TORONTO - What used to be one of the NBA’s model franchises, a club built on the tenet of team play, has now disintegrated with no apparent end in sight and no reason for optimism.
And to think the Detroit Pistons came within one game of repeating as league champions as early as six years ago.
The unthinkable has unfolded, culminating with what many interpreted as a boycott at shootaround that resulted in six players dressing in a 110-94 loss in Philadelphia last Friday.
With the clarity of hindsight, it’s now easy to pinpoint the downfall of the Pistons, a team whose ownership has yet to be straightened out, a team that overpaid to lure free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, a team that would draft Darko Milicic over the likes of a Chris Bosh and a Dwyane Wade, a team that traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson and a team that did little to address a season-long feud pitting head coach John Kuester and Richard Hamilton.
By all accounts, Hamilton, once the embodiment of professionalism and selflessness, was the catalyst to the rebellion, an act that’s as classless as it is bold, at least when viewed from afar.
By all accounts, the man known as RIP could have been part of a deal to Cleveland, but wouldn’t sign off when a buyout was broached.
As bad as things have gone in the post LeBron era in Cleveland, the state of the Pistons is laughable.
No one knows how team president Joe Dumars has kept his job, but many in basketball are expecting plenty of heads to roll and plenty of changes to get engineered once this joke of a season is finally and mercifully completed.
“It was an internal thing,’’ Kuester said of the alleged mutiny. “We’re moving on. We’re ready to go. You can tell how calm I am outside. My insides are probably turning a little bit ... You just want to compete.”
Darrell Walker’s name was quickly floated as a possible replacement for Kuester when word of the players’ apparent boycott emerged.
Walker is no stranger to coaching under adverse situations, having served under Isiah Thomas in Toronto and under Michael Jordan in Washington, two of Walker’s staunchest allies.
Relegated to the ranks of an afterthought, Hamilton should have been traded months ago once it became obvious that he and Kuester weren’t on the same page.
Reports in Detroit indicate that players believed Kuester was poised to get relieved at the all-star break.
When he wasn’t, a confluence of events conspired to ignite last week’s unusual chain of events.
For the record, Hamilton and Chris Wilcox, who claimed he overslept, were each slapped with fines in the wake of the shootaround fiasco.
In addition, Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye were fined for their tardiness.
To add to the drama were the absences of Tracy McGrady and Tayshaun Prince, who were both feeling under the weather, while Ben Wallace was excused to attend to an ailing brother who would pass away the next day.
What’s next for the Pistons is purely speculative, but a complete housecleaning in the Motor City must be exercised, from top to bottom and all points in between.
Rock bottom has officially arrived in Detroit Rock City and how the franchise rebounds from its season-long embarrassment will set the table for the ensuing years.
AROUND THE RIM
Given his druthers, Danilo Gallinari would rather be in Gotham than Denver, but the small forward has, for now, put aside his personal feelings for the betterment of his new team. Against Portland, Gallinari scored 30 points and tied his season high by attempting 17 free throws ... One of the oddities to the Melo trade with the Knicks is the presence of two North Carolina point guards in the Mile High City — Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton, two players who helped lead the Tar Heels to national titles in a five-year span ... Mike Fratello’s name often gets linked with coaching vacancies in the NBA, but for now he’ll coach the Ukraine national team, which will compete in this summer’s European championship to be held in Lithuania ... Carmelo Anthony’s arrival in Gotham has caused quite the stir. His Garden debut attracted the highest rating on the MSG network since Michael Jordan’s first return out of retirement 16 years ago in the famous double nickel game when M.J. netted 55 points ... A night after losing to the Raptors, the Bulls beat the Heat in a game that featured Chris Bosh going 1 of 18 from the field, the worst shooting game in the NBA in close to 35 years. “They didn’t do anything,” Bosh said of Chicago’s defensive approach. “I just missed shots. They played good defence when it was time. That’s what they’re known for, but at the end of the day, I was, what we call, butt-naked wide open.” The one who would get exposed was Bosh ... It’s well known that Baron Davis and Byron Scott feuded in New Orleans, which led many to question Cleveland’s sanity to acquire the point guard from the Clippers. What isn’t well known is how Davis reached out to Scott this off-season, a time Davis took to thank Scott for trying to extract more by challenging Davis. “Speechless,” Scott said in summing up his emotions when Davis sought out the coach. When motivated, Davis can be among the game’s explosive players, the operative word being motivated.