For the first time since Jan. 13, Charlie Villanueva was active for a game for the Pistons.

But just because the sixth-year power forward was able to play after missing 27 straight games with an ankle injury, it did not mean coach Lawrence Frank was going to use him extensively. (Villanueva didn't play in the Pistons' 86-85 victory over the Hawks on Friday.)

The main reason: Frank must be cognizant of the team's chemistry, which has seen the Pistons win 10 of 16 games after a 4-20 start.

"You're always sensitive to where your chemistry is at," Frank said at the morning shoot-around. "Your decision to put a guy into the rotation or not putting him in the rotation is always what's best for the team.

"Like anyone else on this team, like I said (Thursday), he will have to earn his playing time, and that's how it is and that goes for everyone."

But Villanueva was available for the first time since the team's 17-point victory at Charlotte on Jan. 13. He had played sparingly before then -- getting only 6 minutes on the season.

After an MRI on Jan. 14, Villanueva was diagnosed with tendinitis and bone spurs in his right ankle, and the prognosis was rest. He returned to practice last week, but nothing can replace game action.

"I think he's definitely made progress, but there's no simulating games," Frank said. "When you've missed all the time Charlie's missed, you can't simulate, because you're talking about basically rehab for the amount of time."