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Kelly Dwyer

John Kuester needs to talk to Rip Hamilton

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Longtime readers will know that we were never amongst the chorus that constantly overrated Rip Hamilton. Always among the types that pointed out how terrible his contract extension was starting, oh, probably the day he signed it. Never thought he was the type to put a team over the top in the years since signing the extension, were a team to deal with the struggling Pistons. Always mindful of what he did exceedingly well (score, from 15-19 feet), and what he didn't (everything else).

But this, Pistons coach John Kuester, is ridiculous.

Because Rip Hamilton is not a "Did Not Play-Coach's Decision" player at this point in his career, yet he's sat for eight straight games. And even in the context of the miserable Pistons, with all those like-minded guards taking long jumpers, he's still not a DNP-CD player. There's no reason for him not to be out there, if even for token minutes.

And yet Kuester continues to sit Hamilton. And though the Pistons are winning, during this little streak of sitting (a 5-3 record), nobody is paying attention. They're only talking about Hamilton and Kuester.

Perhaps we shouldn't be talking about Detroit's winning ways. They took care of the Magic Monday night, nice win, but otherwise the victories have come against the miserable Kings, the hopeless Raptors, Dallas in Dirk's first game back, and a strange Suns team that could not hit the side of the barn with a shot while making some terrible decisions down the stretch that the Pistons didn't exactly influence. Sorry for raining on the parade, because the Pistons are earning these wins, but this isn't really a legendary turnaround.

And it was Hamilton, from the start, that let the press know that Kuester hadn't even bothered to tell him why he was sitting out. That the coach couldn't even walk over to let the former Pistons star know that he was sitting because it was time to rebuild, or because he wanted Will Bynum(notes) to dominate the ball more, or because a three-way deal between the Pistons, Nuggets and Nets (sending Hamilton to New Jersey) was in the offing.

Kuester wasn't talking. Then the trade fell through, Hamilton appears to be staying in Detroit for the foreseeable future, and yet he's still sitting. No team is rushing to take that bad contract off Detroit's hands, the only reason he was going to be traded in the first place is because New Jersey wanted to overpay for some names without games to make Carmelo Anthony(notes) happy, and even the worst GMs in the NBA haven't been able to talk themselves into bringing Hamilton in.

But that doesn't mean you sit him entirely. It doesn't mean you dig a hole this big to begin with by not at least offering him token minutes in the second or third quarters. And it certainly doesn't mean you use a liaison to reach out to a player that has been in Detroit since 2002.

From Tuesday's Detroit News:

Hamilton, according to reports, said he was approached by longtime head of team security Jerry Hendon and apparently was offended.

Kuester was asked if he needed to do more, but said he feels like he's done his part.

"We've reached out, and we have the open-door policy," Kuester said. "There's a combination (of responsibility). Anytime a player need to talk, my door is always open."

That open-door policy would be nice if you ran, say, a factory. With dozens or hundreds of workers. But this is the NBA. You have a 10-man rotation and 15 guys on the roster. You can't find personal time for each of these players?

Even general managers, though we think they spend their days thinking up terrible trades, finding new BlackBerry shortcuts or watching NCAA clips, have dozens of employees under their watch, not including players. It's a tough gig, with lots of responsibilities. Coaching is a tough gig, too, but with fewer names. You just have these 15 players -- these 15 men, John Kuester -- and there's no excuse for not handling this better.

No player is owed minutes based on fine work from 2004. No player is owed minutes because he makes more money than players that play ahead of him. But Hamilton still scores at a solid rate and can help a team toward a win. Worse, unless he's making life absolutely unbearable for Kuester and his teammates behind the scenes, there's just no reason for a batch of public disrespect like this. Not the lack of minutes, but the lack of communication.

And with teams seemingly in no real hurry to take Hamilton off Detroit's books? Things better shape up and quickly. The win streak is nice, and the cohesion is clearly there on the court without Hamilton. Now it's time to put the winning ways on the front page, and not the soap opera.

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