We continue previewing the Central Division with the Detroit Pistons. You can read past previews here.
by Tim Darga aka TADOne
As the champagne dripped down his face and burned his eyes, his eardrums are pierced with the sound of Rodney Stuckey yelling, “WE DID IT, BABY!” within inches of his head. After being unceremoniously run out of Denver on a bogus domestic violence charge and consequently traded to Detroit, Carmelo Anthony can hardly believe his good fortune.
After toweling-off his face, he peers across the locker room at former Denver teammate and trade deadline acquisition Allen Iverson clutching the Larry O’Brien trophy and looking like a kid who got exactly everything he wanted at Christmas. In the corner locker, Antonio McDyess sobs uncontrollably–a teary mix of joy and gratefulness.
Meanwhile, GM Joe Dumars is sharing a cigar with coach Michael Curry, who winks at Pistons center Amir Johnson and tells him to soak it all in and enjoy the moment. In the center of all the confusion, Gilbert Arenas is being interviewed by Erin Andrews about the trade that sent Rip Hamilton back to DC and Gil into this version of a running-and-gunning Pistons team that just beat the Brandon Roy-led Portland Trailblazers for the 2009 NBA Championship. “I told y’all my knee would be okay! I TOLD Y’ALL!”
Oh, what could have been…
Of course, the reality is a bit more sobering and not as exciting. After publicly declaring his intentions to make changes and basically place “For Sale” signs around the necks of all his team’s core players, Joe Dumars is answering questions about why exactly he didn’t follow through on said promise. “Hey guys, don’t just expect me to give these guys away because I’m pissed off because we lost,” Dumars said. “You don’t run your business like that. So, I was on the phone. I talked to a lot of teams, but no one wanted to a do a deal that you, I or anybody else would have looked at and said that’s a good deal for the Pistons. So, consequently, I didn’t do a deal.”
The Detroit GM answered questions on a radio interview with Detroit sports radio station WDFN-AM 1130, and it was Joe as his usual candid self. Joe D. said if there was a deal to be made that would improve the team and improve their chances to compete, he would certainly make that deal. He also stated–and this is what a lot of people overlooked–that he wouldn’t be giving guys away and wouldn’t be making a trade just to say a change was made. Joe is sticking to his beliefs that he still had a very good team and now he is selling the fact the team has a fresh, new voice leading the charge. That voice belongs to former assistant and first-time head coach Michael Curry, a person who has the player’s utmost respect and someone he believes is exactly what the team needs.
With the off-season quickly coming to a close and the pre-season peering from around the corner, new coach Michael Curry has also been busy discussing the changes he wants to put into effect during his rookie coaching campaign. Since the only new faces in Motown this year are a former No. 1 pick with bad hands and a rookie small forward with narcolepsy, Curry had to put on his salesman hat and, like a politician, put forth his best sales pitch to Pistons fans. Considering Curry survived for 11 NBA seasons with minimal skill, this may prove to be an easy task for him. He will probably try to convince people that Brick Hands Brown is an on-the-brink All-Star center with a feathery touch around the basket and promising rookie Walter Sharpe is a future fixture in the rotation whose hobbies include light napping.
Of course, Curry also has to convince fans that a veteran team that perpetually underachieved the least few years just needed a few minor tweaks and adjustments, not a major overhaul. He needs to reassure fans to have faith in a good team that has made the last six Eastern Conference Finals, but has only one championship banner to show for all its work. Curry is convinced he knows exactly what ails the team, and if you are willing to listen, he is more than willing to explain how he expects to lead this team back to where a lot of people have expected them to be the last few years–the NBA Finals.
I am listening and have been paying close attention. With that said, everyone knows the Pistons roster, or at least the main core guys. So instead of breaking-down each player or position, I’d rather delve into some of Curry’s main selling points for a successful season in the D. So sit back, relax, and allow me to explain what Coach Curry has in store:
Ending Complacency: The Pistons recent failings in the playoffs have been blamed on the core of the team having an elitist attitude and expecting to have wins given to them, and rightfully so. Curry has said that players will have to prove they want to play and give full effort, or they will be sitting next to him on the bench. No exceptions. Will it work with a stubborn group of proud veterans? It certainly can’t hurt to try.
Attention to Detail: When you are a veteran, you may not like going over the little things in practice that a college or even a high school coach may harp on, like being in the right spot on defense or finishing a pick. But when teams are just as good as you talent wise, it is the little things that may make the difference in a win or an earlier tee time in the Florida sun.
Conditioning: Curry called out all of the players. Daily conditioning sessions will be mandatory during the season. Rasheed Wallace has been specifically targeted by the coach as a culprit who wears down as the season progresses towards the Playoffs. Curry knows all about hard work and expects the players to learn to work harder. These sessions should pay dividends by year’s end.
Increased Defensive Pressure: Even though the Pistons led the league in Defensive Points Against, Curry wants to turn up the heat even more. He will ditch the zone defenses that former coach Flip Saunders liked to employ and stay with a strict man-to-man with more full court pressure and trapping, which he anticipates will turn into easy transition baskets. Easier baskets = Improved offense. Win/Win.
Capitalize On Bench Depth: At the beginning of each season, Flip Saunders would talk a good talk about using his bench depth and getting the younger players more time on the floor and resting the starters, and then he would effectively give up on this promise ten games into the season. Expect Curry to keep a consistent 10-11 man rotation all season long. This will lead to a fresher group of players come playoff time.
Increased Paint Production: Curry singled-out Rasheed to get into shape for a reason. Curry expects to get the ball into the paint with regularity and work the ball inside-out. That starts and ends with Sheed. Regardless, he expects to get all of the frontcourt players more touches in the post.
McDyess To The Bench: After Ben Wallace bolted town, the Pistons simply moved Antonio McDyess into the starting lineup and continued to roll along. While Dice has done nothing negatively that would necessitate a move back the bench, Curry knows that is where Antonio has been most effective for the team and expects either Amir Johnson or Kwame Brown to push for a starting spot. While the team raves about how good Brown looks since signing with the team, they are leaning toward having young Amir Johnson in the starting spot alongside Sheed. However, both players still have to earn it. After three years of learning on the bench, I expect Amir to do just that.
More Stuckey: Rodney Stuckey will not be starting but should end up getting starters minutes.. Curry fully expects to give Rodney 30+ minutes a game backing up both guard spots. This isn’t just a good thing, it’s a GREAT thing. Look for Stuckey to have a breakout season and push for a 6th Man of the Year Award.
Establishing a Backup For Prince: The Pistons will give rookie Walter Sharpe every chance during training camp to earn the main backup spot behind Tayshaun Prince. The former UAB small forward has gotten some high praise from GM Joe Dumars and fellow players have also noticed his splendid play during the summer. The only other option is Walter Hermann, who Walter should beat out easily. Look for Detroit to also run a few three-guard lineups as a change of pace.
Prediction: While everyone expects the Pistons to start slipping and falling back to the middle or back of the Eastern Conference pack, I don’t. A new voice is exactly what the team needed and the voice is one the players respect. Expect the Detroit youngsters to also start pushing the vets for more playing time and for Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson, and Arron Afflalo to continue developing, eventually pushing aside some of the veteran stalwarts. Expect to see 55 wins and another Central Division Title, and a renewed playoff push. I anticipate nothing less than another banner to be hanging from the rafters of The Palace by next fall. Bring on all the haters.
Tim is one of the founding members of the Shawn Kemp’s Offspring blog and is a well-known and constant commenter to SLAMonline.