And then there were the whispers that the Teacher had started to let down on the court. " 'Let down' is too strong," says one Piston—not Thomas—who requests anonymity. "It was more of a subtle problem with team chemistry. AD was unhappy and let you know it." This Detroit player also believes that, consciously or subconsciously, Dantley didn't get out and run on the break, as Daly wanted him to, because Dantley had too much to gain when the Pistons operated from their half-court offense. Like what? Like the ball, maybe seven of 10 times.
Well, that criticism qualifies as a panegyric when compared with the verbal missiles that Aguirre's former teammates launched at his broad back.
Dallas center James Donaldson: "I'm ready for somebody to come in here who's willing to play hard every night. Sometimes Mark would just loaf."
Guard Rolando Blackman: "Mark could dominate a game when he wanted to, only when he was in the right frame of mind. You just can't let your teammates down, and he let us down a lot."
Forward Sam Perkins: "Today should be an all-day party because he's gone. Good luck, Detroit, because you're going to need it."
Aguirre was asked about the barbs last week as he relaxed in the suburban Detroit hotel that will be his home until he and his wife, Angela, find an apartment. "Maybe they felt like I deserted them," said Aguirre. "Well, I didn't. It was a management decision."
Whoa, Mark, slip me some spin.
"Maybe if we had been a little more of a family, instead of letting the media tear us apart, things would've been better," continued Aguirre.
"Look, everything I ever did in Dallas, every problem that Dick Motta [who feuded with Aguirre when he coached the Mavs and who, as the Pistons' TV color man, is now, in a sense, reunited with him] and I ever had, was blown out of proportion. The only thing that was interesting about the Dallas Mavericks was my problems."
That's partially true, except that Aguirre created much of his trouble. But he has changed addresses now, and one thing is for sure: It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Mark Anthony Aguirre. He's playing ball with his buddy Thomas for the first time since high school, when, as members of the Whiz Kids, they confounded older teams in the Chicago summer leagues. He's with a team that knows how to win and with a coach who says he'll "force-feed" Aguirre minutes to whip him into shape. And he's in a system that wants, and needs, his varied offensive talents—low-post scoring, perimeter shooting, running the floor, and getting the ball to the open man when double-teamed.