HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Be careful what you say about Pistons guard Rip Hamilton.
He just might make a fool of you.
Accused by an anonymous team source of quitting on his team over the weekend, Hamilton fired back with his play Wednesday night. He lit up the Raptors with 35 points off the bench, silencing his critics (at least momentarily) and leading the Pistons to a much-needed win as they head into four-day Christmas break.
Hamilton’s starting spot is Ben Gordon‘s now. But Hamilton, who has been a mainstay on the trade rumor mill since summer, played through all the drama against the Raptors. He also showed that there’s still some of that All-Star ability left in him. Terry Foster of the Detroit News has more:
“God don’t like ugly,” Hamilton said with a smile. “That was the thing I had on my mind tonight. I had to make a statement, all the stuff that was talked about. I just wanted to make a statement.”
Hamilton made a statement from his first touch to his last. He was in the game for just a few seconds when he launched a 3-point shot that put the Pistons up for good. And he never let up until the Raptors were serenaded with boos from a crowd of 15,303.
Then Hamilton did what any good teammate does. He gave praise to Will Bynum and Tracy McGrady for making his job easy. Now Hamilton gets to slip away for a five-day Christmas break with his family, away from media and accusations.
He can now forget the bad press and the stress.
He certainly looked like a man who’d moved on against Toronto. But there was plenty on his mind. He wanted to prove that he remains a quality player. He wanted to make sure his team did not squander another 25-point lead to the same team, and he wanted to make peace with himself.
“It was hard when you are used to starting,” Hamilton said. “What can you do but go out there and play and have fun.
“My teammates did a great [job] of supporting me when I was a starter, so I had to go out there and be there for them. My mind-set was just to make a statement and go out and do what you do.”
Hamilton helped the Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference finals appearances, two NBA Finals appearances and the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2004. If that hasn’t earned him the benefit of the doubt from the guys in his own locker room, that’s too bad.
But we certainly won’t bother questioning his desire around here.