Once the Pistons clinch the top seed in the East -- a win tonight against the Magic will do it -- Flip Saunders is expected to start resting his starters for the playoffs. From the Detroit News:
"We still want to be sharp, but we get the guys some rest," said Saunders, whose lineup likely will go to more of an exhibition format for the remaining five games after tonight. "We"re lucky, in that we really don’t have any back-to-backs down the stretch here, so that’s a positive."
Rasheed Wallace believes extra minutes for the bench will do more than simply give the starting five some rest. From the Detroit Free Press:
"This is the time when the bench can come together and contribute," Wallace said, "and make their mark for the playoffs."
Wallace said that with the playoffs being so near, he expects that he and the other starters will play fewer minutes. He said he hopes to stay in the 23- to 28-minute range, and coach Flip Saunders seems to agree, having kept Wallace near that realm the last two games.
Wallace said he thinks that while the bench is much better this season, it doesn't have a personality yet.
"Right now, they can come in and contribute," Wallace said, "but I don't think they have that identity yet."
The Bad Boys era had the "X-factor" of John Salley and Dennis Rodman, the 2004 Pistons had the "Pitbulls" of Lindsey Hunter and Mike James. Earlier this year we had the "Bruise Brothers"/"Goon Squad" of Jason Maxiell and Dale Davis, but for whatever reason Flip Saunders didn't seem to like that pairing too much, or at least didn't feel compelled to give those two much playing time.
All three of those tandems could enter the game and immediately cause havoc on the defensive end. Considering the top two subs this year -- Antonio McDyess and Carlos Delfino -- are well-rounded, it's kind of hard to come up with a catchy nickname for them. Obviously there's more to having an identity than a nickname, but still, that's a start.
I'm excited to see guys like Delfino and Maxiell get more playing time over the these final few games, but I'm curious what the plans are for Amir Johnson. I'd definitely like to see what he can do in extended minutes back in the big leagues, but he expressed a desire before to stay with Sioux Falls last month, and now that Sioux Falls is the playoffs, it almost seems cruel to take away their best player. I'd leave the ball in his court regarding a promotion -- he has as much to learn playing in pressure situations in the D-League as he would playing late in the second half of games that don't matter up here.
Pistons starters to take a breather [Detroit News]
Bench might pick up late workload [Detroit Free Press]