Turning the Corner

Fighting through injuries, Stuckey harnesses his many talents

Rodney Stuckey is blossoming under head coach Lawrence Frank this season.
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What tough luck for Rodney Stuckey, just two games after coming back from a toe injury while he was playing at such a high level, to injure his hamstring in the great win at Cleveland the Pistons managed to get.

What he did against Washington the other night, if you look at the full 48 minutes, was tremendous. He came in favoring his sprained toe, to a degree, not knowing exactly what he was going to be able to do out there, especially for a full game. For much of the game, it looked to Greg Kelser and me like he was picking his spots. When the game was on the line, at that point he knew what his body was going to let him do and he was certainly man enough to take the ball and knock down the shot to get us a win.

Right before that, he hit that huge three out of the double team on Tayshaun. One of the great things about Rodney right now is he’s playing off of his teammates extremely well. In other words, as outstanding as he has been – and his numbers before he hurt his hamstring and discounting the time he was out with the toe have been tremendous – it hasn’t been a “give me the ball and get out of the way” kind of performance each and every night. It’s been a player who picks his spots, helps his teammates and has really thrived in a team-like situation.

He and Brandon Knight have turned out to be a great combination and you can’t be a great combination if you’re the only one who has the ball. Brandon has had a lot of chances to do what he does best. He and Rodney have really found a way to work together extremely well. When you have a high-quality player with multiple talents like that on the floor with you, if you want you and your team to play to the maximum, you want to play well with him. Rodney has certainly done that.

I think he’s really turned the corner with the help of this coaching staff and the emergence of Brandon Knight, who is now a legitimate NBA starting point guard. Throw in Greg Monroe’s growth, Tayshaun’s all-around game that people almost take for granted and what Jason Maxiell has been able to do, plus the Pistons’ bench players, and I think Rodney is in a comfort zone like he’s never been in before. And he’s part of that comfort zone. He’s done the right things to make it happen.

I think Rodney and Brandon can be very interchangeable. That’s tough to deal with defensively. It does remind me – to a degree, anyway – of Isiah and Joe. You hate to compare young players with Hall of Fame guards among the best to ever play. But, remember, early in Joe D’s career, people thought, well, maybe Joe Dumars will end up being a great point guard for somebody. As it turned out, he ended up being a great all-around guard for somebody – and that somebody was the two-time champion Detroit Pistons.

Because he had the capability to play off of the ball, Isiah would do that when he was hot or when Chuck thought it was the best way to attack the opposition and Joe would run the offense. Those two supremely talented guys also had off-the-charts basketball IQs. And, don’t forget, what made them champions was the fact that they both relinquished a little time for one of the greatest off-the-bench guards of all-time in Vinnie Johnson.

When you’re in a three-guard rotation like that, you have to be great all-around players. You have to have all the skills necessary to play on the ball or off the ball – and they did. Vinnie could run the offense, too, and there were times that’s the way the Pistons rolled. Who knows? We might be seeing the early stages of a combination good enough to be talked about as among the best guard combinations, at least, in the NBA someday in Brandon and Rodney.

I’ve always seen Rodney as an engaging, friendly, positive guy who had a ton of talent. You pull for a guy like that. To a degree, he’s been a man without a position. As talented as he is, that puts a lot on a player. What I like about Rodney and this coaching staff is they have found a way to make optimum use of his considerable talent. When he is allowed to do what he does best, he becomes one of the most dangerous guards in the greatest league in the world. That’s the highest compliment you could give him.