Fixing the Pistons’ season is no easy task. They have lost seven straight games for the first time in six years. And they are under .500 for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
But here are two simple steps that should help:
Start Richard Hamilton over Rodney Stuckey. And start Jason Maxiell over Antonio McDyess.
Hamilton over Stuckey
Hamilton hasn’t kept it a secret that he would prefer to start. Hamilton, via the Detroit Free Press:
“I didn’t agree with coming off the bench, but I did it to help the team and to win games. But we haven’t won games with me doing that.”
Continuing to trot out Stuckey game after game is getting the Pistons nowhere. It has been clear for quite a while that he has hit a wall. There was a hope the All-Star break would rejuvenate him, but Stuckey has scored a total of 21 points n the four games since the six-day layoff. It’s his worst four-game scoring stretch of the season.
Many have compared Stuckey to Dwyane Wade, who had 31 points, 16 assists and seven rebounds last night. But it’s abundantly clear Stuckey is miles from that level.
The Pistons are obviously more concerned about the future than the present, and Stuckey will be a key piece going forward. But he’s so overwhelmed right now that extended playing time is not helping to improve his game.
And giving Stuckey a starting job he doesn’t deserve yet goes against the vision that won Detroit a title in 2004. Look at that season’s starting lineup.
Chauncey Billups was on five teams before coming to Detroit.
Hamilton was traded by the Wizards when he was still developing.
Tayshaun Prince, a former Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, fell to 23rd in the draft and sat on the bench for most of his rookie season.
Ben Wallace went undrafted and was cut by the Celtics, who tried him out as a small forward.
Rasheed Wallace was labeled a cancer in Portland.
Everyone of them was overlooked. Stuckey has been coddled.
Coming off the bench will force Stuckey to find his agressiveness again. That, not deferring to Iverson, will help him develop. And his playmaking ability will mean Detroit’s bench will still have some punch.
Hamilton, on the other hand, is a battle-tested veteran who has the respect of his teammates. He’s only 31, so he could be part of the Pistons’ next generation. Reggie Miller, the player Hamilton is most often compared to, played until he was 39.
By starting Stuckey, the Pistons are alienating Hamilton, hurting their present and making Stuckey soft.
Maxiell over McDyess
McDyess hasn’t kept it a secret that he would prefer to come off the bench. McDyess, via the Detroit News:
“At this point in my career, I thought I’d just continue to come off the bench and be a role player,” he said. “It’s still kind of tough to know at this age that I am starting. But it’s a good compliment. For me, it’s no problem. I just know I’ve got to do whatever I can, whether I am in there for 10 minutes or 20 minutes.”
McDyess, 34, has shown his age this year and is clearly better when he plays limited minutes.
In the second game of back-to-backs: 5.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 0.3 blocks per game.
Other games: 8.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game.
McDyess scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed six rebounds last night. That performance came a game after he played 26:25 against Cleveland — the fewest minutes he has played in his last 13 games.
In the first game after the All-Star break, McDyess scored a season-high 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Limit his minutes, and McDyess is effective. Otherwise, he’s just burning himself out and not helping the team.
Curry’s biggest problem with Maxiell has been his lack of rebounding. But in his last three games he has averaged eight rebounds (and 10.7 points).
Finally seeing consistent minutes, Maxiell has been the jolt of energy the Pistons’ starting lineup could use.
Without a doubt, these moves come with risk.
According to 82games.com, a lineup of Iverson, Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Maxiell and Rasheed Wallace is secon-worst among the Pistons’ top 20 five-man units. The contingent is outscored by .28 points for every set of offensive and defensive possessions.
But those five have played just 44 minutes together, hardly a reliable sample. And Iverson and Hamilton have played well together as of late.
It’s like what Detroit’s doing is working.
How much more in sync did the Heat look last night than the Pistons? And Jermaine O’Neal, Jamario Moon and Yakhouba Diawara played a combined 86 minutes last night. A week ago, none of those three were in their rotation.
So, it’s not too late to try mixing up the rotation again. Sticking with what’s not working is obviously not the solution.