Preview & Chat: The Detroit Pistons

Kurt —  March 26, 2009

McDonalds All American High School Basketball Game

Records: Lakers 56-14 (1st in the West) Pistons 34-36 (7th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.6 (1st in league) Pistons 107.1 (20th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (6th in league) Pistons 107.7 (14th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Pistons Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Afflalo, Tayshaun Prince (Dominguez High shout out!), Antonio McDyess, Kwame Brown

Lakers Coming In: If you haven’t seen the post at 20 Second Timeout that talks about the Lakers defense, you should. At least for the part where Jim Cleamons talks about what the Lakers do on defense and why. Darius has been preaching this same thing all year at this site:

I mentioned this a while back, but after reading Jim Cleamons’ comments it popped back in my head- the Lakers play a defensive scheme that is equivalent to paint by numbers. The coaches are telling players exactly where they need to be in help situations rather than letting them figure those things out for themselves. It’s the reason why we double the post against players who may not be strong scoring threats. It’s why we shift into our SSZ when the ball handler is in a position to be a penetrator. It’s why we extend into traps on the wing when the player with the ball is in a position to hurt us with the ball. These are all situations where the coaches think we are vulnerable and want us to be in better positions as helpers. Ultimately we’re trying to compensate for the fact that our players are not instinctive enough to play the defensive scenario well enough for the result to be something successful. So, like paint by numbers, the staff has laid out what they (the players) should do on any given possession beforehand so all they do is fill in the part of the picture with the proper color. Understand though, that while this scheme is meant to limit our weaknesses, it’s also meant to play to our strengths- length and quickness. We have players that *should* be able to show help on the strong side while still recovering to the weakside to contest shooters. We have players that can trap on the strong side while still recovering to the paint to rebound when the players are rotating to the opposite side of the court. I agree with Coach Cleamons though, we need to bring that effort to rotate on defense in the manner that the scheme requires. Because if we don’t we will be in trouble.

I also have detailed thoughts on the NBA blogashere debate about the NBA and advanced statistics. Too long to get into right here. But let me quickly sum up:

Any manager in any business is foolish not to gather as much information from varied sources as he can. It is good to have information presented that challenges your conventional wisdom, makes you rethink things, even if you come back to the original conclusion. Advanced statistics (and I don’t mean just PER but the things teams are really using) can do that. It should be a slice of the pie, but not the entire pie. Look at Billy Bean in baseball — he loves statistics but he also has traditional scouts. He collects information from several sources and makes a decision. That is what smart people do. That’s what NBA front offices should be doing with these statistics. I use them here because, well, points per possession is just clearly more logical than points per game to me. But I want my information from varied sources as well.

The Pistons Coming In: The Billups for Iverson trade was never about this year, it was about starting the rebuilding process early in Detroit. I think it’s something Jerry Buss would support, he has always favored getting rid of a player a year early rather than a year late.

But couple a trade that was going to have questionable short-term impacts with a rash of injuries, and you have your current Detroit Pistons. Tonight they will be without Iverson, without Rip Hamilton, without Rasheed Wallace.

Injuries like that will lead you to be 3-7 in your last 10.

But this needs to be added — I watched a chunk of their recent game against Houston, and the Pistons played hard. Antonio McDyess is shooting 50% in the last 10 and has picked up his scoring, not to mention the 14 boards he is grabbing a game. More time on the court for Stucky is a good thing — he makes good decisions and has a basketball IQ beyond his years.

The problem is that due to the injuries guys like Afflalo are being asked to do too much. The title contending teams of a few years back in Detroit were about guys just filling their role and playing hard as a team. Now, guys have to step outside their comfort zone, and the results are losses.

Keys To The Game: First game of a back-to-back, it would be nice to take care of business like the Lakers did in OKC and get the starters some rest. Detroit, however, is not going to roll over.

The Lakers actually have watch Kwame Brown — remember from his days with the Lakers, on the nights he is focused he can be solid. He will be up against his former team, and in the first meeting this season he dropped 10 and 10 on the Lakers. He has more bulk than anyone the Lakers will throw out there save DJ, but he has Swiss cheese like holes in his game (and hands). He can be exploited by Gasol, but ignore at your own risk.

Get out and run, Lakers. The Pistons play at the second slowest pace in the league, this is a team where if you force the tempo they get out of what they want to do at both ends. There should be some easy transition buckets for the Lakers.

Because of the injuries, the guys the Pistons are giving minutes are just not as consistent. The key is to make them work for their points — don’t allow the penetrating guard to get the layup, protect the defensive glass, don’t turn the ball over and allow that to be fast break points. If the Pistons have to work, their shooting percentage will drop.

Also, the Lakers can expect a little zone tonight. They know what to do, they just need to execute it.

Where you can watch: 4:30 start out here in the West. KCAL 9 in LA.