Joe D on Stuckey & Jerebko

Pistons needed what restricted free agents Stuckey, Jerebko had to offer

Joe Dumars re-signed Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko before the season.
Kent Smith/David Sherman (NBAE/Getty)
(Editor’s note: Pistons president Joe Dumars discussed a number of topics with Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois this week, including his views on the two restricted free agents the Pistons retained prior to the season, Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey. We’ll have Joe D’s impressions of Lawrence Frank and new Pistons owner Tom Gores coming soon.)

The recent history of NBA restricted free agency loudly suggests the home team almost always gets to keep the player if that’s what it desires. There was little question about the Pistons’ desires where Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey were concerned. Joe Dumars was up front throughout last season, as Jerebko and Stuckey headed toward restricted free agency, in maintaining that his full intention was to keep both players in Pistons blue.

A big part of what makes both players so attractive to the Pistons was that each one brings something they have in short supply. With Jerebko, it’s the combination of size, effort, athleticism and abandon he brings to the equation. With Stuckey, it’s the size-strength-speed package in a guard who breaks down defenses routinely to create scoring chances when scripted options shut down.

The Pistons sorely missed the sheer joy Jerebko brings to the game last season, when an Achilles tendon injury suffered in the first quarter of the preseason opener knocked him out for the year. The way he suffered the injury was typical Jerebko: putting the ball on the floor and crashing his way through the paint.

“Love his approach,” Dumars beamed when Jerebko’s name was raised. “You don’t ever have to go into a game and feel like you don’t know what you’re going to get from Jonas. That’s exactly what a guy like that is supposed to do – bring hard-core energy every day. And he does it.

“Does he make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. All of those guys who ever played like that – the Kurt Rambises of the world, the Bobby Joneses – those guys played like that. They played with reckless abandon and if you take that away from them, they’re not as good. He drives you crazy sometimes – he’ll put his down down and run over some people – but you know his heart is in the right place and he’s trying to help you win.”

The prospect of allowing Stuckey to get away didn’t appeal to Dumars on any level, but once he had Lawrence Frank in place as his coach, retaining Stuckey became an even greater imperative.

“I said when we hired Lawrence, ‘You can have a tremendous impact on Stuckey,’ ” Dumars said. “Rodney will function well under organized, disciplined accountability. The fact he was late for camp, then he had an injury – he’ll be fine under Lawrence. Once he gets 100 percent healthy and back to top condition, he’ll be fine under Lawrence.”

Stuckey missed 4½ games with a groin strain that continues to nag him – he missed another game, as a precautionary measure, when the Pistons hosted Memphis on Friday – but when he’s in the lineup there’s no mistaking his impact on the offense.

“As soon as he came back against Milwaukee, you could see it,” Dumars said. “Right away, he got fouled and got to the free-throw line and we hadn’t had that in several games with him out – a guard just penetrating and forcing a defense to foul him. He changes our team. He gives us an element we don’t have when he’s not on the floor. He’s a big, strong, physical guard and so the other team has to deal with that. Once he gets rolling, he’ll be more than fine under Lawrence. Lawrence is the right type of coach for Stuckey.”