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Vince Ellis stands up for good journalism

Several Pistons boycotted Friday’s shootaround in Philadelphia. We can accept that as fact now.

The organization can up with excuses for the absences of Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace and Chris Wilcox other than they don’t respect their coach, but Detroit can’t spin its way past the reporting of Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Today, Ellis explained his coverage:

And uncovering this story didn’t take some level of great in-depth reporting. It went something like this:

Me: "What happened?"

Source: "You can see what’s going on."

Me: "Nah. Enlighten me."

And then the source, who asked not to be identified, started describing phone conversations about the protest. Another team source backed it up.

And then another source, while claiming no direct knowledge of Friday’s issues, said the team staged a protest after a loss before the All-Star break when players walked into the shower area while Kuester was giving a postgame talk.

If Prince, McGrady and Wallace had excused absences, why were they held out of Friday’s game? McGrady was insistent he could have played and said no one told him he wouldn’t against the Sixers. And you definitely have to give Wallace a pass considering the tragic circumstances unfolding.

Huge kudos to Ellis for not only refusing to back down to the Pistons’ spin, even when other writers gave it more veracity than it probably deserved, but for reiterating his case. I wish more reporters stood up for themselves in these situations. Ellis was in a position to do that, because he reported this the right way – with multiple sources. He built an airtight case, which made his self-defense easy to execute.

More information on the boycott

Ellis’ post also cleared up a concern I had with the initial reports: maybe the sources who confirmed it was an organized boycott were speculating and assuming, given the widespread no-shows. But if Ellis had a source who described phone conversations about the boycott, that eliminates that potential hole.

Do we know exactly who boycotted? Not entirely. Maybe Prince and McGrady happened to have injuries on the same day others boycotted. Maybe Wallace happened to have legitimate personal reasons to miss the shootaround on the same day others boycotted. Maybe Wilcox happened to oversleep on the same day others boycotted.

But all four of those players were active for Friday’s game, and none of them played. If McGrady said he could play and Wallace was at the game, that all but certainly makes them boycotters. Does anyone believe Prince wasn’t a part of it, too?

The only player whose absence the Pistons didn’t explain, Richard Hamilton, was inactive.

That leaves Wilcox, who the team claimed overslept. He played against the Jazz last night when none of the other four did, so maybe that’s all it was with him. But considering Wilcox dodged the media yesterday – especially when the two players who claimed to have missed the shootaround for reasons other than protesting their coach, Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye, publicly apologized – I’m not ready to give him the benefit of the doubt.

That actually sums up how messy this situation is. Giving Wilcox the benefit the doubt means accepting that he only overslept and missed a practice.

24 Comments

  • Feb 27, 20111:15 pm
    by Tim Thielke

    Reply

    The only lower point I have seen in any NBA franchise was the Pacers post-brawl. At least, we can take comfort that this drama isn’t derailing the Pistons from several years of potential title contention. It’s just taking a lottery team and screwing with it on all the non-basketball levels. And while it really sucks, this might be the kick in the balls the team needed to really blow the team up and start rebuilding for real. It’s just too bad, that if it had to happen, it couldn’t happen a week or two ago. Then perhaps we would have had some deadline activity. But now, I am hoping for a real changing of the guard, unlike the one that has been all talk and almost no real change over the past two seasons.

  • Feb 27, 20111:23 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    On the one hand I appreciate Ellis explaining what happened. On the other hand, I think the earlier comment on this site was correct, an anonymous source can spin a story and in this case that spin has hurt the Pistons (not that Ellis should care). Who benefits from that spin. Kuester because now the team looks bad if he’s fired. Who was the second source? Someone also spinning for Q? I would bet yes. The story never really made a lot of sense – McGrady has had no relationship and not a lot of love lost for Hamilton. Wilcox needs another contract. Stuckey and Daye showed up in a way consistent with the story they told. Yes they should be checking their texts, but what happened to the old days when smaller staffs used to actually knock on player’s doors because the coaching staff, not the players, made the change? It’s still a tempest in a teapot and the best way to find the truth is to look at who has benefited and who has paid the price. On the other hand maybe something good will come of it. Maybe Hamilton can be persuaded to leave quietly at this point. Who knows?

    • Feb 27, 20117:37 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Anonymous sources are part of sports coverage, and they’re not going away. People can lament the use of them all they want, but it’s impossible for sports writers like Ellis to do their job without using them sometimes.

      The key is to really pay attention to the writer. Ellis’s reporting on this story was far superior to anyone else’s. In this case, i trust his sources. I trust that he wasn’t getting played by a player/agent/team official with something to gain. As he pointed out in the article, if there wasn’t more to this story, why were the guys who had excused absences benched as well? The Pistons are obviously in damage control mode now and are trying to prevent more details from leaking out, so who knows what the entire story is. It will probably never come out. But I feel like Ellis was very fair and as accurate as he could possibly be with his reporting on this.

      • Feb 27, 20117:55 pm
        by gordbrown

        Reply

        Again, I have no argument with the coverage. Been there myself. It’s obvious the Pistons are in damage mode and are covering up. But at the same time, my basic point was: who benefited? In a way, I admire Kuester for getting out in front of the story and protecting himself. Maybe it will put him on the road to making him a better coach. I’m just glad Daye and Stuckey have redeemed themselves somewhat and hopefully put it behind them. The biggest danger was that they get tarred with the same brush as the others. That would have been catastrophic for the future.

        • Feb 27, 20118:31 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          I think anyone involved can redeem themselves quite easily: come back, play hard, be good teammates and stop complaining about every little thing. Daye and Stuckey both took a big step in doing that Saturday. Not sure if the others will follow suit or not, but I think most have already moved on from being angry at Daye or Stuckey.

  • Feb 27, 20111:57 pm
    by bg8

    Reply

    i think we should just move on from the story already, its getting old and i don’t really care anymore already. tmac,prince, wallace is all gone next year, so just let them sit on the bench the rest of the season and give the minutes to the young guys to see what they have. give bg and cv starter minutes to see if they can produce or not. give stuckey another chance at being the pg and see if that works out or not, if not, then it’ll give them a better guess of who to keep at sg next year. let daye play starter minute and see what he have. we pretty much know what monroe gonna do, so let him do what he do.

    then give backup minutes to summer, bynum, and whoever you wanna let play the 4/5 spot

    • Feb 27, 20117:38 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I think the story will go away if the players simply play hard and stop with the sniping in the media. As we saw in Saturday’s game, if they play hard and compete, everything will be forgiven as far as fans are concerned.

  • Feb 27, 20111:58 pm
    by qm22

    Reply

    What Ellis posted seems like the definition of vague. I still am unclear about the ignoring Q and going to the showers part (which players?). What was the pre-All Star protest? Aren’t protests supposed to be as open as possible? A protest in secret is a pretty weird idea.
    I can’t imagine what incentive McGrady has (even if Q is terrible) to side with Hamilton. When Hamilton’s role went down McGrady rescued his career and was considered by some the leader of the team. On the other hand his headache excuse and missing 2 games is not making sense either.
    It is not logical to say that the fact that McGrady was in on a revolt is supported by him sitting out in Philadelphia, though. Daye and Stuckey were too (though who knows how it would have gone if Q was not ejected).
    Lastly, if Ellis is right, are the Pistons in a position to do anything like further fines to Hamilton? Is a protest a breach of contract?

    • Feb 27, 20117:39 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I don’t think it was a protest in the sense that they wanted the attention of the public. If it really was some organized thing, it seems like the product of an emotional reaction, something that wasn’t well thought out as far as ramifications. They probably wanted to get the attention of team management without realizing that something like this would assuredly get leaked to the media and turn into a national story.

  • Feb 27, 20113:34 pm
    by Larry

    Reply

    I am glad Ellis published what he did, but he sure can’t be very proud of the way the whole Hamilton debacle has been covered.  Until a source leaked the Rip goes beserk on Kuester story to yahoo the reasons Hamiltion was put in street clothes remained hush-hush.  He and the coach humiliated each other.
    I am not ready to move on.  The organization owes an assurance to the fans that anything less than a full commitment to success will not be tolerated.  And consequences should be evident.  Myself, I would release McGrady, Wilcox at minimum.  I’ll cut Ben slack for death in the family, but did you see him yucking it up with McGrady in the ejection video?  That was the same day he missed the shoot-around.
    At this point, no one in the organization has any credibility.

    • Feb 27, 20117:41 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      You’re right on the Hamilton thing. It took way way way too long for that to come out. And the fact that it didn’t come out certainly did Kuester no favors. I think had it been reported earlier as the reason Hamilton was removed from the rotation, people may have understood why Kuester wasn’t overly eager to go have a conversation with Hamilton about the benching.

      • Feb 27, 20119:05 pm
        by gordbrown

        Reply

        A couple of things. First it speaks well of Kuester that he kept it quiet. Second, I hope that Hamilton was benched for the right reason, that is he was costing the team games (and he was) and not because he was profane with Kuester but actually I think that was the case (Hamilton actually given a chance to play after the incident if reports are to be believed). Perhaps the Pistons kept it quiet so that there may be chance for a trade of some sort (although that might have been foolish as most people in the league probably knew the details long before us poor paying customers). Nevertheless the fact it came out after the trading deadline and after Hamilton’s bad decision on Thursday is not very likely coincidental.

  • Feb 27, 20114:16 pm
    by BIG MARV

    Reply

    They better make a huge descison in the summer before RIPAMANIA and the New World Order Take over the team next year WHAT CHA GONNA DO BROTHER!

  • Feb 27, 20115:30 pm
    by Tony

    Reply

    This a a bigger indictment of Joe Dumars’ inability for hiring a HEAD coach.  Throw out his his horrible draft day decisions, the questionable free agent signings, and trading away the brain of his team (Billups), the real question is why did he hire Saunders, Curry, now Kuester in the first place?  How about asking the players their opinions on a short list of coaches or input for adding a name to the list, when you have talent the coach should have some too.  Now it’s a mess, a train wreck with no Denzel to save the day.  Does anyone still think he deserves to keep this job?  I side with the players, they’ve been playing since they were 5 yrs old and I’m sure they know when a coach is good, great, or BAD.

    • Feb 27, 20117:42 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Carlisle and Saunders are both good NBA head coaches. Larry Brown, before his NY/Charlotte stops was considered one of the best in the NBA.

      And in Kuester’s case, the veteran players were very supportive of his hiring since he was on Brown’s staff in 2004 and they were familiar with him.

  • Feb 27, 20119:08 pm
    by todd vanbrocklin

    Reply

    The sad thing is these are great nba players. They could have easily made the playoffs and then some. Kuester stinks

  • Feb 27, 201110:00 pm
    by David

    Reply

    I have yet to see any reporter, coach or sports commentator make a public apology to Ben Wallace.  This is an even bigger problem than the “boycott” to me. We want our entertainment and blah blah blah.  These people have families also and things do happen.  Ben if you happen to read this I apologies for the people that don’t have the nerve to. You and your family are in me and my family’s prayers.

    • Feb 27, 201110:21 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      David, why should anyone apologize to Ben Wallace? It’s sad that his brother died, without a doubt. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t boycott Friday’s shootaround.

    • Feb 27, 201110:28 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      David:

      Everyone who reported on this mentioned in their articles that Wallace had an ongoing family issue that, at the time, the nature of which was not revealed.

      As Vince Ellis wrote in his column, why was Wallace, who is healthy, held out of that game and sitting on the bench Friday if the team truly believed he didn’t purposely boycott that practice.

      Certainly everyone has sympathies for his loss. But that doesn’t make their reporting of what happened Friday inaccurate.

      • Feb 28, 20111:28 am
        by BIG MARV

        Reply

        Thats true and on top of that Wallace brother has been seriously ill for a min now and he did come to the game friday. True its sad that his brother died in the middle of all of this crazy termoil–but I still think ben was part of the “sit-out” there is no way that kuester would have sat him down friday If he knew it was a true family issue. Then on top of that it didnt make wallace look good by him being on tape with the other guys on the bench friday night laughing at kuester while he was being ejected from the game. Imma have to roll with the coach on this one, but my thoughts and prayers goes out to Ben’s family.

  • Feb 27, 201110:10 pm
    by David

    Reply

    We continue to place blame on Joe Dumars…It’s time for us Piston fans to man up!!!  As we know basketball is really about making revenew and putting bodies in the stands.  Joe saw the likes of Lebron, Kobe, Wade ect… and what the media constantly stated about Detroit.  Even when we were contenders the media hated our style, type of play, lack of a standout superstar ect.  The fans drank the kool-aid and it forced Joe-D to make moves … like trading a Billups for AI.  I’ve watched these boards for years and most of you wanted Billups gone so we could get younger.  Well here we are.  We have a whole lot of young talent, but we’re not winners anymore.  Fans it’s time to swallow the pill, we let commentators that hate our team anyway – tell us what we need (San Antonio didn’t drink that same Kool-Aid).  We drank it – Joe reacted and here we are. Kobe’s, Lebron’s, Howard’s they are rare – we had a team, a good one with a good leader. I think our drive for a Superstar helped kill this Team.  We need to accept our faults as well.

  • Feb 27, 201110:13 pm
    by David

    Reply

    See – I make mistakes too – revenue is how it should be spelled!!!!

  • Feb 28, 20113:43 am
    by Fennis

    Reply

     
    I respect Ellis as a journalist, but the rampant speculation even after his clarifying article shows that no one knows exactly what went down. For instance, why would Daye and Stuckey rush to the stadium and catch the end of practice if they had joined the alleged protest? Daye said the he’s thankful to Q for playing time and both said there was a mix-up with the practice time. Yet we’re still talking about the two of them “redeeming themselves.”
     
    I’m not saying that Ellis wasn’t true to his sources, but we don’t know the sources, their motives, or their credibility. Sure, Ellis has a duty to report what his sources tell him. But that doesn’t mean that he or we have to act as though we know exactly what happened. gordonbrown is right — there are many facts that contradict the “protest” story. df and ph are also right to say that there is circumstantial evidence in support of the initial report. Is anyone willing to acknowledge that we don’t know who was protesting and who wasn’t, and that we may never know? And that it may be wrong to draw sensational conclusions and condemn a man whose brother is on his death bed?! I mean, can we have a shred of decency and remove Ben from the conversation? We’re fans, but we’re also human beings. How would any of you feel if someone placed a microscope on your professional behavior in the 24 hours leading up to your brother’s death? It’s really sickening to read some of these posts.

    • Feb 28, 20119:02 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I see your point, but there was a redemptive factor in that both did mess up and miss a practice. It certainly appears that is was just a coincidence that they messed up and missed a practice on a day when others were planning to boycott.

      As far as Ben, I think it’s possible he was a part of this. But I tend to be more forgiving of him because, unlike Prince and Hamilton who have been malcontents and played with questionable effort at times the last two seasons, Wallace has played his heart out. If he was involved, he’s still wrong for doing it. But I don’t view him as part of the problem in the locker room.

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