Vernon Macklin was scheduled to join the rotation of an NBA team for the first time tonight.
He’ll have to wait.
Macklin played plenty – 23 minutes, more than double his previous season high – but it would be too generous to call the Pistons an NBA team. To the delight of some and chagrin of others, they’ve taken up tanking.
Lawrence Frank can call it “experimenting” or whatever he wants, but the Pistons never looked like they were attempting to change the course of the Hawks’ 116-84 victory. I suspect Frank will deny it on some level, but clear as day, Detroit tanked tonight.
- If the Pistons weren’t tanking, Macklin – and Daye and Villanueva – wouldn’t have played so much.
- If the Pistons weren’t tanking, Walker Russell wouldn’t have scored a career-high 15 points.
- If the Pistons weren’t tanking, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace wouldn’t have had the night off.
But the Pistons are tanking. We can discuss whether it’s more satisfying to watch Prince help Detroit run up a 50-point lead over Cleveland or to watch Daye brick jumpers until Atlanta’s lead reached 41. There are pros and cons to both.
But, tonight, tanking had one huge negative side effect for fans: It robbed us of our chance to evaluate Macklin in meaningful minutes.
The Pistons trailed by 12 when Macklin entered the game in the first quarter and, minutes later, by 23. Macklin’s play improved as the game progressed, but it’s impossible to tell whether that was due to him getting more comfortable or the Hawks relaxing as their lead became insurmountable. In essence, Macklin was limited to garbage time once again.
His numbers – eight points (3-of-7 shooting), nine rebounds, two assists, a block, a turnover and three fouls – indicate at least decent play, but I think they overrate his actual impact. Most of his his offensive rebounds came on a single possession in the fourth quarter and were each followed by a missed tip. His assists came on a long two-point jumper by Villanueva and Damien Wilkins’ rushed jumper to end the first half. He ran the floor well and was quick to move on defense, though I think that partially stemmed from not always being in the right spot and trying to correct it. I’m not saying he played poorly, but there were no signs he deserves to make the rotation.
Really, I don’t know much more about Macklin’s game than I did coming in. Unfortunately, with the Pistons’ new tanking strategy, that’s just the cost of doing business.
Most Valuable Player
Tracy McGrady. Nearly every Hawk played well, but McGrady mixed flash and effectiveness perfectly in the blowout. The former Piston finished with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Least Valuable Player
Austin Daye. Daye – inserted into the lineup for apparent tanking purposes (or in Lawrence Frank’s parlance, “experimenting”) – shot 1-of-11 and, other than grab a few uncontested rebounds, didn’t do much else in 30 minutes.
Greg Monroe (17 points and five rebounds) legitimately played well. It’s really pretty incredible that his teammates could play so poorly that Detroit lost by 32.