Detroit is quietly growing stronger
When Detroit traded Chauncey Billups and (technically) Antonio Mcdyess for Allen Iverson, the NBA could talk about little else for weeks on end. The media lapped it up when Iverson took three games to earn a win in Motown, and when the team went 7-9. They loved it when Iverson missed 'practice'... could there have been any other incident that made ESPN smile more?
The team seemed to be falling apart. Chemistry was nowhere to be seen. New coach Micheal Curry tinkered with the lineup, even putting Tayshaun Prince at the point guard position. Rip Hamilton, one of the most consistent players of the last five years, was caught completely out of his element. Suddenly Chauncey wasn't getting him the ball in the same place all the time.
For the first time in what seems forever, Detroit looked like a team that could never even contend for the title.
Perhaps not even the playoffs.
It didn't help that Denver went off over in the West.
Chauncey Billups fit in perfectly in his return to the Mile High City, Denver held the third spot in the playoff race for around two weeks, and the Nuggets finally seemed to be headed to something other than a first round playoff loss. But it is now nearly half way through the NBA season, and other stories have started to take the limelight. Boston’s woes, the Lakers regaining form, the Hornets getting back on track have all stole away from Detroit and they have gone largely unnoticed in the last couple of weeks. They had a largely unnoticed seven game winning streak which came to a close on Tuesday against Portland, losing by just a point.
The Pistons also knocked off Orlando during that streak, one of the elite teams in the East. Detroit have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games, and would have moved up the Eastern ladder had Atlanta not also gone on a 7-3 streak. Let's not get too excited. That streak didn't include any wins against plus-500. teams, other than the Orlando game.
But that’s not the point. A win is a win and the team needed some confidence boosters.
Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace have each been injured most of this stretch, but it has allowed the younger guys to get in the game and start getting a rhythm. Rodney Stuckney has had some amazing scoring games and has been given a lot more freedom in running the point.
Tayshaun Prince has shared that point guard role with Stuckey, but has also been hitting the glass, averaging over 7 boards a game, easily his career high. Michael Curry has gone so far as to call Tayshaun ''our best player this season''.
And then there is the man himself. Allen Iverson. He became the NBA's biggest scapegoat in the weeks that followed the trade, which was incredibly unfair. Did he pull the trigger on the trade? No, Did he specifically ask to be traded to the Pistons? No. He is the same player he has been, yet suddenly the Pistons faithful wanted him to be a Chauncey Billups type?
If they wanted that, they probably should have kept Chauncey Billups.
It was Pistons management who made a mistake in trading for a player who didn't fit in2 the system, and is their responsibility for making the pieces fit.
And fit is exactly what the pieces have started to do-all because of Allen Iverson.
Allen has realized he is not the first scoring option anymore. He doesn't even share it like he did in Denver. He realizes he is now on a team where four out of the five players on the court at any one time normally share that first option status.
"I feel like I understand my role a lot more than I did at first," Iverson said. "I understand that there's not going to be games that my team, night in and night out, needs me to score 30 points. It's a different adjustment for me. I averaged 30 points my whole career, and I'm under 20 points here. People think that's going to be something that's going to bother me. But I feel like the window of opportunity for me is still open. Especially being in this situation, I think it makes it that much more easier for me."
Allen is putting his team first. He doesn't have to. His contract runs out at the end of the year, he could simply keep putting shots up and keeping his place in those record books, but as the quote above suggests, he is aiming for bigger things.
Whether the trade was a good idea or not, it has happened now and Iverson will be a Piston until the end of the season at least.
Now it remains to be seen if Detroit can play with the big boys the way they did with Orlando, and if they can make that playoff push and still be a force in the NBA's second season.
And though it may not be in such an obvious way as before, it will be Allen Iverson who takes them there
By Joe Buckley
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