New Bulls guard Richard Hamilton reflects on his time with the Pistons.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Every dynasty has a downfall, and the Pistons are no different. For six years, the Pistons were a perennial force in the East and a staple in the Conference Finals. It wasn’t like the Big Threes of today, where superstar players fuse together to form powerhouse teams. Detroit was more democratic. It was a sum of parts, much less divisive than superstars and role players. And together, they won a title.
The Pistons have missed two straight playoffs for the first time since 1994-95, as the days of hard-nosed play and lockdown defense look far different than the style of today’s team. While the Pistons are in rebuilding limbo, I asked guard Richard Hamilton to reflect on the days Detroit ruled the East.
“It was always great, you know,” he said. “We had a great time there, I had great teammates. We did a lot of special things there. Our ultimate goal was to win a world championship and we did that. It was special.”
Regarding his favorite memory from his days in Detroit, Hamilton says, “Just winning a championship with a great group of guys. Anytime you can win it for a city, it was an awesome feeling.”
While the Pistons did not generate the aura or glamour of some of today’s superstars and contending teams, there was one player who everybody wanted to know about. Asked why people were so drawn to Rasheed Wallace, Hamilton says, “Because how he was. Sheed is the type of guy that if he’s your teammate and he knows you and your family, he loves you to death. But if he doesn’t know you, he ain’t gonna speak to you. Like I said, he had an awesome personality. He knew who he was. A lot of people don’t know who they are and he always knew who he was and always stand by that.”
Wallace is described by many current and former players as possessing tremendous basketball acumen to match his talent. “He was awesome,” said Hamilton when asked about playing with Wallace, “He was a great teammate. His basketball IQ was crazy. He knew where guys were gonna be out on the floor and he knew what type of plays to be run, things like that, so he was awesome.”
Many from Detroit’s core have moved on, with Wallace now retired, 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups on the Clippers, and Hamilton in his first season with the Bulls. Hamilton has a chance to contend once again, as the Bulls finished last season with an NBA-best 62 wins. On his short time with Chicago, Hamilton says, “We got a lot of great pieces. I think the guys on the team love each other…great opportunity. We could really do something special, so we’ll see.”
As for what Hamilton wants his legacy as a basketball player to be, he says, “A winner. A guy that left everything on the line every night.”
He found that success with Detroit, and while the Pistons look to reclaim their former dominance, Hamilton will try to add to the momentum the Bulls built last season. While the success of a franchise ebbs and flows, individual careers can’t always wait through the process. Although it’s easy to recognize the Pistons for their recent struggles, we should take time to remember them as they were. I’m sure that’s what the Bulls were thinking when they signed Hamilton.