I kind of felt the same way about this year’s Detroit Pistons. On paper, their talent level oozed optimism, and with a few breaks, they could have potentially contended for a middle-of-the-pack playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which of course, would have been a really good turnaround.
Instead, there was no good and no in-between for these Pistons. It was bad all the way around.
It’s startling that this team is suddenly so insignificant in today’s NBA. The only time the Pistons make a murmur is when they’re verbally jousting in the news with their embattled head coach John Kuester, refusing to re-enter games, permanently benching a one-time star of a championship era (Richard Hamilton), or staging a multiple-player protest and skipping practice.
That’s not just bad, that’s downright ugly. That makes one envious of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had a NBA-record 27-game losing streak earlier this season.
I bring up Thomas’ quote today because the Pistons then and the Pistons now are in the same boat – a team holding on to once proud, aging veterans and a roster in need of a complete make-over. With a 26-51 record and five games remaining, this off-season cannot come quick enough for these Pistons, and if there’s any justice, it will be the most resounding stretch in shaping this franchise in some time.
This team is too perimeter-oriented, and comparing the chemistry on the court from ‘03 to now is like trying to relate country music to gangsta rap. In other words, aside from promising rookie power forward Greg Monroe and maybe injured small forward Jonas Jerebko — a fan favorite for his hustle — no one on this roster should be safe from being moved.
That includes fourth-year guard Rodney Stuckey, who blew off Kuester on Sunday and refused to re-enter the game in a blowout loss to the Celtics. If someone could please scream at the top of their lungs: Stuckey isn’t a true point guard and never will be! If someone, anyone offers a fair trade for him, don’t blink! Just say “yes”!
Obviously, any personnel movement depends on the eventual sale of the Pistons, which at one point a couple months ago, seemed like a done deal with billionaire businessman Tom Gores. Instead, negotiations have dragged out. Fortunately, sources have told the Detroit Free Press a deal could be completed in a couple weeks.
When, or if, it does happen, it would be a huge surprise if Gores doesn’t immediately recommend firing Kuester, who simply hasn’t shown he’s capable of running an NBA team. People may suggest that the Pistons are full of selfish prima donnas who aren’t respecting authority, but one must wonder if the whining and complaining is warranted. It seems crazy there’s more player drama now then there ever was with Rasheed Wallace or Allen Iverson on the team.
The NBA is a player’s league, and Kuester — with his questionable game and player management — hasn’t shown he deserves the respect from the players.
If Kuester is a lame duck, then the man who hired him, president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, is a stuffed turkey. Dumars has remarkably gone unscathed in the media for his questionable personnel decisions during the past five seasons, and maybe that’s a reflection of the remarkable job he did in building Detroit’s 2003 championship team.
But how many negatives must accumulate before the positive becomes irrelevant? Take a look at some of Dumars’ questionable moves during the past few seasons and tell me he still deserves to stay:
Drafting flop Darko Milicic in the 2003 NBA Draft over superstars Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. This decision will haunt Dumars forever.
Trading rock-solid point guard Chauncey Billups to Denver for Iverson, who played one uneventful and unsuccessful season in Detroit.
Signing Charlie Villenueva and Ben Gordon to monster free agent contracts totaling a combined $90 million over five years. The deals have left the Pistons strapped in the salary cap, and the duo haven’t lived up to their end of the “bargin.” Together, they have started a combined 38 games this season and are both averaging around 11 points per game.
Shipping away promising guard Arron Afflalo to Denver for a measly 2nd-round draft pick so Dumars could sign Gordon and Villanueva. Affalo is averaging close to 13 points per game as a much cheaper price for the Nuggets.
Hiring five different coaches since 2001. The bad news is, after Larry Brown left in 2004, the hires have gotten significantly worse. The instability has made Detroit far less attractive to both potential new players and coaches.
I understand Dumars is an adored fixture in Detroit sports, but that shouldn’t save him from turning a proud franchise just a few seasons ago into a modern-day soap opera.
Dumars dealt his own hand, but with a new dealer in Gores possibly coming to town, it’s most likely to bust.