- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. (AP) - Richard Hamilton took passes from John Kuester while practicing his shooting on Monday, then exchanged a friendly fist bump with the coach when they were done.

Afterward, the two insisted their relationship is improving after a recent talk.

“It was just a great conversation,” Hamilton said. “I think that it was something that we needed. I think the whole thing was a miscommunication from the beginning, and we’re fine.”

Hamilton has played only once since Jan. 10. He was benched for the latter part of January and although he played Feb. 5 in Milwaukee, scoring 15 points, he’s been out since then because of what the team has said is a groin injury.

Hamilton acknowledged he and Kuester had a disagreement this season, though he disputed a report by Yahoo! Sports that said he berated Kuester on the practice court about a week before being benched.

“It was just a disagreement. I’m the team captain, he’s the coach,” Hamilton said. “It’s not something that you don’t see. It wasn’t like how it was reported _ argument, Rip Hamilton not playing anymore _ it was nowhere near like that. It was a disagreement. We talked about it. I continued to play after that.”

On Friday, Hamilton was one of several players who missed at least part of a shootaround before a game at Philadelphia. The coaching staff used only six players in the loss that night, sticking with those who were at the full shootaround.

Kuester has brushed off talk of a mutiny, and Hamilton did, too. Hamilton said he missed the shootaround because he went back to his hometown of Coatesville, Pa. He acknowledged he’d been fined.

“I went back home, and it was my fault that I didn’t call them and let them know,” he said. “I called them at the last minute, and that’s why I got fined. I should have called them before.”

Hamilton wouldn’t specify when he and Kuester spoke, and the coach didn’t either. Kuester said they made a mutual decision to talk.

“It was recently,” Kuester said. “The conversation went very well. He worked today, and he did a good job.”

The Pistons are 22-39 and 5 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Owner Karen Davidson has been trying to sell the team all season, and there’s been turmoil pretty much from the start. Kuester benched guard Rodney Stuckey barely a week into the season, although that was only temporary.

Hamilton lost his starting job in December and was out of the rotation entirely a month later. It’s been an embarrassing stretch for a franchise Hamilton helped lead to an NBA title in 2004.

Although the Pistons lost big in Philadelphia on Friday night, they beat Utah on Saturday at home. Hamilton sat out that game, as did Tayshaun Prince, who is having back problems, and Tracy McGrady.

Ben Wallace was out following the death of his brother Saturday.

“I was so proud of that group that played against Utah. Their energy and effort was phenomenal, and that’s the type of energy and effort that I want for the next 21 games,” Kuester said. “We had a glimpse of what I’ve wanted throughout.”

Team president Joe Dumars said Monday that Kuester has his “full support.”

“We’ve had a long and proud history of being a first class organization that handles its business the right way,” Dumars said. “We expect everyone that represents the Detroit Pistons to do so in a first class manner and that will continue as we move forward.”

Kuester said he hopes the team can have a fresh start. He said Hamilton could play again this season, although he wouldn’t put a timetable on that.

Hamilton said he felt good after practicing.

“Today was the first day I really got an opportunity to push it _ the first day I really got out there and practiced and really pushed my groin,” Hamilton said. “It was fun.”

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