Posted on: August 21, 2009 1:15 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2009 4:17 pm

Iverson gives play-by-play of his own demise

When Allen Iverson entered the NBA in 1996, people wore beepers. Seriously, Twitter Nation, to communicate with someone, here's what you did in 1996: You called their beeper number, listened for the beeps, punched in your phone number, and waited. Sometimes they'd call you back, sometimes they wouldn't.

It was slightly more effective than smoke signals, or rotary dialing.

Which brings us to the technical innovation of 2009 and how Iverson is using it to offer play-by-play of his own demise.

Iverson, a certain Hall of Famer coming off a $20 million-a-year salary who can't find an NBA job, has been waxing poetic about his comeback via Twitter updates. We call it a comeback because, well, Iverson does -- and also because he was for all intents and purposes retired down the stretch of a miserable stint with the Pistons last year. A proud 10-time All-Star, Iverson couldn't stomach coming off the bench for Michael Curry, who became only the latest coach to get fired after coaching A.I. Iverson went so far as to say that he'd retire for real before coming off another team's bench. But what he really couldn't stomach was the decline of his game. He's 34, his body has absorbed incalculable mileage, and he can't do the one thing he's always done better than anybody else -- get to the basket and score, by any means necessary.

Neil Paine of Basketball-reference.com analyzed Iverson's statistical decline and was spot-on in concluding that one of the problems is that while A.I. can still get to the basket, he's finishing with a lower percentage than he used to. That's what happens to players like Iverson when they get old; they don't fade away, they flame out like a comet.

I don't want to get too much into Iverson's sudden Twitter fetish. You can read the updates yourself. But the tone and volume of updates picked up noticeably this week, with A.I. saying that his "people" are telling him that he's "close to a deal." That was Wednesday morning. Still no deal.

Iverson also has floated the teams with whom he's apparently close to signing. "Waiting for the call," he wrote. "Charlotte, Miami, NY." Iverson, who has thrived off negative energy from his doubters since the moment he was drafted, also wrote, "If you think I am just going away, think again! ... I have heard all of the doubters, but they should know that I will not be broken."

Bobcats coach Larry Brown said this week that he'd gladly coach Iverson again, but didn't want to insult him with an offer that probably would be somewhere between the minimum and the mid-level exception. Miami? Why? As for the Knicks, we told you three weeks ago on this site that the Knicks had "zero" interest in Iverson. That remains true. Just ask the dozen media outlets that wrote it again this week.

Before you brand me an Iverson hater, think again (as A.I. would say). I've known him and covered him since his rookie year. I haven't liked everything he's done, but I've always liked him and enjoyed watching his career. For me, Iverson and Kobe have been my favorite post-Jordan players to watch. So if you're looking for A.I. bashing, or if you want to read someone who's hoping Iverson fails in his attempt to revive his suddenly dormant career, you've come to the wrong place.

I hope he succeeds. I hope he winds up somewhere that's a good fit, on a team that he can help. Some people are ready for the smiling, sanitized stars of the new NBA to take over and leave Iverson's rough public image and his innovative/frustrating/selfish game in the past. Not me. 

But in all the Twitter updates, amid all the bravado, I don't see the one line that Iverson needs to write. I don't see him stating that he'd accept a bench role, that he'd be willing to do what he could've done in Detroit -- which is allow his scoring gifts to impact the game as a reserve. If Iverson would say that, he might actually be getting some interest from teams other than the bottom-feeders whose intentions are really about the lowest common denominator: signing Iverson to sell tickets as opposed to signing him to improve their team.

I don't know how many more Twitter updates we'll see before Iverson signs somewhere. Maybe I'll page him and ask.


Posted on: July 8, 2009 4:11 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2009 4:34 pm

Pistons, Kuester agree on three-year deal UPDATE

The Pistons have agreed to a three-year contract with Cavaliers assistant John Kuester to be their next coach, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

Kuester, who previously worked on the Pistons' staff as an assistant when the team won the NBA title in 2004 under Larry Brown, is traveling to Detroit Wednesday night and is expected to be introduced Thursday morning after signing the contract, a person familiar with the situation said. The deal is fully guaranteed for three years, the person said.

The Pistons opened negotiations with Kuester, credited with diversifying Cleveland's offense last season under coach Mike Brown, after failing to agree to contract terms with former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson on Tuesday. The sticking point with Johnson, who is owed $8 million from Dallas over the next two seasons, was said to have been a third guaranteed year.

UPDATE: Kuester leaves LeBron James in Cleveland for a chance to sit in the first seat on a rapidly evolving Detroit bench. The Pistons were the first team to jump aggressively into the free-agent market last week, agreeing to terms with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. If team president Joe Dumars is unable to make other moves, those signings will effectively preclude Detroit from being a major player in the 2010 free-agent market that will include LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh -- unless they decide to sign extensions with their current teams this summer.

Dumars fired Michael Curry last week after only one season at the helm. Curry's inability to juggle the three-man backcourt of Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, and Allen Iverson in the wake of Dumars' decision to trade Chauncey Billups to Denver for A.I. is now Kuester's problem, though with slightly different names: Stuckey, Hamilton, and Gordon.

Kuester, 55, has paid his dues as an assistant in Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Jersey, Orlando, and Cleveland. His name quickly climbed the charts of head coaching candidates last season after Mike Brown gave him autonomy to revamp the Cavs' offensive approach following the team's acquisition of Mo Williams.

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 7, 2009 12:09 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2009 11:23 pm

Pistons pass on Avery, focus on Kuester (UPDATE)

UPDATES THROUGHOUT with Kuester negotiations:

The Detroit Pistons have passed on Avery Johnson in their search for a head coach and have entered into negotiations with Cavaliers assistant John Kuester, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. A person familiar with the negotiations said an agreement is expected within 24 hours.

Unable to satisfy Johnson's salary requirements and apparently unwilling to guarantee a third year, the Pistons have focused on Kuester, a former Pistons assistant under Larry Brown who is credited with diversifying the Cavs' offense last season after coach Mike Brown gave him autonomy on that side of the floor. Kuester has not employed an agent in his dealings with the Cavs, but he is being represented in his negotiations with Detroit -- by CAA Sports, the same agency that represents LeBron James.
Johnson seemed to have been in a position to work out a reasonable deal because Dallas still owes him approximately $8 million over the next two seasons. The Pistons, however, are in a similar position after firing Michael Curry last week. Detroit owes Curry about $5 million over the next two seasons.

Pistons president Joe Dumars traveled to Johnson's Houston-area home over the weekend to discuss the job. Previously, Dumars had stated that he wanted a coach in place in time for the Pistons' departure for Las Vegas summer league, which begins Friday. 

The focus on Kuester wasn't surprising on several fronts. First, given Dumars' emphasis on upgrading the team's offensive potency by coming to terms with free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, Kuester's growing reputation as an offensive guru seemed to give him the edge over Thibodeau, who is widely regarded as one of the top defensive assistants in the league. The Pistons teams that advanced to six consecutive conference finals were built on defense, but it could be time for a change. It is not clear whether Dumars had reservations about Thibodeau's fairly rigid rotation system of defense, which is similar in style to the approach that wound up dooming the Cavaliers against Orlando in the conference finals. Thibodeau received credit -- and deservedly so -- for the Celtics' championship run in 2007-08, but his system benefited from having outstanding defenders like Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins

In addition to his history with the Pistons, Kuester also served on Brown's staff in Philadelphia when the team advanced to the 2001 NBA Finals in addition to stints in Orlando, New Jersey, and Boston. If money is as much of an issue with the remaining candidates as it was with Johnson, that may have tipped the scales in Kuester's favor as well. At close to $1 million per season, Thibodeau is one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in the league. The hiring of Kuester would have a ripple effect, too; it would help the Pistons and hurt division rival Cleveland, which would need to find a new offensive guru to replace him.


Posted on: July 2, 2009 10:13 pm

Gordon revisited: Sign-and-trade for Iverson?

Ben Gordon to the Pistons is a done deal. The method by which he will get there is still under discussion.

CBSSports.com has learned that the Bulls and Pistons may yet revisit Detroit's agreement with Ben Gordon and instead investigate a sign-and-trade that would send Allen Iverson to Chicago.

Discussions have not yet reached the highest levels of both organizations, but the revised look at how Gordon goes from Chicago to Detroit would benefit Gordon and the Bulls. Gordon would get an extra year, and thus more money, by signing with the Bulls and getting traded. The Bulls, who currently are getting nothing for losing him, would get Iverson -- a fading future Hall of Famer who would get to finish his career in a major market as long as he's willing to accept a secondary role.

It's a farfetched scenario, and not everyone involved would be on board -- particularly the Pistons. The major sticking point would be how to sweeten the deal for Detroit, which would only consider such an option if it would provide significant cap savings. The Pistons took themselves out of the 2010 free-agent sweepstakes by agreeing to terms with Gordon and Charlie Villanueva on the first day of the free-agent negotiating period. Those agreements are not binding until July 8, when the league-mandated moratorium is lifted and the league and players association agree on the salary cap and luxury tax for the 2009-10 season.

A person familiar with the situation said the Pistons would flat-out refuse to entertain a sign-and-trade for Gordon unless it provided significant savings. The Bulls, too, may not be eager to do business with Gordon, whose agent did not give the team a chance to match Detroit's offer.

The Bulls also would want to know that Iverson, 34, would be totally committed despite not making the $20 million he's accustomed to and without playing the primary role he enjoyed for his entire career until he was traded to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups last season. Iverson did not adapt well to diminished minutes with the Pistons, and late in the season vowed to retire before he would come off another team's bench.

But Iverson apparently is invigorated by the prospect of getting past the Detroit experience. He wrote on his Twitter account Thursday, "For those of you who thought that I was done, think again! ... My only preference will be to play for a coach that knows what I bring to the table and that I am going to bring it every night."

It has been widely speculated that Iverson would land in Charlotte with his former coach, Larry Brown, with whom he had a rocky relationship in Philadelphia. But the two men respect each other, and Brown recently gushed about his time coaching Iverson. Beyond teams with cap space (Memphis, Oklahoma City, Sacramento) who wouldn't be interested in signing a veteran like Iverson, the options for A.I. are limited to sign-and-trades and, more likely, a deal for the mid-level exception or less.

While the sign-and-trade scenario with Detroit is farfetched, Iverson is exploring all options to find one more landing spot in an often tumultuous but Hall of Fame career.

Posted on: July 2, 2009 12:55 am

Avery in driver's seat

With word Wednesday night that Doug Collins has removed his name from consideration for the Pistons' head coaching job, Avery Johnson has emerged as the clear favorite to succeed Michael Curry in Detroit.

As he did with the Sixers' job earlier this offseason, Collins flirted with the idea of returning to the sideline but ultimately couldn't resist staying in the relatively blissful world of basketball broadcasting. All in all, that's good for basketball fans because I think Collins is as good as it gets when it comes to NBA color commentators. A little over the top sometimes, but outstanding nonetheless.

So after Collins informed Pistons president Joe Dumars that he was no longer pursuing the job, a source familiar with the situation confirmed, it is now clearly Johnson's job to lose. The former Mavericks coach makes sense on so many levels. Dumars has stated that he wants a more experienced coach. Johnson was a winner in Dallas, and by now he's had time to reflect on some of the things he did wrong -- primarily being too rigid. The third box the Pistons can check off is that Johnson is still getting paid by the Mavericks next season, so he comes at a discount. For similar reasons, I believe Sam Mitchell will get the job in Minnesota. Dollars and cents and past success equals a new opportunity for both. Stay here for updates.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:26 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 1:00 am

Pistons agree with Gordon, Villanueva (UPDATE)

The Detroit Pistons struck first Wednesday, getting commitments from their top two free-agent targets, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

Gordon agreed to a five-year, $55 million deal, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Villanueva also agreed to a five-year deal in the $35 million range -- or slightly above the anticipated mid-level exception of $5.6 million per year -- a person involved in those discussions said. The exact figures won't be known until the deals are signed on July 8, after the league and players association agree on the salary cap and luxury tax for the 2009-10 season.

After firing coach Michael Curry Tuesday, Pistons president Joe Dumars acted swiftly in targeting Gordon and Villanueva with the salary-cap space produced by the controversial decision to trade Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson and his $22 million expiring contract last November. But the signings posed two potential problems: 1) There isn't enough room in the same backcourt for Gordon, Richard Hamilton, and Rodney Stuckey; and 2) The Pistons will no longer be major players in the much better free-agent summer of 2010.

Not able to afford another miserable season for the mere chance that a big-ticket free agent would come to Detroit in '10, Dumars decided to strike now. The Pistons were among only a handful of teams with significant cap space this summer, and thus could dictate which players they pursued. Next summer, they might've ended up on the periphery of the excitement when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and others were looking for not only money, but also a championship-ready roster to join.

The Pistons don't have a championship roster, but they did have money. As a buyer in a seller's market, Dumars obviously felt the time to act was this summer, not next.

The backcourt logjam lends credence to the idea that Dumars isn't finished shuffling the deck this summer. Some league executives have speculated that once Dumars landed Gordon, a prolific scorer who doesn't do much else, he would begin exploring trade possibilities for Hamilton. That's somewhat ironic, given that Hamilton's contentious relationship with Curry led, in part, to the coach being fired after only one season. Hamilton has four years and nearly $50 million left on the extension he signed shortly before Billups was shipped to Denver and the demolition of the Pistons began. Moving Hamilton would give Dumars a Gordon-Stuckey backcourt, which presumably either Doug Collins or Avery Johnson -- the two front-runners to succeed Curry -- would find intriguing.

UPDATE: As he did with the Sixers' job earlier in the offseason, Collins has pulled his name out of consideration for the Pistons job, according to a person familiar with the situation. Johnson now has an unobstructed path to the job.



Posted on: July 1, 2009 10:59 am

Pistons target Gordon, Villanueva

Eager to transform malaise from the salary-cap clearing Chauncey Billups trade into a new beginning, the Pistons believe they can land both Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva and are making their pitch on the first day of free agency, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com.

It is widely expected that Pistons president Joe Dumars will land Gordon, a pure scorer who is eager to get out of Chicago and will have no problem getting paid by the team with the most money to offer. One person familiar with Villanueva's situation said the Pistons believe they can get him with an offer a little north of the approximately $5.6 million mid-level exception. Cleveland also has interest in Villanueva, who became an unrestricted free agent when the Bucks decided not to give him a qualifying offer. But while the decision freed Villanueva from the Bucks' matching rights, it also stripped him of his Bird free-agent rights. Short of a sign-and-trade -- which is unlikely -- Villanueva will have trouble getting more than the mid-level from a team other than the Pistons, given the dearth of teams with available cap space.

The Pistons also are in the early stages of a search to replaced coach Michael Curry, who was abruptly fired Tuesday. TNT analyst Doug Collins and former Mavs coach Avery Johnson have emerged as the favorites, with a high-level coaching source telling CBSSports.com that it is Collins' job to lose. Detroit owes Curry $5 million over the next two seasons, making Johnson an attractive option, in part, because he is still owed money by the Mavs and thus would come at a discount.

Posted on: June 30, 2009 1:39 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 5:44 pm

Pistons fire Curry; who's next? (UPDATE)

As most of the NBA was expecting the Detroit Pistons to gear up for pursuit of several free agents, they fired their coach instead. Michael Curry will not return to coach the team next season, the Pistons announced in an email to the media.

"This was a difficult decision to make," Pistons president Joe Dumars said. "I want to thank Michael for his hard work and dedication to the organization. However, at this time, I have decided to make a change."

UPDATE: Speculation immediately centered on whether Dumars would reach out to former Bad Boys teammate Bill Laimbeer, who resigned as coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock earlier this month in the hopes of landing an NBA job. The timing is more than curious, but Laimbeer refused to comment when reached on his cell phone Tuesday.

"I've got nothing to say," Laimbeer said. "Thanks for the call."

Such unexpurgated charm (note sarcasm) is why Laimbeer has yet to land so much as an assistant's job in the NBA since retiring 16 years ago. He coached the Shock to three WNBA championships, then quit three games into the season because he wanted NBA executives to know he was ready for his chance.

They've known he's been ready, yet nobody has come calling. The Minnesota job figures to go to former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, the 2006-07 coach of the year. Mitchell fits the low-budget description in that he has money coming to him from Toronto and thus would be a cheap hire. Anyway, the Timberwolves job won't be going to Laimbeer, even though Laimbeer has let it be known that he's interested.

But what about the Pistons? If there is an organization in the NBA with at least a few people who don't loathe Laimbeer, it would be the Pistons. The same Pistons who were about to hire another, even more despised member of the Bad Boys, Isiah Thomas, until Thomas spoiled late owner Bill Davidson's plans by announcing them before Davidson did. So Isiah was ex-communicated, all those years ago.

Laimbeer is the lone member of the Bad Boys still standing outside of Dumars -- and by standing, Dennis Rodman, we don't mean in front of a craps table. Only hours before diving into free agency with the cap space cleared from his ill-fated acquisition of Allen Iverson, Dumars is in a fix. His once dominant organization is in shambles. If he wanted to recruit his former bouncer to take some lumps for him and make the Pistons the hated, feared, and (in a twisted way) respected again, Laimbeer would be the choice.

That would be some press conference, you have to admit.

But it appears that Laimbeer will be on the outside looking in once again, as other more accomplished candidates begin to emerge. One of them isn't hard to figure out, since his name comes up with every NBA coaching vacancy: Doug Collins, who coached the Pistons for three seasons in the late 1990s and removed his name from consideration for the 76ers' coaching vacancy earlier this offseason.

Another, according to a high-level coaching source, is former Mavs coach Avery Johnson, who unlike Collins is much better suited to an NBA sideline than an NBA broadcast.

Curry was hired last June to replace Flip Saunders, who was fired after alienating the veteran core of a team that had advanced to six consecutive Eastern Conference finals and won the NBA title in 2004. Under Curry, the Pistons went 39-43 in a season that began with Dumars trading Chauncey Billups to Denver for Iverson's $22 million expiring contract, a move that sent the veteran Pistons reeling from their perch atop the conference. Curry had to endure a juggling act with Iverson, Rodney Stuckey, and Richard Hamilton, and alienated Hamilton by sending him to the bench in favor of Iverson.

UPDATE: There was no evidence that the Curry-Hamilton relationship was anywhere close to healing. One person connected to the situation said an article this week in the Detroit Free Press, in which Curry took more swipes at Hamilton, may have been the tipping point in Curry's firing.

But while Curry had to deal with the headaches from the Iverson trade, he will not reap the rewards. Dumars is set to go shopping for one or two major free agents at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, armed with the cap relief from Iverson's and Rasheed Wallace's contracts coming off Detroit's books.

The stunning announcement of Curry's firing sends a clear message that Curry and Dumars didn't agree on the direction the team will take in its efforts to rebuild. Bulls free agent Ben Gordon is believed to be at the top of Detroit's list of free-agent targets, which begs the question of what will become of Hamilton, the franchise's lone remaining star. The Pistons also are widely expected to make a run at Orlando free agent Hedo Turkoglu.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com