Chucky Atkins Interview!

November 30, 2009

With the absences of Ben Gordon (left ankle sprain), Richard Hamilton (right ankle sprain) and Tayshaun Prince (small ruptured disc-lower back), the Detroit Pistons have been forced to make some changes in their lineup.

When they squared off against the Atlanta Hawks yesterday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, coach John Kuester decided to place veteran point guard Chucky Atkins in a starting role for the depleted team.

Prior to his first start of this season, I caught up with Atkins as he signed a few autographs for fans to reflect on when he competed in the Pro-Am league in Flint during his first Pistons tenure.

I remember when you came down to the Pro-Am in Flint when I was a kid man …

Yeah bro!

Do you still do stuff like that in the summer time?

I ball out as much as I can. Every chance that I get, that’s what I do.

I remember one time you walked in the gym late and turned the gym out. You were pulling three’s from half court.

You know what? I like to go places where people love basketball and display my God-given ability. I mean, a lot of times the people in Flint don’t get to come down here and watch us play in person so obviously Mateen (Cleaves) was a teammate of mine at the time and a very good friend and still is to this day and he invited me to come down and once I came down there and seen how the people enjoyed the game and seen how packed the gym is I made it a thing to try to come down there as much as I possibly can because I loved it.

Who was your toughest competition there?

I mean everybody was tough. The Torbert boys was tough and I can’t think of my other boy’s name, he got game. He should’ve actually been in the pros.

You talking about Cory Hightower?

Cory Hightower! Yeah … you understand. Them boys got it in, they played hard basketball. So I think it’s a lot of talent down there in Flint, I think it’s just about somebody instilling stuff in them you know what I mean?

Do you think you would ever come back and play in the Pro Am?

If they have it there this summer I will be there. Without a doubt.

*You can also view this post on mlive.com at It’s Just Sports!

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!

Jamal Crawford Interview

November 30, 2009

Prior to the Detroit Pistons’ game against the Atlanta Hawks, I caught up with Hawks’ guard Jamal Crawford in the visitor’s locker room. Here’s what he had to say…

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].

Charlie Villanueva Interview

November 30, 2009

Prior to the Pistons and Hawks game on November 29, 2009; I caught up with Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva in the locker room…

Eric Woodyard: 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.

EW: 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.

EW: 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.

Will Bynum>Rodney Stuckey

November 20, 2009

Picture this…

We’re at the park and we’re shooting up for captains. I hit the first shot which gives me first captain and someone else hits after me which obviously gives them second captain. Among the players that we can choose from are Detroit Pistons guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum.

Who am I going to choose with the first pick? Will Bynum!

Bynum is more consistent, scrappier and a better basketball player than Rodney Stuckey. At first I thought it was just an illusion after his strong finish of the 2008-2009 season in Motown. Bynum averaged a solid 11.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting in just 19.5 minutes per contest in his first playoff series against King James and the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers of last season.

While Stuckey didn’t completely bow down to the Cavs, to his credit he did average 15.0 points and 5.3 assists but shot a nasty 39.3% from the field. In my opinion, if Bynum was given the green light that the Pistons give Stuckey than he would thrive in the same fashion.

After Stuckey’s first post-season season oust in the 2007-2008 season under Chauncey Billups in which he averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 assists on 37.1 percent shooting from the field, the Pistons were ready to place the franchise in Stuckey’s hands. With Bynum it’s different, it seems as though his performances go completely under-the-radar.

For example, his 24 points and 6 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers this past Tuesday in which he shot 75%…Or how about his 27-point effort against the Dallas Mavericks the game before that on 68.8% shooting…Or even his 16 points and 4 assists against the Charlotte Bobcats on 83% shooting on Nov. 11. This man is the truth! He has mad game.

“Bynumite” has a unique ability to bring the playground game to the NBA with his yo-yo handles and wet jumper that slices through the net. He brings that Chicago gritiness to the point guard position as the 6 foot (5-10 if you as me) guard steps up to the challenge  to take on each of the league’s elite players at his position on a nightly basis.

Starting with his stupid hops, “Bynumite” will blow by you and dunk over you just like he did against the Bobcats.

Then he will cross you up like he did the last fool who challenged him.

Or if you are stupid enough to test his street cred then he will just prove it to you like he did on the streets of Chi or at Georgia Tech.

At this point, I am almost completely sold on my opinion that Will Bynum is clearly better than Rodney Stuckey. I’m not taking away anything that Stuckey does because he is a good young talent in the NBA today but I truly feel that if Will Bynum was placed in the same role that Stuckey is currently is in than he would be more productive.

The proof is not only in the statistics, but also for anyone who watches any Pistons games.  Bynum always outplays Stuckey and that’s the moral to the story. Through 12 games, Bynum is putting up 14.3 points and 4.2 assists on 50.4% shooting as opposed to Stuckey’s 17.1 points and 3.8 assists on 38.7% shooting.

You do the math…

I would be willing to bet that my team at the park, led by Bynum, would beat that team led by Stuckey on any day. Any bets?

dlaw

In an early season women’s exhibition contest, the Western Michigan University men’s basketball team sat in the student section to show their support.

Among the players from the men’s team sitting in the crowd was starting center, Don Lawson. After hearing a freshman on the squad complain about his knee and foot problems hindering him from playing defense, Lawson quickly cut him off.

“I could have given up when my heart was messed up, so that’s no excuse,” Lawson said.

Lawson was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, also known as afib, in early January last season, which left doctors doubtful if he would return for the remainder of the season. Afib is a disorder where the heart’s two small upper chambers quiver instead of effectively beating, causing the blood not to pump completely out of them, potentially causing clotting. This disorder is found in over 2 million Americans.

Instead of quitting and feeling down on himself after hearing this news, he kept a positive outlook. Fighting through an injury, in a sense, would be easy for WMU’s eighth leader in career blocked shots.

“I was just talking to my coaches and family back at home and I just can’t be a mental midget,” Lawson said.“A mental midget is someone who keeps going on about these injuries they have, and to have a heart injury takes a lot of work, so just being focused on trying to stay positive is the one major thing. And when they told me I could play again was just a joyous occasion.”

When Lawson returned to the Bronco lineup in February, after missing nearly a month of action, the 6 foot 10, 245-pound Chicago native gave a valiant effort to pick back up where he left off. He finished the season averaging 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, which ranked him sixth in the MAC in blocks per game.

“Donald was really playing well at the point of time we lost him last year, and when he came back he was close to regaining his form at the end of the season but he wasn’t quite there,” WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said.
“Now to have him back I think he’s gonna be comfortable, because last year was his first year as a starter so I think he’s gonna be comfortable with his role there, and I think he’s gonna be comfortable with being healthy. So I think everything is leaning in the direction of him having a productive year.”

Lawson’s return to the lineup at full strength not only has his head coach excited, but his teammates as well.

“Last year we struggled a lot with our inside presence and our team was guard-orientated so it made it tough on people like Shawntese [Gary] and David Kool because by not having nobody in the inside everybody cheated out,” senior guard Martelle McLemore said. “By Don being back he can provide that post presence so they gotta play us honest both ways which is exactly what we need for us guards.”

This offseason, Lawson has been working on his game harder than ever as he seeks to lead WMU to a Mid-American Conference championship in his senior season.

After having to watch his team struggle with implementing a host of new pieces to the roster last season, Lawson plans to rejuvenate the organization while putting the team on his back.

“I’m just trying to straighten them out and get them prepared for this experience that they’re getting ready to go through,” Lawson said.
“It gets intense real fast and some of the pressures and game situations, you can’t recreate them so we have to make the practices way harder than the games.”

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

LOUIS DELMAS

Although the current football team at Western Michigan University (4-6) may not be doing as well as fans had envisioned at this point in the season, the university has two professionals who are picking up the slack.

WMU graduates Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers receiver, and Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions safety, are putting up impressive numbers in the NFL. With their amount of success in the professional setting this season, WMU’s athletics department has launched an aggressive campaign in an attempt to get more voters for their selection into this year’s Pro Bowl game in South Florida on Jan. 31, 2010.

greg-jennings2“With Greg, he had the numbers to get in the Pro Bowl last year and he’s been a consistent receiver for Green Bay since he got (there), “ said Mat Kanan, WMU Athletic Media Relations Director.

“And I think he’s quickly becoming equal to, if not surpassing, Donald Driver as the primary target and he’s everything good about football. He gets up after he gets knocked down and he’s smiling, he scores a touchdown and he’s smiling, he misses a catch and he’s smiling. He’s a good receiver, a good person and a good football player and I think he deserves it.”

Jennings is currently in his fourth season for the Packers and was drafted with the 52nd pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich. and graduated from WMU in 2005 after breaking just about every receiving record at the university.

Since taking his talents to the NFL, Jennings has been a threat. In the 2008 season, he compiled 1,292 yards on 80 receptions with nine touchdowns. Through seven games of this season, he has 62.4 yards per game on 29 receptions with a 15.1 average per catch.

“For Louis, yes he’s a rookie, but he’s started now every game as a rookie and he’s made impact plays whether the Lions have won or lost and I think it would be a great opportunity to send a young guy to the Pro Bowl because he has kind of lifted that team from a personality standpoint too,” Kanan said.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, Delmas was also a second round pick as he was selected with the 33rd pick overall and has had a pretty successful rookie season thus far. Earlier this year, he became the first Detroit Lions player to win the defensive rookie of the month and even registered an interception in last Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Through seven games this season, Delmas has a total of 35 solo tackles, assisting on seven, and a sack. Delmas competed with the Brown and Gold from 2005-2008 and is a native of Florida, which would make the selection even more special.

“It’s an advertisement every time they do something good on the field and they say, ‘Greg Jennings, a second round pick out of Western Michigan’ — that’s free advertisement,” Kanan said.

“They are great ambassadors for the university, for our program and for our athletic department.”

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