Sunday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills is going to be fun. The Detroit Pistons are retiring the number of shooting guard Richard Hamilton, who played with the team from 2002-2011, and was a integral part of the Pistons 2004 championship team. Friday morning, he went 97.1 the Ticket's Jamie and Stoney Show to reflect on his time in the Motor City.
“I’m excited,” Hamilton said. “One, excited just to be around my guys again, B13en (Wallace) and Chauncey (Billups) and Rasheed (Wallace) and Coach Brown, and everybody else that’s coming out for the event. It’s going to be an exciting energy, back in the Palace, so I’m geeked about it.”
Hamilton said he talks with his former teammates a couple times a week.
“We just check in on each other,” he said. “See what each other are doing in business, check in on each other’s kids and family. It’s a very special bond.”
Hamilton's number will be the last to be retired in the Palace before the team moves to Little Caesar's Arena next season. However, given what the Pistons accomplished in that building, Hamilton said it will be hard to say goodbye.
“That’s what makes it very, very special – and somewhat emotional – because we had so many great memories in that building. I know it’s going to be exciting for the guys now to be moved downtown and get an opportunity to play in the city next to all the other great teams that are down there, but for us, that was home, the Palace of Auburn Hills.”
Hamilton's tenure with the Pistons wasn't all good. During the tail end of the 2011 season, Hamilton would find himself in screaming matches with then head coach John Kuester. That culminated in Hamilton's benching, and subsequent disinterest of the team and the season.
“I do believe that I could have handled it better,” he admitted. “You don’t see it until you’re out of the game and you’re away from that situation. When I was in Chicago and I’m in the locker room everyday, I’m like, ‘Boy, Rip, c’mon man, this ain’t where you’re supposed to be playing. You’re a Piston.’
“Even though at the time Detroit was having a makeover and Chicago gave me an opportunity to try to win another championship, I didn’t feel right. That wasn’t me.”
Asked what he could do differently, Hamilton says he would've been more mature about his ending in Detroit.
“I would have probably put a zipper over my mouth, taped my mouth shut, and kind of rode off into the sunset,” he said, with a rueful chuckle. “But you’ve also got to look at it on the other side. I see all my guys leaving, I see Ben leave, I see Chauncey leave and I didn’t want to see that. I wanted to finish my career with all my guys, and to not have one of those guys in the locker room hurt me.
“But now that I’m retired and can look back at it, man, I was young and we all make mistakes and we all say stuff that we don’t mean at times.”
However, with the bad comes the good, and the same thing that lead to Hamilton's flame out with the Pistons, is the same thing that made him the franchise's all-time leading postseason scorer.
“The way I felt emotionally that kind of got the best of me when I was in Detroit, also made me a great player. If I didn’t play with those same emotions and that killer mentality then I don’t feel like I would have been as successful as I was,” said Hamilton.
After reflecting on his time with the Pitons, Hamilton had a rather interesting analogy.
“You meet a girl, you have your ups and downs, it’s a roller coaster ride. You hate each other sometimes, you love each other, you cry together, it’s all the built-up emotions,” he said. “I felt like I was in a relationship with the Pistons, like this is home, this is who I am, this is what I’m about.
“And on Sunday, it’s like the day you and that girl get married. It’s like, ‘Alright, we had our ups and downs, it is what it is, but at the end of the day we still love each other because we know that our heart is in it for the right reasons.’”