Losing is going to cause this sort of thing, but CBS Sports’ Ben Golliver quickly noticed something about the Pistons before, during and after their loss to Portland Tuesday: as Golliver put it, they play like ‘two halves of a team.’
Of course, that’s nothing new to people who have been watching the team the past two seasons as young players uncomfortably were thrust upon a veteran core that had grown used to things being a certain way for a very long time.
But this season more than last, reports have alluded to an uncomfortable locker room, something that is a dramatic change from years past when the Pistons had arguably the best chemistry and locker room of any team in the NBA. From Golliver’s story:
Hamilton and old guard championship teammates Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince occupied one side of the post-game locker room, heads down, voices monotone, after the loss. Prince didn’t mince words when discussing his frustration. “It’s everything. Not just one thing. Everything. It’s always that way when you’re not winning. Even our wins didn’t feel like wins. When that happens, you know it’s a problem.”
A problem for Prince, perhaps, but his younger teammates on the other side of the locker room didn’t seem as touched, as Charlie Villanueva laughed and smiled, second-year forward Austin Daye exuded a flat air of relative indifference, and a shell-shocked Greg Monroe looked like he was trying to escape his decision to turn pro as he hustled quickly out of the locker room with headphones drowning out the world.
The night ended with that distinct divide, but it started that way too. Two hours before the game, Daye, Monroe and DaJuan Summers worked through their shootaround routines together, looking to develop skills under the tutelage of the team’s assistant coaches, and to enjoy a few laughs. Only after the young trio ceded the court did Prince and Wallace take the court, briefly and mostly in silence, to get their blood going before the game.
Some people (myself included) thought it was strange when Rodney Stuckey said in the preseason that the team needed more vocal leadership, and that he was going to fill that role. After all, the team had Prince, Wallace and Hamilton, three championship veterans, right? How could the team possibly be lacking leadership?
Golliver’s account suggests maybe Stuckey was onto something. Prince and Hamilton’s frustrations are somewhat understandable — both guys have heard their names in trade rumors for about two years now, so the prospect of teaching their potential replacements about playing winning basketball would probably be less than appealing if they feel like the team could move them at any time. Wallace, however, was brought in specifically to be a locker room presence for the younger players. Last season, there were reports that rookies Daye and Jonas Jerebko routinely worked out with Wallace in the weight room, trying to copy his work habits. Hopefully, that hasn’t ended as the team has grown more frustrated and less cohesive on the court this year.