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Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince closing out frustrating season the right way

Every player on the Pistons, I would wager, is ready for this season to be over. When Rodney Stuckey expressed how ‘mentally drained’ he was by what has happened this season, it was understandable. I’m sure every player on the team feels similar. It has been a drama-filled year with most players on the roster having their roles changes multiple times, most guys under-performing, dissension with an in-over-his-head coach and frustration caused by a paralyzed front office that is unable to make moves to fix anything because the sale of the team is dragging on longer than expected.

But what I take exception to is how Stuckey chose to express his mental fatigue. Twice this season, Stuckey has publicly and embarrassingly disobeyed his coach, the first time early in the season, ignoring John Kuester as Kuester yelled from him to come over for instructions, the second ignoring an order to re-enter a close game against Chicago. I pointed out that Stuckey’s incidents are a bad look for a guy who has yet to prove himself as a starting caliber player for a good team in this league, particularly for a guy headed into free agency, and I’m going to expand on that belief some.

There is ample evidence after two years to suggest that Kuester is a poor communicator and a coach who was ill-equipped for the head job here. But he’s been treated by several players (not just Stuckey) as if he’s the worst coach to ever grace a NBA sideline, and that’s just not true. The NBA is full of failed coaches. Hell, some of them even get multiple jobs before teams realize they aren’t cut out for this level. It has long been a reality of this league: there are fewer really talented coaches than there are teams, so there are always going to be a handful of guys like Kuester around, struggling to win games, annoying fanbases and frustrating players on the roster who want to win. Players are still expected to conduct themselves with a basic level of professionalism. Most players in the league will play for a bad coach at some point. Imagine if every player reacted to that as poorly as Stuckey and a few other Pistons have this season? The league would be total chaos.

Some people in the comments have defended Stuckey’s actions. Their premise, I guess, is that since Kuester is a bad coach, it’s OK for Stuckey to refuse to re-enter a game when he’s told to. I obviously disagree wholeheartedly with that, and I’ve yet to hear a plausible, rational case made by any Stuckey defender about what makes how he handled this OK.

I get Stuckey’s frustration and if, as some have suggested, he wants a fresh start with a new team next season, I completely understand that. I’m sure the fact that he was annointed as a franchise savior by the team when he was just finding his way in this league didn’t do his development any favors. Playing for Kuester and Michael Curry certainly didn’t help either. At this point, the best solution for Stuckey and for the organization might be parting ways.

Unfortunately, Stuckey is going about making that happen in the wrong way. He’s been in the league four years, was a starter for about two and a half seasons and played significant minutes. Although there have been some incremental improvements in his game, he’s been terribly inconsistent. He’s yet to prove he’s cut out to play point guard and he’s yet to add a perimeter game to balance his ability to penetrate, which makes him a really one-dimensional scoring threat if his position is going be at the two. Add to that these highly publicized incidents of insubordination, and Stuckey, as a restricted free agent, has all but killed any chance that a team will covet his potential enough to offer him a big, front-loaded contract that would be too big for the Pistons to match. Basically, by behaving poorly, perhaps as an attempt to express his unhappiness here, he’s actually made it more likely he’ll stay here.

Compare him with two other Pistons who very likely want to go elsewhere and who have also not been saints this season.

Tayshaun Prince called his coach a buffoon in the media. He’s had a couple of shouting matches with Kuester picked up by the cameras. But he’s also had a really solid bounce-back season and probably been the Pistons’ most consistent player this season. Since March 1, Prince’s scoring is up about a point per game over what he was previously averaging this season. His shooting percentages (47 percent overall, 35 percent from three) are very solid. Although he’s not the defender he was during the title run, he’s improved defensively this season after sliding for a couple of years. And most importantly, he’s kept quiet for virtually the entire second half of the season. He shows up, he plays solid most every night and he’s rebuilt his value heading into free agency.

Despite being completely healthy, Rip Hamilton played in five total games in January and February. He and Kuester traded barbs in the media. Reports that Hamilton’s benching stemmed from him humilating Kuester in front of the entire team during a practice surfaced. Oddly enough, Hamilton’s return to the lineup was aided by an alleged fight between Stuckey and Kuester that led to Stuckey’s benching in March. Hamilton and Kuester apparently worked out their differences, at least to the point where the two could co-exist civilly, and on the court, Hamilton has been his old self. Since March 1, he’s averaged 17.4 points and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 46 percent and 33 percent from three. Those numbers are a significant improvement from earlier in the season, when Hamilton was shooting just 41 percent as a starter and part of the rotation.

This is not meant as any kind of defense of Prince and Hamilton. Those guys have not always behaved like consumate professionals this season. They’ve been difficult to coach at times, I’m sure. But the point is, if they want out of Detroit to start over elsewhere, they’re going about getting out the right way: they’ve stopped the griping in the media and, more importantly, they’re ending the season by playing well. It’s still going to be a difficult task to trade Hamilton and his contract, but he’s made it much easier by proving that he can still shoot the ball well and by showing some level of maturity by working out a less tense relationship with Kuester. But whatever difficulties remain, Hamilton and Prince clearly took responsibility for their actions and went about improving their situations as best they could. If Stuckey had taken a similar tact, his options heading into the offseason would be a lot better than they currently are.

27 Comments

  • Apr 5, 201110:45 am
    by brgulker

    Reply

    To all the people defending Stuckey right now, I challenge you to take a very specific action.
     
    The next time you are upset with your supervisor, do what Stuckey did (i.e., protest by sitting on your duff and not doing what you’re asked to do), see what happens, and then report back in the comments.
     
    My guess is you’ll have a slightly different perspective then than you do now.

    • Apr 7, 20112:26 am
      by duh

      Reply

      they won’t be able to reply back because after they get fired they probably won’t be able to afford the internet lol

  • Apr 5, 201111:00 am
    by neutes

    Reply

    Can we trade Gordon yet? What do we do with this guy? His contract has become significantly worse than Rip’s. His play has become significantly worse than Rip’s. Ugh. I’m still a fan of HOAM. Advanced stats won’t take that away.

    • Apr 5, 201111:07 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Well, the good thing about Gordon is that he, despite being frustrated with his role I’m sure, has not further killed his value by being a nuisance. He’d be hard to trade, but I think there would be teams interested in him. Not sure they’d give much of value in return, but I don’t think it’s impossible to trade him.

      • Apr 5, 201111:31 am
        by Glenn

        Reply

        I’d think some team with a crappy player who has a big expiring contract would be willing to trade for him.  Boris Diaw from the Bobcats, Corey Maggette from the Bucks.  Maybe we could get a PF from Utah now that they have Millsap/Jefferson/Favors all at the same position.

  • Apr 5, 201111:59 am
    by fan

    Reply

    Tmac will struggle mightly to get a contract for next season.He looks old and frail out there. His court vision is not there anymore and his ability to crash the boards are limited as well. He has  regressed bigtime since  5 or so weeks ago.

    • Apr 5, 201112:44 pm
      by brgulker

      Reply

      You think so? I think there are plenty of Playoff teams who would welcome him as their 6th or 7th man in the rotation. Think how nice he’d look running SA’s second unit for 20-25 minutes per night, for example. Or Dallas, or LA, or etc., etc.

      • Apr 5, 20111:28 pm
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        LA would be pefect if Phil Jackson was coming back again (and I’m not convinced he won’t). Given Phil’s love of smart, old, big guards, T-Mac would fit perfectly playing a Ron Harper-like role (albeit a little worse defensively than Ron was) in Phil’s triangle offense. I could actually see T-Mac starting for that team next year if Jackson returned.

      • Apr 5, 20113:54 pm
        by Tim

        Reply

        I think he’d fit best in LA, with or without Jackson. Regardless of who their coach is, the Lakers gaping hole is at PG. But Boston is a close second because they don’t have much for backup guards since dealing Nate Rob. Delonte West is not exactly reliable and they love old guys there. Alternatively, he could fit well in Portland or New Orleans. Dallas has way too many guards to use TMac.

        • Apr 5, 20114:24 pm
          by brgulker

          Reply

          Tim,
          I think TMac can still play SF as well, which is why I threw Dallas out there.

          • Apr 5, 201111:07 pm
            by Tim

            That’s fair. But I don’t think Dallas needs an SF either. Although it depends what happens with Butler and Stojakovich. But they have Marion and Stevenson as well. Stevenson isn’t great but he’s adequate as a backup. If both Caron and Peja are gone after this season, I’ll agree with you. Otherwise, there’s just no space for him.

  • Apr 5, 20115:29 pm
    by 2Tough

    Reply

    This is hilarious.  I find what Stuckey did reprehensible, but to even sit here for a second and act like Prince and Hamilton have been acting the “right way” is just laughable.  Those two are the ring-leaders, and honestly, they’re probably the two guys most responsible for Stuckey going awry.  If you remember, Stuckey was thought to be a high character individual when he was drafted…  a “Joe Dumars” type of player.  He didn’t become a malcontent on his own accord.
     
    Please, let’s not sing the praises of the two guys who A. called his coach a buffoon (Prince) and B. got into a shouting altercation with the coach, degrading him in front of the entire team, and the guy who led the protest in Philadelphia (Hamilton).

    • Apr 5, 20117:36 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I wish people would read and make an effort to understand the point before hammering away on their keyboards. But have it your way.

      ” I find what Stuckey did reprehensible, but to even sit here for a second and act like Prince and Hamilton have been acting the “right way” is just laughable.”

      Over the course of the season? No. Over the last month have they played reasonably hard and kept their mouths shut? Yep. I don’t think they’re doing it because they’re great leaders or team-first guys. I think they’re doing it b/c they want out of Detroit and are smart enough to understand that the best way to do that is proving that they can still be useful players. Both are succeeding in that respect — both guys look like reliable players who could help a good team next season.

      “Those two are the ring-leaders, and honestly, they’re probably the two guys most responsible for Stuckey going awry.”

      Excuse making at its best. Stuckey is an adult. He’s a NBA veteran, albeit a young one. His actions are his own.

      “If you remember, Stuckey was thought to be a high character individual when he was drafted…  a “Joe Dumars” type of player.  He didn’t become a malcontent on his own accord.”

      No one knew a damn thing about him when he was drafted. Even now, he’s not a malcontent. He’s just immature and he’s hurting himself as a potential free agent.

      “Please, let’s not sing the praises of the two guys who A. called his coach a buffoon (Prince) and B. got into a shouting altercation with the coach, degrading him in front of the entire team.”

      Saying that they are closing the season smartly isn’t singing their praises. Again, if you READ THE POST, you will see that I mention all of the incidents you just did in your comment. I didn’t praise anyone. I simply pointed out the differences in how three players who have all been poor presences on the team, who all would possibly like to be playing for new teams next season, are ending their seasons in very different ways.

      “The guy who led the protest in Philadelphia (Hamilton).”

      Do you have a source on this? It was reported nowhere that Hamilton was the “leader” of the protest.

      • Apr 6, 20114:28 pm
        by 2Tough

        Reply

        Yeah, they’ve played ‘hard’ by icing everyone else out of the offense repeatedly and chucking up shots whenever they want to. As far as the other stuff, who knows whats going on behind the scenes?  It wasn’t till a couple months after that we heard about the Hamilton blowup on Kuester that led to his benching.
         
        Over the course of the season those two have been team killers far more than Stuckey has been.
        I don’t have a source other than the fact that Hamilton was the only player who missed that practice that didn’t have an excuse at all.

  • Apr 5, 20115:41 pm
    by bigplayj

    Reply

    Seriously, don’t mention Rip and Tay when talking about playing the right way. 

    • Apr 5, 20117:40 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      It has nothing to do with playing the right or wrong way. Prince has been solid on the court all season. Hamilton has been solid since March 1 when he rejoined the lineup.

  • Apr 5, 20117:15 pm
    by Quin

    Reply

    As for the team’s success, maybe all of the trouble is a product of poor coaching considering the players seem to unilaterally dislike Q’s approach.  They have to pay for poor coaching decisions, so a degree of frustration is understandable.
    In the end, if an owner wants a good team, he should construct it well from the top down.  As the COO, if I keep losing mailroom clerks due to insubordination, at some point I have to scrutinize the mailroom supervisor, or the CEO is going to start looking at me.

    • Apr 5, 20117:52 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      No one is absolving Kuester here. In fact, he should and most likely will be fired.

      But it’s really dumb to think that Kuester is the reason these guys have been so unprofessional. Kurt Rambis benched his best player, Kevin Love, in key situations early in the season while giving minutes and shots to Darko. Byron Scott has blasted his team in the media all season to deflect blame from himself for how miserable that team has been. Flip Saunders has had major issues dealing with Blatche, Javale McGee and Nick Young this season. Paul Westphal has had a terrible time dealing with Demarcus Cousins all season and Omri Casspi just said he doesn’t want to return to Sacramento. Golden State was considered a darkhorse playoff pick in the West and the players there seem to really hate Keith Smart.

      What has gone on in Detroit is nothing out of the ordinary in the NBA. Bad coaches do bad coaching jobs all the time. Kuester has done a really poor job in Detroit, but he’s far from a historically bad coach. Hell, he might not even be worse than Michael Curry was, Kuester just had the misfortune of sticking around a second year to have more things go wrong.

  • Apr 5, 20119:20 pm
    by Haan

    Reply

    Solid analysis, Patrick.  As you indicate, Hamilton may well be trying to play his way out of town by competing hard and keeping quiet.  At this point, I don’t want us to trade him, at least not if it involves giving up a 1st round pick, as rumored.  Heard it was to be protected, but an after the fact comment by Dan Gilbert suggested no more than minimal protection had been arranged. As lousy as the team’s prospects are for next year (as well as the league’s!), we can sweat it out with Hamilton.  The following year he would have genuine trade value.  Ironically, by behaving in opposite ways both Hamilton and Stuckey increased the likelihood of staying put.  Only Prince can count on escape.  Still hard to accept that we passed up on a late 1st pick for him.

  • Apr 5, 20119:50 pm
    by fan

    Reply

    Ok tmac proved me wrong tonight. he looked nimble, energetic and smart again. The thing is can he back it up against the Nets in less the 24 hours?.

  • Apr 5, 201111:54 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    Did you jinx Hamilton? He reverted to his most-of-the-season form tonight, and I would argue the Pistons lost a winnable game because Hamilton’s performance was so terrible. At least Kuester finally had the balls to bench him at the end.

  • Apr 6, 20118:19 am
    by Tyrone

    Reply

    Patrick, I absolute agree with your article.  Stuckey is a FOOL for choosing to behave the way he has.  First, RIP is doing what needs to be done to try and save his trade value.  If the right deal comes along Joe will be able to trade RIP and get his contract off the books.  I love all that RIP has done for this team but at this point in his career his contract is the biggest problem for the Pistons team. 

    Stuckey has done the total opposite.  First, Joe has offered Stuckey a contract extension earlier this season and Stuckey said NO.  Second, Stuckey made a choice to act out like RIP and Tay when Stuckey has proven no were near enough on the court to have his voice count.  Stuckey needs to work on improving his game, develop a mid range shot like RIP, Develop an outside shot like BG, Stuckey needs to go back and study Jordan.  He should realize that his whole career cannot be driving to the lane.  Also I will say this, PG is just not Stuckeys game, he is a SG only.  This Pistons needs to get a real pass first PG to play next to Stuckey and he needs to continue to develop his total NBA game.  Stuckey is a restricted free agent and I just don’t see ANY NBA team offering him a $40 million dollar contract based on his level of play and unprofessional attitude.  I just hope that if the attitude continues into next season that the Piston can Trade him away for something good in return.

    Final note is that Mr. Austin Daye needs to pay attention.  I was very upset with him that the Philly mess.  Daye has yet to prove anything or his draft position.  Daye needs to shut up and play ball.  Daye must get better on the Defensive end of the floor and stop crying when he feel the refs made a no call.  I’m willing to stand with him as his game develops as long as his chooses to operate and a hard working professional.

    Last thing, IN MY OPINION, the last 2 seasons fall 100% on the shoulders of Mrs. Karen Davison.  I feel that she has tied Joe Dumars hands and not allowed him to do the job that she is paying him to do.  No trades, hiring of head coaches that are cheap and limited experience.  It’s just MY OPINION, it appears that she is an owner who has absolutely no interest in the product she is putting out, and that she is only interested in the revenue and life style that it can afford her.  I’m one that will be over joyed when she finally makes a choice to sell the team and move on with her life.  Hopefully the new owner will care and want to give the hard working fans a winning product.

    • Apr 6, 20118:44 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Tyrone, quick correction: Joe Dumars never offered Rodney Stuckey a contract extension.

      As far as Karen Davidson, she knows she’s not interested enough in the team. That’s why she’s selling it. No harm there.

    • Apr 6, 20114:31 pm
      by 2Tough

      Reply

      Yeah Tyrone, and no one really cares what those two have done in the past.  That doesn’t excuse their actions this year.  As far as play on the court this year, Stuckey has been the best of the three, and I’d challenge anyone to argue that.  Monroe has been our best player, but Stuckey has been our second best.

  • Apr 7, 20118:41 am
    by Tyrone

    Reply

    Dan, my mistake, I thought that I read somewhere earlier this season that Joe Dumars was working with Rodney Stuckey and offered him a contract extension and it was declined by Stuckey and his agent.
     
    Dan, Karen Davison, in my opinion, a lot of harm has been done to this franchise by her lack of ownership interest and lack of urgency in closing a deal to sell.  Again, IMO Joe Dumars was forced into signing a cheap inexperienced coach’s (the last 2 head coaches) because he has always known that the Pistons where Karen’s late husband’s interest and not hers.  The Pistons could have gotten Aviery Johnson but didn’t want to pay the money for a seasoned head coach, I put that on Karen Davison.  I also believe that she instructed Joe Dumars that any trades can only reduce payroll limiting his trade options and thus no trades in the last two seasons. 
     
    Karen Davison and her financial team is attempting to hold out and squeeze out every dime from the potential new owner and just shooting herself in the foot.  The team is not getting any better and the value of her franchise is steadily going in the wrong direction.  As a loyal Piston fan, I just wish that she would do herself and the fans a favor and close the deal so this franchise can begin to rebuild and get turned around…

  • Apr 7, 20118:54 am
    by Tyrone

    Reply

    Patrick, there is no doubt that Prince has been the most constant Piston this season and almost his entire career.   
    2Tough, Monroe has developed into a good player.  Monroe’s first 30 games were not full of highlights & double / doubles.  I like his attitude and commitment to working to keep improving his game.  Monroe is NOT the best Piston at this point in his career, but as long as he keeps working and we get the right player around him, he could turn out to be a great Piston.   
     
    Stuckey is inconsistent, he is not a combo or PG.  Stuckey is a SG, and he needs to continue to develop his NBA game.  Stuckey must learn to shoot the midrange and long range shoots better.  He should have been challenging RIP and BG in shooting contest during practices this season instead of running his mouth and telling his head coach when he is going to play and when is not.

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