NBA Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

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Thumbnail image for stuckey_dunk.jpgLast season: 27-55 in a season where a tidal wave of injuries washed over the squad (Ben Gordon missed 20 games, Tayshaun Prince 33, Richard Hamilton 36, and the list goes on and on). That can’t happen again, right? RIGHT?!

Head Coach: John Kuester who may or may not be good, we can’t judge based on last year. We do know he has gained experience juggling injury lineups.

Key Departures: Kwame Brown (consider that addition by subtraction)

Key Additions: Tracy McGrady, Greg Monroe, the amazingly athletic Terrico White

Best case scenario: A new owner that comes in just a few weeks into the season, then rather than make a ultimately needless push for one of the last couple playoff spots in the East they just start to blow it up and rebuild.

For that to happen: Piston fans are ticked at that last sentence. They see the enormous amount of injuries this squad had last season, it’s history of making the playoffs not far in the rearview mirror, and they think they can get back there.

And they really could if everything goes their way. If everyone can stay healthy. If they can defend. If Ben Wallace can keep up his resurgence in the paint (which means just be solid). If Greg Monroe can give them some offense down low. If Rodney Stuckey can not only score but also set up teammates. If the backcourt can drive the offense (because it has to) with Ben Gordon returning to his Chicago shooting form. If Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince can have good bounce back seasons. If Tracy McGrady has to give them something of quality.

That’s a lot of “ifs,” but if by some miracle all of that happens what do the Pistons get? A seven or eight seed, so they can be wiped out in five games by Miami/Orlando/Boston.

That is a fine outcome for a team building itself back up from the cellar (your Knicks, Pacers, Wizards of the world). For the Pistons, a team whose key parts are aging, that is not enough.

That’s why I say it is time to move Prince and start to rebuild. (I’d want to move Hamilton, and maybe Charlie Villanueva too, but with their deals that will be more challenging.) Like the car companies around them, it is time to reinvent the Pistons. There is no reason to wait. Start playing Monroe a lot, have Stuckey as your star — play him at the point but he may really be a two because he’s not a passer — and start to build this proud franchise back up.

More likely the Pistons will: Idle in place until a new owner gets in, then start the rebuilding process a little too late. But at least they start it.

These Pistons should be a little better than last year, only in that they can’t have that many injuries again. They have some nice players on the perimeter. But this is a flawed team.

Kuester has to get this team to defend. If they play defense as poorly as they did last season — fifth worst in the NBA — this season will be worse than Pistons fans imagine.

Tracy McGrady will not be as big a distraction as expected, but he doesn’t have much in the tank.

It’s just hard to get inspired looking at this Pistons roster right now — it is below average and not young. You want more for a proud franchise and fans that deserve better, but there is just not much here to see as a good future.

Prediction: 30 wins. This team has more talent on it than it showed in the injury plagued last year, but it is fatally flawed. This team could win more games if this roster stays together, plays some defense and stays healthy. But 30 seems about where they land.

Spurs fall to Bulls 95-91 after winning first 13 road games

Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) is defended by San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA’s best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn’t dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8. But after a big push down the stretch, they came up short in this one.

The Bulls led 65-47 midway through the third following a surge by Butler, who scored seven in a 54-second span after missing his first six shots. But the Spurs jumped back into it in the closing minutes of the quarter.

They went on an 11-2 run that Mills finished with a 3 to cut it to 72-66 just under a minute into the fourth.

Things got real tight when Gasol nailed a 3 to pull San Antonio to within 88-84 with 3:24 left. Doug McDermott then hit three free throws after being fouled by Tony Parker, and the teams basically exchanged baskets the rest of the way.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Parker had eight points and five assists after missing a game because of a bruised left knee. … For the second straight game, the Spurs set a season low for first-quarter scoring. They had 17 points after managing 19 at Minnesota on Tuesday night.

Bulls: F Doug McDermott scored eight points after being sidelined because of a concussion since Nov. 11. … Butler had scored 20 or more in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan did it in 24 straight during the 1995-96 season.

 

Parker returns to Spurs’ lineup against Bulls

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CHICAGO (AP) San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker returned to the lineup Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls after missing a game because of a bruised left knee.

The seven-time All-Star did not play at Minnesota on Tuesday night after knocking knees with a Milwaukee Bucks defender the previous night. He started against the Bucks after missing two games with a thigh contusion.

Parker came into Thursday averaging 9.4 points and 4.4 assists.

Chicago’s Doug McDermott returned to the rotation after missing nearly a month because of a concussion.

Gasol, Douglas lead Grizzlies past Trail Blazers, 88-86

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game’s final six points to seal Memphis’ fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Portland held a 79-68 lead after Al-Farouq Aminu scored inside with 5:28 left. But Memphis clicked off a 14-2 rally and it settled into a one-possession contest.

Tony Allen had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis.

Shooting issues that plagued both teams in the first half, spread past intermission as each started 4 of 14 from the field. That helped Portland maintain its lead after carrying a 50-43 advantage into halftime.

Despite converting only 5 of 20 shots in the third, Portland actually extended its lead, entering the fourth with a 69-61 advantage.

The Portland lead would reach 13 again in the fourth and was still at 11 when Memphis started its rally behind Gasol, who had nine straight points for the Grizzlies.

Portland had a previous 13-point lead in the second quarter as every Grizzly but Gasol was suffering shooting woes.

Gasol managed 19 points in the half, while Portland got 15 points each from McCollum and Lillard.

TIP-INS

Blazers: F Evan Turner started his first game of the season due to an injury to Maurice Harkless. …McCollum entered the game averaging 24 points. … G Allen Crabbe finished with seven points after scoring at least 14 in four straight games. …C Mason Plumlee had four points, ending his streak of seven straight games in double figures.

Grizzlies: Memphis coach David Fizdale finally said enough about calls and no-calls late in the first half to earn a technical courtesy of official J. T. Orr. Lillard missed the free throw to open the third. …Gasol also got a tech in the third quarter for arguing a call. … F JaMychal Green had a career-high 18 rebounds. His previous best was 17 this week in a win at New Orleans.

EXTENSIONS

Earlier Thursday, the Grizzlies announced that they have agreed to multi-year extensions with general manager Chris Wallace, John Hollinger, executive vice president of basketball operations, and Ed Stefanski, vice president of player personnel. Terms were not disclosed.

HARKLESS HURT

Portland forward Maurice Harkless did not play because of a left ankle sprain suffered in the latter stages of the Portland’s 115-107 loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday night. “I remember him wincing. He was on the free throw line,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “It was late in the game, like the last 2 minutes.”

NOTHING FREE

Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Portland made 29 of 40 in the game while Memphis was 20 of 30.

UP NEXT

Trail Blazers: Portland hits the middle game of a five-game trip, landing in Indiana on Saturday to face the Pacers.

Grizzlies: Memphis continues its homestand Saturday against the Gold State Warriors.

Stephen Curry gets fouled, hits crazy rainbow circus shot vs. Jazz (VIDEO)

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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is a wizard when it comes to shots you don’t think can ever reach the iron. Each time he does something like this, he surprises you even though you should be used to it by now.

But I’m not. The Utah Jazz aren’t. Heck, maybe even Steph isn’t used to it by now.

As Curry was driving down the left side of the floor on Thursday, Shelvin Mack got out of position and wound up trailing the Warriors star. With Curry rounding the pick, Mack reached and earned a foul.

Thinking quickly, Curry then hoisted up a rainbow of a shot that gently kissed the net on the way down.

Curry would go on to make the free throw for the 3-point play.