HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’d be remiss here at Hang Time if we didn’t review a pair of returns Wednesday night, Rip Hamilton in Detroit and Rashard Lewis in Orlando. For completely different reasons, both players made their mark on those franchises before moving on, mainly because those franchises didn’t want them anymore.
Let’s get to Rip first. He led the Pistons to the 2004 title and a string of deep playoff runs last decade before the team around him crumbled. And then he was bought out and waived by Detroit and fell into the lap of the Bulls, thrilled to have a guard with a nasty mid-range jumper playing next to Derrick Rose. Well, Rip was warmly welcomed back to the Palace — by all six fans who showed up (actually, the announced crowd was 9,125. For the Bulls. Yeesh. Remember when The Palace was always filled with 20,000 strong?). It was a surreal sight for Rip, if only because the atmosphere was far different during the glory years, but times have changed for Rip and the Pistons, as we see.
What few fans showed up for the Pistons’ 99-83 loss to Chicago gave Richard Hamilton a warm round of applause tonight at the Palace.
Public address announcer John Mason described him as the longtime shooting guard.
Before the game Hamilton chatted with Austin Daye, and just before tip-off went over to the Detroit bench and hugged Rodney Stuckey, trainer Mike Abdenour, assistant coach Brian Hill and coach Lawrence Frank. He spent a lot of time at half-court afterward greeting his former teammates.
Hamilton said every time he looked up into the Palace rafters he saw his name — alongside those of Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Corliss Williamson, Elden Campbell, Mehmet Okur, Rahseed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and the rest of the group that brought a title back to Detroit in 2004.
He faced his old team for the first time since being waived and bought out of his contract last month.
“It was fun,” said Hamilton, who scored seven of his 14 points in the third quarter and played through a sore left groin while racking up five assists and three rebounds. “I couldn’t wait for the ball to be thrown up. There was a lot of emotion early in the game, being on the visitor’s side and not being accustomed to it in this building. It was difficult. I said. ‘Man, please don’t start crying or anything crazy.’
“The fans appreciate what I did here. They’ve always been supportive of me. Even when things weren’t going well they’d always chant my name. I have a lot of love for them. It’s tough to see this place half empty. I think when Chauncey and Rahseed and I were here they had sellouts for seven straight years.”