Charlie Villanueva is the latest player to enter John Kuester’s doghouse.
Following a verbal altercation with his coach Wednesday during a loss to Miami, Villanueva was benched Friday for the first time this season. Villanueva was frustrated about getting pulled early in the fourth quarter against the Heat and playing less than nine minutes. He never left the bench in Cleveland on Friday, even though he didn’t anticipate any punishment for his outburst.
“Guess I’m grounded,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva was one of only two players who dressed but didn’t shed his warmups. Austin Daye received extended playing time off the bench in Villanueva’s place. Daye had 12 points in 28 minutes but went scoreless in the second half.
“What we’re trying to do is search for things,” Kuester said. “I communicated with him where the rotation’s going to be. AD had 12 points at halftime, and I liked what saw from AD, so I stayed with him.”
Kuester denied Villanueva had been dropped from the rotation and added he should stay ready. Villanueva disputed Kuester’s claim that they discussed the rotation prior to the game but hopes he’ll be back in action against Indiana on Saturday.
Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tracy McGrady have also gone through stretches where Kuester has taken away playing time for disciplinary reasons.
“We’ll see what happens, but I’m going to be ready, though, like he said,” Villanueva said.
Regardless of what happens the final 10 games, it’s been another disappointing season for Villanueva, who signed a five-year free agent contract prior to last season. He was averaging 14 points prior to Jan. 1, but his average has dropped to 11.1 per game. When he’s not scoring, Villanueva provides little else, as he’s usually a defensive liability and doesn’t rebound as well as most power forwards.
Kuester also benched Villanueva for a late-March game against Miami last season because of lack of production. Villanueva was restored to the rotation the following game. Only Kuester knows if history will repeat itself Saturday.
CAVALIERS 97, PISTONS 91: The Pistons found a way to lose to the worst team in the league, as forward J.J. Hickson had 24 points and 15 rebounds Friday. Detroit scored 52 points in the paint but gave up 54 and also got outrebounded 51-39. A late comeback was sidetracked by turnovers, as the Pistons made five in the fourth quarter.
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