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
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.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO BRIAN WILLIAMS'S RUGGED INSIDE PLAY SHOULD SHORE UP A GLARING WEAKNESS FOR DETROIT [Brian Williams]
COLOR PHOTO: BARRY GOSSAGE/NBA PHOTOS [Jerome Williams]
BY THE NUMBERS
1996-97 TEAM STATISTICS
1996-97 Record: 54-28 (tied for third in Central)
Points Rebounds Turnovers
per game FG pct. per game per game
(rank) (rank) (rank) (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)
Seventeen NBA players have led their team in points per game,
rebounds per game and assists per game in the same season
(minimum of 50 games played). Of those 17, only three have
achieved this triple more than once: Elgin Baylor, Wilt
Chamberlain and Grant Hill.
PLAYERS WHO MORE THAN ONCE LED THEIR TEAM IN PPG, RPG AND APG
FOR A SEASON
SEASON TEAM PPG RPG APG
Elgin Baylor 1958-59 Lakers 24.9 15.0 4.1
1960-61 Lakers 34.8 19.8 5.1
Wilt Chamberlain 1965-66 76ers 33.5 24.6 5.2
1966-67 76ers 24.1 24.2 7.8
1967-68 76ers 24.3 23.8 8.6
Grant Hill 1995-96 Pistons 20.2 9.8 6.9
1996-97 Pistons 21.4 9.0 7.3
NOTE FROM THE UNDERGROUND
While newly acquired Brian Williams was the object of much
preseason attention, the Pistons and their opponents were
noting that Detroit's other Williams, forward Jerome (right),
was beginning to blossom in his second season. "Jerome's active,
he's a rebounder, he runs the floor very well and has a great
nose for the ball," Pistons coach Doug Collins said after one
preseason game. Jerome Williams was more cautious. "I made some
mistakes tonight," he said. "I need to be prepared not to make
those mistakes again."
PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1996-97 STATS
Coach: Doug Collins (third season with Detroit)
G PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT% 3FG%
PG Lindsey Hunter 82 14.2 2.8 1.9 1.57 0.29 .404 .778 .355
SG Joe Dumars 79 14.7 2.4 4.0 0.72 0.01 .440 .867 .432
SF Grant Hill 80 21.4 9.0 7.3 1.80 0.60 .496 .711 .303
PF Theo Ratliff 76 5.8 3.4 0.2 0.38 1.46 .531 .698 0 att.
C Brian Williams[*] 9 7.0 3.7 1.3 0.33 0.56 .413 .733 0 att.
G-F Malik Sealy[*] 80 13.5 3.0 2.1 1.55 0.56 .396 .876 .356
G Aaron McKie 83 5.2 2.7 1.9 0.93 0.27 .411 .836 .398
O'Bannon (R)[*] 32 17.7 6.9 2.4 1.13 0.72 .551 .791 .347
F Jerome Williams 33 1.5 1.5 0.2 0.39 0.03 .392 .529 0 att.
F Don Reid 47 2.8 2.1 0.3 0.34 0.32 .482 .750 .000
[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie (college stats)