Rodney Stuckey plays through injury, but that’s not his battle

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

#Pistons just confirmed: Stuckey reaggrevated that groin injury, but he’ll continue to play. Down 23

Kudos to Rodney Stuckey for playing hurt, and I hope he sets an example of toughness for his teammates.

But that’s not the battle Stuckey needs to be waging, especially during the latter stages of a 99-79 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight.

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Stuckey has a little extra juice vs. OKC. Likes to go vs. Westbrook. Snub of ’08 Select Team still sticks with him.

That battle – one that nobody outside of Pistons employees cares about – isn’t the right one for Stuckey, either.

Want to prove you’re better than Westbrook? Bring it every game.

Westbrook had 24-6-5 tonight. He had 21-6-3 in his last game. He had 36-7-5, 26-4-7, 21-8-8, 22-7-2 and 30-6-4 in his last five games before that. He’ll probably have something like 24-6-5 in his next game, too. That’s why he just received a max contract.

Stuckey has shown flashes of brilliance, and that got him $8.5 million for each of the next three years. But his salary is generously inflated for what he might be, not what he is. For him to earn more money in 2014, he must play well more often.

Stuckey (12 points on 5-of-11 three rebounds and no assists in a foul- and injury-limited 22 minutes) started the game strong, but he faded by the second quarter. That followed his best game of the season, against the Trail Blazers on Saturday.

I’m not sure whether Stuckey lacks the mental focus or physical conditioning to play so hard – not even necessarily so well – every game. But for whatever reason, Stuckey has never established himself over a sustained stretch.

Stuckey is – obviously to nearly everybody – not close to Westbrook’s level. Playing through injury during a blowout loss won’t get him there. Playing well consistently will.

Once Stuckey gets healthy, that’s what I hope to see from him – not just sporadic bursts of energy, focus and production when it suits him.

Stuckey deserves credit for playing well enough lately to raise expectations, and I’m hoping this is finally the time he’ll break through. But he must earn it in games that don’t hold extra meaning to him.

Brandon Knight stinks up defense

Brandon Knight was dreadful defensively. He got lost defending Daequan Cook off the ball a couple times, allowing two 3-pointers. On the ball, Russell Westbrook carved him up.

At times, Knight let his defensive struggles affect his offense. In the first quarter, James Harden made a transition 3-pointer over Knight. On the next possession, Knight forced a 3-pointer of his own – and airballed.

I know Knight is young. I know the Thunder guards are excellent. I know, I know, I know.

But once again, until Knight puts it together, he hasn’t put it together.

Greg Monroe stinks up offense

Greg Monroe (3-of-14 for 12 points in 27 minutes) really struggled offensively tonight. As Royce Young of Daily Thunder predicted, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka took turns defending Monroe, and both bothered him.

Like I said before the game, the plan for guarding offensive centerpieces is often to send multiple types of defenders at him. This was a test Monroe failed on his road to becoming Detroit’s offensive hub.

With 12, 10, 10, 13 and 4 points in his last five games, Monroe isn’t a reliable No. 1 option yet.

Austin Daye stinks up everything

Austin Daye (3-for-10 for nine points) finally made his first 3-pointer of the season, but for the most part, his shot looked just as off as it has all season.

Daye was just as bad defensively – slow on help rotations and timid once he got there. To be fair, Daye spent many of his minutes at power forward – though, that might have helped his offense against a big man not accustomed to guarding out to the perimeter – and that could explain some of his defensive ineffectiveness. But it doesn’t exactly explain his lack of defensive awareness.

At least he got 20 minutes to work through his problems, his second-longest out of the season.

Setting the pace

Many fans have suggested the Pistons, last in the NBA in pace, should play faster. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

To a degree, a team controls its pace only as well as it defends. The Thunder are not a running team on the face value of its players’ ability to get up the court quickly, but they cause a lot of turnovers and misses that lead into transition opportunities. That’s why they ran so much tonight. It’s much harder to run after allowing a made shot.

Until the Pistons defend better, their pace won’t fluctuate much.

Tags: Austin Daye Brandon Knight Greg Monroe Rodney Stuckey