Seven years ago, the Detroit Pistons epitomized what an NBA team — a real team — should play like. They played ‘D’, shared the rock, didn’t care who received the credit, and beat opponents with more talent and better go-to scorers. If you look now, the remnants of Detroit’s past are barely present. And for one player who still offers reminders of the past, Richard Hamilton, well, he can enjoy a nice long string of DNP-CDs.
It’s not like Hamilton’s washed up, either. He’s not as productive as he used to be, but he’s not as deteriorated as, say, Tracy McGrady. It’s funny I bring up McGrady, because his mummified remains actually started in Hamilton’s place last game. Will Bynum, DaJuan Summers and Austin Daye also saw time in the Piston’s last game. So no, Hamilton isn’t the same guy we remember from the 2004 title. But it’s not like a bunch of Michael Jordans are stealing his minutes.
What the Pistons have done to Hamilton is criminal. He helped Detroit win games for almost a decade, and even helped win a championship. He wore his face mask, and sprinted around screens, and made his teammates better by approaching the game the right way. He didn’t care whether he scored 20 points, so long as his team was winning. Hamilton, you see, was never the type of player who could win a championship all by himself. But neither were his teammates, and that was the ultimate beauty of it. And no matter how many times he failed to free himself from his opponent, Hamilton just kept journeying around screen… after screen… after screen… after screen.
Until John Kuester, or Joe Dumars, or some other Detroit exec, decided Hamilton’s time in Detroit was over. His playing time, at least. Now Hamilton collects a paycheck. He’s still on Detroit’s roster, and he still shows up to games. He sits there, I assume minding his own business, twiddling his thumbs, and dreaming of better days. All because somebody decided Hamilton wasn’t in the club’s future.
There are other factors in play here, of course.
There’s planning for the future, which is why Daye, Summers, Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey are assuming so many minutes. But if the future was really the only goal here, would T-Mac be in the starting lineup?
There are certain behavioral issues, and sources have told newspapers that Hamilton’s attitude became dour during this ugly season. But if Hamilton were the biggest and/or only problem, would his veteran teammates still back him rather than his coach?
“Man, I really don’t know what to make of it,” Ben Wallace told the Detroit News. “It’s tough because you’ve got a bona fide All-Star in this league. I don’t know. I guess coach has his reasons but I don’t see it. I just don’t see it.”
“I am mad. Anger as far as now,” Tayshaun Prince said. “When I look at it I see so many things he can help us with on the floor.”
The Pistons plan to trade Hamilton before the trading deadline, and now sit him every minute of every game. I understand why they would bench a player who will wear some other uniform in a few weeks. Of course I do.
But Richard Hamilton has given this Detroit Pistons organization so much during these past nine years. Doesn’t he deserve a better end?