Monday, December 28, 2009

Taking a Trip Through "Struggles City, USA." NBA Style...

Rock bottom. That's where this beleaguered bunch of Pistons currently reside. Seven losses in a row, several to the dregs of the league, while failing to eclipse the 100-point mark in any of those contests. Rodney Stuckey is quietly morphing into Baron Davis. (Seven straight sub-50% shooting games.) Jonas Jerebko is becoming our go-to guy. (Not a good thing.) And Ben Wallace's pathetic free throw stroke continues to regress, if that is even possible. (He's made 6 of his last 20 at the stripe.) It is most definitely not a good time to be wearing the red, white, and blue in Motown. Even with all of the troops back in uniform Sunday afternoon, the sub-.500 Raptors were still too much to overcome. You would think that with everybody back now, things would start to turn around and the Pistons would begin their climb back to respectability. But Sunday's performance was anything but encouraging.

The suddenly brittle Rip Hamilton returned to the lineup after missing a handful of games with a hamstring issue. Normally, when guys miss time, they come back and try to let the game come to them. As in, try to find the rhythm of the game again, don't force up shots, and just try to fit in again within the confines of the offense. Of course, with a guy like Rip, you do need him to be aggressive, but still, isn't 20 shots in 27 minutes a little too aggressive? (He made 6.) It's like telling a guest to "make yourself at home," and the next thing you know, the guy is taking off his shoes and jumping in the master bed for a nap. You skipped a couple of steps there, pal. Just like Rip on Sunday. By comparison, take a look at Tayshaun Prince, another player that made his return to the court after a long layoff. He played the same amount of time as Rip, 27 minutes, but hoisted a very reasonable eight shots, making four. Again, I understand that a player like Rip is counted on more than Tayshaun to create shots and initiate the offense, but there's got to be a grey area somewhere, and 20 jacks in 27 minutes is simply not even in the ballpark.

On the bright side, the Pistons' next two ballgames will be home affairs against the struggling Knicks and Bulls. I know the term "must win" is thrown around too often in sports, but I'm gonna join that silly parade and declare this pair of battles as such. With a complete roster for the first time since opening night, there is no reason the Pistons shouldn't take both of these games and head into 2010 with a mini burst of momentum. And if they don't, then all bets are off and I'll see ya at my NBA Draft Lottery party next summer.


After the New Jersey Nets picked up their first win of the year following 18 straight defeats (which the HSL predicted, by the way), they quietly exited the spotlight and went about the rest of their season in peace, hoping that nobody would bother them anymore. Not so fast, fellas. When you win two of your first thirty ballgames, somebody's gonna notice...and proceed to write about you in a very disrespectful manner. Might as well be me.

Simply put, this team is pathetic. And not even that cute kind of pathetic like the kid in Little League who strikes out 85 times in a 12-game season, but finally gets on base in his last at-bat of the year by chopping a slow roller down the third base line and beating it out by a half-step after tumbling to the ground three feet from first base and winding up with a face full of dirt and a huge smile plastered across his delightfully oversized melon. No, this Nets team is just pathetic. They opened the campaign with 18 straight L's. Then they won two of three. The light was starting to appear at the end of the tunnel. Yeah...if that "light" meant another depressing losing streak, this one a nine-gamer, including a home defeat to the similarly-woeful Timberwolves.

Kiki Vandeweghe's Nets defied logic late in that ballgame when, needing a quick score down by four with 16 ticks left, they inexplicably decided to work the ball around, run some clock, and eventually toss up a meaningless three-point attempt at the buzzer. Remember, they were down by four. You have to get a bucket, then foul the other team, hope they miss a free throw or two, then score again to possibly tie the score. But to simply burn off that last 16 seconds with virtually no regard for the score or situation facing them at the moment takes a level of incompetence that we don't often have the privilege of witnessing in professional sports. This is a special time...I suggest we all cherish it.

Alllll that being said, I'm getting that funny N-E-T-S feeling again, so I will go out on the limb one more time and tell you that the fellows from Jersey will be picking up their third win of the season tonight at home against the steadily improving OKC Thunder. Kevin Durant's crew is coming off a tremendous road win in Phoenix and a workmanlike home W over Charlotte, but something tells me the fightin' Vandeweghes get it done tomorrow night at the IZOD Center. Devin Harris pours in 25+, Brook Lopez provides his usual double-double, and perennial chucker Courtney Lee will tally more than three assists for the first time all year. You heard it here first...

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