Toronto — Charlie Villanueva was probably as shocked as anyone when his name was called in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 89-85 loss to the Knicks, in which he played a part in their late comeback.
Not to say he didn’t want in, as he was probably the lone experienced player on this roster to not receive consistent playing time, but it wouldn’t have been surprising if he had resigned himself to being glued to the bench permanently.
He hasn’t made a stink publicly and usually says the right things. This instance hasn’t been different.
“It’s Coach’s decision. Whatever Coach says, I’ll go with it,” Villanueva said. “He’s the captain of this ship so I’m just glad he had the confidence in me to call me. I try to make the most of my situation and it would’ve been good to come with the win.”
He scored five points and had three rebounds in 10 minutes, taking six shots. He didn’t look as fluid offensively as he expected to be, but since the most consistent thing on his score sheet this season has been “Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision,” he couldn’t have expected to be a dead-eye shooter.
But considering the Pistons are the worst-shooting team in the league from 3-point range, Villanueva feels he can contribute when called upon.
“Yeah, for sure. Haven’t played in a while,” said Villanueva, who added two points in 11 minutes in Wednesday night’s 112-91 loss to Toronto. “I’m a confident player; I know how to play this game.
“Given the opportunity and making the most of it, I think I can do something with it. On to the next one.”
Cheeks has gone between playing Jonas Jerebko during stretches and Josh Harrellson and Gigi Datome — albeit sparingly — so he can add Villanueva to that mix, depending on matchups.
“I don’t know, I think Charlie did a very good job so depending on how the game goes, we’ll find a way to get him in,” Cheeks said. “He helped us out, not necessarily shooting threes but he got to the block and you have to pay attention to him on the perimeter.”
Players entering the final year of their contracts are always in sensitive situations, and it’s no secret the Pistons have been shopping Villanueva to see if a team wants cap relief in the form of his $8.5 million price tag.
His teammates have been behind him.
Fans may remember that last season Tayshaun Prince prodded former coach Lawrence Frank to give Villanueva a shot and it helped the team to their most productive stretch when he was a member of their second unit.
“They’ve been real supportive, they understand it’s difficult knowing my situation,” Villanueva said. “I’m a guy in the last year. They’ve been supportive about the whole process and very encouraging, knowing they have my back and are on my side.”