NBA showtime: Motor City meltdown

NBA showtime: Motor City meltdown

NBA showtime: Motor City meltdown
By VIC TAFUR

There have been a lot of theories about why the Pistons have faltered this season. General manager Joe Dumars and coach Terry Mills have tried everything, from trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson to benching Richard Hamilton to starting super-sub Antonio McDyess.

None of it has worked as Detroit (20-32 ATS, 27-25 overall) limps into Thursday having lost four straight contests and nine of 11 home games.

On Tuesday, the Bucks were without three starters but the Pistons barely showed up and were down by nine less than six minutes into the game and down 12 points by the end of the first quarter. New point guard Rodney Stuckey continued his recent funk. He had more fouls (six) than combined points (three) and assists (one) in 31 minutes.

There are really two possible explanations for Detroit's nosedive this season. One, Rasheed Wallace doesn't care anymore. Two, Rasheed Wallace isn't very good anymore. Worse for the Pistons, they could both be true.

Wallace missed all five three-pointers he chucked up against Milwaukee and his statistics are down across the board. He barely checks in defensively and he looks slow. Of course, he is 34 years old and has played heavy minutes, first when McDyess was gone and then when the Pistons went to the smaller lineup.

Factor in an injured right foot and Curry's reducing Wallace's playing time to facilitate some fresher legs and spirit. And Thursday, there is always the presence of Tim Duncan, which seems to get Wallace fired up. He scored 19 points in an 89-77 Pistons' win at San Antonio in early December.

Detroit is telling itself that tonight's is a big game.

“We need to beat quality teams,” Iverson told reporters. “We need that challenge. We need somebody that’s going to come in here and want to kick our butts all over the basketball court, just to see how we respond.”

There is no help on the way, as the Pistons will not make a notable trade before the deadline. With Oklahoma City’s trade for Tyson Chandler (once rumored to be swapped for Wallace), the Pistons could have more salary-cap space than any other team this offseason. It's ranging anywhere from $20 to $25 million, once the expiring contracts of Iverson and Wallace come off the books.

On Tuesday, Detroit tried a new lineup that includes McDyess at power forward. The losing streak plus Amir Johnson's ineffective play convinced Curry to put his best rebounder in the lineup.

“We’d love to have him off the bench,” Curry said to the media. “He’s been one of the most productive bigs off the bench in the league this year. Unfortunately, Amir has struggled against starters.”

The lineup against Milwaukee was the 11th that Curry has used this season.

“When you win, you can stay with the same lineup,” Curry told the press. “We have a team coming in here Thursday (San Antonio) that’s been one of the best, just like us, over the last eight years and they’ve changed their lineup a ton of times. The only difference right now is they’re playing better basketball and have won more games.”

Bye bye Hornets

Thanks to bad decisions to give full mid-level contracts on Mo Peterson and James Posey, New Orleans was going to be several million dollars over the luxury tax next season if it didn't dump a large contract.

So, they had to dump Tyson Chandler to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. Chandler was having a horrible season and Smith and Wilcox help the Hornets' depth issues. But Chandler's defensive presence will be missed and New Orleans seems destined for an early exit in the playoffs.

Maggette a factor


Clippers fans will be shocked to hear that Corey Maggette has been happy and effective coming off the bench for the Warriors, who are 4-0-2 against the spread their last six games. Maggette sulked when Los Angeles tried to bring him off the bench last season.

“The situation was totally different,” Maggette told reporters. “The approach was… I was injured. And I talked to (Clippers coach Mike) Dunleavy a little bit and it was ‘I want to get you back in, blah, blah, blah.’ Then, after that, he kept me on the bench. Never had anything to say about it.”

The lack of heavy minutes always helps Maggette's nagging hamstring injuries.

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