Tuesday, March 1, 2011

5 comments I Can't Believe I'm Actually Defending an Athlete

It's a familiar situation for drivers everywhere. Your sitting behind the wheel of your car in an obnoxiously large mall parking lot with frustrating small room to drive. As your attempting to make a squeezed left turn to exit the lot, some moronic woman decides to figure out the problem with her blackberry right in front of you. You honk your horn and she glares at you. Then some righteous prick trying to get some comes to her defense. It's two on one, and you have no way of adequately defending yourself. Somehow you've been made the enemy. Maybe you'd leave her alone if she bought a phone equal to her own technological capabilities. But she didn't. So now you sit there in your car, looking like the impatient fool who cannot wait five seconds for some woman.

Richard Hamilton is sitting behind that wheel and John Kuester is that raunchily dressed female holding an idiotically colored blackberry. On the surface, Kuester has exemplified the perfect coach, holding his ground against team mutiny and not sacrificing his principles. When over half his team refused to attend a team shootaround, he did not play them. When asked about Rip in the media, his answers are clean cut and careful. He has refrained from, as many athletes and coaches do not, using the media as tool for player ridicule and humiliation.

But let's go back to the beginning of this whole mess for a second. Rip plays the game with less selfish-flare than anyone in the NBA. Constant off-ball movement. Mid-range jump shooting. Hard defense. The same sermon every dad tries, and fails, to teach his son. It's far more entertaining to pull your best Rajon Rondo impression than Jason Kidd. No one whose playing pickup in the park screams "Kidd!" when they pass the ball from the top of the key to the wing. When Kobe Bryant is posting up from the three point line, backing down his defender and hitting a contested fadeaway from 20 feet away, who wants to take a simple, one dribble pull-up? I don't mean to play the whole "back in my day the game was played right" card. This generation is my day and I like it. No matter what blockades we throw in the way, the NBA has and will continue to evolve. But as of now, an NBA team still needs more Richard Hamiltons than Kobe Bryants: Excellent players playing within their roles.

The point is that Richard Hamilton is a member of a dying breed, cast off by NBA evolution. The guy who's happy filling his specific role. The guy who values championships, not winning. The guy who has his cake but doesn't eat it. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for players colluding and signing wherever they want. Use your leverage, you're the star. But it's nice to see the Richard Hamiltons of the world every now and then.

And then John Kuester happened. Maybe he and Rip fought, maybe they didn't. But do you punish a guy with an outstanding reputation by benching him for the rest of the season? Maybe they were going to trade him. But don't players only sit out the game before a trade occurs? Detroit is in the middle of an epic power play. If Rip really wanted to, he could simply run over the blackberry woman and Carmeloed his way to wherever he wanted. But he didn't, and now that random prick (Joe Dumars) and our lovely woman completely turned the tables, leaving Rip in an impossible situation. Leave and he's out-muscled. Stay quiet and he's miserable.

Although Rip's hand is almost completely revealed, there's still one card left in his hand that will ultimately work in his favor. No matter how this situation turns out, Hamilton has years of reputation to back his every move. Had this been Rasheed Wallace, Kuester would have been praised Paul Westphal on Demarcus Cousins style. In an attempt to assert his own reign, Kuester accidentally ruined any chance of survival. In the court of public opinion, he has already lost. . If a coach hopes to retain his job middling success, he must either pull a long winning streak out of his bag of tricks or take a strong stand against player turbulence/trouble. You know, avoid Gilbert Arenas-like situations. But Rip Hamilton, of all people, is not above the team. Anyone whose game is based off-ball movement has the team concept naturally built in.

Don't get me wrong. Today's athletes are selfish, obnoxious, alarmingly stupid and for the most part undeserving of their financial benefits. But I have to defend Rip here. Maybe he did overreact by honking his horn at Kuester and his disregard for common courtesy. But to relegate him to the end of the bench and effectively shorten his already culminating career seems a bit harsh.


Bengoodfella said...

Two things:

1. Kuester's coaching career is almost done anyway. I am not sure a coach can recover from his team having a mutiny like that. It just seems like something that is hard to bounce back from. Benching him for the season seems a bit harsh though.

2. Rip Hamilton could have gotten traded to the Cavs and then gotten bought out...thereby making him a free agent. He refused to do this. So while I think Kuester's benching of Hamilton is a bit harsh, if Hamilton didn't like him or the organization then he didn't have to be there. He could have played for any team. I understand he may like Detroit, but if he likes the team and the city he also should be mature enough to realize he will have to deal with this semi-competent coach as well.

Basically, sticking with your parking lot analogy, Hamilton had other places to park, but didn't because he wanted to be closer to the mall. He did this knowing it would be a bigger pain in his ass than just taking the time to park somewhere else.

rich said...

The thing with Kuester is that no one thinks he was a good hire in the first place is there? He's a good assistant coach I guess, but he was hired from Cleveland where LeBron made the team.

The thing is that Richard Hamilton isn't the player he once was. His shooting percentage is barely above 40%. Last year he struggled a bit and this year has only served to reinforce the idea that Rip isn't the same player anymore.

This wouldn't be a problem, except that Richard Hamilton doesn't seem to realize this fact. I'm sorry, but his production, while maybe not warranting a benching, was enough that considering the team is as bad as it is, it might have been time to see what the rest of the team has to show.

Up to a point, this was just a situation in which both parties were acting in a logical manner, but it wasn't the way the other person anticipated them to act. The situation blew up when Rip allegedly started arguing with the Kuester and saying things like he'd be a "career assistant." That's the point where I think a lot of people turned on Rip.

For a guy who is 33 years old he should know better than to do that.

Even that could be explained though. He's frustrated and an argument could be made that he's being mistreated.

Where he really lost people is when he turned down the trade. The Pistons wanted to make everyone happy. If the trade happens, Kuester gets to keep his job and gets a chance to regain control of the team and Rip gets a chance to play for a contender. That trade made perfect sense and Rip said no.

In my eyes, that means that the situation isn't that bad for him. If it was as bad as he was trying to portray to the media, then Rip would have accepted the trade without a second thought. The fact that he didn't makes Rip's case kind of dubious.

BGFs analogy is pretty apt in this case. Did he have to accept the trade? No, but it would have benefited everyone, including him, to take it.

Martin F. said...

People keep bringing up the Cleveland trade, but it was done/proposed long after they had sat Rip down on the pine for what appears to be the duration. Rip refused the trade as a spit in the eye of the Pistons, I would wager. He already has a ring, and I think he felt that this was what Detroit wanted, so F 'em. They can sit there and suck on his contract and it's huge price for another long ass year, and then he can retire.

In terms of parking lot analogy, he's a guy sitting in a spot you want, but is instead listening to some tunes and deciding to eat his
turkey club sandwich right there. He doesn't need the spot, he shoudl be going home, but the other person is spot camping, and Rip Hamilton don't play that.

cs said...

"No one whose playing pickup in the park screams "Kidd!" when they pass the ball from the top of the key to the wing."

I yell "Stockton to Malone!" every single time I pass to any black guy. You'd be surprised how fast that got old.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I wasn't initially impressed with the Kuester hiring and I am still not. Hamilton isn't the same player but I think he would benefit from a change of scenery and a chance to play for a contender again. I don't get why he turned this down.

Really, he should have gotten traded not because of the benching or anything that happened after the trade deadline passed, but because he isn't doing the Pistons any good on the roster and he is of better use somewhere else. I don't know if he is being mistreated because I don't see a reason for him to play over some of the younger guys on the Pistons squad.

Martin F, not only is Rip sitting in that spot, but he is also tapping his foot on the breaks so many people stop and think he is getting out of the car when he has no intention of doing so. I think I have killed that analogy now.

Bottom line, both parties are to blame, but Rip had a chance to get out of the situation he obviously disliked before the trade deadline and he didn't take advantage of it.

Ivn, I would say that got old maybe the first time you did it. Also, when you make a jumper running down the court with your arms stretched out wide and making hand signals doesn't always go over well either.