After Iverson trade, Pistons caught between the present and future
Is all the attention paid to the NBA's 2010 free-agent class a good thing or a bad thing? That's a question that, in one form or another, has been posed frequently since the defining moment of Summer 2010 Madness -- the Knicks' dealing two starters from a playoff-contending team for cap purposes.
Most of the time, my inclination with these big-picture questions is to believe that they have limited staying power. When, for example, was the last time you heard someone talk about the Pacers/Pistons brawl that spawned weeks -- if not months -- of commentary? How about
The strongest argument that 2010 free-agent anticipation is hurting the NBA is the overt way the Knicks went about trading away
There's definitely something to be said for the opportunity for fans of also-ran teams -- especially those in big markets -- to dream about the possibility of adding a marquee player as a free agent instead of being resigned to a dark future. The biggest issue I've seen is teams that are stuck between being competitive now and planning for tomorrow. To an extent, that's the situation the remaining Knicks find themselves in the next two seasons. However, no NBA team exemplifies that split personality quite like the Pistons. In trading for
Part of what made Iverson attractive to Dumars was his massive contract, which expires at the end of this season. Combine that with
In between the addition of Wallace to complete the starting lineup in the spring of 2004 and the trade of
Surely, Iverson's days with the Pistons are numbered. Detroit already has Billups' replacement, second-year point guard
The problem comes when Curry has to finish games with a more conventional lineup, leaving him with four players for three spots, all of whom except perhaps Stuckey reasonably believe they should be on the floor down the stretch. In late November, Prince was miffed when he sat out the entire fourth quarter of a loss to Portland (though that had as much to do with an off night as the lineup, as reserve wings
Last Sunday in Atlanta, it was Iverson's turn to sit. With four-and-a-half minutes left in the final period and the Hawks' lead still tenuous, he was replaced by Stuckey, returning to the game only when Hamilton was ejected for arguing a non-call. Iverson did not apparently complain to the media afterward, but his body language while on the bench told a different story.
Hamilton's ejection, his second of the year, was emblematic of the frustration he and Wallace are apparently feeling and directing toward the referees. Hamilton received his fourth technical foul of the season, on pace for 12 -- up from nine a year ago in 72 games. Wallace is certainly no stranger to the T, but with a league-high 11 this season he's already close to matching last year's total of 12.
The Pistons have had plenty of reason to be upset, having started the season only 15-11 and having lost six of their last 11 games. Sunday's defeat was a reminder that Detroit has been passed in the Eastern Conference pecking order by Cleveland, Orlando and perhaps Atlanta, which would play host to the Pistons in a first-round playoff matchup if the season ended today. Clearly, this is not the same team that has made the conference finals six consecutive years.
Detroit has felt the impact of Billups' absence -- and perhaps also the switch from
It's still too early to eulogize the old Pistons; even without Billups, it wouldn't stun me to see this group put things together and reestablish themselves as contenders. However, right now it seems like Detroit is selling hope almost as much as it is selling wins. On that count, the disappointment of the Iverson deal and subsequent lineup change is that young big men
The future is still reasonably bright for the Pistons. If the present is somewhat awkward, blame it on 2010.