3:04 PM, January 30, 2013
By Jamie Samuelsen
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
Do you feel the same way about Rodney Stuckey as you do about Titus Young?
No organization chews up and spits out coaches faster than the Detroit Pistons. And as much as I’d love to blame all of that on Rodney Stuckey, this actually predates him.
Stuckey had nothing to do with the ouster of Rick Carlisle or Larry Brown unless he was already using his mystical powers from his hometown of Kent, Washington or from Eastern Washington University.
But since Stuckey arrived in Detroit in 2007, he’s become the poster child for the NBA problem child. Stuckey is in just his sixth NBA season and he’s on his fourth different coach (Flip Saunders, Michael Curry, John Kuester and now Lawrence Frank). And while Stuckey isn’t the only reason those coaches haven’t worked out, he’s famously had beefs with each of them. His deactivation from the Orlando game on Sunday night was only the latest episode.
He said upon being reinstated that the issue with Frank was in the past he was “all about the team.” That would be great if it were true. It was also mark perhaps the first time in years that Stuckey was in fact “all about the team”.
Was he all about the team when he refused to re-enter the game in the second half on Dennis Rodman’s number retirement night against the Bulls?
Was he all about the team when he was part of the mutiny against Kuester when a group of players refused to practice prior to a game in Philadelphia and were all suspended for the game that night? Stuckey showed up late to the shootaround and was benched for the game in which the Pistons only played six players. He was seen laughing on the bench along with Tracy McGrady when Kuester was ejected late in the first half.
Was he all about the team when he played 27 minutes in a game in 2011 against the Raptors and attempted only one field goal? (This from a player who averaged nearly 12 shots from the field during that season and took 18 shots against the Knicks just two games later)
And those are just some of the episodes that were public. One can only imagine what goes on during practice or in the locker room. One can only imagine what Stuckey did to draw the ire of Frank. Actually, one can imagine quite easily because nothing that Stuckey does anymore comes as a surprise.
I’ve long wondered what Stuckey has ever done as an NBA player to justify his consistent diva-like behavior and I’ve long gone without an answer. Perhaps it was the comparisons to Dwyane Wade coming out of college or the strong first-year playoff performance against the Boston Celtics or Joe Dumars terming him some sort of “sacred cow” in the summer of 2008.
But the comparisons to Titus Young are valid. Both are talented, or so we’re told. Both act as if they’re among the best in the game even though there is little statistically or empirically to show that they are. And both have done more bad than good in their time in Detroit.
And here’s one more comparison - can we please be done with both of them?
Young’s future seems very much in jeopardy given how last season ended and his little Twitter rant from last week. But he remains a Lion because he does have some talent and because other than Calvin Johnson, things are so unsettled at the wide receiver position.
Stuckey remains a Pistons because - why exactly? He’s in the second year of a three-year, $25-million contract that Dumars inexplicably handed him when the lockout ended in December 2011. He’s averaging career lows in shooting percentage (38 percent) and free-throw percentage (79 percent), and his points-per-game average (11.3) is the second-lowest of his career behind only his rookie season (7.6), when he averaged 19 minutes a game.
Sure, there are excuses to be made for Stuckey. He’s more comfortable with the ball in his hands (show me someone who isn’t). He’s losing playing time to Brandon Knight, who is woefully inconsistent (show me a lottery team that doesn’t defer to younger players). He’s never been able to find a comfort level at point guard or shooting guard after getting shuttled back and forth between the two positions and between the starting lineup and the bench (Sorry, has he ever shown that he deserves one spot on this team?)
At some point, the excuses have to stop and Stuckey needs to take a look at the one constant in these issues -- himself. In truth, that moment should have come long ago. But on this team where the players for years have been given far more power than they deserve, he’s never had to atone for his missteps other than a game here or there.
Perhaps Dumars will look to trade him at the deadline, thinking that a contender could use a combo guard coming off the bench. Although if I were a team with a shot at a title, I’d look with a wary eye at an inconsistent player who has battled virtually every coach he’s had and thinks of himself as a star player. Titles are normally won with a group of players who are happy to take a backseat if needed. Stuckey has never shown the ability or the will to do anything of the sort.
More likely, Stuckey will ride out his time here in Detroit. He’ll have some nice moments and some nice games. He’ll battle with coaches and do nothing to endear himself to an already weary fan base. Plenty of egos and plenty of divas have rolled through Detroit. Most all of them have done something to earn that right or earn those egos. Stuckey hasn’t.
We’re still waiting for that to happen. And we’ll probably continue to wait.