Detroit Pistons: Rodney Stuckey Finally Growing Up

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2012

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 15:  Rodney Stuckey #3 of the Detroit Pistons drives to the net as Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics defends on February 15, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Detroit Pistons defeated the Boston Celtics 98-88. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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If you have ever read my work as it pertains to Rodney Stuckey, you will know that I have been a very vocal critic of the Detroit Pistons guard.

I was put off by his inconsistent play and the fact that he appeared to be OK with essentially wasting his talent. It appeared to me that he was content to just play OK basketball.

I also was turned off by his attitude, especially last year, when a bad situation was made worse by a brooding, pouting and even whining Stuckey.

But a few things have changed since last year.

First, the Pistons drafted Brandon Knight. Knight has been projected by nearly everyone as the point guard of the future for the Pistons, which should be a firm smack in the face for Stuckey.

Sure, the Pistons can claim that they want Stuckey to play the two-guard or that they envision both guards being combo players, but if you are Stuckey, this should be a clear indication that the team is not fully sold on you.

Second, Stuckey received basically zero interest while he was a restricted free agent this offseason.

And sure, restricted free agents rarely are signed away from their team given that this system is intended to reward the original team. But nobody even kicked the tires on Stuckey, which should have been a real reality check for him.

This is the kid that has been compared to Dwyane Wade and was the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Chauncey Billups. To go from that kind of company to not even receiving an offer should have been an even firmer smack in the face.

Add to that the fact that an injury limited him early in the season, allowing Knight to get injected into the starting lineup and leaving Stuckey on the bench, and you have the makings of a really bad situation.

But instead of going back into Stuckey 1.0 mode, Rodney decided to buck the trend. He instead decided to grow up.

Stuckey has not only been saying all the right things, but he also has been embracing his role as a do-everything guard on offense and top perimeter defender on the other side of the ball.

And, as Vincent Goodwill from the Detroit News reported yesterday, Knight has lit a fuse in Stuckey, helping to spur the veteran guard in the right direction.

When the Pistons brought Knight in this year, I hoped that his professionalism, hard work and character would rub off on some of the more petulant Pistons.

The environment in Detroit used to be that of hard work and determination, and it helped bring this team three titles.

It finally appears now that the young core of Knight, Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe have essentially led by example and helped to motivate the veterans.

This is quite a remarkable feat, and one that you really need to give the veterans credit for. Sure, they weren't the ones leading, but they allowed themselves to be led.

This must have been a very humble pie to swallow, but as evidenced by the development of this team, it is one that they have gladly sucked down.

Stuckey actually is ideally suited to playing alongside Knight, especially if Brandon continues to develop his playmaking ability on the offensive side of the ball.

Stuckey is an incredibly athletic, quick and strong player. He doesn't have a very consistent deep shot yet, and his finishing always will be a question mark, but he is the perfect match for Knight.

Knight needs to be paired with a slasher that can get to the hoop and is big enough to take some pressure off of him on the defensive side of the ball.

Stuckey needs a quick guard that can stretch the court by hitting deep shots.

They both can handle the ball, and they both can get to the hoop.

Sure, they both still need to improve parts of their games, and neither one is a traditional "pass-first" point guard.

But they seem to compliment one another quite well, and they should only get better.

And while Knight deserves to gain some credit for helping to boost Stuckey, you also have to give Stuckey quite a bit of credit for taking so much on the chin and choosing to strike through adversity and become a better player.

It is safe to say that I am finally warming up to Rodney Stuckey.