Saturday's are a little tougher for me, what with rugby tournaments with ClipperMax and shopping for really good blenders with the ClipperWidow. Anyway, no fancy-schmancy game preview for you today. The important stuff is Kaman is a game time decision (I have a feeling he'll at least try to go) and Tim Thomas is doubtful with his strained groin muscle (no way he's playing - I've grown to like Tim in many ways, but he's just not a 'play hurt when the team is 18 games below .500' kind of guy. Maybe Nick Fazekas will get a little more burn tonight without Thomas (he'll get a lot if neither Kaman nor Thomas can go). Al Thornton should get the start at power forward, meaning the Rasheed Wallace should have a field day on offense. Also, as you'll read below, the Clippers are catching at least one break in that Billups will not play tonight. Guarding him in the post with our itty-bitty point guards was going to be a problem. Now Citizen Jax and the rest of us are going to get a nice long look at Rodney Stuckey.
But although you don't get a preview, you do get a most excellent Q&A. Just in time for the game, here's the latest session, with Matt from Detroit Bad Boys.
ClipperSteve: We're all familiar with Billups, Hamilton, Sheed, Prince, and McDyess so I'm going to try to focus on some of the other guys on the roster. Rodney Stuckey was drafted 15th this season, one pick after the Clippers selected Al Thornton. And of course many in ClipsNation are familiar with UCLA product and 27th pick Aron Afflalo and Amir Johnson from Westchester High. What should we watch for from this group of young backups?
Matt: First and foremost, they offer a huge change of pace. The Pistons are known for an efficient but plodding offense, but when the young second unit comes in, Flip Saunders wants them pushing the ball like crazy. (For what it's worth, it looks like Stuckey might actually get the start today -- Billups had to return to Michigan for a personal matter.) Stuckey is a nice addition since he has an uncanny ability to slice through traffic and get to the hole -- something Billups and Hamilton aren't exactly known for. He had problems finishing once he got to the hole when he first returned from his broken hand, but he's turned the corner lately. As for Afflalo, he surprised just about everyone by cracking the rotation from Day 1. Even though he's a rookie, he's won over the coaching staff with his work ethic and heady play, making his mark primarily on the defensive end.
Amir Johnson has become something of a fan favorite this season, in part because of his highlight reel dunks and blocks. He's easily the most athletic member of the front court (and perhaps the entire team) and has a knack for blocking shots and finding rebounds. He's definitely raw (he's in his third year but is still just 20 years old and is essentially a rookie in terms of playing time) and needs to cut down on fouls, but he's got a bright future.
ClipperSteve: Johnson spent most of his first two seasons in the D-League. Aside from his 11 brief garbage time appearances, these three guys are essentially rookies. Any qualms about relying so heavily on the pups in the playoffs?
Matt: I'm not too worried about it. More than anything, it's just refreshing to see the team have an actual bench they're comfortable relying on, especially after the past few years when the starters looked worn down deep into the players. Lately, the Pistons have been using a 10-man rotation fairly consistently, and with the exception of Antonio McDyess, who moved from the bench to the starting lineup this year, all of the starters are averaging their fewest minutes in years. Inevitably the rotation will get tighter come the playoffs, but the starters should be ready with fresh legs.
ClipperSteve: My apologies to my audience for asking a question no one else cares about. I'm a Pepperdine alum, and the Pistons still hold the rights to former Wave Alex Acker, currently playing in the Spanish league. What's the latest on where Acker fits with this team, or is the answer 'nowhere' now that Stuckey and Afflalo are there?
Matt: Sadly, I think the answer is "nowhere." Stuckey and Afflalo aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and from what I gather Acker's play overseas has diminished following a knee injury. But you never know, maybe he'll pull an Anthony Parker and re-surface in a few years.
ClipperSteve: My buddy from the Motor City (well, Livonia actually) sent me a 'Jason Maxiell Eats Babies' T-Shirt for Christmas. It frightened the ClipperWidow quite a lot. He also sent one to ClipperMax, and the very fact that you make them in child sizes is a little disturbing frankly. Why does Jason Maxiell babies? Are they super nutritious?
Matt: Wow, that's hilarious -- the idea that those t-shirts are floating around the country drawing confused stares and dirty looks from strangers cracks me up. As you can tell by Maxiell's ferocity on the court, he's a bad, bad man. (How bad? This bad.) He eats babies because you don't want him to -- the fact that they are in fact super nutritious is just a nice bonus for him.
Thanks Matt. Great answers. Unfortunately for me, ClipsNation has about as much business on the interwebs with Detroit Bad Boys as the Clippers do on the court with the Pistons.