Iverson would “retire” before coming off the bench again

It’s safe to say that the Chauncey Billups-for-Allen Iverson trade hasn’t worked out very well for the 2008-09 Detroit Pistons. The team is 36-39 and is just two games ahead of the 9th place Charlotte Bobcats. The two teams play on Sunday in Detroit, and if the Bobcats can pull out a win, they will be very much in the thick of a playoff spot, meaning that the Pistons could miss the postseason for the first time in…well…forever. (Meanwhile, Billups’ Nuggets are in second place in the West and have won nine of their last 10 games. And Chauncey gets to look at “Bouncing Bridget” every time the Nuggets play a home game.)

Iverson has been fighting a sore back and shin, and the Pistons have elected to use him off the bench for the last three games. During that span, he’s averaging 18.7 minutes, 7.7 points (on 36% shooting) and 2.7 assists. And he’s none too happy about his playing time.

Reporter: You made a comment the other day about how this is a temporary situation. What did you mean by that?

Iverson: I won’t do this again, in my career. I’ll retire before I do this again. I would leave the game before I do this. I can’t be effective like I know I can playing this way. It’s just that I’m not used to it. Just not something I’ve had to do. Like I said, it’s hard for me mentally and physically.

Reporter: So, on a positive note, what can you say about guys coming off the bench?

Iverson: Like I said. I take my hat off to the guys that can do it. And some guys get used to it. They’ve done it before. Like I said, I’ve been playing basketball since I was eight-years-old, and I never had to do it. At 33-years-old, to have to adjust to something like that it’s kind of tough. That’s something I’m dealing with as far as my rhythm, my timing and like I said, the mental part of that.

With the trade, Joe Dumars gave the team a ton of flexibility to rebuild over the next couple of years, but he really sunk these 2008-09 Pistons. With Billups on the roster, they’d be a top 4 team in the East, and with the injuries to Boston’s Kevin Garnett and Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, they’d have a legitimate shot at being the second-best team in the conference. Is that enough?

I don’t know — one injury to LeBron and suddenly the Pistons would be first in line to go the Finals. That seems like a good thing, right?

Only time will tell what kind of free agents Dumars will be able to attract over the next couple of summers. Then we’ll know if this Billups-for-AI swap was worth it.

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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.

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