The All-Also Rans: The Pistons once employed two of ‘B-Ball’s Best Kept Secrets’ at the same time


In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to spend the next two weeks profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.

Athletes trying to become musicians has always been a running punchline. But ‘B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret‘ was no joke. That album was one of the many CDs I got for a penny from BMG Music in the 1990s. The reason I had to have it: Ced Ceballos can rap. He had the above video with Warren G and it actually got played on MTV Jams fairly regularly for a little while.

There wasn’t much else particularly memorable about the album, other than the fact that somehow a bunch of random NBA players decided to put out a hip-hop album together which is memorable in itself. But I was pretty excited when Ceballos and another player featured on that CD, Dana Barros, became Pistons late in their careers.

Ceballos played 13 games for the Pistons during the 2000-01 season, which turned out to be his last in the league. He didn’t have much left by the time he was a Pistons, but he was always one of my favorite underrated players in the league. He had the famous blindfold dunk to win the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, he was an All-Star during the 1994-95 season with a fun pre-Kobe/Shaq Lakers team that featured Nick Van Exel, Vlade Divac, Elden Campbell, Eddie Jones, George Lynch, Anthony ‘Pig’ Miller, Lloyd ‘Sweet Pea’ Daniels, Sedale Threat, Anthony Peeler and, amazingly, Kurt Rambis, who played in 26 games that season.

Ceballos was great around the basket and one of the better players in the league at moving without the ball. He never quite replicated the production he had that season, but he was a legitimate rotation scorer who didn’t need many plays run for him to get baskets throughout his career. He had one great performance for the Pistons, scoring 19 points off the bench in a loss to Indiana, and was eventually traded to the Miami Heat for a second round pick.

He didn’t make much impact for the Pistons, but he, along with John Wallace and Eric Murdock, at the very least was part of a trade that rid the team of Christian Laettner, so that’s a positive contribution in my book. And on top of that, the Pistons were eventually able to use Wallace in a trade that got them Clifford Robinson.

Barros lasted a bit longer with the Pistons, playing 89 games over two seasons after the team acquired him from Dallas for Loy Vaught. Although Barros’ rapping didn’t immediately stick out to me like Ceballos’ did, Barros, like Ceballos, was also a part of a really fun 1990s team, the Seattle Supersonics. I always liked Barros, a smallish sharpshooting point guard, on those teams, but stuck behind point guards Gary Payton and Nate McMillan, opportunities were limited for him in Seattle.

Barros was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he also made the 1994-95 All-Star Team, also his only appearance in the game. He signed with the Boston Celtics as a free agent, didn’t fully live up to expectations, and eventually found himself on a rebuilding Pistons team late in his career.

He had a good season off the bench for the Pistons in 2000-01, averaging 8.0 points per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. The following season, started 19 games for an eventual playoff team, although his shooting dipped to 34 percent from three and he was eventually supplanted by Chucky Atkins as the regular starter.

I’ve met a lot of NBA fans over the years who remember that album for all kinds of nostalgic reasons. And looking back on it, it was pretty terrible music, as most athlete/actor attempts at becoming musicians inevitably are. But to a teenager obsessed with the NBA, it was great, and it’s pretty unique that the Pistons have three connections (the late Malik Sealy, a Piston for one season in 1997-98 was also featured on it) to such a random part of the 1990s NBA.