Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 1/4/12
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Often it's not what someone says that tells the story, but rather what he doesn't say. Rip Hamilton made his return to The Palace Wednesday night, a triumphant return for him and his Chicago Bulls, who left with a 99-83 victory and a five-game winning streak. Hamilton scored 14 points and added five assists. Public address announcer Mason gave Hamilton a special introduction as he welcomed him back. The 9,125 fans in attendance rose and gave Hamilton a standing ovation. "It was great," Hamilton said of his reception. "The fans appreciate what I did here. They've always been supportive of me. Even when stuff wasn't going so good, they always chant my name and stuff like that. I've got a lot of love for them. They've been by my side since I got here." Rodney Stuckey, who said he still talks to Hamilton all the time, said the reception is exactly what Hamilton deserved. "Rip has done a lot for this organization and this city," Stuckey said. "There's no other way than to applaud for him and what he did for this community and this organization." Hamilton, who admitted it was weird coming into the building and turning the opposite way from the Piston's locker room, said he kept to himself all day, staying in his hotel room and keeping the lights and TV off so he could remain focused on the task at hand. But it was hard for him to keep his emotions in check as he came out on the floor to see everything and everyone that was so familiar for so many years. "A lot of emotion early in the game, being on the visitors' side and not accustomed to it in this building. So it was difficult," Hamilton said. "I was like, please, man, just don't start crying or anything crazy like that. Just hurry up and let the ball get thrown up so I can go out there and play." Hamilton said he was dismayed at the small crowd, so different from the heyday of his team. "Crazy, crazy. It looks unbelievable," Hamilton said. "I mean, when I was here and Chauncey and Rasheed (Wallace) and everybody, I think we had seven years straight sellouts. So it was always great, it was always awesome. Fans were always great. "To come in here and see it halfway empty, it's tough. But a lot of things have changed. The economy's messed up, with the car industry going down and things like that. The team that we had is no longer there no more. So it's different." There are so many things to point to in what went wrong with the team that won the 2004 NBA championship. The NBA made it more difficult on the superstar-free team, taking away some of the things they did on defense. Ben Wallace left as a free agent to go to the aforementioned Bulls. Team president and general manager Joe Dumars traded 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson and his expiring contract. Many coaches came and went, from Larry Brown to Flip Saunders to Michael Curry to John Kuester and now to Lawrence Frank. Hamilton made it clear that however things were portrayed publicly, he did not and does not have a problem with Kuester, now an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kuester attended Hamilton's wedding before last year's disastrous season. "Me and Kuester is good friends," Hamilton said. "Like I said, the sources. The sources need to open up their mouth and say who the source is. When I seen Kuester in LA, we gave each other a big hug. "We talked. So it's tough. He was in a tough situation. You gotta understand, he was in a tough situation. Me and him's cool. We talk. Like I said, that's still my guy." When asked whether he was still friends with Dumars, Hamilton just smiled and remained silent, the same reaction he gave when asked if he felt like his family stabbed him in the back. Whatever went wrong between Hamilton and Dumars and the Pistons organization did not change how Hamilton felt about his teammates or the fans. "Like I said, when you're the highest-paid player on the team and you're the leader, you're the team captain, you've got to take the good and the bad," Hamilton said. "I always say, you ask the guys in the locker room. They'll tell you. They'll tell you who I am. "Ask the coaching staff, they'll tell you who I am. All the sources and allegations that they put out, it hurt me. Because I thought that as long as I laid it all on the line for an organization, they will always have your back. I see that wasn't the case." Hamilton said he and Billups had talked about how both wanted to end their career as Pistons and go out together. Although it didn't turn out that way for either one, Hamilton said he had no regrets. "I had a beautiful time here," Hamilton said. "You take the good with the bad. The one thing I always did, I always vouched for my teammates. I love them. I had so many great memories here and you can't ever take that away from me."
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