Which Eastern Conference team has the shortest bench? The Celtics, right? Whether it was a result of Doc Rivers‘ genius or because of the influx of fresh faces, the C’s were forced to experiment with different lineups during the first half of the season. Big Baby proved his worth, Leon Powe showed glimpses of the animal that he once was at Cal, and Eddie House demonstrated time and time again that he can’t protect his own lunch money. But seriously, Boston’s early-season experimentation has helped their bench to grow.
The Pistons might actually be thinner on the second line. Aside from Jason Maxiell, is there anyone else that regularly contributed during the first half of the year? Maybe Flip got caught up in ‘Sheed mania like the rest of us. But up until late January, Flip didn’t realize that the guys sitting next to him had jerseys underneath those tee shirts. Well maybe it was different from that, but you get the picture. Since then, he’s upped Rodney Stuckey‘s minutes from the low-teens to the mid-20’s. Stuckey’s now scored in double figures in 7 of Detroit’s last 8.
Last night, he made some rookie mistakes, but ended up leading the Pistons with 16 points as they got cooked by Orlando.
“The Pistons must develop as many weapons as they can for the playoffs,” writes Michael Rosenberg. “Rookies Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo got extensive playing time in this one. It would be a stretch to say they made the very best of it. At one point, Stuckey dribbled into a corner for no apparent reason — the only thing I could come up with was that maybe he left his car keys over there — and turned the ball over. This was right in front of the bench. Saunders bit his tongue.”
“Shortly afterward, Stuckey nailed a jumper from the top of the key. He finished with a team-high 16 points. Saunders must show that kind of patience in the second half. He has no choice. Pulling Stuckey after a mistake would be counterproductive.
“If that ever happens, it will bring a player down and he’ll be passive,” Stuckey said. “Flip has done a good job of, when I make a mistake, just let me stay in there and correct my mistakes. If I’m obviously out there turning the ball over numerous times … yeah, take me out. But if I make a mistake here and there, he is going to keep me in and just let me know, ‘This is what you did.'”
The Pistons are not part of the last-second scramble to add players. If they expect to make it through the long haul into June, they’ll need to draw on Stuckey, Afflalo, and Maxiell. Perhaps someone should even introduce Saunders to a guy named Amir Johnson.