Tag: Chauncey Billups

Maurice Cheeks, Brandon Jennings

Maurice Cheeks: Brandon Jennings doesn’t know how to play point guard yet


Flash back to the Pistons’ news conference to introduce Brandon Jennings. Joe Dumars in his opening statement, as transcribed by Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys:

We also like the fact that he has five years of pro experience, one in Italy and four in Milwaukee. And we thought that he could step right in, hit the ground running and fit with the rest of our guys.

If Jennings could deliver on that, that would be fantastic for the Pistons.

They’re desperately trying to snap a four-season playoff drought, so they needed a point guard who didn’t require too much on-the-job learning. And they’d already assembled an unconventional frontcourt featuring Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, so they need a point guard who could play with that trio.

Their previous point guard, Brandon Knight, made too many youthful mistakes, and his inability to operate in tight spaces made him a poor fit with the jumbo frontline. Jennings would help on both fronts.

Or so it seemed.

Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks, a former All-Star point guard, is not nearly as praising of Jennings 16 games into the season. Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press:

Cheeks knew where everyone on the floor was supposed to be — or supposed to be going. When they weren’t, he told them. Jennings is trying to learn that now, after a life of seeking out space to shoot.

“It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that if that if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career,” Cheeks said. “I don’t think it’s just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a little of that.”

“It’s very important to figure out where a (teammate) should be and direct him where to go,” Cheeks said. “It’s not an overnight thing where you learn how to play with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith.”

Cheeks is certainly entitled to a different opinion than Dumars, and that might be all that’s happening here. But it also seems like the Pistons are talking out of both sides of their mouth. Make big promises, and then beg for more time when they don’t come to fruition.

For what it’s worth, Cheeks’ assessment looks much more accurate than Dumars’. Not only does the Pistons’ offensive rating fall from when Jennings is on the bench (106.3) to when he’s on the court (100.0), it falls even further when he plays with Smith, Monroe and Drummond (97.3).

Jennings hasn’t shown the polish of a five-year pro, and fit well with this team.

Perhaps Cheeks can use his experience at the position to teach Jennings to be a better point guard. But even though Jennings doesn’t seem old at just 24, not many players improve greatly at this stage of their career. Another mentor for Jennings – Chauncey Billups, a rare exception to the rule for blooming late at point guard – is on the Pistons’ bench.

Even if Cheeks and Billups can eventually get Jennings on track, the Pistons have a more pressing concern – how to win without the point guard they thought they were getting, the one who plays like a seasoned pro and fits well with Smith, Monroe and Drummond.

Kobe Bryant returns to practice, but are expectations too high?

Kobe Bryant

In Los Angeles, it apparently is illegal to use the words “temper” and “expectations” in the same sentence. At least when discussing the return of Kobe Bryant to the court.

As you likely have heard, Kobe Bryant returned to practice on Tuesday with the Lakers and above you see the video as proof (courtesy the fine folks at LakersNation.com). Kobe knocks down a few shots, makes a few poor decisions and generally looks pretty good but rusty.

Yet listening to people around Los Angeles you’d swear Kobe circa 2002 is going to walk on the court next week (most likely) and transform the Lakers.

Temper your expectations here people.

To start with, he will have a minutes limit at first. Plus, he’s not going to be the “put the team on my back and carry you” Kobe anymore, and if he tries to be it will not go well.

As Chauncey Billups told PBT — and he had the same injury at pretty much the exact same age — it is hard to get the same level of explosiveness back. Because of that it takes some time to learn how to get your shots off again and get what you want on the court. Yes, even for Kobe Bryant and his great basketball IQ and fundamentals (Billups isn’t too shabby in those categories, either).

Still, anything Kobe brings is going to help a struggling Lakers offense.

The Lakers are 25th in the league in points per possession, and one of the biggest issues is they are 28th in the NBA in free throw rate — they don’t get to the line that often. That’s one thing Kobe will help change. He’s going to be the same aggressive Kobe and he’s going to draw fouls and get some buckets. He will get to the line.

If Kobe, even at 35 coming off a ruptured Achilles, can make some plays and lift the Lakers offense up to around the league average, suddenly this can be a .500 team or a little better that can play for one of the bottom playoff spots in the West (it’s going to take 46 wins or more to make the playoffs in the West, that may be too high a bar for Los Angeles).

Kobe will have a positive impact on the team, just temper the expectations a little.

Kobe medically cleared for everything; Chauncey Billups talks about Kobe’s challenges ahead.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant has been fully medically cleared to return to practice — and that is going to mean a big push this week with the Lakers off for four days. Tuesday through Thursday Kobe is going to get a good workout in with the team and see how it goes.

But there are still challenges ahead getting your body ready, something Chauncey Billups knows all too well — Billups went through the same return from Achilles tendon surgery. Speaking Sunday he was open about the challenges ahead.

The good news is Kobe has a thumbs up from the doctors, still the Lakers will be patient, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

Bryant has full medical clearance, I was told Sunday by someone in a position to have such knowledge—meaning he can do anything and everything without restriction as the recovery from his ruptured left Achilles tendon nears its conclusion….

Even with full clearance, though, Bryant is not expected to jump right back into game action Friday night against Golden State or even the next week of Thanksgiving. Bryant wants to test his ankle joint and see how it responds, which he will get to on an initial basis with full-scale team practices set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Billups suffered the exact same injury at pretty much the exact same age as Bryant — and like Kobe the former NBA champion and Finals MVP refused to leave the game on those terms. He worked to get back and on the court, and this season he is the veteran leader with a young Pistons’ squad.

He said the hard part is felling like your old self again.

“Side-to-side wasn’t too bad actually, it was kind of explosiveness, getting by guys, going to my right side where I had to push off with my left, and regaining the strength in the calf,” Billups told ProBasketballTalk before the Pistons faced the Lakers Sunday night. “Honestly, my strength isn’t all the way there but it’s possible they say it never will be, but you get enough back to do what you do. That’s one of the bigger challenges.”

As for jumping into practices, Billups said it’s not so much that as just getting your body used to the grind again.

“Before practice you train one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, so it’s a progression,” Billups said. “Then once you get to practice it’s no real big deal. The pounding, the wear and tear of going up and down, that’s something that you have to get used to again. But if you have a steady progression and a process, you can build up to that.”

Kobe is all about process, and he’s not going to shortcut it now. He said before once he got back to practice it would take two or three weeks, that’s likely what happens here. Sometime after Thanksgiving.

But as Billups said when asked about Kobe’s recovery timeline, “nothing would surprise me with 24.”

All the new pieces in Detroit not fitting together well

Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Maurice Cheeks

When the Detroit Pistons went out to get Josh Smith to pair with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, then added Brandon Jennings to the backcourt, it looked like they had something. It looked like they had a playoff team.

Instead the Pistons are off to a bumpy 2-5 start and they have the worst defense in the NBA through seven games.

Then Tuesday night Josh Smith got benched after playing just 18 minutes and scoring just two points.

Coach Mo Cheeks is looking for answers but there simply are no easy ones.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night’s games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts at 7pm ET. Here’s the link.

The problem is the Smith, Monroe Drummond combination is a disaster defensively — when they are on the court together they are a -34, opponents are shooting 51 percent, they give up 116.9 points per 100 possessions (for comparison, the Bobcats had the worst defense in the NBA last season at 108.9) and are a -15.7 points per 100 possessions. Those numbers are via John Schuhmann at NBA.com who went on to say this:

There are a bunch of issues that need to be cleaned up. It starts with transition, where Monroe is particularly slow. He also struggles to contain ball-handlers on pick-and-rolls. Smith and Drummond can be too aggressive, often biting on pump fakes or sacrificing rebounding position by trying for blocks. And sometimes, the problem is with the backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups, a pair of liabilities in their own right.

Cheeks threw out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler in the second half Tuesday night looking for answers. Any answers.

Cheeks needs to experiment with various twosomes of that three man front line to see if something clicks. He needs to throw different backcourt combos out there with them. He needs to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.

It’s far too early to give up on that front line combination and on the Pistons playoff dreams. There is a lot of season left. But I don’t envy the job of Cheeks trying to figure out what works.

Brandon Jennings expected to miss first 4 regular season games due to jaw

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings’ jaw is still wired shut.

You can’t really play basketball that way (no, not even Kobe) and more than that you can’t really eat and train properly to get ready for the season. Jennings went through a light workout while wearing a mask on Wednesday but is a ways away from returning, reports David Mayo at MLive.com.

The projected starting point guard is expected to miss at least four regular-season games. “He’s been a part of everything, with the exception of running,” Cheeks said. “So when we’ve watched film and been on the practice floor, he has been a part of it. So yeah, whenever he gets his situation taken care of, we’ll put him in there, see what he’s got.”

In the interim, expect a whole lot of Chauncey Billups (he played 32 minutes in the Pistons preseason game Tuesday).

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Basketball league on October, 30th. It’s $10 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts October 30th at 7pm ET. Here’s the link.

This was expected when news of an impacted wisdom tooth and hairline fracture in his jaw was reported; we just didn’t know how many games. How did he get the injury? You can judge for yourself.

The bigger challenge falls to new coach Maurice Cheeks. The Pistons have a powerful front line — Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe — but it’s going to be paired with some unconventional backcourts. Detroit needs some shooting and floor spacing, but it’s hard to know what they have exactly with Jennings just watching film and not playing. Plus Rodney Stuckey has been out with a broken finger (but could return this weekend). It leaves a lot for Will Bynum and rookies Peyton Siva and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Cheeks has no choice but to keep experimenting with lineups as the team gets into the season.