Unfamiliar territory for Pistons (cont.)
"Guys on this squad have heart," Wallace said after Detroit's 98-89, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other victory Wednesday at Minnesota. "We're not giving up and we're not giving in. We're not thinking about tanking the season just because we lost a couple of games or because we're not where we want to be right now."
Said McDyess: "No question you feel it. It's like you can do as much as you can, and it's still not there. You're still not winning at that level. You think, Maybe time has passed us by and there are going to be better teams. I understand exactly what Kevin means. That's how it's feels this year. Hey, is this a time to rebuild? The way our record goes, it's going to be up to the GM. We'll see what happens.''
In fact, it is happening. The Pistons this season, at the behest of president Joe Dumars, are about retooling on the fly and serving the youthful likes of Stuckey, Amir Johnson, Arron Afflalo and Jason Maxiell. Those are rookie coach Michael Curry's marching orders and that's why Curry is the man calling the cadence. Fans of the Pistons are spoiled, of course, but they're wasting their breath clamoring for Curry to go. Team insiders say Curry has Dumars' full support. So count on the new coach to remain the one nudging along the young guys, no matter how many rookie mistakes -- overloading players with info and adjustments -- Curry makes or how often the veterans feel they could run on autopilot.
"Even though we have veteran guys who have been there,'' Curry said, "when you incorporate four young guys, it changes how guys play and it changes everyone's understanding of what their roles are and where their places are on the court. The veteran guys have to be patient, but the younger guys bring an athletic ability and some youth and energy that they sorely need.''
The vision got muddied in the season's first week when Detroit acquired Iverson and Curry tossed a whole summer's and a training camp's worth of preparation into the trash. Moving Billups as the first big roster move of Dumars' grand redesign made sense financially and for the future -- the 2004 Finals MVP's contract had $36 million left, stretching into 2011, as opposed to Iverson's $22 million that comes off the books this summer. But it swapped out a holistic point guard, integral to the Pistons' chemistry and way of playing, for one of the most ill-fitting and hot-potato Hall of Fame performers ever. Iverson always has had and always will have a style so specific, so strong, so self-contained that he's the pea under any mattress that will have him.
"Why should I go somewhere where they don't play my style and I'm not utilized? I feel like I'm still effective in this game and I can be, if you put the ball in my hands,'' Iverson, looking toward his future, said Wednesday.
Iverson is in full survival mode these days. His scoring is down from 26.4 points with the Nuggets last season to 17.6 in 40 games for Detroit, his assists down from 7.1 to 5.2, his shooting from 45.4 percent to 41.7 and his minutes down by four per game to 37.9.
"Obviously,'' Iverson continued, "I'm going to go somewhere where they want me to play like Allen Iverson. 'Cause I can't play like nobody else.''
The Pistons would be happy just to play more like their old selves. Uh, make that former selves. Wallace and McDyess are 34, Iverson is 33, Hamilton will turn 31 on Feb. 14. Stuckey, Johnson, Afflalo and Maxiell are 22, 21, 23 and 25, respecitvely. This is a team Goldilocks would have trouble with, too this or too that.
"Aw, man, there were times when we were basically a different team,'' said McDyess, who still chose to come back after riding along in the Denver deal. "Just with the trade, AI coming in, that gave us a different look. Different coaching staff. We were a consistent team in the past, and here we're still trying to find ourselves. But I think eventually, hopefully, eventually, it will come along.''
Big circle keep on turning, proud Pistons keep on burning.
Steve Aschburner covered the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NBA for 13 seasons for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has served as president or vice president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association since 2005.