Inconsistency Spoils Saunders' Return

Pistons 98, Wizards 94

December 07, 2009|By Michael Lee | Michael Lee , The Washington Post

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - -Flip Saunders made his first trip back to the Palace of Auburn Hills since the Detroit Pistons dismissed him in June 2008. Saunders, who lost in the Eastern Conference finals in each of his three seasons with the Pistons, said he didn't expect to hear raucous cheers when he was announced Sunday night. But what he heard might have been more surprising: apathy.

A small crowd at the arena greeted Saunders mostly with silence. But one Pistons fan behind the Washington Wizards' bench started heckling him.

"Hey, Flip, you grooming Sam Cassell?" the fan shouted. "Michael Curry replaced you after one year as an assistant!"

"How'd that work out?" Saunders replied.

The Pistons certainly have fallen on hard times since Saunders left town, as they suffered a first-round ouster last season and play in front of sparse crowds in a building that sold out every game while he was there.

But after the Wizards' 98-94 loss to the Pistons on Sunday, Saunders' team is looking up at Detroit in the standings - and still experiencing too many nights when it looks like an inefficient offensive outfit, even while boasting three former All-Stars in Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

"Just not getting that overall consistency," Saunders said after the Wizards (7-12) lost their second game in a row. "Maybe it is still a feeling-out process."

Butler scored 13 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, but Arenas and Jamison went scoreless in the final period, going a combined 0-for-7 from the field. A game after scoring a season-high 34 points in an overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors, Arenas scored just eight points, on 3-for-9 shooting, with nine assists.

"He didn't seem to have energy," Saunders said. "I don't know if he was stiff today, but he didn't seem to have that pop. He didn't have what he had last game."

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