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What were the strangest events of the NBA season?

Today’s ESPN 5-on-5 roundtable discussed the five strangest occurrences in the NBA in 2011. The alleged Pistons shootaround boycott in Philly was at the top of my list:

The Pistons boycotting a shootaround. With constant media coverage and PR-mindful players and agents, I’m still dumbfounded that several Pistons allegedly thought boycotting a shootaround in Philly as a vote of no confidence in their overmatched coach was a good idea. It wasn’t, of course, but it did result in Will Bynum playing all 48 minutes in a game, which is just good for the soul.

It wasn’t so much that many players couldn’t stand the coach and were frustrated with the organizational dysfunction and losing. I get all of the things that led to the boycott. I just still can’t believe it happened — as I said in the roundtable, agents and PR people are everywhere nowadays and it’s just hard to fathom that at least one didn’t catch wind of this and get in the ear of a player or two to say, “Hey, this would not make you guys look good.” But hey, it happened and it was weird, but there were plenty of other weird occurrences this year. My other choices were the T-Wolves and their clumsy coaching search, the Celtics trading Kendrick Perkins while they were in first place in the East standings, Kevin Durant playing in every pro-am league he could find and basically everything about JaVale McGee. Feel free to nominate your choices in the comments.


  • Oct 26, 20119:09 pm
    by Laser


    I didn’t find it that strange. I’m one of the few people who were basically in full support of any act of rebellion at all against Pistons management. I found it strange that it took two full seasons of riding the Joe Dumars bullet train straight to the league cellar before somebody made a REAL stink.
    To me the single strangest thing that comes to mind is the Miami Heat’s reaction to general public backlash against them. These are three grown men who made a conscious choice to team up, with full knowledge that it was an unprecedented and controversial move that, at worst, could conceivably destroy the league as we knew it (and, in itself, probably isn’t insignificant to the lockout, given the cap dispute). From LeBron’s head-scratching decision special (wherein Dan Gilbert and I learned that Cleveland lost him simultaneously) which spun him into instant universal infamy, to the sideshow spectacular debut of the team, the “five, six, seven championships” bit… all of it added up to the Yankees of basketball. And the fallout has been predictable, defensible, proportionate. Yet these jokers come out and cry about how everyone hates them and roots against them and how unfair it all is. You guys are f*cking adults. Everybody else with access to a semi-functioning brain knew this would happen. Get over it.
    When these fools teamed up, I didn’t particularly like it and I didn’t think it was good for the game, but I respected their right to do it. I don’t think they did anything “wrong,” per se, though I did think it was short-sighted and could pose a serious risk to the health of the league (where parity is already suspect). I don’t begrudge them for teaming up. Their legacies are their own to risk (LBJ’s in particular), and they didn’t break the rules. It’s their baffled, victimized response to predictable public reaction that makes me want to punch them in the dick and root against them with passion forever.

    • Oct 26, 20119:23 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      The strange part wasn’t the reasoning behind it. The Pistons players were clearly frustrated and grew more frustrated over the past two years. But I think your reaction to it isn’t the norm. The general leaguewide reaction was a negative one directed 100 percent at the players. Respected coaches like Popovich and Stan Van Gundy were both vocally disgusted by it. And from a money perspective, it could have a potential impact. Prince, McGrady and Wilcox are free agents. Prince and McGrady, in particular, are both players who would help a team like the Spurs, but if Popovich thinks they’re assholes as a result of that boycott, that’s at the very least one fewer option for them on the open market.

      Like I said, I fully understand what caused it. But, reports at the time indicated it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, it was something that (I forget who reported it) had been talked about for weeks. With that in mind, I’m just surprised an agent didn’t catch wind and say, “Hey, this probably isn’t the wisest business decision to have your name attached to this.”

      • Oct 26, 201111:05 pm
        by Laser


        I suppose that makes sense. On the other hand, not to be argumentative but to illuminate if possible, some of the big name players (IIRC prince, T McG, big ben) had bullshit excuses like migraine headaches or they were on the rag or something. and i feel like rip, at the very least, warned the team that he wouldn’t be there. and dude was out of the rotation at the time, right? daye and stuckey supposedly overslept. the bottom line is that most of the guys who missed that shootaround had excused absences, legitimate or not.
        It was obviously coordinated, and people seemed to have known about it or at least heard whispers. So from a rational perspective it doesn’t make sense. But you shouldn’t ever be TOO surprised at what millionaire athletes will do. Especially under such untenable circumstances. Plus, the only name attached who could very well have done his career some actual harm is Stuckey, and if he was as convinced as I was at the time (100% convinced) that the franchise would be having sex with him forever, he probably put himself in the category of “Pistons property for the foreseeable future” like Daye.
        I’m probably more baffled that Joe/ownership let it come to this. Or that adult humans with an understanding of the NBA continue to give Joe a free pass for his recent job performance. There has been nothing acceptable about how this team’s been run for the past three years, and yet his reputation based on a few very beneficial moves (plus luck) a decade ago and one championship seven years ago is absolutely unshakable and cast in iron never to die. But then, I probably put that squarely in the category of “expecting millionaire athletes to make sensible decisions” where it doesn’t make sense on logic, but it’s best just to accept it as an inevitability. Good or bad, it is a virtual impossibility to shed a reputation, and professional athletes act like boneheads. You might as well add those to “death and taxes.”

  • Oct 27, 201111:52 am
    by Laser


    Hm. Guess nobody else wants to play. One thing I meant to add earlier and just remembered: I don’t know if there’s anything the team could have done to minimize the focus on this boycott, but I think they drew more attention to it by benching everyone. So I think there were six (6) players who missed shootaround (T-Mac, Big Ben, Prince, Rip, Stuck, Daye), which was half the active roster. I’m pretty sure Rip was riding the bench at the time, and Ben had his share of excused absences last season, so it would have been no big deal to shrug those off. I’m almost certain Prince and T-Mac were both excused in advance with bogus excuses like a headache. That really just leaves Daye and Stuckey who flat-out skipped shootaround, and their story was that they slept in. Together? That’s for you to decide.
    So benching everyone who missed that shootaround was effectively the team (probably the coach’s call entirely) conceding a game. Standing up to these guys, sending a message and whatnot. I can’t say if it was personal or professional or both, but it brought a lot of attention to the situation. Had Kuester simply benched the guys who were entirely unexcused (Which, by all accounts, is probably the trio of Stuckey, Daye and Rip), nobody would have made such a big deal about it. A handful of guys will miss the same shootaround once in a while, and you’re only benching two rotation players (Daye basically a marginalized fringe player too). This was a tough spot for an impotent coach, but benching everyone was just probably a bad call. It feels like a personal decision by a poor coach trying to exert some authority over these guys in the only way he could: PT. But it made the organization look bad. This probably should have been handled internally. Benching half the team made it a spectacle.
    I said it before, but as is true with 100% of this team’s myriad problems of late, (1) it never should have come to this, and (B) this one should be placed squarely on Joe D’s thick shoulders.

    • Oct 27, 20116:57 pm
      by tarsier


      How is Dumars responsible for insuboordination? Are you claiming that:
      a) the boycott was a protest against his poor player decisions?
      b) that it was an acceptable means of protesting?

      Also, something I always find pertinent to discussions of how good a GM is. Most GMs average probably at most two very significant moves per year with a couple more of moderate significance and some more meaningless ones (most second round picks, signing min contract players, involvement in a trade that doesnt add or remove any players from your top 7, etc). So evaluating a typical GM over his career gives you little more to work with than evaluating a player based on one game. You can absolutely say whether he played well or not, but not whether or not he is a good player (i.e. how well he would play in the future).

    • Oct 28, 20119:12 am
      by Murph


      “Had Kuester simply benched the guys who were entirely unexcused (Which, by all accounts, is probably the trio of Stuckey, Daye and Rip), nobody would have made such a big deal about it. A handful of guys will miss the same shootaround once in a while…This probably should have been handled internally. Benching half the team (in the same game) made it a spectacle.”

      Right.  As usual, Kuester took a bad situation and turned it into a total disaster.  For the sake of everyone involved (especially himself) Kuester should have down-played the incident as much as possible.  For example, he could have suspended half the absent players for the 76er game, and half the players for the next game. 

      But by suspending all 6 players involved, and only playing 6 players in the 76er game, Kuester basically conceded the game, drew attention to the situation and made the situation about 10 times worse than it could have been.

      • Oct 28, 20119:37 am
        by tarsier


        How did the attention make it worse? It made it seem worse perhaps to fans. But the actual cost of his actions: one lost game (which may well have been lost anyway), a message that he wasn’t gonna take the players’ s**t, and a more public scandal that most non-Pistons fans have forgotten about by now anyway. It was not even mentioned once in ESPN’s 5-on-5 worst things from last season.

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