On Monday, Dan Feldman noted that Pistons trainer Arnie Kander praised Charlie Villanueva for how hard he has worked to recover from his ankle injury that sidelined him early in the season. Dan also wrote the following:
A hard-working, in-shape, self-motivated Charlie Villanueva deserves to play. Villanueva has immense talent, and most of his problems have appeared to stem from attitude. If that’s solved, even temporarily, it doesn’t make sense to keep sitting him.
I mostly agree with that. If the Pistons haven’t decided that they are using the amnesty clause on Villanueva in the offseason — and there have been no reports from the team that suggest they will use it on Villanueva or anyone — then it would make sense for them to give him occasional minutes in the hopes that he can either contribute or restore some semblance trade value that has been obliterated over his three seasons with the Pistons.
“Look, it’s not a knock on Charlie,” Frank said after Monday’s practice. “Charlie is working hard and doing what we’re asking, but my thing is Greg, Max, Jonas, Body (Wallace) — you know they are all doing basically what we’re asking. In order to put Charlie in there, one of those guys has to sit.”
Complicating things, Goodwill also reported this:
A few of his teammates have privately noted how hard he’s worked in rehab, hoping he’d get a chance before season’s end.
Frank is in a tough situation here. Barring the amnesty, Villanueva probably isn’t going anywhere for a while because his contract is large, his production is small and now he’s possibly been affixed with the injury prone label. He also clearly doesn’t fit the defense-first system that Frank wants to run. But if he’s working hard and has the talent to help, and if players on the team see that and Villanueva still isn’t getting minutes, it might hurt some of the trust Frank has worked to rebuild this season.
If Villanueva is off the roster in the offseason than the issue of his playing time right now is irrelevant. But if the Pistons keep him, not finding minutes for him as this season winds down might be a mistake.