Think Lawrence Frank wanted this one?
Every Pistons starter played at least 29 minutes against the Bobcats tonight. The only other time that happened this season was when the Pistons hosted the Pacers on New Year’s Eve and were still looking for their first victory of the season after an 0-3 start.
In case that weren’t enough to hold Charlotte at bay, Frank called a timeout when the Bobcats cut the lead to 15 with a modest 9-3 run in the fourth quarter.
It was probably all overkill, but when you’re 2-9 and haven’t won in 11 days, there’s no taking chances. Thankfully, Frank’s safety paid off with a 98-81 win over the Bobcats, who are legitimately worse than the Pistons.
But Frank wouldn’t have to treat victories like precious diamonds if he had a better roster.
Early, when the game was still somewhat in doubt, Greg Monroe and Byron Mullens in engaged a fun one-on-one battle. Monroe banged inside a bit more to finish with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists. Mullens worked more from the perimeter to finish with 18 points and seven rebounds. Neither defended particularly well, but Monroe had more moments of effectiveness.
Rather than write about the battle between Monroe and Mullens, though, I’d rather address why Monroe isn’t playing with Mullens.
The Bobcats traded a 2013 second-round pick for Mullens before the season, indicating any team could have acquired Mullins if it wanted him – not that anyone else did. Nobody could’ve reasonably predicted Mullens would become even a capable NBA player. In two years with the Thunder, he scored 39 points.
But the Bobcats took a chance on Mullens, and it has paid off with a good NBA big man. Think the Pistons could a young 7-footer averaging 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game to pair with Monroe?
I’m not upset the Pistons didn’t trade for Mullens, specifically. I’m upset they continue to leave their 14th roster spot vacant without auditioning a big man.
Tom Gores is saving a few hundred-thousand dollars with this strategy, and that’s not an insignifant amount of money. He certainly didn’t position himself to own an NBA team by throwing away money.
But, in this case, the risk is worth it.
Another big man would allow every other player on the roster to develop in a role he’ll fill when the Pistons become good, because the Pistons won’t become good until they add another big man.
Another big man would also help the Pistons win a few more games, and that would boost attendance. The Pistons are still better than at least one other NBA team, as tonight showed. With the addition of a Mullens-caliber player, they might be better than a few other NBA teams. That might seem insignificant, but aren’t wins like tonight’s more entertaining than the double-digit losses we’ve grown accustomed to? Wouldn’t trips to The Palace become more common if the Pistons were better, even just a little?
I don’t pretend solving this problem will be easy. The Pistons’ odds of finding a rotation-caliber, let alone legitimately good, player are low.
But the odds are are zero as long as they don’t try.
Jonas Jerebko gets back on track
Jonas Jerebko emerged from his slump – 4.0 points (on 7-of-24 shooting), 2.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 blocks and 0.0 steals per game in his last four – with 12 points in the first quarter. He finished with a game-high 22 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Jerebko has a future playing with Monroe (how all Pistons, except Brandon Knight, should be evaluated now). Offensively, his off-ball cuts should allow him to receive many Monroe passes. Defensively, his activeness compensates for Monroe’s sometimes-heavy feet.
Brandon Knight runs offense smoothly
Brandon Knight is learning how to play in the NBA.
At times, he attacked. At times, he spotted up. For the most part, he picked the correct approach for the correct time.
Knight scored 13 points, dished four assists and quietly grabbed 10 rebounds – all stellar numbers.
But what impressed me most were his zero turnovers. This was his first turnover-less NBA game after averaging 3.4 per contest entering, and that he did it while playing 35 minutes is pretty impressive.
Will Bynum injures ankle
In the second quarter, Will Bynum rolled his ankle after making a runner and landing on Tyrus Thomas’ foot. Mike Abdenour evaluated him, and Bynum stayed in the game.
But Bynum didn’t return in the second half, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the injury keeps him out when the Pistons host the Warriors on Sunday.