John Niyo of The Detroit News wrote a column about improved pride and effort on this year’s Pistons team compared to last year and uses a blowout loss last season against an also depleted Orlando Magic squad as a comparison:
Missing that early-December night last season were Howard, Nelson, Michael Pietrus and J.J. Redick. Anderson also went down early on because of an ankle injury that night, forcing Stan Van Gundy to go with only eight players.
But John Kuester could’ve had 80 guys on his bench that night and it wouldn’t have mattered. The Pistons’ energy level was AWOL, and they got embarrassed, losing by double digits. Brandon Bass made his first 11 shots and finished with a career-high 27. The Pistons’ frontcourt finished the game with sixtotal rebounds.
Afterward, Charlie Villanueva summed it up, “What can I say? I guess they just wanted it more than us.” A month later, that was pretty much the Pistons’ team motto.
Overall, I’ve never been a huge believer in the intangible ‘effort’ thing when it comes to pro athletes. By and large, professional basketball players are prideful, don’t like to get embarrassed and play reasonably hard. I think fairly often, they get accused of not trying very hard when the reality is they just aren’t as talented as the teams that are putting whippings on them.
But then I watched last season’s Pistons. Don’t get me wrong, that team wasn’t very talented either, but I can’t deny that they compounded the talent issue by mailing in quite a few performances. I know draft position is important, I know this version of the Pistons could really use an impact player at the top of the draft and a few more losses over the last month or two would’ve helped that cause, but after watching the nightmare that was last season, I am still extremely pleased by how much harder this team plays. It makes them more rewarding to watch and be invested in.