This is a put-up or shut-up year for Rodney Stuckey.
He has a general manager who won’t offer him a contract extension.
He has a coach who isn’t entirely sold on the guard’s defensive commitment.*
And, I suspect, he’s about to have some teammates a little ticked at him.
*“Rodney Stuckey has a chance to be one of the best defensive guards in our league,” Pistons coach Kuester said at Pistons media day yesterday. “He’s just got to commit to that 24-7 for us.”
Stuckey wasn’t shy yesterday about saying he will lead the team this year.
“I’m becoming a man,” Stuckey said. “So, on the court, I have to act like a man. And that’s by being more vocal, just showing the guys that I’m willing to take pretty much the captain’s spot. So, that’s what I need to act like, like I’m the captain of this team.
“That’s just how it has to be, because in order for us to win and be good, somebody has to do that. I think the year before that and last year, we really didn’t have that on the team. Somebody needs to step up and do it.”
There were other players on those teams. Some of them might have even fancied themselves leaders. Heck, those very same players might still be on the team. I’m not so sure Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince will appreciate those comments.
Maybe Stuckey didn’t mean what he said. There were two main reasons the Pistons struggled last season: injuries and a lack of ability. A leadership void can be the type of vague talking points athletes fall back on. So, maybe that’s what happened here.
Or maybe there is a real leadership problem.
Chauncey Billups was a clear leader. When he was traded, Hamilton and Prince remained captains. As of Oct. 5 last year, the Pistons hadn’t named captains, but Kuester said Hamilton, Prince and Ben Wallace were serving as the team’s leaders.
But funny thing, I can’t find any record of the Pistons actually naming captains last season. Patrick said Hamilton, Prince and Wallace met with the referees before each game when they were healthy, so maybe they were captains. Maybe, even if it wasn’t publicly announced, every player knew who the captains were.
Or maybe Detroit never named captains. I requested clarification from the Pistons media relations department, so I’ll update when I get more info.
Either way, Stuckey has, at least through words, inserted himself as a leader.
“I have to be,” Stuckey said. “It’s my fourth year now. I’m going to be a lot more vocal this year. It’s just in my nature. It’s just my time to take over this team and just be that guy, just to be that vocal person.”
I think this is a pretty crazy move by Stuckey. He had enough on his plate already. He needs to finish better, defend better and initiate the offense better. If he does all those things – and waits out a trade of Hamilton and/or Prince – he’d progress into a leader, anyway. Why force it now? Is he that sure he’s ready?
I can take some solace in knowing Stuckey isn’t as delusional as he appeared when he was quoted recently as saying, “On paper, we are the best team in the League.”
“That was inaccurate,” Stuckey said. “He kind of wrote it down wrong. I told him that we were one of the best, one of the best, not the best team.”*
*In general, I’m tired of people saying something they regret and then blaming the media for misquoting them. I have no idea whether Stuckey was misquoted here. But even if he wasn’t, realizing his initial statement was nonsense shows at least some brains.
Stuckey sent a clear message yesterday. If Hamilton, Prince or Wallace have any reservations about leading, Stuckey let them off the hook. They now know they can depend on Stuckey to lead if they so choose. I hope those veterans cut Stuckey a break and help him lead, but I’m not sure that will happen.
They might just tell him to put up or shut up, just like Dumars has by not offering a contract extension.
I hope Stuckey knows what he’s getting himself into.
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