Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Missing the "Point"

Today is my birthday. And this is my wish...

That the Pistons acquire a legitimate point guard. Doesn't matter who. It can be a rookie, it can be a veteran, it can be Sue Bird on loan from the WNBA. As long as that person can play the point.

The "Rodney Stuckey as a PG" experiment has run its course. The guy is a scorer/slasher at heart, and needs to be treated as such. The Chauncey Billups trade last year gave Stuckey the opportunity to take the keys and prove himself as a capable floor general. It's been about a year and a half since then, and very little has changed in Stuckey's arsenal. He still looks for his own offense first, and his teammates second. It's not a complete knock on Stuckey's game. He is a very talented player that will only get better in the years to come when he refines his jump shot and improves his shot selection.

But the fact remains...the man ain't a point guard. Hell, nobody on this team is.

Chucky Atkins is the closest thing, and if that's not the saddest statement you have ever read, I don't wanna know what is.

Ben Gordon talked in the pre-season about his ability to slide over to either guard spot, and he might be on to something. Or he just might be on something. I'll go with the latter.

Will Bynum is an unselfish distributor on occasion, but his health has been an issue of late. I've never seen a guy sprain ankles as frequently and easily as Bynum does. The Pistons must have stopped trying to figure out which ankle it was that was causing the most problems, leading to his most recent diagnosis on the injury chart: "Bynum---Out---Both Ankles." Very encouraging. With the Pistons' luck of late, he'll go see Grant Hill's former doctor and be back on the court at full strength in about twelve years.

Everybody knows the main objective in the game of basketball is to score points. This is done with a combination of individual and team efforts. Sometimes a guy can simply break his man down and get all the way to the tin. But more often than not, a basket is created by one player setting up another. This is called an "assist." It's an important stat. Lots of assists usually means lots of points. Lots of points usually means lots of wins. Where do our Detroit Pistons rank in the NBA in assists? Take a wild guess. Dead last. 30th out of 30. The 3 and 34 New Jersey Nets average more assists per game than the Pistons.

(This section was written prior to the game over the Wizards. The Pistons now rank 29th of 30. Let's throw a party.)

And if you think maybe this is a team where the bigs set up the littles, then you've got another thing comin'.

For instance, are you familiar with Charlie Villanueva's work at all? Yes? Then answer me this...does he know that when he gets the ball and is swarmed by an aggressive double team, that he still has the option of either shooting or passing the basketball??? I think Charlie is literally unaware that the rules of the game permit him to make this choice.

Jonas Jerebko is having a fine rookie season and generally plays harder than anyone on the team, but you'll never get him confused with point forward pioneers like Paul Pressey and Anthony Mason. Jerebko is not a selfish offensive player by any means, but that doesn't mean he is necessarily adept at creating scoring opportunities for others. He's got three assists in his last 308 minutes. 'Nuff said.

Hey, Kwame Brown was the #1 overall pick once upon a time...maybe he's the guy to start racking up the dimes from the frontcourt. Or maybe not. In all honesty, Kwame really needs to start spending all of his time trying to transform his ghastly free throw stroke that seems to get even more repulsive with each new trip to the stripe. It is downright inappropriate to shoot in the matter that he does with nobody guarding him from 15 feet away. 62 attempts...24 makes...a shade under 39 percent. Ben Wallace (45%) ain't got nothin on Mr. Brown.

But back to the issue at hand. The Pistons finally got back on the good side of the ledger last night with a gritty road win in D.C. Sure, the Wizards are a team in serious disarray and it took a combined eight triples from Chucky and Charlie to get it done, but when you win a ballgame after dropping 13 straight, you take it however you can get it and go home smiling. But most important to the streak-breaking victory was the unselfishness on the part of the Stones. Isolations were kept to a minimum. Quick shots were passed up in favor of ball movement and clock management. Rodney Stuckey tied a career high with 11 assists. (This after the game in San Antonio last week where he failed to register even a single feed. Go figure.) The passing frenzy was contagious as Rip Hamilton also got in the act, tying his season high with 7. (He also turned it over four times and missed 15 of 23 shots, but hey, it was a win...let's remain semi-positive!!) It was refreshing to see this squad play as a unit instead of a group of individuals for the first time in a month. But let's keep things in perspective. It was one game. And the point guard issue will not go away overnight.

This team is chock full of scorers. Gordon can blitz you for five or six treys on any night and wind up with 30 points. Hamilton is still capable of turning back the clock for a 13 of 19 box score line every so often. Stuckey is as explosive as almost any guard in the league, discounting Dwyane Wade, and maybe Beno Udrih. Villanueva, despite being a virtual black hole on that end of the floor, is still equipped with a lightning-quick release and the cleanest scalp in professional sports. (Yeah, it's getting late.) The point is...having all of these weapons at your disposal is a tremendous asset. But there has to be somebody willing and able to think pass first. A guy that says, "I'll take my shots when they come...but my job is to create for others."

It doesn't even have to be a superstar. A guy like Andre Miller would probably work wonders for this squad. Luke Ridnour could lead the league in assists. Even my old running mate J-Brown, a playground legend with no real experience beyond the 1997 Maccabi Games in Milwaukee, could help this franchise with his genuine desire to initiate scoring opportunities for others. It's what a point guard does. And it's pretty tough to function as a successful basketball team without one. You can accumulate all the shooters and scorers you want. It won't matter unless you have somebody handling the rock and making it all go. Why do you think it took Carmelo Anthony six years to finally make a dent in the playoffs? (Hint: it rhymes with Phillips.)

Today is my birthday. I will have cake and ice cream, get a few tokens to play with at the arcade, and that'll be that. But maybe, just maybe, I'll get a call sometime later in the night asking about my availability for the next 10 days. After all, I've always known how to pass...

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