Posted on: February 26, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 4:31 pm
Richard Hamilton and Chris Wilcox have been fined for missing shootaround without an excuse, but the Pistons are not planning a coaching change in the wake of the perceived mutiny against John Kuester, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Saturday.
The team engaged in lengthy organizational meetings Saturday to discuss the latest meltdown in a season that has spiraled out of control. Though sources are downplaying a significant rebellion against Kuester, a proposal to buy out Hamilton -- who had another in a series of confrontations with Kuester recently -- will be presented to ownership before the March 1 deadline for him to be eligible for another team's playoff roster. The chances of a buyout for Hamilton, however, are "slim," a source said, given that he has two years left on his contract.
Hamilton and Wilcox flew back to Detroit with the team after the Pistons -- with only six available players -- lost to the Sixers in Philadelphia. Both players are expected to be available Saturday night against Utah, but whether or not they play will be a "coaching decision," the source said.
Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace also missed shootaround Friday prior to the Sixers game, but all three had legitimate excuses, the person said. The Pistons' training staff confirmed to management that McGrady and Prince had been sick. Wallace is dealing with the sudden terminal illness of a close family member, the source said.
Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey were late for shootaround, missing the team bus and catching a cab, the source said. They were fined for being late.
Whatever the reasons, the incident -- and the perception of a team-wide rebellion against Kuester -- has put the Pistons' already miserable season in an even grimmer perspective for the remaining 22 games.
Each of the most sensible resolutions -- buying out Hamilton or firing Kuester -- is complicated by the fact that the team is waiting for an ownership change to be completed. It is unlikely, sources said, that the ownership transfer would be completed in time for Hamilton to be bought out before the March 1 deadline for him to be playoff-eligible with a new team.
"This is not the climate where anybody wants to cut a big check just so a guy can go play somewhere else," said the person familiar with the Pistons' latest controversy.
Hamilton, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal, was close to being shipped to Cleveland at the trade deadline but could not agree to terms of a buyout with the Cavs.
Hamilton and Wilcox apologized for missing shootaround. It was not clear Saturday whether the ill players -- McGrady and Prince -- or Wallace would be available for the Utah game.
Given the ongoing rift between the Pistons' old guard -- led by Hamilton and Prince -- and the younger core, the mere perception of a mutiny against Kuester will be enough to make the remaining six weeks of the regular season close to unbearable. The inability of team president Joe Dumars to take action without ownership clarity has made the situation one that Kuester and the coaching staff will have to navigate the rest of the way.
Tension that has been building for months between Kuester and the veteran players boiled over in an ugly recent confrontation between Hamilton and Kuester, sources said. It was not the first time this season that the two have verbally gone after each other, though this incident was reported to have been a one-way tirade from Hamilton to Kuester in which the former All-Star questioned the coach's decisions and credentials.
In mid-January, Kuester made the decision to move Hamilton to the bench in order to give more playing time to Ben Gordon. Soon after, Hamilton's agent, Leon Rose, attempted to have him included in a trade that would've sent Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey. The trade, like many Melo scenarios, never happened. But Hamilton has remained on the bench ever since, playing only once in the past 23 games.
Hamilton, 33, could be a useful addition to contenders such as the Mavericks and Celtics, who both have internally discussed signing him if he were bought out. It appears that he will instead languish where he's been since Jan. 12, on the Pistons' bench and at a point of no return in a lost season.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.
Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.
The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.
Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.
While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.
Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.
But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.
“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”
Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:
• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.
• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”
• Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”
• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.
• Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.
• Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire, Berger's Post-Ups, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Celtics, George Karl, Jared Dudley, Jazz, Jermaine O'Neal, Jerry Sloan, John Kuester, Kevin Love, Knicks, Kurt Rambis, Lakers, Nuggets, Phil Jackson, Pistons, Rasheed Wallace, Robert Sarver, Steve Nash, Suns, Tayshaun Prince, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers
Posted on: June 23, 2009 5:02 pm
Even when a reputable, tireless, connected NBA reporter comes out with a trade that was discussed -- and goes to great lengths to make it clear that it was discussed and went nowhere -- the story is met with derision.
This is why the trade deadline and the draft are my least favorite times of year. It's hard enough to separate the fact from the fiction. When facts get thrown in the paper-shredder with yesterday's mail, it becomes even more confusing.
Fact: The Pistons and Celtics discussed a trade whose primary pieces included Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen going to Detroit for Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. Also fact: It never got to the point of being discussed by the men who ultimately would've made the decision, Danny Ainge and Joe Dumars.
Also fact: This is the way it was reported by Yahoo! Sports Tuesday -- as a dead-end proposal that went nowhere. And yet everyone comes out of the woodwork now to say what a bad idea it would've been for both teams.
No kidding. That's why it didn't go anywhere.
"Very preliminary," was how my source described it.
But this is the world in which we live. It's great and thrilling and competitive, and it's also quite stupid sometimes.
But I digress.
The fact that the names Allen and Rondo would even be discussed in a Celtics trade scenario tells you something. For one, it tells you that teams are willing to discuss trading anybody, no matter what they say. Discussing and doing are two very different things. But it also tells you that the Celtics, who meandered through the wilderness for years before scoring Allen and Kevin Garnett in two perfect-storm trade scenarios, have no desire to get lost like that ever again. And when you look at some of the numbers on their books going forward -- Garnett and Paul Pierce owed more than $40 million in 2010-11 -- you can understand why they'd at least discuss a scenario that would soften the landing.
But when I see Stuckey's name in this scenario, I'm not so sure it was the Celtics who walked away before elevating the discussion to the top executives. The Pistons traded Chauncey Billups because A) It gave them massive amounts of cap space; and B) They had Stuckey. Can't see them trading him now.
For his part, Ainge met with the Boston area media at the Celtics' training facility in Waltham, Mass., Tuesday morning and got right to work debunking the Pistons trade talk.
"I've heard speculation we're dissatisfied with [Rondo]," Ainge said. "We're going to trade him because he was late for a playoff game? That's not true. The first criteria that any trade rumor has to pass: Is it going to help us win a championship this year?"
Ainge, who has the 58th pick in the draft, also said this, according to the Celtics' official Twitter page: "Most of the players in the first round I wouldn't trade for J.R. Giddens or Bill Walker."
Ouch. A lot of future D-League All-Stars and slam-dunk champions available, which explains why almost every team in the top 10 after the Clippers is looking to trade down.
Basically, it is why every team is willing to explore anything over the next 48 hours.
"It could be crazy," one Eastern Conference GM said of the trades that could go down Thursday night.
One way or another, it always is.
Posted on: March 4, 2009 4:07 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2009 6:22 pm
Nothing against Iverson. It's not his fault he was traded to Detroit. He didn't ask for it. He didn't tell Joe Dumars to send Chauncey Billups to Denver. I've known Iverson since his rookie year, and he's always been one of my favorite players. But it's pretty clear that the Pistons are better off without him.
Everybody knew that would be the case when Dumars made the trade. Someday, maybe Dumars will even admit as much. Iverson-for-Billups was a proactive move by Dumars to break up the Pistons before they got old and broke down on their own. At the end of the season, Dumars will have about $30 million in cap space at his disposal when Iverson and Rasheed Wallace come off the books.
But right now, the Pistons are showing that they're still dangerous when they play the way they've played since Iverson got hurt Tuesday night. Without A.I., Detroit might just be a sleeping giant in the East. With A.I., they were a disaster.
It wasn't all Iverson's fault. Spare me all the anti-A.I. rants about Iverson being a cancer. He has been who he is for 13 years, and he's not going to change now. The trade was a gamble from the get-go, and the final score won't be known for two more years.
Here is what has to happen over the next month and a half for the Pistons to make one more push with the core (minus Billups) intact. They have to keep thriving while Iverson is out. They're 3-0 without him so far, and a 5-3 record over the next two weeks would be respectable considering the schedule includes Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, and Houston before Iverson would theoretically be ready to return March 20 against the Clippers.
Second -- and this is really the most important part -- Iverson has to suck it up and embrace his bench role once he returns. Everything depends on it -- for the Pistons and for Iverson.
Iverson's comments on being replaced in the starting lineup by Richard Hamilton have been classic A.I. Basically, he'll do whatever Michael Curry asks him to do. But then comes the "but," as in, "But I've never come off the bench in my career." But now he has no choice. He has to embrace the role and show teams that might be willing to sign him this summer that he's about the team and not about A.I. Think about all the opportunities he'll have to come in with the second unit and be the primary scorer, which he's been from the day he showed up in Philadelphia in 1996. It's a perfect role for him at this stage of his career, one that Curry should've recognized sooner.
If he doesn't embrace it, the Pistons will suffer and so will Iverson's reputation, which is already damaged enough. My official medical advice to A.I. is to eat two servings of humble pie and call me in two weeks. Then come off the bench for the rest of the season, do what you've done your whole career -- score the ball, without having to worry about getting Hamilton, Sheed, Tayshaun Prince, or anyone else involved -- and reap the benefits this summer when a contender sees how valuable you can be in that role.
These are all things Iverson is perfectly capable of doing. Maybe two weeks is enough time for him to decide that he wants to.