Pistons center Brian Williams, who has run with both the Bulls
(en route to their championship last season) and the bulls (in
Pamplona, Spain, several years ago), is bullish on being in
Motown. His dad, Tony, was the lead singer of the original
Platters, who produced 16 gold records on the Mercury label from
1955 through '61. After mining some gold himself in Detroit by
signing a seven-year, $45 million free-agent contract, Brian
would appreciate the way some of the Platters' titles apply to
his new team.
To Each His Own. While playing for five teams in seven years,
the 6'11", 260-pound Williams has developed a reputation for
being, well, different. He suffered a mysterious injury to his
right knee before last season--he denies rumors that he hurt it
while skydiving--and turned down a seven-year, $33.6 million
free-agent deal with the Sonics because he refused to take a
physical. In April, Williams finally signed a deal with Chicago
that paid him the league minimum to suit up for the last nine
regular-season games ($27, 500). He made such significant
contributions during the playoffs that Bulls owner Jerry
Reinsdorf said, "We couldn't have won it without Brian
Williams." But Chicago was unable to keep Williams because of
salary-cap limitations, and Detroit made its move.
One in a Million. That's Grant Hill. Williams says the
experience of playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
should help him blend in with Hill and shooting guard Joe
Dumars. He will also be able to measure the team's character and
commitment against that of the Bulls.
The Great Pretender. Last season 6'10", 225-pound Theo Ratliff
spent most of his time impersonating a center. Now, with
Williams on board, Ratliff can take up his natural position,
power forward, and concentrate on honing his skills there. "I'm
glad I had the opportunity to play the five last season so I
know what it's like," Ratliff says, "but the four is where I
November 10, 1997
Twilight Time. The sun is setting on the careers of the
34-year-old Dumars and 39-year-old backup center Rick Mahorn,
the only current Pistons who were on the Bad Boys' 1988-89
championship team. But while Mahorn can no longer play more than
10 quality minutes a game, Dumars averaged 37 minutes last
season. "I'm so trusting in Joe that it's hard for me to get him
off the floor," says coach Doug Collins. Swingman Malik Sealy,
signed as a free agent, and guard Aaron McKie, acquired in
January, should allow Collins to give Dumars more breathers.
My Prayer. Pistons fans are crossing their fingers and hoping
that Williams will be able to get along with Collins, whose
intensity has been known to get on his players' nerves. So far,
so good. "I know Doug is high-strung, but you can't take things
personally or you're going to get your feelings hurt," says
Williams. "I don't mind when somebody tells me I messed up."
Says Collins, "I want to take advantage of how athletic Brian
is. He's one of the top 10 centers in the league, and that will
give us tremendous flexibility on the front line."
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Williams believes the Pistons are one
of the league's best teams and will be able to hold their own
against anyone, the Bulls included. Yet it's still difficult to
see the Pistons going much deeper than a round, maybe two, in
the playoffs. (They were eliminated in the first round by the
Hawks last season.) Will Dumars's age finally catch up with him?
Will the driven Collins steer clear of the sort of conflicts
with players that disrupted the team last season? And, mainly,
will Williams be a hit in Motown?
"What I want to be able to do," Collins says, "is to shake the
game up a little bit." The result could range anywhere from
Heaven on Earth to You're Making a Mistake.