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.

  • http://hardwoodhype.blogspot.com Hardwood Hype

    Really enjoyed the post, but disagree with a couple of points in Dan’s answer to #1.

    First, while I agree that winning does cure all ills and that Rip and Tayshaun would be in much better spirits if the Pistons were 41-23 and not the opposite. However, in the case of Hamilton, I think it’s age- the harsh reality that while he can still play, his ability is no longer such that he can make demands of his coach and organization.

    Also, he referenced “good fortune” as the catalyst for the Spurs’ track record of getting excellent value out of draft picks in the late-20s and the 2nd round. I don’t think it’s luck, but an organization with exceptional scouting and a clear idea of the kind of guys (as both people and players) with which it wants to build its team.

    And this comes not from a Spurs fan, but a lifeling Lakers diehard.

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

    I feel so fortunate that the Spurs have the FO that they do and the great core of players.

    We could easily be going through what The Motor City is enduring with the wrong brass in place.

    I think that Detroit’s problems started when they over thought things and selected Darko over Melo or D-Wade…..what a dumbass move.

  • STH_224

    While there were many similarities between the franchises then, people forget that one of the key differences between them was the amount of playing time the Pistons starters had vs the Spurs starters.

    If I remember correctly Detroit’s starters averaged something along the lines of 38 to 45 minutes a game. Combine that with deep playoff runs for several years and is it really a shock the fall they have taken? They had little depth on the teams and the four guys carried the team.

    You could see it the season or two after 2005, they were tired and just ran out of gas to get back to the Finals again.

    Spurs have been fortunate to have some depth to the team and that has helped extend the run for them. The core players haven’t been worked as hard and have had more longevity.

  • DorieStreet

    I feel the Spurs still being aloft-despite naysayers- while the Pistons succumbed to way below .500 is the fortune of avoiding chafing personalitites & situations that imploded the team. First, the disagreement/feud between Coach Larry “itchy feet” Brown and the late owner Mr. Ford. Then, the hiring of Flip ‘failure’ Saunders as Brown’s replacement. As the article insinutated, the players on the team probably had little regard for him. Big Ben leaving hurt the most, as did the two banes of all successful teams–players aging & loosing skill + low draft picks & FAs not rejuventing the squad, thus leading to the back-to-back conference title losses to the Cavs & Boston ’06-07/’07-08) to being an eighth seed & 1st round sweep out in ’09. And, let’s not forget the albatross that was Darko Milicic–3rd pick overall in the illustrious 2003 draft. A coach that only lasted one season (Michael Curry , ’08-09) and the present one undergoing a mutiny in his second season; the result– a 23-41 record.
    Although having diminishing playoffs results from the WCF ’08 to early exits the last 2 seasons, stable ownership/management/coaching plus a team-first core, probably keeps the Spurs franchise successful through the inevitable farewells from the roster that will occur over the next 3-4 years.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Alix Babaie – Re: Darko Milicic, of course it looks bad now. But frankly nobody knew he would be such a zero mentally and temperamentally. There were a few warning signs, sure, but everybody–EVERYbody–thought that putting him in the Pistons’ locker room, with Larry Brown as a coach and Joe Dumars as GM, would straighten out whatever attitude problems he might have. The truth is, virtually every team in the league would’ve drafted him over Anthony, Bosh & Wade, in the same way that virtually every team would’ve drafted Greg Oden over Kevin Durant or, for that matter, Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan.

    Maybe we should give Joe a break after all these years.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Tim in Surrey

    + 100

    Every FO makes bonehead picks, but at the time they seem to be more of what a team needs….. And Detroit was trying to get a Big to replace the Wallace’s.

    But to what happens to SA when our players start retiring. Hopefully we can avoid that fate by having a replacement in place. Ala Tim and David. If will be very hard to lure a top FA here, they almost never seem to pick us over other locations….. So we will have to draft or trade for him hopefully while we are still winning….. and hope he will stick around later…….

  • TD = Best EVER

    While we are talking about finding the next guy before it too late.

    Marcus Cousins just singed a 10day contract with Utah….. Garrett Temple also just got called up to Charlotte…… and Alonzo Gee is with Cleavland as we all know……

    These players all seem promising and hopefully SA can find a away to steal them back before someone offers them an extended deal………

  • DorieStreet

    @ TD=Best EVER

    I had little interest in following the NBDL in general and the Austin Toros in particular; but since picking up this blog last spring & reading other’s opinions of the players–
    Did Temple, Gee, Cousins get a fair shot at suiting up and hitting the floor at AT&T? (I garner #28 for the Mavs did–the other frenchman.)

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

    @ Tim in Surrey, I hear what you are saying but the warning signs with both Darko and Greg were there…..Darko seemed too immature and lacked the power and Oden had one leg a 1/2″ shorter than the other…..many people thought the smart money was to take Melo and KD, even though they were drafting to fortify a position.

    Imagine how good Detroit and Portland would be if they would have simply taken the best available athlete? Portland definitely should have learned something after the Bowie debacle.

  • DorieStreet

    A brief aside—-

    Check out the ESPN NBA homepage; there is a grainy black & white image from “TrueHoop TV” of Wade, James, Gasol & Bryant for the accompanying video short. Now pull up a photo/image of Mount Rushmore….

  • jwalt

    Sorry, folks, I am firmly in the camp that says when Duncan and Ginobili are gone then so are the glory days. SA’s front office is as good as there is, but SA IS a small market, and the next group of superstar free agents will very likely not be interested in SA.

    We should enjoy it while these 2 great champions are with us. And I believe they will play another 3-4 years each.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Alix Babaie

    “Imagine how good Detroit and Portland would be if they would have simply taken the best available athlete? Portland definitely should have learned something after the Bowie debacle.”

    That’s like saying SA should have picked up Keith van Horn or Tim Thomas. We already had David so a floor spacing Big would fit a need more so than another Post player. But that’s not the case. You always pick the dominate bigman. It is simply easier to build a championship team around a dominate paint player than a wing player. So no matter what the teams needs are, most teams will always opt for the dominate post player over the wing unless the talent gap is just too great.

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

    @ TD = Best EVER, well……the talent gap was /is too great and the wings were the smarter choice.

    Both Melo and KD were the mainstays on Final Four Teams (with Melo winning a title) and to me, at the time, should have been selected instead.

    All I am saying is teams tend to overthink the draft and opt for size instead of proven valuable assets, which Melo and KD clearly were in those drafts.

  • junierizzle

    Don’t forget about the HAWKS who picked Marvin Williams ahead of CP3 and DWILL.

    As far as the SPURS are concerned, TP will still be a top guard when MANU and TD are gonzo. They’ll still have Blair, Hill and Tiago. The jury is still out on Tiago, but if he can become a good player then maybe TP,Blair,Hill and Tiago would be enough to bring in some free agents.

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

    Detroit made some serious errors when they were still a solid team. Instead of keeping the team intact (even though it had diminished from Champion-level to merely very good) they tried to rebuild it on the fly. The result was a disaster. I can undestand why they let Wallace go, considering the massive contract he ended up with, but dumping Billups for a fast-fading Iverson was the worst decision. It was essentially a salary dump, for a player to come in and screw up the locker room for a while. Prince and Hamilton, meanwhile, got overpaid significantly for what they produce.
    The Ben Gordon signing was not that bad, when you consider how long he’d been Chicago’s leading scorer (although they overpaid somewhat), but the Villanueva signing was just awful. So, they had a series of bad decisions – some worse than others – that slowly destroyed the winning environment of the franchise. I’d rather watch the Spurs slowly age and fade to mediocrity during the twilight years of the big three, hoping to get lucky in the draft, then watch them destroy the best dynasty in the history of the franchise desperately grasping at straws.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @ jwalt,

    As long as the same FO and Pop are around this organization will be competitive not necessarily win titles straight away after Duncan and Ginobili are gone but competitive enough to lure good to top free agents just to play in Pop’s system that has produced much “winning” as Charlie would say. This alone is valuable in itself. “Come here to learn and believe in my system and you will be rewarded” is and always will be pretty much Pop’s mantra. And any good smart baller interested in winning and who puts crazy money as a lesser need will consider this organization. But It will have to take special people to do that ei: DR, TD, MG, TP to name a few. There out there it just takes patience, a little luck, and our history. But to all good things sometimes come to an end. The day Pop, the FO, and Holt are gone, well we can all just sit back sip on a little tea or your favorite drink and recollect the good ol days.

  • Ward Silver

    Tsk, tsk people: not a word about the incomparable success the FO has had from scouting, drafting, and signing through the international talent market. Further, gambling on Neal has paid off beyond anybody’s expectations (though he too sharpened his game in Europe). Coachability, raw talent, and commitment to the team first approach is what they will continue to seek – and find – even as TD and Manu wind down.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @WardSilver,

    Tsk, tsk people: not a word about the incomparable success the FO has had from scouting, drafting, and signing through the international talent market…

    From the post right above yours:
    “As long as the same FO and Pop are around this organization will be competitive …

    It’s pretty straight forward that statement insinuates getting good talent while they’re at it.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Jarik

    Spurs r2 good

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  • SAJKinBigD

    I’m missing the Advance Scouting report… :(

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  • SAJKinBigD

    Not that this wasn’t a good read… :D It was!
    I particularly like the line about SA fans being particularly knowledgeable! ;)

  • Nima K.

    Just heard that Ryan Richards was spotted practicing with the Spurs today.

    What do we know about him? Is he ready to play? Did his shoulder heal? Can he be of any help to our length problem?

    Anyone?

  • Sauce

    Looking at the makeup of the team now, and for the last two years actually, we do not need a DR or TD to replace TD (as impossible as it is). Pop’s system is based on players who play basketball and give in the team concept.

    I honestly believe if we can just get another playmaking 2-guard, a solid big game like a Nazr Mohammed/Brandon Bass. We should be fine. Tim Duncan is the greatest player of all time and obviously my favorite player. But offensively, Duncan doesn’t offer much anymore and it is apparent when you see him post up Pau Gasol and the likes – his defense though is phenominal don’t get me wrong.

    We will be okay. The bigger role to fill will be Pop though. I assume he will retire when Duncan does. The future of Spurs basketball will be defined again when that happens.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @Nima K,

    He’s a British Basketball player and he’s 7 feet barefoot. with his playing shoes he’s about 7’1″.
    I’ve been keeping up with his going ons through the British basketball blogs and from what I’ve heard him say he wants to be able to be ready to get on the court with either D- League or the Spurs by March 8 which is his green light signal from doctors to practice. He can shoot the long outside perimeter shot like nobody’s business and is very quick and athletic. I think he’s even a lefty to boot.
    Also I hear he put on some weight at right around 250 lbs. and he’s got serious skills but is still a little raw and has tons of potential. He’s got a long wingspan and can jump. He’s a rebounder. If he can put all this together and learns Pops system he could turn out to be a diamond in the rough. If that’s the case if both Splitter and Richards pan out to be a great tandem Pop and the FO will again show their mastery at scouting and picking unknowns. Man this could pay dividends. By the way he also can use the glass on some of his shots.
    We could be in for another good 10 years!

  • Nima K.

    @Title

    So it seems we’ll be seeing him hopefully next season? The Bleacher Report made it sound like they were going to sign him before this season’s out. I was wondering what type of impact he might have on our current situation. (anything to slow down Gasol et al)

  • Flavor

    ^^Actually, I think Pop’s new game plan is to retire once Manu does…

    @Nima K: Richards is not signed with the Spurs yet. He probably won’t be signed until next season. But having Richards and Spiltter in the near future sure seems like a good duo to go along with Hill, Blair, Anderson, Bonner, RJ, and let me not forget, Parker!

  • Bob

    It will be nice if Spurs can win it for McDyess like they did for Finley. They also didn’t win till Finley’s second season. There was a great article on Ptr about McDyess (http://www.poundingtherock.com/2009/7/9/943443/get-to-know-your-new-spurs-3-san). Basically Pistons were killing the Spurs in the third quarter and McDyess was a big part of why. Larry Brown took him out because of foul trouble and the Pistons weren’t the same.

  • andy

    i agree Bob, winning it all would be sweet enough, but getting a class act like dice a ring would be rich, buttercream icing on the cake.

    Bry
    March 9th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    exactly! which is why i was staunchly against trading manu and parker last year. grasping at straws is the opposite of what our m.o. is, and i’m glad the front office doesn’t weigh fan input (though most of the things they do, we end up liking after all). detroit is a model of what not to do after a championship. and if it seems the “suck like crazy and start from scratch with high draft picks” paradigm is in the future for the spurs after duncan, manu, and parker retire, i’ll will root like crazy for them to draft as high as possible (i.e. lose). incentives are a crazy thing.

    also, i agree that melo was not an easy choice over darko.
    Alix Babaie
    March 9th, 2011 at 11:39 am

    detroit picked the better “athlete” over the “player”, not the other way around. with portland, it wasn’t a question of player vs. athlete. they were both seen as can’t miss prospects, and injuries are harsh (though you still have to remember that he’s only 23). also, durant didn’t go to the final four; oden did. oden was seen as a once in a generation center. EVERY front office would have chosen oden (i like to think the spurs would have chosen durant, but i still doubt it), just as 90% of teams would’ve chosen darko over wade or melo. you can replace a wing with a higher percentage of talent, at a cheaper rate, than you can size. it’s always been that way, and it’s likely to remain that way.

  • http://www.nbamatchup.com Chris in Phoenix

    Is it true that there was a Ryan Richards sighting today in San Antonio? I can’t wait till this kid has reached his full potential along with Tiago!

    http://www.rotoworld.com/content/playerpages/playerbreakingnews.asp?sport=NBA&id=1760&line=155557&spln=1

  • Colin

    Gary Neal is better than Roger Mason

  • Colin

    I know the above post is random, but though I would interject that in there, been watching this dude in amazement all season. He has some serious handle when it comes to getting his own shot off.

    Detroit is in a sad state of affairs right now. Not only their b-ball team, but the place as a whole is turning into a third world city. I guess they can hope……

  • andy

    gotta say, starting dice was a classy move by pop.

    yes to both neal being a smooth player and the sadness that is detroit now.

  • betsyduncan

    Yep. Neal is hella better than Mason, by a long shot! Glad to see Mavwrecks and Bah-ston lose tonight!

  • ribanez1

    Our defense tonight was not good! I have read several pieces written by ESPN analysts that liken the Spurs to the old. Suns, lots of offense and not enough defense. Therefore, they predict, the Spurs are destined for an early exit. I hope they are wrong.!

  • Hobson13

    After Sunday’s debacle, I thought the Spurs would have had a great game against a team with 7 total road wins. Here are the results:

    Detroit’s shooting % (on the road):
    Season average: 34.5% or 27th in the league
    Tonight: 45%

    Offensive rebounds (on the road):
    Season average: 11.1 or 15th in the league
    Tonight: 20

    Assists per game (on the road):
    Season average: 18.6 or 30th in the league
    Tonight: 22

    3pt shooting % (on the road):
    Season average: 35.5% or 15th in the league
    Tonight: 46%

    We shot 64% at home and won by 7. There’s our defense for you. Come to your own conclusions.

  • Colin

    @Ribanez

    “ESPN analysts that liken the Spurs to the old. Suns, lots of offense and not enough defense”

    Those doosh bags at ESPN can barely string a paragraph together without mentioning Miami and Los Angeles, let alone give SA any credit. Did those morons say that LA had no defense when they lost to Cleveland before the All Star break? No, because LA are 2x defending champs. This core of players on the Spurs know how to get it done. 4 championships with this organization speaks volumes.

    With that said, the defense can always be tightened up. It’s all about playing the team at hand. 7 game series’ are a different beast. Tonight, they played well enough to beat Detroit. It will be a lot of work come post season time.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @Ribanez

    “ESPN analysts that liken the Spurs to the old. Suns, lots of offense and not enough defense”

    I have been saying the same thing all year long…….. but again I have been told that I’m not an expert. And when you quote an experts opinion, its always they just hate the SPURS…..

    @ Hobson13
    +100

    The only negative thing with your post is that you actually posted FACTS/STATS……most of the folks here like it simple……..

    aka – it was just one game, a win is a win, look at our record, etc………

  • andy

    you know, you could make the case that boston just followed the detroit model (trading away cornerstone perk for green/krstic).

  • Hobson13

    TD = Best EVER
    March 9th, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    “I have been saying the same thing all year long…….. but again I have been told that I’m not an expert. And when you quote an experts opinion, its always they just hate the SPURS…..”

    Sometimes you just can’t win. People will believe what they want to believe…

    Thanks for the love, TDBE. However, I forgot to post the most important stat of all.

    Detroit’s ppg (on the road)
    Season average: 90.9 or 29th in the league
    Tonight: 104

  • Colin

    Whoa, the Celtics lost to the Clippers tonight!

    They won’t be getting to the finals this year.

    C’mon guys! Its a long season.

  • Rafael

    Detroit grabs 20 offensive rebounds, 70% against Blair/Bonner, and people still talk Splitter can’t do better. If he only put arms up and stay stopped, will be better than Blair/Bonner. Much people can say “Blair is very good rebounder” but he last good game was against Toronto Raptors, long time ago.

  • junierizzle

    Colin’s right, the Celtics are done!!!!!!

  • Flavor

    Yea, these Spurs really suck at defense. They should probably stop playing. As a matter of fact, lets just skip the whole playoffs and just have LA and Boston start play for the championship this weekend…

    The reason no one wants to here what you say TD=BE is because people tend to stay away from negative people who think they’re smarter than everyone. After everyone win or loss you come on here and basically say the Spurs aren’t going to win anything. If you know whats going to happen this year, why don’t you stop watching the games and posting on this site. Pack it up and we’ll see you next season.

  • Flavor

    After every win or loss*

  • TD = Best EVER

    @Colin & junierizzle

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

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Flavor

    “The reason no one wants to here what you say TD=BE is because people tend to stay away from negative people who think they’re smarter than everyone. After everyone win or loss you come on here and basically say the Spurs aren’t going to win anything. If you know whats going to happen this year, why don’t you stop watching the games and posting on this site. Pack it up and we’ll see you next season.”

    1st – I can’t stop watching games – I love TD and have to see him play whenever possible.

    2nd – If the truth is negative then the people should face it and stop trying to run from it…….Or do you find it better to lie to yourself…..

    3rd – the season isn’t over yet…… we can still add a bigman from somewhere……… It’s not like we need a 15 and 10 beast….. just someone who is bigger than Blair, and rebounds better than Bonner…….. Shouldn’t be that hard to find….Cousins is looking good……. Splitter could use some more time on the court……

  • andy

    Flavor
    March 9th, 2011 at 9:38 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.

    that said, it’s just one game. sometimes our offense is going to go gonzo while our defense is mediocre. sometimes our offense will sputter, and we clamp down on d. over the season (still a relatively small sample size, but one we can take more away from) we’re still a top 7 defense (efficiency), and one of 3 teams in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. historically, we have a shot at the title, so i’m not going to lose any sleep until the playoffs.