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Archive → December, 2010

The Detroit News handles Joe Dumars’ quote better than the Freep does

Notice the difference in how two outlets handled Joe Dumars’ statement on Richard Hamilton.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press*:

"Rip and I had a great conversation,” Dumars said about a 20-minute chat after practice. “He’s the last guy that I need to worry about competing. He’s been a warrior here for a long time, and I trust him as much as anybody on this team. Rip is our captain, and I love Rip Hamilton."

On the other hand, Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News (emphasis mine):

"He’s the last guy I need to worry about competing," Dumars said through a Pistons spokesperson. "He’s been here for a long time and I trust him as much as anybody on this team. Rip is our captain."

I don’t care much about the slight wording differences in the quote. That will happen.

But there’s a significant difference in how I understand the quote based on its delivery. Dumars standing in front of a group of reporters and declaring his fondness for Hamilton carries much more weight than Dumars having a spokesperson do it for him.

You may disagree and think it makes no difference.

But at least Goodwill gives us all the relevant info and lets us decide for ourselves.

*To be fair, a later version of Ellis’ article clarified Dumars “said in a release after practice.”

The sad saga of Richard Hamilton

(Damian Strohmeyer/SI)

I flipped on Fox Sports Net the evening of Sept. 11, 2002, and the broadcast opened with news of the Pistons trading Jerry Stackhouse for Richard Hamilton. A few months earlier, FSD opened its broadcast with news of an outrageous trade before cutting away to reveal an April Fools Day prank. Surely, this had to be another, albeit more poorly timed, farce.

Jerry Stackhouse had given everything to the Pistons. He stopped trying to lead the league in scoring and started trying to win. He bought into Rick Carlisle’s defense-first system, and he played a key part in the Pistons winning their first playoff series in 11 years. Surely, the Pistons didn’t reward Stackhouse’s sacrifice by trading him – let alone for an unproven, although apparently talented, Hamilton. It had to be a joke.

I wish this were a joke:

The Pistons have come full circle. They started with a high-volume shooter, who despite being more well-intentioned than not, wasn’t devoted to winning in Stackhouse. A decade later, they’re left with a high-volume shooter, who despite being more well-intentioned than not, isn’t devoted to winning in Hamilton.

Richard Hamilton was progress. His energy allowed him to compete throughout the regular season and deep into the playoffs, a trait Stackhouse couldn’t duplicate. Hamilton was one of Joe Dumars’ many success stories.

Now, he’s the obvious face of a segment of the Pistons who are stuck in the past, too stubborn to change. He reminds me of an old band, playing hits of yesteryear to remain relevant. But in the NBA, unlike music, the younger, sharper acts share the arena and expose the old-timers. Hamilton isn’t left to play his classics the best he can in peace. He has to fend off new competition, both on opponents’ rosters and his own team, every night.

That must be a scary proposition for Hamilton – knowing your best days are behind you and there’s nothing you can do. I doubt Hamilton will ever accomplish anything on a basketball court he hasn’t already. That’s certainly not easy to handle.

Rather than adjust, Hamilton presses on, fighting battles he can’t win. He’s protesting the NBA’s stricter technical-foul rules by getting ejected from as many games as possible. He’s shifting blame for Detroit’s struggles to the coach by refusing to play hard for the coach. He’s campaigning to start by getting sick at the thought of coming off the bench.

This sad saga was all too predictable.

The education of Richard Hamilton

(John Biever/SI)

This has been building for some time.

The Pistons let Ben Wallace, the heart and soul of the team, leave for the Bulls in 2006. That created a void for Hamilton and his teammates to find themselves. Chauncey Billups was always a rock, but unfortunately, Rasheed Wallace, not Billups, took a more authoritative role.

Ben Wallace’s lessons on how to treat coaches (read: as poorly as you desire) were reinforced and augmented by Sheed, whose head-butting with Flip Saunders trumped any of Ben’s testiness with Rick Carlisle. As a bonus, Sheed taught Rip how to argue with officials (read: as much as you desire).

The Wallaces meant a lot to the organization, but their head-strong attitudes left a mark on the impressionable Hamilton. Unfortunately, their most brusque traits veiled the subtle nuances in their ability to help teams.

Then, the Pistons took the most drastic step in Hamilton’s decline.

(Getty Images)

They traded Chauncey Billups to Denver. Smiles like those pictured above became fewer and farther between for Hamilton.

Psychologically, the trade took an obvious toll. Hamilton lost his best friend to another team.

What happened to Hamilton on the court is a little trickier. A common theory: without Billups’ pinpoint passes, Hamilton has struggled to find his shot. Here’s another theory: without Billups’ passes, Hamilton believes it’s difficult to find his shot.

The trade also brought Allen Iverson to Detroit. Iverson and Hamilton battled for the starting spot on the court, in the locker room and in the media. Hamilton won. Iverson took the rest of the season off.

The victory was short lived for Hamilton, lasting only until the season ended in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers. The Pistons quietly let Iverson walk in the offseason. Unfortunately, the example of entitlement he set has apparently lasted longer.

Odd man out

(Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

To make matters worse for Hamilton, the Pistons signed Ben Gordon that summer. Two rhythm shooters playing the same position and combining to make more than $20 million per year doesn’t make anyone happy.

Hamilton, who once outwardly enjoyed playing basketball more than any key Piston in this era, sulked. It didn’t take hold immediately, but it was inevitable.

(Getty Images)

The Pistons hired John Kuester, who immediately championed Hamilton as a valuable part of the team. Since stroking Hamilton’s ego then, Kuester has continued to treat Hamilton well. Even though the organization committed to open competitions for starting positions and playing time this season, Hamilton, remained the starting shooting guard for 27 games despite poor play.

The pandering ended before – or depending whom you believe, when or shortly after – a mysterious stomach ailment kept him from the Pistons’ win over the Hornets on Sunday.

Slowing the leak

(Brandy Baker/The Detroit News)

Whispers became news when Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News found a Pistons source to say Hamilton “quit on us.” That article brought Hamilton’s problems public, preventing either side from concealing them anymore.

But I also had no doubt Joe Dumars would nip this in the bud. He commands too much respect. When he told Hamilton to stop sulking, I knew Hamilton would, and I’m sure that was the crux of the pair’s 20-minute conversation today. Whether or not Hamilton wants to be traded, his behavior helps nobody.

After his chat with Dumars, Hamilton went to the media and said the right things*:

Pistons guard Richard Hamilton practiced Tuesday and declared afterward he would take coming off the bench "like a man" and do whatever it takes to win.

But I don’t think Dumars can fix Hamilton’s attitude. Beyond the typical clichés, Hamilton also said, “Joe will find out who said it and get to the point on that.” I believe Dumars told Hamilton he would try to find Goodwill’s source, but they talked for 20 minutes, and that’s what Hamilton took from their talk?

Maybe whoever criticized Hamilton should take more accountability, but why is Hamilton demanding it? Does he not see how his comment makes him look? Can Hamilton take any responsibility for the comment? Time will tell, but the early indications suggest no.

Actions speak louder than words, and Hamilton has taken one appreciable action this season – sitting out Sunday’s game.

*Update: It was pointed out to me that Hamilton met with Dumars after speaking with the meeting. I’d guess before their face-to-face meeting, the two talked in some other way. If they did, my points stand, If they didn’t, my points mostly stand, but we’ll find out more when Hamilton speaks publicly next.

Accountability

(Getty Images)

The heat burns intently on Hamilton now. Today’s article in The Detroit News is deservedly receiving national attention. Every NBA fan now believes Hamilton doesn’t measure up, and they’re get a hint of another unfortunate truth:

Every member of Pistons team fears leading it.

On one hand, how can you blame them? The team will probably fail, regardless, and the leader will take more of the blame. On the other hand, this team has no chance of succeeding without a leader.

Hamilton needs to realize three things:

  1. He’s the Pistons’ highest-paid player.
  2. He’s a captain.
  3. He’s, as result of today’s report, now the face of a lost franchise.

He can keep heading down the same path, but it won’t do him any good.

A new era

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

This image represents the past. Hamilton no longer holds the edge over Gordon, and I think Hamilton knows that. I don’t know whether he accepts it or how he’ll deal with it, but I think, deep down, he knows it.

Hamilton accomplished a lot in Detroit, and nothing will ever take that from him. But history isn’t objective. How Hamilton handles this situation will play a huge part in his legacy – whether he’s remembered as the Pistons’ all-time leading playoff scorer or that malcontent who drained three years and $37.5 million from the organization.

I hope he knows that.

Rip Hamilton responds to anonymous accusation that he sat out Sunday’s game because of losing his starting job

Over the years, the Pistons have not had much turmoil that manifests itself in the media. As fans, I think it’s something that is easy to not notice, but it’s really unprecedented compared to the anonymous sniping that goes on in the media in other organizations, even occasionally among winning teams.

So it was more than a little surprising that an anonymous person in the organization told Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News that Rip Hamilton had ‘quit’ on the team.

Not surprisingly, this is not a trend the organization wishes to continue. First, Hamilton defended himself to reporters. From Vince Ellis of the Freep:

“For the last nine years, I just went out and played hard and played aggressive and left everything on the line every night, and to hear that allegation was tough on me,” Hamilton said. “But Joe will find out who said it and get to the point on that.”

And for those who believe, like commenter Frankie D expresses here, that Hamilton will become a scapegoat for the team’s poor play, I wouldn’t be so sure. Joe Dumars released a statement defending Hamilton:

“Rip and I had a great conversation,” Dumars said about a 20-minute chat after practice. “He’s the last guy that I need to worry about competing. He’s been a warrior here for a long time, and I trust him as much as anybody on this team. Rip is our captain, and I love Rip Hamilton.”

That’s an unusual step for Dumars to make a public statement on something like this, so he must firmly believe that Hamilton was not, in fact, faking his illness as the person quoted in the Goodwill story seems to suggest. And I have to think that Dumars, who has always been guarded with what he says to the media (despite the occasional, uh, slip-up), is going to come down hard on whoever leaked the info, even if it happens behind closed doors.

So to recap: the Pistons are as confusing as ever.

Will Bynum probably is no Vinnie Johnson, but Bynum bests Terry Mills

Elias Sports Bureau, Inc., had a cool stat on Will Bynum yesterday:

Will Bynum came off the bench to score 21 points and record nine assists in the Pistons’ 111-108 overtime win over the Hornets. Bynum had a similar game as a sub last season, scoring 25 points with 11 assists against the Lakers. Over the last 20 seasons, only one other Pistons reserve had even one such game with as many points and assists as Bynum posted against New Orleans on Sunday: Terry Mills in 1996 (23 points, 9 assists against the Cavaliers).

I figured Elias went back just 20 seasons because of Vinnie Johnson, and that’s the case. In fact, Elias could have gone back at least 24 seasons.

Johnson had 26 and 11 against the 76ers and 22 and 9 against the Nets in 1987 – as far back as Basketball-Reference’s database goes. I’d guess those weren’t Johnson’s only 21-and-9 games off the bench.

John Kuester’s play call for Ben Gordon’s late 3-pointer elicits praise

Sebastian Pruiti of NBAPlaybook.com looked at the Ben Gordon 3-point that sent Sunday’s Pistons-Hornets game to overtime and determined, “just a brilliant play from Kuester here.”

Yes, he praised John Kuester – and deservedly so. This play looks great on first view:

But did you realize Will Bynum was the key? Pruiti explains.

Dennis Rodman enjoyed Bill Laimbeer’s reputation, applauds The Oprah Winfrey Show’s end and claims supremacy over LeBron, Wade and Bosh

Eric Schmoldt of Sports Radio Interviews has a great transcript of Dennis Rodman … well … being Dennis Rodman on WQAM in Miami yesterday. Among the topics, Rodman says his Bulls with Jordan and Pippen would’ve definitely beat the Heat trio, he apparently crashed Ricky Williams’ wedding uninvited, he talks about the need for Larry King and Oprah Winfrey to retire and he says today’s richest athletes have no personality. Yep. Typical Rodman.

His only Pistons-related comment dealt with Bill Laimbeer and his ability to get into opponent’s heads:

“He wasn’t a dick. To other players on other teams, yeah, he was a real asshole. … But it’s cool the way he intimidated people as far as getting into people’s heads. … All the guys on that team got into people’s heads and he was the catalyst of all that.”

The Detroit News’ Pistons source on Richard Hamilton: ‘He quit on us’

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Excellent reporting by Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News today on Richard Hamilton’s status with the Detroit Pistons:

Hamilton’s non-participation in Saturday’s practice, along with his upset stomach that caused him to miss Sunday’s game and complaints about his diminished role have led some in the organization to wonder if Hamilton has quit on the Pistons.

"He quit on us," one team source said. Another team source said Hamilton is acting out of emotion and should adjust.

Hamilton’s been on the trading block for two years, and he would like a change of scenery.

And, on Sunday, just before a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Hamilton, who was replaced in the starting lineup over the weekend by Ben Gordon, told the team he had an upset stomach and could not play. After the game, a number of people associated with the team questioned his "upset stomach."

It looks like the Allen Iverson trade has harmed the Pistons again. Hamilton saw Iverson’s bag of tricks to show unhappiness, and now he’s reaching into it, too.

I remember Joe Dumars once saying he’d drive any player himself to the airport who doesn’t want to be in Detroit. Of course, there’s still time for Dumars to put out this fire and Hamilton to return to the team. But if that doesn’t happen, we’ll know whether Hamilton’s contract is tradable.

Joe Dumars on Richard Hamilton: ‘If he and I need to sit down and have a long talk, we will’

Joe Dumars spoke with ESPN 96.1 today, and he added fuel to the Richard Hamilton-might-not-really-be-sick fire (hat tip: Justin Rogers of MLive):

I haven’t spoken to Rip since. We had a day off today. They guys were off today. So, I’ll see how Rip is doing tomorrow when he gets in here. He said he wasn’t feeling well yesterday, and he sat out. We got a big win. But whatever issues that I have to deal with, I don’t duck them. Whatever comes up, I deal with it. But Rip has been good for me. I’ll see how he is when he comes in in the morning. If he and I need to sit down and have a long talk, we will. We’ll see how it plays out tomorrow when we get back in here, when everybody’s back in here, coaches and players.

Dumars also talked about the restrictions on him because of Karen Davidson selling the team:

When you sit in this seat, you deal with all kinds of stuff. You really do. And I’d be lying if I sat hear and told you guys that wasn’t a part of it. There’s a financial responsibility that I have to be cognizant of here, and I’ve just got to work around it. There’s no sense of me sitting here and crying about it with you guy. I wake up, I look at it, it is what it is, and I’ve just to go figure out a way to work around it.

Looking back: Would the Detroit Pistons have still won a NBA title if they didn’t trade Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre?

Periodically, I’m going to start trying to mix in some Pistons history posts. Because hey, it beats talking about sour stomachs, right?

My mom doesn’t watch sports much, but because she was forced to live in a house with basketball-obsessed men most of her life, she eventually grew some passing interest in the game, particularly when the Pistons were at their peaks in the late 1980s and the mid 2000s.

As the 1980s Pistons were growing into title contenders, there was one player who she loved and rooted for more than all of the others: Adrian Dantley.

Looking at Dantley’s game, it’s easy to see why someone who is not really a sports fan would love him. His game transcended basketball, not because he was flashy or physically more talented, but because he got every ounce of ability out of his body. An undersized power forward, Dantley consistently shot better than 50 percent from the field despite the fact that he did most of his damage in the paint against much taller players.

And unlike some of the undersized PFs of today — think Paul Milsap or even Jason Maxiell — Dantley didn’t have the advantage of explosive athleticism to make up for his lack of height. Dantley could barely get off the ground. Who couldn’t root for a player who, despite looking out of place among the gigantic men at his position, still went out and routinely dominated them offensively using simply craftiness and intelligence?

Dantley was the king of the jab-step. He spoke at a camp I attended when I was 15, and he tried to put a bunch of junior high and high school kids through an intense series of footwork drills that featured initial moves, counter-moves, pump-fakes, pull-ups and an array of different ways to score out of the face-up position. I scored my first (and one of only three I would make all season … I was terrible) rec-league basket by employing a weak version of Dantley’s jab-right, sweep the ball through to create space, elevate and bank it in from just outside the block move.

Dantley was a huge part of the Pistons becoming a title contender in the 1980s. In Detroit’s first NBA Finals appearance, Isiah Thomas’s sprained ankle/25-point third quarter is understandably the lasting memory from a heart-breaking seven-game loss to the Lakers. But a forgotten element of that series is that Dantley had an unreal performance of his own, scoring 34 points on 14-of-16 shooting in the Pistons’ game one win in L.A.

When Dantley was traded during the following season, my mom was devastated, as were many fans. She even named my younger brother, who was born in 1990, ‘Adrian’ because she had grown to love Dantley and what he represented so much.  I was still a bit too young to realize all of the off-court controversy created by the trade, which netted the Pistons Isiah Thomas’s boyhood friend Mark Aguirre from Dallas.

And although Pistons fans still remember, probably in great detail, just how upset many were about the trade, the fact that the team won a title after the trade healed a lot of those wounds.

I think it’s interesting to look back at one of the most controversial trades in Pistons history, considering the current Pistons are still reeling after another controversial trade (Billups for Iverson) that, uh, wasn’t followed up by quite so much on-court success.

After the deal was made, Mitch Albom recounted just what Dantley had meant to the team:

Farewell to the Teacher. Farewell to that body, hard and strong, and that face, which always seemed halfway between amusement and anger. Adrian Dantley came in with a bad reputation, and, ironically, he leaves in exchange for one. Known as selfish, moody and a ball-hog when he arrived in Detroit, he proved critics wrong, leading the Pistons to their best season ever, playing a role, muscling against giants, spinning and whirling and desiring his way to the hoop. He even sent himself to the hospital once diving for a basketball. Diving? Adrian Dantley? And now, suddenly, he has been traded to Dallas for a guy named Mark Aguirre, who has a reputation for being . . . selfish, moody and a ball-hog.

Go figure.

Now, Dantley had a well-documented prickly reputation at times, so he was not necessarily beloved by all of his teammates in Detroit. But one, in particular, was Joe Dumars. SI’s Jack McCallum wrote this after the trade:

Thomas’s backcourt mate, Joe Dumars, was deeply saddened that Dantley, who had been his best friend among his teammates, was gone, but he held his tongue about the deal. In a gesture of respect, Dumars requested a DANTLEY 45 jersey as a keepsake.

Dumars also told SLAM a few years ago that, “Adrian is my favorite teammate ever.”

Albom quoted John Salley on the trade as well:

“Bleep!” said John Salley, when informed of the news Wednesday morning. “How could they trade The Teacher? He was my mentor. A lot of the guys felt that way. I like Mark (Aguirre). He’s OK. But AD did a lot for us.”

(Part of me hopes that Salley actually said ‘Bleep!’ rather than an actual swear word).

There were certainly other opinions on the trade however.

Bill Laimbeer, for instance, wasn’t opposed to it:

“He (Dantley) came in during a transitional period when we were moving from being a free-wheeling offensive team to a more methodical defensive-oriented team, and he fit right in to a disciplined offensive structure. But I think our team just outgrew Adrian Dantley. Joe D was about to come into his own, and it was important that we had more ball movement, and that was not Adrian’s strength.”

Laimbeer’s reasoning lays out the basketball side of it, expounded on by a Detroit Bad Boys reader in 2007:

I remember Michael Jordan saying that without Dantley, the Pistons had no go-to scorer. We all loved “The Teacher”, and the trade saw many fans turn against Isiah Thomas, as he was scapegoated for bringing in Mark Aguirre. The arrival of Aguirre ceded playing time to Dennis Rodman, whose ability to limit Scottie Pippen and roam so aggressively on defense was key to suppressing the Bulls for another season.

Although the trade did make basketball sense — who could argue that finding more minutes for Rodman wasn’t a good thing? — there were persistent rumors that Thomas was the driving force behind the trade, largely because Dantley believed that to be the case, according to Albom:

Here is the way Dantley saw it: “It’s Isiah’s team. He calls the shots. That guy (Aguirre) is his friend and he wants to play with his friend. If Chuck has to make a call, who do you think he’s gonna side with?”

And Dantley’s opinion didn’t change with time. Here’s what he told SLAM just a few years ago:

“I know he was behind the trade,” Dantley says. “It’s not a question; it’s a fact.”

In that same SLAM article, Thomas issued a strong denial while — in true Isiah fashion — saying the trade was in the best interest of the team even though he wasn’t pushing for it.

Thomas flatly and inconclusively denies that he orchestrated Dantley’s trade. “Go back and look in the books,” Thomas says. “When that trade was made, we were in second place in our division, six games behind the Cavaliers. After Aguirre came, we went 37-4 and went from a team struggling to score 92 points to a team averaging almost 103. And we got our ring. So it was a good trade, but it wasn’t my decision. I was a player, not the GM.”

To be fair (kind of) to Thomas, Dantley’s relationship with Chuck Daly played a role in the decision to trade him as well:

The Pistons went just 8-6 in January while Dantley’s relationship with head coach Chuck Daly had begun to deteriorate, according to Steve Addy of the Oakland Press: “There was tension between Daly and Dantley; the coach felt he was holding the ball too long, leaving the offense scrambling for last-second shots. The Pistons also felt A.D. wasn’t getting to the foul line enough.”

It’s difficult to second-guess a trade that helped the Pistons go on a major second half run and win a championship, even if conspiracy theories about Thomas orchestrating the deal are true. But it’s also difficult to fault Dantley for being bitter about the situation. His presence in Detroit made the Pistons a contending team, and had he not been traded, it’s possible he would’ve won a title, something that eluded him his final few seasons as he played on non-playoff teams before retiring.

Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, DaJuan Summers and Tayshaun Prince make cases for bigger roles in the Pistons’ satisfying victory over the Hornets

It was a strange night at The Palace.

  • The Pistons became the third Detroit team, along with the Lions and Red Wings, to play overtime today.
  • Tayshaun Prince smiled on the court (after blocking Jason Smith).
  • Ben Wallace played nearly 14 minutes before grabbing a rebound.

Perhaps strangest of all, the Pistons won. For just their first victory this season over a team with a winning record and all five starters healthy, the Pistons beat the Hornets, 111-108.

This was the Pistons’ most satisfying win of the season. Ben Gordon, Will Bynum and Tayshaun Prince made the obvious plays, and Jason Maxiell made the small ones. Everything came together perfectly.

Instead of griping about lesser-of-two-evil lineup changes, we can hold enjoyable debates – like did Gordon or Bynum do more to show they deserve larger roles? Heck, DaJuan Summers and Prince made cases for enhanced roles, too. This game will be just plain fun to unpack.

Ben Gordon angles for a bigger role

Ben Gordon comes off the bench for two main reasons – a true professional, he never complains about it and his production throughout his career has been nearly identical either way.

But until joining the Pistons, he’s always had a clear role. He was the Bulls’ scorer, and that didn’t change whether he started or not. Now, if Gordon comes off the bench, he’s treated like a backup. Now, starting makes a difference.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Gordon if his 0-for-7 first half had come in a game he didn’t start. Would he have stuck with it like he did tonight? Keep in mind, most of those seven shots were good shots. And despite the misses, Gordon was rebounding. He was in this game from his first possession.

Still, Gordon hasn’t shown this type of focus and determination during the course of a full game when coming off the bench this year. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

After halftime, Gordon turned into the player I thought ranked on the fringe of the league’s best scorers. He scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the final 29 minutes. It was a complete scoring performance – shooting from the outside, driving inside and getting to the line.

Especially after the first half, I thought this season – the losing and coming off the bench – may have damaged Gordon’s psyche. I’m not sure whether the second half showed he was fine or fixed him, but it doesn’t matter.

This is the Ben Gordon the Pistons signed. I think you’ll look back at this game as a turning point for him.

I don’t expect Richard Hamilton to regain his starting job anytime soon.

Will Bynum angles for a bigger role

After Austin Daye, Will Bynum was the second Piston removed from the rotation this year. Unlike with Daye, nobody really complained about the move.

Until tonight, Bynum had a couple solid games, a bunch of bad ones and no very good ones. He played very well tonight – making 8-of-10 shots for 21 points and dishing nine assists. He managed the offense like he’d shown he could in previous years and wasn’t afraid to take big shots late.

Whatever was bothering him earlier in the season clearly didn’t show up tonight.

Detractors will point out his five turnovers and inability to get through screens quickly. For them, I have two words: Chris Paul. The best point guard in the game stole the ball from Bynum twice and pressured him much more. And getting through a screen in a timely fashion proves much more difficult when the speedy Paul is using it.

Bynum wasn’t perfect tonight, but his plusses substantially outweighed his minuses.

DaJuan Summers angles for a bigger role

With Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey out and Tracy McGrady going down during the game, John Kuester looked at the very end of his bench.

Playing his first meaningful minutes since against the Hawks on Nov. 3 and in just his sixth game this season, DaJuan Summers provided the spark the Pistons needed. He made an ultra-efficient two 3-pointers and a dunk in four shots.

His seven minutes played a key part in the Pistons’ victory.

Tayshaun Prince angles for a bigger role

After Tayshaun Prince blocked Chris Paul’s shot to end regulation, I tweeted:

Tayshaun Prince’s block capitalizes what might be his defensive performance in years.

J.E. Skeets replied:

No doubt. RT @PistonPowered: Prince’s block capitalizes what might be his defensive performance in years.

If Skeets said it, it must be true.

At his best lately, Prince took responsibility for his own man. He didn’t appear to show interest in rotating and helping his teammates. Tonight, he was all over the court.

His man-to-man defense played a large part in Trevor Ariza shooting 2-of-11 with five turnovers. Prince, who blocked three shots and added a steal, also did whatever he could on rotations.

It wasn’t just a defensive focus. It was a mentality. Prince also had 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

The numbers don’t always have to be so spectacular, but that’s how I’d like to see Prince play every night. The Pistons used to rely on Prince to defend the opposing team’s best wing, no matter what. That’s no longer the case, but the way he played tonight, Prince could do it again.

Rotation going forward

I’m not advocating Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, DaJuan Summers and Tayshaun Prince all get bigger roles. That would be impossible. All I’m saying is they played tonight like they deserve more.

Summers is the easiest to discount. He’s played like this before, but he doesn’t belong in the rotation. This team has enough better players that he’s still on the outside looking in.

I hope Prince can take on a larger role, because his wouldn’t involve more minutes. Sadly, I’d be surprised if he does. I’m not sure he desires to play like this every game anymore. That would take a lot of effort, and after competing for a title for so many years, I don’t think he’s that invested in this losing team.

Gordon showed he’s on the right track. It would be a shame to spoil his progress by sending him back to the bench. The Pistons ate that 0-for-7 first half in order to let him shoot his way back into a rhythm, and I understand that’s a sunk cost, but it just wouldn’t feel right to banish him to the bench again.

Bynum is the most interesting case. McGrady has proven himself capable of running the second unit, and I think everyone who plays benefits from a shorter rotation. So, if Richard Hamilton misses an extended amount of time, that could open the door for Bynum to keep playing. Otherwise, Kuester has a difficult decision to make. I won’t use hindsight to criticize him on this one, because no clear-cut solution exists.

Jason Maxiell’s quietly stellar day

Jason Maxiell had a prime cases of the box score* not telling the whole story.

*For the record, two points, no rebounds, an assist, a turnover, two steals and a block in 21 minutes.

Maxiell didn’t enter the game until late in the third quarter. As is often the case when a player enters so late, Maxiell had a singular assignment – slow David West.

West still scored, but with Maxiell playing the game’s final 21 minutes, Westworked a little harder for his game-high 32 points.

West gave Maxiell some difficulty outside the paint, but when West went down low, Maxiell pushed him from the spots West wanted. That led to either a forced shot or the Hornets going away from West.

On the down side, such a focus on West hurt Maxiell’s rebounding. John Kuester removed Maxiell from the rotation because Maxiell doesn’t always focus on boxing out. That happened again tonight.

So, in all, a great effort from Maxiell for giving the Pistons what they needed tonight – but not the type of effort that will earn him more playing time.

Regardless of whether he plays more, this was an awesome way to all but seal the victory:

Richard Hamilton’s absence

I covered most of Richard Hamilton’s semi-suspicious absence in an earlier post. But just to confirm a small detail, here are a couple in-game tweets.

Justin Rogers:

@vgoodwill @Chris_Iott @Stareagle Was the Gordon start strictly because of Hamilton’s illness, or did the two happen to coincide.

Dave Hogg:

@justin_rogers Pure coincidence. The T-Mac start was the one due to a late injury.

Me:

@Stareagle Just to be clear, you’re saying Gordon would have started even if Hamilton was healthy?

Hogg:

@PistonPowered We’ll have to ask Kue to be 100% sure, but there’s good reason to believe that.

Short nights for Ben Wallace and Greg Monroe

Fans often blame John Kuester for sticking with his comfort zone rather than what’s working. Overall, I think that’s a misperception, and tonight was a good example.

Neither Ben Wallace nor Greg Monroe showed they had much going, and both got quick hooks. Wallace played just 18 minutes, and Monroe saw just 15 minutes.

Sunday, Sunday

I hate to end this on a down note, but I think it’s necessary. What I wrote in the game preview still holds relevancy:

Speaking of pride, Michael McNamara of Hornets247.com alerted me to an interesting trend.

The Hornets are just 1-3 on Sundays. Although two of those losses came to the Spurs, neither was close. The Hornets’ loss to the 76ers wasn’t close, either. And New Orleans’ win came by just four points over the Kings.

As Pistons fans should know, Sunday losses might not be a coincidence.

I hope we look back at the end of the year and see the Hornets went 9-4 on Sundays, and this slow Sunday start is just pure coincidence. But the way the blew a 10-point halftime lead today, don’t count on it.

This win might mean as much as it appears to mean.