The last time The Easterner checked in on Rodney Stuckey, he was excelling in the latter portion of the 82-game NBA season.
After suffering a hand injury in the preseason, Stuckey recovered in time to play in 57 games, including two starts, averaging 19 minutes, 7.6 points, 2.8 assists, 2.3 rebounds and a mere 1.7 turnovers per game. His numbers earned him NBA All-Rookie Second Team accolades. Stuckey was a vital component in the Pistons second-place finish in the NBA.
Since the beginning of the postseason, Stuckey and power forward Jason Maxiell were key reserves in the Pistons sixth-straight trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
With starting point guard Chauncey Billups suffering a hamstring injury in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Stuckey has seen an exponential raise in minutes, and with the impact he’s making, Pistons’ general manager Joe Dumars finally looks good for going out on a limb by taking another mid-major conference player in the first round of NBA draft (see Rodney White).
Earning a little more than three more minutes per game in the playoffs, Stuckey’s stats aren’t necessarily much more astonishing, but the fact that he’s a rookie point guard leading a team with possibly the best starting five in the NBA has captured praise from his teammates, the media and fans. It should be noted that he is 43-48 from the free-throw line in the playoffs.
According to the Boston Globe, Celtics guard Paul Pierce said Stuckey was the “X-Factor” in the Pistons 103-97 Game 2 victory in Boston. “I don’t think the bench played that well outside of Stuckey,” Pierce told the Globe. “I thought he really gave us problems.”
“I think he was big off the bench,” teammate Richard Hamilton told the Globe. “Huge making plays when we needed plays to be made.”
Stuckey’s response? “I’m never scared,” he said. “I’m not nervous.”
“You see his maturation from the beginning of the playoffs to where he’s at,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders told the Globe. “He basically carried us at times… making shots and making plays.”
But where does Stuckey’s confidence stem from?
“I’ve got… all these guys behind me,” Stuckey told the Globe. “They keep me poised and confident every day. Just being around them and them always being confident gives me the extra energy and confidence that I need as a player and an individual.”
Watch Stuckey play up to Pierce’s “X-Factor” title in Game 4 Wednesday night, May 28, as the Pistons attempt to take a 3-2 series lead. The game will be viewed on ESPN at 5:30 p.m. PT.