ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy sees a little bit of Chauncey Billups in Pistons rookie Rodney Stuckey.
Both have good size and strength for point guards and are tough to keep out of the paint. But Billups has more than 100 playoff games under his belt, and Stuckey is appearing in just his second series.
The Pistons are aggressively treating Billups' strained hamstring and hope he can return for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in Orlando today. But he'll be a game-time decision, and it's not hard to guess who Van Gundy and the Magic would prefer to face.
They need a win to tie the series 2-2 before it returns to Detroit, where the Pistons have one of the league's best home records.
"[Stuckey] has had the benefit of both being a very good player, playing for a very good coach, but also having another very good point guard to watch and emulate," Van Gundy said. "Right now what he doesn't have is Chauncey's range. Stuckey can make the 3, but he doesn't have that range. And probably overall he doesn't have Chauncey's experience, which is big."
If Billups can't go, Stuckey, chosen No. 15 overall out of Eastern Washington, will make his third career NBA start on a very big stage. The Pistons actually chose him with a pick dealt from Orlando in the trade that brought in Carlos Arroyo and the now-jettisoned Darko Milicic.
"I'm not nervous. I'm never nervous," Stuckey said. "This is what I'm here to do. Basketball's not new to me. I've been doing this my whole life, so I'm not going to be scared of nothing."
Billups said yesterday he was feeling a little better, but still couldn't manage a fast walk. The Pistons planned to try a little running and a stronger workout today.
"I don't have to be 100 percent. This whole postseason I haven't been 100 percent but one or two games anyway," Billups said. "I just want to be good enough to be productive. I don't care if I even score, but I just think if I'm out there running the show and I'm taking control of the game, that's me being productive."
Pistons coach Flip Saunders likes either point guard's matchup against Orlando's Jameer Nelson - perhaps even more, on paper, the 6-foot-5 Stuckey's. Nelson is listed generously at 6 feet tall, and has been picked on by analysts throughout the playoffs as a defensive liability.
But he has also been an offensive spark for Orlando - making three 3-pointers in a momentum-swinging third quarter that gave the Magic a chance to steal Game 2 in Detroit and scoring 12 of Orlando's 30 points in the first quarter of Game 3.
"People always talk about his size, but that doesn't mean nothing when you're on the court," Magic star Dwight Howard said. "The thing is how bad do you want it, on both ends.
"Charles Barkley was 6-foot-6 but he was a great rebounder. He wanted it. Just because someone is undersized doesn't mean anything."
Howard had six blocks in Game 3 to go along with his usual double-double, holding Detroit's frontcourt trio of Rasheed Wallace, Jason Maxiell and Antonio McDyess to 11 combined points. All of them were from Wallace.
Today will be Howard's first game after earning his first career spot on the All-NBA first team in his fourth pro season. The 22-year-old averaged 20.7 points and a 14.2 rebounds to become the league's youngest rebound king.
"There really could not have been much competition at that spot, in my opinion. It had to be him this year," Van Gundy said. "He's carried us a long way. We hope he'll carry us even further."