The Pistons obviously had a chance to win against both the Lakers and the Kings, but I'm not too torn up about the outcome. Why? As a lot of you pointed out in the game comments, it's November, the Pistons are short-handed and the bench is seeing action.
It's tough to keep one game in perspective between tip-off and the final whistle, but after the fact it's kind of nice to look back at the box score and realize, "hey, we learned something new."
What did we learn this weekend? We learned that Cheikh Samb is far more useful than anyone expected this soon. Here's a highlight reel I found on YouTube of Samb, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell:
"His growth as a player, both physically and mentally, has been nothing short of astronomical," Saunders said. "He's really progressed as far as understanding what we're trying to do and his grasp of the game. You know, this is a guy who's only been playing a couple of years, so he has no bad habits. Everything he's being taught, it's nothing but good habits."
Does this mean that Samb won't be going to the D-League just yet? From Krista Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press:
"I think we've talked a little bit, and I think we'll hold off for now," Saunders said. "There's no question we can throw him in the game. He has a presence. ... You're not afraid to put someone like that on the floor."
I like the decision. If Samb falls out of the rotation, then giving him 30 minutes a game down at Fort Wayne is probably the best thing for everyone involved, but if he's able to contribute even five minutes a game for the Pistons, I think it's worth letting him stay. Why? Because there are residual benefits for keeping him around, including giving him a chance to work directly with the team's coaching staff, letting him practice against NBA-caliber teammates and monitoring his diet/exercise habits to pack a few more pounds on his frame.
But he's for real. Like Saunders said, he has a presence in the paint, since anyone driving the lane has to keep one eye trained on him. Paired together with another leaper like Johnson, the results can be comical, as the video above proves. Yes, they both need to work on their timing (if they both go for the block, no one is ready for the rebound ...), but that's what playing time is for, to learn how to get better.
As for Johnson, it's a little difficult to grade his performance this weekend considering the team ran few (if any) plays for him. In the last two games, he's combined for 33 minutes, 10 rebounds, four blocks and a steal ... and just one shot from the field. In time, maybe that will be something to be concerned about, but considering he's been playing early in the game with some of the starters, I don't think it's a big deal. Plus, his plus/minus rating was +9 and +6 on Friday and Sunday, respectively -- anytime a player is in the black during a loss means they were doing something right (or at least, not doing too many things wrong), even if they weren't the ones putting the ball in the bucket.