“The hard part is supposedly done: the part where Curry had to tell a starting All-Star that he would now be a Sixth Man All-Star. The part where said starter might have gone sideways and sulked.”

Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Richard “Rip” Hamilton has taken his benching with some aplomb. I must admit, I’m a little taken aback.

Hamilton, the Pistons’ All-Star guard and second-leading scorer, that tireless whippet on the basketball floor, will now join the ranks of the Sixth Men.

He got the news yesterday, as coach Michael Curry finally pulled the trigger — asking Hamilton to come off the bench so that the Pistons may actually start some guys who are bigger than a junior college outfit. The new/old starting lineup consists of Rodney Stuckey and Allen Iverson in the backcourt, with Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Amir Johnson up front. It supplants the “small ball” version, with Hamilton playing the third wheel, er, guard, and with Johnson on the bench.

A recent five-game losing streak greased the skids to this decision. That, combined with the seven-game win streak that was attained with Hamilton injured, caused Curry to use some math — otherwise known as “putting two and two together.”

The solution? Get bigger — necessitating one of the three guards to sit out the opening tap and maybe even most of the first quarters of games. Curry had his pick of Stuckey, Iverson, and Hamilton. Last week, I wrote that the coach had chickened out when Hamilton returned from his injury, opting to keep the little guys together at the start, rather than break some bad news to someone — likely either Iverson or Hamilton. Curry didn’t have that discussion, and the Pistons lost a couple more games to inferior opponents. That’s when he decided to add two and two together, and bite the bullet.

Curry picked Hamilton for the benching.

The coach used some basketball speak to explain his decision, but it was hard not to think that league seniority had something to do with it. That, and the fact that Hamilton is more of a known entity to Curry.


Can Hamilton provide the Pistons with Microwave-like instant heat off the bench?

And, as I mentioned at the top, Hamilton seems to be taking the news in stride — not looking at it as a demotion.

“That’s how I look at it: Just a sacrifice sometimes you got to make in order to win games,” he told the Free Press this morning. “Bottom line, I want to try to get back to the promise land.”

Then he added this crack: “I got to get my heat packs and I got to tell (strength coach) Arnie (Kander) to bring a bike out there to try to stay warm. It ain’t no more easing into games. By the time I get out there, guys are already going to be warmed up.”

Now, the Pistons can move forward. It is hoped.

The hard part is supposedly done: the part where Curry had to tell a starting All-Star that he would now be a Sixth Man All-Star. The part where said starter might have gone sideways and sulked.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time for that. It’s only January 21. But I give Hamilton high marks for putting his money where his mouth is. You know, that whole “I’m all about winning” thing. But I’m still awfully curious as to how Iverson would have handled such news. We’ll probably never know. Just as well, maybe.

The Pistons have about a month to get their act together. Then, the trading deadline will be upon us. It will be team president Joe Dumars’s last chance to tweak the current roster for the playoff run. The Pistons are on pace to win 48 games or so. Around here, that’s like being a lottery team.

But really, it’s the fifth seed — which means you’re on the road to start the first round. Again, with the Pistons, starting the playoffs on the road is so 1986.

So for now, the deed is done. Hamilton has been told of his new role. The Pistons have 42 games remaining. They’d better be an improvement over the first 40, or else we won’t see very much May basketball around these parts, let alone June hoops.

Curry mentioned great Sixth Men of the past in explaining his move. One of those he invoked was The Microwave — the Pistons’ Vinnie Johnson. VJ won a couple of rings bringing his canned heat off the bench. The inference was impossible to ignore — at least to the media types, and bottom feeding bloggers.

We’ll just have to wait and see if Rip Hamilton got the hint too.

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