In hindsight, John Kuester is going through the same mess that partially sabotaged Michael Curry last year -- he spent all training camp and preseason planning around one set of players only to lose two key veterans in the opening week.
Curry eventually got one of his veterans back when McDyess re-signed, but Billups was obviously lost for good. Now, I'm curious if the same thing happens to Kuester -- Hamilton taking a month to recover from his high ankle sprain while Prince misses much, and possibly all, of the season with his back injury.
So far, guessing at a timeline for Hamilton and Prince to return is premature (and when I suggest Prince might miss the year, it's more of a "wouldn't be surprised"-type guess than "I firmly believe it'll happen"), but in talking with some other reporters at Sunday's game, I'm not alone in thinking it'll be longer than anyone is publicly admitting.
In any case, here's my latest on FanHouse, in which I cover this and more.
The Pistons haven't offered an official prognosis for either player, but given that Hamilton is still wearing a walking boot 11 days after originally suffering the injury, it seems likely his continued absence will be measured in weeks, not days.
Fortunately, Ben Gordon (24.0 points per game), Rodney Stuckey (16.0) and Will Bynum (11.0) have helped shoulder the scoring load, although the offense has become noticeably more one-on-one oriented without Hamilton's trademark ability to move without the ball.
On average, NBA players are assisted on 55.6% of their made shots -- and Hamilton was assisted on 70.2% of his makes last season. But more often than not, Gordon (assisted on just 41.5% of his buckets through seven games this year), Stuckey (26.2%), and Bynum (14.8%) create their own shots by taking their man off the dribble. There's nothing inherently wrong with that style of play, but less ball movement obviously makes it more difficult for the rest of the players on the floor to get going.
While high ankle sprains can take a long time to heal, Hamilton should be as good as new one he does finally return. Unfortunately, the same is not certain about Prince, who's sidelined indefinitely with a ruptured disk in his back.
Back injuries are always scary, but what makes Prince's ailment especially worrisome is the fact that it looks like it may be a recurring condition. Although he didn't miss a single game in 2008-09, he played through soreness in his back late in the year, which contributed to his absolutely abysmal showing on both ends of the court in Detroit's embarrassing first-round sweep at the hands of the Cavs.
Is last year's soreness related to this year's ruptured disk? It seems plausible, especially given the wear and tear Prince's rail-thin frame has absorbed over the years, which featured an iron-man streak of not missing a single game over six full seasons, not to mention 118 playoff games and two summers playing with Team USA.
Etc, etc. Read the whole thing.