Short Answer: Pretty fu**ed.
Firstly, let’s completely rule out the chance that Detroit miss the playoffs. Detroit suck right now yes, but they will not miss the playoffs for the simple reason that the lower half of the Eastern Conference suck a whole lot more. I am a Detroit fan coming to grips with a catastrophic season after a trade that seems to have caused irreparable damage, but even missing the playoffs is beyond the realms of my comprehension. Missing the playoffs, quite simply, would be the most shocking thing to have happened to this franchise as long as I can remember.
Are Detroit really that bad or are they just falling below the lofty expectations we perennially set for them? That may sound silly, but no other team in the league could have labelled itself “disappointed” by making the Conference Finals each and every season. Detroit has. The Conference Finals haven’t been an achievement for the Pistons – they’ve been the expectation. So when the very real chance of a sub-50 win season and an early playoff exit comes along, perhaps everyone just needs to chill the f**k out and set the bar a little lower? WRONG. There’s no other way to put this, so I’ll just say it. Right now, Detroit is probably the worst team in the league. You can say they’re underachieving, yeah, but even that is sugar coating it.
Shocked to hear me call them the worst team in the league? Don’t be. When you look at the “W” column over the last 10 games only the Thunder, T-Wolves and Kings are as bad (they’re all 2-8). Firstly, all those teams are in the much tougher Western Conference (and for anyone who likes to argue that the Eastern Conference has regained its credibility, please note that yet again we will see at least one East team who makes the playoffs with a sub-500 record while the worst West playoff team will probably be 12 games over .500). But it’s not the conference that matters. The real reason why the Pistons are the worst team in the league at the moment is because they have no one playing well. NO ONE. You look at the Thunder and you can see Durant still pouring in points and wowing crowds all around the country. You watch the T-Wolves and you know you’re seeing a future All-Star in Al Jefferson, a guy who until his recent injury was eating 25-15 games for breakfast. You look at the Kings and Kevin Martin is averaging 25-4 so far in February – sure they’re still losing but the guy is putting up 35 points every second night. Every crap team in the league has at least one thing going for them, at least one player who is playing damn well. The Pistons?
The Pistons are fu**ed. Sheed doesn’t seem to give to a crap any more and is taking almost half his shots from behind the arc lately. Tayshaun Prince is averaging 11.2 points a game in Feb – to put it in perspective that is a little better than Marc Gasol’s season average. Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell are combing for a magnificent 6.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game through Feb – this is supposed to be the future frontcourt for this franchise. Rip is scoring a lot of points but you wonder how he’s still getting 20 points with 10 less minutes per game? (i.e. he’s taking too many shots). Iverson has been a warrior putting up 21 and 5 through Feb but is shooting only 41%. And then we come to Rodney Stuckey, averaging barely 9 ppg and shooting 36% this month. The one thing that is the hardest to swallow about all the abovementioned players is the lack of advancement in Stuckey’s game. Perhaps he’s a bit overwhelmed at sharing the court with a future Hall of Famer in AI? Perhaps he’s trying too hard to fit in his role rather than playing his natural game? I don’t know what the reason is, but early 2009 was supposed to be the time that Rodney Stuckey was soaring in readiness for his first starting playoff role. As it is, he is just one of many Pistons players (i.e. every) who are struggling. We have no Durant. We have no Jefferson. We have a bunch of guys going out there and stinking it up for 48 minutes.
Before I end this rant I want to say one more thing. Rarely does a big trade reap the immediate and painfully visible impact that the Chauncey-Iverson trade did earlier this season. On paper there’s no reason it should have happened. Most people agreed (and would still probably argue) that Iverson is simply the better player of the two, and that any loss in the chemistry and floor-leadership that Chauncey brought would be offset by Iverson’s potent scoring ability and desperation for a ring. Not so apparently.
But you have to be careful to cast the blame for the demise of this Detroit team upon Iverson’s shoulders. Iverson is the one guy who seemingly hasn’t given up yet. While Tay sulks about “having never been in this position before” and Rip seems stubbornly intent at proving he can still score 30 off the bench, Iverson is the one guy showing a constant thread of positivity. He has to. Not only does Detroit’s season depend upon it, but so does his legacy. Not the “great player but never won a ring” legacy. But the legacy that Iverson has tried so carefully to avoid his whole career – the unnerving reality that an Allen Iverson team can never win. That Allen Iverson is a disruptive force. That Allen Iverson is a cancer. The last thing a dude like Iverson needs, a future Hall of Famer with an individual career decorated beyond belief, is to have his last title-winning hopes dashed because the very trade that put him there completely destroyed the team. It is unfortunate, but it his happening.
This has been a rant. An emotionally charged rant from a Pistons fan who is still clinging to hope but every now and then gives in to the pessimistic demons within. Over the past six years I have been so conditioned to thinking that it doesn’t matter what happens in the regular season, because this team knows how to turn it on come playoff time. Something tells me that is a habit that needs to die. But there is something they say about old habits and dying, and I’m not just about ready to give up yet. I only wish every Pistons player could look me in the eye and tell me that themselves.