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Clippers vs. Detroit - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
November 12th, 2010, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Rodney Stuckey
 Eric Gordon? SG Richard Hamilton
Ryan Gomes
SF Austin Daye
Blake Griffin
PF Tayshaun Prince
DeAndre Jordan?
C Ben Wallace


The Back Story:

  • First meeting of the season.  The Clippers swept two meetings last year (I don't have the chance to write that phrase too often).

The Big Picture:

The Clippers finally enter a soft section of their schedule - and half of their rotation is injured. Chris Kaman is out for at least two weeks after spraining his ankle Tuesday night in New Orleans.  Baron Davis tried to come back from his knee injury early in that same Hornets game, but after only 10 minutes, his knee filled with fluid and now it's anyone's guess when he'll play again, but it won't be tonight (trainer Jasen Powell told Lisa Dillman "It could take days, could take weeks, not sure" - inspiring).  Leading scorer Eric Gordon has missed two games with a bone bruise in his left shoulder, and he may or may not be able to go tonight.  Randy Foye, out since October with a sore hamstring, is still a week a way.  And apparently DeAndre Jordan suffered a slight hyperextension of his knee when he bumped into Manu Ginobili setting a screen Wednesday night, which explains why his minutes were so low in that game.  So, if you're keeping score at home, that's the Clippers top three guards and top two centers that are injured as of now.  No big deal.  Just the most important positions on the floor.  It would be really great if the team were actually healthy, as the next two weeks they're going to be playing against much softer competition.  In looking at the schedule before the season started, it was obvious that the first nine games would be brutal, but the next seven are all against teams that missed the playoffs last season, so my advice is to wait until after 16 games to try to assess the team.  But if they don't get healthy, the record may not look much better after 16 than it does after nine.

The Antagonist:

The Pistons are the first of the 'easy' games for the Clippers, though of course nothing will be easy at this point.  Detroit's current record of 2-6 is by far the worst of any Clipper opponent so far.  The Pistons at this point are a mish mash of aging role players (Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, Ben Wallace) and younger non-stars being paid like stars (Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva) plus a few promising youngsters (Rodney Stuckey, Austin Daye, Greg Monroe) for good measure.  The situation on the team must be pretty toxic at this point.  The two highest paid players (Prince and Hamilton) are involved in constant trade rumors.  The next two (Gordon and Villanueva) are owed obscene amounts of money over the next four years, yet neither is in the starting lineup.  The Pistons need to start over, but it's far from clear how they even do that at this point.  On the court, they are among the worst offensive teams in the league, shooting 43% from the floor (26th in the league) and scoring 102 points per 100 possessions (25th in the league).  No, the Clippers aren't much better (in fact they're a little worse in offensive efficiency), but the Pistons haven't faced the same level of competition as the Clippers thus far either.

The Subplots

  • Pistons erstwhile winning streak. Coming on the heels of games in Utah and New Orleans and San Antonio, there's something important to note about the Clippers' recent history with the Pistons.  Prior to last season, Detroit had a 13 game winning streak against the Clippers, as long as the Spurs' streak at the time.  And since Detroit is in the Eastern Conference, that streak had lasted over a longer time frame.  Nonetheless, the Clippers swept the Pistons last season, proving that there is nothing inevitable about a loss to a particular opponent, especially provided that opponent has the decency to get really, really terrible at some point.
  • Joe Dumars - Hero to Zero. When the Pistons won the NBA Championship in 2004 and advanced at least as far as the Eastern Conference playoffs many more years in succession, Joe Dumars was hailed as a front office genius.  He had signed Chauncey Billups, and traded for Ben Wallace, drafted Tayshaun Prince and acquired Rasheed Wallace for the playoff push.  He could do no wrong.  (Though of course he could, as he'd already drafted Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at that point.)  Six years later, the Pistons are a mess, and Dumars is largely to blame.  His trade of Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson was a disaster from a basketball standpoint, though it did have the advantage of saving money. He then took that money and signed Gordon and Villanueva on the first day of free agency in 2009, to contracts that were absurd from the moment they were drafted. Of course Dumars was never the genius that everyone said back in 2004, nor the idiot they say he is now - just relatively lucky or unlucky.
  • Trade rumors.  Rumors have been swirling that either Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince (or both) will be traded since... well since a long time.  It's only natural of course - they're both veterans who make a lot of money on a team that is going nowhere and needs to start over.  Not to mention that some playoff contender would probably like to have their championship experience.  The latest rumor has Prince heading to Atlanta for Jamal Crawford.  Likewise, Chris Kaman has been linked to the Pistons in trade rumors for several seasons now.  This too is easy enough to understand - Kaman is a Michigan native, and the Pistons have been desperate for a center for several years now.  Prince's $11M contract is expiring, so he's highly likely to be dealt before the end of the season; the Pistons could even help facilitate a blockbuster trade like a potential Carmelo Anthony trade, using Prince's expiring deal.  Prince to the Clippers for Kaman seems to come up every June at least.
  • 2007 Draft.  In the 2007 Draft, the Clippers had the 14th pick, last in the lottery.  They chose Al Thornton, who looked like a solid choice at the time, but never got much better after his rookie season.  Three seasons and change later, you could say that about a LOT of the players in the 2007 draft.  It started off looking like it would be a very good draft, but at this point, more lottery picks have been traded (Yi Jianlin, Spencer Hawes, Acie Law, Julian Wright and Thornton) than have signed extensions (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah and inexplicably Mike Conley).  The player chosen after Thornton was Rodney Stuckey of Detroit, and after a very promising rookie campaign that made Joe Dumars believe Chauncey Billups might be expendable, Stuckey has not progressed nearly as much as the Pistons had hoped.  He's played well for a 15th pick - but he's also been part of the decline of the team, which taints his reputation.  A couple of games ago, after Stuckey ignored coach John Kuester during a game, the coach benched him for a game - and coincidentally the Pistons got their first win.  Stuckey's back in the lineup at this point, presumably having learned who's boss.
  • Pistons 0-4 on the road.  The Pistons are 0-4 on the road, most recently losing by 22 in Portland.  However, like many teams they've probably circled this game on their schedule as one they think they can win - especially with several Clippers starters out.
  • Center.  Without Kaman, and possibly without DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers don't have a lot of options at the center.  Fortunately, the Pistons start off without a lot of options at the center.  It's not like anyone has to defend against Ben Wallace.  Rookie Greg Monroe appears to be getting the backup center minutes at this point.  Against this Pistons front line, I wouldn't be surprised to see Blake Griffin play a lot of center.  The Clippers have enough issues scoring with so many players out, that Craig Smith really needs to be on the floor more, and they best way to get Smith on the floor with Griffin is by sliding Blake over to the five.
  • U23 team.  Cross your fingers that Gordon and Jordan are both able to play, and we could see a LOT of the Clippers' U23 team.  Gordon and Jordan will both be starting if they're healthy, along with Bledsoe and Griffin.  Al-Farouq Aminu has been arguably the Clippers' best player over the last two games, and clearly needs to be getting consistent minutes to continue to develop his game. 
  • Chirs Wilcox.  Former Clipper Chris Wilcox is on the Pistons' roster, but has not been active this season as far as I know.  I don't know if he's hurt or just inactive.
  • Superstar for one game: Austin Daye.  For Gonzaga Bulldog Austin Daye had a big summer league, and has earned a spot in the Pistons' starting lineup (helped in part by the injury to second year player Jonas Jerebko, who ruptured an achilles tendon in pre-season).  Daye tied his career high of 16 earlier this season.
  • Famous Quotation: 

    We disparage reason.
    But all the time it's what we're most concerned with.
    There's will as motor and there's will as brakes.
    Reason is, I suppose, the steering gear.

    Robert Frost, A Masque of Reason.  It's not so easy finding a 'piston' quotation, but I figured this Robert Frost line, with automotive imagery, was a close approximation.
  • Get the Pistons perspective Detroit Bad Boys.  Speaking of which, Matt and I have a bet on this game.  The winning team's blogger gets to have a FanPost promoted to the front page of the losing team's blog.  So there's that.