|Jason Maxiell, PF 20 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -4Maxiell was awful. But it was his awfulness that led to Andre Drummond finally getting time on the court with Greg Monroe. If Maxiell was solid or even average in this game, that probably wouldn’t have happened.|
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 36 MIN | 6-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | -2Prince couldn’t do much defensively with Kevin Durant, but who can? His offense was solid, he helped on the glass and he made half of his 3-pointers.|
|Greg Monroe, C 35 MIN | 6-15 FG | 2-4 FT | 10 REB | 6 AST | 14 PTS | -9Monroe struggled shooting the ball and with turnovers, but he was as active defensively as I’ve seen him … well … maybe ever. He played physical, he blocked shots and he was sneaking up on another triple double had a couple of teammates knocked down open shots that he set up.|
|Brandon Knight, PG 36 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +1Knight was OK offensively, helped on the glass and was part of a solid defensive effort on Russell Westbrook, limiting him to 3-for-10 shooting.|
|Rodney Stuckey, PG 36 MIN | 5-14 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 15 PTS | -1Stuckey chipped in on Westbrook too, but he continues to struggle shooting the ball.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | -9Jerebko didn’t do much in this game, other than the three steals, but it’s understandable considering the beating he took in Sacramento.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 15 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -13Singler was pesky and chipped in once again, as he’s done every game this season.|
|Andre Drummond, C 21 MIN | 8-10 FG | 6-9 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 22 PTS | 0I wish I could give more plusses here. This morning, Lawrence Frank basically said that he wanted Drummond to prove that he was worthy of more minutes. Drummond, quite simply, left absolutely no doubts tonight. I can’t wait to see how he follows up tomorrow.|
|Will Bynum, PG 12 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -12Bynum didn’t shoot particularly well, and although he was pesky on defense with two steals, he had a couple of costly turnovers when the Pistons were still in it and Knight was resting in the fourth.|
|Kim English, SG 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -6English didn’t play a lot, and on one of Bynum’s turnovers, he didn’t step into a pass he could’ve came up with aggressively enough, which contributed to a Kevin Martin steal.|
Andre Drummond left no doubts
Lawrence Frank is an intelligent person and he knows the game. I’m sure his reasons for waiting to play Drummond and Monroe in the same lineup were reasonable, even if he’s not disclosing the specifics of why to the media. Frank doesn’t strike me as a dumb or illogical person. This morning, in a story by Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Frank said:
“What you would like to do is be able to stretch out Andre’s minutes. You’d like to be able to play those two together and you’re just trying to read the performance of the game.”
Frank is becoming a master of saying nothing when it sounds like he’s answering a question. But reading between the lines, let me take a stab at a rough translation: “Benching a veteran player who is performing reasonably if underwhelmingly well and happens to be in a contract year is not the best way to endear yourself in the locker room. I need Andre Drummond to leave no doubts before I even consider a Drummond-Monroe frontcourt.”
Now, like I said, it’s just pure speculation on my part, but prior to this game, Maxiell has played OK. Drummond has had brilliant flashes and also been non-existent a time or two. To begin considering benching a serviceable veteran for a young player, that young player, particularly one as talented as Drummond, has to start doing things like Drummond did tonight.
It’s actually a common concept. I’m putting on my ‘former political science major’ nerd hat here, but this is one of my favorite Franklin Roosevelt stories:
After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”
Obviously, that’s a way out there example, but the principle is the same. Frank likely wants to insert Drummond into a bigger role. But while fans can clamor for it because it’s exciting and not care even if Drummond isn’t ready for that big role, Frank has to worry about a hierarchy in the locker room and other issues that fans never have to think about. He needed Drummond to prove beyond a doubt that he’s their best option in the frontcourt next to Monroe. This was a major, gigantic step in Drummond cementing himself in a primary role on this team and, my hunch is, eventually the starting lineup.
The bench was out-played
The bench has been a bright spot, both for production and energy, all season. And although Drummond was obviously great amd Kyle Singler was solid the rest of the bench guys weren’t up to the task. Jonas Jerekbo, Will Bynum and Kim English didn’t shoot well, Bynum was sloppy with the ball and Jerebko — perhaps due to the lingering effects from that Kings game — wasn’t his usual energetic self. Oklahoma City, conversely, got scoring out of Kevin Martin (16 points) and Eric Maynor (13 points) and activity out of Nick Collison (three points, four rebounds and a steal). That unit also played good defense — Martin had three steals and Maynor and Collison each had one.
Monroe-Drummond is everything we are and everything we’re not
The comments here, on other sites and on Twitter obviously blew up when Drummond entered the game in the third quarter and Monroe didn’t leave. Then, when Monroe found Drummond around the basket with two quick assists, the potential of this duo was on display for everyone. Their skillsets perfectly complement each other offensively and defensively. Whatever hesitancies that existed — and like I said above, we don’t have all of the behind-the-scenes information, so we shouldn’t just assume there were no valid reasons for the team not doing this sooner — there is clearly nothing to have reservations about. During Monroe’s rookie season, we saw how he can enhance the skills of an offensively limited but athletic big man as he frequently found Chris Wilcox on cuts and dump-offs around the basket.
More importantly, if you haven’t noticed, the Pistons lost this game. And sure, it would be nice for this team to get a win, but no one is depressed tonight. No one is talking about another loss. No one is wondering if ownership is just going to get fed up and clean house. Playing Drummond in a prominent role, as long as he’s improving and working hard, even if he makes mistakes, gives everyone hope. If the team plays this hard every game, if they are developing their key young players, and they still lose? That’s perfectly fine for now. Every fan will understand that and accept it, even if everyone ultimately wants to root for a winning team. The issue with this team for three years now has been not only were they bad, they were bad and old. Now they have a chance to be bad and quite a bit younger, if they choose, and that is a far easier concept to root for.
Frank is making progress
No one has taken more of a beating (much of it deserved) in the comments this season than Lawrence Frank. He often seems inflexible, his rotation hasn’t made sense for a team building for the future and he hasn’t explained some of his more perplexing decisions, particularly his hesitancy to play Monroe and Drummond together, very well. But slowly (every slowly), he’s starting to get it. After the game on Fox Sports Detroit, he talked about Monroe as the focal point of the offense because of his passing, and Monroe’s performances (17 assists over his last two games) back up that Frank truly is trying to make that happen. The defense is still awful despite how much he’s preaching it, but the Pistons did have a pretty good gameplan against Westbrook tonight, Drummond’s presence clearly altered shots and bothered the Thunder and he was rewarded with more minutes because of it and Monroe, though he didn’t play great defensively, was physical and engaged, which is an improvement for him.
I remember two straight years of watching John Kuester fumble his way through postgame questions. That was always a good way to feel even more depressed about a depressing game. I don’t feel that way when Frank is interviewed. I’m still not convinced he’s the right coach for a young team, but I’m also not convinced he’s an in-over-his-head dolt like Kuester came across. The Pistons need time and talent to get better, and I hope tonight was a positive step in Frank understanding that playing Drummond a lot is the best team for the long-term prospects of this franchise.