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posted: 1/11/2010 12:01 AM

Grass not so green for Gordon in Detroit

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  • Former Bull Ben Gordon, center, fights for the ball.

    Former Bull Ben Gordon, center, fights for the ball.
    Associated Press file


When Ben Gordon agreed to sign with Detroit last summer, he raved about his recruiting pitch from Pistons general manager Joe Dumars.

"Being a good team is not enough. Their goal is to win a championship," Gordon said that night in a phone interview. "To me, that's everything I wanted to hear from a GM. It was easy to sell me on that. I won in high school; I won in college. My basketball legacy won't be complete unless I win an NBA ring and that's what I'm about."

Needless to say, this isn't what Gordon signed up for. When they arrive at the United Center for Monday's game against the Bulls, the Pistons will be trying to avoid their 13th straight loss.

Already, this is the team's longest losing streak in 15 years. Even worse, 9 of the 12 losses have been by double digits. Against Philadelphia on Saturday at the Palace, Detroit trailed by 26 at halftime.

"Quite simply, it just looks like we don't have a rhythm," Gordon said following the 104-94 loss to the Sixers. "Guys are not getting shots where they're supposed to get them. We don't have a great ball movement. We have a good effort at times, but sometimes it's not combined with smart play."

The Pistons (11-24) have been swamped by injuries. Mainstays Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have missed 26 games each and lately, sparkplug guard Will Bynum has been out with two sore ankles.

But don't forget, few people thought these pieces would fit together in the first place, with four scoring guards in Gordon, Hamilton, Bynum and Rodney Stuckey, and no real distributor.

Stuckey and Prince sat out the second half against Philadelphia with knee injuries, so there is no telling what lineup might take the floor against the Bulls, who are 2-0 against Detroit this season.

"We just have to keep fighting," Gordon said Saturday. "Just go out there and play as hard as we can, try to play together, and just have faith that it will turnaround if we continue to do that."

• Bulls rookie James Johnson has made slow and steady progress this season. He didn't make many positive contributions early on, but he managed to cut back on his mistakes and has started to help.

He had a funny comment following Saturday's win over Minnesota when asked about his improvement.

"I got way more comfortable on the court now," Johnson said. "The confidence really helped me. I'm just trying to help my team win and that's it. I'm not trying to do anything spectacular."

Really? So why was his first basket against the Timberwolves a driving tomahawk dunk that brought the house down?

"The lane opened up and I'm aggressive to the hoop," the 6-foot-8 forward from Wake Forest said with a laugh. "That's what my teammates want me to be and need me to be. I do it in practice all the time, so finally I got to bring it out to the UC."

Johnson was a tough guy to figure early this season. He has plenty of perimeter skills and seems well-suited to play small forward. But while he can jump out of the gym, it was questionable if he had the speed to guard opposing threes. The jury is still out on that one.

Johnson's contributions are still relatively minor. Saturday was one of his best games and he scored 6 points. But his steady progress, rather than wild performance swings, might be a good sign.

• Here's an interesting statistic about John Salmons and his outside shooting: Salmons started the season a miserable 5-for-26 from 3-point range in the Bulls' opening five games.

Take that away and he hasn't been that bad. Since the sixth game, Salmons is shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range. In the last eight contests, Salmons has made an impressive 15 of 26 shots from behind the arc, good for 57.7 percent.

Kirk Hinrich has had a similar transformation. He's shooting 47.7 percent (21-for-44) from 3-point range since Dec. 19. That's also around the time the Bulls started playing better, going 7-5 since that date.