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The divorce was messy, but remember the good times?

Imagine how much can happen in a nine-year relationship, the peaks and valleys, the emotional rewards and consequences. In many ways, a city, team, and its fans have this type of relationship with its favorite athletes.

When Richard "Rip" Hamilton returns to the Palace tonight, it'll be a lot like running into your ex-girlfriend. Not some one-night stand (Allen Iverson) or a girl you went out with for a couple of years (Mehmet Okur), but like a looooong-time girlfriend-- maybe even an ex-wife. 

It's going to be awkward.

First, the rush of blood and heat to your face. Then, the clumsiness as you try to play it cool. And finally, the first words, "Um, hi..."

(An example of such an exchange at the 1:03 mark of the following video.)

What's worse is if you run into her and she's with another guy, as Rip will be tonight when he'll show up holding hands with the Chicago Bulls. You might feel hurt and inadequate or angry and jealous.

No matter how it unfolds, it's going to be strange seeing Rip at the Palace playing against the Pistons. Initially, your mind will race to the last few years-- the fighting, the arguing, the resentment. There will be those that will boo and jeer him-- after the ugliness of the last two seasons, that's natural. But, don't forget about the good-- sometimes great-- times. The reason it will be so difficult seeing Rip with another team is because we did share good great times with him. After all, he is Detroit's all-time playoff scoring leader. He was part of the group that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals, two NBA Finals, and one glorious mountain top in 2004.

The divorce was messy, sure, but we got the house (the Palace), custody of the kid (Tayshaun), and even rekindled another past love affair (Ben Wallace).

Rip's moved on and he's happy in his new relationship with the Bulls.

We spent nine (mostly) wonderful years with him. Push past the bitterness, anger-- the bad memories, and just give the guy a hug.


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