- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

Seen and heard last night at the Palace of Auburn Hills:

PISTONS FORGED MJ: Many arenas hold fond memories for Michael Jordan, but the Palace of Auburn Hills is a special place. Some believe this is where Jordan took his final step to greatness.

After the Pistons bounced the Bulls from the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Bulls broke through and defeated them in four games on the way to their first of six championships.

Wizards coach Doug Collins said it was Detroit's physical style of play, which they did as the famous "Bad Boys," that ultimately turned Jordan into a player who would dominate a decade.

"I would say that the Pistons' style of play and the strength of their team and the way they played, probably forged Michael into the player that he became," Collins said. "What they did was take Michael to a physical level that he had to respond to. As a result I think that's when he really got into strength training. With their physical style, they drove Michael to a new level physically, and that was the difference. Mentally he was already there. But the Pistons made him know that he had to get stronger to take the punishment.

DOING FINE: Former Wizard Richard Hamilton, whom Washington traded for Jerry Stackhouse, wasn't thrilled last summer. But with the Pistons owning the best record in the Eastern Conference, Hamilton's attitude has changed.

"Man, I couldn't be happier with the situation and the way that it has worked out," said Hamilton, who leads the Pistons in scoring (20.3). "I feel like I'm in a great situation. When I was first traded, I didn't know what to expect. You never know how it's going to work out. But it's worked out perfectly."

ON HOLD: The game had to be stopped in the first quarter for about 10 minutes to replace the net on the Pistons' basket. At the time, the Pistons were shooting 62.5 percent from the floor and leading 13-7.

John N. Mitchell

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