As I'm sure many of you have already seen, Joe Dumars sat down with Keith Langlois for a rather lengthy Q&A for Pistons.com on Wednesday morning. Every time he does this I want to quote the entire article on DBB, but instead I'm just going to pick a handful of highlights and urge you to read the entire thing.
Langlois: At this point last season, you were going into the conference finals with an 8-2 playoff record. This year, pretty similar – you’re 8-3. Yet I get the sense that you feel better about where you’re sitting this year than you did a year ago. Is that so?
Dumars: No question. No question. I feel better about it. The difference in that record, the 8-2 and 8-3, the first game we lost in the playoffs, against Philly, was probably more beneficial to us than what happened last year. It got our attention. We had every guy’s attention the next day at practice. Guys knew. We cannot go back down this road, inconsistency and a lackadaisical approach. It made it easy to hammer home that point to guys from that point on. So I feel better – you’re absolutely right. I feel better about where we are right now heading into the conference finals than I felt last year.
Also worth mentioning: the Pistons entered the ECF last year having just lost two of three. Now, the Pistons have won six of their past seven. In other words, yeah, the Pistons have one more loss than a year ago, but they also have momentum.
Langlois: My next question was going to be was last night especially satisfying when you see Stuckey come in and not just hold down the fort, but to make plays in the fourth quarter and to have the ball in his hands for 30 minutes under pressure situations and not turn the ball over once, to take it at Dwight Howard the way he did.
Dumars: The answer to your question is yes. And that’s why you stand strong and do not waver in January and February when the kid might have some rough patches and you hear, "Well, maybe you should pull back." No, no, no. No. Let him get through this, because there’s a bigger purpose. And the bigger purpose is a closeout game where he has to start. If you don’t stay with that kid through the season, through his ups and downs, if you panic, if you become impatient, if you go away from him, kill his confidence, he will never play like that in Game 5. That’s why, in the middle of January, you have to make those tough decisions and stay with him and assure everybody that this is going to work out. By the way, I’ve got to say this, too. You make that decision, I create a mandate that young guys are going to play, we still wound up with the second-best record in the league. We won 59 games – more than anybody in the West, more than everybody but one team in the entire NBA. It’s not like we suffered in the regular season for it. Sometimes that gets lost. How many more games do you think we’re supposed to win?
After reading that, my first thought was, "well, that's nice, but why hasn't the same strategy been used with other players (*cough* Amir *cough*)? But later in the interview, Dumars explained what sets Stuckey apart from most young players:
Dumars: In my eight years here, I’ve never seen a young player, a rookie, have the composure he has from the first day he got here. He didn’t just develop this composure over the course of the season. The first day he walked in here, he had that composure and air of confidence about him that lets you know he wasn’t in awe and he was never going to shrink when the moment came. It’s not like you saw it unfold over the season. Day one. He’s possessed that. I was telling my wife last night, he has that certain thing that lets you know when the big games come, he’ll be there. He’s going to be there. I don’t know how to describe it, or what "it" is, but he has that certain "it." You never see him nervous. He may make a rookie mistake. But it’s not that he’s afraid or nervous, it’s that he’s unfamiliar with how to handle certain things. From day one, he’s had that.
Last but not least, Dumars thinks Tayshaun Prince's block on Hedo Turkoglu was more impressive than his storied block on Reggie Miller:
Dumars: This was impressive. Miller never saw it coming. This was a mano-a-mano play. Hedo turned the corner and decided "I’m throwing it down. I’m not going to try to lay it up. I’m not going to try to float it." And that’s a mano-a-mano thing you say to yourself on the court. And Tayshaun said, "I’ll meet you at the rim." You have plays like that where both guys make up their mind that "I’m going to impose my will on you." Hedo made up his mind and Tayshaun made up his mind. Those are the most impressive plays. Because there is no surprise element here. It’s one guy saying, "I’m coming." And the other guy saying, "OK, I’ll be there." And that’s impressive.
"I'll meet you at the rim" -- that's classic.