With so many reaction pieces flying around about the Rudy Gay trade to the Raptors, it’s easy to think everything has been covered. But here are some thoughts, one for each team involved, that were left undiscussed.
1. The Pistons didn’t just dump salary, they got better
Detroit is just 17-29 and traded their last player synonymous with winning (Tayshaun Prince) in the deal so I get why it’s easy to write this team off. But despite that poor record, the sorry state of the Eastern Conference has the Pistons ‘only’ 5 ½ games behind the Rondo-less Celtics with just under half the season remaining.
With Calderon in the fold, I don’t think it’s all that insane to suggest this Pistons team — especially if aided by another move that breaks up the sieve-like frontcourt of Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe — could make a run at a playoff spot. Though their new Spaniard’s defensive issues will be more apparent without active bigs like Amir Johnson and Ed Davis behind him, Calderon’s presence fixes a lot of issues dogging the team, most notably the uninspiring play of Rodney Stuckey.
All season long, the struggling guard has been like a square peg trying to be jammed in a round hole. To start the year, Stuckey was paired with with second-year guard Brandon Knight (another player who thrives off dribble penetration) and Prince (who posted up more than spotted up). Being forced to play off the ball with two non-shooting bigs in the frontcourt essentially sealed Stuckey’s fate before he played a minute.
Things got slightly better when he was moved to the bench with the exciting second unit I profiled on Grantland. There Stuckey was still playing second-fiddle to Will Bynum, but at the very least he had space to
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that John Wall is only a rookie. His buzz attracted national attention for three years preceding his professional debut, and now seems to have faded amid the point guard debate echo chamber and Blake Griffin’s megaphoned redshirt ROY campaign. But Wall’s inconsistent play over the Wizards’ holiday weekend homestand was an example of how the twenty year old point guard is still finding his way, and still deserves the hype.
On Saturday night, Wall looked hurt, tired, and disenchanted. It was frustrating to watch Wall allow himself to be contained by the Raptors’ notoriously penetrable defense. On pick and rolls, he was indecisive, and on his signature full court sprints to the hoop he struggled to finish, often appearing out of control. What’s worse, he gave Jose Calderon, a slightly above average point guard, free reign to drop 21 points and 15 assists by failing to pressure the ball away from Calderon’s comfort zones.
It was the kind of performance that rookies have when they’re on a bad team, playing against another bad team in a half empty arena. This was the Raptor’s second meeting with Wall (who did not play in the teams’ first meeting), and like most teams this season they sunk deep in the paint on pick and rolls to discourage Wall from driving. What was alarming wasn’t that this strategy kept Wall from getting inside, but that it seemed to prevent Wall from finding a rhythm in the rest of his game.
Mental exhaustion seemed to be the culprit in his eight point, nine assist, three turnover performance. It was all he could do to manage the game, he didn’t have the juice to dominate it.
As Calderon said afterward, “I think he’ s going to be a great