CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - With glimpses of good news on and off the court near the end of another miserable season, the Detroit Pistons see reason for optimism.
It's just uncertain if that future will include coach John Kuester.
Shortly after Kuester made a case to return next season, the Pistons' bench put on a display not seen in nearly three years in a 112-101 victory over the reeling Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday night.
Rodney Stuckey scored 24 points, fellow reserve Charlie Villanueva added 20 and Detroit's 68 bench points were the most since it had 71 in the final game of the 2007-08 season. The reserves helped overcome a 15-point hole dug by the starters to snap an 11-game road losing streak.
Detroit won its third straight overall and second in three days since billionaire California investor Tom Gores reached a deal to buy the team.
``We've got a new owner. Get young, run a lot more and just change the atmosphere around here,' Stuckey said. ``We've got to get back to the old days that Detroit basketball has been. Hopefully, this new owner can come in and make tremendous changes.'
Kuester is hoping those changes don't include him.
Entering the night with a .342 winning percentage at the end of a second season marred by turmoil, Kuester was asked if he deserves to return for the third and final year of his contract.
``You're in a business where you're in it to win. If you're not continually winning, I understand,' Kuester said. ``But do I feel comfortable and confident in doing the job? Absolutely.'
The banged-up Bobcats, who made their own coaching change earlier this season when ex-Pistons boss Larry Brown was fired, are limping to the end of the season with six straight losses.
Gerald Henderson scored 21 points, Boris Diaw added 16 of his 20 points in the first quarter and Kwame Brown had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Bobcats, who led 40-25 after the first quarter.
But that record-setting start couldn't prevent another embarrassing home loss thanks to its suspect bench. Charlotte, playing of late with only nine healthy players, recently gave Washington its third road win of the season and fell at home to woeful Cleveland in its tumble out of playoff contention.
``If I would have played my first unit the whole game, then I think we would have had a shot. But you can't do that,' coach Paul Silas said. ``I'm taking a look at everybody and I want everybody to come with it. It's been difficult.'
Charlotte remained without top scorer Stephen Jackson (hamstring), sixth man Tyrus Thomas (knee) and backup point guard Shaun Livingston. The Bobcats shot 54 percent but allowed Detroit to shoot 56 percent to continue a slide that at least is helping secure better odds in next month's draft lottery.
``We needed to play better defense and we didn't do it,' Henderson said.
Detroit, which played a third straight game without Will Bynum and Ben Wallace because of sore knees, also didn't have DaJuan Summers (illness). But the rest of the reserves more than made up for it.
Stuckey, who played most of the way ahead of starter Tracy McGrady, shot 8 of 18 and added 11 assists. Villanueva hit 8 of 15 shots and grabbed six rebounds. Jason Maxiell added 10 points and seven boards.
Detroit's five reserves outscored its starters by 24 points.
``Any time a guard is smaller than me we try to put myself in the post, get some easy touches like that,' Stuckey said of Charlotte's D.J. Augustin. ``It also helps me dishing it out to my teammates as well. Charlie's making some big shots for us. Max and our whole bench just came out and did a good job today.'
The Bobcats looked nothing like the NBA's second-lowest scoring team in the first quarter. With Detroit providing little resistance and Diaw shooting 6 of 7, the Bobcats tied a franchise record with 17 field goals, shot 77 percent from the field and watched Augustin dish out a team-record nine assists.
Trouble was, the Bobcats managed 38 points over the next two quarters. Austin Daye's 3-pointer with 5:59 left put the carefree Pistons ahead 101-87.
``Trying to make the playoffs is not there,' Villanueva said, ``so just go out there and play.'
Notes: Silas expects to be stuck with nine players for the final two games of the season. ``I can't really foresee anybody coming back at this time,' he said at shootaround. ... Silas would like the Bobcats to re-sign Brown, set to become an unrestricted free agent. ``It wouldn't surprise me if other teams are looking at him, also, so that's not for me to decide,' Silas said. ``But for me, personally, I'd like to have him back.' ... Kuester believes Pistons rookie F Greg Monroe ``has improved as much as anybody in the league' this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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