What drives Detroit Pistons basketball? DETermination.

This is the new motto for the franchise. The word DETermination is displayed on every possible Pistons outlet imaginable in the Palace of Auburn Hills. Honestly, what word would better describe the franchise heading into the 2010-2011 NBA Season?

After suffering a loss in their season opener, 98-101, to the New Jersey Nets, the Pistons were eager to bounce back in their home-opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They blew a seven-point lead in the final 2 minutes. The Pistons and Thunder also met last year in the Pistons’ home opener when the Thunder beat them Pistons, 91-83.

The Pistons were once again plagued with injuries, including Will Bynum (hamstring), but with a sellout crowd cheering them on would this be enough to top the young Thunder? If they were to lose, it would be the franchise’s worst start in 11 years.

Pre-Game

Oklahoma City Thunder forward, Morris Peterson, released this statement…

As the reporters flocked to Kevin Durant for pre-game interviews in the visitor’s locker room, Mo-Pete gave him a heads up.

“That’s a Flintstone right there,” Peterson pointed towards me as he tapped Durant on the shoulder just before the interview session began.

“Oh ok a Flintstone? That’s what’s up,” KD responded as he nodded my way.

This set it up for me to ask these questions:

SLAM: How much more confident is this Thunder team this season based on last year’s success?

Kevin Durant: We’re confident (but) I think we’re not overconfident. I think we gotta learn that any time or any game we can get beat but we are confident in that each and every day we can get better.

SLAM: There’s been so much hype and hooplah surrounding you this year and being 22 years old myself I couldnt imagine what you’re going through, how are you able to stay so humble and focused through all of this hype?

KD: You know I didnt have this growing up. I worked for this. It just didnt come to me. At anytime it could be taken away so I gotta be thankful for it everyday and be humble and know that there is somebody better than me and just try to get to that level as well. So I’m not the best player ever or the best person ever so I still got room to grow and like I said just at this point anything can be taken away so I gotta be that way.

First Quarter

“Over-Rated,” a drunk fan yelled early in the quarter as Durant touched the ball. He would quickly eat those words.

Durant more than lived up to the hype! He scored an effortless 12 points, knocking down 3 of his first 6 shot attempts. The highlight of the quarter came off a Rip Hamilton turnover when Durant and Russell Westbrook connected on a fast break, two-handed jam.

Rodney Stuckey set the tone for Detroit, chipping in 8 points and 2 assists.

Second Quarter

A few local celebrities stole the show.

There was more hype about Kid Rock than the actual game. The franchise honored the legendary musician with a banner right before the quarter began. The words “KID ROCK 21 SELLOUTS” was etched onto the purple and white banner and raised into the rafters as the fans went crazy. Kid Rock was also briefly interviewed about his history with the Pistons as his music blasted over the stadium’s speakers.
Detroit Lions, rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was also in the building. He was asked to shoot free throws for charity during a time-out. For every free throw he made, $200 was donated to a charity. Suh had 24 seconds and he was able to raise $1200. Not bad.

Oh yeah, the Thunder finished the half with a 56-51 lead.

The jumper was falling for Ben Gordon as he led the Pistons in scoring with 12 points while Stuckey dropped 10 points and 4 assists. Kevin Durant finished with 16 points and 4 boards for the Thunder.

Third Quarter

Rodney Stuckey stole the show.

There was 5:21 on the clock when Russell Westbook and Nenad Kristic tried to double Stuckey near center court. Spotting how loose they were playing him, he easily split the defense and met Thabo Sefolosha at the rim for a nasty one-handed jam.

Stuckey would strike again near the end of the quarter with his best Allen Iverson impression. Just him and Daequan Cook were isolated as Stuckey had Cook on ice skates. It started with a between the legs crossover which led into a step back crossover and ended with a blow by layup.

He added 10 more points to his total giving him 20 heading into the final period.

Fourth Quarter

Ben Gordon was on fire the entire quarter. He scored 14 points in this period alone. Fans applauded his efforts for all but the last 2.5 seconds.

The Pistons led 104-103 when the Thunder got possession with just 7.5 seconds left on the clock. Everybody in the gym thought Kevin Durant would take the last shot. As the ball was inbounded, the Pistons placed so much emphasis on Durant that they gave up a wide open driving lay up to Jeff Green which put the Thunder ahead by one point. With 2.5 seconds still on the clock, Ben Gordon pushed the ball up court with no regard for the shot clock as the time ran out without even getting off an attempt.

The hero quickly became the goat as fans expressed themselves rather clearly.

“Boooooooo!!!”

Oklahoma City defeated the Pistons, 105-104. Gordon finished with a game-high 32 points but Durant dropped 30 points, his ninth consecutive game of 30 or more points.

Post Game

Pistons Head Coach, John Kuester, summed up the game the best at the post game presser.

“That last play, you have a decision you have to make in regards to trying to put out your best defenders and Green’s a good player and Max has done a good job and Tayshaun did a good job at taking the ball away from Durant. Jeff Green didnt know what to do but drive the ball and unfortunately it didnt work out the way we wanted it to.”

Rodney Stuckey didnt seem too upset, more frustrated. After a 24 point, 9 assists, and 5 rebound effort, I dont think I would have been either. He gave it his all. As he got dressed to leave the office, I caught up with Stuckey at his locker for his thoughts on the game.

SLAM: How tough was that loss?

Rodney Stuckey: Man, we was right there and I think turnovers and second chance points really hurt us. I think if we would have took care of the ball a little bit more and kept them off the boards a bit then we would have been alright.

SLAM: Were you surprised with how easy it was for you to get to the basket all night?

RS: Nah, that’s just what I’ve been working on just being more explosive and stuff like that but that’s my game anyway it’s attacking the hoop.

SLAM: I like how you broke down Daequan Cook in the corner with that crossover in the third quarter, is that ball handling something else you’ve been working on?

RS: Yea just my ball handling and stuff like that. That’s just all I’ve been doing this summer, just been working. I was just trying to prepare myself for this run.

SLAM: Do you think this team lost any confidence with these two tough losses?

RS: Nah, not at all. A little slippage but I think we’ll be alright though. We just gotta come in and do the little things like rebound and take care of the ball and we’ll be alright.

The Pistons will head to Chicago to take on the Bulls tonight at 8 p.m.

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

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It’s no secret that Oklahoma City Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook is quickly becoming one of the best young guards in the league.

The LBC native finished the 2009-2010 season with an average of 16.1 points and 8.0 dimes per game. He then followed this up in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers where he averaged 20.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists over 6 games. This season he showed his performance was no fluke when he gave Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 28 points and 6 assists in the season opener.

We’ve seen what he’s capable of on the court but have you always wondered what’s going through the mind of a young player just before stepping on the court to battle another great player at the same position? I caught up with Westbrook in the midst of eating a bag of popcorn in the visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills just before he prepared to battle Rodney Stuckey and the Detroit Pistons on Friday, October 29, 2010.

This is what goes through his mind…

Eric Woodyard: Can you talk about your pre-game ritual a little bit. What do you usually do before the game?

Russell Westbook: I usually take a nap, grab something to eat and listen to music, nothing too crazy and just hang out, chill and relax.

EW: What type of music do you listen too to get you in the zone?

RW: You know what? I switch it up. It all depends, sometimes I listen to some Raggae, some Cameroonian music…yeah (laughs). Lil Wayne…

EW: I’ve never heard anybody say that before…(laughs)

RW: …some jerking, I switch it up. So it all depends on how I’m feeling that day.

EW: Do you usually get hyped up to go up against another up and coming point guard? Like tonight’s it’s Rodney Stuckey, do you try to go out and try to prove that you’re better?

RW: Not really, I just try to go out and prove that my team is better. I try to go out and put my team in the best situation to try to win the game.

EW: What were some of the things you worked on this off-season?

RW: Well in the off-season I was really busy with FIBA and USA basketball so with that it helped me become more physical and a better teammate.

EW: That first game against your Olympic teammate Derrick Rose and the Bulls was great battle! So to get back on that battling your peers, can you break it down how does it feel to compete against all these up and coming guards?

RW: It feels good! It’s a good thing for the league, it’s a lot of good guards in the league and to go against somebody who’s real good and real tough, there’s really no nights off.

It’s tradition. Anytime Morris Peterson is anywhere in my vicinity I have to catch up with him.

When the Detroit Pistons hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder for this season’s home opener, this year was no different. Although he was on the inactive list, there wasnt any other player on the roster that I wanted to talk with more, not even Kevin Durant.

That’s how us Flintstones roll.

Here is how our conversation went…

Eric Woodyard: Obviously you’re back home. How does it feel to be back home in Michigan?

Morris Peterson: It’s always good to be back home and see some familiar faces especially with the long season and being on the west coast. We dont get a chance to get home so it’s always good to come home and see some familiar faces and see your family.

EW: I read something the other day where it talked about how the young guys on this team was blazing you because you were older than most of the players on this team, could you talk about how that’s been? (laughs) Do they still tease you about that?

MP: (laughs) Not as much, but that first week was rough. It’s a thing to go from being one of the youngest guys in the locker room, I remember those days, to now being the older guy but it’s all good that just means they like you.

EW: Last year when we talked, I asked you how was it to play with Chris Paul. This year you’re with another superstar in Kevin Durant, how fun is it to watch him?

MP: I think KD is a great player. He’s definitely ahead of his time. You dont find too many guys his age doing the things he does. If you look at it, he’s a match up problem. Him being 6-10, 6-11 and being able to handle it and shoot over smaller guys or drive around big guys, he always has an advantage so it’s great playing with a guy like him. To watch him last year and see him do the thing he did was good but once we were in practice, I think he’s worked even harder so it shows out on he court.

EW: How are you feeling health-wise? I know you’ve been battling with injuries for the past seasons…

MP: I’m feeling great, feeling better. I’m just trying to get back into it and get in the rotation and hopefully just try and get out there.

The date was July 10, 2010. A 25-year-old, Akron native, held the whole world in the palm of his hands.

Sporting a light purple and white checkered shirt with no jewelry, he seemed bare. His appearance wasn’t the only thing bare but so was his demeanor. All emotion was wiped off the face of LeBron James. ESPN cleared all their regularly scheduled programs just to televise this conversation between him and sportscaster, Jim Gray, which was dubbed as “The Decision.”

A little over five minutes into their conversation, LeBron changed everything with one statement.

“In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”

I thought, “How could he do this?” The great ones don’t join forces with players on their caliber. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are both two of the top-3 players in my eyes. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson would have never done that. “The Decision,” left a bad taste in my mouth initially. As an avid LeBron follower since his St. Vincent-St. Mary High School days, I have to admit that I wanted LeBron to stay in Cleveland and win it the hard way. This would build his own legacy as arguably one of the greatest players of all-time.

It took me a while to really sit down and accept his decision. Who am I to say what LeBron “should” have done? Who is anyone to say what LeBron “should” have done? Did anyone ever think about what was best for LeBron? No one was willing to go to Cleveland, he was tired of losing, and the best opportunity presented itself. Everyone should accept his choice to join the Miami Heat and move on. There is no reason that we should still be talking about this four months later.

This country is based on jumping on the bandwagon. Whatever is hot is what people ride but once it’s not then we tend to throw it in the dirt (i.e. Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, and Allen Iverson). Mark my word, LeBron James will rise above this. He may never be in the same category as a Michael Jordan or a Kobe Bryant as far as the public is concerned but this will blow over.

Most of his doubters are in fact huge fans so their opinions really don’t count. The comments from both Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were both unnecessary.

“There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team,'” Six-Time NBA Champion, Michael Jordan said. “Things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”

“I thought that his little one-hour special was a punk move. I thought them dancing around on the stage was a punk move, and I thought he should’ve stayed in Cleveland,” NBA Legend, Charles Barkley said. “Him joining Dwyane Wade’s team was very disappointing to me … That one-hour special, them jumping around on stage like punks, that wasn’t cool to me. From a basketball standpoint, I wish he had stayed in Cleveland, and if he takes that as criticism, so be it. He knows where I’ll be, I don’t run. I’m on TV every week, I’m easy to find.’”

Jordan never gives credit to anyone but himself. Barkley only seeks attention and has gone on record to say LeBron is the game’s best player.

Despite a lackluster performance in the season opener when the Miami Heat took a ‘L’ to the Boston Celtics in Beantown, 88-80, things will get better for the King. He did pour in 31 points connecting on 10 of his 21 shot attempts, which was the most by a Heat player in his debut. Honestly, I don’t believe the Heat will have another game that bad all season. What’s the probability of James and Wade both combining for 14 turnovers again? It wont happen!

For all the doubters, Nike just prepared a new commercial for LeBron James to promote his eighth signature sneaker titled “Rise.”  The theme of the ad is LeBron asking: “What should I do?” There’s a spot that sticks out to me where he is on the podium at his empty Hall-of-Fame speech and LeBron asks: “Should I really believe I ruined my legacy?”

My answer to that question is, “No, just go out and do what you have been doing.” LeBron James should just play basketball and let the rest speak for itself. I’m sure he wont let anyone down. We are all witnesses.

*This post can also be viewed at Slamonline.com!

The NFL Is Going Soft!

October 21, 2010

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The pressure from the Atlanta Falcons’ defense came faster than usual. As quickly as Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback, Kevin Kolb, received the hike they were on him. At the last minute, Kolb spotted an open receiver, DeSean Jackson, running across the middle of the field. With no hesitation, Kolb connected with Jackson…bang! The bang wasn’t actually from the pass but from the big hit that Falcons’ cornerback, Dunta Robinson placed on the defenseless Jackson that knocked both players out of Sunday’s game.

It wasn’t helmet-to-helmet, more shoulder-to-shoulder.

A few minutes after the hit, they could both get up and walk and although it looked scary, everyone knows that this is part of the game. The problem is that there were also a few more big hits last weekend. Patriots’ safety, Brandon Meriweather put a questionable hit on the Ravens’ Todd Heap and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, lit up two Cleveland Browns players up.

Due to the ferocity of these attacks, the NFL will be implementing a new rule. Starting in Week 7, NFL referees will be enforcing rules already on the books for “devastating hits” and “head shots.” Offenders will be candidates for suspension. Although none of the players involved in last week’s great strikes were suspended, they were fined.

Robinson and Meriweather were charged $50,000. Harrison was punished with $75,000.

My only question is, ‘What are devastating hits?’ Isn’t this is the essence of football! Big hits like these are what everyone loves to see. They keep viewers interested and ratings sky high. Devastating tackles is what makes the game so unique. Football would not be football without them. You can’t take this out of the game.

Great tackles is how stars are made. Players like Ray Lewis, Ronnie Lott, Lawrence Taylor, and Dick Butkus and many others have all become legends because of their great tackling abilities. Never did they have to think about were their hits too devastating, they just went and laid who ever was in from of them out with no regard. Now the NFL is forcing these professionals to really think before they act if they don’t want to hurt their bank accounts. This will make the game weaker.

However, I do agree that helmet-to-helmet hits are dirty. No one should be allowed to use a method of protection to in order to help them hurt someone. This is understandable but the devastating hits rule has to be abolished. It’s a joke. This is professional football not for amateurs.

When these athletes decided to sign their professional contracts and later lace up their sneakers before stepping on the field, they knew they were susceptible for plays like these.

Falcons’ cornerback has a legitimate reason to be mad.

“I am disappointed by the NFL’s ruling,” Robinson said in a statement. “I recognize the goal is to protect all players, from the Pee Wee level on up. However, this was a bang-bang hit situation where I did not lead with my helmet, and therefore I will appeal. Although it was a violent hit, my hit did not violate the NFL’s rules, and I was playing the game the way I always have. I am not a dirty player and have never been characterized as one.”

If players don’t want to get hit than they have an easier option, quit!

 

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

Most women’s tennis programs would have been satisfied with compiling 15 combined victories in both singles and doubles over a three-day period while facing stiff competition on the road.

For the Western Michigan University women’s tennis team, this was just another day in the office.

“We trying to just improve right now, we don’t feel like beating those people was anything special,” Bronco head coach Betsy Kuhle said.

“We belong with the Minnesota’s and the Michigan State’s and the Iowa’s.

We like competing well with them and the last time we played Michigan State we beat them and the last time we played Minnesota we beat them so it’s not like we’re using that as some great stepping stone, we’re more concerned with how we’re playing and not necessarily who we’re playing.”

The Broncos earned their victories by travelling to Northwestern University last weekend for the Wildcat Invitational at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center.

There were teams from DePaul University, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, University of Oklahoma, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University, University of South Carolina and University of Illinois-Chicago all participating in the tournament.

The Broncos began their onslaught on Friday when they attained seven combined wins. In doubles, two teams (Rachel Denny/April Kerr and Maria Nivia/Jill Pastunink) advanced to the championship rounds of their flights.

They also picked up three singles wins when Nini Sujashvili, Miloslava Shustova, and Jill Pastunink all opened with victories.

On Saturday, the team won the Flight B doubles championship when Nivia and Pastunink defeated Anya Morgina and Katherina Popova of South Carolina, 8-5.

Senior Amanda Moccia and sophomore Maggie Remynse also won a doubles consolation over Michigan State, 8-3.

The Broncos wrapped up the tournament on Sunday with the team earning three more wins in singles.

Sujashvili defeated Peta Lancaster of Oklahoma, 6-2 and 6-4.

Nivia won 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 over Katarina Lingl of Michigan State.

Pastunink defeated Cali Gustafson of DePaul 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

The leaders for the Brown and Gold for the weekend were Nivia, Pastunink and Sujashvili who all had 2-2 singles records.

“We’re competing extremely hard and getting better every weekend and I was particularly happy with their level of competition and how hard we competed,” Kuhle said.

“This weekend I would say that everybody was really good [but] I think Maria Nivia and Jill Pastunink really showed some promise in their doubles.”

Nivia is a junior from Cali, Colombia who attended La Arboleia School prior to joining the Broncos.

Pastunink is a sophomore from Zeeland, Mich. who attended Zeeland West High School before coming to WMU.

The team will pick back up action on Oct. 21 when they take a trip to Ann Arbor for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Regional with hopes of moving one step closer to their ultimate goal.

“We’re making a lot of progress and we do everything in hopes for trying to bring home a MAC Championship, that’s our goal,” Kuhle said.

“So I think we’re making the right moves and we’re doing all we need to do.”

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The scholarships for the women’s tennis team had already been awarded when Amanda Moccia enrolled in Western Michigan University during the fall of 2007.

Equipped with two seniors and two juniors, including Moccia’s older sister, Ashley, the roster seemed to be set.

This was until the younger Moccia showcased her skills to the head coach, Betsy Kuhle and the rest was history.

The Livonia, Mich. native was allowed to compete for the Broncos as a walk-on and exceeded all expectations for the 2007-2008 season.

By the end of the year, she was named to the All-MAC Tournament team after going 6-0 in singles, went a perfect 10-0 in MAC regular season and conference tournament singles, and ranked third on the team with 21 overall singles wins. “My first year it felt awesome [because] when you come in, you really don’t know what college tennis is all about and what being a college athlete is all about and how much work you have to put in,” Moccia said.

“It felt great because it’s kind of like you’re reaping all rewards for all your hard work at the end of the year and I think I’m definitely ready to get back to that this year.”

Three years have passed since her freshman year and Moccia is now a senior and the captain of her squad.

She has had a successful career but she hasn’t been able to win another MAC title since that first time.

As her days begin to dwindle down as a student-athlete for the Broncos, her sights are set on matching this achievement.

“For this year, I think the biggest goal for myself always comes in the spring season, which is winning the MAC,” Amanda Moccia said.

“I haven’t done that since I’ve been a freshman so I think it’s about time we do that this year and then that way I go out with a winning year.”

Not only is Moccia content on becoming a champion in her conference, but she also focused on making her teammates better.

Moccia understands that every person learns in a different way.

“It depends on the person how she’s been able to lead,” Kuhle said.

“Some of the younger players she’s really had to befriend a little and some of them I think she’s had to put the hammer down on them so it’s just an individual thing but she’s able to do both.”

Under Moccia’s leadership, WMU has been able to excel. Last weekend at Northwestern University in the Wildcat Invitational, the Broncos compiled 15 combined victories in both singles and doubles.

On the second day, Moccia and sophomore Maggie Remynse won a doubles consolation, 8-3, over Michigan State University.

While her intensity is in full throttle while in competition, she’s able to differentiate the two in her free time.

“I’m a pretty outgoing person. On the tennis court, I’m usually trying to stay level-headed and not be too loud but I think outside of the court I’m pretty outgoing and loud,” Moccia said.

“I kind of take on two different roles as an athlete and as a person so it’s kind of like my alter ego.”

Mastering the ability to differentiate her playtime from when it’s time to be serious is why Moccia has been so successful at WMU.

As Moccia gets prepared to “walk on” away from Kalamazoo, she leaves a mark behind her in Bronco athletics that is rarely accomplished from a “walk-on” who wasn’t even given a scholarship as a freshman at the university.

 

 

 

“Last year was tough. We were inconsistent. There was no chemistry. We all just have to stay healthy and the sky is the limit for us. On paper, we are the best team in the League. We are deep and athletic. All we have to do is play to our abilities. We don’t have the biggest roster, but if we share the ball, we’ll be alright.” -Rodney Stuckey says to Dime Mag.

I love Rodney Stuckey but are you kidding me? The “best team in the League!” C’mon son. The Detroit Pistons?

Let me get this straight once again, Rodney Stuckey believes that the Detroit Pistons are the best team in the League…on paper. I want to make sure I’m looking at this same paper so let’s examine the Detroit Pistons roster.

Team Roster
NO. NAME POS AGE HT WT COLLEGE  
12 Will Bynum PG 27 6-0 185 Georgia Tech  
5 Austin Daye SF 22 6-11 200 Gonzaga  
7 Ben Gordon SG 27 6-3 200 Connecticut  
32 Richard Hamilton SG 32 6-7 193 Connecticut  
33 Jonas Jerebko F 23 6-10 231    
54 Jason Maxiell PF 27 6-7 260 Cincinnati  
1 Tracy McGrady SG 31 6-8 223    
10 Greg Monroe PF 20 6-11 250 Georgetown  
22 Tayshaun Prince SF 30 6-9 215 Kentucky  
3 Rodney Stuckey PG 24 6-5 205 Eastern Washington  
35 DaJuan Summers F 22 6-8 240 Georgetown  
31 Charlie Villanueva PF 26 6-11 232 Connecticut  
6 Ben Wallace C 36 6-9 240 Virginia Union  
23 Terrico White SG 20 6-5 213 Mississippi  
9 Chris Wilcox PF 28 6-10 235 Maryland  

I’m looking very closely and I still don’t see this team as being one of the best. In 2004, maybe but this year…nah. Last season, I made the mistake of getting caught up with what was “on paper.” I liked the additions of Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, and Big Ben and  I predicted that the Pistons had the possibility to compile a 50-win season, just like in 2001. Instead they lost 55 games.

At the Pistons Media Day earlier this week, Stuckey did attempt to clean up his statements to Dime.

“That was inaccurate, he kind of wrote it down wrong. I told him that we were one of the best, not the best team and we are,” Stuckey said Monday at the Pistons Media Day. “I believe in my team, I believe that we are very athletic, we have a lot of great players on the team and I think if we could put it together and work as one then we will be pretty good. I know the Eastern Conference is tough now but I think that if we all stay healthy the sky is the limit for this team.”

To the Pistons credit, the injury bug did hit hard. In the 2009-2010 season, Ben Gordon played 62 games, Tayshaun Prince (49), Rip Hamilton (46), and Will Bynum (63). Who knows what the results could have been if they had only stayed healthy . The true starting lineup competed in under 20 games together. How could any camaraderie be established with such miniscule amount of games played with integral pieces to the overall puzzle?

Adding to their injury woes, the Pistons will be taking a chance with Tracy McGrady. Last season, T-Mac only played a total of 30 games but the teams hopes he can be that spark for the franchise by being a key role player.

“I think (McGrady’s) a great addition to our team. He’s definitely gonna help us out but the biggest thing is that we’ve all gotta stay healthy,” Richard Hamilton said. “We went so many years without anybody getting injured to going one year and having four of your top guys injured was a huge blow for us so I think guys really came in this year and prepared their bodies to hopefully having a good year.”

Other than McGrady, the roster has no real noticeable changes. They have two rookies, Terrico White and Greg Monroe, who probably won’t make a huge impact, a head coach who is a year smarter, and a new leader.

“I’m gonna be a lot more vocal this year, it’s just in my nature and it’s just my time to take over this team and just to be that vocal person and also just to lead on the court,” Stuckey added. “It starts in practice though and each and every day I gotta come out and work and show that I’m here to get better each and every day and once I do that in practice than it’s gonna lead into games.”

This year’s Pistons team is hard to predict. They may be good or bad, mediocre or solid. The injuries could have given the veterans a new zest for the game and ignite a fire inside of them that we haven’t seen in years. All in all, I predict a .500 team. I think they will go 41-41 and be a sixth or seventh seed in the Playoffs.

*This post can also be viewed on slamonline.com!

Only three words can describe Chauncey Billups entering his 14th season as a professional basketball player. “Grown Ass Man.”

Coming off a great individual season in which Billups averaged a career high in points (19.5 per game) there shouldn’t be a question in anyone’s mind that this season will be any different. He’s older, smarter, tougher, and better. Turning 34-years-old on September 25th, he’s like fine wine proving to be getting better with time. Think of  him as the Bernard Hopkins of the hoop game! Hopkins was also that late bloomer who lost 2 of his first 24 pro fights including his very first match but later reigned as the middleweight champion for ten years and successfully defended his title a record 20 times. Billups is the same on the hardwood. His first five years were mediocre but since then he’s consistently shown the young guys that he’s still one of the best no matter what ending numbers on his D.O.B may say. His list of accomplishments already make a case for him as a future Hall of Famer.

  • NBA Champion
  • NBA Finals MVP
  • 5-Time NBA All-Star
  • All-NBA Second Team
  • 2-Time All-NBA Third Team
  • 2-Time All-Defensive Second Team

Adding to his already sparkling resume, Billups did something else spectacular this summer…

The USA basketball team needed leadership for the 2010 FIBA World Championship Tournament. Who do you think they called? They tracked down Chauncey. The word “LEADER” should be embedded into this man’s DNA, tattooed onto his skin, etched over his grave stone. He’s damn near mastered this aspect of life.

With the younger players on the USA team knowing his leadership role before they even laced up their sneakers for game 1 of the tournament, he was easily able impose his will on the team and help lead them to the promised land. The USA didn’t lose a game as Kevin Durant left the competition non-existent and Billups played his part as the second leading player in points (9.8) and assists (3.1 per game).

Since 2002, Billups has been doing this. Leading a franchise. He’s always been in the discussion as one of the best at his position whether fans have liked it or not. We know what we’re going to get from him each season. He’s going to play hard, smart, and show up in crunch time. I can’t state it any more clearer, this season will be no different. He’s in that upper echelon of guards in the lead position. He’s top-5 in my book.

1. Chris Paul

2. Deron Williams

3. Steve Nash

4. Derrick Rose

5. Chauncey Billups

It’s unclear at this point which team Billups will be competing for this upcoming season. Portland Trailblazers maybe?

We don’t know if Carmelo Anthony will be in the Mile High City, New Jersey, New York, or the Chi-Town.

What we do know is that Chauncey Billups will be putting another solid NBA season under his belt this year.

The days of “Mr. Big Shot” have been long gone since he departed from Motown, now he’s just a “Grown Ass Man.” Nothing more, nothing less.

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