Feb 10, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
In one of the NBA’s most-surprising coaching decisions, Maurice Cheeks benched Andre Drummond just 11 seconds into the second half of a loss to the Mavericks a couple weeks ago.
In one of the NBA’s most-surprising front-office decisions, the Pistons fired Maurice Cheeks just 50 games into a multi-year contract.
Perhaps, the moves were related.
Though he’s always been the type to trust his coaches, Drummond was clearly upset by his benching. And apparently, Drummond has the ear of Pistons owner Tom Gores (even beyond Gores playing third wheel on Drummond’s date with Jeanette McCurdy). So maybe Drummond, even if he tried to stifle his feelings, influenced Gores.
One player later said the problem was that Drummond did exactly what he thought he was supposed to do and Cheeks didn’t understand that it was a product of miscommunication, not defiance.
Drummond and Gores communicate every couple of weeks about things, the player said, and seeing the franchise player unhappy probably didn’t go over well with the owner. Within a couple of days, Gores was in southeast Michigan, and the process of dismissal began to take shape.
Andre Drummond is not a superstar – not yet, at least – but he creeping toward the level of determining his coaches’ fates.
As a rookie, Drummond, indirectly, got Lawrence Frank fired last year. Frank’s stubborn insistence on not playing Drummond, who was already the Pistons’ best player, really sunk the their chances of winning. Maybe if Drummond had ranked higher than eighth on the team in minutes per game, Detroit would have won a little more and Frank would have kept his job.
And now Cheeks is gone shortly after their dustup.
Really, that’s exactly how it should be. I think Gores realizes Drummond is the most valuable member of the franchise, and coaches – and maybe even general managers – come second to a potential franchise player.
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Last year, Drummond needed minutes to develop. Frank didn’t provide them, so he had to go.
This year, Drummond needs a clear gameplan to reach the next level. Cheeks didn’t provide that, so he had to go.
Drummond has always professed a willingness to follow the direction his coach sets. It’s probably good someone higher up in the franchise is watching for his best interests.
That it’s the owner – who’s as high in the franchise as it gets – certainly says something about Drummond’s stature.
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