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Gossip and rumors: How Flip lost the locker room

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Take this for what it's worth, but Martin McNeal, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee, claims to know how Flip Saunders lost his locker room:

But fast-forward to late in the season, when center Ben Wallace (a free agent-to-be and another huge decision for president Joe Dumars this summer) decided not to re-enter a game in Orlando despite Saunders' repeated requests.

The buzz is that Saunders lost a great deal of respect in the locker room when he talked about Wallace's decision and then told the team it was not going to win the championship because of incidents such as that one.

That did not go over well with the Pistons, and Saunders was told in direct terms by one veteran not to say anything like that again to the team.

As players left the locker room, they saw Saunders being consoled by assistant coach Sidney Lowe. And with that sight, Saunders lost more respect.

When the Pistons struggled in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saunders' methods became the target of some of his players, Wallace included. It wasn't as if the Pistons had never sailed through rocky waters, but the loss of respect for Saunders led to leaks in the craft.

Honestly, I regard this as little more than gossip, and I won't be surprised if the story was relayed to McNeal through at least a second- or third-hand source (or worse) -- it's a little peculiar that he's providing details that haven't appeared (or at least, been widely reported) in the Detroit media. And even if it is true, it's somewhat of a moot point considering Joe Dumars confirmed Saunders will be returning next season.

Pistons' Saunders sees how a season turns bad [Sacramento Bee, via Full-Court Press]