The NBA has changed around Rodney Stuckey, who can’t maintain early momentum against Pacers

Aggression turned into frustration with Rodney Stuckey.

That was the story of his game against the Pacers last night, and it could become the story of his Piston tenure.

With the smaller Darren Collison guarding him, Stuckey attacked early. He scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in the first 5:23 of the game.

The Pistons probably envisioned Stuckey doing that a lot. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, he’s almost always bigger than the opponent’s smaller guard. So, the Pistons aggressively promoted Stuckey to the starting lineup three years ago by trading Chauncey Billups to Denver. They haven’t exactly seen that investment yield tremendous returns.

The NBA has change around Stuckey. When Detroit traded Billups, three starting point guards who are no longer starting point guards were 6-foot-3 or shorter and weighed 175 or fewer pounds.* Since, only two players have joined the list – Devin Harris and Collison. And judging by just height and weight doesn’t begin to explain how much stronger and agile point guards have become in the last three years. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to player’s weightlifting stats, but the change can easily be seen by watching the league.

*Rafer Alston (Rockets), Steve Blake (Trail Blazers) and T.J. Ford  (Pacers)

Tonight, Stuckey had the rare favorable matchup, and he impressed early.

But after doing enough for the Pistons to believe he’d make a big impact, he sputtered. He wasn’t terrible by any means, but the flashes of taking over disappeared. By this point, the analogy between Stuckey’s game tonight and his Pistons career should be hitting you in the head.

Frustrating? Indeed.

Stuckey clearly felt it, too, midway through the second quarter. By that point, the 10-8 lead the Pistons built behind Stuckey’s scorching start had vanished. The Pacers led by 15. Tyler Hansbrough (21 points and 12 rebounds) and Jeff Foster (seven rebounds) were dominating. Charlie Villanueva was a few hours from retweeting a negative message about John Kuester. And I’m pretty sure Joe Dumars was talking to Richard Hamilton about another contract extension. Everything was falling apart.

So, when Jeff Foster fouled Stuckey, Stuckey lost it. He started barking at Foster and Hansbrough and picked up a technical. I don’t know what his issue was, but he looked upset with how the game was unfolding more than anything else.

I’d like to say that prompted the Pistons’ comeback – and they did crawl back before losing, 102-101 – but the incident didn’t appear to inject any life into the team. Instead, they slowly and surely climbed back with quiet excellence from Greg Monroe (27 points and 12 rebounds), offensive execution from Tracy McGrady (16 points and 12 assists), strong defense from Ben Wallace (10 rebounds, two steals, a block and a team best plus-10), exciting energy from Will Bynum (nine points in 13 minutes, including two 3-pointers in less than a minute in the late third quarter/early fourth quarter) and a big jump shot from Austin Daye that gave Detroit the lead with 11 seconds left.

Stuckey didn’t have much to do with the comeback, but he mustered one final burst of aggression. With the Pistons’ down one their final possession, Stuckey drove to the basket.

He lost the ball and it slipped out bounds.

If Greg Monroe dominates in a forest, does he make a sound?

When Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweeted, “20-10 night for Monroe,” I figured Monroe had a chance, so I checked the box score.

It wasn’t a prediction. It was a statement.

With 5:41 remaining in the third quarter, Monroe had 20 points and 10 rebounds!

I had barely noticed his play to that point. I love how routine Monroe’s excellence has become.

Monroe finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds in 32:06. There have been 92 27-point, 12-rebound games this season. Just three times did someone accomplish his 27-12 game while playing fewer minutes.

Monroe also notched a double-double against Houston with little time on the court.

Maybe the Pistons should play him more.

Tayshaun Prince injures back

Tayshaun Prince left the game late in the first quarter with a sore sacroiliac joint and didn’t return.

He missed all three of his shots and both his free throws and didn’t register any other stats in nine minutes. Combined with his dismal performance against the Rockets, here’s how Prince has performed since saying winning the number of games likely  necessary for the Pistons to make the playoffs was “pretty much impossible:“

  • Minutes: 39
  • Points: 1
  • Shooting: 0-for-12
  • Free throws: 1-for-3
  • Rebounds: 1
  • Assists: 3

If you wanted to argue that Prince has given up on the season, the blind numbers would support you.

I don’t think that’s the case – Shane Battier’s defense, injury troubles and bad luck have been the key factors – but if I were the Pistons, I’d want to be certain before keeping him past the trade deadline.

Although, I have no idea how much the severity of a sacroiliac joint injury can vary, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer might provide an example for how much time Prince will miss. In 2009, he suffered an sacroiliac joint injury. Doctors diagnosed the injury on March 11, although Mauer had been in pain before that. He returned to the Twins on May 1.

Regardless of why Prince struggled his last two games, potential trade partners might back off now.

More disharmony

Add Chris Wilcox to the list of players who have publicly argued with John Kuester. Vince Ellis:

Wilcox and Q barking at each other over the last pick-and-roll miscue. #teamturmoil. #Pistons.

On the scale of this year’s problem, this hardly makes a blip.

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