HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Anyone remember Charlie Villanueva?
He might be easy to forget, because he played just 180 minutes last season and because the Pistons have gone 82-148 (.357) since he since he signed a huge contract three years ago.
Villanueva had a promising start to his career, finishing second (behind Chris Paul) in Rookie of the Year voting in 2006. And he averaged 16.2 points for the Bucks in 2008-09. But he’s never been on a playoff team and it’s clear that Pistons president Joe Dumars wasted his 2009 cap space on Villanueva and Ben Gordon (who was traded to Charlotte in the offseason for Corey Maggette).
At this point, with two years and $16.6 million left on his contract, Villanueva is one of those guys who hasn’t come close to making the most of his talent. And he isn’t thought of very highly by Pistons fans, who probably would have liked Dumars to waive Villanueva via the amnesty clause. But Villanueva will be back next season, and he’s out to turn his career back around.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press caught up with Charlie V at a camp he’s running for kids in Detroit…
Looking at the $32 million he has earned over a seven-year career, Villanueva has grown into a successful NBA player — at least, financially.
But Villanueva, 27, is coming off arguably the toughest year of his professional career, during which he became even more a source of scorn from fans.
So some of those lessons learned about coping with adversity probably come in handy.
“There are things that happen that sometimes you can’t control, and people can’t understand that,” he said Sunday. “They don’t know the whole story, but absolutely I use some of it.
“You hear it, but I don’t let it affect me. It just drives you to get better. You use it as motivation and carry a chip on your shoulder. That’s the approach I’m taking, and I’m just ready to get on the floor.”
Villanueva has to be admired for the work he’s done for kids with alopecia areata. And no matter what happens from here on out, he’s made an impact off the court.
But his time in the league may be running out. Villanueva can talk about playing better next season, but if he wants to really earn some of that $16.6 million left on his deal, he’s got to walk the walk.