I have talked to many, many, many fans today who liked the trade for Allen Iverson, but were hesitant to celebrate too much because they had a hard time watching Chauncey Billups leave the 'Stons. Don't hesitate! Celebrate! (Like that one? That was waiting for a while).
Look, Chauncey was one of the best point guards in the league when he was with the Pistons. Until 2004. Yes, after 2004 he still averaged around the same amount of points and assists, and he remained a favorite among fans, but something had happened. Winning the title in 2004 was probably the worst thing that could have happened to Billups and many others on that roster, most obviously Rasheed Wallace.
For most great players, winning their first championship only provides them with the added incentive of defending it. Jordan, Magic, Bird, all of them were like this. They won, but they wanted to win more. For other players, winning a championship is more like the end of a lifelong dream. This is not necessarily a bad thing; few have a championship, and those who do have accomplished something extraordinary. However, what sets apart the very, very good players from the great ones is how they react to that first championship. Jordan, Bird, even Duncan and Shaq, used it to motivate them to get even better, to defend their title. The Pistons who won in 2004 used it in the exact opposite way, which is why Detroit has not seen another championship banner since then.
Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace seemed to be the spokespeople for the horrible attitude that afflicted the Pistons after their 2004 title, especially after Larry Brown left. Their attitude was:
"We've been to the top, which means We are already better than everyone else. If we play poorly, it's not because the other team beat us, it's because we didn't play well. We can toy with teams for the first few games of a playoff series and flip a switch when we decide we want to win, and we can win another championship that way."
This attitude that these players were so good that they could toy with whatever teams they wanted to for however long they wanted led to some dubious playoff series, especially last year against Philadelphia, in a series that should not have gone six games. There have been other examples of this, but I won't go into them because it will take too long.
To put it simply: Billups stopped being hungry. He didn't crave a championship like he did in '04, and it showed. Sheed doesn't care what the hell happens and it shows. These guys were the main proponents of the inflated view the Pistons had of themselves from '04 until now. Unfortunately, we traded Dice, not Sheed, so some of that attitude is still around.
Allen Iverson, however, is probably the hungriest player in the League now that Kevin Garnett got his title. That attitude that he brings to every game, where he goes all out, never lets up, and tries his hardest at all times, is one the Pistons need more than any other team at this point. Hopefully, his play, and the way he plays, will be infectious.
Now, analysis of the trade itself: if you hadn't guessed, I love it. It is a no-lose situation for the Pistons, and as usual, a shrewd business move by our ever-shrewd president, Joe Dumars. Allen Iverson has one year left on his contract. Billups had three. If Iverson doesn't work out, which he almost undoubtedly will, the worst that happens is we don't do so well this year, we don't re-sign him, and we got rid of an expensive, over-the-hill guard (Chauncey). Also, the chances are good that Dice, out of love for the Pistons organization, will sit out this year and re-sign with us next year, which would be awesome. Great move financially, and overall a steal.
Here's how I see this playing out as far as the lineup is concerned: Curry will start with Iverson at point, Rip at 2, Tay at 3, Amir at 4, Sheed at 5. Stuck will come off the bench, along with Mad Max. That's a fucking great lineup. As the season progresses, the lineup will be shuffled during games. I see about 20 minutes each game of a small-ball lineup: Stuck, AI, Rip, Tay, Sheed. That's a good lineup, especially because, if you replace Sheed with someone more mobile, maybe Kwame Brown (can't believe I just said that), it allows the Pistons to play more up-tempo and will give opponents a completely different look. With all those scorers on the floor, the only thing we would need Kwame to do is rebound, and there is no reason he can't do that. Tay is an almost impossible matchup for anybody, by posting up against small forwards or blowing by slower power forwards. Rip is faster than most small forwards, the only question is if he can hold his own on defense. That puts Stuck in a role most of us imagined him taking over after a few more years, but if Joe D thinks he is ready now, I believe him.
Awesome trade. For the first time in a while, I am genuinely excited about the Pistons winning it all this year. This puts us right back into the headlines, but so be it. I have loved AI for a while, ever since he introduced me to the NBA in 2001 when he almost won the first two games of the Finals in L.A. when the Sixers' second-best player was Aaron McKie. He will improve this team dramatically both on the court and attitude-wise. Now, how do we get rid of Sheed...