April 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Chris McCosky: NBA Insider

Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson fail to grow

Pistons give them minutes, but opponents improve more

Jason Maxiell grabs this rebound in front of the Nets' Brook Lopez, but he got fewer than last season and still struggles on the defensive glass. (Clarence Tabb Jr./The Detroit News)

In a season full of disappointment, you probably have to rank the growth stagnation of Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson fairly high on the list.

That thought popped into my head Monday as I was watching young forwards Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah combine for 24 points and 21 rebounds in helping the Chicago Bulls steal a game from the Pistons at The Palace.

While Noah and Thomas were wreaking havoc, Johnson recorded another DNP-CD (did not play, coach's decision) and Maxiell was hastily benched after seven uninspiring minutes.

Now, I know Thomas (fourth overall in 2006) and Noah (ninth in 2007) were higher picks than Maxiell (26th in 2005) and Johnson (56th in 2005). And I know they have been afforded starter's minutes for the better part of the last two seasons.

"When you play those kinds of minutes, you have a chance to grow faster," coach Michael Curry said.

Understood. It's not a completely valid comparison.

Except that Johnson was given the starting power-forward role coming out of camp and he couldn't handle it. Maxiell was a main cog in the rotation last season under Flip Saunders, but has been yo-yoed in and out of Curry's rotation this year.

Expectations not met

The point is, the expectations on Maxiell and Johnson -- in their fourth seasons -- were just as high as those on Thomas and Noah. Detroit was counting on both to play key roles to lessen the reliance on the aging Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace.

And they didn't get it done.

  • Maxiell has played 1,374 minutes, about 400 less than last year, averaging 5.7 points (down from 7.9) and 4.10 rebounds (down from 5.2).

    He still struggles on the defensive boards and seems to have been in and out of Curry's doghouse all season.

    "With Max, he's never had to guard power forwards out on the floor," Curry said. "We would always set Max down in the paint and put him on centers. ... The way the league is going now, for him to have a long and successful career, he has to be able to guard guys out on the floor."

  • Johnson has played a career-high 889 minutes, averaging 3.5 points and 3.8 rebounds -- almost exactly his career numbers.

    He went from starting to the last man off the bench, other than rookie Walter Sharpe. Not exactly what president Joe Dumars envisioned when he gave him an $11 million extension two years ago.

    "He has to work on his body and continue to work on his focus and understanding of the game so he can play with more consistency," Curry said.

    As a comparison, Thomas, in his third year, is averaging 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds, and Noah, in his second season, is at 6.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.

    From the outside looking in, it looks like a contrast between two young forwards who are ascending versus two that have leveled off.

    Both are at a crossroads.

    I am not saying anybody has given up on them. Maxiell signed a four-year, $20 million extension before the season and Johnson has one year left at $3.6 million.

    Nevertheless, I don't think it's a lock both are back next year.

    By the numbers

    8 Consecutive playoff appearances by Detroit, behind San Antonio (12) and Dallas (9)

    11 Double-doubles by Tayshaun Prince, a career-best

    5-11 Pistons record in second games of back-to-backs, worst in seven years

    Super soph

    Rodney Stuckey is the third Pistons draft pick in the last 20 years to score 1,000-plus points in his second season:

    Player Year Points
    Grant Hill 1995-96 1,618
    Allan Houston 1994-95 1,101
    Rodney Stuckey 2008-09 1,043

    Pistons statistics

    Through Tuesday

    Player G MIN FG 3FG FT REB AST PTS AVG
    Richard Hamilton6734.0466-104370-190223-263207297122518.3
    Allen Iverson5736.7348-83428-99271-34717328399517.5
    Tayshaun Prince8137.6458-101856-141189-243476253116114.3
    Rodney Stuckey7831.8397-90123-78226-283273382104313.4
    Rasheed Wallace6532.5301-719112-31878-1014899179212.2
    Antonio McDyess6230.1268-5250-060-86607835969.6
    Will Bynum5613.8150-3243-1691-115691553947.0
    Jason Maxiell7717.8178-3090-180-151314224365.7
    Arron Afflalo7316.2125-28742-10558-71131413504.8
    Kwame Brown5716.884-1560-058-114277312264.0
    Walter Herrmann5810.278-19441-11317-23100222143.7
    Amir Johnson6114.695-1590-023-32230202133.5
    Walter Sharpe82.54-110-20-23081.0

    Playoff time

    A look at the last 10 Pistons postseasons:

  • 2008: d. Philadelphia, 4-2; d. Orlando, 4-1; l. to Boston, 4-2

  • 2007: d. Orlando, 4-0; d. Chicago, 4-2; l. to Cleveland, 4-3

  • 2006: d. Milwaukee, 4-1; d. Cleveland, 4-3; l. to Miami, 4-2

  • 2005: d. Philadelphia, 4-1; d. Indiana, 4-2; d. Miami, 4-3; l. to San Antonio, 4-3 (Finals)

  • 2004: d. Milwaukee, 4-1; d. New Jersey, 4-3; d. Indiana, 4-2; d. L.A. Lakers, 4-1 (Finals)

  • 2003: d. Orlando, 4-3; d. Philadelphia, 4-2; l. to New Jersey, 4-0

  • 2002: d. Toronto, 3-2; l. to Boston, 4-1

  • 2000: l. to Miami, 3-0

  • 1999: l. to Atlanta, 3-2

  • 1997: l. to Atlanta, 3-2

    chris.mccosky@detnews.com">chris.mccosky@detnews.com (313) 222-1489

    Super soph

    Rodney Stuckey is the third Pistons draft pick in the last 20 years to score 1,000-plus points in his second season:

    Player Year Points
    Grant Hill 1995-96 1,618
    Allan Houston 1994-95 1,101
    Rodney Stuckey 2008-09 1,043

    Pistons statistics

    Through Tuesday

    Player G MIN FG 3FG FT REB AST PTS AVG
    Richard Hamilton6734.0466-104370-190223-263207297122518.3
    Allen Iverson5736.7348-83428-99271-34717328399517.5
    Tayshaun Prince8137.6458-101856-141189-243476253116114.3
    Rodney Stuckey7831.8397-90123-78226-283273382104313.4
    Rasheed Wallace6532.5301-719112-31878-1014899179212.2
    Antonio McDyess6230.1268-5250-060-86607835969.6
    Will Bynum5613.8150-3243-1691-115691553947.0
    Jason Maxiell7717.8178-3090-180-151314224365.7
    Arron Afflalo7316.2125-28742-10558-71131413504.8
    Kwame Brown5716.884-1560-058-114277312264.0
    Walter Herrmann5810.278-19441-11317-23100222143.7
    Amir Johnson6114.695-1590-023-32230202133.5
    Walter Sharpe82.54-110-20-23081.0

    Playoff time

    A look at the last 10 Pistons postseasons:

  • 2008: d. Philadelphia, 4-2; d. Orlando, 4-1; l. to Boston, 4-2
  • 2007: d. Orlando, 4-0; d. Chicago, 4-2; l. to Cleveland, 4-3
  • 2006: d. Milwaukee, 4-1; d. Cleveland, 4-3; l. to Miami, 4-2
  • 2005: d. Philadelphia, 4-1; d. Indiana, 4-2; d. Miami, 4-3; l. to San Antonio, 4-3 (Finals)
  • 2004: d. Milwaukee, 4-1; d. New Jersey, 4-3; d. Indiana, 4-2; d. L.A. Lakers, 4-1 (Finals)
  • 2003: d. Orlando, 4-3; d. Philadelphia, 4-2; l. to New Jersey, 4-0
  • 2002: d. Toronto, 3-2; l. to Boston, 4-1
  • 2000: l. to Miami, 3-0
  • 1999: l. to Atlanta, 3-2
  • 1997: l. to Atlanta, 3-2

  • McDyess (Clarence Tabb Jr. The Detroit News)
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