Rumors have Theo Ratliff on the verge of signing with the Philadelphia 76ers to replace injured center Jason Smith, and if there's a big man in the league who has more to prove than Kwame Brown it's Ratliff.
There was a time when Ratliff was thought to be the next great dominant big man in the NBA, but injuries - both real and imagined - have prevented him from ever really finding out how good he might be. He's always been able to find a team willing to gamble that he would realize his potential with them, which is why he's had a 12-year run in the NBA, but his inability to get healthy has been his defining characteristic. More than a few coaches and scouts have intimated off the record that Ratliff is more interested in collecting his check from the sidelines than putting his skills on display, and we haven't seen anything to dispute that claim.
I don't really know what to say. It was obvious that Ratliff has struggled to stay healthy, but this is the first time I heard someone suggest he had a reputation for dogging it. For what it's worth, Ratliff left money on the table when he was bought out by the Timberwolves to join the Pistons last season. Maybe not a lot, but it's still worth acknowledging in the face of allegations that his primary concern is always his paycheck.
(Of course, if Ratliff did have that rep early in his career, I guess Michael Curry would know about it -- there were teammates Ratliff's first two years in the league.)
I know there was some talk at the end of the year that Ratliff might return, but I think it's safe to assume that the door closed for him the moment Kwame Brown signed. As things currently stand, the Pistons have five bigs vying for time in the rotation (and that's not including Cheikh Samb).
Looking at the roster as a whole, the Pistons have 14 men under contract:
Small Forwards (3)
Who's going to be No. 15? As of earlier this week, the Pistons were still waiting on Lindsey Hunter to decide if he wanted to postpone retirement one more year. Exciting, I know. My preference is to hold that spot open for a D-League flavor of the month to keep a steady flow of hard-working new faces coming through the locker room, but the bench is young enough that I don't actually mind the presence of one aging veteran.