The Detroit Pistons are becoming a bigger winter soap opera by the moment as losses mount and inconsistency settles in like a stubborn polar vortex.
The necessary dramatic elements are back. First, it was ownership admitting the organization hasn't done enough to set the team up for success. Then, it was Maurice Cheeks responding to that decree by saying "I've got to do a better job." Finally, Rodney Stuckey, arguably the team's most consistent player this season, said it was hard to win consistently given the team "isn't on the same page." Wednesday, Cheeks added the next plot twist getting into a spat with Will Bynum on the sidelines of Detroit's embarrassing loss to the Orlando Magic.
Welcome to "As the Pistons Turn," 2014 edition. It wasn't supposed to be this bad again. Not with a new coach, an offseason roster shakeup and seemingly, a different, new energy within the organization. Now, both on the court and off, the excitement and change the team promised from July to October seems like mere lip service. Nothing, it seems, has changed at all.
While all the extracurricular events are uniquely frustrating, the most pathetic was the latest. When Bynum and Cheeks came to verbal blows on the sidelines over playing time and roles, it showed neither truly cared about the direction of the team. Bynum wasn't going to buy into what his coach was doing, and Cheeks wasn't going to let him get away with not buying in. Neither, apparently, seemed motivated to talk out their differences a day later, either.
"It's not an issue; we watched film," Cheeks said after practice Thursday. "That's what we did. I haven't talked to Will Bynum yet."
If that doesn't show the distance between a team and its coaching staff, nothing else will. After the incident, expect things to get worse between Cheeks and many players before they get better. Bynum has been a well-respected veteran role player in Detroit who hasn't exactly shown a propensity for such meltdowns. The fact he's willing to take a hard line with Cheeks doesn't bode well for the coach. Bynum didn't think a chat with his coach was need, nor was he ready to back off his meltdown after time to cool off.
"No, I don't regret it," Bynum said. "I regret that maybe I was too passionate about it. But other than that, I don't."
Disagreements between players, teammates and coaches can be healthy, provided dialog is included after the fact. The Pistons don't seem to be motivated to talk about their problems, and that's the most concerning part. It reeks of factions developing in the locker room, much like when John Kuester was coaching out his tenure in Detroit. Cheeks' own admission that he must do better only adds fuel to a fire that's beginning to rage, considering many fans were already frustrated by his decision making and game management skills.
Come April, if the Pistons, now two games out of eighth place in the woeful Eastern Conference, don't make the postseason and show significant signs of life once there, it will be tough for owner Tom Gores to justify not blowing things up at every level. That includes Joe Dumars and Cheeks, despite the fact he's only been on the job for months.
After Wednesday's ugliness spilled on the court, even more elements are in place for a meltdown of epic proportions. It's up to both the players and coaches to now have enough pride to stop another soap opera dead in its tracks.
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