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Phil Jackson and Ben Gordon Agree the Pistons Aren’t Trying

The Detroit Pistons are the definition of an NBA team with all the talent needed to succeed but no drive.  When you see a roster that consists of names like Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rip Hamilton, and Tracy McGrady, it’s easy to think you’re reading something about the all-star game.  That clearly isn’t the case anymore.

I don’t want to say washed up, because plenty of these guys have a lot of basketball left in them.  For one reason or another, they just don’t seem to gel as a team.  It probably doesn’t help that they are choosing not to try, which has led to a 4-8 record through 12 games.  When Phil Jackson made a comment about the Pistons being a talented team that wasn’t giving any effort, Gordon wasn’t exactly offended.

Yeah, when you get beat by that much and if you get down by that kind of deficit,” Gordon told the Detroit Free Press on Friday. “It seemed like they got whatever they wanted. We allowed them to move the ball around the perimeter easily without much defensive effort, so that’s an accurate statement.”

We appreciate the honesty, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to sell tickets.  The sad part is Detroit has the talent to make the playoffs and the experience to make a run.  That won’t happen if they continue to simply go through the motions and not care about winning.

Pistons Finally Got the Picture, Started Rip Hamilton

Man, a lot happened in just like two days. Michael Curry finally announced (about effing time!) that Allen Iverson would be coming off the bench and that Rip Hamilton would finally be back in the starting lineup (after Hamilton initiated the movement). I guess all it took was an eight-game losing streak for them to figure things out. I’m surprised it didn’t take them dropping out of the playoffs first. Whatev. Finally someone got the picture, made the change, and now everything is right in the world.

The Pistons beat the Magic in Orlando and the Celtics in Boston their last two games. Both with A.I. out with back stiffness and Rip back in the starting lineup. Coincidence much? I think not. The Pistons are clearly better without Iverson anywhere near the court, as weird as that sounds. Oddly enough, it’s not even that shocking — my boy Matt Watson who runs detroitbadboys.com said as much to me a few weeks ago before the Pistons completely went into the tank. As Watson pointed out, Iverson may have faked the injury to get away from the team for a few days so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about his demotion.

Even though we anoint stars on a regular basis, sometimes teams are better-served devoid of big names. Aside from Detroit, the Rockets went on a six-game winning streak as soon as T-Mac announced he was shutting it down for the season. The Bucks continue to fight hard and win now that Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson are the focal point of their offense instead of Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. Shaq’s picked it up with Amare Stoudemire out. Ditto with Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. Funny the way things work. Even the Celtics will tell you how much better the Pistons were without Iverson — a former MVP. They’re better off without him near the starting lineup without a doubt.

Joe Dumars Thinks How a GM Should

The big news on Tuesday was the Pistons firing coach Flip Saunders. Unlike the shock when they fired Rick Carlisle, I would classify this move as a mild surprise. Think about it — the Pistons had peaked at the Conference Finals once again; there’s only so long you can be pleased with that type of performance before changes are made. And that’s how Joe Dumars thinks. Hearing him speak at the press conference made me think: Gee, now there’s a guy who wants to win — that’s the type of guy I want running my franchise. Some of the things Dumars said that stood out to me (link is to video of press conference):

“There are 25, 26 teams that would love to be where we are, but good has not been good enough,” Dumars said.

“I’ve sat here for three straight years now and felt like we should have been in the finals. When you get to the Conference Finals, you feel like you’re good enough. You don’t feel like ‘we’re not good enough.’ I’ve been equally disappointed for three straight years now because I expected us to get there … I’m not going to listen to any excuses this year.

We’ve given this group under Flip’s leadership three straight years to get it done. If you’re not right there knocking at the door, then maybe you have to say ‘we’re not good enough.’ But when you’re right there in the Conference Finals, Game 6, Game 7, three straight years, it’s hard to sit there and say ‘maybe we’re not good enough.’ That’s when you say ‘maybe I do need to change some things.’ That’s how you come to that decision.”

Dumars also added that his mind was made up when the team blew a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter against the Celtics and said that he didn’t see the urgency. I’m not out to trash Flip Saunders because he did accomplish a lot as the leader of the team, but he didn’t get them to the point where Dumars wants to be. I really appreciate Dumars’ mentality and if you’re a fan, that’s exactly how you should want your GM to think and act. If he gets the feeling something isn’t right, regardless of how good the performance is, you have to make the change. He did it once before with Carlisle, went to LB, and reached the Finals. Looks like he thinks the same thing could happen again.

Tayshaun Prince Calls Out Kobe Bryant the Ballhog

Thursday night in Detroit, Kobe Bryant had a triple-double. If you asked him though, he probably wouldn’t have been proud of it. Kobe had 39 points, 10 boards, and get this — 11 turnovers. Nice. I’m guessing he had so many turnovers because nobody else on his team touched the ball. That’s something Tayshaun Prince noticed (while Prince wasn’t busy scoring 22 points and making the game-winning three pointer). After shooting the Pistons to a win, Prince joined WDFN’s post game radio show and had this to say about the final play of the game for the Lakers that Lamar Odom airballed:

Kobe pretty much took all of the shots in the second half so when another guy has to make a play late in the game it’s kind of tough for him because he hasn’t had the ball in a while.

True, the Lakers wouldn’t have been in the game that closely if Kobe hadn’t carried him in the second half, but he has to realize his teammates need to be more involved. Wasn’t that the thing about MJ? For all the great clutch shots he made, didn’t he also have just as vital a part setting up his teammates like Steve Kerr? Either that or Kobe has to do a better job getting open in order to take those potential game-winners. Anyway, getting back to it, great words from Tayshaun — and completely true, too.

Pistons Blowing Up the Team?

Maybe they won’t quite be dismantling the project all old-Las Vegas hotel style, but Joe Dumars promises things will change. For starters, lets begin with the Dumars proclamation that Flip Saunders is staying, despite the fact that he would have been the most likely candidate to get the chop. Amongst some of the changes Dumars says are in store include no coasting, fewer minutes for the starters, and most likely the re-signing of point guard Chauncey Billups. But Dumars suggests something more than just that.

“I’ve said to guys around the league, ‘Look, we don’t have a fire sale going on,’ ” Dumars said. “We’ll make change, and we’ll make significant change if we need to, if something comes along that’s a legitimate deal. But I’m not going to take guys on the inactive list for one of my starters.”

“We’re good enough right now where you don’t make change just for change sake,” Dumars said. “But I don’t think we’re so good that you have to close your eyes to the right kind of change. I’m not going to sit here now and say I’m not touching anything.”

Sure seems like something major has a possibility. When I hear the words “significant change” I don’t automatically begin thumbing through potential destinations for Carlos Delfino in a swap, you feel me? So they may not be blowing things up, but Dumars is looking this team straight in the face and suggesting there will be some major changes. It will be an enjoyable off-season to see what they do.

The Pistons Are Just Too Good

Let’s see, no NBA team has ever lost a series after going up 3-0. I’d say the Bulls are done. How demoralized must they be after losing a 19-point lead at home? How can you lose control like that? And how good are the Pistons to be able to come back and win the game? They held the Bulls to 16% shooting in the 4th quarter. 16%. Skim milk thinks that’s low. So let’s get this straight — Detroit cruised to a sweep over Orlando. They’re cruising to a 3-0 lead over Chicago. And Chicago cruised to a sweep over the Heat. By the transitive property of NBA Playoff teams, the Detroit Pistons are far and away the best in the East. But you really didn’t need me to say that did you? You already knew it.

The question for them isn’t whether they can escape Cleveland. It’s: can they win it all? I think that type of win on Thursday night proves the Pistons can do anything, win any game. Not getting down. Coming back. When another team was amped up at home, they spit on their faces and kicked em off the mountain top. It’s that type of attitude that wins championships. If Detroit wins it all, I think you can look back at Game 3 against Chicago as the big turning point which gave them the confidence to feel that they are unstoppable. I mean, is there anything less to take away from this win?

Lindsey Hunter Suspended for 10 Games

That was the breaking news headline on ESPNEWS a few moments ago…no details just yet, but it’s weird. That’s such ambiguous news. Rather, the suspension isn’t ambiguous, but the reason is.  Lindsey Hunter suspended for 10 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

What does that mean?  Was he busted using performance enhancers?  Steroids?  Do they even test for that stuff in the NBA?  Was he caught doing blow, smoking a joint?  What, what, what?  I’m on a need-to-know basis and I don’t know!! 

I digress, now at least you know the news.  At the time of this posting, there is no other information available.

UPDATE: Turns out Hunter was suspended 10 games for…taking his wife’s diet pills??  That has to be the most bizarre way to get busted.  His quote was my favorite:

“I just hope people don’t think I’m out smoking marijuana.”

Amen brother.