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The Other Side: Detroit Pistons

After the Detroit Pistons finished Eastern Conference runner-up for the third consecutive year, Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars fired Flip Saunders and promised that he would make "significant changes" to his team in the offseason. He bluntly sent a message to every player on his roster that "everybody is in play" and "there are no sacred cows here."

Most people expected Dumars to finally break up the most consistent core in the NBA, with rumors swirling that either Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton or Chauncey Billups would be on the move. Four months later, the Pistons are still waiting for those "significant" changes. The only changes the Pistons made were hiring former player and assistant Michael Curry, pushing Antonio McDyess back to the bench, promoting YouTube sensation Amir Johnson and signing Kwame Brown to keep the former Wizard quote intact in Detroit. Nothing earth shattering there.

The Wizards will host the Pistons (2-0) tonight in their only preseason home game, but here are some Pistons related items to an eye out on at Verizon Center:

1. Michael Curry's New Way
New Coach Michael Curry has been around the Pistons for a long time, as a former player and assistant. But he has brought a no-nonsense approach to the team, after years of often taking a lackadaisical approach under Flip Saunders. According to the Detroit Free Press, Curry has established 16 rules for winning basketball, complete with a grading scale from 0-100 for players that don't adhere to them:

If Rasheed Wallace gets a technical, a minus goes down on the grading sheet. If Walter Herrmann fails to get out on a jump shooter, that's a mark on the sheet. If Walter Sharpe fails to attack when an opportunity is there? Ditto. Who's doing the grading? Prof. Michael Curry.

Curry is also implementing a new offensive scheme. He is using the preseason to work on more offensive sets for players other than Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. His plan is develop the other players so that the Pistons won't be so predictable. From the Detroit News:

You would think it would be a recipe for disaster. Michael Curry, rookie coach, comes into camp with an offensive plan that, for the most part, takes the ball out of the hands of veteran point guard and floor leader Chauncey Billups and uses Rasheed Wallace, one of the team's top offensive players, as a decoy more often than not.
Sounds a little nuts, right? No worries. There is a method to Curry's apparent madness. While acknowledging adjustments have to be made by Billups and Wallace, Curry said, "At the same time, other guys are being more involved."

2. Return of Kwame
It's his fourth team and his eighth season. Brown appears to be free of the burdens associated with being a former No. 1 pick and settled into the role of being a backup center in the NBA. He got a nice two-year, $8-million contract from the Pistons, which was a pretty nice heist for a player who couldn't get off the bench in Memphis the second half of the season. Curry announced that he will mostly rely on an eight-man rotation that doesn't include Brown - but added that Brown will get worked in the mix on a nightly basis. He has scored eight points in his first two preseason games and had five fouls in just 13 minutes against Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Brown is already getting his share of hazing from Wallace, according to the Detroit Free Press:

Wallace was at his loudest when Brown crammed home an alley-oop dunk late in Tuesday's practice, shouting that it was only Brown's third basket in three hours of practice. But Brown didn't shrink away. The free-agent acquisition gave it right back to Wallace -- just not as loudly.
When coach Michael Curry called the team together to end practice, the two players were smiling at each other and all was good. "We were jawing all day at practice," Brown said. "I told him he was in the trunk and I'm locking him up. Sometimes just because you're the loudest, it don't mean nothing."
Brown quickly added that Wallace didn't score while he was checking him. As the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NBA draft and one who has failed to meet expectations, Brown is used to being the object of derision. "I thought it was good that he was talking back to Rasheed," Curry said. "He kind of made some aggressive plays, and that's great."

3. Stuckey A Star?
The Pistons always thought they had something special in Rodney Stuckey. He worked his way into the rotation as a rookie last season but is expected to have a major role with the team this season.

Stuckey came on the national scene during the playoffs, when he started in place of Chauncey Billups after Billups had a hamstring injury. He scored 19 points in a win against Orlando, and was impressive in Game 2 against Boston, when he scored 13 in a Pistons' road win. Stuckey isn't flashy but he's solid and he may have been the reason Dumars didn't pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade this summer.

Stuckey had 23 points against Miami in the Pistons' first playoff win. Here is the Detroit News' Rob Parker:

This Stuckey, 22, will now get nearly equal minutes as the two starters. Last season, Billups averaged 32 and Hamilton 33. Stuckey played 19 minutes a game. It tells you what the Pistons think of Stuckey, the second-year guard out of Eastern Washington.
"He will be a star in this league," said Pistons coach Michael Curry, whose team beat the Bucks, 85-71, at The Palace on Wednesday. "The reason I think he'll be a star is because he wants to be one.
"He has the right temperament, demeanor, work ethic and his skill level will continue to improve. He has all the makings."

By Michael Lee  |  October 10, 2008; 9:02 AM ET
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Next: Wizards Release F Taj McCullough


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Posted by: LJ | October 10, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Nevermind Stuckey, here's a dude on the Pistons that kind of reminds you of Larry Johnson and/or JR Rider.

Posted by: DC Man88 | October 10, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Great article Roman. The Pistons are under the radar again, but I think they win the East this year. They have loads of young talent to go along with the vets. This is the deepest team in the league and if guys like Amir Johnson and Stuckey blow up like everyone thinks, they could be scary.

Posted by: Roman | October 10, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

How in the heck does Maxiell remind you of Larry Johnson or JR Rider??!! His game is nowhere near the same as either one of those guys. Those two were scoring wing players. Maxiell is a post player who is a terrific athlete. Maxiell is more like a poor man's Charles Barkley.

Posted by: Roman | October 10, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Very nice article. You caught a lot of the subtleties that other out-of-town writers are missing.

The important changes this year are:
1) coach- culture- return to defensive mentality and accountability. Prepare for playoffs in the reg season vs. trying to win every game with heavy starters' mins.
2) emergence of the zoo crew (stuck/afflalo/amir johnson/ maxiell). Also, Curry is setting the precedent for using more players and getting maximum energy out of everyone.

If this plan works, they will be a team that other teams will dread playing.

Posted by: Jocko | October 13, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

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