Sources: Rip Hamilton declined offer
Hamilton has been unhappy with the Pistons in general and coach John Kuester in particular and was supposedly behind a team boycott of Friday's shootaround in Philadelphia before a 110-94 loss to the 76ers.
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Sources say, though, the idea of a team boycott is "overblown" and that only Hamilton missed the shootaround without explanation.
According to a Yahoo! Sports report, Hamilton verbally undressed Kuester in front of the team at a practice in January. Hamilton reportedly called his coach a failure and a career assistant. He reportedly told Kuester had blown his opportunity as a head coach.
It was the second time Hamilton instigatated a confrontation with Kuester, according to the report.
Hamilton, who has played in one game since Jan. 10, played two more games before being permanently benched by Kuester.
Kuester has brushed off talk of a possible mutiny after what happened Friday, and he tried to remain upbeat Saturday.
"It was an internal thing. We're moving on. We're ready to go," Kuester said. "You can tell how calm I am outside. My insides are probably turning a little bit. ... You just want to compete."
The vexing part for the Pistons is that Hamilton could be with a bona fide playoff team right now.
The Pistons had a deal arranged with the Cleveland Cavaliers to acquire Hamilton, league sources say.
The Pistons would have added a first-round pick to compensate the Cavaliers for taking Hamilton off their hands. Cleveland could have absorbed Hamilton's contract with a $12 million trade exception.
The Cavaliers, league sources say, were willing to buy out Hamilton immediately or wait until the summer and buy out the last year of his contract. Sources say both the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls were aware of the deal and were looking to add Hamilton to their roster once he was available.
The Bulls, in particular, thought he could start for them, according to a source.
Hamilton, however, declined to consider a buyout, now or later, and the deal died, sources say.
Neither Pistons president Joe Dumars nor Leon Rose, Hamilton's agent, were available for comment.
Sources say the player boycott was actually a "perfect storm" that resulted in half of the team not showing up or showing up late. Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady were both ill. Ben Wallace has a brother who was gravely ill and died Saturday. Wilcox overslept and Daye and Stuckey missed the team bus because the departure time was moved up from 11 to 10:30 a.m. ET. They have insisted to team officials they did not receive notification of the change.
The only player who actually missed shootaround without explanation, one source said, was Hamilton.
"The team boycott idea is being overblown," the source said. "It was more miscommunication than defiance."
Sources told the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News on Friday that the shootaround boycott was directed at Kuester, who has clashed with players in the past.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com Friday that Pistons veterans tried to organize a teamwide boycott of Detroit's shootaround before its last game prior to the All-Star break.
But the walkout was called off, sources said, when some Pistons players were told that Kuester was about to be dismissed during All-Star Weekend. Detroit went out that night and scored a 115-109 overtime victory at home over a hot Indiana team.
Prior to Friday's game in Philadelphia, sources said, similar attempts were made by the same veterans to organize a teamwide no-show at the morning shootaround again, presumably in response to the fact that no trades were made before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline and the fact that Kuester was not let go.
Kuester said he wasn't concerned about his job status, and he said coaches around the league have been supportive.
"One of the things you have to do is feel comfortable about the way you're handling things, and I feel comfortable," Kuester said.
All of the players who missed or were late to shootaround were held out of Detroit's Friday night loss. That left the Pistons with only six available players: Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Jason Maxiell, Greg Monroe, DaJuan Summers and Charlie Villanueva.
"We had six guys that played their hearts out," Kuester said. "They gave this everything they had. I was so disappointed that I got kicked out, because I was fighting for my players."
The Pistons were short-handed again in Saturday's 120-116 win over Utah.
Wallace was unavailable Saturday night following the death of his brother, and Prince and McGrady didn't play either. Kuester said McGrady was sick and Prince had a back problem. Hamilton remained out with a sore groin.
"We've had a lot of interesting things happen to our team," Kuester said after the win. "The guys that were out there tonight, God bless them. They really worked hard tonight. This shows that no one is entitled to anything. You earn respect every day, not from the past."
Ric Bucher covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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