He began the season as the starting shooting guard, went to the bench of his own volition, has spent much of his season standing in the corner away from the focus of halfcourt offensive sets, and openly has questioned how he has been used.
Asked if he thinks people might interpret that as self-centeredness, Stuckey replied, "I hope not."
"I’m not trying to be like, ‘Oh, I need to do this, I need to do that.’ I just know being aggressive, attacking the basket, attacking the hoop is my game," Stuckey said after Wednesday’s 105-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors. "In order to do that, I’m going to need the ball a little bit more in my hands in order to create for myself and my teammates."
"I’m not a selfish player at all," he said. "I’m always a team player. Just having the ball in my hand and creating for my teammates, that’s what I do."
On one hand, I empathize with Stuckey. Because the Pistons want to test Brandon Knight, they’ve had Stuckey operating outside his comfort zone.
Last season, Stuckey and Knight split point-guard duties while sharing the backcourt. Often, Stuckey handled the ball while Knight had easier off-the-ball assignments during difficult situations.
That worked OK, but the combination had little hope of blossoming into a contending backcourt. It’s very unlikely Stuckey is a starting guard the next time the Pistons win a playoff series, but the same can’t be said of Knight. Knight hasn’t secured a long-term starting spot, either, though, so the Pistons have wisely put the ball in his hands more often. Even though the Pistons’ on-court chemistry probably took a step back with Stuckey relegated, Detroit is learning a lot more about Knight, and that makes the change worthwhile.
Because Knight has the ball more than last year, that has given Stuckey fewer opportunity to do what he does best: attack the rim and draw fouls. His free-throw attempts per minute are his lowest since his first season as a starter (2008-09), and he’s already taken a career-high 147 3-pointers (despite shooting 27 percent from beyond the arc).
But that’s not the whole story.
There’s a perception Stuckey, at Lawrence Frank’s direction, has been stuck spotting up in the corner all season. But Stuckey has taken more than twice as many above-the-break 3s (98) as corner 3s (43), and those numbers don’t count Stuckey’s backcourt attempts – for him, a significant number. I see a player who must accept some blame for taking more 3-pointers than he should.
The Pistons haven’t done what’s best for Stuckey this season, but catering to Stuckey is not in the franchise’s best interest. I understand why that would bother Stuckey, but he could have handled the situation better. He’s rarely played with passion this season, and his minutes are often uneventful at best.
Both sides deserve blame. I don’t find Stuckey selfish. I also don’t believe he’s done enough to make an admittedly difficult situation work.
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