Variations of this article have been written by several other people already, but here's Free Press beat writer Chris Silva on the dynamic between Flip Saunders and Chauncey Billups:
Saunders has inserted more than a dozen plays, options and counters in the new offense, but he doesn't call plays unless it's an inbounds play or if the opposition scores and the Pistons bring the ball up slowly. He trusts his point guard.
"And Chauncey knows this," Saunders said. "If we've been in a situation where we haven't scored a few times, there might be a certain play I want to run to try and get somebody off.
"But it's to the point now where I start calling a play and as I call it, he's already calling the same play."
Billups is averaging 9.3 assists, 17.2 points on 41.3% shooting from the field. In his first six games last season, Billups averaged 7.2 assists, shot 49.3% and averaged 19.6 points. But the slight decline in his scoring and shooting percentage hasn't been a problem. His passing has improved, and so have the Pistons, whose offense is averaging 100.6 points.
Six games is too small of a sample size to really put any weight into, so I'm a little surprised that Silva did it twice. Why not just compare Billups' start to the season to his stats for all of last season? It's not like he's played the same six teams both times (and even if he had, it's not like he would have faced the same players).
In any case, 17.2 points is actually more than the 16.4 ppg Billups averaged last year, and his 9.2 assists per game look even better once you realize he averaged just 5.8 apg last year. Yeah, He shot .442 from the floor last year, but his .413 FG% this year is really just the result of two bad games (3-15 against Boston on 11/4, and 5-14 against Portland on 11/11). He's gone long stretches where he's been red-hot, so there should be absolutely no concern that his field goal percentage is slightly down at the moment.
Silva is making the point of saying that Billups is doing a great job running the offense, which I clearly agree with, but I just wouldn't have used a small sample size to sell Billups short on just how much improvement he's made so far over last year. Whatever, no big deal.
One more thing, completely unrelated to basketball. The Free Press just unveiled a new look for Freep.com. I've always thought their online design was miles ahead of the Detroit News, and luckily they've managed to improve it even more. I don't care for the non-intuitive URLs that are generated (and from what I know, search engines probably won't, either), but the rest of the actual layout is pretty slick.
I do have one major suggestion: valid RSS feeds, ideally with links clearly marked in each section of the paper. After much searching, I found a link for XML feeds on the lower-left-hand side of the front page(of the paper, not the sports section), but the link provided for Sports doesn't seem to be valid -- I can't get it to work in Thunderbird or Bloglines, at the very least. What I'd prefer is an RSS feed for each sport, not just for the Sports section as a whole, but I'd settle for anything if it simply worked.
PISTONS CORNER: New offense no problem for Billups [Detroit Free Press]