Lawrence Frank calling a timeout and then storming as fast as he can towards the other side of the court is quickly becoming one of the few entertaining things to watch this season. One of these times, he’s just going to walk right into the stands and never come back.
There were no shortage of moments that would disgust the most even-tempered of coaches in Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks. Landry Fields made his first six shots. Carmelo Anthony, famous for never passing to anyone ever, had five assists by halftime. Amar’e Stoudemire plays no defense, yet the Pistons rarely attacked him, either with penetrating guards challenging him or by looking for post players to establish position. But above all, the unforced turnovers are the most unwatchable problem the Pistons have right now.
Turnovers have plagued Brandon Knight this season, but that’s to be expected as a young rookie point guard forced into huge minutes because of all of the Pistons’ backcourt injuries. The trend, though, is spreading. Greg Monroe had six turnovers by the start of the fourth quarter. The team as a whole turned it over 20 times and did so in a variety of ways.
Some of them were the brainless type. Monroe made a weak outlet pass without bothering to notice that a Knick was standing right in between him and his target. Austin Daye, with no defensive pressure, simply dribbled the ball off his foot as he tried to advance it up court.
Some of them were bad calls. Monroe is getting no respect from officials. Tyson Chandler played him physically, reached in frequently and on more than one occasion stripped the ball away from him while having a chunk of arm or jersey as well.
Some were the Rodney Stuckey variety — aimlessly driving into traffic, drawing easy charge calls or throwing the ball away after getting caught in the air with nowhere to go.
As a result, the game was obviously another difficult one to watch. There are few positives to point out with the Pistons, which is why I admire Fox Sports Detroit not really trying anymore. Ryan Field was sharing LeBron James’ reaction tweets about Blake Griffin’s dunk on Kendrick Perkins and FSD was running stories about the Madison Square Garden renovations. Really, what else are they supposed to talk about? The Pistons have now lost 10 of 11 games, including six straight. Four of those six have been by 20 points or more. Knight’s play has fallen off drastically. After a semi-positive three-game stretch that looked like Tayshaun Prince was coming out of his shooting slump, he’s regressed back to his mean this season.
The Pistons aren’t going to stumble onto many positives that result in wins this season. Instead, they should be focused on smaller goals. Reducing the turnovers will keep games more competitive. Getting Monroe more touches will make the offense run more smoothly. Those should be the team’s two immediate priorities.
Greg Monroe needs to shoot way more
At the risk of being a broken record … you know what? … scratch that. I will continue to scream about this point as long as it is an obvious and obnoxious trend. Tayshaun Prince shoots way too much. Greg Monroe shoots nowhere near enough.
Monroe is one of the most efficient scorers in the league this season. Prince is a terribly inefficient scorer. It’s ridiculous that after tonight’s game, both guys are attempting 12.3 shots per game. Prince is shooting 41 percent this season. He never draws fouls and he doesn’t create shots for teammates. He is way too involved in the offense.
Although Monroe doesn’t draw a lot of fouls yet, he does get contact on many plays. He’s still a young, unproven player, and he’ll eventually get those calls. On top of that, he shoots a high percentage, he puts pressure on a defense and he sets up good shots for teammates.
Prince was signed to be a veteran leader. I’m worried that Prince’s interpretation of that might make him think that means he’s a go-to player. If Monroe is going to keep developing, Prince needs to take a backseat in the offense and be the complimentary player his skillset suggests he should be.
Walker Russell is the team’s best passing guard
There’s strong evidence that Walker Russell is only a temporary Piston who will probably play elsewhere when the team’s other guards get healthy. The great thing for Russell is he’s created a market for himself by showing in Detroit that he’s a smart, capable bench player who probably should’ve been in the NBA sooner. The unfortunate part for the Pistons is that if he does indeed go elsewhere, they’ll be back to a collection of guards who aren’t particularly good at setting up others.
Prince doesn’t deserve the entirety of the blame for the offense running poorly — he’s just taking too many shots and stopping the ball. Knight and Stuckey are also bogging down the offense. Knight’s turnovers are a problem and Stuckey is still too often over-dribbling and not creating good passing angles to get the ball into the post. Neither player creates easy shots for teammates. When Russell is in the game, he’s able to change the tempo, he has good court vision and awareness and he routinely gets players open jumpers or layups. Russell isn’t a long-term piece given his age and non-guaranteed contract, but the Pistons’ offense will get worse if he’s not on the roster.
Jerebko gets it going
Hopefully, after playing only 15 minutes tonight, Jonas Jerebko is primed for a big contribution tomorrow. Jerebko, who has struggled with his shot of late, hit all four attempts tonight and grabbed four rebounds. He also got a little feisty with Renaldo Balkman late in the game.
It might be time to start Jerebko again. The Pistons are getting jumped on at the beginning of games. Maybe Jerebko’s energy to start the game could prevent them from starting in such big holes.