After being drafted 15th overall in 2007 by Detroit, Rodney Stuckey would go on to play seven years of inconsistent basketball in a Pistons uniform, but only found his true role during his last season in Motown. As a sixth-man, Stuckey had a renaissance season of sorts, playing some of the best basketball of his career, and was poised to enter free-agency with a solid resume.
However, as he recalls in an interview with Pacers.com's Mark Monteith, the offers he received were few and far between, so much so that he thought something was awry:
Rodney Stuckey believes somebody in Detroit was spreading dirt on him throughout the NBA. Telling people he's a bad teammate, has bad character and wouldn't fit with a winning team.
Pacers fans should track down that person and ... thank him.
If he hadn't been forced to deal with that whispered defamation of character following his seven seasons in Detroit, Stuckey likely would have signed with another team over the summer - a team that could have offered to pay far more money than the reported veteran's minimum the Pacers could offer. But Stuckey had nothing but one-year offers to select from, so he chose the team he thought offered the best opportunity to rehabilitate his image, regardless of the money.
Brought in to fill the hole left by Lance Stephenson's departure to Charlotte, Stuckey was sure to outperform the veteran minimum deal he had been tendered by the Pacers, and he has more than exceeded those expectations so far. In 56 games (36 starts), Rodney has averaged 13.1 points 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting .455/.398/.839. He is third on the team in minutes, and has so far excelled as a reserve for Frank Vogel's squad. The Washington native is looking to come back to Indiana long-term following this season, and they have reciprocated the feeling.
"I love it here, man, I'm staying in the city, close to everything. I love it here. My family loves it here. I love the people in this organization. Definitely, I want to come back. That's a no-brainer. Having a guy like Paul George here, of course I want to come play with an All-Star. Who doesn't? Definitely want to be back here. (In Detroit) A lot of people were questioning my character, 'Oh, he's not a good teammate.' This and that. That and this. I'm a great guy. I'm very humble, I come to work each and every day, do my business. It's just unfortunate, I'm not going to say names, but I know who it was. It's just unfortunate for that person to throw me under the bus."
Prior to leaving the Pistons, Stuckey was one of the longest tenured players on the team along with Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum and Jonas Jerebko. While it is unclear whether it was a player or executive who was trying to discredit Stuckey, one has to wonder how much truth there is to those allegations.
Despite the alleged slander, Rodney Stuckey has helped lead the Indiana Pacers to the seventh seed in the East, and looks to be in the long term plans for the Central Division team lookings to extend their winning ways to the next few seasons once Paul George returns from injury. The Pistons, meanwhile, are on the outside looking in as yet another year wraps up without a taste of the postseason. When it is all said and done, Rodney will probably have the last laugh.