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On Salvaging the Season

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Remember Tetris? Irregularly shaped, dropping blocks awaiting composition into rows (and, thus, elimination). I hope you remember it, because it will now become the basis for a lengthy analogy.

In Tetris, nobody likes the 's'-shaped piece. Expert players learn to anticipate it, and accommodate it by providing a cushion of two consecutive spaces. But most mere mortals are eventually left a pile full of oddly spaced blocks, and are thus given a choice:

1) Insert the 's'-shaped piece horizontally, thus preserving the integrity of the stack (i.e. not covering any blank spaces). This is the perfectionists method.

2) Lay the 's'-shaped piece vertically above one of the spaces, using it to form the basis of a solid row. This is the pragmatic method.

The pragmatist uses the 's'-piece to his advantage, and is in a better position to wait for the right opportunity. Eventually, a long piece will descend, completing 2 or 3 rows, which allows him to start anew. The perfectionist continues to build a mountain of jagged edges, relying on good fortune to deliver a series of pieces to resolve his predicament. Coach Popovich is the ultimate pragmatist.

Coach Michael Curry has had trouble putting pieces together. On this we all agree. Right now, he's got a pile full of jagged edges, and an 's'-shaped block named Allen Iverson. It's time for Curry to embrace the pragmatic approach.

Allen Iverson has effectively missed three games out of ten. In those three games, Detroit is a lackluster 1-2. But that doesn't tell the whole story. After Iverson's exit on Wednesday, we basically beat a playoff bound team on the road. Last night, we beat a possible first round opponent on the road. Rodney Stuckey had his best game in over a month.

Against the Chicago Bulls, we had essentially registered a big win before an inexplicable 4th quarter collapse cost us the game. Indeed, our 4th quarter performances have been abysmal, and Allen Iverson has little to do with that.

But the pattern is pretty clear. At best, Iverson is adding nothing to this team as a starter. But, just like Tetris blocks, he is coming back, and will have to be assimilated into a team that finally seems to be figuring out how to win again.

You know where I'm going with this. The pragmatic approach is to put Iverson on the bench. Frankly, this should have happened a long time ago. Iverson needs to run, and should be on the floor with our young guys who can run.

Is it the perfect solution? No. Ideally, Iverson would be on a team on which he could run wild and shoot whenever he wants to do so. Whether or not that team exists, it's clear that the Pistons are not it. Going to the bench will assuredly mean fewer minutes. Is that fair? On the basis of performance, yes, but I'm not sure he'll agree.

Sending Iverson to the bench also certainly doesn't solve our 4th quarter woes, and it remains to be seen whether the team's slow pace is the product of personnel or hard-headed insistence by it's coach.

But, if I'm Michael Curry, I'd rather spend my time fixing the problems we've had over the last two games then the problems of the last twenty. He has the opportunity to integrate Allen Iverson in a way that can only add value.

In reality, this is Curry's last opportunity to change the game, salvage the season, and resurrect his career. His legacy is at stake, so he's got nothing to lose.