Iverson experiment was worth the risk, but no longer the headaches

Allen Iverson is done as a Piston.

This isn’t surprising. Iverson has an ego to match his enormous heart, and he couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of coming off the bench.

Iverson has been a warrior his entire career — on the court. But he hasn’t shown a willingness to be one off it. Several missed practices show that. But he crossed another line in the last few days.

Iverson isn’t playing again for the Pistons because he doesn’t want to play again for the Pistons. Sure, his back may be hurting. But he just complained about not getting enough minutes. If he wanted to fight through it, he could.

He just doesn’t want to.

If Michael Curry was truthful when he said he wasn’t going to talk to Iverson about the guard’s complaining, this became the only option. An NBA coach’s job is to get the most out of his team. Many players need coddling, and that’s what Curry should have done if Detroit wanted Iverson to be a part of this team.

Iverson pouted his way out. That probably wouldn’t have happened a few years ago, and that’s ignoring how much better Iverson was then. The Pistons had strong leaders in Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace. Without those two, nobody was around to tell Iverson to get his act together.

And so the Iverson for Chauncey Billups trade obviously hurt Detroit this year.

But that doesn’t mean the deal was a mistake. Obviously the Pistons will have a massive amount of cap room this summer. And, at the time, you couldn’t necessarily call it a bad move for this season.

Pistons president Joe Dumars tried to shake things up. The group the Pistons entered the season with obviously wasn’t going to win a title.

The trade reinvigorated Billups. He was in a rut in Detroit. With the Billups Denver has, maybe the Pistons would be contenders. But it was impossible for the Pistons to have that Billups.

When he was hired, here’s one thing Dumard told the Detroit News:

“I won’t belabor the Bad Boys, but one thing we did, we took risks,” Dumars said. “We traded for James Edwards and Mark Aguirre and we drafted Dennis Rodman. Then later, we got very safe, very complacent, too many obvious picks, too many obvious trades. No risk, no reward.”

Dumars took that risk Iverson. It hasn’t worked out so far.

What many people forget with the Bad Boy era is the Pistons tried to start the youth movement early with William Bedford, who the Suns took sixth overall in 1986. After being stuck on the bench, Bedford took Bill Laimbeer’s starting spot in 1991. From Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated:

And so it has come to this for the Detroit Pistons’ erstwhile Bad Boys: William Bedford, a 7’1″ figment of general manager Jack McCloskey’s imagination, ambles onto the court as the starting center, while Bill Laimbeer, if not Detroit’s heart and soul during its championship seasons, then certainly its guts and gall, stays on the bench. What next? Lance Blanks and Charles Thomas for Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas? A G.I.-style crew cut instead of razor-cut messages for Dennis Rodman? Off-the-rack suits for coach Chuck Daly?

Everyone knew this year’s Pistons would be different without frontcourt scorer James Edwards, beloved bombardier Vinnie Johnson and broad-shouldered benchmates Tree Rollins and Scott Hastings, but no one expected they would be this different. “We thought we’d adjust to the changes better than this,” says shooting guard Dumars. “It seems like nothing’s clear anymore.” Says Dumars’s equally fog-shrouded running mate, Isiah Thomas, “Every game’s like an experiment.” Which is what the Bedford-as-starter stratagem is. The decision to start Bedford, made by Daly on Nov. 22 following three straight losses, was a signal that the Pistons were grasping at straws instead of pushing buttons and that this once-proud franchise, which at week’s end had an 8-9 record, was heading down, down, down. 

Bedford never stuck with the Pistons, and a cocaine addiction cost later cost him his career.

I’m sure he regrets not taking advantage of his chance in Detroit. How long until Iverson has the same feeling?

With about $20 million in cap room for the summer, I bet it’s sooner than Dumars regrets making the trade.

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