RIDING OUT THE STORM
Most Pistons fans pinpoint the Allen Iverson trade as the beginning of the downfall. The team has a 23-24 record since AI began suiting up, including a 5-12 record in the last 17 games heading into the All-Star break.
To paraphrase an old Rick Pitino line, Chauncey Billups isn't walking through that door. Flip Saunders isn't walking through that door. And I seriously doubt Amare Stoudemire will, either.
The best assets the Pistons have to rejoin the elite members of the Eastern Conference are the expiring contracts of Iverson and Rasheed Wallace. Stoudemire is one of the few players Joe Dumars would trade one of those expiring contracts for prior to the Feb. 19 deadline. But other teams have expiring contracts, too, plus better draft picks and/or talented young players. Face it, the only star-quality young player the Pistons have is Rodney Stuckey and it would be counterproductive to deal him. The Pistons don't have any additional first-round picks to dangle, contrary to some media reports. The most recent first-rounder they acquire was in the Darko Milicic deal with Orlando and they used that pick on Stuckey.
As for the coaching situation, I would be very surprised if Dumars gave up on Michael Curry this quickly. Dumars groomed Curry for the job; Curry is dealing with criticism, boos and harsh assessments from outsiders for the first time. Dumars is going to give Curry the chance to learn from this experience. Making top assistant Darrell Walker an interim coach isn't going to make the Pistons better than Boston or Cleveland, so why bother?
Chemistry issues aside, there's no excuse for a team with this much talent and experience to wallow in mediocrity. Unless Phoenix takes the Pistons' offer for Stoudemire or another sweet deal suddenly materializes, the onus will be on the current group of Pistons and their rookie coach to prevent a complete meltdown.