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 DETROIT (AP) -Michael Curry was handed an excellent opportunity, becoming a head coach for the first time with only one year of experience as an assistant.
Entering the season, his Detroit Pistons were expected to be a strong team featuring All-Stars and up-and-coming players. But Curry's job suddenly changed early on when point guard Chauncey Billups was traded to Denver for Allen Iverson.
The results did, too.
After winning their first four games of the season, the Pistons are barely over .500 since acquiring Iverson, and fingers are beginning to point in Curry's direction.
Some say Curry looks as though he's overmatched, noticing when he hands a dry-erase board to assistant coach Darrell Walker during some timeouts to handle Xs and Os.
his season, instead of parting ways with him as they did with Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle during their recent stretch of success.
``It's part of the job,'' Curry said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ``When you lose, it's the coach's fault. When you win, the players get the praise.''
Detroit wasn't prepared to play the Houston Rockets without Yao Ming on Sunday night, letting them spread the floor to set up seven 3-pointers and easy layups en route to a 39-point first quarter.
Curry didn't help matters by keeping plodding center Kwame Brown in the starting lineup even though he knew Yao wasn't playing.
Still, the Pistons had a chance to send the game into overtime on the final possession. They missed a pair of 3-pointers in the final seconds as Iverson watched, leading to more scrutiny.
The next morning before practice, Curry stuck by his decision to leave Iverson on the bench for the final seconds of the game and for much of the fourth quarter.
``When we took Iverson out, we were down (13) and the group that we brought in gave us a chance to win it,'' Curry said. ``So, we went with that group.''
o was on the court for only 1 minute in the final quarter.
``That was just different,'' Iverson said, sitting in front of his locker after the 108-105 loss to Houston at The Palace of Auburn Hills. ``In that situation, I thought I was going to be there. Maybe he was thinking we had a chance another way. I trust the decisions he makes.''
Detroit is 20-19 with Iverson on the roster, an unfamiliar record for a team that has advanced to the Eastern Conference finals the past six years.
The Pistons recently won seven straight games, the last five with Richard Hamilton sidelined by a groin injury.
Since Hamilton returned, they are 2-6 and are going to have their first losing month since February 2004.
That same month, team president Joe Dumars acquired Wallace in a trade. The bombastic player's rare talent and unmistakable swagger lifted Detroit to the NBA title over the Los Angeles Lakers with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Now, Wallace is in the final year of his contract - as is Iverson - and Dumars likely will use their expiring deals to make a splash in one or both of the next two offseasons with about $22 million in salary cap space.
Until then, the former teammate he took a chance on will have to figure out how to get the Pistons' many moving parts from misfiring.
beat the Lakers on their home court and to knock off the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers with Curry as coach. But the Pistons have been dysfunctional enough to lose to some of the NBA's worst teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
``Sometimes we're not as bad as we seem or as good as we seem,'' Curry told the AP. ``We just have to keep finding ways to get better. As a head coach, that's my goal at practice today.''
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