January 19, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Vincent Goodwill

London showing doesn't tell story of Pistons' progress

The Pistons match up poorly against the Knicks, so much so that Thursday’s 15-point loss is the closest spread in the last two years, all in favor of New York. (Associated Press)

After winning seven of nine, the Pistons have lost their last two, most recently a 102-87 drubbing at the hands of the Knicks in London. Now back stateside, they'll play three games in four nights starting Sunday, the final game beginning a three-game road trip.

News: The Pistons' loss to the Knicks in London — a sign of fraudulence in terms of their place in the Eastern Conference or a bad night?

Views: I'd say the former. It's a bad matchup all around for the Pistons, so much so that Thursday's 15-point loss is the closest spread in the last two years, all in favor of the Knicks.

In the last five games against New York with Lawrence Frank as coach, the scores read like this: 103-80, 113-86, 101-79, 121-100 and 102-87. It just looked bad because of their presence in London and being on a big stage. It doesn't erase the progress they've made since Christmas, but even perspective doesn't remove the bad taste.

It looked like they reverted back to that struggling, unsure team when Carmelo Anthony and Co. went bombs away in the first quarter, when the Knicks jumped out to a 16-2 lead.

News: Rookie Andre Drummond continues to impress, with his sixth double-double in the loss (11 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) being just about the only bright spot, aside from Will Bynum's 22-point game.

Views: If it isn't time to insert Drummond into the starting lineup, the clock is rapidly ticking on Frank to do so. The more he plays, the better he looks, the more confident he becomes. The plan was to bring him along slowly, but nobody expected he'd be this good, this quickly.

You can make a valid argument Drummond is the second-best Piston behind Greg Monroe, yet he's playing only 20 minutes a night. When Drummond, like Dwight Howard, has defensive position, nobody else is grabbing the rebound.

The problem is he's playing behind the player who brings the most consistent effort on a nightly basis, Jason Maxiell.

Monroe and Drummond should play more together, despite the disadvantages they'll face against stretch-shooting teams. If they are the future, the adjustment will have to come sometime — and playing this 19-year-old isn't preventing this team from winning.

He has his lapses, as any rookie will, but his upside is such that if he isn't the best center in the East by the time he turns 22, I'd be surprised.

News: Speaking of struggling, though, Brandon Knight comes to mind. He went scoreless from the field and his 18-plus minutes was a season low, with Frank opting to go with backup Bynum for most of the second half. Knight's play has been up-and-down in his second season, to say the least.

Views: Before an early-season game in Sacramento, Frank spoke about how Knight will learn through the fire and intimated the team will have to live with how he plays. But it looks like Frank's patience is beginning to wear thin, ever-so-slightly.

Part of it is Knight's doing. He tends to focus so much on how his night is going, you can see failure all over his face. He's similar to former Piston Arron Afflalo in this aspect:

The only answer to struggles is more hard work, which in theory sounds great but practically, it can put a player deeper into an abyss of his own struggles. Part of it is there isn't a defined pecking order of who should get the ball, so Knight's confusion is understood.

It's no coincidence that his best all-around game in a very long time was against the Bucks last week, which was sparked by his defense — and the fact he knew Greg Monroe had it going and the Pistons were going to ride him.

No room for confusion in that situation, is there?

News: Bynum suggested a short time ago that perhaps it was best to switch Rodney Stuckey back as starter and move Kyle Singler to the second unit. Singler has had trouble guarding opposing shooting guards for a few weeks.

Views: It almost makes too much sense not to happen. Keep in mind, they were riding a pretty good wave so it wouldn't have been a prudent move to mess with the starters, but Stuckey going back as a starter helps Knight, who's having trouble carrying the bulk of the ballhandling, along with Monroe, who's been more of a facilitator than scorer.

Stuckey's a better defender at the two than Singler, whose natural position is small forward, anyway. Singler's shooting is a better fit for the second unit, where he wouldn't be forced to make plays with the ball and even if he played shooting guard there, he'd be defending backups instead of starters. Big difference.

For Stuckey, the Pistons have to figure out what to do with him long-term as well, as only $4 million of next year's deal is guaranteed, an attractive trade chip for the Pistons and opposing teams.

vgoodwill@detnews.com

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