Pistons go with Udrih’s experience over McCallum

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Beno Udrih

Auburn Hills — On one hand, Ray McCallum made the Pistons’ roster on Saturday because of his NBA experience.

On Monday, he lost his spot because the Pistons found someone with more.

The Pistons changed course on their roster just two days before the start of the regular season, opting for veteran point guard Beno Udrih over McCallum.

They claimed Udrih, 34, off waivers from the Miami Heat and waived McCallum, who had beaten out Lorenzo Brown for the final roster spot.

It’s interesting timing, coming just ahead of the Pistons’ season opener in Toronto on Wednesday. But with starting point guard Reggie Jackson recovering from a knee tendinitis treatment that is expected to keep him out for the first 15-20 games of the season, the Pistons needed to shore up their backcourt.

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They’ll have Ish Smith as the starter in the interim but coach Stan Van Gundy coveted more experience behind Smith and believed that Udrih had more to offer, especially in Jackson’s absence.

“He’s a good veteran backup point guard. We loved Ray and think he’s an NBA player and hope he is back with us at some point,” Van Gundy told The Detroit News, “but Ben’s experience and ability to run an offense was too much to pass up.”

The difference is experience — Udrih has played 792 games, including 272 starts, in his 12-year NBA career, posting averages of 8.5 points, 3.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds. Last season, he split time with the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat, with 4.4 points, 2.5 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 36 games with the Heat.

McCallum has logged 154 games with 46 starts in three seasons.

At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Udrih provides good size at point guard, complementing Smith, who is 6-foot. He’s played with seven teams: Spurs, Kings, Bucks, Magic, Grizzlies, Knicks and Heat.

Udrih was a first-round pick by San Antonio in 2004 and won NBA titles with the Spurs in 2005 and ’07. His best season was 2010-11, when he averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 35 minutes.

For his career, Udrih has shot 35 percent on 3-pointers.

Heat managing general partner Mickey Arison posted to his Twitter account: “Glad to see that SVG is giving Beno an opportunity. Best of luck with the Pistons.”

The Pistons learned from last season that they need to be as strong as they can at backup point guard. With 35-year-old Steve Blake, they struggled in many games and had one of the least-productive reserve units in the league.

On Saturday, the Pistons roster looked to be set, after they waived point guards Lorenzo Brown and Trey Freeman and 7-foot-6 center Mamadou N’Diaye, paving the way for McCallum to take the final roster spot.

McCallum, who played at Detroit Country Day High School and the University of Detroit-Mercy, spoke after Monday’s practice of his relief over making the roster and being able to play for his hometown team after some adversity last year.

Van Gundy said that one of the determining factors for picking McCallum over Brown was McCallum’s NBA experience; as it turns out, it wasn’t enough to keep him on the roster.

“Ray had played about three times as many NBA games as Lorenzo had and we need a guy to play right now,” Van Gundy said earlier Monday, before the Udrih move. “That was a huge part of the decision.”

Van Gundy said Brown — and presumably McCallum — would be eligible to play with the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons’ D-League affiliate, but wasn’t certain about what the plan would be going forward.

Pistons counting on Baynes

Backup center Aron Baynes is recovering from surgery to repair his broken nose and shouldn’t be limited when the regular season begins on Wednesday. Baynes participated in non-contact drills on Sunday and Monday, and Van Gundy is planning on having him available for full practice on Tuesday and the season opener against the Raptors.