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Point guard depth still an issue

The Pistons are worried about maintaining Lindsey Hunter's health, and as a result they may scale back his minutes, leaving Flip Murray to run the point when Chauncey Billups is on the bench. From the Detroit News:

Hunter, who turned 36 on Sunday, is experiencing stiffness in his right Achilles tendon.

"We've been limiting his minutes here recently," coach Flip Saunders said. "He wants to keep playing, but it has been real stiff. We've played a lot of back-to-backs, and that's made it tough. We just have to ease his minutes."

Hunter was ineffective in nine minutes Sunday, missing all three of his shots.

If the tendon tears, it could spell the end of Hunter's career. The Pistons' medical staff doesn't think there is any risk of that, or they would shut him down.

In the meantime, Saunders said Flip Murray might go back to playing more point guard. He had been used mostly at shooting guard the past two weeks.

In my opinion, Murray has greatly improved since the beginning of the year ... but that's in part because the team essentially removed "ball distribution" from his primary list of objectives. I'm more than a little nervous about how it shakes out with Flip back at the point -- unless, of course, this prompts the Pistons to make a trade.

Who might be available? It's so early it's almost impossible to say, but A. Sherrod Blakely recently threw a familiar name out there:

League rules prohibit Dumars from talking about specific players Detroit might be interested in trading for, but one name that's likely to continue popping up is Minnesota guard Mike James, an ex-Piston.

James has remained close to several Pistons, including Hunter and Rasheed Wallace, since they won the NBA title together in 2004.

The 31-year-old James just signed a four-year, $23.5 million deal with the Timberwolves this summer, and per league rules he's not eligible to be traded before December 15. Even though he's struggled to make his mark (his scoring average is down from 20.3 ppg to 11.8), I have to question whether the team is truly ready to give up on their investment -- as well as what it would take for the Pistons to make it happen.

James is making roughly $5.2 million this year, so to get the numbers right any deal for him will almost certainly have to include Dale Davis and his $3.5 million deal, as well as either a draft pick... I'm not 100% sure on how much a draft pick is worth to balance out the salaries. or a guy like Carlos Delfino (who's due roughly $1 million), who's five years younger than James. I don't know, maybe there are other ways to get this done, but the point is that it won't come cheaply (depending on how you view Detroit's frontcourt depth and Delfino's long-term value), certainly not as cheap as it was to acquire James the first time around.

Of course, any trade talk should always be taken with a grain whole mountain of salt, but I won't be surprised to see discussions like this increase the longer Flip Murray plays the point.

UPDATE: Keith Langlois of touched upon Hunter's status today:

The likelihood is that the Pistons will deactivate the 14-year veteran and allow rookie point guard Will Blalock to dress for the next few games, at least.

"It’s not healing with me trying to play," he said after Monday’s practice, "so give it a little rest and get the engine cranked up later. If I could be 100 percent, I wouldn’t (sit). As you can see, I can’t move. It will get better, though. Arnie (Kander, strength coach) will get me back. I’m not concerned about that."

"We’re going to see how he is tomorrow," Flip Saunders said. "We didn’t do too much today. His main thing is he plays with energy and if he can’t move, he’s not going to be as effective. We’ll have to take it day by day and see how he is. He doesn’t want to sit, but we have to wait and see. I’ll leave that up to him and Arnie to see how he feels."

Blalock might be taking Hunter’s place on the active roster, but not necessarily in the rotation. Flip Murray, who has been playing far more minutes backing up Rip Hamilton at shooting guard than at the point since early in the season, will back up Chauncey Billups in Hunter’s absence.