The Bucks are done with the Pistons this season but, like many of the NBA-obsessed in the blogosphere, I spent a lot of time thinking about the Detroit this weekend because that’s what ESPN gave us — like it or not. It finally dawned on me that Bucks fans have a unique perspective on this Rip Hamilton–Allen Iverson mess that rookie Pistons coach Michael Curry has made in Motown. Why?
1) The Bucks are one of eight teams who saw how good the Sixers were when Hamilton was out with a groin injury in late December-early January.
2) The Bucks have seen twice how beatable the Pistons have been since Hamilton came back from that injury. One of those times (Feb. 17), the Bucks beat them. The lost in OT Feb. 7.
3) The Bucks are the only team in the NBA that had to contend with Iverson off the bench this season.
So we’ve got every view of Detroit from Milwaukee, including the unique view. It’s only fitting for a pair of rust belt cities in a bad economy.
Let’s deal with #1 first (that’s why it’s #1) because it is the one thing that NO ONE mentioned during ESPN’s Pistons coverage this weekend. Also because somebody needs to help Jeff Van Gundy defend Allen Iverson, which Van Gundy did Sunday afternoon during the Lakeres-Suns telecast.
Much has been made of the fact that the Pistons are just 4-12 with Hamilton coming off the bench. Not a word has been said about the Pistons 6-2 record Dec. 27- Jan. 10 when Hamilton was sidelined with a groin injury. The two losses were at the hands of Portland and Denver on a tough western swing.
The Dec. 27 game was in Milwaukee, where the Pistons humiliated the Bucks and coach Skiles benched Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut midway through the 3rd quarter. Seems the Pistons were better than fine without Mr. Hamilton. The Pistons were 22-13 when Hamilton’s groin recovered enough for him to start and play 30 mins against the Bobcats Jan. 13. The Pistons lost the game.
Which brings me to point #2: The Pistons kept losing after the Bobcats game — 7 of 10 before they beat the Heat and the Bucks in early February. At home against the Rockets in January, coach Curry left Iverson on the bench the entire 4th quarter even as the Pistons couldn’t buy a basket in the final minutes of another defeat. They lost to Oklahoma City in January by not taking the shorthanded Thunder seriously and were killed on the boards.Then they lost the 8 straight that built the “Rip must start” mantra, including one to the Bucks in Detroit Feb. 17.
Altogether, the Pistons lost 16 out of 21 once Hamilton came back from the groin injury and had plunged to a 27-29 record until the wins last weekend over the Magic and Pistons got them back to .500.
Yet somehow, this will all be corrected by bringing Iverson off the bench. This is what Curry, Hamilton and ESPN have been selling all weekend, and most media is in a buying mood — except Jeff Van Gundy, that is.
“Bashing Allen Iverson is way out of bounds,” Van Gundy said during the Lakers-Suns game. Not only is it out of bounds, it’s plain dishonest. There’s something rotten in Detroit, and it isn’t Allen Iverson.
Which brings us to point # 3: If Pistons coach Michael Curry had been paying attention he would have begun bringing Iverson off the bench three months ago. …Back in late November, Bogut’s mashed knee, Redd’s slow recovery from a high ankle sprain and the Bucks brutal schedule were the main topics in the Bucks-o-sphere, but the first Bucks-Pistons game Nov. 28 prompted this BBJ note:
“Bucks coach Skiles said playing time was up for grabs to Bucks who buy into the system and play defense. This came after a dismal defensive game in Detroit in which the Bucks allowed the Pistons 62 points in the first half. Sure, Detroit using Allen Iverson off the bench had something to do with it (the Answer was punished for skipping a Thanksgiving day practice and took it out on the Bucks 2nd unit), but Skiles wasn’t looking for excuses Friday night …
“We’re trying to make clear to the guys that whoever wants to get with our program, defend, there’s playing time to be had,” Skiles said. “If anybody wants to do that. We’re searching.”
Redd and Bogut had missed the game. And it should be pointed out that Luke Ridnour (flu, knee, back) and Charlie Bell (ankles) were hobbled. But the Pistons burned the Bucks second unit with Iverson leading them burned the Bucks, outscoring the Pistons starters 63-44. Iverson led the Pistons with 17; Walter Hermann scored 16.
Bringing Iverson off the bench to lead the 2nd unit should have happened three months ago. It was obvious to everybody who watched the Bucks second unit try to keep up with the Pistons in the 2nd quarter. I wonder how Curry managed not to notice.
Perhaps because it doesn’t answer the question of who’s going to play in the 4th quarter. Nor does it solve the Pistons other problems: Curry’s lousy offensive schemes; Rasheed Wallace’s growing inconsistency; Rodney Stuckey’s inexperience and the too-slow development of Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson.
And it won’t make Curry a better coach.
The Bucks (29-33) took care of business against the Wiz Saturday night at the BC, 109-93, and tallied 30 assists in doing so — just the 5th time this season they’ve reached the 30-assist mark. They’re 5-0 in those games, wins against Houston, the Pacers, the Clippers and two vs. the Wiz.
The Bucks found their stroke after a rough shooting night in New Orleans, hitting 53% for the game. Charlie V (25 pts) and RJ (22) led the scoring.