by Eric J. Woodyard

In order for a team to represent the Motor City, it’s a requirement to have one thing: Soul. The Pistons faltered early on this season, but they finally found their rhythm last night when they stomped the Washington Wizards.

The 2004 Pistons had Motown Sound on lock. They had each other on beat. But they gradually let the music fade as coaching and personnel evolved. If you’re playing in the D, you can’t ignore the soul. Motown Records was created here for crying out loud! How could the Pistons ignore that fact? Detroit was the home of the Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations, who made Detroit better known as Hittsville, U.S.A. during their reign.

Forget the title, the Pistons were not the Pistons last night, they were more like the Original Temptin’ Temptations. Allen Iverson was David Ruffin, Rip Hamilton was Eddie Kendricks, Rodney Stuckey was Paul Williams, Rasheed Wallace was Melvin Franklin, and Tayshaun Prince was Otis Williams. The Palace was their stage and, although the arena was not sold out, they still put on a good show for the fans, which is typical of the Tempts.

Pre-show:

While most of the Pistons are on the floor taking part in the shoot around, Iverson chills in the locker room with Rip and Sheed listening to Young Jeezy and getting dressed. His headband is just right. His sleeve is on perfect. His kicks are tied a particular way.

“What’s up man?” Iverson says as I walked in.

"David Ruffin" Iverson“Can I talk to you for a second?” I reply.

“Oh, I don’t do interviews before the game playboy,” he responds.

Typical David Ruffin, huh?

After watching the Tempts prepare for a few minutes, I spy on the Wiz. As soon as I walk in, I see the last person I expected to see: Agent Zero. Injured or not, Gilbert Arenas exuberates lots of energy to the squad. He talks with a stretching Antawn Jamison and suited up Juan Dixon while eating pasta and drinking Gatorade.

“Videogames are soothing to the brain. Look at the top video gamers and their IQs, they have minds that are great,” Gil says.

“I believe it because some of them games are hard, man. It be hard to pass them levels,” Dixon says.

“I love playing because it helps your hand and eye coordination,” Gil says.

I listened to them go on with this for a good 10 minutes before I walked out onto the floor to find my seat.

As soon as I left, I bump into DeShawn Stevenson in the tunnel. He’s fresh off of signing autographs for the fans and he had a few things to say about the game:

SLAM: I know they’ve struggled, but how do you feel about playing against Detroit here in the Palace tonight?
DeShawn Stevenson: Yeah, they have been struggling but we’ve been struggling too. They still got talented players. They got Sheed, A.I., Rip, and even Tayshaun, so we got to go out there and work hard and play hard.

SLAM: You guys have some jokesters in the locker room. Is this how the team usually prepares for games by staying loose?
DS: That’s what we do. We tend to get away from it now because we’ve been losing and trying to get focused but our team does a great job of joking. We’ve got Gil, Me, Caron, Nick Young and Andray Blatche so it’s a real good locker room. Usually, we have some jokes about Nick and he going back… (Juan Dixon walks past during our interview giving DeShawn and I a playful mug before busting out laughing)… Juan is one of the more serious ones.

SLAM: Who is the biggest jokester?
DS: It’s got to be Gil hands down!

SLAM: Who is behind him?
DS: Nick Young.

SLAM: Do you and Gil ever go at it? Everyone remembers you guys doing the shooting competition on YouTube.
DS: Naw, Me and him got this thing where we don’t go at each other but we go at everybody else though.

SLAM: Aside from playing in the locker room, what are you looking to do out there tonight?
DS: I look to go out there and get a win and at the same time play hard and do what I do. Shoot three’s and play D, but we know they’re going to be excited because we beat them at home. They’re a better team than how they’re playing right now and they playing in Detroit. It’s hard to play in Detroit.

After listening to Stevenson I find my seat, which is right behind the soul of the Palace, John Mason. He is like the Berry Gordy to the Temptations because he gives them their style. He added a few comments:

SLAM: Obviously, you reside in the birthplace of soul, and you have in a sense become the soul of the Palace. How did you get into doing what you’re doing?
John Mason: Actually, some people just asked me to sit in on a practice that they were doing in the city of Detroit. Then they said you can come to the Palace and try it, and I was like For real? I was like, All I want to do is get two good game seats, and that’s how it started. I learned on the spot, and I was very blessed.

SLAM: How do you come up with the creative names?
JM: From living in Detroit (laughs). Just the feel of the city and the whole player thing.

SLAM: What’s your favorite name to say?
JM: I like them all. It’s something different for everybody, and I’m still trying to work something for Iverson out. I call him “The I.” That’s the biggest thing about him. A.I. So he’s Allen “The I.”

I hear the chants of “DEE-TROIT BASKET-BALL!!” loud and clear from this vibrant man. Rick Mahorn is also a couple of seats down from me and the two joke throughout the game.

Showtime

— After the Tempts are introduced, they don’t let the crowd down. Although he was a late addition to the group, David Ruffin (excuse me…Allen Iverson) lead the way like he was in a soul train line and couldn’t be put out of the paint.

— Eddie Kendricks (excuse me…Rip Hamilton) stays in his comfort zone with the sweet sounds of mid-range shots draining the net for that high-pitched swish!

— Paul Williams (excuse me…Rodney Stuckey) is a dancing machine, and he was all over the place as he dished out a career-high 11 assists.

Rasheed music— Rasheed Wallace (excuse me…Melvin Franklin) is the bass of the group as he couldn’t stop talking and picked up a technical foul in the third quarter.

— Tayshaun Prince (excuse me…Otis Williams) is seemingly in the background as usual but was just as effective as he other Tempts as he poured in 12 points.

Post-show

The show was great and left the fans wanting an encore. Iverson’s rhythm was on point. His moves were as sharp as a needle. His groove was as funky as it’s been all tour.

“Since day one, I loved to play. I love to be on the basketball court. I think if I played 47 minutes, I would be upset that I didn’t play the other minute,” Allen Iverson says. “That’s just inside of me, and I just love to play basketball. When the game’s over and we play four quarters, I can play another one. It helps my rhythm because I get a chance to warm and get in a groove instead of going in and out of the game. I hope that will continue.”

During Iverson’s short tenure with the group, he has been viewed as somewhat of a problem child by missing practices and spitting vicious words at fans, costing him fines because the Tempts are known for their classiness. Despite all of this, the other group members are really starting to come around to David. Notably Rip Hamilton, who looks to keep on truckin’, baby.

“We feel good and we just want to keep winning and getting better. We didn’t have an opportunity to play in training camp together, so now this is pretty much our training camp, and we’re learning on the fly,” Rip Hamilton says.

“Anytime you make a trade in the middle of the season it’s a tough adjustment because you got learn a guy’s tendencies. So initially it’s not easy when you’re used to playing a certain system and have to come to a whole brand new system and whole new different concepts. It’s tough! But we’re having fun and hopefully we can continue to win games.”

The Temptations will pick back up on the tour this Friday with their perfect musical match, the Utah Jazz.