Tayshaun Prince on John Kuester’s decision to bench Richard Hamilton for Pistons’ loss to Grizzlies: "Buffoonery. Do you all know what that means?"

After the Pistons’ 107-99 loss to the Grizzlies tonight, Tayshaun Prince wasn’t happy with Pistons coach John Kuester, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Tayshaun chimed in when Rip was addressing not playing: "buffoonery. Do you all know what that means?" #Pistons

Hamilton didn’t play because of a coach’s decision for the first time since the final game of the 2008-09 season, when the Pistons had already clinched the eighth seed (first pointed out by Dave Pemberton of The Oakland Press).

Hamilton has played poorly all season, and Kuester removed him from the starting lineup a few weeks ago. When that didn’t boost Hamilton’s production, Kuester took the next step tonight.

After the game, Hamilton showed a little more restraint than Prince apparently did. Hamilton answered questions calmly and didn’t speak with any agitation in his voice, but he also didn’t pretend he supported the decision. At one point, he asked whether his demotion was disrespectful or unfair. He resisted answering his own question directly.

“I’ll leave that to y’all,” Hamilton said, leaving it clear where he stands.

I understand why Hamilton and Prince are upset. The foundation they helped build is crumbling, and Kuester is helping to tear it down. Not only that, they’re not enjoying Denver or retirement like Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. Hamilton and Prince have to watch the decay happen right in front of them. That must hurt.

But Detroit can’t build again on top of a crumbling foundation. These steps are necessary for the franchise.

This isn’t an easy situation, and statements like Prince’s are bolding the lines between the two sides. Which side everyone stuck between Kuester and Prince/Hamilton will follow remains to be seen.

Did John Kuester lose the team, or did he just lose Prince and Hamilton? I suspect it’s the latter, which shows how fragmented this team is. I don’t want them banding together against Kuester, but it’s nearly impossible to believe they could come together for anything.

This wasn’t the start of the Pistons’ locker-room problems, and it’s likely not the end. In fact, it certainly won’t be the end of them unless Joe Dumars replaces “or” with “and” in Prince’s pregame comments. Via Goodwill:

"Whether you think it’s a Rip trade or Tayshaun trade (laughs), something needs to be done."

Chris Wilcox and Greg Monroe slow, can’t stop, Zach Randolph

Changing the backcourt was a luxury. Changing the frontcourt was a necessity.

John Kuester inserted Tracy McGrady as starting point guard and shifted Rodney Stuckey to shooting guard because he could. The Pistons are stocked with capable guards, and when one (or two or three) isn’t playing well, Kuester can play another.

But the coach didn’t have a viable option other than starting Chris Wilcox and Greg Monroe, and Kuester basically told Monroe as much. Ben Wallace is hurt, and neither Charlie Villanueva nor Jason Maxiell has made a significant impact in several games.

Let me repeat that: Chris Wilcox and Greg Monroe were the Pistons’ best options at power forward center.

Obviously, that’s not the prettiest picture. But the duo battled and battled and battled against the Grizzlies’ talented and efficient bigs. But relying on Wilcox and Monroe against Zach Randolph presents such an obstacle, it outweighed the Pistons’ advantages – an injury to starting Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, a 21-7 start against a Memphis team ending a three-game road trip and a late scoring flurry by Ben Gordon.

Wilcox and Monroe weren’t the problem. The problems swelled with one or both of them on the bench.

  • With Wilcox and Monroe playing, Pistons outscored the Grizzlies, 39-32, in 19:29.
  • With one playing, the Grizzlies outscored the Pistons, 41-39 in 17:45.
  • With neither playing, the Grizzlies outscored the Pistons, 34-21 in 10:46.

Monroe and Wilcox both missed time because of foul trouble, and Monroe eventually fouled out. But I don’t want to hear about what could have been had they avoided the whistle. Monroe and Wilcox couldn’t have played so effectively against Memphis’ bigs if they didn’t brandish a forceful fervor that leads to foul calls.

In particular, they limited Randolph – at least much as was possible tonight. He finished with 34 points and 17 rebounds, becoming the first Detroit opponent to post those numbers since Shaquille O’Neal in 1995. But a healthy portion of Randolph’s damage came with Wilcox and/or Monroe out.

  • Against Wilcox and Monroe: 7 points (2-of-6 from the field) and six rebounds in 18:17.
  • Against one: 13 points (4-of-7 from the field) and four rebounds in 13:16.
  • Against neither: 14 points (4-of-4 from the field) and seven rebounds in 7:51.*

*Randolph’s numbers against neither are slightly inflated, because Randolph went to the line three times when the Pistons intentionally fouled late.

If that’s not clear, here are Randolph’s per-36-minute numbers:

  • Against Wilcox and Monroe: 13.8 points (33 percent from the field) and 11.8 rebounds.
  • Against one: 35.3 points (57 percent from the field) and 10.9 rebounds.
  • Against neither: 64.2 points (100 percent from the field) and 32.1 rebounds.

It was so important for both Wilcox and Monroe to play against Randolph, because the Memphis forward was paired with Marc Gasol or Darrell Arthur for nearly all his minutes, and the centers are capable low-post scorers themselves. The Grizzlies thrive on causing switches inside and taking advantage of the mismatch.

But with Monroe and Wilcox in the game, Memphis couldn’t do that. Both played well defensively, and in Monroe’s case, offensively and on the glass, too.

Monroe scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to notch his fourth straight double-double – on shy of Jason Maxiell’s five consecutive double-doubles last March.

Defensively, Wilcox hasn’t proven himself multidimensional. When he uses his strength to hold his position, he’s flat-footed and prone to players getting around him. When he shuffles his feet to stay in front of players, he’s too upright and prone to getting pushed around. Tonight, he executed both skills successfully.

A strong effort by Wilcox and Monroe gave the Pistons a chance. Their backups, Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell, stifled that chance.

Rudy dominates Austin Daye, not Tayshaun Prince

A quick glance at the starting small forwards – Rudy Gay scored 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and Tayshaun Prince score eight points on 3-of-13 shooting – appears to indicate one dominated the other. Sure, Gay outplayed Prince.

But Gay didn’t dominate Prince. He dominated Daye.

Gay scored 12 of his points on 4-of-4 shooting in 11 minutes while Prince rested (39.3 points per 36 minutes). In his other 35 minutes, all against Prince, Gay scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting (14.4 points per 36 minutes).

That’s why Daye played just nine minutes (-9) tonight.

Still, that doesn’t exactly excuse Prince’s shooting. Gay didn’t play fantastic defense, and Prince didn’t think so either, because he kept shooting. But Gay played good enough defense, baiting Prince into 10 misses on 13 shots. Gay’s defense wasn’t lockdown, but it was either savvy or lucky, and I lean toward the former.

Gay only posted such offensive gaudy numbers because he played 46 minutes. I don’t mean that as an insult – quite the opposite, actually. Gay stays in good enough shape to play 40.2 minutes per game, second most in the league, allowing him to pick his spots to shoot. That’s a valuable skill.

Many starts have to take nearly all the their against the Princes of the league, but Gay gets a chance to score over the Dayes.

I realize I just dogged Daye, and so PCB doesn’t feel bad, I’ll end this section proving he’s right that everyone is out to get Daye. Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Tay to Austin Daye: "You coming in for me?" Austin nods. Tay rolls his eyes….all a part of the #3rdqtrcollapse

Ben Gordon scores 25 points in final 13:30

If you glanced at a box score, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Ben Gordon yet. After all, he scored 25 points.

Gordon didn’t shoot until midway through the second quarter, and he didn’t shoot again until 3:34 remained in the third quarter. Two minutes later, he finally made his first shot of the night – with the Pistons trailing by 12. That sparked a massive scoring binge, but as Patrick messaged me:

Man, you can’t guard BG when the game is already over. He’s so clutch.

As far as this game, Gordon’s performance was mostly empty. The Memphis defense had softened, and Kuester didn’t complain when Gordon began chucking, so he just kept going.

Gordon is in a catch-22. He needs to be the focal point of the Pistons’ offense to shoot well. But John Kuester can’t make Gordon the focal point until the guard shoots well.

Hopefully, this game serves as a turning point for Gordon’s confidence and role. But I’m not counting on it.

Gordon last scored 25 points against the Hornets on Dec. 19. He followed that game by scoring four points and seven points in his next two games.

New backcourt rotation

Before the game, I wondered which two of Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton and Will Bynum would make the rotation now that Tracy McGrady and Rodney Stuckey are starting.

Ben Gordon entered the game for Rodney Stuckey late in first quarter. Then, Stuckey started the second quarter at point guard before McGrady re-entered midway through the frame and pushed Stuckey back to shooting guard. That pattern basically repeated itself in the second half.

Stuckey played 39 minutes, and McGrady played 36 – both above their season averages. Stuckey could probably sustain that much playing time if necessary, but I doubt McGrady could.

Will Kuester adjust the rotation, or will he keep piling minutes on those two?

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Tags: Austin Daye Ben Gordon Charlie Villanueva Chris Wilcox Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell Richard Hamilton Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Tracy McGrady Will Bynum

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