November 18, 2010
By Brian Spencer
Anybody who’s tuned into these early weeks of the NBA season knows that the Detroit Pistons are a ticking time bomb, and that things could get a lot worse before they get a lot better. Players are feuding with coaches, coaches are feuding with players, and judging by all the empty seats at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the fans want nothing to do with the mess.
In the standings reality, however, at 4-8 they fall squarely into the also-ran column and are not yet a true cellar dweller a la the Clippers, Raptors, 76ers, etc… but they’re getting close to joining that rarified sewer air. With a little more luck–and talent–they could easily be 6-6, even 7-5, after dropping their first two games by a total of four points, then blowing a 21-point second-half lead in their third loss. Oh, sure, they’ve looked dreadfully listless and are clearly lacking in chemistry, but don’t believe everything you’re reading: despite all the turmoil, this team has actually been competitive most nights, and in the weak Eastern Conference they probably have enough talent to squeeze into the playoffs.
That said, it’s time to light this bomb’s fuse and blow this feeble version of the Pistons to bits. It should start with Tayshaun Prince, who seems to be doing everything in his power to force his way out. His body language has been embarassing for a guy raking in $11 million on the season and who’s asked to do very little besides hustle and set a good example; so far he’s done neither. There’s no place for Richard Hamilton anymore, either, not with Ben Gordon starting to heat up and be the lights-out scorer we know he can be. He has enough depth behind him.
Hamilton and Prince played starring roles in Detroit’s six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, winning is all they know, and now that they’re losing on a team that’s rebuilding and trying to find its way, their hearts simply don’t seem to be in it. Understandable, to a degree, until you remember, again, that both are being paid handsomely to play a game they love. (Hamilton is guaranteed $12.6 million this season and the next two.) And don’t give me this “money isn’t everything” garbage: of course it’s not. But are we so used to athletes annually being paid more than the GDP of hundreds of small countries that salary, and return on that salary, should no longer be a consideration?
I’ve rooted for both these guys for such a long time, and I want to see them both succeed again–but elsewhere. No, this franchise cannot fully move into the future until it fully lets go of the past. (It’s worth noting, however, that Ben Wallace, the other holdover from the franchise’s most recent golden era, is still doing his best to be the hustling, banging, rebounding, defending warrior he’s always been in Detroit; his impact on the game, however, just isn’t the same at 36 years old. Don’t worry, though, it looks like he’s interested in playing defense even after his playing days are over.)
Of course, jettisoning their longtime stars is just the beginning.
More on the state of the Detroit Pistons after the break….