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Rip to the bench? "That ain’t happening"

This has been hashed and re-hashed and re-re-hashed in the comments ad nauseum, but here goes: Rip Hamilton publicly addressed the possibility of coming off the bench for the first time this weekend in an off-the-cuff conversation with Chris McCosky:

But I don't think Rip is hearing any of it. Our exchange went something like this:

So, what's going to happen when you come back, do you think you will jump right back into the starting lineup?

Rip: "Yeah, that's the only option."

Well, there is another option -- coming off the bench.

Rip: "That ain't happening."

This could require an intervention from Joe Dumars.

That response is hardly a surprise to those who know Rip best -- Ryan Fields of FOX Sports Detroit asked Chauncey Billups about the possibility when the Pistons were in Denver:

While it makes sense on paper, making Rip agree to it is a whole different matter. I posed the question to his long-time teammate Chauncey Billups earlier this morning, and his answer was simply "Good luck with that!" Based on that answer alone, one would believe it would be difficult for Curry and Joe Dumars to convince Rip to become a reserve.

It's easy to take issue with Rip's reaction -- a team player should avoid drawing a line in the sand, right? The conviction with which Hamilton responded has essentially put Curry in a corner. A far more savvy response would have simply been something like, "we'll cross that bridge later," or "I don't make those decisions."

But whatever; I'm not going to pretend that people don't have egos, and spending too much time analyzing Rip's response distracts from the real question: should Rip be the one who leaves the starting lineup in the first place? Sure, the Pistons have won some games in Rip's absence, but that's not to say they've won because of his absence.

Allen Iverson hasn't had a 50% shooting night in 10 games, shooting 37.5% in that span. Rip, on the other hand, shot 51% for the entire month of December (or, more accurately, in 11 of the 14 games he appeared in). This stat has been bandied around endlessly in the DBB comments (it's practically been Mike Payne's signature) but sadly it's been ignored by most of the mainstream media. Yes, Iverson has had his share of late-game heroics, but he's also had more than his fair share of early-game struggles.

No one wants to admit it, but at this stage in his career, Allen Iverson is nothing more than T.J. Ford without a conscience. A useful player who has his moments, but not one who should be shoe-horned into the starting lineup at the expense of a player who actually fits the offense, has a track record of success in the system and will still be a member of the team next year.

If I were Rip, I'd feel insulted, too.