After knee tendonitis forced Reggie Jackson to miss the first 21 games of the season, the Pistons point guard rotation was looking a bit sketchy to say the least. The team was set to rely on heavy minutes from journeyman Ish Smith. His backup was going to be the unproven Ray McCallum Jr, who beat out Lorenzo Brown for that honor during the preseason.
On October 24, two days before the first game of the season, the Pistons decided to put in a waiver claim on Beno Udrih. Udrih had been released by the Miami Heat after the preseason ended and there were not really any teams lining up to employ his services. Why would they? He is not exciting, but he was an upgrade over McCallum and could be a veteran presence due to having 12 years of experience in the league. However, not many people expected a whole lot out of him.
He was not really a flashy player and was a known commodity at this point in his career. He would run the offense make a few jumpers here and there and keep the bench unit from floundering too much until Reggie Jackson returned.
While the numbers that Beno Udrih put up are nothing special, he far exceeded the expectations of most fans. Udrih averaged 5.8 points, 3.4 assists and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.7. That is solid for a starting or backup point guard, and very good for a guy who spent most of the season as a number three point guard.
There were points during the season where Beno Udrih looked like the best point guard on the roster. Reggie Jackson struggled all year returning from his knee injury and there were times where Ish Smith’s jumper looked like he couldn’t even hit the ocean with it.
Beno Udrih was a professional on the bench. He knew exactly why he was brought in and had no complaints when he was out of the rotation once Reggie Jackson returned. He was one of the few veteran presences on a very young roster and he could actually back it up.
I don’t have access to the locker room or the bench to see or hear what kind of knowledge Udrih was able to instill to some of the members of this team. But when you listen to Stan Van Gundy talk about him, you get the impression that he had a positive impact with both his attitude and veteran experience.
I am not really sure what the future holds for Udrih. He appears to still have something left in the tank at the age of 34. I have seen some quotes about him wanting to go into coaching when things are all said and done. If the Pistons go through the offseason and still have not found a third point guard, I would be more than happy to see Udrih back in a Pistons uniform. You know exactly what you are getting.
I never expected to become as big of a fan of Beno Udrih as I did. His leaning midrange jumper was money, and he never looked out of place or washed up out there. That is pretty good for a guy the team picked up two days before the season started.
Udrih finished the season playing in a total of 39 games. There are many people, including myself who wanted that number to be a lot more. Looking back at how the season turned out makes you think about a lot of different things that you wish were different. In the end, without the addition of Udrih, the season could have been even worse than it was. I shudder to even think of the bench unit over the first 21 games without Beno Udrih running it.