The Pistons are 34-73 under John Kuester, in his second season as head coach. (Clarence Tabb Jr./The Detroit News) )
Auburn Hills — Pistons coach John Kuester said he wanted to take a long look at the game film of the Pistons' stunning 120-116 loss to the Raptors to figure out how they blew a 25-point second-half lead after scoring a season-high 72 points in the first half.
Kuester is wasting his time.
The problems Saturday cannot be found on game film. They are between the ears and are etched inside of a coach who cannot pull the right gears.
They are the same problems that occurred when the Pistons blew a seven-point lead to the Nets during the final seconds in the season opener. They are the same problems that caused the Pistons to blow a 21-point lead to the Bulls and saw them trail the Warriors by as many as 32 points.
The Pistons began the season with a system in which players did not know their roles. And six weeks into the season, that has not changed.
"Everybody's role is different this year," guard Richard Hamilton said. "We are all playing different roles and our minutes are reduced, so the way you are accustomed to playing, you are no longer playing that way any more. We don't know who is going to play in the fourth quarter, what we are going to run in the fourth quarter.
"It is all up in the air. We are trying to learn to figure out what we are supposed to do."
Kuester took the blame for the Pistons' latest loss. He also should take blame for the Pistons' dismal season because he has not been able to lend stability to the team. A coach's job is to put players in the best position to win. That is not happening, because players don't even know what position they are supposed to be in.
Charlie Villanueva scored 14 against the Raptors, but in his previous seven games shot 35 percent and averaged 8.9 points and three rebounds.
Hamilton is having his worst season as a Piston. Ben Gordon often looks lost and has averaged just 7.4 points his last nine times out.
Kuester said Austin Daye has great upside, but nobody in the NBA goes from starter to a guy who barely plays. The other confusing part about Daye is he can play multiple positions and is being squeezed out in all of them.
Ben Wallace, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe are squeezing him out of the frontcourt, and Tracy McGrady is squeezing him out of the backcourt. McGrady played a strong first half Saturday, and Kuester admitted he sat him the second half because he thought the game was in command.
"It seems like a lot of roles are not defined," Gordon said.
This one really hurt
Now the Pistons are trying to fight carry-over. It is a game they won't forget soon because it is one of those signature stumbles that has the public buzzing, questioning Kuester and wondering why more could not be done to put a better product on the court.
The problem is with the sale of the team up in the air, this is pretty much the roster Kuester must work with.
They play the Hawks on Tuesday, the second of four straight home games. They are trying to break a four-game losing streak, trying to find themselves.
"I am just disgusted in myself that we put ourselves in that position," Kuester said.
He was talking about the Raptors game, but he could be talking about the entire season. The Pistons (7-18) never imagined they'd be in this position. Now they cannot figure out how to stop the spiral.
"Every game there is a carryover," Kuester said. "Don't kid yourselves. But momentum can change like that."
Tayshaun Prince is worried about the carryover from Saturday's loss, a devastating blow in which panic struck. When the Pistons collapse, they not only give up open jumpers but opponents are able to drive the lane and find open gaps around the basket.
Prince was asked what the team must do to prevent this loss from damaging the team even further. He paused, before saying, "That's a good question because I have never been a part of a game like this. I don't know what to say."
That statement sums up the Pistons. Players and coaches don't know what to say, and players are not certain where to play. The Pistons are not a team. They are a bunch of guys going out and playing basketball because nobody knows their roles and players grumbled that even if they have a role one night, it changes the next.
"Busted and disgusted," center Ben Wallace said. "Busted and disgusted. I am tired of losing."
The Pistons have lost eight of their last nine games:
Saturday: lost to Raptors, 120-116
Friday: lost at Timberwolves, 109-99
Wednesday: lost at Hornets, 93-74
Tuesday: lost at Rockets, 97-83
Dec. 5: d. Cavaliers, 102-92
Dec. 3 : lost to Magic, 104-91
Dec. 1: lost at Heat, 97-72
Nov. 30: lost at Magic, 90-79
Nov. 28: lost to Knicks, 125-116