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The Best Laid Plans...

We're all waiting for
the other shoe to drop.
By Andy Fung
January 20, 2011

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." - Robert Burns

Well, there goes that idea!  It appears that the proposed three-team deal that would have sent Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey is dead, and so too are the chances that the Pistons will shed Richard "Rip" Hamilton, his disgruntled disposition, and his outrageous contract.  It appears that for the foreseeable future, Detroit and Hamilton are stuck with each other.

I wanted to write that that is not entirely a bad thing, but who am I kidding?  It's a terrible thing.  Terrible with raisins in it, to quote Dorothy Parker.  No matter how many different scenarios I imagine unfolding, there is simply no happy ending to this fairy tale-- except for, of course, Rip being traded asap.

And therein lies the problem.  With two years and roughly $25 million still owed to the Pistons legend (and he is a franchise legend), Detroit is going to find it extremely difficult to move him this season.  No team in this year of collective bargaining purgatory is going to take on his unreasonable contract-- certainly not in exchange for salary cap relief, as the Nets were offering.  That ship, unfortunately for Pistons fans, and I suppose for the NJ faithful, has sailed.

New Jersey, in their desperate attempt to acquire Anthony, had simply succumbed to agent Leon Rose's demands that Anthony be united with Hamilton.  Rose, predictably, represents both of these wayward players.  The Nets, with their obvious crush on Melo, were willing to take on Rip's contract if it meant they would land the unhappy Nugget.  The major stipulation was that he would agree to an extension before the trade was consummated, and the best way to coax a financial decision like that was to appeal to the player's agent.  There had been reports that Carmelo himself required a union with Hamilton to make a deal work, but I don't really buy it.  He strikes me as someone who doesn't really care who he's playing with, as long as he gets his 25 to 30 shots a night.  Maybe he thought, with Rip shooting at basically a career-low clip, that would mean more shots for himself.  But, no, this was clearly New Jersey's way of appeasing the most influential person--from a business standpoint-- in Carmelo's life.  Rose, in his defense, was/is trying to do the best thing for his clients: Rip clearly wants out of his current situation, and Melo-- well, I think we know what he wants.

And that brings me back to what Pistons fans really care about, and that is the future of Richard Hamilton.  It will be almost impossible to trade him now that he has been benched in what has been his worst statistical and emotional season in Detroit.  Nobody is looking for an aging two-guard with near career-low numbers, a salary cap killing contract, and enough baggage to make Diana Ross blush.  Nobody.  Not a contendor, such as Chicago, who is one playoff veteren away from really making some noise, and not a team rebuilding, such as Cleveland, looking for a semi-marquee name to keep fans interested.  Taking on Hamilton at this point would be financially crippling to any team.

Next year is a different story, however.  Assuming the Player's Association and the League iron out a new CBA, there may be several teams looking for a player near the last year of his contract that would equal the savings Rip's contract will when it finally does expire.  Two seasons from now, when Rip is actually in the final year of his deal, Detroit will be fighting back teams with a stick.  But that leaves the little detail of what happens until that time.  Rip, who many think was benched to avoid an injury that would negate the potential deal, is not going to forget what has transpired.  Pistons coach John Kuester, who insisted his benching was a rotation decision, will be caught in a catch-22: If he plays Rip, he's a liar, and if he continues to bench him, he's a villain.

We've heard a lot from Hamilton and we've heard a little from Kuester, but we haven't heard anything from Pistons president Joe Dumars, who happens to be at the controls of this runaway train.  I don't blame him!  Dumars has made his bed, and now he must lay in it.  It was his decision to give Rip that insane extension the same day he traded the player he probably should've kept, Chauncey Billups.  I understand his thinking: Hamilton, whose game is predicated on conditioning and a tight half-court set, would continue to produce while the bridge from one era to another was constructed, and at the same time he would reward his franchise's all-time leading playoff scorer with a rich contract.  It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, but what is that expression about 'the best laid plans'?    


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