Guard Rodney Stuckey wanted to earn the distinction as the Pistons’ team leader when he came to training camp.
“In order for us to win and be good, somebody has to do that,” he said during the preseason. “The year before that and last year, we really didn’t have that on the team. Somebody needs to step up and do it.”
Rather than being a leader, he has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the franchise. Stuckey has repeatedly clashed with head coach John Kuester and disenchanted Pistons fans with his unprofessional behavior. He has been benched on three separate occasions and protested the loss of his starting job by continually passing up shots in a game against Toronto last month.
Stuckey’s latest act of insubordination — refusing to reenter in the fourth quarter against Chicago on Friday — convinced Kuester to bench him the past two games. It’s unknown whether Stuckey will play Wednesday against New Jersey, if not the remainder of the season.
President of basketball operations Joe Dumars, or possibly his replacement if the next owner cleans house, will have a tough decision on Stuckey. Dumars did not offer Stuckey, who is in his fourth season, a long-term contract this summer because the team was, and still is, for sale. That means Stuckey will enter this summer as a restricted free agent. If another club gives Stuckey an offer sheet, and that’s a very big if, would the Pistons match or let him walk?
Stuckey would prefer to return with a different coach.
“At the end of the year, I’m going to have my agent — we’re going to sit down and he’s going to do what he has to do. But first and foremost, I’d like to return here,” he said. “I’m very comfortable here. I love the community. I help a lot with Orchards (Children’s Services) and stuff like that. So, that means a lot to me. (But) we all know that things need to change around here.”
Stuckey has explosive moves to the basket and the ability to score 20-25 points a game but he’s not the type of player to build a franchise around. He’s a subpar outside shooter and doesn’t have a natural feel for running an offense, which is why Kuester experimented with Stuckey at shooting guard in mid-season.
Moreover, his immaturity and sense of entitlement might scare away potential suitors. Stuckey was clearly talking about Kuester when he said “things need to change around here” after Sunday’s game but those changes also have to include him, whether it’s a new attitude or a new team.
WIZARDS 107, PISTONS 105: Washington ended its eight-game losing streak against the Pistons on Tuesday behind rookie guard John Wall, who had 26 points and 12 assists. The Pistons gave up 39 fast-break points, which offset their 27 second-chance points. Reserve forward Austin Daye missed a 3-point attempt from the left corner just before the final buzzer.
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