Rip Hamilton draws a line in the sand

From Chris McCosky:

It was their eighth straight loss, the longest skid since the 1994-95 season. They have now lost 17 of 22 and have fallen into seventh place in the East.

Worse still, the evidence continues to pile up that the Pistons are better without Iverson, and Richard Hamilton said he's done coming off the bench. The Pistons were down, 20-11, when Iverson left, eight minutes into the game. They rallied almost immediately, with Hamilton leading the way (24 points). Their energy was better, they competed harder, the offense ran smoother -- they just seemed more cohesive.

Coach Michael Curry dodged the issue of a lineup change, but Hamilton didn't.

"I said I would come off the bench as long as we win," Hamilton said. "But we've been losing. We are 4-12 with me coming off the bench. Something's got to give. Something's got to change. I am on board with doing whatever for the team but coming off the bench and we're not winning, that's something totally different."

This is actually the second time this week Hamilton has spoken out -- on Monday, when the losing streak was "only" six, he said the same thing to Vince Ellis of the Freep: "I didn't agree with coming off the bench, but I did it to help the team and to win games. But we haven't won games with me doing that."

Curry is now in an impossible position: if he starts Rip, it looks like he's being bullied; if he doesn't, he looks pigheaded. Them's the breaks for being over your head, I suppose.

At least in the short-term, Curry may be able to postpone dealing with this situation -- Allen Iverson played just eight minutes before leaving for good due to a bad back. He originally tweaked it in Tuesday's game, and it's too early to say if he'll be ready to play on Friday in Orlando or Sunday in Boston. If AI can't play Friday, the Pistons will be doubly short-handed: Rasheed Wallace will be out serving his one-game suspension after picking up technical fouls No. 15 and 16 against the Hornets. (Update: scratch that -- no suspensions for Sheed. Two techs from earlier this season were rescinded, meaning he still has 14 on the year.)

(Truth be told, Rodney Stuckey is making the whole "Rip or AI" question irrelevant -- as we've all seen (and Empty the Bench explains numerically), Stuck has been in a huge rut lately and is probably the least deserving of the trio to continue starting. Curry denies even thinking about sending Stuckey to the bench, and if you're ready to write this season off as a rebuilding year, then it's hard to argue. But still, Stuckey looks like a shell of the player he was even a month ago.)

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