The Spur who cried and the city that still loves him for it

by

Not long ago the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs appeared to be mirror images of each other separated by conference. Both were living monuments to the pillars of defense and team chemistry from which championships are born, built upon the foundations of strong leadership from their respective front offices.

Since 2005, however, the Pistons have crumbled, and with the in-fighting and disaster that has been their season so far, the only connection left between both teams and 2005 is the presence of Antonio McDyess.

The Spurs denied McDyess perhaps his best chance at an NBA title, and in a twist of fate, now remain his last shot. A consummate professional, McDyess was revered by Detroit, cementing his status in the city by returning after being included in the trade that sent Chauncey Billups to Denver.

Though opponents tonight, when the Spurs enter this year’s playoffs they will have an unexpected fan base in Detroit, each rooting for the success of McDyess—at least, according to Dan Feldman of Piston Powered, whose most vivid memory of McDyess is the tears he shed after losing Game 7 of the Finals to his current teammates. Read more of our conversation after the jump.

1.) Back in 2005, the Spurs and Pistons were almost indistinguishable in terms of team chemistry and stability as an organization. Watching what’s happened with Detroit this season, what lessons can we take away from how fragile that chemistry can be? How did they get there?

Winning cures most ills. I don’t think Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace were anymore tolerant of coaches then than are now. But winning masked those underlying issues. When the team started struggling, all the problems floated to the forefront.

Basically, the biggest lesson is don’t lose. The Pistons’ core got old, and with an extended run of success, they didn’t have enough high draft picks to restock on the go.

So far, the Spurs have done a great job of avoiding a similar fate. Their core players have remained productive, and San Antonio has gotten great value with its late draft picks (DeJuan Blair, George Hill, Tiago Splitter).

Maybe the Spurs can continue their good fortune in the draft. (Although, as long as their first pick is in the high 20s, I doubt it.) But they can’t stop Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili from getting older.

Enjoy this while you can. You won’t have nearly as much fun during the next stage.

2.) Antonio McDyess is respected and loved both here and Detroit, but probably more so in Detroit, is there any one particular memory that stands out when it comes to McDyess? Does his presence make Detroit honorary Spurs fans these playoffs?

I hope I don’t get treated like Erick Spoelstra for bringing this up, but McDyess crying in the locker room after Detroit lost to the Spurs in Game 7 in 2005 stands out to me. That was as close as he’d ever come to a title, and he knew he might never get that chance again. He hasn’t returned to the Finals since.

It pains me to know that memory supersedes the rest in my mind. McDyess deserves better, and to answer your other question, absolutely yes. Don’t let his season end in tears again.

3.) Of the Pistons youth, who has the most upside and what should we be watching for tonight?

Most upside? Probably Rodney Stuckey, although you could probably make a case for Austin Daye. Stuckey is big and fast, always a dangerous combination in the NBA. He could impact the game in big ways offensively and defensively.

For Spurs fans, who are some of the more knowledgeable in the league, you should watch Greg Monroe, though. Even if his upside is more limited, he’s a better player. He rebounds efficiently, finishes on the pick-and-roll and is developing into a solid defender. It’s fun to watch him work.

4.) On DDL I’ve argued that some guys deserve to finish their careers in certain places, no matter how good a deal seems. With that in mind, how difficult was the deal with Billups and do Rip, Ben Wallace, or Prince hold that kind of reverence in Detroit?

 I think only Ben Wallace deserves that treatment. Billups, Hamilton and Prince all make a lot of money. With that, they forfeit the right to remain in Detroit while the Pistons rebuild. Two years ago, Wallace basically decided to retire or accept a minimum contract in Detroit. I think that earns him the right to retire in Detroit if he chooses.

The other guys? Parting with them, in some ways, will be painful (or in Billups’ case, was). But the end of an era is going to be painful. There’s no way around that.

5.) The move to get rid of Chauncey was framed as an opportunity for Stuckey. Given the Pistons struggles, has he been disappointing and what hopes are there regarding his ceiling as a player?

Absolutely, he’s been disappointing. Joe Dumars has called for him to take a leap as a player. He hasn’t done that. Stuckey has called for himself to take a leap as a leader. He hasn’t done that.

He’s still just 24, and he played at a small school and for three NBA coaches. He still has yet-to-be-tapped potential, but it’s becoming more and more likely he’ll never make that next step.

  • Hobson13

    andy
    March 9th, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    “hold on now. just because i disagree with TD=BE and Hobson13 about our defense doesn’t mean they should stop posting. half the fun of a thread is the discussions/arguments that take place.”

    First of all, I simply provided stats with virtually no commentary and told everyone to come to their own conclusion. I compared Detroits typical road game numbers with what they put up agains the Spurs. If you doubt these numbers legitimacy, I can provide their source. What number did I provide that you didn’t like?

    Secondly, you’re right. I’m not going to leave the site because I gave facts that others couldn’t handle (i’m not necessarily accusing you of this).

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Hobson13 – Fair enough. But you’re also demonstrating a remarkable talent for finding the grey cloud in any silver lining. And what’s more important is that you’re not being honest: You limited your numbers to defense on a night when the Spurs shot 64%. I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss their defense, but you consciously edited the statistics to prove a point. Your selection of which stats to present and which to omit qualifies as a commentary.

    I’ll also restate a point that I made earlier in the season: Defense does NOT win championships. Offense doesn’t win championships either. You have to have both. BOTH. Contrary to the conventional wisdom there have been plenty of teams that have won championships with spectacular offense and merely good defense, and there have been plenty of great defensive squads that have not only failed to win a championship but haven’t even been close. Let’s not forget that Charlotte was the #1 defensive team in the league last year and they barely made the playoffs.

    As for the Suns comparisons, frankly, they’re hyperbolic. The Spurs are a FAR better defensive squad than those great Suns teams and not really anywhere nearly as effective on offense. So let’s stop overdramatizing the Spurs as an offense-only juggernaut. And in any case, don’t we all agree that those Suns probably would’ve beaten any team other than the Spurs in 2005–and that even with Joe Johnson injured they still gave the Spurs as much as they could handle? Even if you do think the Spurs are playing like the Suns, so what? That was a great team! Personally I’m happy for the Spurs to follow the models of the Knicks and Lakers teams of the early 70s, the Bucks, Warriors, and Celtics in the mid-70s, the Bullets and Sonics in the late 70s, the 76ers and Lakers in the early 80s, and the Miami heat in 2006 as champions who were good (but not great) defenders.

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    @Tim in Surrey

    Here, Here! My man with another slam dunk, on point post.

    So many people think that the Spurs need to have perfection on both sides of the court when in reality, you have a team with a defensive minded coach who can rachet up the team once the playoffs start.

    So please guys, por la amor de Dios, stop looking at this team as a cup half empty.

    No, they are not playing perfect defense, no they are not the tallest team in the NBA, nor the youngest but they have battle hardened vets with a ton of pride who WANT TO WIN THE TITLE AT ALL COSTS!

    This team tends to play down to the competition but unlike last year’s team, they put those teams down instead of getting beat by them…otherwise, how the hell do you account for their 52-12 mark through 64 games?

  • Colin

    TD=BE

    “We also lost to the Clippers in case you have forgotten……Lmao”

    I guess you couldn’t pick up the sarcasm in my post. Yes we did lose to the Clippers, silly me. Maybe the Spurs should pack it in this year.

  • DorieStreet

    @ Alix Babaie

    March 9th, 2011 11:39am

    “Both Melo and KD were mainstays of Final Four Teams (with Melo winning a title)…

    Correction: Syracuse & Texas were in the 2003 Final Four-the Orange(men) beat the Longhorns in one semifinal. Melo was on the Syracuse team but Durant wasn’t. KD won numerous versions of college player of the year–but that was for the 2006-07 season. He it was his 1st and only year he played for the Longhorns==he was a “one & done” guy. I believe Texas lost in the 2nd round that in the NCAA tournament. (Now Dwayne Wade was with Melo in the 2003 Final Four; his Marquette team lost the other semifinal game to Kansas.

  • doggydogworld

    @Titletown99030507d
    March 9th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    “He’s got a long wingspan and can jump.”

    Yes on the wingspan but Ryan Richards can’t jump a lick. Or at least he couldn’t at the combine. His vertical leap numbers were much worse than Matt Bonner’s.

  • doggydogworld

    In fact, Richards’ vert is about the same as mine. Not mine back in the day when I could still dunk, but mine today as a 50 year old man with creaky knees.

    BTW, at the combine he measured 6’10.5″ barefoot, not 7 feet. He doesn’t turn 20 until next month but seems to have stopped growing some time back (was listed at 6’10″ as a 15 year old).

  • Hobson13

    Tim in Surrey
    March 10th, 2011 at 2:57 am
    “@Hobson13 And what’s more important is that you’re not being honest: You limited your numbers to defense on a night when the Spurs shot 64%. I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss their defense, but you consciously edited the statistics to prove a point. Your selection of which stats to present and which to omit qualifies as a commentary.”

    You are absolutely wrong. I was being entirely honest. The point of my post was not to speak about offense since our abilities in that area are a foregone conclusion. After 60+ games into the regular season, we have a very good idea how good our offense can perform. When has offense EVER been an issue this year? In fact, I did speak on our offensive prowess last night when I stated in the original post that we shot 64%. At this point, it’s not our offense that might keep us from winning a championship. Our offense is 2nd in the league in efficiency. Our defense is 7th. You tell me which one needs more work.

    The point of my original post was that the overwhelming stats (not opinions) prove that our defense has underperformed for at least the past several games. I didn’t make up or doctor evidence that should be, at this point, self evident. However, I would be open to any stats you can provide (not opinions) that show our defense has played wonderfully over the past two games.

    Tim, I don’t mind you disagreeing with my post, but questioning my integrity is entirely different. Simply because I didn’t present facts in a way that was liked doesn’t mean I was dishonest. I presented defensive FACTS (which by the way you presented none in this counter argument). Perhaps you question where I obtained this information or the integrity of the info itself. If so, here is my source for NBA statistics.

    http://www.teamrankings.com/nba/stats/

    I get tired of seeing individuals attacked simply because the concrete evidence may paint an uglier picture that some star struck fans want to accept. In the end, perhaps I’m a bit too objective to be considered a fan.

    “I’ll also restate a point that I made earlier in the season: Defense does NOT win championships. Offense doesn’t win championships either. You have to have both. BOTH.”

    Good point, but who said it DIDN’T take both to win? Our defense, not offense, needs work. So that’s what the team should focus on and that’s what is normally discussed in 48MOH.

  • Colin

    @Hobson

    Offense # 2 in the league–very good
    Defense #7 in the league–good enough to contend. Its better than last year correct??

    You’re nitpicking here a bit with the defense paralysis by analysis. Ugly picture painted by you? No. Concrete evidence from one game? Not really. It’s just an observation on your part which I am not attacking in any way. Anybody with a google search (as TD=BE has proven), can make stats look how they want them to. To quote a common term: There are lies, damn lies, then there are statistics.

    You stated your facts and here are mine: the Spurs beat the Pistons in the evening of March 9th. End of story. Next fact, we play the Sacramento Kings Friday, the 11th of March. Don’t read too much into it. 7 game series are what makes or breaks the season and often those stats compiled during the REGULAR SEASON can be thrown out the window. Did last season’s stats say we could have beaten the Mavs in 6 games? NO.

    p.s. It was also a night where the Celtics gave up 108 points to the Clippers at home (in a loss) and the Mavericks losing a game they should have won. Should we analyze them too?

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Bry

    Flavor and Colin might be getting a little over the top hyperbolic, or a little too personal, but let’s put our pride where our mouth is. I want to know what everyone’s predictions are. @TD=BE and everybody else who might be a naysayer or simply a bit pessimistic or unimpressed with this year’s record.
    WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS!? Let’s hear it. Put it out here. Put yourselves on record. I’ll do it right now.
    Assuming no serious injuries and the Spurs get the top seed, I predict them to win the West. Any team will have to win a seven-game series against a deep, balanced, experienced, and HC-advantaged Spurs team. I don’t think any team in the West, including the Mavs and the Lakers can do that. It definitely won’t be easy, but I predict they will manage to win all three of those series. It’s easy to sit back and criticize and wait around to say I told you so when thing’s go wrong. Let’s hear some specific predictions….

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