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The Daily Dose: Lineup change needed for enigmatic Pistons

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jan 19 2009 10:59PM

MEMPHIS -- I saw Dave Bing on Monday afternoon, at the Civil Rights Symposium the Grizzlies put on as part of the city's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. And Bing, wildly successful in business since his playing days, is running for mayor of Detroit.

But after listening to him detail all the problems facing that crippled city, all the bad choices he'd have to pick from, and the likelihood that federal dollars will have little effect on the city's deepest-rooted problems, I finally had to ask:

Dave, why in the heck do you want the job?

It was a question with which Pistons coach Michael Curry might have sympathy.

The Pistons are struggling with everything these days, trying to summon up the energy that a half-decade of championship-level basketball has taken away.

Tayshaun Prince limps.

Rip Hamilton limps.

Allen Iverson limps.

Is it six years of knocking heads with Reggie Miller's Pacers and Shaq and D-Wade's Heat and, now, LeBron's Cavs?

Or is it six weeks of playing a small lineup that no one outside of Curry seems to like?

Or is it both?

Whatever it is, the Pistons have little time to deal with it. The Cavs have pulled away in the Central division and the Celtics and Magic have separated themselves as well, and that means Detroit is locked into a 4 or 5 seed in the East. That's not promising.

That means a likely first-round date with either Atlanta or Miami. Even if Detroit survives that, that just gets it a second-rounder with either K.G., LeBron or Superman.

Without home court.

The Pistons are fond of saying "if it ain't rough, it ain't right." Under that scenario, reaching a seventh straight Eastern final would be rougher than finding Republicans in D.C. this week.

"We just have to keep working with each other," Allen Iverson said after Monday's win over the Grizzlies. If only it were that simple.

Curry has put a small lineup on the floor since early December, with Tayshaun Prince playing power forward and Rasheed Wallace playing center. The idea was to get second-year guard Rodney Stuckey on the floor as much as possible, and get Iverson off the ball.

But to keep both Iverson and Richard Hamilton happy, Curry had to keep starting both of them. And Detroit's played like a yo-yo, winning seven straight, then losing five in a row, including an ugly loss at Oklahoma City.

No one seems to like the arrangement, anyway. Prince is giving away about 20 or 30 pounds a night, and playing him at the four is taking minutes from Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell.

So, change is likely coming.

"I'm sure we'll eventually get to a more regular lineup," Pistons president Joe Dumars said via e-mail.

But that still leaves Curry with a second, nearly impossible choice in the coming days -- bench Iverson, who'd rather drink lye out of the bottle than be a sixth man, or bench Hamilton, who had been coming off the bench recently after returning from the groin injury.

There is no question -- none -- what the rest of the team would prefer, and that's Hamilton starting. This is a proud, loyal bunch, and Hamilton has carried a lot of water since coming to Detroit in 2002. It's not about A.I.; it's about their group loyalty to Rip.

But it's not Curry's job to be popular: it's his job to be right. And Hamilton looked much smoother with the second unit on Monday than when he and Iverson were on the floor together.

Both A.I. and Hamilton said the right things Monday, pledging to do whatever's best for the team. But Iverson didn't run from the quandary, either.

"It would be tough for me," he said "I've never come off the bench in my life ... and I've been sacrificing since I came to Detroit."

Isn't it funny, how good the Detroit job seemed at the beginning of the year, compared to the builds (OKC, Charlotte, Sacramento) and the rebuilds (Dallas, Phoenix, the Knicks)?

Now it's Curry who may well have to turn out the lights and tell everyone that the party's over, and that it's time to drive home safely, to the city with such massive problems and so little hope, the city that Dave Bing wants to try and save.

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