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Ball Don't Lie

Corey Maggette, though he hasn’t played for the Pistons since mid-December, remains professional

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Corey Maggette, in an image that may or may not be a painting (Getty Images)

In 2009-10, while working for a frustrating Golden State Warriors squad that missed the playoffs, Corey Maggette drove his way toward 19.8 points per game in only 29.7 minutes a contest, shooting 51 percent along the way. He’s played for three teams since that final year out west – Milwaukee, Charlotte, and currently Detroit – and in each stop his shooting has tailed off significantly. Maggette’s field goal percentage on the year is stuck at 35 percent, and we say “stuck” because Pistons coach Lawrence Frank won’t give him the opportunity to improve it, because Maggette hasn’t played a minute since Dec. 15.

Frank is under no obligation to play Corey Maggette. The Pistons are rebuilding with youth and, again, Corey was shooting 35 percent before the banishment. Still, it’s a curious case (not a single minute in over three months?), one that MLive’s David Mayo looked into recently, in a revealing interview with the onetime scorer.

"No one told me anything," he said.

Is he bitter? Deep down, probably.

He certainly isn't going to say as much. He became a wealthy man playing a child's game. Too many NBA players lose sight of that fact. Maggette hasn't.

"We're blessed," he said. "We make a lot of money to run up and down a court and shoot a leather ball into an iron hoop."

[…]

“You see me every day," Maggette said. "I'm working -- working with the young guys, out on the court, in the weight room, doing everything I can do to be able to play on this team. But situations happen the way they're going to happen. Do I know why? No. Is there a reason why I shouldn't be playing? No. It's tough, because I am a competitor. But there's nothing I can do about it.”

Maggette goes on to credit famed Pistons strength and conditioning coach Artie Kander for his ability to stay fit and primed while watching from the bench. And it’s important to note that he is watching from the bench – Corey hasn’t been asked to leave the team. Rather, he’s suiting up every night, and for 45 games and counting, Maggette has received a DNP-CD. Remember, this is a guy just three seasons removed from scoring nearly 20 a game in less than 30 minutes a contest.

Given many chances in Charlotte last season, though, Maggette played terrible basketball. It’s true that the Bobcats offense didn’t exactly give his slashing game the spacing it probably desired, but that year’s 37 percent mark and this season’s 35 percent mark give Frank ample reason to sit Maggette.

Complicating matters are the circumstances that brought him to Detroit to begin with. The Pistons paid a very high price just to rid themselves of Ben Gordon’s awful contract, sending Charlotte a first round pick with declining lottery protection in a deal for Maggette last summer just to be able to dump Gordon’s 2013-14 salary, amnesty Charlie Villanueva, decline to guarantee Rodney Stuckey’s deal, and start all over again like they did in 2009 … when they signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

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Kyle Singler is bemused by Maggette's new moves (Getty Images)

The cap space that Maggette’s expiring contract could create could also be shot to pieces if the team decides to re-sign Jose Calderon in the offseason, which has already been rumored. Calderon has played fantastic basketball in Detroit since coming over to the team in early Feb., but he’ll also be 32 on opening night. If Dumars bids against himself and offers too high a salary, this could be another misstep.

In securing that cap space, Dumars has probably earned the right to lord over the rebuild. His recent draft record has been up and down – Greg Monroe, Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond have been winners, but taking Brandon Knight over Kemba Walker and many others in 2011 was a miss. The Boston Globe speculated over the weekend that Dumars could be shown the door after 12 years of running the Pistons and 13 years in the team’s front office. An unfortunate end for perhaps the most beloved Piston of them all.

If that were the case, Frank would no doubt be replaced as well. The former Nets coach means well and clearly knows his stuff, but he hasn’t been able to do much of anything with the better contributors on this roster, and the Pistons don’t appear to play particularly hard on some nights. This is on the players, first and foremost, who likely came into this season knowing that this mismatched roster would be hard-pressed to make the postseason. That knowledge doesn’t make Frank’s future any more assured, though.

Maggette, until then, will just continue to bide his time on the sideline. In a glass half-full comment, he actually credits the Pistons for essentially giving him a year off, as he attempts to secure one last NBA contract this summer. From Mayo’s interview:

"This has been a rest year," Maggette said. "I appreciate the rest and the chance to save my body. That's the way I look at it. This situation could be a blessing in disguise for me."

Even after two years of sub-40 percent shooting, Maggette is still worth a flyer this summer for a team looking to see if he has anything left. He wouldn’t mind stating his case a few times before the end of 2012-13, though, if the Pistons would deign to call his name.

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