Game Notes: Hawks at Pistons

November 30, 2009

It’s funny how the tables turn…

Times have surely changed for the Detroit Pistons franchise in the past few seasons. While this has been well-documented, one cannot fully understand just how much of a change this has been unless they are actually a native of the “Great Lake State.”

They went from rockin’ sell-out crowds to hoping any tickets will sell well…From contenders to pretenders…From vicious to suspicious. The Pistons are a shell of what they used to be in every way, shape or form at this point of the young NBA season but this may change.

With an overall record of 5-11 heading into this game, it’s still early.

This is why when the Atlanta Hawks came to town on November 29, 2009 for the team’s eighth home game, there were only 15,273 fans in attendance. This is a problem when the building has a capacity of 22,076! Just to remind you, this was the same franchise that recorded the League’s highest home attendance from 2002-2008.

Despite their lack of fans in the arena, would it still be possible for them to put on a show for the ones who did show up?

With over an hour until the official tip-off, the media, including myself, lined up outside of the Pistons locker room as we waited for media availability to begin. After about three minutes, we were given the heads up to greet the head coach John Kuester as he sat in a secluded white-walled room in the front of the locker room.

Kuester sat behind the desk, reminiscent of the Godfather, as he took a few questions from the individuals who bombarded his area. Without Ben Gordon (left ankle sprain), Richard Hamilton (right ankle sprain), and Tayshaun Prince (small ruptured disc-lower back), Kuester made it clear that he was “gonna make some changes in the line-up.” But he would not be specific as he said he would address those changes later.

From there, I went into the locker room and had a quick word with Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva.

SLAM: Atlanta’s been playing pretty tough this season. Are you guys a little extra focused to play them because of how good they have been doing?
Charlie Villanueva: Yeah. Atlanta’s one of the hottest teams in the East right now. They‘re playing very good basketball right now and we’re just gonna try to take the approach like we’ve always been taking and try to win every game possible. We respect our opponent but we gotta try to win this game.

SLAM: Has it been frustrating so far? How have you been trying to keep your head up here in Detroit?
CV: It’s been a little frustrating, just the fact that we have all of these injuries to key players. We haven’t really, except for that first game, had everybody on the court at the same time but we will overcome this by the time we get everybody healthy.

SLAM: I’m following you on Twitter and I see that you and my fellow Flintstone Charlie Bell are always going at it. Has he been getting on you since y’all have been losing? [Laughs]
CV: Charlie Bell, that’s my partner. He’s cool. A cool guy and he’s a character, a good guy and we’re just clowning on each other but it’s all fun and games, though.

While I was able to give Charlie a quick laugh, you could sense the frustration in his eyes as he removed his diamond earrings and prepared for another battle against the 12-4 Atlanta Hawks, who looked as comfortable as ever. In their locker room, the Hawks looked relaxed and focused as Joe Johnson talked on his cell phone and the rest of the squad chit-chatted and watched film. In the midst of this, I decided to have a word with the former University of Michigan Wolverine, Jamal Crawford who sat in the back with his hands folded, crouched down in his seat.

SLAM: You have one of the sickest crossovers in the League. You had to learn that at Michigan…
Jamal Crawford: [Laughs] I learned that before Michigan, but I used it there for sure.

SLAM: What’s the best situation that you feel like you use your crossover in?
JC: It just depends on what the defense is doing at that moment. I’m trying to see what I can get for my teammates and for myself.

SLAM: Do you like coming back to Michigan?
JC: Yeah, yeah I like coming back to play for sure.

SLAM: It’s so cold out here though man. Have you ever got used to the coldness here?
JC: Yeah it helped prepare me for Chicago and New York from how cold it could be here.

SLAM: So why did you choose to play at Michigan?
JC: Just growing up watching the Fab Five and the national exposure. It’s also a great school and I [liked] the opportunity to play right away.

SLAM: Do you ever talk to some of the Michigan players like Manny Harris and those new guys?
JC: I haven’t talked to Manny yet, but I’ve talked to some of the coaches. When I first left I talked to some of the players because they were still some of the people that I came in with and I was still watching them.

SLAM: You gotta expect big things from them this year, huh?
JC: Yeah, yeah for sure. They surprising a lot of people, they’re playing well.

SLAM: Alright man, what am I gonna get from you tonight? You gotta hit somebody with a crossover for me…
JC: You may get one tonight [laughs].

In-Game

After Pistons announcer, John Mason, did the great job that he always does of introducing the players, Crawford spotted me at the media table and game me a slight nod as if to say “I got you!” While he didn’t start (…I’m still not sure why) he came off the bench and lit up the Pistons for 20 points on 8-12 shooting, flirting with that wicked crossover all evening.

Despite his valiant effort, this would not be enough to stop the focused Pistons team who clicked on all cylinders. With an obvious motivation to end their seven-game losing streak, the Pistons got help from everyone including Rodney Stuckey who led the way with 23 points and 8 assists.

Stuckey was complemented with the play of stout Will Bynum who chipped-in 19 points and 4 assists on 8-13 shooting. Big Ben Wallace also grabbed 18 boards and scored 10 points.

The final score would go on to be 94-88 in favor of the home team.

As the final buzzer sounded, confetti rained from the ceiling as the crowd chanted “DEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL!!”

While the Pistons would like to credit their win to their preparation, one special fan likes to think that he too is a part of their success…

Detroit Pistons Good Luck Charm

*this post can also be viewed at slamonline.com!

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