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Morning Shootaround: Crutches, Excuses and Injury Updates

File this under "better late than never" -- Rip Hamilton says he's finally figuring out how to play with Rodney Stuckey ... his teammate for the last two and a half years. From Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

For the first time this season, Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey scored 20-plus in the same game. In their limited time playing together, usually one gets going at the expense of the other

"He's starting to know where I want the ball and I'm learning where he wants it," Hamilton said recently. "It's definitely an adjustment, it takes time and I had been hurt, too."

Hamilton developed an on-court rapport with Chauncey Billups but now is dealing with a new cast, which throws his rhythm off. He's shown signs of breaking out, though, averaging 22.2 points and seven assists in his last five games.

At what point do we stop talking about Billups? The trade happened 14 months ago. I know continuity in the backcourt has been a problem over the last year due to injury, AI and MCIAFI, but at some point we need to retire that crutch.

Speaking of crutches, file this under "probably reading too much between the lines, but c'mon" -- even though Rodney Stuckey realizes "As I go, we go," he also seems quick with excuses for his team's play:

"It's going to take time, man. We have a first year coach, a lot of injuries," he said. "We've got time to fix this, it just takes time."

Objectively speaking, there's nothing wrong with Stuckey's assessment -- I've used the same explanation when asked by friends and colleagues what's plagued this team. But if Stuckey is serious about being a team leader, he can't ever allow himself to go on the record pointing a finger at his coach's inexperience.

Has John Kuester made mistakes? Absolutely. But is the coach at fault when the players on the floor don't play with consistent effort for 48 minutes in a row, or the supposed point guard? I doubt Stuckey meant it as anything more than a throwaway line -- in his defense, he's trying to sound optimistic -- but on the heels of Tayshaun going all 'Sheed on the sidelines the other night, it's not what you want to hear.

In any case, at least there's mostly good news on the injury front: both Will Bynum and Ben Gordon practiced yesterday, and there's a chance both could return in time for Wednesday's game against the Grizzlies -- although from the sounds of it, Gordon isn't in any rush. From Dave Pemberton of the Oakland Press

"Today was my first time practicing for a full practice since I got hurt," Gordon said after Monday’s practice. "It’s feeling really good. There is a still a little bit of pain there, but hopefully by Wednesday I’ll be ready."

Gordon feels the biggest hurdle is making sure he is 100 percent both physically and mentally so he doesn’t favor the groin and possibly re-injure it or injure something else.

"It’s a big hurdle," Gordon said. "I could probably play, but I probably wouldn’t be effective out there. I’d probably be risking tearing it again. Right now, it’s a mental hurdle. When I’m out there practicing I’m still conscious of every movement I make and trying to make sure I don’t overextend myself. Until I get that out of the way, I probably won’t be back. I’ll just continue to work on it until I can play without second guessing myself."

Hamilton is still optimstic about the playoffs. From the Detroit Free Press:

"The great thing about it is the East is down anyway from a record standpoint," he said. "Any team that gets hot can get that fourth or fifth spot. I try to let the young guys know that it's a long season. If you continue to work hard and play hard, you can get better."

You don't need to be John Hollinger to realize he's almost certainly wrong, but at least he's sticking to the script.

More links worth your time:

Justin Rogers at MLive: Pistons have the pieces to acquire Stoudemire, but seem likely to be outbid
Tom Ziller at FanHouse: Proposing a Solution for NBA's Ineffective Luxury Tax
Dan Feldman at Piston Powered: Trade Idea: Dumping Jason Maxiell for ... Adam Morrison
Henry Abbott at TrueHoop: PED salesman say NBA players were clients
A.J. Perez at FanHouse: Javaris Crittenton sentenced for gun charge.

(Quick aside: remember when Crittenton, Acie Law and Mike Conley looked like viable draft picks instead of Stuckey? Regardless of how you feel Stuckey has progressed, things could obviously be much, much worse.)

Last but not least: The Ultimate Tubaconducken. Just because.

And with that, consider this your open thread.