The Spur who cried and the city that still loves him for it
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 yearâ€™s playoffs they will have an unexpected fan base in Detroit, each rooting for the success of McDyessâ€”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?
Â 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.