The Basketball New Year may have kicked off in November of 2006, but NBA players around the league have welcomed the changing of the calendar year, particularly because the old leather ball has returned, ending the short-lived reign of terror apparently created by the new composite ball. Honestly, I never noticed a difference, especially considering all the complaining that went on… And despite a loss to Ben Wallace and the Bulls, as well as against the Bobcats just last night, the Pistons still could contend for the NBA title. Don’t forget, there is still plenty of NBA season left to play, so anything is possible.
- Speaking of losing to Chicago, it just was not a pretty game for fans of the Stones. Not only did the players have to deal with a particularly exciting plane ride, but their attempts to show Ben Wallace that headbands are worth more than a pocket full of Benjamins was ineffective. Instead, Wallace put up 12 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks, and three steals, as the Bulls mopped the floor with the Pistons in their first meeting of the season.
- However, January has not been all bad news — the Pistons had a solid winning effort in Philadelphia. While the team has been missing Chauncey Billups due to a strain in one of his leg muscles since late December, they can still put a competitive product on the floor. Against the post-Iverson 76ers, Tayshaun Prince scored 33, Rip Hamilton topped 10,000 career points with his 22 point night, and the team collected 32 assists. Jason Maxiell started this game in place of Rasheed Wallace, who had called in to say he would miss practice earlier in the week.
- While all this Rasheed business is probably much to do about nothing, you have to admit, Sheed’s relationship with Flip Saunders doesn’t exactly appear to be that great, but some of the things mentioned in Michael Rosenberg’s column have been occurring ever since Sheed came to Detroit.
Some highlights: An angry Flip calls a 20-second timeout; Rasheed spends approximately three of those 20 seconds listening to his coach, then walks back toward the scorer’s table. After Rasheed misses a shot, Flip jumps up and calls another timeout; Rasheed rolls his eyes and spends most of the timeout staring off into space.
This is probably going to be the first of many attempts by the media to analyze how Rasheed and the Pistons are doing, but I think he’s a little too competitive to just give up and stop competing for the Pistons in the middle of an NBA season.
- Amir Johnson has been sent to the Pistons’ NBDL affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Last season, it was the Fayetteville Patriots, but I guess the league decided a team in South Dakota would be farther away and more of a challenge… Johnson should get ample playing time over there, which is just what he needs. From what I have seen, he will become a fine NBA player, but until he cracks his way into the rotation, he should be playing in competitive games to keep his passion and skills sharp in case they’re needed.
- Michael Jordan and Jason Kidd are both experiencing marital issues. Divorces ensue.
- Former Michigan Wolverine Bernard Robinson has been traded from the Charlotte Bobcats to the New Jersey Nets for Jeff McInnis. Out of Michigan’s Fab Five, Chris Webber has been waived by the Philadelphia 76ers. It is rumored the Pistons are among one of the five teams he may sign with.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been passed on the all-time blocks list by Dikembe Mutombo. With a block on the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum in a win over the LA Bryants last night, Mutombo moves into second place on the NBA’s all-time blocks list. His 3,191 blocks are two more than Kareem, but over 600 short of the leader, Hakeem Olajuwon.