Richard Hamilton and Chris Wilcox have been fined for missing shootaround without an excuse, but the Pistons are not planning a coaching change in the wake of the perceived mutiny against John Kuester, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Saturday.
The team engaged in lengthy organizational meetings Saturday to discuss the latest meltdown in a season that has spiraled out of control. Though sources are downplaying a significant rebellion against Kuester, a proposal to buy out Hamilton -- who had another in a series of confrontations with Kuester recently -- will be presented to ownership before the March 1 deadline for him to be eligible for another team's playoff roster. The chances of a buyout for Hamilton, however, are "slim," a source said, given that he has two years left on his contract.
Hamilton and Wilcox flew back to Detroit with the team after the Pistons -- with only six available players -- lost to the Sixers in Philadelphia. Both players are expected to be available Saturday night against Utah, but whether or not they play will be a "coaching decision," the source said.
Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace also missed shootaround Friday prior to the Sixers game, but all three had legitimate excuses, the person said. The Pistons' training staff confirmed to management that McGrady and Prince had been sick. Wallace is dealing with the sudden terminal illness of a close family member, the source said.
Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey were late for shootaround, missing the team bus and catching a cab, the source said. They were fined for being late.
Whatever the reasons, the incident -- and the perception of a team-wide rebellion against Kuester -- has put the Pistons' already miserable season in an even grimmer perspective for the remaining 22 games.
Each of the most sensible resolutions -- buying out Hamilton or firing Kuester -- is complicated by the fact that the team is waiting for an ownership change to be completed. It is unlikely, sources said, that the ownership transfer would be completed in time for Hamilton to be bought out before the March 1 deadline for him to be playoff-eligible with a new team.
"This is not the climate where anybody wants to cut a big check just so a guy can go play somewhere else," said the person familiar with the Pistons' latest controversy.
Hamilton, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal, was close to being shipped to Cleveland at the trade deadline but could not agree to terms of a buyout with the Cavs.
Hamilton and Wilcox apologized for missing shootaround. It was not clear Saturday whether the ill players -- McGrady and Prince -- or Wallace would be available for the Utah game.
Given the ongoing rift between the Pistons' old guard -- led by Hamilton and Prince -- and the younger core, the mere perception of a mutiny against Kuester will be enough to make the remaining six weeks of the regular season close to unbearable. The inability of team president Joe Dumars to take action without ownership clarity has made the situation one that Kuester and the coaching staff will have to navigate the rest of the way.
Tension that has been building for months between Kuester and the veteran players boiled over in an ugly recent confrontation between Hamilton and Kuester, sources said. It was not the first time this season that the two have verbally gone after each other, though this incident was reported to have been a one-way tirade from Hamilton to Kuester in which the former All-Star questioned the coach's decisions and credentials.
In mid-January, Kuester made the decision to move Hamilton to the bench in order to give more playing time to Ben Gordon. Soon after, Hamilton's agent, Leon Rose, attempted to have him included in a trade that would've sent Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey. The trade, like many Melo scenarios, never happened. But Hamilton has remained on the bench ever since, playing only once in the past 23 games.
Hamilton, 33, could be a useful addition to contenders such as the Mavericks and Celtics, who both have internally discussed signing him if he were bought out. It appears that he will instead languish where he's been since Jan. 12, on the Pistons' bench and at a point of no return in a lost season.