Nothing going on for the Pistons on the trade front

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The Pistons’ final week of the season before the All-Star break provides two final opportunities to finish the unofficial first half on an upswing.

The Pistons (27-25) are holding onto the No. 8 position in the Eastern Conference but have played some of their worst defense of the season, falling into big deficits and having to try to fight their way out in second halves.

The trade deadline is approaching on Feb. 18 and although the Pistons have been mentioned in some rumors, there doesn’t seem to be anything brewing.

News: The Pistons were reportedly in discussions with the Nets in a trade involving Brandon Jennings for Thaddeus Young.

Views: Van Gundy rebuked the rumor-mongering Thursday insisting the report was complete fiction and there were no talks with the Nets. While that might be true, Van Gundy has stood firm to the philosophy the Pistons are looking at the long-term view and will not make a move just for the sake of shaking things up.

Van Gundy has said the trade market is mostly composed of teams looking to unload expiring contracts and the Pistons wouldn’t be willing to give up assets — key starters, young players, favorable contracts or draft picks for a rental player. Although Jennings’ contract also is expiring, the Pistons likely wouldn’t want to trade him for another expiring contract, unless it was at a position that they sorely needed, rather than just wanted to upgrade.

Last season, there weren’t any percolating trade talks until the Pistons made the big move for Reggie Jackson just before the deadline.

News: The Pistons had another poor defensive effort, giving up 34 points in the first quarter on the way to a 112-104 loss at Indiana on Saturday night.

Views: There aren’t any sure signs the defense is going to get significantly better any time soon. There’s no magic elixir to make the Pistons just start slapping the floor and locking down on the defensive end. It’s a question of individual effort and until the players hold themselves and each other accountable — no matter how many times Stan Van Gundy vents in postgame news conferences — then very little is going to chance.

Saturday’s loss hurts particularly because the Pacers won the season series, 3-1, which could be a tiebreaker if both teams are even for playoff positioning. The inability to stop Paul George (30 points) was the downfall. There haven’t been very many individual big games, but the defensive malaise has been a group effort.

News: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a core muscle strain and will be re-examined after the All-Star break. His return is uncertain.

Views: After slipping on a wet spot on the court in Boston, he’s missed the last two games and rookie Stanley Johnson has filled in well. But the Pistons need their best defensive stopper back. As core muscle injuries go (see Miguel Cabrera), there’s no guarantee Caldwell-Pope returns at 100 percent, or can play through the injury without some pain or reduced production.

Van Gundy said the injury wouldn’t hasten a trade to try to fill the gap. Rookie Darrun Hilliard is getting more quality time off the bench, so it helps in his development, as well, but playing without their best defender can’t bode well for the rest of the season for the Pistons.

News: Andre Drummond will participate in the All-Star weekend, both in Saturday’s dunk contest and Sunday’s game.

Views: It’s a big weekend for the Pistons center, who will take his place among the game’s biggest stars. Drummond hasn’t revealed any of his planned dunks but had a sly smirk when asked about some of the possibilities. He’s creative enough to come up with something that could excite the crowd and try to give defending champion Zach Lavine a run for his money.

Well, if he could dunk from the free-throw line, that could kill two birds with one stone.

Raptors at Pistons

Tip-off : 7:30 tonight, The Palace, Auburn Hills

TV/radio : FSD/WMGC

Outlook : The Pistons lost a tough road game to the Raptors on Jan. 30 and have a chance to go into the All-Star break with some momentum. Toronto (34-16) has won 13 of its last 14 games.