Archive → February, 2011
I’m told Hamilton not only cursed out Kuester on a regular basis, but told him to "shut up" during practices, and that he and others regularly referred to Kuester as a bum who couldn’t coach.
At what will the remaining Richard Hamilton apologists accept valid reason exists for his benching.
Aldridge also accepts the franchise’s version of events:
Wallace was with his brother; Prince legitimately had a bad back and McGrady was actually ill. The Pistons insist the initial reports of an organized mutiny were overblown. But perception has trumped reality.
Some things don’t add up, though.
- Why did the Pistons initially say Prince had the flu?
- Why did McGrady attend the 76ers game, but not the Jazz game?
- Why didn’t Wallace play against Philadelphia? Did John Kuester make that large a blunder? When you consider the fishiness of the previous two bullets, that’s difficult (although not impossible) to believe.
Joe Dumars released a statement this afternoon:
“First of all, John Kuester has my full support as we try to make a push towards the postseason over these last 21 games. We’ve had a long and proud history of being a first class organization that handles its business the right way. We expect everyone that represents the Detroit Pistons to do so in a first class manner and that will continue as we move forward.”
- This should have come sooner, but better late than never.
- A lot of people have wondered why the alleged boycotters have denied a boycott. After all, isn’t the reason for a boycott to prove a point? If nobody knows you were trying to prove a point, what’s the point? I don’t think this protest was directed at convincing the public of anything, thus the public denials. I think this protest was meant to appeal to one man. He just told the boycotters to sit down and shut up.
- The Pistons aren’t making the playoffs. They should be trying to “make a push towards the postseason,” even if it’s in vain. I won’t knock Dumars a lick for mentioning the playoffs, no matter how unrealistic they are.
- Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News talked to briefly Dumars and then wrote, “He said he’s not dodging responsibility. He accepts it. He just doesn’t want to add to the verbal noise right now, with the pending sale. While I don’t fully agree with that approach, I understand it.” I’m with Wojo. Dumars’ course as far as facing public scrutiny is reasonable, but everyone would have been off if he stood in front of reporters and faced questions.
For those of you who’ve read me at only PistonPowered, this series we’re kicking off today might be unfamiliar. But last season while writing about the Pistons for MLive.com, I did weekly profiles of NBA Draft prospects to pass the time in what was becoming a boring second half of the season. (Here is the MLive Draft Dreams archive.) Hopefully, the second-annual Draft Dreams will have a similar effect this year — instead of talking about botched mutiny attempts, we can fantasize about how the Pistons will magically fill their frontcourt and point guard needs in the draft since they have a first-round pick and a couple of second rounders this year. These profiles will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
When deciding how to kick off this series, I wanted to go with a player who people would know but one who may not necessarily be a star yet — we’ll leave the Kyrie Irving fantasies for later in the process, when we get closer to the draft.
So who better than Michigan’s Darius Morris? The U-M guard has shown tremendous improvement in his second season. Scary improvement actually. Especially for Michigan fans, who spent half the season bragging about how well Morris was playing, then slowly started having the realization sink in that, ‘Damn … this dude is a legit NBA prospect right now,’ all the while praying he doesn’t leave.
But me? I’m not a U-M basketball fan anymore (and I won’t come back until I see Chris Webber’s number hanging in Ann Arbor again someday). So, I can think of nothing more appropriate than seeing Morris make himself into a first-round prospect the remainder of this season and heading to the league. Sorry Feldman.
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, sophomore point guard from Michigan
Key stats: 15.8 points, 6.8 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 4.0 rebounds per game, shooting 50 percent from the field
Projected: Second round
How would he help the Pistons?
No one would’ve called Morris an NBA prospect a year ago. It’s not that he had a bad freshman season, he just wasn’t spectacular. He was a role-playing freshman on a Michigan team that fell far short of expectations after winning a NCAA tournament game the year before. But his ascension this season has been remarkable, and it shows that he takes working on his game seriously, which is about the most crucial characteristic other than talent when evaluating draft prospects.
Morris has led a Michigan team that has overachieved this season and is threatening to get in the tourney even though most predicted they’d finish near the bottom of the Big Ten. Morris controls the game from the point-guard spot. He’s unselfish, and running a Michigan offense that is reliant on the perimeter game, Morris would be a good addition to a Piston team that also has several players more comfortable shooting from outside rather than creating off the dribble or posting up.
Morris also has excellent size, a key the Pistons should seek in any potential point guard if the team is committed to the idea of the smallish Ben Gordon at shooting guard.
Morris is a high-efficiency shooter at 50 percent for the season. To add a guard to the mix on the Pistons roster who shoots at a high percentage would be a great addition, since the team has its share of low-percentage volume shooters.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
Two key areas that are kind of surprising when it comes to Morris: he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers particularly well (26 percent) playing in an offense that loves guys to jack up 3s, and he doesn’t shoot well from the free throw line (69 percent).
Drafting him also wouldn’t do much to alleviate the perimeter glut, considering no roster move seems imminent, even if one is needed, and the Pistons might still be committed to giving Terrico White, last year’s second round pick, and extended look at the point next season. Morris is not the athlete White is, or even the athlete Rodney Stuckey or Will Bynum are. He is, however, a true point guard and not a scorer who would be an intriguing prospect if he could make the switch.
What are others saying?
From a physical standpoint, Morris has great size and length for the point guard position at 6’4” with a very impressive frame. Always looking to make things happen with the ball in his hands, Morris is capable of overpowering defenders with his solid first step and extremely aggressive mentality, similar to the way Tyreke Evans did at Memphis a few years back. While he may not possess jet-quickness by NBA standards, his size and strength are major assets on both ends of the floor and give him a huge physical advantage at the point guard position.
He still can be a bit turnover prone and sometimes tries to make the spectacular pass instead of the easy one, but it’s clear to see what NBA scouts like in him. He pushes the ball, can attack the basket and is a solid shooter. He’s not a world-class athlete, but he’s quick enough to get to the basket. He’s probably a year away from making some serious draft noise, but more and more scouts think he could be a first-round pick down the road.
We’ve written about virtually every angle that’s out there on the alleged Pistons boycott, and although there are many theories about what happened, NBA.com’s David Aldridge points out that because of the rampant dysfunction in Detroit prior to this incident, the perception nationally is obviously that this was some type of organized attempt to undermine an unpopular coach.
But Aldridge touches on one angle that has largely been ignored locally as a result of local reporters having to track down the details of the story and try to find out what actually happened. Because of the overwhelmingly coverage, does this boycott become a tool for the league and owners to prove that players have too much power? Aldridge asked Dirk Nowitzki about that:
I had asked Dirk Nowitzki on Saturday if he expected blowback from the owners during collective bargaining because of the perception that players were more in control than usual.
“You don’t want all the power with the owners,” Nowitzki said, “but you don’t want to have the players with all the power, boycotting practices and stuff like that. That’s taking it a little far. So hopefully we can find a happy medium somewhere.”
Aldridge also endorses a candidate for next coach of the Pistons:
The Pistons should send Hamilton home, and whether they can buy him out or not by tomorrow — the deadline for players to be added to other team’s rosters to be playoff eligible — doesn’t matter. Let Prince leave via free agency. Let Kuester finish the season with some dignity, and then make a change. Longtime assistant coach Darrell Walker has been sitting there waiting for a chance for years, while the Pistons went to Michael Curry (one year) and Kuester (two). Walker, who has head coaching experience in Washington and Toronto, would be a perfectly good choice for a young, rebuilding team, and he won’t cost the new owner the kind of money it would take to lure the likes of Nate McMillan.
At this point, I have no idea whether the Pistons actually had some type of team-wide communication to organize a boycott. More and more it seems like an emotional reaction with the long-term ramifications never entering the minds of people who may or may not have participated in what may or may not have been a boycott.
Richard Hamilton and John Kuester fist bump as Rip leaves the court. #Pistons
That’s honestly the most positive thing that has been reported as far as Kuester and Hamilton are concerned in quite some time. Iott also said Hamilton is going to speak to the media, so maybe more light will be shed soon.
Bill Laimbeer, understandably, is one of the most beloved Detroit athletes in the history of this state. It’s no secret why — he was part of the most successful run in Pistons history in the 1980s, won two championships and was a central figure in the Bad Boys style of play that so perfectly fit the blue collar image of the state of Michigan. Fans loved him, connected with him and won’t ever forget his contributions, because he was truly one of the most unique athletes and characters in NBA history.
And now that he’s coaching, every time the Pistons have an opening or an embattled coach, there’s only one man Pistons fans want the team to consider: Laimbeer.
The most recent issues with the team have made the demand for Laimbeer even more pronounced. The team lacks discipline, has been overrun by in-fighting, doesn’t play good defense and has caused a large portion of the fanbase to tune out as evidenced by the empty Palace and low television ratings. Laimbeer, because of his name, would immediately get the attention of the fanbase and cause many fans who have long since lost interest to care about the Pistons again. Ultimately, that would be good for the team in the short-term, but fans of Laimbeer should care more about him getting a head coaching job that allows him to thrive in the long-term.
Reasons to want Laimbeer as Pistons coach
- He’s one of the most intelligent players to play the game. As a guy who was never the biggest, fastest or most athletic player on the court, and he wasn’t even close in some matchups, he got more out of his talent than perhaps any player of his era. He did this by seeing the entire floor, understanding angles when it came to rebounding and using his body exceedingly well to gain advantages in positioning, keep defenders off balance and provide effective rebounding and efficient scoring. Basketball intelligence and rebounding are certainly areas where he could improve the Pistons’ young players immediately.
- Judging by the record of the Timberwolves, the lack of on-court success of that team isn’t going to do him any favors. But if you look at the T-Wolves big men, who have no doubt worked with Laimbeer extensively, that could be where his real value is. If he could help Greg Monroe make a leap at some point like Kevin Love has made from his rookie season to now, it might be worth talking to Laimbeer about a coaching position should one open up.
- Fair or not, often in NBA locker rooms, veteran players who have won titles don’t have a lot of patience for coaches who were not great players themselves or who were not a part of title winning teams either as a key player or head coach. Laimbeer’s two rings as a player with the Pistons would give him a credibility Flip Saunders, Michael Curry and John Kuester have not had. For those coaches, having to coax veteran players who won a title by being headstrong and doing things a certain way is no easy task considering none of the three post-Larry Brown coaches had titles themselves as head coaches or players. Perhaps Laimbeer would have more success dealing with players who are set in their ways.
- He’s vocal. Communication issues plagued both Curry and Kuester. I have little doubt that players would know where they stand with Laimbeer. They might still hate him every bit as much for his honesty as they hated Curry and Kuester for trying to avoid conflict, but if the players are demanding a better communicator, Laimbeer would clearly explain what he wants from them.
Reasons not to want Laimbeer as Pistons coach
- Because Laimbeer was a tough, no-nonsense player with the Pistons, then a tough, no-nonsense coach in the WNBA with the Shock, fans assume he’d automatically come into the Pistons’ dysfunctional locker room and kick some heads in. To be honest, it’s nonsense. Even if he was an imposing player in his day, the man is 53-years-old. If people think his style is going to be to waltz into a locker room and start throwing elbows at guys who mess with him because that’s what they liked about him as a player, I think they have a wholly unrealistic view of what NBA coaches do. Laimbeer might command more respect because of his success as a player. But in the NBA, that’s not everything. Plenty of former great players have not been successful as coaches. Even Bill Russell, the most respected player in the game’s history, had coaching stints that could be called failures. Playing the game at a high level prior to coaching is sometimes an in to get respect as a coach, but it’s not necessarily an indicator of coaching success.
- The Pistons are a bad team. If Laimbeer were hired, he’d likely be stuck with a roster of players signed long-term who don’t fit the blue collar, tough, defensive-minded approach to the game that Laimbeer loved as a player and used to great success as a coach in the WNBA. Even if the young players improve some, the Pistons could realistically be two or three years, at a minimum, from contending again. NBA coaches don’t get a long leash. If Laimbeer takes over a bad team that, through no fault of his own, isn’t in a position to be good again for a few seasons, it doesn’t put him in a good spot to have success off the bat as a coach.
- Coaches will always get fired, particularly in the NBA. Laimbeer could come to Detroit and have success. But at some point, even if he proves to be a great coach, the goodwill will run out. It ran out on Alan Trammell when he managed the Tigers. It’s run out on Joe Dumars, once as beloved as Laimbeer in Michigan because of his exemplary playing career. If Laimbeer coached the Pistons, it would run out. Now, I’m not saying that should be a consideration for Laimbeer to take or not take a job if it ever became available. But from a fan’s perspective, who wants to see that happen to a legendary sports icon? It was terrible watching Trammell take a job managing the Tigers, be put in a position where he couldn’t win with the lack of talent that he had to work with, and then see him lose his job after a few terrible seasons. There are plenty of fans screaming for Dumars to be fired. But really, for those who watched and admired Dumars as a player and person for so many years, isn’t it going to be somewhat sad to see his Detroit career end like that, even if he’s done a poor job the last few seasons?
Root for Laimbeer, but be realistic
I have no issues with fans who want Laimbeer to coach the Pistons someday. If it’s the right situation for him and the team somewhere down the road, why not?
But I hope people are just realistic about the situation the team is currently in. Much of the salary cap is tied up in players who have under-performed based on what they have paid, are hard to trade because they’re signed long-term, are young players who may have tantalizing potential but haven’t put it all together yet or are players who clearly don’t want to be in Detroit much longer. On top of that, with labor unrest looming, there’s a chance the salary cap could be lowered, further hampering the Pistons’ maneuverability.
The team is deficient in rebounding and defense, the team doesn’t have a true point guard and the team is incredibly thin up front. None of these issues are going to be easy to solve. And whether Kuester is given another chance next year or he’s let go and the team searches for a new coach, whoever is coaching the team is not going have an easy task.
Those issues are not going anywhere, no matter who the coach is next season. Laimbeer could very well turn into a great head coach, but to act as if he’s a potential miracle worker wouldn’t be fair to him should he prove to be a viable candidate for the job if or when it opens.
I don’t know precisely who boycotted practice, but I can believe any of Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, Tracy McGrady or Chris Wilcox did
We don’t know exactly which players participated and several people have said, in defense of (insert any one of the five players listed above), “He wouldn’t do something like that.”
I don’t find that defense credible. Hamilton, Prince and Wallace have all had run-ins with previous coaches:
- Hamilton had issues with Flip Saunders.
- Prince said himself that he argued with Saunders and Larry Brown.
- Wallace refused to enter a game Saunders, and Wallace had a strained relationships with Rick Carlisle. Wallace also disobeyed Scott Skiles no-headband rule.
These players have a long history of making life difficult for coaches, and those are only the examples we know about. Friday wasn’t the first chapter.
If you hadn’t noticed, I didn’t mention Michael Curry, whom both Hamilton and Allen Iverson accused of lying. A popular theory has been that John Kuester must be doing something truly awful to provoke this level of resentment from his players. But until you tell me what he’s done that’s so awful or show me the awful things Carlisle, Brown, Saunders and Skiles did, I’m not buying it.
It’s also easy to believe a pair of followers – McGrady and Wilcox – could get swept up in this, too. McGrady was stuck with a Houston team that refused to play him regularly. Wilcox asked to be traded when the Clippers removed him from the rotation. I can see how they’d sympathize with a benched Hamilton, who has been the root of a lot angst directed at Kuester.
Pick any of these five players, and there are fair reasons to doubt whether he boycotted.
Just don’t say doing so would have definitely been out of character for him.
Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press is the latest to chime in on the Pistons’ chaos. I don’t know that anything Rosenberg says is incorrect. But I don’t see many reasons to believe his arguments.
Let’s start with this:
If you believe Stuckey simply overslept, I have Pistons playoff tickets to sell you. He is a talented player, but his attitude has been a question for a long time. I absolutely believe he was protesting against Kuester — and when he realized how many guys actually were going to shoot-around, he panicked and got in a cab. And I believe forward Austin Daye did the same thing.
If Stuckey were smarter, he would realize that he is going to be a restricted free agent this summer and "Organized Shoot-around Boycott" is not a good line on the résumé. This is why I don’t believe that Tayshaun Prince really boycotted practice. Prince clearly does not like Kuester, but he is also a very bright man whose contract is almost up. Prince knows he can criticize the coach in interviews or behind the scenes, but leading a team revolt only will hurt his market value.
Rosenberg makes a huge mistake by assuming Stuckey and Daye were acting rationally.
Criticizing your coach’s ability in the media, yelling at your coach in the huddle and calling your coach’s decisions “buffoonery” will only hurt your market value. Tayshaun Prince did those things earlier in the season, anyway.
If that’s the entire basis of Rosenberg’s argument, I can’t get behind it.
Austin Daye never made a ton of sense as a boycotter. In a locker room divided by young and old, would Daye split ranks with Charlie Villanueva? They appear to be pretty good friends, and Villanueva hasn’t exactly been on the pro-Kuester bandwagon.
If Stuckey alone showed up late, I’d believe Rosenberg’s version of events. But because Daye was in the same boat, I’m buying the story that Stuckey and Daye were late because of scheduling confusion. I’m not certain that was their true reason, but without new contradictory evidence, it’s, by far, the most believable story.
But McGrady is also a smart veteran, and I wonder: Did he have an excuse to skip shoot-around? Or did he get an excuse simply so he could skip the boycott? Put yourself in McGrady’s shoes. You know the coach is in over his head. You know a boycott is going down. You don’t want to damage your reputation by joining the boycott, but you don’t want to tick off your teammates by going to practice. Maybe you get an excuse to skip shoot-around to try to stay out of it.
This is an interesting theory. It appears to be a pretty random theory, but it fits within what we know.
Let’s, for a moment, say it’s correct. Faking a headache to avoid the boycott still means missing the shootaround. That’s the lack of respect for league and profession Patrick wrote about. McGrady doesn’t get a pass because his motive for skipping the shootaround wasn’t to protest John Kuester.
Sure, McGrady would have been in a tough spot in this situation, and he’d have to make a tough choice. But he has to live with the consequences of his decision. If he deliberately chose to skip the shootaround when he could have been there, he’s no different than the boycotters when it comes to the treatment he should receive in the short-term.*
*The only difference this would make long-term is McGrady would be a more attractive player for a Kuester-coached team, if that ever comes up.
Rosenberg goes on:
Then again, maybe McGrady was really sick. What matters here is that Kuester benched him Friday night anyway. And Kuester benched Prince, too. That, as much as anything, tells you Kuester has lost his team. He either doesn’t trust anybody to tell him the truth, or wanted to look like the victim — or both.
The boycott tells me Kuester has lost his team. The continuous whining to media by his players tells me Kuester has lost this team. The Pistons’ terrible record tells me Kuester has lost this team
Kuester benching the boycotting and tardy players? That tells me he disciplined a group of players who deserved punishment. Nothing more.
Even Rosenberg’s speculative excuse for McGrady described a scenario where he’d deserve to get benched. You can’t intentionally skip a shootaround when you could have been there and not face consequences.
Earlier in the column, Rosenberg said, “Prince had a medical excuse for missing practice.” If you believe that, maybe that same medical excuse why he missed the game, not Kuester benching him. If you don’t believe that, Prince deserved to be benched for boycotting the shootaround. Rosenberg can’t have it both ways.
Hamilton has spent months playing victim while attacking Kuester’s credibility. If Kuester wanted to reverse the roles, he could have leaked information about Hamilton’s screed long ago.
Even though the local media had hinted at an incident for quite some time, nobody made the specifics public.
Another point from Rosenberg:
Meanwhile, from all accounts, Chris Wilcox really DID oversleep.
What accounts are those? I haven’t seen any mention that Wilcox overslept besides word from the Pistons, and Rosenberg already said he doesn’t believe them about Stuckey and Daye.
Wilcox hasn’t addressed the media, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com. So, which trustworthy source is saying Wilcox overslept?
Near the end of his column, Rosenberg said:
With no good alternative, Hamilton escalated his ongoing feud with Kuester. And not surprisingly, Stuckey got on board, too. It was disappointing that Daye joined Stuckey (Daye apologized for being late), but you have to hope Daye learns from it.
We’re just a few paragraphs past Rosenberg saying he believes Stuckey and Daye boycotted the shootaround. Now, all of a sudden, it’s become fact?
Rosenberg has some of the best sources of any Detroit-area reporter, and maybe he talked some of them before writing this column. If he did, he should have indicated so in the article. Right now, it reads like a bunch of speculation.
I have no problem with Rosenberg using his knowledge of how the Pistons operate to read between the lines and theorize about what happened. But, as presented, I can’t take this column as anything more than that.
Tough to find team w/ better results last 4 drafts & only 1 lottery pick than Pistons: Stuckey, Daye, Jerebko and Monroe. Solid base.
To start, it’s tough to find teams with exactly one lottery pick in the last four drafts. That immediately eliminates a lot of competition and leaves just seven teams:
Ranking the drafts
Langlois didn’t include Arron Afflalo, whom the Pistons dumped to the Nuggets. So, I’m ranking the collective drafts of these seven teams based on the players they each still have.
- John Wall
- JaVale McGee
- Nick Young
- Kevin Seraphin
- Trevor Booker
- Patrick Patterson
- Chase Budinger
(The Rockets also drafted Aaron Brooks and Carl Landy, both of whom they traded for assets.)
- Robin Lopez
(The Suns also drafted Goran Dragic, whom they traded with a first-round pick for Aaron Brooks.)
- Mario Chalmers
(The Heat also drafted Michael Beasley, whom they traded for future picks.)
- Gordan Hayward
- Jeremy Evans
- Kyrylo Fesenko
(The Jazz also drafted Eric Maynor, whom they gave to the Thunder to escape his salary burden.)
Yeah, that’s it.
(The Hornets also drafted Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, whom they traded for assets.)
You can argue about the order of the Rockets, Suns, Heat and Jazz, but as far as the Pistons are concerned, I’d say they’re a sure second.
It’s probably unfair to count just the players still on the team, though. When you draft well, you can usually flip those players for valuable assets. (The Pistons deserve blame for giving away Afflalo.)
If you consider what teams received when trading the players they drafted, the Rockets (Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick) might pass the Pistons.
Expected value of draft picks
On a simple level, the Pistons made 11 picks in the last four drafts – more than any of these other six teams. That gave them more chances to find quality players.
The Pistons have also picked 15th – the best possible pick without it counting as a lottery pick – twice. Again, that’s a great way to add talent while still qualifying for Langlois’ list.
Thanks to Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference.com, we know the expected value of a pick in his first four seasons (in win shares) based on when in the draft he was selected. I totaled the expected win shares for each of the seven teams based on the picks they made* the last four years:
- Wizards (62.5)
- Pistons (59)
- Heat (48.2)
- Rockets (45.3)
- Jazz (44.2)
- Hornets (36.5)
- Suns (33.1)
So, yes, the Pistons have the second-best draft haul of teams with exactly one lottery pick in the last four years. They were also, based on when they picked, supposed to have the second-best draft haul of teams with exactly one lottery pick in the last four years.
*I counted the players the teams walked away with on draft day. So, I didn’t count traded picks, but I counted picks a team acquired.
Success before drafts
I inferred that Langlois’ tweet implied the Pistons have had success in the seasons preceding the last four drafts. After all, teams with good records typically don’t pick in the lottery.
Here’s the average record of the seven qualifying teams in the four years before this one:
- Suns (54-28)
- Jazz (51.5-30.5)
- Rockets (50.5-31.5)
- Hornets (45.25-36.75)
- Pistons (44.5-37.5)
- Heat (37.25-44.75)
- Wizards (32.25-49.75)
It’s difficult to take solace in finishing ahead of the Heat, who will be better than the Pistons for the foreseeable future, and the Wizards, who hauled in a better collective draft class than Detroit.
The Pistons had considerable more playoff success than the Hornets and Rockets in the previous four seasons, so that helps.
But the Suns and Jazz have legitimately been better.
For a team with exactly one lottery pick in the last four years, the Pistons have played middle of the pack leading up to those drafts.
- The standard Langlois sets – teams with only one lottery pick in the last four drafts – leaves seven teams.
- Of those seven teams, based on picks held, the Pistons were expected to make the second-best picks.
- The Pistons made the second-best picks.
- Of those seven teams, the Pistons had the fifth-best record in the seasons preceding those drafts.