By all accounts, many Pistons players are unhappy with their coach.Though talks that the team boycotted practice to expedite John Kuester’s exit were reportedly “overblown,” its discontent isn’t a secret. And though players hate their undefined roles, and Tayshaun Prince has entertained several public shouting matches with the coach, perhaps no one is more unhappy than Rip Hamilton.
Hamilton is in his ninth season with the organisation and was a key member of the 2004 championship squad. But since cursing at Kuester in practice on January 10th, Hamilton has been kept out of all but one game despite starting 24 of his first 25 games this season.
Everyone figured Hamilton’s days in Detroit were numbered, and he was even a key part of January’s trade discussions between the Nets and the Nuggets. But Hamilton never demanded a trade. On January 22, he said:
“That’s not my decision,” Hamilton answered when asked if he wanted to be dealt somewhere else. “That’s a question that you gotta ask [management] in [our] locker room, because I have no control. I can’t just go in there and say ‘I’m gonna trade myself.’ I have no control over that.”
One month later things have apparently changed, and Hamilton feels entitled to take control. ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Hamilton declined a trade that would have sent him to Cleveland, where he would have been bought out and likely picked up by the Celtics or Bulls.
Why would Hamilton, so malcontent in Detroit, turn down such an offer?
Over at ProBasketballTalk, Matt Moore theorizes that it’s because of the $7 million Hamilton would reportedly forfeit from the $24 million left on his contract, in a buyout. As Moore points out, $7 million is a lot to lose, but if Hamilton is going to start uprisings against his head coach, he better be willing to take his first ticket out of town.
Contemptible as it may be, we bet Hamilton really wants to stay in Detroit; he just needs Kuester to go to make it happen. He has a connection with the fans – who chanted “We Want Rip!” when learning of his benching – and the organisation, where he’s been a stalwart the last nine seasons. He’s also crafted a legacy in Piston red-and-blue, having been a starter on the teams that dominated the NBA to the tune of six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances in the mid-2000s.
There’s nothing wrong in Hamilton cherishing his place in Pistons lore, or in insisting he can still be a valued contributor to the team as it’s currently constructed. There’s a lot wrong in believing he needs to oust his head coach to do so.
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