If you lose your job to a rookie because he outplays you, that’s one thing. But if you lose your job to a rookie because you ask to be benched, then you’ve opened yourself to criticism and conjecture.
Pistons’ guard Rodney Stuckey has found himself relegated to spectator status after a series of incidents that started way back in the first weeks of the NBA season. As a result, Stuckey, who has spent his entire six-year career with Detroit, has dressed but not played in the last few games for coach Lawrence Frank.
Rookie Kyle Singler, fast becoming a favorite of DEEEEEEEEEEEETROIT BASKETBALL Nation, has gobbled up minutes, flashing good shooting and ball-handling skills. Singler is having a fine fist season in a league that can be harsh on rookies, and fellow rookie Kim English has lately been handed the 28 minutes or so that Stuckey was getting off the bench. It’s a lineup change that Frank was forced to make, after Stuckey sulked, pouted, and demanded his way into a part-time role.
“If you can only play well with certain guys, you know what you’re called? A specialist,” Frank told Michigan Live’s David Mayo recently. “When you can play with anyone, you’re a rotation player.”
It’s obvious that Stuckey has evolved into the former, not the latter. Though no one in the Pistons locker room is saying anything, something might well have happened recently that alienated Stuckey even more from his coach. Stuckey did not play at all in Sunday’s victory over the Orlando Magic.
In his second season in 2008-2009, Stuckey emerged as the replacement to Chauncey Billups, running the Detroit offense for the most part as he led the team in assists and averaged 13.4 points per game. His PPG figure increased to 16.6 the next season, and in 2010-2011 he paced the team in scoring with a 15.5 average while enjoying his best overall season as a pro. But, the arrival of Brandon Knight last season crowded the backcourt and pushed Stuckey to the shooting guard spot.
This year though, Stuckey got off to a terrible start shooting the ball and went to Frank requesting that he be used off the bench in a rotation where he could be used with players that allowed him to penetrate more and shoot fewer jumpers. At 38%, Stuckey’s accuracy is the lowest of his career, though to be fair he has thrown up more jump shots in the 2012-2013 season for Detroit. Meanwhile, Singler has been starting at shooting guard since the ninth game of the season, and though he’s averaging less than 9 PPG, he’s used his height and long reach to show peskiness on defense – stealing the ball and even blocking shots of smaller guards he plays against.
Whether Stuckey can recover from his own missteps and his poor play remains to be seen. But, since Frank now refuses to use Stuckey even though bis team is fighting for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, it’s likely that the veterans days with the Pistons are numbered. With Knight, Singler, Will Bynum, and English in the guard rotation, Stuckey and his picky ways will probably be sent packing at the end of the season, if not sooner.