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An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

NBA power rankings - Jan. 31

(Last week's rankings in Parentheses)
1. Cleveland — Cavaliers have won seven straight and nine of 10 (2)
2. L.A. Lakers — Lakers first NBA champions to visit President Barack Obama (1)
3. Denver — Chauncey Billups handles All-Star snub with class (7)
4. Atlanta — Hawks sweep Celtics for first time since 1998-99 (6)
5. Dallas — Mavs could be looking to deal Josh Howard (5)
6. Orlando — Howard finally calls team out on excessive 3-point shooting (8)
7. Utah — Paul Millsap shines with Carlos Boozer sidelined (11)
8. Boston — Celtics below .500 in the month of January (3)
9. San Antonio — Spurs begin annual ‘rodeo’ road trip this week (4)
10. Phoenix — Suns snap bizarre 18-game losing streak on TNT (10)
11. Toronto — Raptors have won four straight and trailed by at least 10 in all four (17)
12. Portland — Blazers 2-4 with Brandon Roy sidelined (9)
13. Memphis — Zach Randolph trade looking brilliant right now (13)
14. Oklahoma City — Thunder 17-2 when they score 100-plus (14)
15. Houston — Aaron Brooks averaging 19 points and five assists (12)
16. New Orleans — Key reserve James Posey sidelined indefinitley (16)
17. Miami — Michael Beasley missed the first game of his career Friday (15)
18. Charlotte — Stephen Jackson scores 30 in return to Golden State (19)
19. Chicago — Bulls lead the NBA in rebounding and blocked shots (18)
20. L.A. Clippers — Baron Davis’ 23 points in a quarter set a franchise record (20)
21. Milwaukee — Brandon Jennings considers Allen Iverson his idol (21)
22. New York — Knicks have cooled off, playoff hopes fading (22)
23. Sacramento — Jason Thompson struggling as of late (23)
24. Indiana — Larry Bird wants Danny Granger to limit his 3-point attempts (24)
25. Philadelphia — Andre Iguodala trade rumors gaining steam (25)
26. Washington — Wizards could be looking to terminate Arenas’ contract (27)
27. DETROIT — Return of Ben Gordon helps, but could be too late (26)
28. Golden State — Monta Ellis highest scoring player that’s not an All-Star (28)
29. Minnesota — Kevin Love now coming off the bench (29)
30. New Jersey — The Nets finally picked up win No. 4 (30)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gordon to return Friday night

Pistons guard Ben Gordon will return to the lineup Friday against the Heat after missing eight games with a groin injury.

Pistons coach John Kuester said he will limit Gordon’s minutes and try to ease him back into the swing of things.

Gordon is averaging 17.2 points and 3.0 assists in 25 games this season. Gordon missed time earlier in the season with an ankle injury.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pistons links - Jan. 28

Here are some links to stories in Thursday's Oakland Press

Game story from the Pistons loss to the Grizzlies.
Pistons notebook on Jonas Jerebko making the All-Star rookie team and Pistons coach John Kuester praises the Grizzlies' Rudy Gay.
Joe Dumars declining to run for Michigan governor.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jerebko selected to rookie team

Pistons rookie Jonas Jerebko has been selected to play in the 2010 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam at All-Star weekend in Dallas. Jerebko is averaging 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds this season.

Jerebko is the first Pistons rookie to be selected since Zelijko Rebraca in 2002. Rodney Stuckey was a member of the sophomore team in 2009 and Tayshaun Prince was in 2004.

The rookie team was selected by NBA assistant coaches and will take on the sophomores.

Joining Jerebko on the rookie team are Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Minnesota’s Jonny Flynn, Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Oklahoma City’s James Harden and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings.

The sophomore team will consist of Miami’s Michael Beasley, Memphis’ Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo, New York’s Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers’ Eric Gordon, New Jersey’s Brook Lopez, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gordon hopeful for Wednesday return

The Pistons took another step towards getting back to full strength on Monday. Ben Gordon went through his first full practice since suffering a slight groin tear and is hopeful he can return as early as Wednesday’s game against Memphis.

“Today was my first time practicing for a full practice since I got hurt,” Gordon said after Monday’s practice. “It’s feeling really good. There is a still a little bit of pain there, but hopefully by Wednesday I’ll be ready.”

Gordon feels the biggest hurdle is making sure he is 100 percent both physically and mentally so he doesn’t favor the groin and possibly re-injure it or injure something else.

“It’s a big hurdle,” Gordon said. “I could probably play, but I probably wouldn’t be effective out there. I’d probably be risking tearing it again. Right now, it’s a mental hurdle. When I’m out there practicing I’m still conscious of every movement I make and trying to make sure I don’t overextend myself. Until I get that out of the way, I probably won’t be back. I’ll just continue to work on it until I can play without second guessing myself.”

Gordon has missed the Pistons last seven games with the groin injury. Gordon hurt his groin after returning briefly from an ankle injury that caused him to miss 11 games. Gordon sat out two games after initially hurting the ankle, but came back too soon, playing in three games before shutting it down for another nine games.

Gordon said the two injuries are similar because they limit you ability to cut and push off.

“A lot of movement in basketball come from your midsection,” Gordon said. “My groin controls all that. It’s kind of the same. This one is like a small tear so I don’t want it to continue to tear. I want it to heal back so I don’t have to worry about it.”

Gordon also learned from the ankle injury not to rush back too soon or else it can become a lingering or more serious injury.

“I kind of learned from the first one, just work each day and continue to work,” Gordon said. “Try not to get frustrated. That’s all I’m working on now, is trying to get healthy and not get frustrated while I’m doing it.”

Guard Will Bynum also went through his first full practice Monday and will be a game-time decision for Wednesday’s game against Memphis.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pistons mid-season grades

No one expected the Pistons to be NBA title contenders this season, but no one predicted they would be this bad in the first half of the season either. The Pistons are just a half game out of being in last place in the Central Division and are tied with Sacramento for the sixth-worst record in the league.

Detroit was expected to be a high scoring team, but is currently 29th in the league in scoring, ahead of just the dreadful Nets. The Pistons went 30 days without a win, losing 13 straight, one-game shy of tying the franchise record for consecutive losses. Detroit also had a seven-game losing streak in November.

Injuries have certainly been a factor, as the Pistons are quickly approaching 100 games missed due to injury and will likely hit that number before the end of January. To put that number in perspective, consider Detroit had 102 games missed to injury in the past two seasons combined.

The Pistons appear destined for the draft lottery, but still have a glimmer of playoff hope because of how bad the Eastern Conference is. Detroit was just 5.5 games out of the eighth seed, but time is running out with the season already past the halfway point.

The Pistons will need to start cramming some victories in the win column if they hope to make the playoffs and improve their midseason grades, which are below:

Chucky Atkins — Nobody expected much out of Atkins when he signed with the Pistons in the offseason. He had been plagued by injuries for two seasons. But Atkins has provided solid minutes with the Pistons battling injuries and has even started 11 games. Atkins is in the twilight of his career, but has shown he still has some game left and has provided solid leadership for a young Pistons squad. Grade: B

Kwame Brown — Brown began the season in the rotation, but has since fallen off the radar. He has played just 29 games. When given minutes, his production has been limited, especially offensively. The former No. 1 overall pick is in the final year of his deal, and it appears his days as a Piston are numbered. Grade: D-

Will Bynum — Bynum appeared to be in line for a breakout season until two ankle sprains sidelined him. Bynum is an explosive guard, who has shown he can change the tempo of a game when healthy. He’s in a contract year and will be eager to pick up where he left off once he returns, but needs to show he can stay healthy for an extended period. Grade: C+

Austin Daye — The No. 15 overall pick has had his share of ups and downs in the first half of his rookie season. Daye has made two starts and shown his versatility by playing shooting guard, but at 6-foot-11, he needs to add strength and show he can play down low when needed. Daye’s outside shot has been solid, but improvement can help make him more valuable. Grade: B-

Ben Gordon — Through the first 15 games, Gordon played like the player the Pistons hoped for when they signed him to a 5-year, $55 million deal in the offseason. An ankle injury slowed him down and returning too early caused the injury to linger. Gordon appeared on his way back to 100 percent before suffering a groin injury that currently has him out of the lineup. Gordon is a deadly outside shooter and a proven scorer in the NBA, but the Pistons need him to get healthy and stay healthy. Grade: C+

Richard Hamilton — The Pistons’ leading scorer the past seven seasons has already missed more games this season than he has in any other season in his career and it’s just past the halfway point. Hamilton suffered a severe ankle sprain in the first game of the season and missed 21 games with it. He returned only to injure his hamstring in his second game back. He missed five more games, but struggled to find his shot. He has since turned it on and the Pistons will need his offense if they hope to make a push for the playoffs. Grade: B-

Jonas Jerebko — The rookie from Sweden has been a pleasant surprise for the Pistons this season. He was inserted into the starting lineup after Tayshaun Prince injured his back and quickly showed what he is made of. Jerebko’s tough defense, hustle plays and energy have made him a favorite of coach John Kuester and Pistons fans. Jerebko has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and has 95 offensive rebounds this season. His only major flaw has been his outside shot, he is shooting just 25 percent on his 3-point attempts. Grade: A-

Jason Maxiell — Maxiell has found himself in and out of the starting lineup and the rotation at times. At this point in his career, it’s clear Maxiell is an energy player that can provide interior defense, rebounding and some scoring. He still struggles to provide consistent minutes and his four-year, $20 million contract could be the worst on the team. Grade: C-

Tayshaun Prince — Injuries have caught up to the former Iron Man of the Pistons. Just three games into the season, a ruptured disc in his back snapped his 496 consecutive games-played streak and caused him to miss 26 games. He played just six games before a sore left knee put him back on the shelf for six games. He returned Friday only to get into a shouting match with coach Kuester during a timeout. His 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game are all the lowest he’s averaged since his rookie season. Grade: D+

Rodney Stuckey — The third-year guard has likely been the Pistons’ MVP so far this season and has had to shoulder a large part of the scoring load with all the injuries to the Pistons’ perimeter players. Stuckey is averaging a career-high 18.3 points and a career-high 4.3 rebounds to go with 4.4 assists per game. Stuckey has been at his best when he’s been aggressive and attacking the rim. He needs to stay aggressive once the team is back at full health, but also find a way to get his teammates involved as the starting point guard. All the injuries have made it difficult for Stuckey to find a consistent rhythm and grow as a point guard and is the main reason he doesn’t get an A. Grade: B+

DaJuan Summers — The second-round pick out of Georgetown has played sparingly despite all the Pistons’ injuries. The 6-8 Summers has drawn praise from Kuester for his hard work in practice, but it has not translated into the games much this season. Summers has shown small flashes when given playing time, but has often been buried on the bench or inactive. Grade: C-

Charlie Villanueva — When Villanueva is on, he’s been great, and when he’s been off, he’s been awful. The Pistons need Villanueva to be more consistent, because when his shot is falling, the Pistons become a more balanced team. He leads the team in 3-pointers with 52. The 6-11 stretch forward started the first 16 games of the season, but has since came off the bench. Villanueva continues to play starter minutes, while Kuester enjoys the luxury of having his offense off the bench. Villanueva has not publicly lobbied to start, but in the long run, Detroit may be better off with him as a starter. Grade: B-

Ben Wallace — Wallace’s fountain of youth appears to be a Pistons uniform. The former Defensive Player of the Year is having his most productive year since the 2006-07 season, his first in Chicago after leaving Detroit. After battling injuries the last few seasons, Wallace has started every game this season and leads the Pistons in rebounds and blocks, and is second in steals. At 35 years old, Wallace has been Detroit’s most consistent big man and best interior defender. Grade: A

Chris Wilcox — Wilcox racked up 14 DNP coach’s decisions in the first 27 games of the season. He has since found his way into the rotation and has started the last eight games. Despite being in the stating lineup, Wilcox’s minutes have been limited. He has shown some expressiveness around the rim on offense, but needs to improve his defense and rebounding if he hopes to get more playing time. Grade: C-

Coach John Kuester — The rookie head coach has certainly had his share of problems to deal with. Kuester had the team off to an 11-12 start, despite injuries to key players, before a 13-game losing streak sent the Pistons into the cellar of the Eastern Conference. Kuester has tried several lineup tweaks to try and spark the team with varying degrees of success. It’s difficult to grade a coach who has no head coaching track record and has not had his full arsenal of players, but it’s clear the team is struggling to find chemistry. Kuester came to the Pistons with the reputation as an offensive guru, but has made defense a priority with his players. It will be interesting to see how the second half of plays out, but through it all, Kuester has remained positive and upbeat. Grade: B-

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kuester, Prince moving on from incident

AUBURN HILLS — A day later, Pistons coach John Kuester and forward Tayshaun Prince have put their heated argument Friday night behind them.

Prince and Kuester got into a shouting match during a fourth quarter timeout Friday in a lopsided loss the Pacers. Kuester had just sent four reserves to check in the game, which the Pistons trailed by 23, when a timeout was called.

Prince began shouting at Kuester, who fired back before going back into the huddle to give instructions to the players going into the game.

“It was nothing that was out of the ordinary,” Kuester said. “He expressed a couple thoughts and I expressed a couple thoughts. That was it.”

Kuester chalked the moment up to emotions and said more was made of the incident then needed to be.

“This is a passionate game,” Kuester said. “You’ve got to play this game with emotion. Emotions do carry over sometimes, but you’ve got to be poised also. You’ve got to understand how you need to express that emotion, whether it be in a game or practice. Hey, listen, you’d rather have guys that want to win, and that’s what I know Tayshaun wants to do is win.”

Kuester said him and Prince spoke before Saturday’s game and everything was fine going forward.

“We just talked about what it’s going to take for us to win. That’s all that matters,” Kuester said. “You know what? This is an emotional game and we’ve just got to make sure we understand what it’s going to take to win basketball games, but I’ll tell you, Tayshaun understands what needs to be done.”

Prince refused to comment on the situation after Friday’s game and was not available for comment before Saturday’s game, which is not uncommon. Prince traditionally does not talk before games.

Friday’s game was Prince’s first back from a left knee injury that kept him out of six games. Prince had seven points, six rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes in the loss to the Pacers and admitted they will continue to monitor his minutes as he recovers from the injury.

“It’s a situation where you got to ease into this,” Prince said after Friday’s loss. “I had a good span in the second quarter where I played a lot of minutes and got my wind going real good and things felt OK. For the most part I think it will build as the games keep coming.”

Difficult to deal
The more the Pistons struggle, the more trade rumors seem to heat up. Most of the rumors are just that rumors, but one name that is constantly brought up is Richard Hamilton.

The odds of Hamilton going anywhere are pretty low at least according to Tom Ziller of Ziller named Hamilton the fourth most difficult player to trade.

“Hamilton’s contract would have expired in 2010, but (Joe) Dumars decided to tack on additional three years at $34 million guaranteed ... for no apparent reason other than he wanted to prove everyone the Pistons weren't waving a white flag by swapping Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for Allen Iverson,” Ziller wrote.

“Age is clearly catching up with Hamilton — this season and last have been his worst as a Piston, and he turns 32 in February. He could start for a handful of teams, but you could get a much better player on the open market for what Detroit's paying Rip.”

Ziller named Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis and Elton Brand as the three most difficult players to trade.

Villanueva struggles
Charlie Villanueva has been up and down offensively for the Pistons this season and it’s clear Detroit is a better team when Villanueva is scoring. The Pistons are 5-1 when Villanueva scores more than 20 points this season. Villanueva had just three points in Friday’s loss to the Pacers and was just 1 for 9 from the field.

“It was tough because we wanted to get him going, especially early on,” Kuester said. “We have a lot of confidence in his offensive decisions. When he’s struggling it just put us in a huge hole. That happens at times.”

Injury update
Piston guard Ben Gordon (strained right groin) missed his seventh straight game and Will Bynum (left ankle sprain) missed his 13th straight game.

The Blazers were without Brandon Roy (right hamstring), Jerryd Bayless (left ankle), Greg Oden (left knee), Joel Przybilla (right knee), Travis Outlaw (left foot) and Nicolas Batum (right shoulder) Saturday night.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Prince to start against Pacers

Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince will return to the lineup Friday against the Pacers after missing six games with a left knee injury and Prince will be in the starting lineup.

Rookie Jonas Jerebko will come off the bench, with Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Chris Wilcox and Ben Wallace being the other four starters.

Ben Gordon (groin) and Will Bynum (ankle) remain sidelined with injuries.

Pistons coach John Kuester said he will monitor Prince’s minutes in hopes to avoid another setback. Kuester admitted it’s possible they played Prince too many minutes we he returned from a back injury.

“That is one of the things, knock on wood, that I’ve hopefully learned,” Kuester said. “You have to gauge certain things and this is one of those things that I think is going to be important to gauge.”

Kuester said while he will monitor Prince’s minutes, he let Prince decide whether or not he wanted to start.

“Tayshaun’s got so much history here,” Kuester said. “He’s been of the true leaders and one of the great players for this franchise. This is the first time he’s ever had to go through this and this has been very challenging for him. We talked to other day and I said, ‘Listen, you just tell me when you’re ready to go.’ He had a chipper practice is the way I like to put it. I thought he was really aggressive. That was important. The decision was going to be his.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Win could be the turning point

The Pistons win over the Celtics Wednesday night could prove to be the turning point of the season. If Detroit hopes to make a playoff push it has to start with the six-game homestand to end January, which kicked off with the win over Boston.

Detroit now hosts Indiana on Friday and can’t afford a letdown with Portland coming to town on Saturday.

The playoff race in the East could be tighter than first thought. Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta and Orlando have all but wrapped up the top four seeds.

Miami is up and down but a good bet to make the playoffs. Charlotte is playing phenomenal as of late and is 9-1 in the month of January with wins over Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, Memphis and Miami twice.

Toronto and Chicago currently hold the 7 and 8 seeds and should be in the race the whole way, and New York and Milwaukee still ahead of the Pistons.

Detroit will need to string some wins together and hope a few teams begin to struggle. It all starts with this homestand.

The Pistons need to go a minimum of 4-2, but 5-1 or 6-0 would go a long way in improving their chances. Detroit has won four out of five with the win over Boston and need to keep this momentum going before the hole becomes to big to dig out of.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pistons not for sale, yet

The Detroit Pistons are not for sale, a team spokesman confirmed Monday. But that doesn’t mean the Pistons will not be for sale in the near future.

The big question is whether or not Karen Davidson, who controls the franchise after the death of her husband Bill last year, wants to continue owning the team.

It has been reported Davidson has been in contact with NBA commissioner David Stern about the protocol for selling the team.

Davidson might even explore selling Palace Sports and Entertainment, which runs the Pistons, The Palace of Auburn Hills, DTE Energy Music Theatre and Meadow Brook Music Festival.

Palace Sports and Entertainment Tom Wilson declined to comment on the situation Monday or the reports that the Red Wings could be moving temporarily to The Palace as soon as next season.

The Red Wings could be seeking an alternate home, while they wait for a new arena to be built. The Red Wings have yet to renew their lease with Joe Louis Arena.

Forbes estimates the Pistons’ value at $479 million. Selling the Piston in the current economic time could prove difficult. Ticket sales for the Pistons have been down in part to the economy and the team struggling this season.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gordon, Prince, Bynum remain out

Pistons Ben Gordon (strained right groin), Tayshaun Prince (sore left knee) and Will Bynum (left ankle sprain will all miss Friday's game against New Orleans with injuries. Gordon is missing his second straight game, Prince his third and Bynum has missed the last seven games.

Detroit will go with the starting five of Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Jonas Jerebko, Chris Wilcox and Ben Wallace.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Injury updates

Pistons Rodney Stuckey (sore right knee), Ben Gordon (hamstring) and Tayshaun Prince (sore left knee) all practiced Sunday. Stuckey and Gordon are listed as probable and Prince will be a game-time decision.

Stuckey and Prince sat out the second half of the Pistons loss to the 76ers Saturday night with their respective injuries. Gordon left the game with less than a minute left.

Will Bynum was the only Piston not to practice and remains out with an ankle injury.

NBA power rankings - Jan. 10

1. L.A. Lakers — Andrew Bynum more aggressive with Gasol injured (1)
2. Cleveland — Daniel Gibson is now engaged to singer Keyshia Cole (2)
3. Boston — Celtics just 5-5 in their last 10 (3)
4. Dallas — Jason Kidd averaging more assists (8.8) than points (8.4) (6)
5. San Antonio — DeJuan Blair looks like the steal of the ’09 draft (5)
6. Orlando — Magic lost four in a row for the first time since 2007 (4)
7. Atlanta — Marvin Williams is the perfect complimentary player (8)
8. Phoenix — Channing Frye has hit a 3-pointer in 34 of 37 games (7)
9. Denver — Nuggets 3-2 with Carmelo Anthony sidelined (9)
10. Portland — Blazers currently have six players out with injuries (10)
11. Houston — Rockets have played league’s toughest schedule thus far (11)
12. New Orleans — Hornets are 15-10 since Bower took over as coach (16)
13. Toronto — Raptors have won eight of nine (15)
14. Oklahoma City — Westbrook averaging 17.4 points, 8.9 assists in last seven (14)
15. Utah — Williams has vowed not to shave his beard until Jazz win five in a row (12)
16. Memphis — Grizzlies .500 despite starting season 1-8 (17)
17. Miami — Heat signed veteran guard Rafer Alston (13)
18. Milwaukee — Brandon Jennings rocking a Kid N’ Play high-top fade (22)
19. L.A. Clippers — Broke nine-game losing streak to the Lakers (19)
20. Charlotte — Rookie Gerald Henderson rotting on Bobcas' bench (23)
21. New York — Danilo Gallinari leads the NBA in 3-pointers made (20)
22. Chicago — John Salmons slowly finding his outside shot again (21)
23. Sacramento — Francisco Garcia won’t return until mid-February (18)
24. Washington — Brendan Haywood playing well in contract year (24)
25. DETROIT — Pistons two consecutive losses away from tying franchise record (25)
26. Golden State — Loss of Anthony Randolph is a big blow (28)
27. Indiana — Early return of Danny Granger should be a boost (27)
28. Philadelphia — Allen Iverson fitting in nicely despite injury woes (26)
29. Minnesota — Kevin Love a double-double machine (29)
30. New Jersey — Nets cut former first round pick Sean Williams (30)

Pistons links - Jan. 10

Here are some links to stories I wrote for Sunday's paper

Game story from Detroit's loss to Philadelphia, its 12th straight.
Pregame notes from Saturday's game, including Allen Iverson not making the trip with the 76ers and Charlie Villanueva breaking out of his shooting slump.
Column on the Gilbert Arenas situation and why he shouldn't be banned from the NBA for good.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Iverson out for Saturday

Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson did not travel with the team for its game at Detroit on Saturday. The former Piston re-aggravated his left knee injury against Toronto on Friday night. Iverson had the knee drained after the game according to

The injury means Iverson will not return to The Palace this season barring a 76ers-Pistons matchup in the playoffs, which is highly unlikely with both teams struggling. Iverson is averaging 15.2 points and 4.6 assists in 11 games for Philadelphia this season.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pistons notes - Jan. 5

AUBURN HILLS — The adjustment of getting everyone back from injuries has not went smooth for the Detroit Pistons, who are in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. But the schedule makers did the Pistons a favor with a few days off as of late.

The Pistons (11-21) have had four days off and three practices since losing to Chicago on Dec. 31 and have used that time almost as a mini-training camp.

“We needed to make sure we got re-focused on the little things,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “When you get into an environment where we haven’t had the success as of late that we wanted to, we got to start back at the basics.

“The biggest thing is to get better,” Kuester added. “Get better with energy, how we’re playing offensively and defensively. Take each possession and value it. That’s what we have to do, value what we’re doing every time we step out on the floor.”

Veterans Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have played a combined 12 games this season due to injuries and the extra practice time has not only helped them get back into the swing of the things, but also helped their teammates adjust to having them back.

“We didn’t have all our guys since the first game of the season,” Hamilton said. “I know it’s tough. We want to win. The way we lose sometimes is horrible. We get frustrated just like everybody else. As long as we just stick together, we’ll figure a way to get out of it.”

The time off is nice, but the game schedule doesn’t get any easier for Detroit, which plays at Dallas tonight and at San Antonio Wednesday. The Pistons have four of their next five on the road, where they are 3-13.

Detroit is hoping the return of veterans Hamilton, Prince and Ben Gordon will help ease the road woes.

“That’s what we’re hoping, getting those guys back will give us a situation where we have some leadership, especially being on the road and know how it is to win on the road,” Kuester said.

New challenges for rookie
Rookie Jonas Jerebko was welcomed to the NBA by being inserted into the starting lineup for Tayshaun Prince, who has built a reputation as one of the top defensive small forwards in the NBA.

Jerebko held his own defending the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Now Jerebko has a new set of challenges. With the return of Prince, Jerebko has been moved over to power forward in the staring lineup.

Jerebko has started three games at power forward and has a huge challenge this week when he faces two of the best power forwards of all-time in the Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki and the Spurs Tim Duncan.

“I need some practice at it, but it’s getting better and better each day,” Jerebko said of playing power forward. “Dirk is a very good player so I’m just going to do my best.”

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bynum out for Dallas, San Antonio

Pistons guard Will Bynum re-aggravated his left ankle in an individual workout and will not travel with the team for its two-game road trip at Dallas and at San Antonio this week.

Bynum has missed Detroit's last two games with the injury, but has been battling sprains in both of his ankles since mid-November. He is averaging 12.1 points and 4.3 assists this season.

Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey practiced for the second straight day Monday and is good to go for Tuesday's game at Dallas. Stuckey sprained his ankle against Chicago on Dec. 31 and left the game twice due to the injury, but returned both times.

“It’s alright,” Stuckey said. “It’s a little sore, but it’s getting better though. (Arnie) Kander does a good job of getting us healthy. I’ll be good.”

Stuckey is averaging 19.1 points, 4.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game this season. Stuckey and Ben Wallace are the only two Pistons to start every game this season

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hamilton's plus-minus alarming

Richard Hamilton has clearly struggled offensively since returning from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss five games after he returned from a severe ankle sprain. In the three games since returning, Hamilton is shooting 24.1 percent (13-for-54).

As bad as Hamilton has been offensively, it's not the most alarming stat. That would be his plus-minus. Hamilton is a minus-50 in the three games since returning. In fact, if you take away the time Hamilton was on the court, the Pistons actually would have won all three games.

Hamilton was a minus-22 against Chicago, which beat Detroit by 11. Hamilton was a minus-20 against New York, which beat the Pistons by 17 and Hamilton was a minus-8 against Toronto, which beat Detroit by seven.

The plus-minus in basketball can be misleading, but those numbers are alarming. Hamilton admitted he has to get his legs back, but right now his poor shooting and lackluster defense is really hurting the team.

Pistons coach John Kuester was asked about Hamilton’s struggles defensively and said his defense should not suffer as he gets his legs back, but also added he felt the team as a whole is struggling defensively.

“We weren’t good defensively overall,” Kuester said. “As much as I’d like to see us defend the way we’re capable of, sometimes your defense is fueled by your offense and unfortunately we haven’t had real good offense as of late, but we’ve had real good looks. That’s the one thing I’m conscious of. Are we getting decent looks? And most times we are.”

Putting in extra work
The Pistons took Friday off, but put in a long practice Saturday in preparation for their two-game road trip to Texas next week. Detroit’s practice was more than two and half hours long and is the first of three the Pistons will have before heading to Dallas.

“We got to take advantage of this practice time to get back into the basics of what we need to do offensively and defensively,” Pistons coach John Kuester said after practice Saturday. “We had a very spirited practice today. It was a little bit longer. We watched tape. We knew it was going to be a longer day.”

Kuester is hopeful the team can shore up a few areas the team has slacked on recently and also get more acclimated to playing with each other given all the injuries.

“I will not waver no matter how many losses we have on what we want to get accomplished because the bottom line is we got to get better,” Kuester said. “If we’re getting better than I will see light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve had moments where we make two steps forward and one step backwards. We got to keep getting those steps going forward.

“The guys are tyring and working hard, but we got to sustain things for 24 seconds, where all of a sudden we’re working, we’re working hard and one break down adds to a basket. That’s where it gets tough.”

Injury update
Rodney Stuckey did not participate in Saturday’s practice, but said he does not expect to miss any time. Will Bynum also missed practice and his status will be updated early next week.