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.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.