The Detroit Pistons took the court on Monday night for the first time this season with John Loyer serving as the head coach. Loyer, who was named the interim head coach following Sunday’s firing of Mo Cheeks, only played nine players in the Pistons’ 109-100 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Monday night at The Palace.
Brandon Jennings led the team in scoring with 21 points, while all five of Detroit’s starters scored in double-figures. The bench players played a key role in this victory, contributing 37 points altogether. Rodney Stuckey, with 20 points, had another productive night coming off the bench.
The Pistons played with great energy on both ends of the floor in their first game without Cheeks. Detroit grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, recorded 13 steals (from eight different players), and blocked four shots. These “hustle plays” were the driving force that enabled the Pistons to outscore the Spurs in the second and third quarters, 67-48.
There are times in professional sports in which players appear to play with more effort and intensity immediately after the firing of their head coach, but it usually does not last throughout the season. However, for this team, things might be different following this coaching change.
Former assistant Maz Trakh was also fired when Cheeks lost his job, leaving Loyer with one assistant coach on his staff; 64-year-old Henry Bibby. Bibby, although a great basketball mind who has played and coached the game at a high level since 1972, might not have what it takes to be the lone assistant coach in the modern NBA. This pushed Loyer to promote Rasheed Wallace from player-development coach to assistant coach.
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Wallace, the NBA’s single-season and career leader in technical fouls, played each and every one of his 1,109 career regular-season games with immense passion and intensity. ‘Sheed had already shown signs of that passion on the sideline, and that was just when he sat behind the players bench.
Now, with Wallace directly on the sidelines, look for the Pistons to resemble his raw emotion on the court.
Detroit is a very young, explosive, and talented team that may have been held back by Cheeks’ low-key coaching style. Wallace was a player who fed off emotion, good and bad emotion alike; it fueled him.
Did he let his emotions get the best of him at times? Sure, but the amount of times that emotion pushed his game to the next level was much greater than the handful of incidents that hurt the team.
During Wallace’s time as the player-development coach, Andre Drummond’s offensive game had progressed greatly and he is now considered one of the top centers in the league. In addition to his ability to coach Detroit’s big men, Wallace is also a huge asset in regards of the entire team; he knows what it takes to win a championship.
Detroit (22-29) is currently riding a 3-game winning streak (victories over the Spurs, Nuggets, and Nets) and is tied with the Charlotte Bobcats for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Even though having Rasheed Wallace as an assistant coach on the sidelines will not solve all of Detroit’s problems, he has the ability to become the spark and the type of leader that this Pistons team needs. Detroit loves ‘Sheed so much that fans even submitted a petition to the White House, asking the President to make Wallace the head coach of the Pistons for the remainder of the season.
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