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 try to help pass the time by 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.
Few people can say that they’ve overshadowed Tim Duncan at any point in his career, but Randolph Childress is one of those people.
I’ve always had a weird affection for Wake Forest basketball — Michigan native Kyle Visser developed into a solid big man in that program. But I fell in love with that program watching the team led by Duncan and Childress in 1995.
In the 1995 ACC Tournament Final against a North Carolina team that featured future Pistons Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, Duncan was his typical dominant self with 16 points and 20 rebounds. But the player on the court who was impossible to take your eyes off of was Childress, who finished with 37 points. Here are some highlights:
I loved the fearlessness he played with and the fact that he looked genuinely pissed off that entire game, I loved the inside-outside connection between Childress and Duncan and, other than the Fab Five and UNLV, that is one of the first college basketball teams that I vividly remember watching.
So when the 1995 NBA Draft rolled around and the Pistons called his name with the 19th overall pick, I was momentarily excited — until it was announced that they were trading him to Portland as part of a deal for Otis Thorpe. Despite the obvious need Thorpe filled and the fact that the Pistons also traded the awful Bill Curley in that deal, I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t get to watch Childress as a Piston.
As fate would have it, though, Childress would eventually be a Piston. Portland traded him, along with Aaron McKie and Reggie Jordan, to the Pistons in January of 1997 for Stacey Augmon. That reunion, however, last just barely longer than when he was momentarily a Piston on draft night.
Childress reportedly, like so many others, didn’t get along well with then-Blazers coach P.J. Carlesimo. He also had a knee injury that severely limited him his rookie season. He played 10 minutes in his first game as a Piston, scoring eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in a win over Philadelphia, but he’d make just one more shot as a Piston in three more games that season. The team eventually released him and Childress didn’t play another NBA game, although he did go on to a long and successful career in foreign leagues.
I was convinced that Childress’ mix of scoring and playmaking ability along with his intense demeanor would make him a fantastic Pistons. Although he made no impact on the court, he did play a minor role in shaping the recent history of the organization — he was part of a trade that brought in McKie, who was used to trade for Stackhouse, who was used to trade for Rip Hamilton and he was part of the trade that brought Thorpe, who led to Darko Milicic, who led to Rodney Stuckey.