HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The finger pointing in Detroit won’t subside anytime soon.
It’s going to take someone’s departure — Rip Hamilton or John Kuester, whoever goes first, take your pick — before we get any sort of handle on what’s really going on in Mowtown.
Because as of right now, there are more conflicting reports than there is anything else emanating from pile of rubble that is this once proud franchise. Kuester has “lost the locker room,” per our very own David Aldridge of TNT and NBA.com (above). That massive player revolt of the other day was actually just a perfect storm of events, highlighted by Hamilton’s one-man revolution. And at least one local scribe, Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News, asked for the players to apologize before Saturday night’s game against Utah for a stunt that others suggest never was:
They can call it whatever they want, but this was a players’ mutiny against Kuester, a decent guy but a poor leader. He’s not strong enough to be an NBA head coach and surely will be fired at some point, but the players’ power-play against a powerless coach is indefensible.
Those guys are permanently stained, unless they make a sincere move to address it. Here’s their one short-term shot: The players should take the microphone before tonight’s game against Utah at the Palace and apologize to the fans — however many are left — for poor decisions. Say they’re remorseful and they’d like to try to fix it. Then play as if their careers are at stake.
Of course, that’d require accepting some blame, and accountability sure is in limited supply these days. No, words don’t automatically heal, but the Pistons must realize they still have fans who’d like to cheer instead of boo all night.
The Pistons did knock off the Jazz with an inspired performance led by their youngsters and journeyman. Hamilton watched it all unfold in street clothes, same as he has much of this season.
Still, you can’t help but wonder how things spiraled this far out of control in such a short period of time. Some say that Pistons boss Joe Dumars should have done something about this and is ultimately accountable. But as DA mentions above, his hands are tied as well, while the sale of the franchise continues to be negotiated.
Ultimately, the onus was on Hamilton to either play the part of loyal soldier, even if it made his skin crawl to do so, or the role of the stereotypical disgruntled NBA millionaire. He chose the latter and his image and reputation with Pistons fans will likely never recover, though we could see a time years from now, when the Pistons’ 2004 NBA title team is being celebrated, when all of this could be forgiven.
In the meantime, this dirty dance being played by both sides continues. The Pistons reportedly tried to move Hamilton so he could be bought out and eventually find his way to a contender in Boston, Chicago or wherever he desired. But he supposedly chose not to travel that path in an effort to preserve the millions he is owed on his current contract. Again, in trying times such as these, why should a millionaire be ridiculed for doing what we’d all do?
Still, his actions are indefensible, especially for a player that has meant as much to the franchise as he has in recent years. This leaves a stain of Hamilton’s legacy that will require more than just a little Resolve and a new address. He has taken aim at the very fabric of those Pistons teams he helped create.
“This is not how we do business here. I just want us to get back to Piston basketball — hard work, professionalism and character” Dumars said to Wojnowski and other reporters last night when asked about this situation, those being his only and brief words on the subject.
There’s also the matter of this Friday player protest that was or wasn’t. One of the men that broke the story fired back after the national reports suggesting that the entire thing was “overblown” made the rounds. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press provides his details of how things went down:
And uncovering this story didn’t take some level of great in-depth reporting. It went something like this:
Me: “What happened?”
Source: “You can see what’s going on.”
Me: “Nah. Enlighten me.”
And then the source, who asked not to be identified, started describing phone conversations about the protest. Another team source backed it up.
And then another source, while claiming no direct knowledge of Friday’s issues, said the team staged a protest after a loss before the All-Star break when players walked into the shower area while Kuester was giving a postgame talk.
If [Tayshaun] Prince, [Tracy] McGrady and [Ben] Wallace had excused absences, why were they held out of Friday’s game? McGrady was insistent he could have played and said no one told him he wouldn’t against the Sixers. And you definitely have to give Wallace a pass considering the tragic circumstances unfolding.
All Kuester would say was it’s an “internal matter.”
Considering all the other strife and feuding between the coach and players, it’s completely within the narrative for some type of player protest to occur.
The Kuester-Hamilton chapter took on an added element of nastiness Saturday when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the reason Kuester benched Hamilton last month was because Hamilton berated him in front of the team during a practice.
My response? It’s true.
There is one certainty for this team: In less than two months, the ugliness will end. Because the season mercifully will.