Monday, November 03, 2008

Dumars rolls the dice with Iverson

For some reason Detroit Pistons president
of basketball operations Joe Dumars has been intent on breaking up his team
since his club succumbed to the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics in six
games during the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

And I don't understand why.

I mean, the Pistons did win 59 games under Flip Saunders and still had a
championship-tested nucleus led by "Mr. Big Shot" himself, Chauncey Billups.

In fact, considering the way Boston dominated the Los Angeles Lakers on the
boards and abused them with the pick-and-roll on the offensive end in the NBA
Finals, it wasn't all that hard to argue that Detroit was the second-best team
in the NBA last season.

Dumars wasn't the one making that argument, however.

First, the Louisiana native jettisoned Saunders and went with the unproven
Michael Curry as head coach, and then he put virtually all his key pieces on
the trade market.

Rumors dogged Billups, enigmatic big men Rasheed Wallace and the unselfish
Tayshaun Prince all summer.

Dumars was unable to pull the trigger on anything significant until Monday
when he agreed to ship Billups, veteran power forward Antonio McDyess and
center Cheikh Samb to the Rocky Mountains for mercurial scoring machine Allen

A former league MVP with Philadelphia in 2000-01 and eight-time All-Star,
Iverson is without peer as an offensive player but off-the-court problems and
maturity issues have plagued the diminutive one since he arrived in the City
of Brotherly Love from Georgetown in 1996.

For a while, Larry Brown was able to reign in Iverson and take advantage of
his incredible talents by moving him from the point to the off guard, and
surrounding him with defensive-minded role players like Eric Snow, Aaron
McKie, George Lynch and Tyrone Hill.

The result was a trip to the NBA Finals in 2001, before injuries - along with
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant - ended a spectacular run.

Iverson, who will become a free agent in the offseason, will arrive in the
Motor City with plenty of defensive-minded players. In fact, Prince and
Wallace can be torturous at that end of the floor. But, unlike Snow, Lynch and
Hill, the Pistons' big time defenders aren't offensively challenged. Prince
and Wallace, especially, need their touches.

Meanwhile, the Pistons already have Richard Hamilton, the game's best player
at moving without the ball, at the two spot, meaning Iverson will be forced to
take over Billups' role as the quarterback of the team.

A shoot-first guy, Iverson isn't likely to care about getting the ball to his
new teammates in spots where they can succeed, something Billups excelled at.

Clearly, Dumars was itching for change, and now he finally has it.

No one deserves a longer rope. Dumars was a two-time NBA champion as a player
in Detroit. He was the NBA's executive of the year for the 2002-03 season, the
architect of the 2004 NBA Championship club and the pilot of a team that has
been to the Eastern Conference Finals six straight years.

So it's not hard to understand why William Davidson, the Pistons' owner,
defers to Dumars and gave him the rope.

That said, change for the sake of change rarely works, and Dumars is about to
find that out the hard way.

No comments: