Preview and Chat: The Detroit Pistons

Darius Soriano —  November 17, 2010

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Records: Lakers 9-2 (3rd in the West), Pistons 4-7 (10th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 117.6 (1st in NBA), Pistons 104.4 (22nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.1 (23rd in NBA), Pistons 109.2 (24th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Pistons: Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Ben Wallace
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Pistons: Jonas Jerebko (out), Chris Wilcox (out), Terrico White (out)

Big Man Hunting: As you read in this morning’s links, the Lakers are looking at the possibility of adding a big man to fill in while Bynum advances in his rehab and Theo recovers from Tuesday knee surgery.  The names being thrown around are not inspiring (Jake Voskhul, Sean May, Steven Hunter), but considering the circumstances they shouldn’t be.  Big man depth is key, but when the Lakers are fully healthy, the 4th big on this team is a part time player at most and performs more high fives on a nightly basis than inside pivots from the mid-post.  I thought Dave McMenamin made a good point in his column over at Land O’ Lakers when he said:

One thing I know: Derrick Caracter isn’t going to be the guy. The rookie got a DNP against the Bucks while Gasol played 40-plus minutes for the third straight game. One thing I think: Finding a young, fresh body in the D-League would be their best bet.

I too think that the D-league may provide the best option, especially one that currently plays on the Bakersfield Jam and may have some previous exposure to the Lakers’ systems.  Drew Naymick fits that description and may be worth calling up for a few weeks on an unguaranteed contract that can be voided once all the Lakers bigs return to health and on court action.  Also, don’t think that because the Lakers are looking outside of the current roster that there’s some issue with Caracter.  While remaining high on Caracter’s long term potential is a given, he’s still best when paired with Gasol and he’s prone to the types of defensive lapses that many rookie big men are.  And when it comes to earning minutes from Phil, an understanding of the defensive schemes is a priority (this is why Ebanks seems to have earned more minutes so far than Caracter).  Derrick’s time will surely come, but I have the feeling that he needs more defensive polish and could use more practice reps on both sides of the ball before he’s deemed ready to soak up minutes as a backup big that works in the pivot.

The Pistons Coming in: Oh how the high and mighty have fallen.  It’s hard to believe that it was just 2004 that the Pistons defeated the Lakers in the Finals, using a well-coached, disciplined group of players.  Since that time, the Lakers have come back to play in 3 more championship series (winning two) while the team from the motor city has slowly slipped from contender, to mediocrity, to now being one of the lesser teams in all the league.  Joe Dumars, once lauded as one of the shrewdest GMs in the league, has attempted to remake his team but has fallen flat in nearly every way.  Bad trades (Billups for Iverson?), questionable free agent moves, draft picks that haven’t yet panned out, and coaching changes that just churn out the same poor results are all now contributing to a team that’s 4-7 and seemingly stuck in neutral or, even worse,  reverse.

Recently, the Pistons are getting ink for all the wrong reasons.  Injuries have caused rotations to be shuffled and poor results on the floor have caused spats between players and coaches to break out in the media.  Essentially, this team is the definition of dysfunction and I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to change if these same pieces are stuck together trying to cooperate when it’s obvious that there’s not a lot of agreement going on between the principal parties.

The thing is though, this team has some talent.  While some of their parts are aging (Hamilton, Prince), they have some good players at nearly every position (save big man).  Stuckey has been playing well, Ben Gordon is always a threat to put up big numbers off the bench, and Charlie V has been scoring at a good clip with good outside shooting.  They just don’t have the cohesiveness of a winning team.  (On a side note, there were some folks who root for the Lakers that wanted Tracy McGrady over the off-season.  Well, based off his game log, lets just say I’m glad he’s on another roster.  Granted, his numbers are a bit better of late, but I’m quite happy with Blake and Barnes thank you very much.)

Pistons Blogs: Visit Piston Powered for all the info you’ll ever need on this team.  And if that’s not enough for you, Detroit Bad Boys is also worth your time.

Keys to game: Second night of a back to back tonight and that always means the prospect of tired legs.  This is especially important when monitoring how Gasol is playing throughout the game, as he saw a team-high 44 minutes in last night’s victory over the Bucks.  Andif you read the first part of the preview, you know that there may not be any help on the roster besides the possibility of going small with Odom at Center for limited minutes.  This may mean that Phil gets creative in how he rests Pau by pulling him out at the end of quarters or before mandatory timeouts just to give Pau the maximum amount of real time rest in the minimum amount of game minutes missed.

The bigger issue with a potentially tired Pau is that the weakest part of the Pistons’ roster is their front court.  They start the undersized Ben Wallace, who is years removed from the days that he terrorized the defensive paint through his ability to block shots and control the glass and can now be attacked by a player as skilled as Pau.  After Big Ben, they have rookie Greg Monroe and the undersized Jason Maxiell.  And that’s it.  So, I’d say that the Lakers need to attack inside but much of that will depend on the wind in Gasol’s sails and the defensive approach that the Pistons take in trying to control the Spaniard.  In order to maximize the results from Gasol, I’d love to see him operate more on the strong side but initiated with the Center Opposite offensive initiation that involves an open post being filled by a flashing big man (in this case, Pau).  This way, Pau catches the ball on the move and can potentially use his height and reach advantage in a manner that allows him to get the ball closer to the hoop.

When it comes to containing the Pistons, we look again to the perimeter and their seemingly endless supply of players that have the skill set to hurt the Lakers.  Nearly every Piston guard, wing, or power forward is comfortable shooting the ball out to the three point line and they’ll run a variety of pick and pop plays to get screeners open to shoot the long ball.  Meanwhile, along the baseline, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon will be trying to wear out Kobe, Artest, and Barnes by running them off stagger screens so they can catch and shoot off picks and curls into the mid-range area of the court.  These are the types of players and sets that have given the Lakers problems this year and tonight, regardless of the quality of the team they face, they will be tested by them.

One other facet of the game I’ll be watching closely is the pace.  Detroit currently operates at the 4th slowest pace in the entire league (for comparisons sake, the Lakers rank 7th fastest).  But, one of the ways that teams have tried to attack the Lakers recently is by pushing the ball at them in order to avoid facing their half court defense.  Phoenix and Denver do this naturally so the fact that they employed this tactic is understandable.  However, the Bucks did the same thing last night to the point that they were running after made baskets like it was Mike D’Antoni pacing their sideline instead of Scott Skiles.  Tonight, if the Pistons are running after makes or pushing the ball at every turn you can bet that this is the strategy that teams think works best to defeat the Lakers and that we, as fans, better get used to seeing some high scoring games just off the strength that this is what teams are trying.

Where you can watch: 4:30pm start time out West on KCAL.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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31 responses to Preview and Chat: The Detroit Pistons

  1. This one’s for Warren and Charlie.

    Darius I bet you’ve already listened to this, but thought I should post Matt Moore’s interview with Kelly Dwyer. Such a great interview with him.

    Let’s see if the Lakers can lock the defense a bit more tonight against the Pistons. This should be a game that the Lakers can easily win. Just have to put that effort in.

  2. Not a bad start so far

  3. What the hec just happened to Hamilton?! I can’t tell from Gamecast beyond the ejection….that was just rescinded online, anyway.

  4. For Warren, Charlie, and now hopefully for my son as well, as he was born on the 16th. Now we got enough people for a three-peat 😉

    Back on topic:
    To think that Detroit, which defeated one of the mightiest teams ever assembled on paper, that is, Shaq-Malone-Bryant-Payton, has now become a non-contender is sad, but also helps us realize how fortunate we are to have a franchise that does not suffer too many ‘down’ years.

    Let’s get another streak of 8, as I’d be very happy with an 80% winning percentage. 😉

  5. That double T on Rip was an absolute joke. Absolutely absurd.

  6. Luke Walton still tying his shorts as he walks onto the floor. Even he is surprised that he’s in the game.

  7. That was a flagrant????

  8. So, who can catch me up? These early starts are killing me.

  9. Darius: Pau and, even more so, Kobe doing their thing. Rip ejected for a silly double T after a touch-foul. Pistons are really undersized inside, they simply can’t handle the Lakers – even without Drew.

    I guess that pretty much sums it up.

  10. I would also like to add that as much as the Lakers miss Drew, the Pistons might miss my little Swedish bud Jonas Jerebko just as much. Keep an eye on him when he returns from injury this year: Great length, unbelievable motor, excellent defender and doesn’t try to do too much on offense. A sight for sore half-Swedish basketball eyes. (Mine i.e.;))

  11. Sometimes this team is just so much fun to watch.

  12. If the the 3rd quarter as a microcosm for the rest of the game, Detroit looks like a team that should be relegated.

  13. Darius: Actually, that has always annoyed me with American sports. In Europe, it would be exciting to be a Pistons-fans – because of the fear of relegation. (And the possibility to move up to the NBA if you were in the second division.)

    In the US, it’s only really interesting for the fans of the elite teams. I guess the Laker-fans can’t complain too much about this issue, but still;)

  14. It’s almost startling how bad Sasha is now. He’s comes in and the Pistons go on a huge run, and it’s not a coincidence. Jacking up (and missing) terrible shots on offense, leaving his man on d, throwing terrible passes…I mean, how is this guy in the NBA?

  15. Solid game from the starters tonight. The bench? Not so much. The Pistons were one missed three from cutting the lead from 26 with six minutes remaining (and the end of both benches in the game) to eight with 1:20 left, mainly because Sasha kept looking for his own shots early in the shot clock and either missing them or turning the ball over. The only bench players who played well were Caracter and Barnes.

  16. #16. To be fair, I thought Blake looked like his solid self, though he missed a lot of shots. He was only -6 on the night even though he had to suffer through that late run when Sasha came in and replaced Barnes.

  17. Greg Oden out for the year….

    Sam Bowie anyone?

  18. Wow, Oden is undergoing yet another knee surgery and is done for this season. Ouch. I don’t feel sympathy for Portland though, I hate them and their team.

  19. @17. IMO, Blake played solid, but not well. I thought that only Barnes and Caracter played well. Sasha was simply horrible. He almost singlehandedly let the end of the Piston bench make it a game in the final six minutes. I’ve been one of his biggest supporters these past two seasons, but his play in this game was downright selfish, as well as terrible. I have a feeling that he’s going to be on the receiving end of a few DNP-CDs (not dressed) in the future.

  20. Ray–

    Please do not do not do not DO NOT hex Bynum’s already-delayed-til-xmas return by mocking Oden.

  21. #20. the dude abides,
    I’d agree whole heartedly with everything you said. Also, a correction – Blake finished -13 on the night and his numbers were definitely brought down by the run that occurred directly after Sasha checked in.

    In fact, on twitter I mentioned how refreshing it was for the Lakers to be up big and still running the offense in the first half of the 4th quarter, giving most of the credit to Blake’s leadership. Only, when Sasha came in I had to take it all back because the Machine totally started gunning and taking quick shots that were outside the offense.

    I too have supported Sasha, but after what he’s shown the past few blowouts when he’s gotten burn, I’d rather have Ebanks active when everyone is healthy.

  22. 1. I agree that Sasha was awful tonight. I stopped watching with 3 minutes left because I couldn’t stand to watch him.

    2. How did Oden hurt his knee to require microfracture surgery when he hasn’t played in almost a year? None of the articles that I’ve read have said anything about that.

  23. @shaky

    haha, good point. i wasn’t mocking oden though, i was stating the obvious. too many similarities to portland’s pick of sam bowie over hakeem and michael jordan.

  24. @22. You can call me Dude, or His Dudeness, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

    @23. I think it happened here:,18448/

  25. I feel awful for Greg Oden. As much as this sucks for the fans of that team, it’s an almost unbelievable burden on Oden. And by all accounts, he does not have a thick skin. I hope he comes out of this mentally OK, if not physically .

  26. I am not the most astute basketball observer so I’d like some other opinions here. Am I correct in believing Luke Walton has looked terrible so far this season? I don’t think I’ve seen him make one good play on offense. Am I missing something (and I hope I am because I really like him)?

  27. @27. Luke has looked pretty bad. Your eyes are not deceiving you. At least when Luke sucks, he sucks within the context of the offense, and he occasionally makes the pretty pass for the assist. Sasha is sucking while freelancing, which is much worse.

  28. Also, I really feel bad for Greg Oden. No player deserves to have their career unfold like this. All that promise and a body that betrays him. So, so sad.

  29. @22. My definition of “solid” in the basketball context is playing fundamentally sound offense and defense, but not shooting or scoring well. I thought both Blake and Shannon were solid.