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Pistons tighten ship with players-only meeting

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Dana Gauruder of the Oakland Press doesn't post much on his blog, but it's usually interesting stuff when he does. Such as today:

Curious ongoings before the Pistons' shootaround in Toronto this morning.

The media was banned from going into the locker room for a few minutes while the Pistons held a team meeting. Afterward, they were vague about what was going on.

I didn't appear to be anything major, like a rift between Flip Saunders and the players or in-fighting among the team. It was more of re-focusing, if you will. Apparently, some players had been coasting or blowing off stretchng exercises, weight-room work, etc.

Richard Hamilton and Juan Dixon both suffered injuries in recent days - Hamilton a sore hip, Dixon a strained calf. Dixon hasn't been around long enough for anyone to get mad at him, so Rip was probably one, if not the main, target.

The last thing the Pistons want is for people to coast into the playoffs and lose their sharpness when they need it most.

"Just something that needed to be said," Tayshaun Prince said. "Trying to gear up for these last 12 games or so, just to kind of finish off the right way."

A. Sherrod Blakely also made mention of the team meeting, though without connecting the dots to Rip:

Players were relatively mum on the meeting's specifics, but there were two general themes that seemed to be points of discussion.

1) Conditioning -- lately, the Pistons have been bothered by a few nagging injuries, in part because the players don't necessarily follow through as well as they should on the pre-game and shoot-around conditioning drills led by Kander. There was a noticeable improvement in their focus during those drills this morning, which may very well be tied into the team meeting.

2) Playoff preparation -- A couple different players mentioned how it's time for them to start to not just think about the playoffs, but start developing the kind of habits needed to ensure they don't suffer yet another early playoff exit.

Chris McCosky basically has the same in his blog, but adds that part of the meeting was led by Arnie Kander:

Strange shoot-around this morning. The Pistons booted everybody -- coaches, ballboys, equipment guys and even the media relations man Cletus Lewis -- out of the locker room and had a players only meeting. They rarely do that, especially when things are running smoothly, as they are right now.

Part of the meeting was conducted by Arnie Kander, the Pistons strength and conditioning guru. He, apparently, just got on the players about maintaining all the pre- and post-game (and practice) stretching and weight room work. With the playoffs on the horizon, this is not the time to slack off.

For a veteran team like the Pistons, you'd expect this type of self-policing now and then. Makes you wonder, though, if the team feels Rip Hamilton's current hip ailment could have been prevented -- both he and Juan Dixon are doubtful once again for tonight's game.

This is the time of year that the Pistons should be easing into top gear while preparing for the playoffs, not making adjustments on the fly by entering the stretch run without their leading scorer. But still, it's better they had this conversation today than a few weeks from now.