NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Corey Maggette is preparing to play for his sixth NBA team after an offseason trade. He was limited to only 32 games in 2011-12 because of injuries, and it wasn’t long ago he was wondering if he would even keep playing after this coming season.
That was before he had a chance to settle in with the Detroit Pistons and work with conditioning coach Arnie Kander. Now, with a new season on the horizon, his outlook has changed a bit.
“We’ll see. If you would have asked me this four months ago, it would have been no — this would be my last year,” Maggette said. “The way I’ve been working with Arnie, I’ve been through a kind of rejuvenation. We’ll just see what happens. I’m just coming in to help this team. If something happens next year, it would be great. If it doesn’t, it will be great, too.”
Maggette was acquired by the Pistons in a pre-draft deal that sent Ben Gordon to Charlotte. The trade saved Detroit about $15 million in salary, and the 32-year-old Maggette arrives with one year left on his contract. That makes him an unusual fit for a team that’s still rebuilding around younger players.
But if he’s healthy, the 6-foot-6 Maggette is a proven scorer who has averaged 16.2 points per game in his career. The Pistons can surely use a player like that, no matter how long he’ll be with the team.
“He’s a great attacker,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “When you look at both him and Rodney (Stuckey), you’re talking about two guys from the wing position that put unbelievable pressure on the defense.”
Maggette’s career scoring average is higher than any Detroit player produced in 2011-12. The Pistons had a couple solid 3-point shooters in Gordon and guard Brandon Knight, but Stuckey was really their only consistent threat to break down the defense and attack the basket.
Maggette may be able to fill that role. In 2010-11 with Milwaukee, he attempted 325 free throws in 67 games — more than any Detroit player shot last season.
“Hopefully Corey can bring that aspect to us,” forward Tayshaun Prince said. “He’s a very good free throw shooter. Stuckey’s a very good free throw shooter. If those guys can get into the lane, create some havoc down there and get us to the foul line, I think it’ll help us in an area that we’ve struggled with over the last few years — one, some easy baskets, and two, some free throws.”
Maggette has played with Orlando, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Milwaukee and Charlotte. This will be his third straight season with a new team.
He’ll have to prove he can stay healthy enough to be useful to Detroit. Last season, Maggette dealt with nagging injuries to his back, left hamstring and right Achilles tendon.
“I really like his spirit — in terms of where he’s at, his focus, what he wants to bring to the team,” Frank said. “I think he’s had a terrific offseason in terms of coming here, rehabbing, trying to get healthy and then being a part of the team and adding his wisdom.”
It’s not clear how many minutes Maggette will play at first, especially with Knight, Stuckey and Prince also on the perimeter, but the Pistons are hoping to make a run for a playoff spot this season behind youngsters like Knight, center Greg Monroe and first-round draft pick Andre Drummond. Maggette is a veteran who can provide guidance for some of the less experienced players — in much the same way Prince is being asked to do.
“I think it’s important to do that and understand that and kind of buy in,” Maggette said. “It’s not even about the contract, because who knows if I want to continue to play next year. It’s not even on my mind — the contract. My only objective now is to help this team.”
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