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Vince Ellis stands up for good journalism

Several Pistons boycotted Friday’s shootaround in Philadelphia. We can accept that as fact now.

The organization can up with excuses for the absences of Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace and Chris Wilcox other than they don’t respect their coach, but Detroit can’t spin its way past the reporting of Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Today, Ellis explained his coverage:

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 Prince, McGrady and 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.

Huge kudos to Ellis for not only refusing to back down to the Pistons’ spin, even when other writers gave it more veracity than it probably deserved, but for reiterating his case. I wish more reporters stood up for themselves in these situations. Ellis was in a position to do that, because he reported this the right way – with multiple sources. He built an airtight case, which made his self-defense easy to execute.

More information on the boycott

Ellis’ post also cleared up a concern I had with the initial reports: maybe the sources who confirmed it was an organized boycott were speculating and assuming, given the widespread no-shows. But if Ellis had a source who described phone conversations about the boycott, that eliminates that potential hole.

Do we know exactly who boycotted? Not entirely. Maybe Prince and McGrady happened to have injuries on the same day others boycotted. Maybe Wallace happened to have legitimate personal reasons to miss the shootaround on the same day others boycotted. Maybe Wilcox happened to oversleep on the same day others boycotted.

But all four of those players were active for Friday’s game, and none of them played. If McGrady said he could play and Wallace was at the game, that all but certainly makes them boycotters. Does anyone believe Prince wasn’t a part of it, too?

The only player whose absence the Pistons didn’t explain, Richard Hamilton, was inactive.

That leaves Wilcox, who the team claimed overslept. He played against the Jazz last night when none of the other four did, so maybe that’s all it was with him. But considering Wilcox dodged the media yesterday – especially when the two players who claimed to have missed the shootaround for reasons other than protesting their coach, Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye, publicly apologized – I’m not ready to give him the benefit of the doubt.

That actually sums up how messy this situation is. Giving Wilcox the benefit the doubt means accepting that he only overslept and missed a practice.

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