Richard Hamilton Goes From Detroit Star to Forgotten Man
And hitting shots from everywhere, sweating like he'd just played an entire period.
"This is what I do now. This is where my energy goes. It helps me get rid of the frustration of not playing in the games,'' Hamilton told FanHouse after his solitary workout was finished. "It keeps me ready for whatever is going to happen, and it keeps me from going crazy.''
Hamilton, a key player for the Pistons for so many years, has been reduced to forgotten man at the end of the bench, knowing he was unlikely to play even before Monday night's game began against the Magic.
He may have averaged at least 17 points in each of his eight previous seasons with the Pistons, but he has lost his starting role -- and any role -- as the Pistons try to restructure their team.
From star to just standing around.
Even though he is healthy, Hamilton, 32, didn't play Monday for the eighth consecutive game, leaving him with a variety of emotions, none of which he likes.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever been through in this league. It's tough. It's frustrating. It's a lot of things,'' he said. "After so much success in one place, I never thought something like this could happen to me. And after all I've done here (for the franchise), I didn't expect it to come to this.''
Hamilton, a three-time All-Star, is one of seven players in franchise history to score more than 10,000 points. He was the Pistons' leading scorer for eight consecutive years and a key player in both their NBA championship season (2003-04) and their string of seven consecutive 50-win seasons.
He may have averaged 18.1 points last season, but a slow start, and coach John Kuester's desire to change his rotation when the Pistons struggled so badly early, left Hamilton to become the fall guy.
"Our focus right now is to get as many wins as we possibly can,'' Kuester told the Detroit Free Press in explaining the disappearance of Hamilton. "The group that is playing, they've done a good job. They have found a way to be resilient and continually working hard.''
In the eight games Hamilton did not play, the Pistons (17-28) are 5-3. They have played better without Hamilton, starting Tracy McGrady and Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt, then using Ben Gordon and Will Bynum as the backup guards.
The Pistons have tried trading Hamilton to several teams, but the two years and $21 million remaining on his contract makes moving him a difficult task. He was expecting to be part of the three-way deal that would have sent both him and Denver's Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey, but that deal collapsed.
"I can't trade myself. I'm not the one who will make that decision,'' Hamilton said when asked if he wanted to be traded. "I see what's going on. Everyone sees it. It's just been very difficult. They don't have to tell me anything. The way they are doing stuff tells me what they're thinking. But it doesn't make it any easier.''
Hamilton was averaging just 13.2 points, the lowest since his rookie year, and shooting only 41 percent from the field, a career low, when he was benched. The team wasn't winning. Even last season, when injuries limited him to just 46 games, the Pistons had their five-game winning streak when he was out.
Yet there have been times when he looked as good as ever. As a reserve, he scored 35 points against the Toronto Raptors, hitting 13 of 20 shots. There also were times when his play was uninspired.
He hasn't played since a dismal two-point effort against Chicago on Jan. 10. His absence, though, has led to several players around the league asking him if he'll ever play again in Detroit.
Kuester and Hamilton have hardly talked. Hamilton is too proud to ask directly for a meeting. Kuester said his door is always open to meet with players, but Hamilton doesn't believe it's his duty to take the initiative.
"I never thought I'd have to go through something like this,'' Hamilton said. "I would have taken that bet anytime. But things happen. Things change, I guess. I'm just trying to stay ready, because I can still play.''