Posted by Bob Biscigliano in Allen Iverson, Detroit Pistons, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, the answer is gone but the Pistons find the answer
Allen Iverson's nickname, "the Answer" almost makes this way too easy. As you probably already know, Iverson did not travel to Orlando for tonight's game against the Magic because he was out with a stiff back. It was announced today by Coach Curry that Richard Hamilton would start in his, not only tonight, but 4lyfe a.k.a he will be the starter for the rest of the season. With the Pistons having lost eight games in a row, Coach Curry was definitely looking for some kind of answer. Get ready for this because this is totally going to blow your minds. Tonight, the Pistons have found out that the answer is actually by playing without "the answer."
Basic philosophy tells me that you can't have an answer without an answer, but the Pistons appear to defy science after their performance tonight. The Pistons, who took control in the third quarter and never let go, won by eight on the road, against the third best team in the Eastern Conference. Shenanigans. Richard Hamilton, back in his normal starting role, scored 31 points.
Now there are going to be a million articles tomorrow saying, "I told you so, Iverson wasn't the answer" or "See? Rip should always be starting." Those articles will probably be right. Not only does Iverson play a completely different style of basketball than the Pistons (or the old Pistons), it was pretty clear he wasn't going to mesh unless he agreed to change. That's like switching Christmas with Easter or casting Will Smith as Neo in the sequel to the first "Matrix." You just can't change some things or else it won't make sense. (fun fact- Will Smith turned down the role for the original "Matrix").
Now I'm not saying trading for Iverson was awful and should have never even been considered. I still stand by Joe's side in terms of making the deal. Any time you have a chance to get a future Hall of Famer, free up millions of dollars in wake of what could be one of the biggest free agent classes in the history of basketball, all while mixing up a unit that wasn't getting over the hump, year in and year out since the 2004 championship, is a pretty damn good trade to me. It was worth the shot. I won't back down from that. I'll stand Pat Summerall on that.
With that being said, and a pretty decent sample size of how we've been doing with Iverson on the floor and with Richard Hamilton on the bench, it's clear changes had to be made. Future Hall of Famer or not, you have to play your five best players and unfortunately for him, Iverson does not figure into that mix with the way the Pistons play. He is a one man show and doesn't play defense; the complete oppposite of what the Pistons have stood for in the past six years.
Let's take a look at the numbers:
Since the Pistons benched Rip, they are just 4-12. Since the Iverson trade, with Iverson in the lineup, the Pistons are 23-28! If the Pistons were five games under .500 at this point in the season, they obviously wouldn't be in the playoffs. They would be tied for ninth. And not only have they lost 28 games with Iverson, but half of those losses weren't good, hard faught losses; they were by double digits.
Now put Rip back in the starting lineup with Iverson and you have a team that is 19-17. More respectable, but nothing to call your grandma about. Clearly Rip being in the starting lineup helps though, right?
So is that the Answer? Rip in the starting lineup? Long story short, yes. Rip needs to be in the starting lineup.
Not so fast, though; I have more analyzing to do. I'm on an effing roll.
Let's clear the air with Chauncey Billups. Everyone wants to immediately point their fat index fingers to Chauncey Billups and regard him as some kind of Stephen Curry of Davidson, some kind of team savior. This is where I'm going to boldly disagree. (ducking my head so I don't get hit with tomatoes). Don't get me wrong, Chauncey was definitely the pace maker of the Pistons and was a tremendous player. I have his jersey, a framed photo of him holding the Finals Trophy with the Finals MVP Trophy, and a restraining order to prove my undying love for him and what he did for the Pistons. I just don't feel comfortable giving him all the credit in the world.
Everyone talks about how Chauncey went to Denver, his home town, and put the team on his back to carry them to a land they have never been to before. Some land where the beer flows like wine and the women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capastrano. Now, I'm assuming people are saying this because (a) it makes for a good story since he's from Denver; and (b) because Denver had a losing record before he started repping #7 there. Well, just so you know, Denver was 1-2 when Chauncey started playing games for the Nugs. Hardly an unrecoverable mark three games into an 82 game season.
So where exactly has Chauncey taken them? Pleasure town? Oh, we're going there, but no. I'll tell you where. 18 games above .500, exactly where they were a year ago at the end of the 2007-2008 season. (Now I realize they would have to go 12-12 to finish the season to wind up with the same record as last year, so they will probably finish a little better than 18 above .500, but I'm being technical since we can't exactly predict the future.) Essentially, Chauncey hasn't changed all that much in Denver except the team having a better attitude and probably one more person at all the practices.
So if it's not Chauncey that's the answer, and it's not exactly Rip starting, then it must be Iverson. And this is what we're going to hear all day tomorrow.
The Pistons started the season 4-0 without Iverson in the lineup. 2-0 with Chauncey and 2-0 without Chauncey and AI. Even. Then, Iverson steps into the mix and the Pistons go 23-29. Iverson has not played in two games during his stint with the Stones and the team has split those games (including tonight). Therefore, the Pistons are 5-1 without him.
Here's the deal. I like Iverson. Obviously, it's hard not to like a guy when he's such a great scorer like he is, or was. He just doesn't fit in with the Pistons. He's that little guy who eats lunch in the far corner while all the older kids throw bacon bits at him. He's me.
I'm not saying bench Iverson and never play him. The Pistons had the right idea when he barely ever saw minutes in the fourth quarter early on. If I was the coach, I would utilize him off the bench when Rip and Stuckey need breathers and let him run free. Alluding to the "loser kid in school" analogy, let him have his recess time when all the older, cooler kids are back inside. Getting him to be okay with that is an entirely different bag of issues.
For tonight though, he was hurt and as a result, the Pistons didn't need to worry about him complaining, or ruining their structured offense. He's an asset, but only when he's used in the right way. Hopefully, when he comes back, that will happen.
As for the Rasheed Wallace affect on the team....that's another story for another time. Let's just soak up this victory tonight, and get back at it tomorrow at practice to prep for the big Boston game on Sunday. Practice!?