After sputtering their engines against the Pacers on Monday night, the Pistons get their last chance at a fresh start for the 2012 NBA season. The Pistons host Ramon Sessions (swoon) and the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight for opening night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. on FSD TV
Cleveland Cavaliers: 0 - 1
Detroit Pistons: 0 - 1
I'm going to repeat the phrase "team in transition" until the Pistons front office starts repeating it. So far, they haven't gotten their heads around the concept. The Cleveland Cavaliers are a best case scenario for a team in transition, slated to bounce back from the loss of Lebron James in a speedy fashion. This team has promising young talent in Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, some nice trade pieces and an excellent salary profile. If the Cavaliers wind up with another lottery pick in 2012, you can pencil them into the playoffs in 2013.
No, seriously. Once Tristan Thompson is ready for the starting lineup (which is likely to come sooner than later), expect the Cavs to move Antawn Jamison's $15M expiring contract. Since Jamison actually has on-court value, that cap saving contract could actually bring real talent back to Cleveland. If they can't find a prolific shooting guard on the trade market, they can always hang on to Jamison and buy one next summer. Add that wing scorer next to Irving in the backcourt, and a lineup of Casspi, Thompson and Varejao could actually make some noise next season.
Then there's Detroit, who isn't even in a rebuilding stage yet. To rebuild, you have to disassemble the establishment in the first place. Pistons fans could rejoice for a moment, since it seemed like this was finally happening with the buy-out of Richard Hamilton. But for that step forward, Detroit took two steps back with the $50M+ in deals to Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey. This aversion to rebuilding is even worse given that Detroit actually has talent to begin to build around. No such luck, Pistons fans. Instead, we're going to have to waste a few years of that talent until we can adequately build around them. That sure doesn't help our case when that talent hits free agency...
Enough doom and gloom. The Cavs aren't back to glory yet, so let's rough them up a bit, yeah?
Fun with Numbers
Despite the fact that the Cavaliers and Pistons shared a loss to start the season, they're roughly twice as good as the Pistons. Kyrie Irving is off to a slow start with a PER of 6.4, but this is twice as good as our own Brandon Knight, who has registered a PER of 2.8. Yeah PER sucks, but apparently so do these two. Fortunately for Detroit, our starting, um, guard Rodney Stuckey has begun the season with a 24.8 PER. What sucks is that he's no Ramon Sessions, as Mike Payne's Favorite has registered a 44.6 PER in 2011-12. Sessions is averaging 30 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in 36 minutes this season. Tristan Thompson is looking at ROY considerations with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 17 free throw attempts per night, if of course he plays 36 minutes every game.
Keys to the Game
Don't let Ramon Sessions or Tristan Thompson play 36 minutes - I kid.
Since I just previewed a preseason game against the Cavs last week, I'm just gonna copy and paste. Kinda.
Defend Without Fouling - The Cavs took a ton of free throw shots against us in the preseason. They took more than twice as many free throws than the Raptors did during their season debut. This isn't a coincidence, its just that Cleveland has players that are good at drawing contact and getting to the free throw line. This is tough news for a team with only one center, especially when he's already started the season with foul trouble.
Contain Irving on the Perimeter - and Sessions too. We didn't do a good job of this in the preseason, so it's time to turn this around.
Feed the Moose - This should be Detroit's motto, and it should be a key to the game until it is.
Question of the Game
Can Detroit open the season at home with a win? If they don't get one tonight, they might be looking at a zero and ten start for the season. After tonight, Detroit faces Boston, Indiana, Orlando, Chicago, Philly, New York, Chicago and Dallas. Yikes.