Typical Piston play overweighs moderate signs of progress against Thunder

Near halftime, Rodney Stuckey and John Kuester had an animated discussion during a timeout – and not the type of animated discussion we’ve grown accustomed to players having with Kuester this season. The two took turns talking, nodding their heads in between. It looked like the type of productive conversation players and coaches on well-functioning teams have all the time.

Progress.

As the Pistons walked onto the court, Richard Hamilton and Austin Daye discussed something. I definitely wouldn’t call their interaction hostile – but they clearly weren’t on the same page, gesturing in different directions with choppier body language than Stuckey and Kuester displayed. On the ensuing play, Hamilton and Daye ran into each other while both tried to catch a pass in the corner, and they turned the ball over.

Not nearly enough of it.

A Detroit team that, 66 games into the season, still hasn’t worked out its basic kinks fell to the Thunder, 104-94, tonight. The Pistons hung with Oklahoma City early, even building a seven-point lead in the the second quarter. But when the Thunder kicked into top gear, Detroit didn’t have a chance of keeping up.

The Pistons aren’t an extra gear team, and the don’t have extra-gear players. And let’s face it, this wouldn’t have been an extra-gear game, anyway.

It’s just another road game against a stronger opponent, and it came in the middle of a three-game trip.

Lose, move on and hope help comes in the summer.

Speaking of players without an extra gear, Rodney Stuckey

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I’m convinced if you put Russell Westbrook in front of Stuckey for 82 gms, he’d be an All-Star… #Pistonsless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Uhhh. What?

You know Russell Westbrook received All-Defensive team votes last year, right? Stuckey’s numbers against Westbrook don’t differ that much from his career numbers, either.

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#Pistons Stuckey hasn’t gotten over having Westbrook being picked for USA basketball over him…less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Ohhh. I didn’t know we were still talking about Stuckey’s vendetta.

If you don’t know, in 2008, Stuckey played for the U.S. Select team, which practiced against the U.S. Olympic team to help prepare the latter for international play. But when it came time to choose the 2010 U.S. national team, Stuckey didn’t make the cut. Four guards who entered the NBA after Stuckey – Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry – earned roster spots.

As crazy as it seems now, at the time, Stuckey could have made a case he ranked favorably with the other four. It wouldn’t have been a great case, but it wouldn’t have been completely ridiculous.

Supposedly, Stuckey has been out to prove he’s better than those other four guards. Against Westbrook tonight, Stuckey had 16 points (6-of-8 from the field), six assists, three rebounds, three turnovers and four fouls in 32 minutes. A solid game, but a limited sample size of his vendetta.

For a larger picture, let’s compare Stuckey’s games in his vendetta and Stuckey’s other games. Westbrook, Gordon and Rose were named to the U.S. National team on Feb. 10, 2010, and Stephen Curry joined them May 4, 2010. So, I’ll count just games after those dates for those players.

Opponent GS MP PTS AST TRB STL W L
Vendetta 11 31.3 15.7 5.5 4.3 0.6 2 9
Others 68 30.4 14.8 4.6 2.8 1.2 21 47

A slight statistical improvement, but Isiah Thomas torching John Stockton for taking his Dream Team spot, this isn’t.

It’s not like anyone would notice a small improvement by Stuckey in games against those four, anyway. Westbrook, Gordon, Rose and Curry are all considerably better. Hindsight doesn’t prove the selection committee was correct to pick them over Stuckey at the time. But it certainly makes it more difficult to argue on Stuckey’s behalf now.

I don’t know whether Stuckey truly feels motivated to show up the four guards who passed him in the selection committee’s (and everybody’s) eyes or whether it’s a media-spurred mirage. Either way, we should probably put this angle to rest.

If Stuckey starts excelling against Westbrook, Gordon, Rose and Curry, it’s because he’s become a better player. Not because he’s proving a point.

Greg Monroe displays his renowned passing skills

Greg Monroe picked up his typical, quiet double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Ho hum.

What really stood out were his six assists, which bested a career high by two.

Everyone has been waiting for the Pistons to take advantage of Monroe’s passing ability by calling plays that give him the ball in the high post. Did Detroit do that? I’m not entirely sure. Monroe often passed from the mid post, an area he hasn’t operated from much this year. I couldn’t tell how much it was designed and how much it just presented itself during the game.

I’ll definitely keep an eye on it, so we’ll understand Monroe’s game better. But I’ll also keep an eye on it, because it’s plain fun to watch Monroe pass. These were smart dishes that led to shots from high-efficiency areas. His six assists led to:

At some point, Monroe will hit his ceiling. We’re not even close.

Richard Hamilton plays well, doesn’t prove he’s back

HOAM showed up, and that’s still a positive for the Pistons. HOAM scored 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting, and that follows a 20-point, 9-of-15 game against the Spurs on Wednesday.

Two games don’t make a trend, though.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Hamilton is engaged, moving without the ball and focusing on not rushing his shot. I’m in favor of any Piston making a positive contribution.

But it’s not like Hamilton is reaching a new level or anything.

He’s had 44 other back-to-back games with at least 20 points and 50 percent shooting in both. Because he did it for the first time in a year doesn’t warrant a huge celebration.

For the Hamilton supporters who will use these last two games as an “I told you” moment, think about how much you’re championing him for semi-flukishly doing something he used to do regularly.

Side effects of HOAM

HOAM definitely helped the Pistons, but his success left a couple other players behind.

Ben Gordon took just one shot in 14 minutes – just the third one-shot game of his career (he’s never played a shotless game). In fact, when playing at least 14 minutes, Gordon had never taken fewer than four shots in a game.

Will Bynum picked up his second straight DNP-CD. Somewhere, Patrick weeps.

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Tags: Austin Daye Ben Gordon Chris Wilcox Greg Monroe John Kuester Richard Hamilton Rodney Stuckey Will Bynum

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