, 2.8 assists) has started in place of the injured Redd.

Former Pistons Carlos Delfino (9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds). has started 15 games for the Bucks, but has been inconsistent at best. Luke Ridnour and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are key players off Milwaukee’s bench.

The Bucks will be without head coach Scott Skiles, who was suspended one game by the league for his actions after being ejected from Wendesday’s loss to the Wizards.

Key matchup — Pistons Rodney Stuckey vs. Bucks Brandon Jennings: The key to beating the Bucks is slowing down Jennings, whose 21.5 points per game is easily tops on the team. Milwaukee is 5-2 when Jennings scores 24 or more and 3-6 when he fails to score 20. The Pistons will also rely on Stuckey’s offense with Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) out, while Ben Gordon (ankle) and Charlie Villanueva (broken nose) are expected to play but not 100 percent. Stuckey shot just 4 for 16 in the loss at Chicago on Wednesday and will need a better shooting night to help his team beat the Bucks.

The skinny — The Pistons had an awful start to Wednesday’s loss at Chicago and as a result had to fight to get back into the game. The last thing a team that is hobbled by injuries can afford to do is dig themselves a hole early, so Friday’s start will be key for Detroit.

The Pistons also shot the ball horribly (38.5 percent) against Chicago and will have to try to shoot higher percentage shots.

It’s hard to say any regular season game is a must-win, but Friday’s game will be important for the 6-12 Pistons because they can’t afford to keep digging themselves a hole and expect to get out of it when they get healthy. It’s also a home game against a division opponent, that could be fighting for a playoff spot in the East at the end of the season.

Detroit will need to come out with the same effort it gave against Atlanta and try to dominate the boards and give itself second chance shots. Ben Wallace, Jonas Jerebko and Jason Maxiell will all play a key role in that department.

Villanueva says he'll play Friday

Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva said at Friday’s morning shootaround that he believes he will play Friday night against the Bucks.

Villanueva suffered a broken nose against the Hawks on Sunday and missed Wednesday’s game against the Bulls because he still had some lingering affects like trouble breathing and a headache.

“I feel a lot better than when I was in Chicago,” Villanueva said. “I’m still having a little trouble breathing, but it’s not as bad as a couple days ago.”

Villanueva was fitted for a mask earlier in the week and went through the shootaround Friday with it on.

“I had it on earlier. It’s going to be a little weird at first, but I think I’ll be fine,” Villanueva said Friday. “It’s been a little uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel comfortable having something cover my face. It gets really sweaty, but I have to manage. I can’t worry too much about it.”

Villanueva said he is still aware the mask is there while playing, but hopes as the game goes on he will be able to block it out.

“I’m aware of it. I guess that’s the beginning stages. You’re aware of it being there, but hopefully throughout the game I’ll forget about it,” Villanueva said. "You feel that it’s protecting it. Without it, that’s when I’m a little hesitant. Playing with it is going to be something that I have to get adjusted to.”

Despite the injury, Villanueva has kept his sense of humor and laughed when he was asked if he was the first NBA player to send a Twitter update before surgery.

“I don’t think nobody’s done that right before surgery,” Villanueva said. “People that follow me, gave me a positive response, wishing me well and what not.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pistons at Bulls preview

The opponent — The Chicago Bulls will be playing their first home game after two weeks on the road, while the circus was in town. The six-game road trip did not go well for the Bulls, who started it off with a win a Sacramento, but then lost the next five.

Chicago’s offense failed to score more than 98 points during its five-game losing streak, while giving up an average of 109.2 points.

Last season’s Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is having a solid year, but his scoring (15.6) and assists (5.2) are down slightly from his 16.8 points and 6.3 assists as a rookie.

The Bulls would really be in trouble if it wasn’t for the resurgence of Luol Deng, who is leading the team in scoring at 18.3 per game and looks healthy after missing 33 games last season due to injury.

Chicago hoped John Salmons would pick up some of the scoring load left by the departure of Ben Gordon to Detroit, but Salmons has been inconsistent this season and his scoring average has dropped to 14.2 from 18.3 last season.

Center Joakim Noah is building on his success late last season and is averaging a double-double (11.5 points and 12.6 rebounds) as well as 1.6 blocks per game.

Rookie Taj Gibson has done a nice job filling in the for the injured Tyrus Thomas, who remains out with a forearm fracture. Kirk Hinrich is also out with a left thumb sprain.

Key matchup — Pistons Ben Wallace vs. Bulls Joakim Noah: A huge part of Detroit’s win over Atlanta on Sunday was the Pistons dominance on the boards. Wallace has shown flashes of his old self for most of the season and has showed he can still rebound with the best. Noah, meanwhile, has shown he is one of the best rebounders in the league and is third in the league in rebounding (12.1 per game). Noah has nine double-doubles in 15 games this season and would have two more, but failed to score in double figures in two games he had double-digit rebounds. Wallace will likely be ready to go against his former team, who traded him away during the 2007-08 season.

The skinny — Wednesday’s game starts a big week for the Pistons, who play two Central Division foes in the Bulls and Milwaukee (on Friday) and Washington on Sunday. All three teams could be competing for the final playoff spots in the East so these game will likely count double when it’s all said and done. The Pistons (6-11) will do themselves a big favor by winning at least two of three and try to get closer to .500.

Detroit might have to do it without its four highest paid players. Ben Gordon (ankle) and Charlie Villanueva (nose) will be game-time decisions, while Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) remain out.

The starting five of Chucky Atkins, Rodney Stuckey, Wallace, Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerekbo had some success Sunday, but coach John Kuester hasn’t set anything in stone. Will Bynum and Villanueva provided a huge boost off the bench in Sunday’s win, but Villanueva could be out.

If Gordon remains out, the Pistons will need a similar game out of Stuckey, who had 23 points and eight assists on Sunday. Stuckey will also play a huge role defensively, whether he is guarding Rose, Salmons or Deng.

If Gordon plays look for a big game out of him. It will be his first game back in Chicago after the Bulls elected not to offer him a contract in the offseason despite Gordon leading the team in scoring in each of the last four seasons.