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2 Detroit Pistons
Richard Deitsch
October 29, 2007
The veteran core is recommitted--and relieved to see new juice on the bench
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October 29, 2007

2 Detroit Pistons

The veteran core is recommitted--and relieved to see new juice on the bench

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What has changed is the rotation, thanks to an infusion of youth. Billups raves about first-round pick Rodney Stuckey, a combo guard out of Eastern Washington who was a summer-league star (19.0�points a game). Fellow rookie guard Arron Afflalo provides depth, and third-year forwards Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson will see added time. "It's been awhile since I've felt fresh in the fourth quarter," says Billups, 31. "New juice and fresh legs is something we need."

Of course the Pistons still have to rely on the core of Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace to get them to their sixth straight conference finals. According to Billups, Wallace entered training camp 20�pounds lighter and with a refreshed attitude. "It's a smooth-sailing ship," says Wallace, "and no one is trying to jump overboard."

Certainly not Billups. "It was up and down trying to find myself as a player and find stability for my family," he says. "After finally getting that here, I was not going to turn my back on this situation. This is home."

ENEMY LINES An opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons

The Pistons are still a team that will win 50 games and be a contender, but their championship window is slowly closing. . . . In the changeover from Larry Brown to Flip Saunders, they don't look as committed to the defensive end. . . . They have an All-Star backcourt and the best pair of defensive forwards in the league in Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace (who has the highest basketball IQ in the NBA), but are they starting to get complacent from having been together so long? . . . As good as the Pistons are, with four All-Star-caliber players, they don't have that one dominant franchise guy, and the last two seasons they've lost to teams that do have that guy ( Dwyane Wade in Miami and LeBron James in Cleveland). . . . The wild card is Jason Maxiell, who made great strides in the second half of last season and appeared to raise his game during the playoffs. He's an athletic, intense player, and his role is only going to grow this year. He adds the kind of energy this team needs.

FAST FACT

Last season, point guard Chauncey Billups led all NBA starters in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.59 to 1) for the second straight year. In 2005-06 he was also the most efficient player, with 4.11 assists per turnover.

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