Tom Gores passed his first test, the Pistons failed their final home test, and Charlie Villanueva got testy.
Although the Pistons’ season of drama didn’t hit its crescendo tonight, their 110-101 loss to the Cavaliers featured more action – much of it outside the game itself – than the typical April contest between lottery teams does.
Charlie Villanueva-Ryan Hollins fight
Then, midway through the fourth quarter, Villanueva hit Hollins below the belt while he screened Hollins near the free-throw line. As the two players were tangled, it looked like Hollins hit Villanueva’s midsection with a forearm and held Villanueva. Villanueva responded by pushing Hollins’ face.
When the two players didn’t separate, their teammates got between them. Although Villanueva and Hollins initially kept trying to go after each other, both retreated to their benches.
When Mason announced to the Palace crowd that both players had been ejected, Villanueva charged toward the tunnel that led to the Cavaliers’ locker room. Strangely, Hollins was still closer to Cleveland’s bench.
Maybe Villanueva was trying to get to Hollins, but got misdirected. Maybe he thought Hollins was already in the tunnel. Maybe he thought he and Hollins would meet at the tunnel simultaneously. Regardless of his plan, he never made it to Hollins.
Rodney Stuckey, Jerry Hendon (the Pistons’ head of security who, John Kuester sent to summon Richard Hamilton in January) and, eventually, assistant coach Pat Sullivan caught up to Villanueva and restrained him.
Then, Hendon half-chased, half-pushed Villanueva into the tunnel. Shortly after that, Hollins exited the court, too.
That’s when things really got interesting.
Villanueva tried to go the Cavaliers’ locker room, according to Dave Hogg of the Associated Press. Then several minutes later, Villanueva sprinted from Detroit’s locker room toward Cleveland’s while shouting, “I’m going to kill that dude” before police stopped him.
After the game, Villanueva appeared relative calm. He didn’t offer much information about what sparked his anger. Although the question wasn’t worded clearly, Villanueva seemed to say Hollins didn’t say anything cancer/alopecia related.
“He said something real smart,” Villanueva said.
In a narrow sense, I don’t care much about this incident. Villanueva became overheated and overreacted. That will happen from time to time.
But, in a larger sense, Villanueva is showing a weak mental game. He can’t lose his cool so easily.
I certainly sympathize with Villanueva for having to hear inappropriate comments like the ones Kevin Garnett made. Nothing will make those acceptable. But Villanueva’s reaction was the worst thing he could have done. He made it clear to everyone how to get under his skin and get him off his game.
When it gets out what Hollins said, opponents will have another bullet to use against Villanueva.
I’m sure there are some players who would never sink to such depths, but I bet there are plenty more who would do so only in big games. Villanueva, who’s never made the playoffs, hasn’t played in many big games, and the way he plays, he probably won’t play in many more.
But if he finally gets his big chance on a big stage, the odds are too high that he’ll get rattled.
Tom Gores dances
Haven’t seen any reasons to get excited about the Pistons this season? Haven’t seen any reasons to jump out of your seat and celebrate? Haven’t seen any reasons to believe?
Well, you’re not Tom Gores.
After the new Pistons’ new owner passed his first test by saying all the right things before tonight’s game – my favorite line: "I want to make Bill Davidson proud that we bought the team" – Gores was caught by cameras dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” during a timeout. (I guess dancing is the best word to describe Gores’ head bobbing and fist pumping.)
We don’t exactly what type of owner Gores will be, but he’s unlike anything this city has – or maybe ever had. Can you imagine William Clay Ford or Mike Ilitch dancing to Journey?
The Gores era has certainly gotten off to an interesting start.
Pistons’ lottery odds
With tonight’s loss, the Pistons will receive sole possession of the No. 7 seed in the lottery. Here are their final odds of landing each pick:
(The Pistons have less than a 0.1 percent chance of receiving the No. 10 pick.)
Rodney Stuckey surges entering free agency
Rodney Stuckey has never balanced scoring and passing as well as he has lately.
Tonight, Stuckey had 29 points and 14 assists. The only other players to meet both those marks in the last two years are Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, LeBron James and Rajon Rondo.
In his last four games, Stuckey is averaging 24.25 points and 9.75 assists. In his other four-game stretches averaging more than 21.5 points per game, Stuckey had never dished more than 5.75 assists per game. In his other four-game stretches averaging at least 8.0 assists per game, Stuckey had never scored more than 15.5 points per game.
Stuckey still isn’t finishing well enough at the rim – 3-of-8 tonight – but he’s compensating by getting to the free-throw line at nearly a career-best rate. In his last four games, Stuckey has shot 33-of-35 from the charity stripe.
Tonight, Stuckey dominated the ball, but with such stellar results(he had just two turnovers), that’s not a problem. What might become a problem is how the Pistons react to this stretch.
These last four games have been meaningless for the already-eliminated-from-the-playoffs Pistons. Plus, Stuckey will be a free agent in this summer, giving him plenty of motivation that could evaporate once he signs his next contract.
Is this actual progress from the Sacred Cow or just more false hope? The answer to that question – or more accurately, the perceived answer to that question – will swing million of dollars.
Jason Maxiell grabs season-high 14 rebounds, still looks flawed
Early in the second quarter, just 9:56 into his night, Jason Maxiell tied his season high with seven rebounds. Just 2:04 later, he set a new season high.
To compare apples to apples, Maxiell had played at least 9:56 in 42 and at least 12:00 in 36 of his 55 games this season.
Although Maxiell finished with 14 rebounds, I can’t get too excited (even if I ignore his 1-of-7 shooting).
Maxiell grabbed 10 rebounds in his first 12:40. He pulled in just four rebounds in his remaining 19:51.
It’s nice to see Maxiell is still capable of rebounding, a skill he hasn’t displayed nearly enough this season. But his endurance still needs a ton of work.
Chris Wilcox plays sloppily
As Patrick pointed out, cutting down on turnovers has been one of the biggest keys for Chris Wilcox’s resurgence.
When evaluating tonight’s game to prepare a potential contract offer for Chris Wilcox this summer, teams should count his four turnovers as much as they do his 16 points and seven rebounds.
That last number isn’t misleading. Wilcox was extremely careless with the ball tonight, a habit that has kept him from establishing himself as a definite NBA rotation player.
He’s been better with the ball lately, but he still has plenty of room for improvement.