- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2009

SEEN AND HEARD AT VERIZON CENTER

Saturday’s matchup between the Wizards and Pistons was reunion night for multiple reasons. First, it represented the first regular-season game Flip Saunders coached against Detroit since he guided the team to three straight Eastern Conference finals from 2006 to 2008.

It also featured four Connecticut players - Caron Butler welcomed fellow Huskies alums Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to Verizon Center.

The Pistons have four former Wizards: Hamilton, Ben Wallace, Kwame Brown — Michael Jordan’s No. 1 overall pick from 2001, who still gets booed heavily by D.C. fans — and Chucky Atkins.

And two Detroit players attended schools in the D.C. area: Backup center Chris Wilcox was a member of Maryland’s 2002 national championship team, and the Pistons drafted forward DaJuan Summers out of Georgetown in June.

Saunders said he didn’t notice any sentimental feelings over facing his former team, partly because Hamilton and fellow star Tayshaun Prince are hurt and did not play and because the Wizards entered having lost five straight games.

Hamilton, whose team went from championship contender to barely making the playoffs following Saunders’ dismissal, said he still misses his former coach. The Pistons averaged 58 wins a season under Saunders, then were the No. 8 seed with a 39-43 record last season under Michael Curry.

“Yo, from having him here to Michael Curry, it was night and day,” Hamilton said. “And I told [Saunders], it was like, ‘Yo, Flip, you were great at what you did!’ It made me appreciate what he brought to the team and how he made the game easier and just allowed you to go out there and make plays.”

Butler has struggled so far in Saunders’ system, but Hamilton said it’s only a matter of time before the two-time All-Star takes off.

“Caron can do a lot. He’s a Connecticut guy,” Hamilton said, smiling. “Us Connecticut guys, we master coming off screens and getting our shot. … He’ll be great and… won’t have to take harder shots; he’ll be able to take easier shots — those shots where you come off the ball and all you have to do is shoot the ball. And Flip’s going to put him in those situations.”

Mike Jones

BY THE NUMBERS

0 Shots made in six attempts by Gilbert Arenas during the first quarter, which ended with Washington down 27-18.