Maurice Cheeks says Rodney Stuckey has been the Pistons' best defensive player in camp. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks made a point to commend one of his players with the player within earshot Wednesday -- the same player who missed five of his six shots in a meaningless exhibition game on Tuesday night.
Stuckey is almost assuredly Cheeks’ most mercurial player — which is saying a lot considering the acquisitions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. But commending Stuckey’s efforts that don’t show up on the box score probably has some long-term psychology to it.
He was referring to Stuckey’s defensive effort.
“All I can say is Stuckey has been -- with concepts, the way he’s played -- he’s been very conscientious of the things we’ve been doing,” Cheeks said. “It would be easy for me to say he’s been the best defensive (player). In terms of knowing where to be, what to do, he’s been (at) the top.”
Given the chance to alter his statement, given Andre Drummond’s prowess on the boards and Smith’s all-around defensive talents, Cheeks didn’t flinch. At 6-foot-5 and built like a tank, Stuckey has the potential to be a defensive stopper — if he’s willing.
“For in this camp here, he’s been the best defensively,” Cheeks said.
Cheeks, who was one of the better defensive point guards in his era, wants his guards to be aggressive, pressuring the opposition to run the shot clock down and to take advantage of having the likes of Smith and Drummond behind them — to an extent.
Turnovers create easy baskets. Easier baskets mean fewer times in the halfcourt with a crowded frontcourt.
“I like to create steals, get out in the open court, get some deflections,” Cheeks said. “I’m not opposed to perimeter guys being a little aggressive, as long as we do it in a smart way. I know my big guys can cover up a lot of sins, but I want to do it when it makes sense.”
Intrigued by Pistons
NBA TV and TNT commentators Greg Anthony and Chris Webber called the Pistons one of the more interesting teams to watch this season.
“I really like what Detroit has done. They had a really good offseason,” said Anthony on a conference call Tuesday. Anthony spent 11 years in the NBA as a point guard.
“I’m intrigued by the big guys in Detroit.”
Webber, who played for the Pistons in 2007 and a member of Michigan’s Fab Five, said the Pistons are one of the teams that has to develop an identity more than worrying about playoff positioning -- although both believe the Pistons will make the playoffs.
Webber likes the acquisition of Smith, and thinks he’ll benefit from playing with two big men.
“For Josh, it seems like there wasn’t any place for him to go. It has to be the perfect fit. His length and arms can get him back in plays,” Webber said. “Atlanta was grossly undersized and now Detroit has size. They’ll play against slower teams so he can use his athleticism to his advantage. He’ll be able to get the rebound and push the ball and not have the responsibility of doing all the rebounding.”
Anthony believes Brandon Jennings was right about not having the requisite talent to play with in Milwaukee. Jennings said recently he had to be more of a shoot-first point guard than he wanted to be.
“The less talent you have the more you have to do,” Anthony said. “That doesn’t always lend itself in a positive light. He was on a solid defensive team but their bigs couldn’t score. He had to take a lot of bad shots. He’s playing with a more talented frontline. And Chauncey Billups will help with his maturation.
“He doesn’t lack the ability to be a playmaker. We’re gonna find that out this season because he’s playing with better players. Now we’re gonna see if he can take that next step.”
Heat at Pistons
Tipoff: Thursday, 7:30, The Palace
Radio: WWJ 950 AM
Records: Pistons 1-0, Heat 1-0
Outlook: Heat G Dwyane Wade (knee) will make his preseason debut. Andre Drummond had 17 points and nine rebounds in the Pistons’ preseason opener Tuesday night.