Allen Iverson debuts in Pistons’ loss

It was an inauspicious beginning to the AI Era in Detroit.

Iverson himself was respectable (24p, 6a), but the Pistons lost to the Nets, 103-96.

According to ESPN’s Chris Sheridan, the Billups-for-Iverson trade might be more about how Detroit feels about Rodney Stuckey than either of the players involved.

When Detroit needed buckets in the fourth quarter, it was Stuckey running the show at the point, with Iverson off the ball.

And when the Pistons needed stops in the second half, it was Stuckey who continually was getting burned by Devin Harris (career-high 38 points, with 22 of his 24 free throw attempts coming in a second half in which Detroit surrendered 64 points to one of the NBA’s worst teams). All that time, Pistons coach Michael Curry refused to switch Iverson onto Harris — even as Stuckey was committing five fourth-quarter fouls on Harris.

“Stuckey’s the point, and Harris is the point. What we do here in Detroit, you guard your position. And when he comes into the game, Allen slides to the 2. and if Devin Harris is outplaying you, you’re going to have to get better. That’s what you’re going to have to do — play your matchup,” Curry said.

A couple of things jump out from this game: 1) Devin Harris blew up, and he was on my list of “Six NBA players who are about to break out” and 2) Curry refuses to go with the best matchup defensively, instead insisting that each player guard his position (even if it is to the detriment to the team).

I don’t know too many coaches that don’t try to utilize the best matchups defensively. Regular readers know that I played for (current UW coach) Bo Ryan at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The other starting forward was the better defender, so Ryan would have him cover the other team’s best scoring forward. That left me with an “easier” matchup, and since I was one of my team’s primary scorers, going with that matchup would save my legs so I could hit crucial jump shots at the end of the game.

So why is Curry insisting that Stuckey – who is actually more of a combo guard – cover the lightning-quick Harris when he has his own lightning-quick guard on the court? It might be pure stubbornness, thickheadedness or he could be trying to light a fire under Stuckey defensively.

But back to the decision to play Iverson off the ball. More and more this trade is looking like one that is meant to keep butts in the seats for this season while giving the team salary cap flexibility to sign one or two big name free agents over the next two summers. Joe Dumars likely saw that, with Billups, the team was going to be competitive, but it wasn’t going to be a legitimate contender. With the backcourt shakeup, it looks like the team is going to give the ball to Stuckey and ask him to create, and it doesn’t really matter if this is the best thing for the 2008-09 Detroit Pistons.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Detroit now a possible landing spot for LeBron?

One of the by-products of the Billups-for-Iverson swap is that the Detroit Pistons will have a ton of cap space in the summer of 2010, when LeBron James and a number of high-profile free agents could potentially hit the free market. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop goes through the options.

Down the road the Pistons becomes the driving force of big-time free agency as soon as Iverson’s contract comes off the books next summer. The Pistons will combine a winning environment, one of the most respected general managers in the game, and — depending on salary cap levels that are yet to be set, and extensions that may yet be given to existing Pistons — likely enough cap space to sign two free agent players to max contracts over the next summers of 2009 and 2010.

Feast your eyes on this list of players who will be available. 2010 free agents include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.

The two that jump out to me are, of course, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. They played together nicely on Team USA, and now Dumars can at least entertain the notion of signing not one of those two, but both.

A team that suspects one of those players might leave via free agency in 2010 might be compelled to realize some value for the player by dealing with a team under the cap like the Pistons in the summer of 2009. (The NBA’s rules about matching up salaries in trades only apply to teams that are over the salary cap. Once Iverson’s big contract is off the books next summer, the Pistons will be able to deal freely.)

Other than Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell, no other Piston is currently signed through 2011 (though the franchise is likely to exercise its option on Rodney Stuckey’s rookie contract). That puts Detroit’s payroll at an estimated $19 million for the 2010-11 season, which should give the team major salary cap flexibility during the summer of 2010.

Abbott thinks that the Pistons can turn this cap space into two premier players. Throw in Prince, Maxiell and Stuckey, and that’s a nice core.

Update: The Pistons signed Rip Hamilton to a three-year extension worth $34 million that would presumably keep him in Detroit through the 2013 season.

Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson swap forthcoming?

According to Pistons Insider A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive, the Nuggets and Pistons have agreed to a blockbuster trade.

The Detroit Pistons have reached a tentative agreement to trade Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Neither player was at this morning’s shoot-around. Team officials said that more information would be forthcoming later today.

See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine.

I do like this trade for the Nuggets. The Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson experiment simply wasn’t working and, if this trade does indeed go through, they would acquire one of the league’s best point guards. Billups is tough-minded and would bring a heavy dose of defense to the Nuggets, who really struggle in that area of the game. AI is 33 and Billups is 32, so it’s not like either team is getting vastly older or younger with this deal.

As for the Pistons, I know they wanted to shake things up, but I’m not sure what this does for them. AI does bring more offensive punch, but he can be a liability on defense. Iverson did average more assists than Billups did last season (7.1 to 6.5), so he is a better playmaker than his reputation would indicate.

Read more about the future implications of this trade in my post, “Detroit now a possible landing spot for LeBron?

Related Posts