Archive → May, 2009
Besides a few minutes against Houston in January, it was clear Richard Hamilton and Allen Iverson didn’t complement each other on the court. Both commanded the ball, and neither provided much the other didn’t.
Prompted by a comment from a “Bubachuck,” I did some digging into last season’s numbers.
Pistons with Iverson and not Hamilton: 6-2 (.750, equivalent to 62 wins during a full season)
Pistons with Hamilton and not Iverson: 14-7 (.667, 55 wins)
Pistons with both: 18-28 (.391, 32 wins)
Pistons with neither: 1-6 (.143, 12 wins)
I think this means a couple of things.
1. Rumors of Iverson’s demise might (emphasis on might) be exaggerated.
2. Detroit didn’t combust as much as it appears. If the Pistons had another role player instead of Iverson, they probably would have been pretty good.
Could Joe Dumars’s have convinced Denver to throw in Linas Kleiza or Chris Andersen? Add one of them and cut Iverson immediately, Detroit probably would have been the fifth, maybe even fourth, seed.
Rodney Stuckey is universally accepted as the Pistons’ future. And Will Bynum led the team in PER last season.
So, why are the Pistons considering drafting a point guard at 15?
The idea seemed curious to me. The Pistons have only had one pick this high in the last six years, and they used it on Stuckey. The Pistons need front-court players, not point guards.
But the rumor has legs, so here’s a look at the rationale behind drafting a point guard in the first round:
Stuckey at shooting guard
Joe Dumars told the the Detroit Free Press Stuckey will see more minutes at shooting guard next year:
"Playing the point can take your aggression away because you’re worried about the other four guys," the Pistons president of basketball operations said. "What this year confirmed is he’s a combo guard. We have to play him on the ball and off the ball."
At 6-foot-5, Stuckey has the height to be a shooting guard. And I like him next to Bynum in limited minutes. They play fast and aggressive, offensively and defensively. They really change the tempo (unless Detroit becomes a faster team next year. In that case, they’ll keep the tempo).
If Stuckey plays the two, the Pistons will also need a point guard who can make 3-pointers. Stuckey and Bynum would be too much of a liability in that department if they played regular minutes together.
In the end, I suspect Stuckey will still play a large majority of his minutes at point guard. He struggled last year to find the balance between creating for himself and his teammates. But he’s young and will improve. Taking the ball out of his hands doesn’t seem to be the best way to jumpstart his aggressiveness.
And if the Pistons go fast paced next year, the additional offensive possessions could ease any tensions. Not to mention, he won’t have to deal with the Richard Hamilton-Allen Iverson balancing act.
Importance of the point guard
The NBA is becoming a point guard’s league. The sheer amount of talent at the position is astounding:
- Chris Paul
- Tony Parker
- Deron Williams
- Chauncey Billups
- Devin Harris
- Jameer Nelson
- Jason Terry
- Rajon Rondo
- Jason Kidd
- Mike Bibby
- Derrick Rose
- Andre Miller
- Steve Nash
The case can even be made the four teams still playing have excellent point guards, in addition to Billups. The way LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Hedo Turkoglu run their teams’ offense, they almost act as point guards.
A few years ago, it was clearly a big man’s league. I’m not convinced that has changed, but it’s not as set as stone as it used to be.
A pick-and-roll offense is en vogue, and taking a point guard increases the chances the Pistons find someone to run it as well as Chauncey Billups did.
Detroit had the league’s 19th-best production at point guard last year, according to 82 games. Only center ranked worse. It’s a position that could use upgrading.
This draft is stacked with point guards.
Here’s Ford’s point guard-by-point guard breakdown from January.
There’s a good chance the best player available at 15 is a point guard.
My pick is Lawson. He plays fast and can shoot from the outside. When I saw him play, he just looked like he belonged in the NBA. He had the swagger and the talent.
Free agent class of 2010
The Pistons’ long-term strategy isn’t clear yet. But almost every other team in the league is shooting for the summer of 2010. It’s tough to believe Dumars won’t be in position to snag at least one free agent.
The top free agents will be looking for money (which Detroit can have available) and a winning team. Here’s a look at the players who could become unrestricted free agents next summer:
Point guard: Steve Nash
Shooting guard: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Manu Ginobili, Joe Johnson, Michael Redd, Tracy McGrady
Small forward: LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Richard Jefferson
Power forward: Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki
Center: Yao Ming, Tyson Chandler
Doesn’t one position look light? The Pistons probably won’t be landing a top free agent point guard in 2010. Since they could get a top player at any other position, it makes sense to target a point guard now.
It appears very important the Pistons have a quality point guard going forward, and the draft could be a good way to make that more likely. If a good point is available at 15, the pick seems to make sense.
Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated summed up very well what I think about Allen Iverson.
When I think back on all those great AI moments from his Philly days, are the memories selective? What about all the awed teammates left stranded (and open) on the wing, and the sidekicks he ran out of town and the fact that — oh, yeah — his was the Olympic team that finished with a bronze medal?
Maybe that 76ers run to the Finals in 2001 was more the masterwork of Larry Brown, a coach smart enough to minimize the liabilities of a 6-foot, ball-dominating two guard. After all, with Brown, AI’s Sixers averaged 45 wins in full seasons; without Brown, they averaged 34. And you can blame it on the supporting cast, but keep in mind that they didn’t get a chance to do much supporting: Iverson led the league in percentage of his team’s possessions used six times in a seven-year stretch. “There was a reason he got all the credit, and that’s because he scored most of the points,” says Eric Snow, AI’s backcourt mate in Philly. “But that team was much better than people gave us credit for. A lot of guys aren’t willing to make the sacrifices we made.”
Before he joined the Pistons, here are a few things I thought about AI:
- He’s a better on-ball defender than he gets credit for.
- Although he doesn’t choose to often, he’s a tremendous passer.
- If he wanted to be, he has the tools to be one of the league’s best pure point guards.
- He doesn’t always know the best way to do it, but deep down, he has an intense desire to win.
After seeing him up close this year, I don’t know if I should believe any of those. Maybe, at 33, he can’t do those things anymore. But maybe he never could.
When Joe Dumars first became the Pistons’ GM, he tried to trade for Iverson, but Matt Geiger used his no-trade clause to block the deal. I’d say everything worked out for Detroit, but I wonder what would have happened had the trade gone through?
Would Detroit have seen Iverson’s deficiencies sooner? Or was Iverson that much better then?
Iverson has always been a player I’ve admired from afar. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him on my team, but he was sure fun to watch.
Now, the only feeling is bitterness toward Iverson for destroying the Pistons.
So, was this a quick decline for Iverson or a revealing of what we should have realized all along?
I have no answer.
Gee, isn’t it fun to keep reading about Chauncey Billups’s unbridled success in Denver?
If you can stomach reading more about the move, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post wrote a very interesting article detailing how the Billups-Iverson trade developed.
And when Detroit asked if Melo was on the trading block, the Pistons were firmly told: no way.
“When I heard there was some talk about a trade involving Melo for me, I sat down during the summer and talked with (Pistons president) Joe Dumars,” said Billups, who loved his boss like a brother. “We talked about the whole trade situation. I told him: ‘Look, I don’t want to go anywhere. But if I’ve got to go, there’s only one place I want to be: Home. In Denver.’ And I’m sure he took that into consideration.”
The seeds of a blockbuster trade had been sown.
Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell discussed a few Manu Ginobili trade possibilities, including one with the Pistons.
Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto for Tayshaun Prince and Amir Johnson
The Detroit trade is a little more dicey. Could the Pistons play Hamilton at small forward? In the long run, I don’t think it matters. Prince and Hamilton are part of the old face, and Joe Dumars is currently giving the team a facelift. I’m not sure that either player is in Detroit’s long term plans. What matters is that Manu Ginobili is the anti-Iverson. If he plays for your team, it gets better. But even more importantly, landing Manu Ginobili would reduce Detroit’s cap by 11 million in 2010, bringing it down to around 20 million. I’m not even sure if that’s legal. And they’d still have Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton. Hello rebuild. With that kind of flexibility, the Pistons could resign Ginobili and two All-Stars in 201o to pair with Rodney Stuckey. In other words, they could become serious contenders in the space of one humid Midwestern afternoon.
I don’t think this deal makes a lot of sense, unless Richard Hamilton is also traded. It’d be a repeat of this year with two shooting guards and not enough room for both.
All the discussion about how many shots Dwight Howard should get had me interested in how well the Pistons handled shot distribution this year.
Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of how the number of shots each attempted correlated with Detroit’s winning percentage:
Optimal number of shots per game: 1
Average number of shots per game: 1.6
Analysis: He played in seven games before being traded to the Clippers. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Optimal number of shots per game: 6
Average number of shots per game: 4.1
Analysis: There’s some weak evidence the Pistons would be better off with Afflalo taking as many as five shots more per game than he did this year. In all likelihood, that’s not actually a good idea.
Optimal number of shots per game: 11
Average number of shots per game: 10.5
Analysis: The numbers say Detroit was better when Billups took shots.
Optimal number of shots per game: 6
Average number of shots per game: 2.9
Analysis: There’s a slight chance Brown is the Pistons’ starting center at the beginning of next season. On the bright (less dim?) side, Detroit appears to do slightly better when Brown takes more shots than he averaged this year.
Optimal number of shots per game: 8
Average number of shots per game: 6.0
Analysis: The numbers here are so up and down, there’s not much to take from them. Bynum’s role changed so much — from out of the rotation to go-to guy in the fourth quarter.
Optimal number of shots per game: 15
Average number of shots per game: 15.6
Analysis: Once Pistons coach Michael Curry benched Hamilton, the guard decided to take control of the offense. He held the ball longer, which results in more scoring — but more turnovers, too.
The Pistons are better when he’s an efficient scorer (9-to-15 shots per game) instead of a volume shooter. Here’s hoping he returns to that mentality next year (if he’s still in Detroit).
Optimal number of shots per game: 6
Average number of shots per game: 3.5
Analysis: The Pistons had a jump in production once Herrmann took five shots in a game. This made Curry’s decisions to bring Herrmann of the bench for the first time in the fourth quarter all the more troubling. A shooter like Herrmann needs the time on the court to develop a rhythm.
On the flip side, if you’re relying on Walter Herrmann to take double-digit shots, you’re probably not going to win.
Optimal number of shots per game: 15
Average number of shots per game: 14.7
Analysis: Warning to everyone considering Allen Iverson for next year: His teams still do better when he takes a lot of shots. Besides no signs he’d even take a lesser role, these numbers don’t show he could make that work.
Optimal number of shots per game: 6
Average number of shots per game: 2.6
Analysis: These numbers probably don’t reflect much because Johnson doesn’t typically look for his own shot. He can finish on the fastbreak and gets putbacks. So, if he’s taking a lot of shots, the Pistons are probably doing other things right that lead to wins.
Optimal number of shots per game: 4
Average number of shots per game: 4.1
Analysis: His chart is pretty horizontal, which makes sense. Maxiell doesn’t do much besides score inside. His ability to do that doesn’t seem to change much, regardless of how many looks he gets. So, Detroit performs about the same — no matter how many shots Maxiell takes.
Optimal number of shots per game: 8
Average number of shots per game: 8.5
Analysis: The Pistons are a little better when McDyess takes a lower-to-average number of shots. He’s too talented to disappear offensively. But at his age, he can’t be relied upon to carry too much of the load.
Optimal number of shots per game: 14
Average number of shots per game: 12.4
Analysis: If anyone should get more shots, it’s Prince. But it’s his passivity that’s to blame more than coaching strategy.
Optimal number of shots per game: 2
Average number of shots per game: 1.4
Analysis: Give Sharpe the ball! Look at that steep upward slope above.
Optimal number of shots per game: 10
Average number of shots per game: 11.6
Analysis: He definitely needed a bigger role than what he had at the beginning of this season. But he’s not ready to carry the scoring load. Detroit’s performance was way too up and down when his shot totals reached the 20s.
Optimal number of shots per game: 15
Average number of shots per game: 10.9
Analysis: When he shoots too little, he’s disinterested in the game. When he shoots too much, a lot of those are probably 3-pointers. Neither is good for his team. His shot total should be in the middle range.
I chatted with Jason Smith of NBA Today about what the Pistons will try to do this offseason and reflected on Chuck Daly. The segment begins at the 19:38 mark.
In his Chauney Billups feature, Tom Friend of ESPN wrote:
He begins packing at the team hotel, when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Hamilton and Prince, the trio together one last time. They embrace, cry, laugh and reminisce. They call Ben Wallace, a Cavalier now, and put him on speaker phone. Wallace tells them, "I told you how they are." Hamilton is the most affected of all. He has just signed an extension, and he tells Chauncey he wants to be traded now, that if he’d known they were going to trade Chauncey, he never would’ve re-upped in Detroit.
Chris McCosky of the Detroit News offers some clarification:
OK, the truth is, Hamilton hadn’t signed his extension. He’d agreed to it, but the team was on the road. When they got back, Joe Dumars called Hamilton into his office. He held the unsigned contract between his thumbs. He basically told Hamilton, if you are so upset, we can tear this contract up right now. Hamilton signed it.
These excerpts aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, I’d say they’re probably both true. Hamilton likely told Billups he wanted out immediately after the trade. Then once he had more time to think, he decided to sign the extension.
This jives with a column Michael Rosenberg of the Free Press wrote in December. Via Full Court Press (because it’s no longer available on the Free Press’s site):
And speaking of business: A few weeks ago, Billups said he didn’t think Rip would have signed his three-year contract extension if he had known the trade was coming. Remember, Hamilton signed just days before the deal went down. I asked Hamilton if Billups was right.
"Well, Chaunce … you know what I’m saying, Chaunce …" he said, searching for the right words. "I love the city of Detroit. When I came here from Day 1, this is somewhere that I wanted to retire. When I got the opportunity to play in the playoffs for the first time, got the opportunity to win a championship, I always felt this is where I wanted to be."
Hey, everyone. Long time behind-the-scenes contributor, first time author.
Unless you’ve been with us from the TrueHoop launch or have been bored enough to click through to our About page, you probably don’t know that I even exist, so I feel an introduction is in order. I’m Graham Simmington, and I do all the sleight-of-hand behind the scenes to keep PistonPowered up and running. I won’t be posting frequently, but I’ll keep you up to date on new features and the occasional technical difficulty.
Dan and I have just added a few new features to the left sidebar that we’d like you to know about. First, PistonPowered now has a delicious feed called The Glove Compartment, a place for us to stash bits of news that are interesting, but don’t quite merit a post of their own. Second, PistonPowered has decided to join the microblogging revolution and now has an account on Twitter. Follow us at @PistonPowered. Hopefully, we won’t get lazy and abandon traditional blogging all together, but no guarantees.
Seriously, you might want to follow us just in case.
Tom Friend of ESPN wrote an excellent piece called “The Disposable Superstar” about Chauncey Billups. An excerpt:
The truth is, there’s something right with Chauncey. He’s like a psychologist to the NBA stars. On a night he’s watching "Desperate Housewives" with Faye on Poplar Street, Hamilton calls from Detroit to complain about being benched. Hamilton goes on so long, Chauncey misses the whole hourlong episode. The Pistons are absolutely lost without him. Before he left, Chauncey had been Pistons head coach Michael Curry’s truest ally, and even had hired Curry’s sister-in-law to be his nanny. But, without Chauncey, Curry has no sergeants, no one to talk Rasheed Wallace off the ledge or lower Hamilton’s blood pressure.
But the Nuggets are grateful to have him, and team camaraderie skies through the roof. When the players notice Chauncey always finger-rolls his layups — to preserve energy — Martin promises to give him $500 if he ever dunks. Then, in Minnesota, Chauncey slams one, and the bench is in stitches. "Did we know he’d be this good for us? No," Karl says. "He’s a gift from the basketball gods."
It has been a stunning transformation. And as the Nuggets enter the building, one by one, for their playoff opener against New Orleans, their two most talented, enigmatic players — Anthony and Smith — are dressed to kill. Anthony is wearing a grey pinstripe suit, and Smith is wearing black dress pants. Chauncey has made them pull up their britches.
"’Melo and J.R. have dressed up more this year than they ever have," team executive Rex Chapman says. "Not that that wins games for you, but Chauncey’s taught them it’s OK not to be on cool duty all the time."
Smith, in particular, tells people no one has ever influenced him more than Chauncey. On the court, Chauncey wants him talking on defense, and off the court, Chauncey wants him out of clubs. And Smith is all ears. After a game one night, Smith asks Chauncey why he only shot six times, and Chauncey tells him, "I read the game. I don’t play for stats. I don’t play for none of that no more. I play for the win." Smith’s reaction: "Damn. Makes sense."
Anthony’s basketball IQ is up, too. His only major negative incident comes March 1 in Indiana, when he refuses to come out of a game. That night, Anthony had been struggling with his shot, and when he finally hit a couple in a row, he didn’t want to sit. The front office suspends him one game, but in his first game back he sprints off the floor whenever Karl takes him out. Apparently, Chauncey’s idea.
The rise is so much more fun than the fall. This made me think back to when the Pistons were growing up together.
- Billups was learning how to take over.
- Ben Wallace was developing his swagger.
- Richard Hamilton was taking over the role of best runner in the league from Reggie Miller.
- Tayshaun Prince was becoming more assertive.
- And Rasheed Wallace was out to prove he wasn’t a cancer.
Now, Billups and Ben Wallace are gone. Rasheed Wallace is a malcontent. Hamilton is a whiner. And Prince is passive.
Denver fans, enjoy this while you can.
(It was incredibly difficult to pick that excerpt. The whole article is excellent. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.)
Draft prospects from the Badger State
Wisconsin forward Marcus Landry and Marquette shooting guard Wesley Mathews will work out for the Pistons, according to Gery Woelfel of The (Racine, Wis.) Journal Times.
I’ve seen Landry play a few times, and he doesn’t seem to have NBA talent. But he plays hard, defends well and can shoot a little bit.
His brother, Carl, is a productive bench player for the Rockets.
Lakers not worth it
Check out this Bill Plaschke column in the Los Angeles Times after Rockets blew out the Lakers. It’s one of the most creative pieces I’ve read in a while.
When I sat down to write about Chuck Daly, I didn’t know what to say. Sure, Daly was around when the Pistons were at their peak. But what part of that success belongs to him?
Daly was before my time, and the details and stories of his life aren’t as well known as say, Bo Schembechler. Daly has the reputation of a good coach, a good guy and someone with a lot style. But I didn’t know many of the details.
And that’s part of Daly’s magic.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who Daly mentored in Orlando, credited Daly with simplifying everything. From Tim Povtak of AOL FanHouse:
"I always tell my coaches now that I thought Chuck was a genius at taking things that looked complicated and making them very simple. He could sum things up. If you thought you had a crisis — and I had a ton of them in Orlando with the Grant Hill injuries – I’d call Chuck. There were times when I thought the whole freaking sky was caving in, and he’d say some simple thing, and I’d think ‘why didn’t I see that.’ "
"He just had a way of making complicated things very simple, not only for himself, but for others, for his players. I thought that was his secret.”
Behind all the simplicities I knew about Daly, there was a web of complications. Daly took myths and transformed them. He made them better. He made them real. There was always more than met the eye when Daly was involved.
Daly was a pure coach
Daly was named one of the top 10 coaches of all time in 1996. He coached the 1992 Dream Team. And the Pistons retired the No. 2 in honor his two championships.
But when he came to Detroit in 1983, he was a washout. Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien had fired him the year before (and replaced him with Bill Musselman, who he had fired the previous season and four coaches prior).
Stepien traded away so many first-round picks for marginal talent, the NBA instituted a rule prohibiting teams from trading consecutive first-rounders. He obviously didn’t know how to run a franchise, but Daly was just 9-32 in Cleveland.
Daly had been a successful head coach at Penn, but his NBA credentials were lacking. He had to take quite the pay cut to join the Pistons. From the Detroit News:
It’s believed to be a three-year deal for about $125,000 per season. Daly said he had a $500,000 deal over three years at Cleveland in 1981-82 where he lasted only 41 games and was fired with a 9-32 record.
"This one is not quite that good," admitted Daly.
Daly quickly turned his reputation around. The Pistons made the playoffs in each of Daly’s nine seasons at the helm. They hadn’t had a winning record in the six year’s prior to Daly’s arrival.
After leaving Detroit, Daly took the Nets to the playoffs both years he spent with New Jersey. And he upgraded the Magic from a .500 team his first year in Orlando to a .667 team the next year.
Daly was never named Coach of the Year in the NBA or NCAA. But maybe that’s because he hid all the troubles of coaching and made it look easy.
The Bad Boys were a collection of hard-working players that had great chemistry
Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, Mark Aguirre, James Edwards, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and Dennis Rodman were the stars of the Bad Boys era.
Because Chuck Daly let them be.
Coaching in the NBA isn’t about the Xs and Os. It’s about managing personalities. Talent, when properly channeled, wins out. And Daly knew how to get through to each player.
He pushed Thomas’s passion into defense and let Thomas feel like he was running the team.
He gave Laimbeer direction in the role of Thomas’s lieutenant.
He left Dumars alone.
He was a father-figure for Rodman.
He openly challenged Aguirre’s pride.
The list goes on and on.
Daly made the team work together perfectly. He knew which buttons to push. He had a collection of volatile personalities completing each other.
Most impressively, he made it look so easy he rarely got the credit he deserved for such a tough task.
Daly was “Daddy Rich”
John Sally nicknamed Daly “Daddy Rich” for his fancy suits. It seems Daly relished having the reputation of a big spender. It probably helped him connect with his highly paid players.
But it was just an image.
In reality, Daly was cheap. He grew up during the Depression. According to a 1997 Orlando Sentinel story, his high school nickname was “hungry” because his family couldn’t always afford to eat.
Matt Dobek has been head of Pistons public relations for 25 years and when Daly was coach and wanted to go out for dinner, he always made sure Dobek was with him to pay.
"He never picked up a check," Dobek said. "We could charge everything to the team. But that was Chuck. He didn’t like spending money."
When Daly was hired by the Nets in 1992, he received a three-year contract worth $4 million but he still insisted on a free condo and then got a deal for his expensive suits from Hugo Boss.
"Chuck had a deal for everything," Thorn said. "And I mean everything. If you had to pay for it, Chuck didn’t want it."
I thought about the times I would see him during the late 80s and early 90s when we would shake hands and he’d say, "Good to see you. Listen, you owe me any money?"
But Daly always knew when to spend money. More from McCallum:
And I thought about that time in November of 2005 when Chuck came to speak at a scholarship banquet I helped organize. When I had told him how much we could afford to pay him, he said, "What? Are you kidding me?" Then he flew round-trip from Florida to Pennsylvania and did the gig for nothing.
Daly was a nice guy
Charles Barkley fought with the Bad Boys as much as anyone not on the Celtics or Bulls. But he always respected their leader.
"I never understood how a great man and nice guy coached the Bad Boys," Charles Barkley said.
Daly spread that image, too. From the Free Press:
What, the reporter wanted to know, would Daly like as an epitaph?
"I really would rather not think about it," he said.
But he did, and he answered: "Nice guy. . . . I’d like to be known as a nice guy."
Death has a way of brining out the best in people, so Daly might be remembered that way.
But he shouldn’t be.
He might be a nice guy off the court, but you can’t ignore the years he spent on it. I don’t buy for one second Daly was above the Bad Boys. He put it together. He orchestrated it. He oversaw it. The Pistons played exactly how he wanted.
They were a team that embodied their city, perhaps, better than any other ever has. And the Pistons were coached by a guy whose roots were so Eastern.
Daly, who was born in Punxsutawney, PA, and coached Penn to four Ivy League titles, was much more Philadelphia than Detroit. But he made it work wonderfully.
And it looked so simple. Finally, I’m beginning to appreciate how well he did it.