For a lot of teams around the NBA, the preseason is a time when starting jobs are won and lost. The Pistons, however, have seen just one permanent change in their starting five over the past three-plus years: obviously, Nazr Mohammed replacing Ben Wallace in the middle.
Since his core has so much experience playing with each other, Flip Saunders has been able to spend almost the entire preseason focusing on one under-utilized aspect of the team: the bench. Just to get an idea of how little the starting lineup has played so far, take a look at the team's scoring leaders through six preseason games: Jason Maxiell leads the team with 15.3 points per game, followed by Mohammed (14.2), Flip Murray (12.3), Tayshaun (9.2) and Amir Johnson (8.0).
With just two more exhibitions on the docket before the games actually start to matter, don't expect this trend to change: the last thing Saunders wants to do now is risk injury to one of his starters. It's a genuine concern -- Sheed played just eight minutes on Sunday after taking a knee to the groin, plus Antonio McDyess is nursing a groin injury of his own while Dale Davis is hobbled after re-injuring a hamstring injury on Monday.
According to MLive.com, Saunders may keep several of his starters on the bench tonight:
"Maybe three or four of them," said Saunders, who indicated he had yet to decide which players would not play.
Affording the reserves an opportunity to play more is one of the positives that will come from tonight's game. Saunders also wants to make sure he doesn't wear down his starters between now and the regular season, which begins next week.
For a lot of teams, watching a game absent of much of the starting lineup might be a turnoff, but I'm actually pretty excited about it. As you'd expect, veteran starters usually play preseason games like they'd rather be somewhere else, but young guys like Maxiell, Carlos Delfino, Amir Johnson and Will Blalock play like they have a lot to prove -- which, of course, they do: Johnson and Blalock, for one, will very soon be buried at the end of the bench or dispatched to the NBDL's Sioux Falls. So skip the pre-game World Series show -- you already know what it's going to be about anyways: Kenny Rogers! Dirt?! Pine tar?! -- and tune in (7pm, FSN Detroit), at least for the first half until the Tigers take the field.
At the very least, tonight's game against the Wizards gives us an excuse to link to The WizzNutzz, a DBB favorite that's in a league of their own among NBA blogs, as they weigh in on the 'Zards new alternate gold jerseys.