ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 03: Rodney Stuckey #3 of the Detroit Pistons drives against Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 3 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Rodney Stuckey played just 13:30 minutes on Wednesday, sitting the final 21 minutes after halftime. What gives? John Kuester apparently opted to send a message after Stuckey ignored the coach early in the third quarter. Justin Rogers of MLive.com describes the odd turn of events:
With Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford shooting free throws early in the third quarter, Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester attempted to get Rodney Stuckey's attention by calling out his name. Stuckey didn't flinch.
Kuester got up and called out twice more, a little louder in case his point guard didn't hear him the first time. Stuckey continued to look straight ahead, appearing to ignore his coach's summoning.
Not willing to tolerate the apparent insubordination, Kuester subbed Stuckey out and glued him to the bench for the remainder of the game. As the situation was unfolding, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon looked on, shaking their heads in disappointment. Whether they were upset at Stuckey, Kuester or both remains unclear.
What's most frustrating is the fact that Stuckey's benching clearly cost the Pistons -- as Mike Payne described in the recap, after building a 48-44 lead at halftime, the Pistons were outscored 37 to 50 in the second half, with most of the damage coming on Atlanta's 14-4 run in the final five minutes.
Hopefully the drama resolves itself soon so the coaching staff and players can focus solely on winning and player development, not grudges and power plays. To their credit, neither Kuester nor Stuckey aired their frustrations in the media -- Kuester cut his press conference short before he could be asked about it, and Stuckey went with the bland yet safe, "It is what it is" answer when prodded.
For the vast majority of his career, Stuckey has avoided attaching himself to any type of controversy -- I can't recall anything remotely similar -- so it's easy to write this off as temporary frustration. But at the same time, should we be surprised?
Stuckey's been an intimate observer of teammates clashing with coaches his entire career. As a rookie he witnessed the cold Rasheed Wallace / Flip Saunders marriage; as a sophomore he lived through Michael Curry vs Allen Iverson vs. Rip Hamilton vs. the world, and last year he saw the beginning stages of what now seems to be a fractured Kuester / Prince relationship.
For all he knows, defiance and dysfunction are the expected attributes of this team's leaders. If this were a cheesy 1980s PSA, I'd finish with, "Players who feud with coaches have teammates who feud with coaches."
Will this situation end as disastrously as the previous situations? Considering Stuckey's playing for a contract, I can't imagine he'd risk the playing time. He's a good guy who made a poor decision, and until he becomes a repeat offender, I refuse to hold it against him.
That said, I won't be surprised if frustration continues to fester among other players, especially Prince or Hamitlon, who each must realize he's as good as gone should the right trade offer appear. This is your creation, Joe Dumars. A culture of disposable coaches has permeated this franchise the last few years, and until this crazy roster is balanced or an established coach who demands respect is put in place, these occasional player/coach kerfuffles will likely continue.