In John Kuester's first year as coach, the Pistons are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2000-01. (Clarence Tabb Jr./The Detroit News)
Strange how there's been a training-camp feeling to this Pistons team the last few weeks -- when it should be fine-tuning things for the homestretch to the playoffs.
But this has been anything but a typical season, and certainly nothing first-year head coach John Kuester expected.
And, for that, assistant coach Brian Hill, who has been around the game for 39 years -- and three times has been an NBA head coach (Kuester was his assistant in Orlando) -- feels for Kuester.
"John is a really good basketball man," Hill said at a recent practice. "He's thorough, a good teacher, and he's going to do a great job as a head coach. It's just a shame that in his first year, this team has gone through something from an injury standpoint they haven't experienced in the last six, seven years."
Kuester had a plan heading into the season; he knew what he wanted to accomplish on the floor. But with the run of injuries to Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon and Will Bynum -- you never knew on a given night who was available -- that plan had to be altered.
"It's the most frustrating thing you can go through as a head coach," said Hill, a head coach with the Magic (1993-97), Vancouver Grizzlies (1997-99) and again with Orlando (2005-07). "You plan your season, look at your pieces and what you think you can do, how you're going to organize a team offensively and what schemes you can use defensively, and all of a sudden it all gets thrown to the wind as you start losing guys.
"Especially when (the injuries) overlap. You lose a couple guys for five or six weeks, they come back, and you lose a couple more guys for two weeks. It's hard to get to get any type of continuity or rhythm at either end of the floor.
"You can only talk about that stuff. There's really not a whole lot you can do about it. The main thing is you have to stay the course and try to get across the core principles that you want to teach all year long, regardless of who's on the floor."
Hack a Ben
It was interesting to watch San Antonio and Golden State both use the Hack-a-Ben strategy the last couple of weeks.
Ben Wallace , of course, isn't a good free-throw shooter. So in the fourth quarter of recent games, the Spurs and Warriors both fouled him intentionally. The strategy worked. Wallace made only five of 16 fourth-quarter free throws in the two games.
Still, Kuester said he won't take Wallace out of the lineup in tight-game situations, because he's too valuable as a rebounder and defender.
After the Feb. 21 San Antonio game -- a 109-101 Detroit win -- Hamilton said the entire method should be examined by the NBA.
"That's not basketball," Hamilton said. "The way the rules are set up, though, allows you to do it. Until they make a different rule, it's part of the game, part of team's strategy nowadays."
Wallace is shooting 39 percent from the line.
On the radar
A few eyebrows were raised recently when USA Basketball released a list of possible participants in this summer's World Championships and the 2012 Olympics and Tayshaun Prince wasn't on it.
It turns out the omission has nothing to do with Prince's ability. USA Basketball knew Prince was taking this summer off to fully recover from a back injury suffered early in the season.
Prince, a member of the 2008 Olympic team, will be considered for future teams when healthy.
Ben Wallace is one of only four players in NBA history to record 2,000 career blocks and 1,200 career steals. The others are Hall of Famers:.
The Pistons aren't contending for the postseason -- and one simply needs to look where they rank in stat categories to see why not (through Monday):
71.4 free-throw percentage ... 30th
29.6% 3-point percentage ... 30th
92.4 points per game ... 29th
18.4 assists per game ... 29th
43.9 field-goal percentage ... 27th
By the numbers
57: Rebounds for the Pistons in Saturday's loss to the Warriors, a season high.
30: Victories for the Pistons through 59 games last season, compared to 21 this season.
7: Victories for the Pistons in 26 games against the Western Conference (7-19).