February 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Bob Wojnowski

Pistons really, really don't want to lose to Cavaliers

Antawn Jamison was brought to Cleveland to help LeBron James win a title, but Jamison stayed. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

Auburn Hills -- It doesn't get much bigger than this. You thought the Pistons wouldn't play a momentous game or face any real tension this season? Ha.

Here they were Tuesday night, battling the best team in the league as their possible new owner, Tom Gores, watched from a luxury suite. There was their one-time star, Richard Hamilton, watching again from the bench as the Pistons lost to the Spurs, 100-89.

And now here comes the big one smack in the middle of a tumultuous season, and I'm not even kidding. The Pistons travel to Cleveland to face the worst possible opponent tonight — ignominy. The Cavaliers possess it, riding a league-record 25-game losing streak. That's astonishing and humiliating. And to every team that plays the Cavaliers, it has to be terrifying.

The Pistons certainly don't need to add the shame of ending the longest losing streak in NBA history —they're already thoroughly scrambled. Hamilton was back on the bench Tuesday night with what he called a sore groin. (There's no indication anyone in Pistons management kicked him there, although some might consider it).

The silly Hamilton-John Kuester squabble has no end looming, with Hamilton sitting for 13 games, scoring 15 points in one outing, then sitting again. It's a further sign how the Pistons have crashed from the elite, and the hope for the future might have been in that luxury box. Gores, a billionaire financier who went to Michigan State, chatted amiably throughout the game with current owner Karen Davidson.

Neither wanted to comment in-depth, but the long-expected sale of the Pistons could be close. Gores did say it was "positive" that he was there, and his mood was cheerful. Great. The Pistons could use some positivity, quickly.

Too much drama

Losing to the Cavaliers would be embarrassing, almost as embarrassing as the enduring drama.

"You can blame everybody, you can blame me," Hamilton said afterward. "It's one of those things that I thought should have never happened in the first place, and then if it needed to get resolved, it should have got resolved after the first game I sat, not 30 days later. It's a mystery, right?"

Yes, a needlessly lame mystery. Hamilton could have repaired this situation, too. He's upset Kuester and management didn't communicate why he was first benched, although he claimed he had "no differences with anybody." Huh?

Kuester has said he tried. Enough is enough. Both sides are being stubborn, and it seems the only resolution is a trade that isn't happening.

For all the nonsense, the Pistons cannot be the team that loses to the 8-44 Cavaliers. Well actually, they could be, and some expect them to be, considering Cleveland has played better of late and the Pistons are 19-33, and just went through the Spurs' grinder.

"Man, we won't be that team," guard Will Bynum said. "It's not scary. It's more wary than scary. Guys in this locker room don't want to be that team."

So it's true, the biggest game wasn't against league-leading San Antonio. And it's not the Palace appearance Friday night by Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat and trusty sidekick LeBron James.

This is the real heat, tonight in Cleveland, and what a collision of twisted fates. The Cavaliers had the best record in the league the past two seasons, and now sit on the verge of tying the longest losing streak in anyof the four major pro sports. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 26 straight in 1976-77, but they were an expansion team. The Cavaliers only look like one, especially without injured Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams.

When James held his infamous Decision and took his talents to South Beach, who knew he took all the Cavaliers' wins with him. At one point this season, they were 7-9. Unbelievably, they're 1-35 since, and haven't won since Dec. 18. A month ago, they succumbed to the Lakers, 112-57, and James taunted with a nasty little Tweet that said, in part, "Crazy, karma is a (bad word). Gets you every time."

Series of bad moves

Karma is a stitch, and Hamilton and the Pistons also are feeling it. I still say, sympathy for the Pistons' all-time leading playoff scorer is unnecessary. It's too bad he and Kuester didn't handle this better, and it's too bad a great run has to end like this, but Hamilton is no victim. Neither is Kuester nor Joe Dumars.

You should be sick of hearing about this, but much of this "victimization" is self-inflicted. Some of the Pistons, like Hamilton, overvalued their individual worth. Maybe Karen Davidson overvalued the franchise's worth, although with Gores in town, that's a good sign.

Making anything personal is about the dumbest thing you can do in sports. Just ask Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, a Detroiter who threw a hissy fit after James departed, guaranteeing the Cavaliers would win an NBA championship before the "self-titled former 'King' wins one."

If Gilbert truly thought the Cavaliers would stay competitive, he was delusional. This isn't Cleveland-bashing. It's NBA-bashing (league slogan: Where Amusing Happens.)For the Pistons, the Season of Tumult churns on, with a new possible owner in sight, with no end in sight for the Hamilton fiasco. The Pistons are desperately trying to avoid further humbling, and tonight they'll try to dodge a big, slick, scary trap.


Pistons' Rodney Stuckey scores over the Cavs' l-r, Joey Graham ... (Clarence Tabb, Jr./The Detroit News)
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