In his recent press conference, Joe Dumars talked repeatedly about getting back to the core Piston values of "grit" and "toughness." Much of his success in the past as a General Manager was in his ability to identify players that had something to prove. The players that defined the Piston identity over their six consecutive years as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference were all driven when they arrived in Detroit.
Ben Wallace was undrafted. Chauncey was tossed around the league. "Rip" was traded by Michael Jordan. McDyess was considered finished after his knee surgeries. Rasheed was considered a "cancer." Tayshaun dropped in the draft because he was considered too passive. The toughness of those Piston teams came from the collective chips on their individual shoulders.
If Dumars wants to regain that toughness that defined his most successful teams (both as a player and as a GM), it follows that he'll have to identify which players on the team have something to prove and which players he can acquire through the draft/trades/free agency that do as well.
Here's my take on the current roster:
RODNEY STUCKEY - I like Stuckey more than most. Personally, I don't think he's being used properly. He's unstoppable when attacking from the wings and he's got a great post-up game. He's much less effective when attacking from the top which is where coaches always seem to put him. That being said, does he have something to prove? I think so. I'm sure he knows what Piston fans are saying about him. I get the sense that he wants to be great. And that he will work at becoming great. He's had his struggles, but I really can't remember him ever making an excuse.
BEN GORDON - His work ethic to me (and his rather surly demeanor) indicate that he's got something to prove. The situation in Chicago where he felt the Bulls were lowballing him is probably a strong motivator.
WILL BYNUM - I don't think there's a question that this guy has something to prove.
RICHARD HAMILTON - I suspect that no matter who's on the court, Rip thinks he's the best player out there and is determined to show it. I don't think he's lost his hunger.
TAYSHAUN PRINCE - He seems to have gotten more testy with reporters lately. He seemed genuinely offended by claims that he no longer fit with the team, that he couldn't play an up-tempo game, that he should be traded, etc. Whereas Sheed clearly lost his drive, I don't think the same can be said of Rip and Tayshaun.
AUSTIN DAYE - I like what I see from him. He's not afraid to mix it up and fight for rebounds in the crowd. You can tell he's sick of the questions about his thin frame. He's got something to prove.
JONAS JEREBKO - This guy's not just playing for himself. He's playing for country.
DAJUAN SUMMERS - I think he's going to be a good player. Does he have something to prove? I don't know. He didn't complain about playing time. That can be a good thing (he decided to put his energy into improving his game instead of whining) or it can be a bad thing (he didn't care enough). I don't know enough about his practice habits to know either way.
CHARLIE VILLANUEVA - He's the biggest question mark. He got a big raise this season. That can motivate you to want to prove that you're worth the money or you can feel you've already made it and rest on your laurels. I suspect it's the latter.
JASON MAXIELL - Early in his career, there was no doubt he played like he had something to prove. The lack of improvement in aspects of his game make me question whether he still has that drive. He still can't finish with his left around the hoop, always going up with his right (even when there's a player on that side of his body). And his jumpshot is still inconsistent. I just don't know.
CHRIS WILCOX - If he had something to prove, we'd know it by now.
KWAME BROWN - It was worth a shot.
BEN WALLACE - He definitely had something to prove this season (that he could be the Ben Wallace of old). Now that he's shown that, is the drive still there?
What are your thoughts? What players in the draft have something to prove? DeMarcus Cousins? Greg Monroe? What about free agents and players on the trading block?
Who's got something to prove?