3 Easy Steps for Curing What Ails the Sputtering Detroit Pistons
Their offense thus far this season had been anemic—one of the league's worst. The defense had been porous at best, non-existent at worst—again, one of the league's most ineffective units. And you had a better chance of finding an actual wolverine in the Michigan woods than the Pistons did of outrebounding an opponent. Through six games, they were the league's worst in total rebounds.
So how in the heck did they win in a blowout, 94-76?
The offense clicked. The defense held the Sixers to 30 percent shooting. The Pistons were even more dominant in rebounds than they were on the scoreboard, grabbing 19 more than the Andrew Bynum-less Sixers.
The Pistons will take it, believe me.
But the question is this: Other than keeping every opponent's superstar player out of their contests, how do the Pistons make this kind of game a regular occurrence?
Step 1: Give Rodney Stuckey a Wake-Up Kyle
If you watched the Pistons' last game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, you might have noticed Rodney Stuckey in the fourth quarter, making his defender look silly for a baseline jam, following it up with a layup and then finding Brandon Knight for a three-pointer.
But if you watched his previous seven games, you know that kind of sequence is far too rare.
I firmly believe Rodney Stuckey has the talent to be a borderline superstar in this league. But his horrendous stat lines, outside of the last OKC matchup, and his uneven and often thick-headed performances are too glaring to ignore.
That Stuckey takes plays off is not a revelation. That he continues to take ill-advised threes and slashes seemingly only when he feels like it is simply unacceptable.
Kyle Singler had a stable, productive game in Stuckey's place, shooting well and scoring 13 of his 16 points in the first half. Corey Maggette returned and played 22 solid minutes as well.
Even coach Lawrence Frank had to admit, "Things flow with Kyle...he's a guy that, from a team defensive standpoint, understands what's expected: to make the right basketball play."
It's something Stuckey just don't seem to embrace. It's time for the talented but notoriously uneven shooting guard to ride the pine for a while. Let him know the mental lapses are no longer going to be tolerated.
Comparing the Stuckey-Singler situation to Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig insults both Gehrig and Pipp (who was a fine first baseman before that blasted headache). I think at best, Singler is a short-term solution, and would be best coming off the bench.
But for the short term, I would make the position his and Maggette's, and make Stuckey have to earn it back.
Step 2: Make Knight Remember This Night
Brandon Knight's line reads 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds and seven assists. A nice night.
But what's not in the stat sheet was his leadership last night. Two important field goals in the third quarter made sure the Pistons kept the game under control. Knight patrolled the glass too, as his seven boards indicate. But perhaps most importantly, in 35 minutes Knight had just two turnovers.
If Knight can continue to play sound, efficient basketball, the Pistons will win quite a few games. It's as simple as that.
Greg Monroe (19 points, 18 rebounds and six assists) will continue to have monster nights, Andre Drummond will continue to emerge and Jason Maxiell (12 rebounds) will continue to attack the glass. They just need a sure, calm presence to find the right guys at the right time and distribute the ball effectively.
This is the Knight we believed we had when he was drafted. Brandon simply needs a lot more of these nights.
Step 3: Ya Gotta Believe
This is by and large a young team. My fear on seeing the schedule was a potentially devastating start. Beginning the season 0-8, the Pistons' worst start ever, had to play havoc with these kids' minds.
And the national press, lacking a true knowledge of the Pistons roster or talent level, started declaring the Pistons the worst team in the NBA. That couldn't have been a confidence booster either.
Here's the reality: This team has true talent, substantial depth and now will enjoy the comforts of home. Prior to Wednesday, the team had not practiced in 10 full days because of their hectic travel schedule. That's a massive handicap on youngsters who are still learning to play together.
The Pistons as a team need to realize that they are neither as good as this game (Andrew Bynum playing for the Sixers would certainly have revealed a different outcome), nor are they as bad as some of their horrid losses. But when they play the right way, the Pistons are closer to the team we saw tonight than the 0-9 Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight who rode into Philadelphia.
Defense remains a concern, but crashing the boards with energy can make up for some of their defensive deficiencies, and as I've often said, Frank preaches defense relentlessly.
Problem is, he hasn't been able to work executions for 10 days. But now he will. And mark my words: you will see an improvement in the Pistons defense.
Orlando is next, and with the Magic most probably comes another victory, so the Pistons will likely be sitting on a two-game win streak. But more importantly, the fellas will start believing in themselves again.
The season is still young. It's not at all too late to rewrite the script, and right the ship. Getting a game like this under their belt, where the Pistons get to see and feel and taste how good they can truly be, is a start in that direction.