Struggling Pistons searching for right combination
Last season, 11 different players started at least 10 games for the Detroit Pistons.
So far, 2010-11 is looking like more of the same.
With his team falling behind in the playoff chase, coach John Kuester has already used seven different starting lineups. Injuries have played a role, but Detroit is also trying to find a combination that will pull the team out of an early-season funk.
With Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Tracy McGrady all making rare starts, the Pistons beat New Orleans in overtime Sunday night, but at 9-19 they still have a long way to go before they can say they've turned around their season.
''We had to shake things up, and it's as simple as that,'' Kuester said Tuesday. ''When you're going through the season that we are right now, we just couldn't stay pat.''
It wasn't the first time Kuester tried to shake things up a bit. He benched point guard Rodney Stuckey barely a week into the season, but that was only temporary. Stuckey has been a regular starter for the Pistons ever since.
Injuries played a role in Sunday's lineup, but Kuester was clearly hoping a new look would pay dividends. Villanueva started for the first time all season. It was the fourth start for Gordon and the second for McGrady, who didn't play in the second half because of a groin injury.
Stuckey sat out the 111-108 win with a toe injury. Richard Hamilton also missed it with an upset stomach, and Austin Daye was out with a strained hamstring.
''Seems like when we're undermanned, guys are a little bit more comfortable,'' Gordon said. ''They know they're going to be playing, they have time to get a rhythm. We've just got to figure something out that works and get everybody going.''
Gordon went 0 of 7 from the field in the first half, but Detroit didn't have many other options so he stayed in the game. He finished with 25 points, including a tying 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation.
''He's a shooter,'' guard Will Bynum said. ''He's going to miss a few, this is basketball. ... But Ben's a scorer, despite if he's 0 for 7, I'm still looking for him every time.''
Detroit has generally gone with Stuckey, Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace as starters this season, but Kuester certainly sounds ready to consider other options. Hamilton said Tuesday he's willing to accept coming off the bench.
''I've got to be a man about it and come out and play,'' Hamilton said. ''They wanted to do something different. ... If (there's) anything I want to prove, it's prove that we can turn this thing around.''
Meanwhile, the power forward spot has been unsettled since the start of the season. Daye has started 11 games, Jason Maxiell has started 14 and even rookie Greg Monroe has been in the starting lineup. Now it appears to be Villanueva's turn.
Forward Jonas Jerebko went down in the preseason with a torn Achilles' tendon, robbing Kuester of another option. That was only the beginning of what has been a season of uncertainty for the Pistons, who are still awaiting the final word on the team's sale.
The low point might have been a 21-point home loss Friday night to the Los Angeles Clippers.
But as dreary as these last couple months have been, Sunday night was a highlight. Detroit rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit with some unfamiliar faces on the court. DaJuan Summers played in only his sixth game this season and scored eight points, and Maxiell made a key defensive play in the final seconds of overtime.
Bynum, one of only a handful of Detroit players who hasn't started this season, finished with 21 points and nine assists, giving his team something to feel good about going into Wednesday night's game at Toronto.
''I think that every time something positive happens you have to build off of it,'' Gordon said. ''I thought the guys that were out there ... had a chance to show coach what we can do if we just get some time.''