Richard Hamilton has come a long way from the wide-eyed ball of energy who told the Detroit Free Press in 2002 he had trouble adjusting to Detroit.
“I’m not the greatest with maps and directions, so it’s going to take a while. I have a feeling I’m going to get really lost a few times,” said Hamilton , who was traded from the Wizards to the Pistons as part of the early September blockbuster deal that involved Jerry Stackhouse.
“I can’t even find this place (The Palace) yet. I was thinking of calling a taxi so I could follow him here and learn the way. Seriously!”
Hamilton has lost that playful attitude at times, but he’s sure got it now.
He’s at his best when he’s not distracted by anything that keeps him from having fun — stuff like his friend Chauncey Billups being traded for Allen Iverson, who dominates the ball and pushed Hamilton to bench. The situation had to bring back memories of playing with Michael Jordan in Washington. From the Free Press in 2002:
“I played with the greatest player who ever played the game of basketball,” Hamilton said. “But in turn, I never got the credit I deserved. I never really did. There were situations where I would do well, and, like, when I came here, people said, ‘I didn’t know you could do this.’ I was like, ‘Man, I’ve always done it.’ But I was always overshadowed there. Not to say it was a bad thing — I had a great time playing with him — but there were positives and there were negatives.”
Back in the starting lineup for the first time in five weeks, Hamilton has shown what he always could do. And the Pistons are playing harder and scrappier with Hamilton, who they surely see as the rightful heir to the Detroit throne left vacant by Ben Wallace, then Billups.
And Hamilton has played like a king.
In the last two games, he’s averaging 28 points on 57 percent shooting, 7.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds. He won’t keep those numbers up, but he’ll continue to perform better than his season averages.
Five of his nine assists came in the first quarter against the Celtics, which got his teammates involved early. In the final 79 seconds of the game, he assisted on a Tayshaun Prince 3-pointer from the corner, hit one of his own and hit a pair of free throws. And he had a game-best +20 rating.
More than a king, he has been King Midas. His touch turned an eight-game losing streak into back-to-back-win gold over elite teams (Boston and Orlando).
This isn’t the first time Hamilton has significantly elevated his game.
Hamilton excelled against the Pacers in the 2004 Eastern Conference semifinals, scoring 31.5 percent of the Pistons’ points in the series. By comparison, Dwyane Wade — the NBA leader in this category this season — scores just 29.9 percent of the Heat’s points. And Wade isn’t guarded by Ron Artest every game.
The next year, he set career highs in assists (4.9 per game) and rebounds (3.9 per game).
He entered the following season as 29.8-percent 3-point shooter and then led the league by shooting 45.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Hamilton has been solid since, going to three straight All-Star Games before this year.
But it seems like we could be seeing a new level from him. At 31, Hamilton, who claims to have never drank alcohol or done drugs, has his athleticism and knows a few veteran tricks.
And back in the starting lineup, he looks like a new man.
He looks the guy who works out in the offseason by running with his pit bulls until they get tired, who once braided his hair to look like the tread in a Goodyear tire, who playfully punches his teammates in the chest before games.
Most of all, he looks like he’s having fun. And so do the Pistons.
The Pistons force the second-fewest turnovers, and Boston turns the ball over third most per game in the league. So, something had to give, and the Celtics did in the second quarter. They gave and gave and gave.
Detroit won the second quarter, 35-25, and Boston had five turnovers in the period. Will Bynum had three steals in the quarter.
Led by Walter Herrmann’s 11 and Bynum’s eight, the Pistons’ bench scored 30 points. And that’s without Iverson.
Dating back to the Magic game on Friday, Tayshaun Prince broke a 19-minute scoreless streak with a free throw in the second quarter. He finished today’s game with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Rasheed Wallace picked up his 15th technical foul of the season, but Chris McCosky of the Detroit News thinks it might get rescinded.
Paul Pierce scored 26 points. Like I’ve said before, Prince’s defense isn’t what it used to be.
Glen Davis, replacing the injured Kevin Garnett at power forward for the Celtics, had five points (1-of-5 shooting), two rebounds and no assists in the first half. But he had 13 points (6-of-8), four rebounds and three assists in the second half.
Projected score analysis: why Boston didn’t win, 97-92
Pace: 81.3 (Expected: 89.1)
Detroit offensive rating: 129.2 (Expected: 103.2)
Boston offensive rating: 116.9 (Expected: 109.0)
The pace of the game was lower than expected, but both teams had significantly better offensive rating than expected.
Detroit’s key was hitting 34-of-40 free throws, a season-high for makes. It was also the most attempts for a Boston opponent.