Two-time Pistons: Returning to one’s Detroit roots isn’t always fruitful

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As the old saying goes: you can’t go home again. Or can you?

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A litany of Detroit Pistons have not hesitated to test the Home Again Theory over the years, sometimes not by choice (sorry, Tayshaun). Here’s a quick glance at how things have gone for Pistons making their way through metro Detroit on their second go-around. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t always been pretty.

John Long

First Stint (1978-1986): Often forgotten by history, John Long peaked as a 22-point-per-game scorer for the Pistons in the early 80’s. His initial departure (traded to Seattle) virtually coincided with Detroit’s ascent into the upper echelon of the NBA.

Second Stint (1988-89, 1990-91): By the time a 32-year-old Long returned as a free agent midway through the Pistons first championship season, his role within a team with an already established rotation was severely diminished. He averaged two points per game in mop up duty, appearing in just four playoff games.

Just for good measure, Long would make a second return to Detroit in 1991 before a five-year NBA hiatus resulted in one last go around with the Isiah Thomas-owned Raptors in 1996, where he subsequently canned a game-winner in his first game back… at 40 years old.

Rick Mahorn

First Stint (1985-1988): The cornerstone of the Bad Boys era, Rick Mahorn brought a grittiness to the table that helped push the Pistons into championship contention. He started all 17 playoff games during Detroit’s 1989 championship run before being selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in that year’s expansion draft. Mahorn subsequently gathered his belongings in a black plastic garbage bag and made a sorrowful exit.

Second Stint (1996-97): After quickly becoming a Pistons enemy in 1991 while brawling as a member of the 76ers, time appeared to have healed most wounds when 1996 rolled around. By then, the Pistons had made the ill-fated move into the teal era and a 38-year-old Mahorn was relegated to the familiar “mentor” status, still capable of pulling his old tricks from time to time.

Michael Curry

First Stint (1995-97): Undrafted out of Georgia Southern, Curry was just trying to find his NBA footing during his initial two years with the Pistons. He played 15 minutes off the bench for a ’97 club that won 54 games.

Second Stint (1999-2003): After earning an increased role in Milwaukee, Curry returned to the Motor City in 1999, riding a Pistons wave that’d see him starting at power forward for Detroit’s first division title in a decade (2002). He held things down until a young Tayshaun Prince went into takeover mode during the 2003 playoffs.

Lindsey Hunter

First Stint (1993-2000): Drafted 10th overall in 1993, Hunter came into the league unfairly pegged as the successor to Isiah Thomas. He handled a portion of the scoring load during the Grant Hill/Allan Houston years, peaking at around 14 points per game with an occasional breakaway tomahawk for good measure.

Second Stint (2003-2008): Hunter experienced a rare Motown rebirth during Detroit’s 2004 championship season. This time, there was already plenty of scoring to go around, so Hunter’s role was primarily that of a defensive bulldog, and he performed that role with great zeal. He was also good for an occasional breakaway tomahawk.

Ben Wallace

First Stint (2000-06): Wallace’s first run in Detroit was one of the most improbable star turns in NBA history. Undrafted, Wallace worked his way into an eventual four-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner. He scored 18 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in the championship clinching game of the 2004 NBA Finals.

Second Stint (2009-2012): Father time hit Wallace fast, as his true NBA arrival came unusually late (he was already 27 years old by the time the Pistons were winning the Central in ’02). A fro-less (but chin-braided) Big Ben was still capable of some occasional magic, but his journey came to a quiet close in 2012, averaging just 1.4 points per game for a 25-win Pistons team.

Chauncey Billups

First Stint (2002-08): Billups found a home in Detroit, earning three all-star selections and Finals MVP award in 2004. After earning the nickname “Mr. Big Shot” for his clutch tendencies, Billups was unceremoniously dealt to the Nuggets in 2008 for Allen Iverson.

Second Stint (2013-2014): Billups returned at age 37, but he was essentially done. He still had the skills and abilities to make some headway, but after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon a year earlier, he struggled through an injury-riddled finale, playing just 19 games in ’14 before calling it quits.

Tayshaun Prince

First Stint (2002-2013): Best remembered for his block on Reggie Miller, Prince’s impact on the Pistons franchise runs deep, serving as an absolute at the small forward position for over a decade. At one point, he appeared in 496 consecutive games. No doubt, Detroit’s deep runs would have never happened without him.

Second Stint (2015): Traded back to Detroit in a surprise midseason move, the 34-year-old Prince stepped back into his familiar starting role but the team has struggled, losing eight of nine since his re-debut with the club. Prince is averaging 6.4 points in a shade over 25 minutes a night, still occasionally putting it on defenders (as can be seen above).

So what do you think? Has returning to the Pistons ever worked out to be a solid career move? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted by Ryan Van Dusen
Ryan is a Farmington native who enjoys all things basketball, particularly when it involves the Detroit Pistons. He spends much of his free time combing through NBA archives and curating footage of meaningless late-90's regular season performances for mass consumption.