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Lindsey Hunter’s return delayed

The Pistons were originally targeting this afternoon's game against the Celtics for Lindsey Hunter's return from ankle surgery, but it now looks like he's at least another week away from making his season debut. From the Free Press:

Hunter has been practicing, looking like he's at full strength. But coach Flip Saunders said: "I think it's a little bit better to be cautious than it is to be aggressive for him to play at this point."

So what's the new timeline? Saunders suggested it wouldn't be until the second half of the season -- not after the All-Star Game on Feb. 19, but after the 41st game of the year, which is just nine days away on Jan. 27. Saunders pointed out that he's done similiar things with players coming back from injuries before:

"Fortunately for me I've had some older guys where we do the same thing," Saunders said. "We did that for two years with Ervin Johnson. He didn't play the first 45 games but he started in the last 25 and started in the playoffs. Sam Mitchell was the same way. You have to understand the guys that have a lot of wear on their tires and know how much tread you have left. You want to try to utilize it in a very productive manner."

Although I'm eager to see Hunter back, I'm not opposed to waiting another week or so, as it gives the Pistons that much more time to evaluate some of their younger players to figure out who will stay in the rotation and who will be squeezed for time. But what's also noteworthy is that it seems obvious Saunders is intent on easing Hunter back into action, which makes it a bit unlikely they'll be trading Carlos Arroyo any time soon. Hunter certainly is the club's best perimeter defender, and while he's a solid offensive player, he's never been a true pass-first point guard like Arroyo, who should retain his role as Chauncey Billups' primary backup.

Saunders won't rush Hunter back [Detroit Free Press]