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No. 3 DETROIT PISTONS
William F. Reed
November 10, 1997
Pistons center Brian Williams, who has run with both the Bulls (en route to their championship last season) and the bulls (in Pamplona, Spain, several years ago), is bullish on being in Motown. His dad, Tony, was the lead singer of the original Platters, who produced 16 gold records on the Mercury label from 1955 through '61. After mining some gold himself in Detroit by signing a seven-year, $45 million free-agent contract, Brian would appreciate the way some of the Platters' titles apply to his new team.
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November 10, 1997

No. 3 Detroit Pistons

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BY THE NUMBERS

1996-97 TEAM STATISTICS
1996-97 Record: 54-28 (tied for third in Central)

SEASON AVERAGES

Points per game (rank)

FG pct. (rank)

Rebounds per game (rank)

Turnovers per game (rank)

Pistons

94.2 (24)

.464 (10)

38.4 (28)

12.7 (1)

Opponents

88.9 (2)

.444 (12)

39.4 (5)

14.6 (25)

Pistons center Brian Williams, who has run with both the Bulls (en route to their championship last season) and the bulls (in Pamplona, Spain, several years ago), is bullish on being in Motown. His dad, Tony, was the lead singer of the original Platters, who produced 16 gold records on the Mercury label from 1955 through '61. After mining some gold himself in Detroit by signing a seven-year, $45 million free-agent contract, Brian would appreciate the way some of the Platters' titles apply to his new team.

To Each His Own. While playing for five teams in seven years, the 6'11", 260-pound Williams has developed a reputation for being, well, different. He suffered a mysterious injury to his right knee before last season—he denies rumors that he hurt it while skydiving—and turned down a seven-year, $33.6 million free-agent deal with the Sonics because he refused to take a physical. In April, Williams finally signed a deal with Chicago that paid him the league minimum to suit up for the last nine regular-season games ($27, 500). He made such significant contributions during the playoffs that Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said, "We couldn't have won it without Brian Williams." But Chicago was unable to keep Williams because of salary-cap limitations, and Detroit made its move.

One in a Million. That's Grant Hill. Williams says the experience of playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen should help him blend in with Hill and shooting guard Joe Dumars. He will also be able to measure the team's character and commitment against that of the Bulls.

The Great Pretender. Last season 6'10", 225-pound Theo Ratliff spent most of his time impersonating a center. Now, with Williams on board, Ratliff can take up his natural position, power forward, and concentrate on honing his skills there. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to play the five last season so I know what it's like," Ratliff says, "but the four is where I will shine."

Twilight Time. The sun is setting on the careers of the 34-year-old Dumars and 39-year-old backup center Rick Mahorn, the only current Pistons who were on the Bad Boys' 1988-89 championship team. But while Mahorn can no longer play more than 10 quality minutes a game, Dumars averaged 37 minutes last season. "I'm so trusting in Joe that it's hard for me to get him off the floor," says coach Doug Collins. Swingman Malik Sealy, signed as a free agent, and guard Aaron McKie, acquired in January, should allow Collins to give Dumars more breathers.

My Prayer. Pistons fans are crossing their fingers and hoping that Williams will be able to get along with Collins, whose intensity has been known to get on his players' nerves. So far, so good. "I know Doug is high-strung, but you can't take things personally or you're going to get your feelings hurt," says Williams. "I don't mind when somebody tells me I messed up." Says Collins, "I want to take advantage of how athletic Brian is. He's one of the top 10 centers in the league, and that will give us tremendous flexibility on the front line."

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Williams believes the Pistons are one of the league's best teams and will be able to hold their own against anyone, the Bulls included. Yet it's still difficult to see the Pistons going much deeper than a round, maybe two, in the playoffs. (They were eliminated in the first round by the Hawks last season.) Will Dumars's age finally catch up with him? Will the driven Collins steer clear of the sort of conflicts with players that disrupted the team last season? And, mainly, will Williams be a hit in Motown?

"What I want to be able to do," Collins says, "is to shake the game up a little bit." The result could range anywhere from Heaven on Earth to You're Making a Mistake.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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