By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

On Sunday, Richard Hamilton will become the third player from the Pistons’ 2004 championship team to have his number retired, joining Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace in the Palace rafters.

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“I’m excited,” Hamilton told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket on Friday. “One, excited just to be around my guys again, Ben and Chauncey and Rasheed (Wallace) and Coach Brown, and everybody else that’s coming out for the event. It’s going to be an exciting energy, back in the Palace, so I’m geeked about it.”

Hamilton said he talks with the core members of the Pistons’ most recent dynasty at least two or three times a week.

“We just check in on each other,” he said. “See what each other are doing in business, check in on each other’s kids and family. It’s a very special bond.”

He can’t wait to be reunited with them, perhaps for the final time, in the building they brought back to glory, the building where they won an NBA championship and played in six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. The building they once called home.

“That’s what makes it very, very special – and somewhat emotional – because we had so many great memories in that building. I know it’s going to be exciting for the guys now to be moved downtown and get an opportunity to play in the city next to all the other great teams that are down there, but for us, that was home, the Palace of Auburn Hills.”

As splendid as Hamilton’s Pistons career was, its ending was just as ugly. He frequently feuded with then-head coach John Kuester during the 2010-11 season, including an incident in which he berated Kuester in front of the team during practice, and was later benched for almost two straight months.

Prior to the start of the following season, the Pistons bought out Hamilton’s contract. He signed with Bulls shortly thereafter, and retired one year later. It’s an episode in his career, probably the only episode, Hamilton wishes he could change.

“I do believe that I could have handled it better,” he admitted. “You don’t see it until you’re out of the game and you’re away from that situation. When I was in Chicago and I’m in the locker room everyday, I’m like, ‘Boy, Rip, c’mon man, this ain’t where you’re supposed to be playing. You’re a Piston.’

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“Even though at the time Detroit was having a makeover and Chicago gave me an opportunity to try to win another championship, I didn’t feel right. That wasn’t me.”

Given a do-over, Hamilton knows what he would do differently.

“I would have probably put a zipper over my mouth, taped my mouth shut, and kind of rode off into the sunset,” he said, with a rueful chuckle. “But you’ve also got to look at it on the other side. I see all my guys leaving, I see Ben leave, I see Chauncey leave and I didn’t want to see that. I wanted to finish my career with all my guys, and to not have one of those guys in the locker room hurt me.

“But now that I’m retired and can look back at it, man, I was young and we all make mistakes and we all say stuff that we don’t mean at times.”

Still, he feels it’s important to keep one thing in mind.

“The way I felt emotionally that kind of got the best of me when I was in Detroit, also made me a great player. If I didn’t play with those same emotions and that killer mentality then I don’t feel like I would have been as successful as I was,” said Hamilton.

Given his Pistons resume – three All-Star Games, a World Championship and more than 18 points per game over seven winning seasons – it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Hamilton is looking forward to Sunday to put the proper bow on his Pistons career, a career he described as a “love relationship.”

“You meet a girl, you have your ups and downs, it’s a roller coaster ride. You hate each other sometimes, you love each other, you cry together, it’s all the built-up emotions,” he said. “I felt like I was in a relationship with the Pistons, like this is home, this is who I am, this is what I’m about.

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“And on Sunday, it’s like the day you and that girl get married. It’s like, ‘Alright, we had our ups and downs, it is what it is, but at the end of the day we still love each other because we know that our heart is in it for the right reasons.’”