This is it. This is rock bottom. It cannot get worse than this, right? Doesn’t matter if they’re winning or losing, this is the very bottom of the professionalism barrel. There are ruins, there is rubble, and there’s the Detroit Pistons.
Hours after four veteran players staged a protest sleep-in , and were summarily benched, things hit a new low. First, Kuester was ejected in the Pistons’ loss to the Sixers in Philadelphia tonight. And the players responded as you’d expect professionals to. By laughing.
To top it off, Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press is reporting that before the All-Star break, the players walked to the shower postgame while Kuester was talking. Double ugh.
Okay, long story, short story.
Short story: The only victims here are the fans of the Pistons, who don’t deserve this. Any of it.
Long story: Kuester has been losing his players for a year and a half. There have been clashes since the beginning, along with losses piling up. The biggest questions surround Rip Hamilton and his benching this season. On the outside it appears like Hamilton is just a petulant player struggling to accept he’s no longer the star he once was. But combined with all the other stories of unrest, it certainly seemed like there was a pattern to suggest that Kuester was at least partially responsible for the chemistry problems.
It’s unproffessional. To a ridiculous degree. You’re not happy? Fine. Voice it to management. Or the press. Or on Twitter. But don’t stoop to what you consider to be his level by resorting to childish, immature behavior that will follow you wherever you look to go for the short remainders of your careers. It’s inexcusable, and the Pistons need to suspend and/or fine the players for their behavior. Regardless of what they decide to do with Kuester, the players have to be held accountable, because you can’t run a team like this.
To make John Kuester into a victim here is to deny a pattern of unrest among the players and a disturbing deviation from the norm. There are those that stipulate it was Tayshaun and Rip’s attitudes that helped lead to all the coaching turnover of the past seven years. But there’s a huge gap between being difficult, and veteran guys who at the very least were known as hard workers. To not come to work is the nuclear option. To engage in this kind of behavior goes above and beyond desperate measures. The Pistons are only six games out of the playoffs, but they’re also 18-29 (yes, the middle of the East is still terrible), and there have been multiple questionable moves by Kuester.
Consider it this way. If you’re an executive, and employees who have helped your company for close to a decade all of a sudden start engaging in completely inappropriate behavior in response to their manager, you’re going to punish them. You can’t just let the example stand that it’s okay not to respect the company and it’s management. But at the same time, you’re definitely going to want to examine the manager to see why it is his employees are the ones behaving in this manner. You have to look at the whole picture while reacting responsibly.
But at the heart of this? This is on Joe Dumars. He didn’t move Rip Hamilton last year when he still had trade value despite the acquisition of Ben Gordon. He didn’t move Tayshaun Prince despite his trade value. And he was completely silent at the deadline, despite needing to make moves badly. Maybe it’s the ownership situation, still in flux. But the situation is untenable. One way or another, Dumars has to step in now.
It’s not just time. It’s past time.
We’ll see what’s left of the Pistons when all of this is over. Though we do support John Schuhmann of NBA.com’s idea for Elizabeth Shue from “Adventures in Babysitting” to step in.