Austin Daye to start for Pistons
The versatile second-year man from Gonzaga can give opposing teams fits with his ability to play on the perimeter, and the Pistons are hoping he'll hold his own defensively. At 6-foot-11, 200 pounds, Daye can play several positions, but power forward is where Detroit needs him right now after Jonas Jerebko went down with a torn Achilles tendon. That injury left Daye and Charlie Villanueva as the likely candidates to start.
Coach John Kuester said Monday that Daye was his choice, at least for now.
"He's had a great training camp. Charlie's had a great training camp," Kuester said. "This is a long season. Nothing is etched in stone in regards to how we start."
Daye averaged 5.1 points per game last season as a rookie, but he was impressive this preseason, playing more minutes than anyone on the team and averaging 15.9 points. Daye made a team-high 17 shots from 3-point range in exhibition games, but now he'll also have to play around the basket, at least on defense.
Daye averaged 2.5 rebounds last season, but that figure jumped to 5.6 this preseason.
"It's not really a big deal for me if I start or if I don't start," said Daye, who spoke to reporters before Kuester announced he was the starter. "It's always a matter of me playing significant minutes and I'll be happy."
Daye started the last preseason game alongside Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace, and that figures to be the lineup for the season opener Wednesday night at New Jersey. Detroit also signed Tracy McGrady in the offseason. McGrady's last two seasons were ruined by knee problems, and he played only eight minutes in the preseason, although he's been able to practice recently.
The Pistons won only 27 games last season, when injuries forced the team into all sorts of different lineups. Eleven players started at least 10 games for Detroit.
The Pistons aren't all that healthy now, which means players might need to take on unusual roles. Prince, a perimeter player who has occasionally had to play power forward, can relate to the challenge facing Daye.
"The way we play defense, and a lot of rotations and things that we do, if you're playing the four, a lot of times, you're going to end up guarding the five, and that's the problem," Prince said. "All the teams in this league run pick-and-roll, and the way we defend pick-and-roll, a lot of times he's going to end up on the center and not the four man. That's the problems that I had when I was at that position."
Kuester said Detroit can adjust its defense if necessary, and Daye is looking forward to a chance to shine in his second season.
"I feel like this year I have a lot more freedom," Daye said. "Coach has seen how I've been playing, and he has trusted me to make the right play, do the right thing."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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