The Curry season (based on prior conversations and European publications)

Discussion in 'Pistons and NBA' started by mikhail1973, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. mikhail1973

    mikhail1973 All-Star Administrator 1x Fantasy Champion

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    Being one of the EC leaders and the potential championship contender, Detroit always attracted a lot of attention from the press and fans. The last season wasn't an exception. Actually, probably more of the opposite - with the new coach and a trade for AI many expected big things from the squad, and if not a championship then at least solid play and playoff success. But the "pistons" ended up looking like a disjointed mechanism. Lets look at the possible reasons.

    Joe Dumars's offseason in 2007 and 2008 was very solid. He made some moves in order to patch the defensive or offensive deficiencies through draft, free agency, and trades. Even coaching exchange that put Curry in charge, was not revolutionary, but rather evolutionary: all he had to do was to reinforce basic tactics, diversify offense a bit and integrating promising youngsters into the rotation help the veteran core to return to the championship level of 2004. From the get go coach decided to take a different route, especially in the area of tactical innovations. His mistakes really contributed to the fall of the once-mighty franchise.

    First error. Tactical topsy-turvidom. The coach abandoned Pistons' strong suit - their defence and tried to install some kind of in-between option, in which in the attacking half one group of players was responsible for the majority of the tasks, and in the offensive half - another group. To adapt those unusual schemes Curry tried to form some sort of symbiotic fives, where Bynum and Afflalo (and sometimes even Acker) were responsible for handling of the ball in the offensive schemes, with Sheed and Tay being responsible for cleaning up the defensive miscues. This sort of division didn't always dignify the team. Even further, effort of some individuals to fit in a new role (Kwame trying to be a "moving pillar" in the offense), knocked the team out of familiarity and comfort level. Needless to say that such dis-balance in the rotation bore it's fruit - the back line stopped being a threat as constant shuffling of the younger players after a couple of mistakes, knocked off the aim of the veterans.

    Second error. Dangerous polyphony. Curry's could never settle (even before Chauncey's trade) the leading roles on the team which obviously didn't add any stability to the performance. Sometimes Billups would set the offense up, then all of a sudden Tay had to shoulder the load, turning from the defender into a point-forward, then the point of attacked was moved all the way to the front trying to create an attacking double-center to prevent opponents from double-teaming. But the team's performance suffered - the results were poor. Sometimes, situational paradox decreased: while beating up the leaders of the conference and showing a very solid game, they managed to listlessly lose games to the equal or weaker opponents.

    Curry's tactical shortsightedness can be emphasized by constant vertical movement of Prince. He can do many things, and do them well. I read a lot of good things in the European press about his performance during the Olympics where he showed an exemplary defensive play, being matched against the opponents' 2, 3, and 4 in the coach K.'s schemes. He is also productive at his natural position - SF. He can be effective in a pick-n-roll taking the doubling big away from the basket, or nail a jump shot against the shorter defender - in most cases his play was successful. Which prompts a question - why create additional complications for Tay by bringing him into the low post area instead of finding a partner for Sheed among the Pistons bigs and look for the tactical solutions based on the duo?

    Third error. An attempt to mix incompatible. Curry was forced to change his approach by the arrival of AI and the rumors of his imminent firing. He understood that he can't go on with the continuation of experiment and decided to go back to Flip's strategies. The team decreased the amount of the risky improvisation and concentrated on the destruction of the opponent's play. The offense began to distribute the ball more evenly between the snipers. The rotations have become more defined with primary and secondary players. After that he ran into the conflict of the last year enhanced by the extremely slow integration of AI's game into the team concepts. The old issues - predictable offense, impossibility of changing the tempo of the game and use different tempos had an addition - impossibility to find an effective use of one of the most lethal scorers in the history of the NBA.

    In theory everything should've worked. Rip is used to shoot coming off screens, moving a lot without the ball, running between the sidelines and use the errors of the switching bigs that got caught on screens and that returned to the paint leaving him open for his jumper. AI is the player who needs the ball to be effective. He is the player who is looking for the moment and the position for his shot with the rest of the team building the corridors rather than looking for the ball, and he's also the player that takes the ball to the rim. In the end the coach has two players, completely with completely different style of play, who need the ball delivered to them once the half-court has been crossed. Should be a task that Stuckey can accomplish.

    In reality everything was not as planned. The Answer, who was used to be "the guy" held on to the ball for too long and slowed down the offense. With this the other players had to run the sets multiple times which allowed defenses to adopt. Many times AI had to force a bad shot with the shot clock running out simply because he had no alternatives. Hamilton's game was hurt by the absence of Chauncey's passing. The double-screens became more and more rare, traffic at the strong side complicated finding the open space for the shot, and he wasn't getting the ball as much from the other players. In the end potentially high-scoring offense could barely break through the defenses of the last place teams. At least Stuckey managed to get to the rim from time to time using the defense's increased attention to his partners.

    Forth error. Bottom doesn't want to - the top can't.
    Anarchy among the guards turned Sheed from the team's x-factor into an ineffective aging center. With Billups, swinging the ball from side to side was one of the most potent weapons of the team: the crisp ball movement inside and out forced defenses into the scrambling mode in order to keep up with the offensive geometry. The changed forced team to the 21-st place in the attacking effectiveness. With this happening Sheed, who wasn't too fast to begin with and was facing multiple injuries had problems fighting through the defender. The defense had an easy time reading the couple of the possibilities that Pistons offered on the offense and complicate the receipt of the pass as well as the turn around and facing the rim game. Amir had similar issue, but his were even worse because of the bad footwork. That also causes him to foul excessively: having to catch up with the attacking player he can only foul him to stop him. Statistics indicate that he gets a foul call every 5.5 minutes which is the second worst in the NBA after the Indiana's Hubbert. Kwame Brown can't be used near the rim much due to his bad free throwing. If he sticks around for long he may erase memories of Big Ben's free throw woes.

    Maxiell, due to this all small-ball and quick-play was affected the most. He was solid on defense, not making the mistakes he used to make in the past seasons. He also managed to shoot way over 50% from the field which landed him on the bench with Curry giving the time to the "wooden" Johnson. Even when getting the playing time, Jason wasn't getting the ball enough to be able to contribute.

    Finally, Dyess. If you look at Detroit's attacking combinations, it looks like Curry asked Dyess to keep away from the ball. As if, we already have the players to dribble and shoot and your job is just to clean the glass. Dyess never argued with the approach, but his experience could have been used more effectively.

    What looked like the proper approach with keeping Rip and AI in the opposite corners that was fortified by the rejection of the active use of Brown, managed to lose all its steam by the end of January. Great personal defender AA is stewing on the bench while AI keeps chasing other team's scorers. One of the solid Europeans Acker only gets garbage time. There is no logic to the time-outs and the substitution patterns as well as plays out of time outs and plays during the deciding moments of the games. You can always say that the players decide the games and not coaches. And in most cases you would be correct. But Pistons are a unique team, it's a mechanism that took years to build. And if one part falls out, the whole machine grinds to a halt. Especially if that part is in the middle of the machine.
     
  2. ocellatus

    ocellatus First Round Draft Pick

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  3. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Billups was only there 2 games...

    Nice analysis though, for sure.
     
  4. basketbills

    basketbills All-Star Forum Donor

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    Good take on last year.

    What is this about Curry having a "Wooden Johnson"...was that from a McCoskey column?
     
  5. mikhail1973

    mikhail1973 All-Star Administrator 1x Fantasy Champion

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    Most of the stuff came out of the European observers and my conversations with my Russian friends. They have some interesting takes on Pistons and on players. They are pretty high on Stuckey. And they think that Acker is a solid player. They seem to think that Amir is lacking foot-speed to be effective and thus prone to fouling in order to keep up on defense. They love Chauncey and think that he is one of the best PG in the NBA. They don't think much at all of Curry. And some of them don't seem to like the new Pistons look. I will have a post on the "disintegration of the Bad Boys II" era later on this week when I get a chance.
     
  6. TheeTFD

    TheeTFD All-Star

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    Yeah I took offense to the "wooden" Johnson remark.
     

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