When Piston president of basketball operations Joe Dumars hired a new coach in June, he said, “Guys either respect you or they don’t, and they respect this guy.”
Dumars told the Detroit Free Press he hired a coach who’s “not going to coddle guys, and they know that.”
But that’s not who he hired.
He hired Michael Curry.
This is not a not a knock on Curry. He’s like every other coach in the NBA. It’s a players’ league, and coaches have to coddle to their star players.
That’s why the Pistons start Allen Iverson and Richard Hamilton, even though that seems to be the wrong decision from a purely basketball standpoint.
The smaller lineup sets a tone of poor defense and rebounding – the opposite of what Curry says he emphasizes.
But it might be the best decision for the team.
Iverson and Hamilton are stars, and neither would be happy. It’d be impossible for Curry to tell how negative the chemistry ramifications of bringing on of them off the bench, and I obviously have less of an idea.
Curry clearly thought the risk was great enough that he starts both players.
It was foolish to desrcribe Curry how Dumars did back in June. Every coach in the NBA is at the will of his stars. Curry is no different.
Curry surely understands that starting the most talented players isn’t necessarily the right move. When he was a player, Curry started ahead of Sixth Man of the Year Corliss Williamson during the 2001-02 season, despite Williamson being a better player.
The next year, Curry started ahead of Williamson and a talented rookie name Tayshaun Prince.
Curry set the tone of playing tough defense and communicating on the floor – more than a one-dimensional Williamson or inexperienced Prince could.
So, in a way, Curry knows better than to start both guards. But keeping Williamson and a rookie Prince on the bench isn’t quite the same as keeping Iverson and Hamilton there.
Iverson’s often difficult relationships with coaches are well documented.
And Hamilton just saw his best friend, Chauncey Billups, traded after being the consummate team player. In fact, the only reason Hamilton is a Piston is because Detroit traded Jerry Stackhouse for him. The season before that, Stackhouse traded his selfish style for a team-oriented game in Rick Carlisle’s first year as Piston coach.
Having the guts to stick Hamilton or Iverson on the bench is why Curry was hired. It’s clear he doesn’t have that confidence right now.
This situation could play out a few different ways. In order of most likely:
1. Hamilton regains his form after missing an extended period of time with an injury. Small ball works well enough to allow Curry to keep using it, even if it still seems a big lineup would be even better.
2. Small ball is a disaster, and Curry finds the confidence to bring one of the guards off the bench. The question then would become how accurate Dumars’s assessment of the players’ respect for Curry is.
3. Small ball is a disaster, and Curry keeps using it. I have no idea what would happen in this situation. Of all his coaching hires, this one has Dumars’s mark on it. That might give Curry more time than Carlisle, Larry Brown and Flip Saunders would have gotten in this situation.