Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Pistons’ Category

Stuckey Is A Point (Guard) Well Taken; Now Let’s Keep Him Around

In Pistons, Rodney Stuckey on December 21, 2008 at 7:20 am

Isiah Thomas was all of six-foot-one, playing a tall man’s game, yet you couldn’t miss him. You couldn’t help but spot him as he slashed to the basket, laying one in, or as he stuck a dagger of a three-pointer into your heart, or as he played on one good leg in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

David Bing was six-three, another relatively short guy among the giants. But those giants were often helpless as Bing glided to the hoop, or drained jump shot after jump shot over their outstretched arms.

Bing played on a lot of losing teams in Detroit, but he was no loser himself. And the next person to accuse Isiah, the player, of being a loser will be the first.

Then along came the bigger, stronger Chauncey Billups. It was easier to notice Chauncey physically, and it also became impossible to miss him because of his flair for the dramatic. Mr. Big Shot, they called him. It was largely a Detroit nickname, but it fit well for a time.

All three of them – Thomas, Bing, and Billups – have one thing in common. Championships? Well, no. Isiah and Chauncey have theirs, but Bing never made it that far. Scoring champ? Bing did that, but not the others. The number 1? Hmm, sort of; Bing wore 21, Thomas 11, Billups 1.

What all three have in common is that each of them, every one of them, was banished from the Pistons organization. Three of the best Pistons of their respective time – gone, sent packing. Oh, and all three turned ex-Pistons under the watch of owner Bill Davidson.

It started with Bing. After a fine 1973-74 season in which the Pistons won 52 games and made the playoffs, the team slumped to 40 wins in ’74-’75. But not before Bing had the audacity to hold out for more money in the summer of 1974.

Davidson, who had recently bought out his partners to gain sole control of the Pistons, didn’t understand the idea of a player holding out. Mr. D made his money with Guardian Industries, and to him, a deal was a deal. End of discussion.

Davidson would learn, of course, that pro sports isn’t like most businesses.

But before he saw the light, Davidson had mentally shifted Bing into his private dog house. We didn’t know it, but after Bing held out in 1974, he was as good as gone.

So Davidson had Bing traded in the summer of 1975 to the Washington Bullets for a pugnacious, bratty point guard named Kevin Porter. It didn’t matter that if it wasn’t for Dave Bing, the Pistons might not have made it in Detroit. Honest. It didn’t matter that Bing helped put the Pistons on the NBA map. It didn’t matter that no Pistons guard before him was as talented and gifted as Bing was. It only mattered that Bing had wanted more dough from a previously-signed contract.

Then it happened with Thomas, who led the Pistons to their first two world championships. Isiah became so famous in the league that he turned into one of those one-name stars, like Dr. J, Kareem, Bird, and Magic. He played for 13 seasons in Detroit, joining the franchise when it was nearly moribund.

But all that went out the window when Isiah violated Davidson’s trust and told everyone that he was to one day help run the team from the executive offices.

That revelation wasn’t concurrent with Davidson’s timetable, so Mr. D froze Isiah out. Essentially kicked him out of the Pistons forever.

Just this past November, it happened with Billups, too.

Mr. Big Shot was the Finals MVP in 2004. He, too, came to the Pistons when they were in desperate need of a face, of some respect. Billups became the ring leader for a team that prided itself on being blue collar, just like the city it represented. He became involved in the community. He WAS the Pistons, to many outside of Detroit.

But Billups was traded to the Denver Nuggets, for the future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.

Three point guards, the best the Pistons ever had. And all became ex-Pistons, in one way or another.

If the Pistons make Rodney Stuckey an ex, they’d have some ‘splaining to do.

Stuckey is the Pistons’ new point guard, in his second year. He attended school at Eastern Washington University. When you find out where EWU is, drop me a line. I’m dying to know myself. The Pistons drafted Bing from Syracuse, and Thomas from Indiana – two places where you routinely go to find NBA players. But Eastern Washington? Score one for the scouting department. And Rand-McNally.

Stuckey is the next big thing with the Pistons – literally. He’s six-foot-five, which would dwarf the point guards in Bing and Thomas’s day. He can drive to the basket, score, or find the open man for an easy hoop. He can nail a jump shot with consistency. He hasn’t played in too many big games yet, but the ones in which he has, he’s played with ice water in his veins. Now his rookie head coach is giving him even more to do.

With Billups gone, Michael Curry is trying something new. He’s starting Stuckey at the point, Iverson at shooting guard, and Rip Hamilton at small forward. The NBA jargon for it is “going small.” Curry’s jargon is “We need more scoring – and we need to give Stuckey more minutes.”

Both missions are being accomplished.

Stuckey is doing that “double-double” thing now with some regularity. Meaning, double digits in points and assists. It’s what Isiah used to do with brilliant monotony. Stuckey was at it again Wednesday night against Washington: 38 minutes, 18 points, 11 assists. Many of those assists went to Iverson, who struck for 28 points. Hamilton added 12, making it 58 points from Curry’s three small men. And many of Stuckey’s own points came as a result of his relentless attack on the basket. The Wizards players seemed helpless against Stuckey’s play, just as Bing’s opponents once had been.

And Curry is letting Stuckey call most of the plays, entrusting him to keep the likes of Iverson, Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince fed and happy. That Stuckey himself can drop an average of 15-20 points into the basket per night is more than a bonus – it’s an indication of just how talented this kid is.

Since the Pistons had just signed Billups to a big contract extension in the summer of 2007, I wondered after last season where that left Stuckey, who was coming off a fine rookie year and who showed some moxie in the playoffs. Where would Stuckey play, if all the backcourt minutes were going to go to Billups and Hamilton?

Thanks to the Billups trade and Curry’s out-of-the-box thinking, we’re seeing exactly where and how much Stuckey will play. So no banishing him until at least the next Pistons championship – OK, Mr. D?

Curry Has 66 Games To Get Pistons Squared Away — On & Off The Court

In Allen Iverson, Michael Curry, Pistons, Tayshaun Prince on December 1, 2008 at 3:26 pm

The good news is that there are still 66 games left in the 2008-09 season for the Pistons. The bad news is that there are still 66 games left in the 2008-09 season for the Pistons.

Coach Michael Curry is seeing, up close and personal, why it’s so much better to make a blockbuster trade in the season’s opening weeks than at the trading deadline.

Curry has something smoldering in his camp, and it isn’t the remnants of a hot-shooting team.

These are touchy times for the Pistons, who are just 6-6 since trading for Allen Iverson. Though there have been some big wins among those six, there’ve also been some head scratchers.

But it’s not just the record, which includes a pedestrian 5-3 overall at home, that is of concern this morning. As always in the NBA, it’s about the happiness within the ranks. Or UNhappiness, really.

Curry has come highly recommended by the only person who really matters: Pistons president Joe Dumars. So it’s important to know that the coach will have the support of the team boss should the rank and file get too ornery.

Yet I’m sure Dumars would rather that not be necessary because of drama his coach is instigating.

Curry blindsided forward Tayshaun Prince after another lackluster Sunday performance yesterday — a 96-85 capitulation to the young, hungry Portland Trail Blazers.

The coach was asked why Prince had his rump on the bench in the fourth quarter, when the Pistons gamely tried to make a comeback.

“Tay didn’t play that well,” was Curry’s response. Short, succinct, to the point.

Except that this was news to Prince, according to today’s Detroit Free Press.

“Huh?” said Prince, who scored 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting in 22 minutes. “Wow, I thought I was playing pretty good if you ask me. … I don’t know. It’s up to them to see what’s going on, and I guess their decision was to sit me down. I was playing well.”

Then this from the beanpole Prince.

“I was upset when I came out of the game in the first quarter because I thought I started the game off well trying to get the guys in the flow. It’s always tough for me because I’m in the position where I’m put at the point-guard position; I’m trying to make plays for them, get them guys going. Sometimes I’m going to have a good night doing it. Sometimes it’s going to take me out of my rhythm.”

Then there’s the newly-acquired Iverson, who’s already tested the rookie coach’s mettle by snubbing a mandatory Thanksgiving Day practice. Iverson is quick to point out that he’s sitting on the bench in Detroit more than he ever has in his career. Funny, but one of the reasons A.I. was happy to come to the Pistons was the allure of not having to be “The Guy” — the one who carries the load. But Iverson wants to not be “The Guy” and play a lot of minutes, too. I think they have a saying for that, involving cake?

It’s a player’s league, this NBA, and that sometimes collides, head on, with a new coach’s desire to prove that he’s no pushover. It’s what they said about the deposed Flip Saunders: not enough accountability for the rank and file.

It’s an admittedly very delicate balance, and just as his players are trying to get accustomed to a new, high profile teammate, so is Curry trying to get a hang of this “I’m in charge now” thing.

Sixty-six games to play before the curtain goes up on the playoff season. Sixty-six opportunities to find cohesiveness, chemistry, commitment. The three Cs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are sixty-six games for another C to emerge: cancer.

Look around the league and you’ll see many teams whose potential is snuffed out by various forms of cancer, from the treatable (Nuggets) to the terminal (Knicks). And everything in between. You’re not just an NBA coach, Mike Curry, you’re also an oncologist.

Curry got hit with a double whammy. He was just four games into his first season, fresh from training camp, and now he has to conduct a bunch of mini-camps while the season is going on, with a touchy, high-profile superstar in tow, to boot.

But can you imagine if this trade had occurred in February?

The normally cool Prince bristled at Curry’s surprise negative assessment; that can’t become a trend

Don’t be sucked in and try to draw much of a comparison to the Rasheed Wallace trade of 2004. First, the coach was anything but a rookie (Larry Brown), and Wallace filled a chasm on the Pistons roster, rather than trading one like player for another. And Wallace wasn’t a point guard handling the ball 80-90% of the time up the floor.

Trading for Iverson at the deadline would have been the highest of high risk moves for a GM. It would have eclipsed even the Adrian Dantley-for-Mark Aguirre trade that Jack McCloskey pulled off in February 1989. There simply wouldn’t have been enough time to slay all the dragons and get all the ducks into a row, to mix metaphors (and species).

So Dumars gave Curry Iverson, and 90% of the season, basically, to work with him and find that delicate balance between pushing hard and pulling back.

Calling out your players to the press before talking to them, though — as what happened yesterday with the normally laid back Prince — isn’t a recommended path toward harmony and success. But Curry will learn. He has no choice, really.

Iverson Finally Puts A Face On Stale Pistons

In Allen Iverson, Pistons on November 16, 2008 at 8:28 am

They were the bane of the NBA.

Rude, arrogant, snarling basketball players who played as if they stowed their own version of the rule book in their locker room. Champions, they became, with the league commissioner smiling at them in public and grousing about them privately.

The Bad Boys!

That’s what they called the Pistons of the late-1980s, early-1990s. It’s also what they called themselves. They didn’t shy from the reputation; they embraced it. Maybe a bit too much.

They played hard and they fouled hard. They used their superior defense to break their opponent’s neck, then their spirit. Other teams called them dirty, unfair, cocky, you name it. It was all true, of course.

For two seasons in a row, the Bad Boys terrorized the NBA as they won the league’s brass ring. Commish David Stern and his lieutenants fretted that this rambunctious, rowdy bunch of hooligans would forever change the way the pro game would be played. Namely, would other teams take the brutish route toward victory?

But then Superman, aka Michael Jordan, swooped in and rescued the NBA from the Bad Boys. Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, thrice swatted out of the playoffs – literally and figuratively – by the Pistons (1988-90), finally toppled the Bad Boys in 1991. The Bulls then won six of the next eight championships. Stern and his minions didn’t have to worry about the Bad Boys, or anyone else following their lead, any longer.

Since every gang has to have a leader, the Pistons of those days were no exception. And little Isiah Thomas was the team’s Leo Gorcey to its Dead End Kids.

Make no mistake – Thomas WAS the face of the Pistons. There was the flopping, maddening Bill Laimbeer. The Neanderthal-like Rick Mahorn. That pest, Dennis Rodman, aka The Worm. The petulant, dark Adrian Dantley, who was replaced by the petulant, once-upon-a-time troublemaker Mark Aguirre. But the leader of the pack was Isiah, all six-foot-one of him. The smiling assassin. He had that cherubic face but he just as soon stomp on your heart on the basketball court.

They were the Bad Boys but know this: Thomas was the first person you thought of when you thought of the Detroit Pistons. He was one of those NBA players that only needed to go by one name, or a nickname. There was Magic. Kareem. MJ. Dr. J. And Isiah.

It says here that ever since Thomas retired in 1994, the Pistons have been faceless. Doesn’t mean they’ve been unsuccessful. Just faceless.

What about Grant Hill, you ask?

Hill, a Piston from 1994-2000, was a very nice young man. A terrific basketball player. He still is both of those things, though not as young. But he didn’t have the strong, dominant personality needed to be the “face” of any basketball franchise. Plus, the teams he played on weren’t all that good. Some wouldn’t even want their face associated with those Pistons teams to begin with, much less BE the face.

The Pistons got better and won another championship, in 2004. But the way they did it was opposite of a franchise with a face. They prided themselves on being a franchise that didn’t need a face. They beat the star-studded Lakers in ’04, and this was going to usher in a new way of winning: the way that didn’t need a superstar player. Just a bunch of hard-working dudes – good, but not great players coming together in a common goal.

That lasted about one year.

The Pistons lost in the 2005 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, who featured superstar Timmy Duncan. They lost in the 2006 conference finals to the Miami Heat, who featured superstar Dwyane Wade. They lost in the 2007 conference finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who featured superstar LeBron James. And they lost in the 2008 conference finals to the Boston Celtics, who featured superstars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

See a pattern here?

But now the Pistons, some 14+ years since Isiah Lord Thomas hung up his sneakers, finally have a face. A superstar. Someone around whom to worship on the basketball court.

Allen Iverson is about Isiah’s size: six-feet tall, on his tippy toes. One-hundred-and-sixty-five pounds, soaking wet and with $100 worth of quarters in his pockets. Tougher than nails. Still some street in him. A shrimp, really, in a giant’s game. And also one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.

A face, finally, for the Pistons.

Iverson isn’t cherubic like Thomas, but he’s the new Pistons face

A couple weeks ago, Iverson came over from Denver for Chauncey Billups, the poor man’s Isiah. A point guard who had a lot of journeyman in his resume but who found gold in Detroit. The MVP of the 2004 Finals. Mr. Big Shot, they called him. But it was mainly a Detroit nickname – an invention of announcer George Blaha, spouted after some clutch Chauncey shots, once upon a time.

But Chauncey Billups wasn’t the face of the Pistons, either. He was merely one of the starting five — albeit one of the very best starting fives in the league. But he was no more the face than was the bellicose Rasheed Wallace, or the whirling dervish Rip Hamilton, or the quiet beanpole Tayshaun Prince. Together, they were A face. But there was no REAL face.

Iverson gives them that face. For the first time since Isiah, as noted above. The first genuine superstar to wear a Pistons uniform in 14 years-plus. The first player who can truly create his own shot, who craves the ball with the game on the line. The first one who mingles among the NBA elite. He’s AI and The Answer, Iverson is. He’s nicknamed and everything.

Ironically, Iverson might not be a Piston beyond this season. He’s a free agent at the end of it, and there’s sourced talk that president Joe Dumars (himself a one-time Bad Boy) is perhaps using Iverson’s contract so that when it comes off the books next summer, Dumars will have lots of cash to spend – whether on AI or on someone else. But rest assured, it will be a superstar player. No more of this “basketball is a team sport” stuff. The Pistons have tried it that way for the past four seasons, and it hasn’t worked.

Allen Iverson, the face of the Pistons. For one season, anyway. But it’s one season longer than they’ve had a face since 1994.

Pistons Gain A Superstar, Lose An Excuse For Conference Finals Losses With Iverson Trade

In Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Pistons on November 3, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Allen Iverson can be selfish — a ball hog as some say. He can be petulant, moody, disdainful of those who write about the game for a living. He is pugnacious and sometimes thinks it’s him vs. the world. He, famously, sometimes has problems with practice. He’s loathe to give anyone else the last shot in crunch time.

Translated: he’s exactly what the Pistons need.

The 33-year-old Iverson is about to become a Piston today, according to all reports. He may already be one, officially, by the time you’re reading this.

The trade is this: guard Chauncey Billups and power forward/center Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Iverson.

First thought: a good deal for both teams.

Second thought: a good deal for both teams — and a better one for the Pistons.

We’ve said all sorts of things about the Pistons over the past five years, when they’ve been annual threats to win their conference, if not the whole league. But a couple constants have appeared in the discussion: 1) the Pistons don’t have that “one guy” — that superstar that other teams who win championships have; and 2) why do they keep getting upended in the conference finals?

I think the answer to both concerns lies in, well, “The Answer” — which just happens to be Iverson’s nickname.

Billups might be initially missed, even mourned, by some Pistons fans. He was Mr. Big Shot, though I think that was largely a Detroit myth. The truth, and this may be unseemly to the mourners, is that Chauncey never really elevated his game in the playoffs. He didn’t. Sometimes he was hurt. But Iverson has been hurt, and you’d hardly know it. The Pistons’ inability to beat back the likes of the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and even the Boston Celtics in the Final Four can be directly traced to Billups’s inability to beat back his point guard counterpart in those series.

But still, Billups, it could be argued, was the team’s glue. He was captain and point guard, a lethal combo in the NBA if you crave leadership in your player. Think Isiah Thomas in his heyday. But Billups wasn’t Thomas — not even close, really. At best, he was a poor man’s Thomas. At worst, he was a drag to the Pistons’ playoff hopes.

This sounds rough, I know — and I don’t mean to be, because Chauncey Billups is a damn good basketball player, and he did a lot for the Pistons. In the regular season. But did you, in your heart of hearts, believe that another playoff run with Billups at the helm was going to end all that much differently? After his mediocre performance in the past three springs?

One of my faithful readers called me as the trade was being reported, and expressed this concern about Iverson: “Isn’t he kind of a ball hog?”

Yes! Thank God!

Pistons finally have an “Answer” to their lack of a superstar quandary

This brings me to the other tired Pistons talking point, bantied about even when they were winning the title in 2004. That talking point is that the team never had a true “go to” guy on their roster. For a while, we tried to sugarcoat that as some sort of badge of honor. You know, the old “Who needs a superstar when you have a bunch of good players?” argument. But as the time lengthened since that ’04 championship, it was evident: the Pistons’ lack of a true superstar wasn’t a plus. It was a definite minus.

The Heat beat them in 2006 behind the superhuman efforts of Dwyane Wade. The Cavs drummed them out of the ’07 playoffs behind the superhuman efforts of LeBron James. And the ’08 Celtics slapped them around in Games 3 and 6 of the conference finals behind the superhuman efforts of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. All while the Pistons looked at each other and wondered who their “go to” guy was going to be.

Having five guys on the floor who could all potentially take the game-winning shot sounds very nice and benevolent, but it’s a losing way of doing things. It’s the old mantra: if you have five game-winning shot guys, you have none.

Well, now the Pistons have one.

Allen Iverson should take every single game-winning shot for the Pistons this season, and for however long he remains with the team. It shouldn’t matter if all five of the opponents and 20,000 people in the stands, plus those watching on television, and even your Aunt Josephine and the cashier at Walgreen’s know it. Give Iverson the ball and let him do his thing. Like it or not, it’s how championships are won — when the supporting players know to get out of the way at the right time.

Sometimes you need a ball hog. Like at the end of games, when you need a play to be made. Remember how much flak James took after passing up a game-winning shot against the Pistons in the ’07 conference finals in order to feed the ball to Donyell Marshall, who missed a three-pointer? Then remember what James did to the Pistons in Game 5 after he learned that lesson? He literally beat them all by himself. Selfishness is good, at times.

As for the Nuggets, they get a hometown kid in Billups (who finally ends up in his native Denver after playing just about everywhere else in his pre-Pistons days) who is more of a pass-first, shoot-second point guard. This allows Carmelo Anthony to regain the claim of the Nuggets being “his” team. And while McDyess is a very nice man who deserves to win a title, the Nuggets can probably use him more than the Pistons, who are grooming guys like Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, and Walter Herrmann in their frontcourt and in the swing.

Ball hogs have done alright in this league. There was someone named Michael Jordan, who only wears six rings. Larry Bird was hardly the epitome of selflessness when games had to be won in the playoffs. Wade ball hogged his way to the 2006 title. Kobe Bryant comes to mind, too — even with Shaquille O’Neal in his midst with the old Lakers teams. And Kobe just might ball hog his way to another title sometime soon, like this season.

Billups won the 2004 NBA Finals MVP largely by default. It was definitely a testament to the Pistons that no single player really stood out as being any more valuable than the other that spring. Their supposed “team first” method was lauded as having beaten the allegedly selfish style of the star-ladened Lakers. For one year, it was true. It was also an anomaly — an exception to a normally hard and fast rule.

Ball hogs and selfish superstars. Petulant point guards and snarling punks. They’re not always as toxic as advertised.

The Pistons could use a player like that. They haven’t had one, really, since the Bad Boys days.

Isiah Thomas didn’t always pass, contrary to popular belief.

"Tough Guy" Curry Just What The Pistons Need

In Michael Curry, Pistons on October 29, 2008 at 2:29 pm

So, we’re about to find out if the young, African-American man has what it takes to be in charge, despite a rather thin resume and some naysayers. We’ll see if he can jump into a potentially explosive situation and provide calm and leadership. He certainly isn’t short on confidence, nor is he lacking a plan on how to be successful. Expectations, and the stakes, are high.

Shame on you if you thought I was talking about Barack Obama. This is a sports blog, after all. Politics isn’t just a four-letter word here — it’s twice as bad: it’s an eight-letter one.

The man in question is new Pistons coach Michael Curry. And we’ve gotten plenty used to placing the word “new” before “Pistons coach” around these parts. Certainly since Joe Dumars was handed the keys to the executive washroom some eight years ago.

George Irvine was new once, even though he really wasn’t. Rick Carlisle was new, for the most part. Larry Brown was old-as-the-hills/new, but new nonetheless. Flip Saunders was oldish/new, but also bottom-line new. Michael Curry is just plain new. And the youngest of the lot upon assuming the reins.

Curry, just a baby at age 40, for gosh sakes, makes his debut as Pistons coach tonight. No more summer league foolishness or exhibition season boredom. Tonight’s the real deal. Curry is coach #5 in the Dumars Era, which is just eight years old. Joe D. has an itchy ziggy finger, as we all know.

It’s tempting to say that Dumars is going retro here, returning the Pistons to their slapstick days of the 1960s and ’70s when the Pistons coach’s office could be entered through a revolving door. There are still rumors that we may have missed a couple of them, due to ill-timed blinking.

But there really is no comparison to Dumars’s Pistons and those of yore. Back then, coaches were fodder because the talent wasn’t there. Today, Pistons coaches are fodder because Dumars’s expectations are as high as they’ve ever been with this franchise.

This summer, that itchy ziggy finger was supposed to extend to the players themselves.

In a press conference that should be nominated for the Most Annoyed Speaker category, Dumars ranted, just days after the Pistons were eliminated in the Final Four (again) by the Boston Celtics, that no player was safe.

“You lose sacred cow status when you keep losing like this,” Dumars said, still bristling about the Celtics loss.

The doors were open at PistonsLand, Dumars said. I’m open for business, he told the rest of the NBA at that presser. Former sacred cows to be had, if the price was right.

But the market for Dumars’s wares proved shockingly dry. So instead, Dumars canned the coach (again) and signed one free agent of note: former no. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown.

The NBA is as cyclical a league as you’ll ever find when it comes to coaching. All the coaches in the NBA can pretty much be divided into two categories: nice guy and tough guy. That’s it. Which one you prefer is determined by what you just had.

The confident Curry has one thing on his mind: a return trip to the Finals

The Pistons are coming off having had a nice guy (read: not enough player accountability) in Saunders, so now they turn to “no-nonsense” Curry (read: tough guy), who ran a spirited, if not grueling, training camp. Before Saunders the Pistons had tough guy Brown, which they needed to get to the Finals because the man before him, nice guy Carlisle (the term “nice guy” here in reference to Carlisle is clearly relative), couldn’t get past the Final Four. The man before Carlisle, the curmudgeonly Irvine, never really wanted the job but was promoted anyway, and by all accounts certainly wasn’t a nice guy.

The Pistons feel they need a tough guy, and Curry, they think, fits the bill, despite his lack of coaching experience. But, as with others who get a gig like this with questionable credentials, it’s pointed out that Curry was “like a coach on the floor” as a player. It’s what they say about bench warmers who were never stars. Kind of like praising the ugly girl at school for having a great personality.

But I’m actually a Curry guy, despite my smarminess. It’s a player’s league, this NBA, and a quick look around it reflects that. Nowhere else do young (i.e. under 45 years old) men rise to the level of head coach as fast as they do in the NBA. They’re almost always former NBA players. And often they’re practically ripped from their warmups, or their TV analyst headsets, and thrust into the coach’s chair. Curry did a one-season internship as one of Saunders’s assistants, and was himself a player just a couple seasons ago. But, strangely, that may be all it takes for him to be successful. New coaches have taken over teams with far less talent, you know.

It’s all there, really, for Michael Curry to win. He’s got the players, clearly — both old and young. He has the support of his boss, no matter how fleeting that’s proven to be in the past. He has the advantage of a sort of back-door hunger, the result of four straight seasons sans a championship, and three without an appearance in the Final Two. And he’s a recent player who appears to have the respect of his charges. Not to mention, he’s that all-important tough guy.

Now, all Curry has to do is go out there, win the expected 50-55 games, navigate through the Eastern Conference’s minefield during the playoffs, and reach the Finals. All in his first season.

It says here that he has the chops to do it. Bald-headed guys named Michael have done OK in the NBA in the past.

Vitale, Davidson Have Each Other To Thank For Hall Of Fame Careers

In Bill Davidson, Dick Vitale, Jack McCloskey, Pistons on September 7, 2008 at 6:05 am

It was nearly 29 years ago, and two men were at crossroads in their professional lives – crossroads that materialized because of their failed partnership.

Bill Davidson was a five-year loser in the world of professional basketball. He had wanted badly to get into ownership. You could make the old joke here: He wanted to own a team in the worst way – and that’s exactly what he did.

Davidson bought out his partners in 1974 and took over sole ownership of the Detroit Pistons, but only because a look-see into owning a football team didn’t come to pass. In an interview with Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press, published this week, Davidson said his first inclination was to own the Lions, if they were available. He and former Lions coach Joe Schmidt, Davidson said, explored owning another football team, which he didn’t identify. But football wasn’t his destiny. Davidson would be stuck with the Pistons – an apt word. The team had been in Detroit for 17 seasons, and in only two of them did their wins exceed their losses. Their time in the Motor City had been more slapstick than serious. But they were Davidson’s, and his alone, after he bought out his compatriots.

Dick Vitale was an abject failure as Pistons coach when he was fired by Davidson in November 1979. Davidson hired Vitale in the spring of 1978, having fallen under Dickie V’s spell and his snake oil salesman act. Vitale promised Davidson “ReVITALEization” and spoke of “Pistons Paradise.” For the owner’s time and trouble, Vitale delivered a 34-60 record.

Bill Davidson is a lot smarter now, by the way.

So here Davidson and Vitale were, losers in basketball, and, by extension, in life. The notion that either of them would survive in the game, let alone become enshrined in its Hall of Fame, was folly.

Then one man changed all that, for both parties.

Jack McCloskey was a grizzled former college basketball coach and a vagabond NBA head coach and assistant, minding his own business on the bench of the Indiana Pacers, helping his old friend Slick Leonard, when Vitale approached him. Dickie V told McCloskey that Davidson was looking for a “basketball man” to run his operation in Detroit. Vitale and McCloskey knew each other from their time spent coaching along the Atlantic Coast – McCloskey at Penn and Vitale in high school in New Jersey.

And Vitale, deposed in Detroit, held no grudges toward Davidson. In fact, not only did Dickie tell McCloskey about the vacancy in Detroit, he whispered McCloskey’s name in Davidson’s ear.

A meeting was set up, between McCloskey, Davidson, and Pistons legal counsel Oscar Feldman. McCloskey impressed, and Davidson wanted to hire him as his new GM, right away. But the Pacers were reluctant to let McCloskey out of his commitment. It looked like Davidson wouldn’t get Vitale’s referral after all.

But the Pacers came around, and Jack McCloskey took over the woeful Pistons in December, 1979.

“To this day, whenever I see Dick, I thank him,” McCloskey told me a couple years ago, on the verge of his induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

Speaking of thanks, Vitale has long spoken of how thankful he was that he got canned by the Pistons.

“Mr. Davidson probably saved my life,” Vitale said in a recently-published interview.

Vitale quit the University of Detroit in 1977 because of ulcers. And his early days with the Pistons were pock-marked with stomach ailments, too.

“I probably would have been dead before I was 50,” Vitale said.

Davidson, in the five years prior to hiring McCloskey, had presided over a mess with the Pistons, culminating with a controversial move from downtown to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1978. After the Vitale Era proved to be a colossal failure, Davidson looked almost as much of a clown as Vitale himself, which is saying something.

McCloskey changed all that.

By the end of the 1980s, the Pistons were one of the NBA’s elite. They won championships in 1989 and 1990, and came damn close in 1987 and ’88, too. All of it – ALL of it – was due to the drafting and coaching hires orchestrated by McCloskey.

Vitale, meanwhile, turned his failure into success after being hired by the newly-born sports network ESPN to be a college basketball analyst.

Friday, Vitale and Davidson were both enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Davidson went in for his accomplishments as an owner and as a guardian of the league, and Vitale was inducted for his tenure behind a microphone and, peripherally, for his authoring several books about the game. They may laugh at Dick Vitale, but it’s irrefutable that he got a whole bunch of folks interested in the college game simply because of his brash, catch phrase-tinged style.

“They need a T.O., babyyyyy!”

“He’s a PTPer!”

And so on.

Neither of the two men – Davidson and Vitale – would have been in Springfield, being honored along with such greats as Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon and Pat Riley and Adrian Dantley, if it wasn’t for their parting of ways in November 1979.

Davidson saved Vitale’s life by firing him. And Vitale saved Davidson’s face by recommending he hire Jack McCloskey.

Sometimes we don’t see how funny life is, until, say, 29 years later.

Dumars’s "Detroit Raiders" Add Another Misfit; So What Else Is New?

In Joe Dumars, Kwame Brown, Pistons on July 30, 2008 at 2:43 pm

The point guard is a four-time loser in the NBA. The shooting guard was deemed too skinny and frail, and was dumped. The small forward was looked at cross-eyed when drafted. One of the big men was labeled a coach killer and a disruption. The other big man’s knee was so wrecked that few felt he’d ever play another minute in the league.

With the exception of the big man who might be a coach killer and a disruption — because he can be, at times — the above paragraph is no longer an accurate description of the current starting five for the Detroit Pistons. But it was, at one time.

Chauncey Billups, one-time NBA journeyman. Cashiered by the Celtics, then the Raptors, then the Nuggets, then the Timberwolves. Only one of those teams — the Celtics (and only recently) — have won anything of note after Billups’ banishment. Meanwhile, with the Pistons, Billups has appeared in six straight conference finals, two NBA Finals, and won a championship. Not bad for a four-time loser.

Rip Hamilton, skinny and frail, once upon a time. Will never amount to more than a shot-happy, defensive liability. Or so the Washington Wizards thought, when they traded the former University of Connecticut standout to the Pistons in 2002 for the enigmatic Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse has since been bounced over to the Dallas Mavericks, where he still seeks a championship. But Hamilton’s heart was apparently never measured, because since becoming a Piston he’s worked hard to shed all of the negative labels that were whispered about him. He, too, is a six-time conference final participant, along with all those things Billups has accomplished.

Tayshaun Prince, from the University of Kentucky. They play some good basketball down there, in case you didn’t know. But when Joe Dumars drafted Prince in 2002, there were yawns. Except from the Pistons themselves. In his rookie season, Prince rarely got off the bench. The yawners kept yawning. Until the 2003 playoffs, when Prince became coach Rick Carlisle’s secret weapon. He’s been a starter and a major contributor ever since.

Rasheed Wallace, cantankerous center/power forward. A perceived ringleader of Portland’s “Jail Blazers” from several years ago. Judged as being too hard to handle, too much of a loose cannon. A bitch to coach. Often that’s been true. It’s been true in Detroit. But much of it has been half-truths or rumor or simply a tired tale that’s been regurgitated so much that it’s accepted as fact. But yet he remains the loosest of the Piston cannons, regardless.

Antonio McDyess, the tragic figure of the Pistons. Once a leaping, high-scoring forward. A first round draft choice, back in the day. Then, a serious knee injury. Then another. Then a career that appeared to be over, until Dumars came calling in 2004. Since then, some tantalizingly close brushes with greatness as a Piston for McDyess. Now is probably the player that teammates and fans would most like to see as a champion. No one takes losing as hard as McDyess, who joined the Pistons as they basked in their ’04 title.

To all this, and we haven’t even mentioned the young studs waiting in the wings, comes young (still) Kwame Brown, the newest Piston. His resume and NBA experience would seem to fit nicely with the group in Detroit. Former high draft pick — the highest, actually. Another multiple loser — the Pistons being his fourth NBA team, and he’s only 26. Another who Dumars is taking a gamble on.

Brown, as 2001’s first overall pick — at age 19

The Pistons, it might be said, are the Oakland Raiders of basketball. The Raiders, especially in the 1970s and ’80s, were famous for resurrecting careers, a haven to pro football’s old, its misfits, its discards. There was something about putting on the silver and black that acted as a fountain of youth, or in some cases, a portable rehab center.

There are those who already are willing to overlook Brown’s checkered NBA career, mainly because if anyone has kissed the Blarney Stone more often than anyone in the league, it’s Joe Dumars. Same thing with the Raiders. Al Davis would bring in players that, had anyone else in the NFL done so, they would have been laughed at and scorned. But since it was Davis, and since it was the Raiders, then folks simply shrugged and said, “Well, if anyone can get blood from a turnip, it’s Al Davis and the Raiders.”

Dumars hasn’t always rolled seven with those dice. Witness Darko Milicic and Rodney White and Mateen Cleaves and Chris Webber. You play enough craps, you’re gonna lose on occasion. But the Brown “gamble” would appear to be a low-to-medium risk, considering the only thing at stake here is some of Bill Davidson’s money. At 26, Brown could still have the best years of his basketball life in front of him. He’s just a baby, really.

Just another misfit whose career might have needed this.

Sound familiar?

Curry Was No Star Player, So He’s Destined To Be A Great Coach

In Michael Curry, Pistons on June 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm

The new coach of the Detroit Pistons couldn’t score 20 points as a player unless you gave him a week to do it.

I like him already.

Those who can’t do, teach – and that’s especially true in professional sports, where it seems that a prerequisite to being a great coach/manager is to NOT have been a great player.

Or, to reverse fields to prove the theorem, some of the greatest players in sports who’ve tried their hands at leading teams on the sidelines or in the dugout have been some of the most wretched generals you’ll ever see.

Take Teddy Williams, Hall of Fame hitter – some say the best ever to swing a bat. Eccentric Washington Senators owner Bob Short hired Teddy Ballgame to manage his ball club for the 1969 season. Williams had never coached before, let alone managed. But the moribund Senators needed something, anything, to breathe life into their franchise. Somehow, Short managed to lure – no pun intended – Williams from his dream life as a retired ballplayer/turned fisherman and into the Senators’ dugout.

The experiment looked like a stroke of genius, when Williams was named Manager of the Year and the Senators turned things around and had a winning season. But the success didn’t last, and before long, Williams’s rough-hewn personality was rubbing just about everyone the wrong way, especially the pitchers, who he detested and had no clue how to handle. His teams regressed yearly, until he went back to fishing after the 1972 season.

Williams (right) fizzled after a fast start as manager

The list goes on. Isiah Thomas. Bart Starr. Magic Johnson. Maury Wills. Oh, for an entire Sunday I could throw examples at you – superstar players who just couldn’t transfer their glory days as a player into any sort of success as a coach. Have there been exceptions? Yes. But they are best described with that depressing combination of the words “few” and “far between.”

Michael Curry was hired by the Pistons last week, just days after Flip Saunders was given the ziggy by GM Joe Dumars. He’s a recently-retired player, and was never a star – not even close. His claim to fame was playing tough defense and surviving ten-day contracts and being a cerebral player who was the president of the NBA Players Association.

Perfect coaching material.

Let’s take a look around.

Phil Jackson, with almost enough championship rings as a coach to fill the fingers on both his hands, is the Grand Master of cerebral. He’s a former hippie, playing for the Knicks in the late-1960s and early-1970s as a rarely-used backup forward and center, more likely to read up on Kant and Freud than the Celtics or the Lakers. Yet he parlayed a nondescript playing career into a Hall of Fame shoo-in as a coach.

Scotty Bowman, who I don’t even know where he came from. I DO know that he wasn’t an NHL player; not even close. He might have come out of the womb coaching, for all I know. You can make a case – and I have – that he’s the greatest coach of any sport, in any era, for any amount of money.

Sparky Anderson, who spent one mediocre season as the second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies before turning to teaching because he couldn’t do. He piddled around in the minor leagues before becoming a 36-year-old manager for the Cincinnati Reds, though Sparky never looked a day younger than 45 in his life. His likeness is etched onto a plaque in Cooperstown, in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And not for his playing.

Vince Lombardi, who was a decent enough college lineman for Fordham University, but who never played a down in the NFL. The best he could do was some semi-pro football in the late-1930s. Today, NFL teams have one goal in mind and one goal only: to win the Super Bowl trophy that bears his name.

Red Auerbach, who chomped on cigars almost as vigorously as he chomped on winning in coaching the Boston Celtics through their dynasty years of the 1950s and 1960s. Red was no hoops star as a player, yet he made so many of them Hall of Famers as a coach.

There’s more. Bill Parcells and Bill Walsh and Chuck Noll in football. Glen Sather in hockey. Tony LaRussa and Connie Mack in baseball. None made any significant impact on their respective sports while part of the rank-and-file, but all are held as standard bearers when judging the merits of others with chalkboards and whistles.

Curry’s administrative side is far more impressive than his playing history

I remember also Charlie Lau.

Lau was the preeminent batting coach of his day – and we’re talking the 1970s and ‘80s – having taught the science of hitting to the likes of George Brett, Hal McRae, and others with the Kansas City Royals, when KC was known for good baseball. Hitters swore by Lau’s techniques, supported by new-fangled methods such as videotape and computer programs. He was a hitting “guru,” that overused word.

But Charlie Lau couldn’t hit a lick as a player. His exploits as a big league hitter wouldn’t have filled up a 3 x 5 card. Those who can’t do…

The Pistons haven’t tried this route in a long time – hiring the recently-retired player who’s devoid of any significant coaching experience, as they’re doing with Michael Curry. The high-profile, coaching veteran route hasn’t worked the last three seasons – an eternity in pro sports.

In fact, the last time the Pistons did this, giving the coaching job to one of their former players who wasn’t far removed from donning a tank top and shorts himself, the year was 1972.

After his first full season on the job, Ray Scott won the NBA Coach of the Year Award. Ray could play, though. He was one of those exceptions.

Coach Dave Bing? The Pistons Chose Not To, Back In ’79

In Dave Bing, Michael Curry, Pistons on June 9, 2008 at 2:48 pm

The Pistons didn’t want David Bing. The fans didn’t, either — even the ones who had heard of him. To them, anyone was sloppy seconds if the team couldn’t get Snazzy Cazzie Russell.

The Pistons lost a coin toss in 1966, a toss that would have given them the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft — a pick they would have used on Russell, the talented gem from the University of Michigan. But the coin didn’t come up right, so the New York Knicks got Russell, and the Pistons were left with Bing, the smooth guard from Syracuse. The Pistons felt slugged in the gut. They dreamed of box office success, if nothing else, with Russell playing for them. One night at Cobo Arena, Russell still in college, the few thousand fans at that evening’s Pistons game rose to their feet and went crazy as they saw the Michigan senior walking to a seat, a guest of the Pistons for the night. EVERYONE drooled at the thought of Cazzie Russell as a Piston.

The Pistons got Bing, and he eventually went from sloppy seconds to being beloved in Detroit. He, along with Bob Lanier, turned the team into contenders and playoff visitors.

In 1979, Bing could have changed the fortune of the Pistons yet again, but unlike when he was drafted, this time he wasn’t given the opportunity.

The Pistons had fired Dick Vitale and were looking for another coach. The job was given, by default, to assistant Richie Adubato in one of those interim deals.

Dave Bing had an idea.

What if he, Bing, stepped into the coach’s chair? What if he was the one to return the Pistons back to respectability after the clowning achievements of Vitale? Bing was 34, not quite two years removed as a player himself. He had the hunger. He wasn’t yet a steel magnate and civic leader. Basketball was still his first love and interest.

Bing as the unwanted senior from Syracuse, circa 1966

So Bing wasn’t shy about letting the TV people and sports columnists around town know that he was interested in becoming the Pistons’ next coach. It was a tactic that had worked so well for Vitale in the spring of 1978, when he launched a marketing campaign at the behest of some of the journalists in town.

Maybe owner Bill Davidson was once bitten and twice shy about such campaigns. Perhaps he was still sore at Bing for a contract holdout in 1974 that led to his eventual trade to Washington in 1975. Whatever the reason, despite the swelling of support for Bing as Pistons coach, Davidson would have none of it. He never gave Bing even a sniff. No interview. No returning of phone calls. Nothing.

Adubato finished out the 16-66 year and was replaced by Scotty Robertson.

The Pistons today, if you believe the rumors, are set to hire Michael Curry as their next head coach. Perhaps an announcement will come no later than Wednesday. Curry, like Bing in 1979, is not far removed as a player. The Pistons have tried this before, when they hired Ray Scott not long after Ray retired, back in 1972. And Ray was a pretty good coach here. They didn’t try it with Bing, though — and haven’t gone to the “recently retired as a player” well since Scott, in fact. Lately, the Pistons have latched onto high-profile coaching veterans whose playing days were in college, and when the shorts were tight and the socks droopy. Doug Collins and Rick Carlisle were former NBA players, but not for quite some time when the Pistons hired them as coaches.

It’s futile yet intriguing to wonder how the Pistons’ fortunes would have gone had Bing been hired as coach in 1979. Robertson was fired after three seasons, replaced by Chuck Daly. That ended up working out pretty well, if you recall. But would Bing have been fired after three seasons? Would he have accelerated the rebuilding process faster than Robertson, thus earning more time? Would there even have BEEN a Chuck Daly Era in Detroit?

We’ll never know, of course. Then again, maybe Bing wouldn’t have become the business and socio-economic leader that he turned out to be, either. So maybe it was for the best, after all.

Saunders Never Found True Love In Detroit

In Flip Saunders, Joe Dumars, Pistons, Rasheed Wallace on June 4, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Flip Saunders never truly got entrenched in Detroit. He was the Pistons coach for three seasons, but two things about that: 1) GM Joe Dumars has a fetish for canning coaches after a couple years or so, and 2) you never got the feeling that Saunders was securing his place, about to defy the odds created by item #1 in this paragraph. He won a ton of games — 176 of them in three years — but couldn’t push the Pistons past the NBA’s Final Four.

“When you get to where we were,” Dumars said yesterday at the press conference announcing Saunders’ ziggy, “you never feel like you’re not good enough to get to the Finals. Nobody gets to the conference finals and wonders if they’re good enough to move on.”

Dumars used those words to deflect any heat he might face from firing a coach with a winning percentage of over .700 in Detroit. What Joe D was saying was that the Pistons didn’t luck themselves into these last three Final Fours. Yet they couldn’t take that next step, falling in six games three straight times — kind of like Groundhog Day, only with a different groundhog each time. First, it was the Miami Heat, on their way to an NBA title behind the nearly flawless Dwyane Wade. Then it was the Cleveland Cavaliers, behind the nearly flawless LeBron James. Then it was the Boston Celtics, a team that went from 24 wins to 66, and a team that Dumars chided.

“They got some very good players, and didn’t have to give up much to get them,” Dumars said of the Celtics’ acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett over the summer. “It’s not like they had to give up depth. I would have liked to have done that, too,” he added with a wry grin.

So now Dumars may have just set a record for firing the most coaches with 50+ win seasons than any GM in history. He let Rick Carlisle go in 2003 after two 50-32 campaigns, it being hinted that Rick simply wasn’t all that nice a guy to team employees, and wasn’t all that nice to his bosses, either. Dumars replaced Carlisle quickly with the mercurial Larry Brown, who was shown the door after a title and two Finals appearances and two more 50+ win seasons, largely because owner Bill Davidson found Brown despicable toward the end, with the coach’s wandering eye and career restlessness always taking center stage. Again Dumars acted quickly, and brought in Saunders, a coach with some success in Minnesota but none to speak of in the playoffs.

Ahh, the playoffs. That’s where you can start tracing the fan base’s distrust of Saunders — and maybe even the players’, too. I, for one, wasn’t all that giddy about the Saunders hiring three summers ago, mainly because I looked at the standard being set in Detroit — the team was coming off another Finals appearance — and then I looked at the results Flip was getting in Minnesota (there were a lot of early exits with good teams) and I felt a little squeamish. But I also subscribed to the In Joe We Trust mentality, and figured that Saunders must have something for Dumars to commit four years of Davidson’s dough into him.

Then the Pistons went out and started 35-5 in Flip’s first season, and they looked damn near invincible. The second half was a bit more disjointed, and the team had to scramble to beat the Cavs in seven games in the Elite Eight before being melted by Wade’s Heat.

From there, it was dicey, as far as overall belief and trust in Flip Saunders in Detroit. While I hate to give the sports talk radio jabbermouths too much credit, they and their often misguided callers seemed to unite under one common belief: the Pistons win in the regular season despite of Saunders, but will never get back to the Finals — mainly because of Saunders.

Saunders was, by far, the least embraced coach in Detroit — ranking below even the Lions’ Rod Marinelli, who has largely been judged as more of an innocent bystander than anyone with losing blood on his hands. There wasn’t any sort of true affection for him. We never knew much about him, for starters. We knew he had a kid who played at the University of Minnesota, his alma mater, and that he coached the T-Wolves all those years. And that he narrowly missed being a victim of that bridge collapse — also in Minnesota. Maybe he was just too much Minnesota for our liking. Regardless, there wasn’t any of the lovable gruffness and supposed genius that Tigers fans found so alluring about Jim Leyland. There wasn’t the quiet calm and confidence exuded by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock that hockey fans find reassuring. There wasn’t even the “Aw, shucks/pound the rock” affability projected by Marinelli. With Saunders, he was like the outsider who was just keeping a seat warm until Dumars decided to satisfy his fetish again. No real connection. No real affection. No real empathy about what would ultimately happen to him.

Fair? Probably not.

I think that Flip Saunders became the Pistons coach at a very difficult time in team history. And all his regular season success couldn’t wash away the film that the disappointing playoff endings always left on the organization. He had to win another championship, Saunders did — or at least make it to a Finals or two — to continue to coach here. He was the victim of the expectations built first by Carlisle and then reached by Brown. And in the end, for whatever reason, Saunders simply didn’t have enough moxie to achieve those lofty goals.

There was his relationship with Rasheed Wallace, for one. Sheed is a reminder that coach killers are still a long ways away from becoming extinct in the NBA. They’re alive and well, and Sheed contributed, more than any other player, to the decision Dumars reached regarding Saunders’s status. Ironically, Wallace himself may also be gone — but not before having plunged a knife into Flip’s back. You can’t kill a coach killer, but you can get rid of him. Maybe Wallace will be some other team’s headache.

Dumars spoke — and with some definite agitation — of the final ten minutes of the Pistons’ season, those final, ghoulish minutes against Boston in the fourth quarter of Game 6. The ten minutes that put Saunders in the coffin and lowered him six feet under the daisies. The ten minutes that saw the Pistons turn a 10-point lead and a raucous crowd and an imminent Game 7 into yet another ugly, gut-churning, cold ending to a season. The ten minutes that gave Wallace one more chance to show why he’s one of the least clutch starters in the league, and why the Pistons didn’t have the heart or the guts to beat back the Celtics, even on their home floor, their crowd behind them and their opponents about ready to gag.

The Pistons coughed up two hairballs in the Final Four: Game 3 and the final ten minutes of Game 6 — both at the Palace. They were 58 minutes of basketball that are now the first domino of a summer of change in Auburn Hills. Flip is gone, just as we all suspected he might be. But this isn’t a fire-the-coach, keep-the-players sort of thing. Not even close.

“I’m open for business,” Dumars declared of his personnel plans. “No one is a sacred cow.”

No; they’re four fatted calves — you know who I mean — and at least one of them is about ready to be slaughtered.