Villanueva Needs To Prove To Detroit Pistons That He's Worth the Price

By John Raffel

Charlie Villanueva is still waiting to prove he’s worth all the money the Detroit Pistons signed him to three years ago. But there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to deliver that proof while he’s still playing for the Pistons.

Villanueva is in the fourth year of a five-year $37.7 million deal that the 6-foot-11 power forward signed with the Pistons. But with the start of the preseason nearly a month away, it’s likely the organization will bank on Villanueva having his best season…provided he stays healthy.

Villanueva was visibly disappointed the last week of the 2011-12 regular season as he reflected on a campaign marred by injury.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. It was the first time I’ve experienced it. Everything happens for a reason. It happened. I was frustrated. I need to take care of my body and try to get healthy.”

Villanueva saw action in 13 games last season and averaged 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds. But it’s below his career averages of 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. But Villanueva is determined to prove that his injury problems are a mile behind him.

“I’m healthy, I’m good. I’m just happy to play, it’s been so long, it’s being able to play,” he said.

But in his three seasons with Detroit, Villanueva has played for a one-time perennial playoff squad that seems to have forgotten how to make the playoffs.

Last season, the Pistons were 25-41.

“We made tremendous progress after a 4-20 start,” Villanueva said.

The Pistons were .500 after that disastrous start.

There’s been talk about moving Villanueva elsewhere this season or next but his hefty price tag makes him a gamble. A strong season in 2012-13 could make him more attractive next offseason. But it might also tempt the Pistons to keep him on for at last one more year.

“I’ve just tried to provide spark,” he said. “Like I said injuries were frustrating, but towards the end of the season I felt like I was getting into the flow of the game and getting more comfortable in our offense.”

Expect the Pistons to make Villanueva a key part of their offense this season, but to look to unload him next year, especially if he continues to fall short of expectations.

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