The Detroit Pistons' message is clear: they don't want to be here anymore.
At least, they don't want to play for head coach John Kuester anymore, who officially lost the team on Friday when five players—Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Chris Wilcox—missed the morning shootaround (Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye strolled in toward the end of the session). All had alleged excuses, ranging from illness, to family issues, to simply missing the team bus, but there are not a whole lot of people out there that are buying any of that.
The Pistons simply don't want to play for this man anymore.
Kuester happily obliged after catching half the team playing hooky. Hamilton and Prince didn't even dress on Friday while Wallace, Wilcox, McGrady, Stuckey and Daye sat on the bench as Kuester used just six players in Detroit's game against Philadelphia.
After Kuester was ejected for arguing a call in the second quarter, McGrady, Wallace and Stuckey were caught laughing on camera as their coach was escorted from the floor. After Kuester was tossed, assistant Brian Hill stuck to the six-player game plan. McGrady told the Detroit Free Press that they were not laughing at Kuester.
Kuester has rubbed the Pistons the wrong way from the beginning of the season. He argued with Prince about leadership and benched fan favorite Hamilton amid trade rumors. Wallace and McGrady, the two elder statesmen on this squad, especially didn't take kindly to the benching of Hamilton. It's now all boiled over to what we have today: a team in disarray.
The Pistons were only 2.5 games out of the playoffs as late as Jan. 17. You can pretty much close the book on that story after Friday's 110-94 loss to Philadelphia set Detroit 6.5 games back of eighth-place Indiana.
What this team is doing is beyond unprofessional. It's embarrassing.
It's not just embarrassing to the team, but it's embarrassing to the fans and the city. They have no respect for the loyal paying customers that still bother to attend their lackluster games. Detroit, a town that prides itself on hard work and perseverance, now has this mess as a representative for the city.
And for what? Because they don't like their boss? That's just childish.
If you or I decided not to show up for work because we were protesting the boss, we'd probably be fired immediately. The difference is the average Joe usually isn't making $12 million a year to play basketball. Somebody needs to give these guys a reality check.
That somebody could be new prospective owner Tom Gores, but the sale of the team continues to drag on. I sure hope Gores wasn't watching tonight's game or else he might change his mind on the whole spend-millions-of-my-hard-earned-dollars-on-a-basketball-team idea. What person in their right mind would want to spend upwards of $400 million on a company where half the guys don't even want to show up for work?
The fact that McGrady has now joined the belligerents in their revolt against Kuester is a complete slap in the face, too. This is the same Tracy McGrady that no one wanted before the season began. Every single NBA team had written him off, but the Pistons gave him a chance at reviving his career anyway. I'm sure they feel all gooey inside about their investment after Friday.
The sad part? McGrady was one of the few bright spots on the team up to this point.
Speaking of the rest of the league, they noticed. Ten-time NBA champion head coach Phil Jackson saw what happened in Philadelphia on Friday and chimed in on the subject. And when Phil Jackson speaks, people listen:
“I feel badly for John Kuester,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I think it’s a black eye for the league. I know Detroit is in disarray right now at some level. You worry about a coach and, you know, his psyche after something like that happens.”
Kuester's Philadelphia counterpart Doug Collins echoed Jackson's sentiment after his 76ers put a whoopin' on the shorthanded Pistons:
"For them to do what they have done ... I feel really bad for John Kuester and what he was going through today," Sixers coach and former Pistons Doug Collins said.
"He gets thrown out the game and you could just see the angst and the pressure on him. Being a coach, obviously I feel for coaches like that."
From the New York Times to the Delaware County Daily Times, the Pistons' mutiny has made headlines, and not the good kind. Unfortunately for Kuester, Friday's revolt was likely the last nail in the coffin of his Pistons career.
In the same breath, you have to remember that you're getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to play a game. There are a lot of people in Detroit right now who would gladly sit on the bench and make a cool million. Will Bynum, one of the six players that didn't skip out on the shootaround, is one of those guys:
"I sat and got DNP’s for a month and a half, you think I was turning down 48 minutes? I ain’t crazy," Bynum said.
Holy good attitude, Batman! A player that wants to play! Kudos as well to Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, DaJuan Summers, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe, who were the other players that showed up for work on Friday morning and got all the minutes during the game. Maybe if Hamilton had shown up to practice, he might have been released from his cell.
Those are the kind of players I can respect; the ones who still show up even if they don't want to be there. The same can't be said about their teammates.