Something PistonPowered readers should probably know about me: any time I can remotely tie an Allen Iverson story into a Pistons angle, no matter how long it has been since he played here, I’m going to do it.
Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal relays this story of how Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins simultaneously stood up to Iverson and saved the Grizzlies season a year ago:
The Grizzlies were mired in losing and Allen Iverson — having missed a training camp during which Hollins preached a philosophy of one team, one goal — was upset about playing off the bench. Suddenly, the Griz had to deal with one big ego, one major problem.
So on Nov. 5, 2009, Hollins asked everyone in a Los Angeles gym to leave practice. That included visitors such as former Griz president Jerry West. Hollins then got something off his chest. In front of the team, Hollins demanded that Iverson conform to the team’s philosophy, understand his role and respect his teammates. Several key players say it was an essential move by Hollins, for the sake of the team.
We all know what happened. Iverson wouldn’t conform, he fake retired, he went and played poorly in Philly and now he’s in Turkey. Contrast that with how Michael Curry handled Iverson in Detroit:
“M.C. lied to us a million times,” (Rip) Hamilton said of Curry. “He sat me and A.I. down one time and was like, ‘I’m going to lean on both of you the whole year, just don’t go to the media. Say you’ll do whatever for the team and blah blah blah.’ This was a week before he brought me off the bench. He lied. So I feel for what Allen said.”
He added: “I think the person that we had didn’t know how to take advantage of (our roster). Instead of taking advantage of it, he killed it.”
Unlike the Grizzlies, who went on a major roll and threatened for a playoff spot in the West, the Pistons went into a tailspin as guys were openly frustrated, they whimpered into the playoffs and were swept by the Cavs in an embarrassingly uncompetitive series.
I come back to Iverson often because that is the move that is solely responsible for where the franchise is at right now. Joe Dumars receives most of the blame for making the trade, and I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but it’s important to note that the trade also gave Curry, who was supposedly hired for his willingness to speak his mind and stand up to veteran players, an opportunity to assert his stamp on the team and establish the standards he expected players to abide by. Had Curry taken a Hollins-like stand, he might still be coaching the team right now. Not that I’m saying that would be a good thing (though I do miss his suits). It’s just funny how one single event can have such a lasting impact on a franchise. Hollins handled it perfectly and the Grizzlies are one of the league’s exciting up and coming teams. Curry handled it horribly and the Pistons are a major question mark still.