Well, I'm back in town after a nice long weekend of baseball in Arizona. I wasn't able to catch either of the weekend games aside from highlights (nice shot, Rip!), but just from looking at the box scores it was good to see the bench get back into the groove against the Raptors after a very quiet game against the Celtics. I hope Rasheed Wallace picks up the pace (he's currently the fifth-leading scorer with just 8.3 ppg), though it certainly hasn't affected the record so far.
Given Flip Saunders' reputation as an offensive-minded coach, I've been eager to see his work in action. Through three games, the Pistons are averaging 102.3 ppg, Though not at the expense of the defense, which has given up just 84.3 ppg. up nine points from last year's 93.3. Yeah, it's three games, let's not get too excited, but before the offense starts regressing to the mean, they'll likely continue scoring triple-digits on their mini West Coast swing through Sacramento, Phoenix and Portland.
The Free Press touched upon the offense today, and in particular, Chauncy Billups:
Saunders has shown confidence in his players, especially in Billups, someone he has coached in the past but who many critics said would go wild on the offensive end with Brown gone.
"The whole talk of training camp is how Chauncey's going to be unleashing, going to be shooting all the time, and he' s kind of gone the opposite," Saunders said.
Compare this year's start to the first three games of last season, and Saunders is right.
Billups has attempted seven fewer shots from the field this season and has scored 22 fewer points (61 to start last season, 39 this season), but has seven more assists, proving he has stayed true to the motion offense.
Billups is the third-leading scorer (13.0 points a game) behind Hamilton (27.0) and Tayshaun Prince (17.0), both of whom have blended right in to the new offense. And Billups and Arroyo have combined for 42 assists and only six turnovers, proving that the new-look Pistons are headed in the right direction.
It's funny, because the Detroit News takes the same quote from Saunders and puts a slightly different spin on it, showing more concern:
Saunders was somewhat amused during the Pistons' romp over Toronto on Saturday. He actually had to pull Billups aside and tell him to start shooting the ball.
"It's getting to the point where he's almost not looking for his shot," Saunders said. "The whole talk of training camp was how Chauncey was unleashed and he was going to shoot it all the time. He's gone the opposite way."
Billups has run the offense masterfully through three games. He has 27 assists and just three turnovers. He has taken 34 shots, only 10 more than Ben Wallace.
"I told him he was turning down shots he probably needs to take," Saunders said. "He needs to keep his aggressiveness up and stay in rhythm."
Billups is shooting just 32 percent, but he isn't worried about it. He likes the fact that he and his backup, Carlos Arroyo, have combined for 44 assists and six turnovers.
"I think you can look for us to do that most of the year," Billups said of the efficiency. "We are going to take care of the ball and hit the guy who is open."
"There will be games when I get it going, and you know I am always going to be there at the end of games when my team needs me to step up.
"But I am real happy with the way we are playing right now."
Hmm. . . so Chauncey has either been efficient or too unselfish, depending on who you ask. Seems to me he's just running the offense, plain and simple. When he needs to score, he will, but so far Rip has been the dominant option in the backcourt. And I guarantee if the Pistons stay undefeated for another week and Chauncey still isn't scoring a lot, everyone will be praising him for his "selfless" play.