The Pistons caught a break Friday night while playing the Miami Heat with 2 out of their 3 stars out – Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The Pistons were without their stars as well – Rodney Stuckey, Ben Wallace, and Richard Hamilton. Oh wait, Hamilton, the 2-time former All-Star, is out of the rotation so it really didn’t matter he had the flu. Unfortunately, the Pistons continue to have problems closing out games especially on the road as they fall to the Heat 88-87. The Pistons are 5-20 on the road – not exactly a playoff caliber team – but are only 3.5 games out for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Pistons are in turmoil and trying to find some form of identity. Obviously, Hamilton has no future with the Pistons as the organization decided to take him out of the rotation so Tracy McGrady can start at the PG and Rodney Stuckey can move to SG. From there, it was between Hamilton and Ben Gordon to come off the bench to relieve Stuckey and the decision was made to go with the younger Gordon. This has become a distraction to the team with Hamilton not playing. Also, Hamilton has not gotten along with head coach John Kuester even when he was in the starting lineup. Hamilton has been with the Pistons since the 2002-2003 season and was integral part of their success the past 9 seasons especially during the 2004 NBA championship season. With his contribution, Pistons GM Joe Dumars rewarded Hamilton in 2008 with a 4 year, $12.65 million per season contract. Dumars is having a rough time moving Rip’s contract since his contract is not expiring this season. It will be interesting to see if Dumars can move him before the trading deadline or things are only going to get worse between him and the Pistons.
On top of all this, the team is up for sale which has hampered Dumars when discussing any trades. The current owner does not want to take on future contracts while negotiating with buyers. According to media reports, the Pistons still are not any close to finding any buyers even though billionaire Tom Gores’ representatives are looking over the books to possibly put in a bid. The value of the Pistons have dropped from $479 million to $360 million. With the team being a lottery team last year and with sparse home crowds, it is not surprising the value has dropped that much. Until the Pistons find new owners, this team has no given direction.
The Pistons should continue to play and to develop their younger players such as rookie Greg Monroe, 2009 first round pick Austin Daye and 2007 first round pick Rodney Stuckey. But for Stuckey, he will be a restricted free agent in the off-season and if the Pistons are not sold by the end of the season and depending on the collective bargaining agreement, Stuckey could become a free agent. Again, the Pistons are currently dealing with abundance of off-court issues they have not had to deal with since Dick Vitale was the head coach back in 1979.
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Written by Bob Ballard