Detroit Pistons: Ugly First Game Points out Structural Problems

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2011

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 02: Jonas Jerebko #33 of the Detroit Pistons boxes out against Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 2, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pistons 92-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Okay, so I will preface this by saying that I know that it was just one game, the first game, and there are still 65 games left in this season. I get it.

But the horrific nature of last night's loss to a team that finished only one playoff spot ahead of Detroit was enough to send many a fan into a tailspin.

Obviously, this team should still improve over the course of the season. I mean, if there is no hope of them getting better, why exactly are we writing and reading about this team?

The problem is that there are fundamental and structural issues facing this team. They are just not built to succeed this year.

The question becomes just what exactly are they trying to do this year? Is this a year in which we play the young guys at all costs and see where it lands us? Or is this a year in which we play all the vets and stunt the growth of the young guys?

No matter what, this team is going to lose a lot of basketball games, but that doesn't mean that this has to be a lost season.

Here are some of the issues that last night's game showed.


It's all about size

An issue that should have been obvious for everyone before the season was this team's glaring lack of size. They have only about three or four guys who are capable of playing defense in the post. And I'm not even saying good defense. But there are only a handful of guys who can even get in the way of a solid post player.

Opposing teams are going to watch this game and plan to attack the post at all costs.

Sure, Greg Monroe was in foul trouble for much of the night and couldn't help, but the Pistons made David West look like Hakeem Olajuwon.

Their only effective post defender is still Ben Wallace, and that is not a good thing. You really don't the only strong post defender to be the oldest player on your roster. Wallace should only be used as a role player now, not the backbone of your defense.

When you look around the NBA landscape and the players that signed, you wonder just exactly what Detroit is planning for this season.

I have been beating the drum about the lack of wisdom surrounding the Rodney Stuckey signing, and how that money could have been spent somewhere else.

Kris Humphries, who I was railing for all offseason, had 21 points and 16 rebounds last night. He provides inside toughness and size and signed for less than Stuckey.

Samuel Dalembert, who also signed for less than Stuckey, had 10 points, five boards, three blocks and two steals in only 20 minutes off the bench.

Heck, look at Chuck Hayes. He will make less than $6 million this year for Sacramento and was bullying the Lakers last night, grabbing nine boards and blocking three shots.


Ben Gordon seems lost

Ben Gordon was everyone's favorite to have a breakout season and reclaim his old glory.

After one game, it appears that he has a lot of work left to do.

Gordon seemed tentative, struggling to figure out when he should shoot or not.

The perfect example came early when the ball was kicked out to him for a wide open three pointer. Instead of pulling the trigger, he pump faked, lost his edge with the defender, and dribbled a few feet to his right and jacked up a much more difficult shot.

His shot is obviously off, and his defense is as horrendous as ever. The one promising thing with Gordon is that he seemed much more comfortable attacking the hoop.

The problem is that the Pistons need a deep threat right now to stretch the defense. If Gordon can't provide that, then what exactly are we getting for Gordon?


Brandon Knight needs time

Brandon Knight made his debut last night, and Pistons fans need to temper their expectations for their rookie point guard.

He definitely seemed overwhelmed and somewhat lost on the court, but then again, most of the Pistons roster did as well.

He was very undisciplined on defense, coasting around the ball handlers and coming out very wide on pick and roll defense.

He really didn't attack the hoop much, threw some ugly passes, and his shot looks like it is going to get blocked every time it leaves his hands.

He did make three triples, but I personally would have loved to see him attack the hoop quite a bit more.

Part of that had to do with the fact that a very speedy Darren Collison was guarding him most of the night, but Knight should get to the hoop more often.

Overall, it was a tough debut for the rookie, something that will only improve with more playing time. For better or worse, he needs to play more, and coach Lawrence Frank should really try to work him into a role paired up with Stuckey.


Where's the energy?

We got our first glimpse of Jonas Jerebko playing a real game in over a year and a half, and he picked up right where he left off. He played with energy, passion and enthusiasm.

Now where was everyone else?

This team looked lackadaisical at best, empathetic at worst. There was an almost distracting lack of hustle on the court. Once the Pacers started to pull away, the Pistons just kind of rolled over.

Collectively, this should be a team that is pretty far ahead of many of their contemporaries. They didn't add any major pieces besides Knight, and they have been playing together for a number of years. Why exactly did they look like strangers out there?

Passes were ill-timed and lacked crispness. Shots were ill-advised and lacked form. Pick and roll defense was weak, interior defense was weaker, and transition defense was non-existent.

The guards could not stop penetration, and once opposing players got into the lane they were treated to an open invitation to the hoop.

But the worst thing about last night was the body language.

The Pistons appeared beaten before the game started. It's as though they remember how good they used to be, and now they are so embarrassed about the current state of the team that they don't even want to give effort for fear of looking even worse.



This season can't go as bad as it did last night. Hopefully, the home crowd will show this game to be an aberration.

But there are some fundamental problems with this roster, and outside of swinging a trade to find some interior help on defense, those problems should only be magnified as this team plays tougher opponents.


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