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Chronicle: Piatkowski returns to LA as Rocket

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Deuce, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. Deuce

    Deuce Context & Nuance

    Aug 1, 2001
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    Did not see this posted. If it is, just lock it up. Thanks.
    Great article on Pike. I especially like his comments about getting wide open shots like JJ is getting now!

    Piatkowski returns to LA as Rocket
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

    LOS ANGELES -- The question, thankfully, no longer needed to be asked. The answer, at least for a day, seemed obvious.

    After so many years being asked why he would subject himself to life with the Clippers, Eric Piatkowski was back in Southern California on Sunday, welcomed by a perfect LA day. Clear sky, 72 degrees. Even the smog took the weekend off.

    Piatkowski had, until last summer, held the record for the largest contract signed by Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But more than holding the record, since broken by Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, Piatkowski seemed immune to the disappointment and disillusionment that filled so many teammates.

    For nine seasons -- a sentence that by NBA standards was worthy of The Shawshank Redemption -- Piatkowski was cast as the strangely willing Clipper. He did not just sign a five-year, $15 million deal to stay, he never showed even a hint of wanting to leave.

    But now he was back as a Rocket. In a mix of coincidence and irony, he is expected to be activated from the injured list and be ready to play his first game with a team other than the Clippers against the Clippers.

    Finally, he let some of the frustrations of Clippers life show.

    "You get tired of the question," he said. "You get tired of Jay Leno making fun of your team. You get tired of being the butt of jokes. That type of stuff is really tough. I think I have thick skin. It's tougher on your mom and dad, on your brothers and your family, people that really care about you. It hurts them when people are constantly saying stuff about your team."

    Even the compliment seemed a slight. Piatkowski might have signed the largest Clippers contract, but that only seemed to comment about the stars allowed to leave.

    "I wasn't proud of it," Piatkowski said. "It was ridiculous, because over the years, we had really good players that should have gotten big contracts. Maybe not as much as they were asking for, but they could have gotten good deals, and we could have gotten a lot better. When you look at some of the guys the organization let go, that was frustrating. They didn't have to be let go. They could have stayed."

    Piatkowski, 33, stayed at least in part because he was the player the Clippers asked to stay. He fit in their budget but had grown from being good enough for the Clippers to being recognized as a consistent scorer.

    But more than that, he became known to his teammates and to those around the league as the player who would not let defeat poison him.

    "Some people want to stick through the long haul," said Rockets forward Maurice Taylor, a Clippers teammate for three seasons. "Others have a two- or three-year plan. The thing about it was, they wanted him here. They re-signed him. You look at the guys they had; if they kept them together, it would have been a great team. They didn't want to keep any of us. You can't fault him.

    "The thing about Eric that I like is, he never gets too high. He never gets too low. Even when we were out here and we were losing, he was the guy coming to practice early, taking a lot of shots, staying late, trying to make the team better. He didn't let it get to him like a lot of us did. I think it was in his personality to deal with the adversity. He's that type of guy. He's the type of guy that can stick it out through things.

    "He can deal with whatever someone dealt him. That's his personality. He's just a laid-back, LA guy."

    Born in Ohio, raised in South Dakota and a graduate of Nebraska, Piatkowski had stayed with the Clippers long enough to have become an "LA guy." But there was an attitude he brought with him to Southern California that allowed him to endure.

    "The way I looked at it, I signed a contract, and I need to honor it," said Piatkowski, a 6-7 guard/forward. "I tried to make the best of the situation. The time I was here, I gave it my all. I loved playing every game. I enjoyed going to practice and trying to get better and thinking every year, `this might be the year we get it turned around.' It looked like last year we might be doing that. We had 39 wins (in the 2001-2002 season) and an awful lot of young, talented players. We finished the season winning 14 of our last 15 home games. We were really starting to build something. Last year, it all fell apart.

    "We were a young team and up until this year, players never were taken care of. I think it weighed on young players' minds. They were very, very concerned about that. If you start worrying about that instead of worrying about the team winning, it's not a good recipe for success."

    Piatkowski said he did not worry about his next contract while playing with his previous contract. Armed with that mind-set, he never seemed too disconsolate about the grade-3 high ankle sprain that kept him out of most of the preseason and this season's first dozen games, or that he would be making his expected return against the Clippers.

    "It's just the way it worked out," Piatkowski said. "I'm not going to get too excited. I've been out a long time. If I get any (playing) time, it will be limited. And I'm going to be rusty. I'm just going to be working my way back in."

    A 40.2 percent shooter from 3-point range in his career and more of a slasher with the ball than is his reputation, Piatkowski could bring the Rockets another needed perimeter threat.

    Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said he had not decided how he would use Piatkowski tonight, saying he "most likely" would come off the injured list.

    "I think he'll shoot the ball well," Van Gundy said. "He knows who he is as a player. We need to up his alertness, and awareness and intensity that he's missed over the last seven weeks."

    That should come. It could even come quickly because Piatkowski believes he will fit in smoothly. Injured Rockets players sit on the bench in every game, home and away, allowing Piatkowski to see the opportunities for him.

    "This is a good system for me, really good," Piatkowski said. "People are really concerned about the big guys down low and some of our one-on-one players on the perimeter. You look at some of the shots Jimmy (Jackson) has been getting, he gets an amazing amount of wide-open jump shots, and there's no reason I can't get some of those wide-open jump shots also. I'm looking forward to it."

    After seven weeks injured, to say nothing of nine years with the Clippers, he has waited long enough. He laughed at the idea that perfect LA weather answered the question of why he waited so long to leave. But even if he did not regret those years, he did not seem to miss them either.

    "I like being in a good city," Piatkowski said. "LA is a great city. When I was looking for other places to go, Houston was always on the top of my list of places I like. I wanted to be happy on the court and off the court, and I wanted my family to be happy.

    "It's always easier to say `I want to move, I want to go somewhere new, I want to get out of here.' It's a big move to uproot your family. I had a lot of ties, a lot of people you're used to being with. We enjoyed our time here. This was the right time for me to leave. It was the perfect situation as far as the team and what I could offer the team. It just made an awful lot of sense."

    He can even enjoy late-night monologues again.

    Rockets summary

    Ford re-signed

    When the Rockets released Alton Ford on Wednesday, coach Jeff Van Gundy lamented giving up qualities the roster lacked. Ford, Van Gundy said then, could be back someday, calling Ford "a terrific post defender."

    Someday came Sunday. Looking for size inside, particularly defensively and on the boards, the Rockets re-signed the 6-9, 280-pound Ford, and released forward Torraye Braggs.

    "Torraye (6-8, 245) did a good job," Van Gundy said. "We're trying to get a little bit more size and a little better in the low post."

    Asked if center John Amaechi could serve that role, Van Gundy said, "If I needed a post defender, I'd play Alton."

    Ford knew what the Rockets were seeking in bringing him back, though the timing came as a surprise.

    "No doubt, I thought they might call, and they said to stay ready, but I never expected it this soon," Ford said. "I was told it was a possibility. Coach wants me to come in and move bodies and definitely rebound the ball."

    Ford, a McDonald's All-American at Milby High School, was a second-round pick, 51st overall by the Suns after one season at the University of Houston where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds.

    Ford averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 67 NBA games with the Rockets and Phoenix. He played sparingly in three games with the Rockets.

    Braggs averaged 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11 games with the Rockets this season.

    Ford had signed with the Rockets on Nov. 9 to fill Maurice Taylor's spot on the active roster. When Taylor's suspension ended, the Rockets opted to release Ford, rather than Braggs, making Sunday's move a surprise. But Van Gundy said another move could be considered.

    "Portland exposed our lack of size with rebounding," Van Gundy said. "This might not be the last move. I don't know. You try to always evaluate what you need to win."

    Several to choose

    The Rockets have not lost consecutive games this season, in part by improving on the greatest problem of the previous game. The Rockets' loss in Portland might have been defensive rebounds, but Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was unwilling to choose only one shortcoming to improve.

    "Rebounds, but also turnovers, finishing games late, coming in ready, coming back in ready in the second quarter when we lost the lead, I hope they all get better," Van Gundy said. "We have to have more urgency to be a special team. I think now we're sort of muddling through."
  2. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

    Oct 15, 2002
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    I don't think he will get much time tonight, but he will be a BIG contributor to our lineup. His 40+% from the three point line will help to punish teams for doubling Yao, SF, and Cat.
  3. Rockets2K

    Rockets2K Clutch Crew

    Mar 22, 2000
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    Here's a scary thought for you.

    Even with being rusty and off the court for as long as he has, he should still shoot better than most of the team has been. :eek:

    They really need to get the O clicking, we cant hold off all the other teams by defense alone.

    On Ameachi. I guess we have our answer for why he gets zero PT...VG would prefer to bring in Ford instead. What does that say about Meech?
  4. A-Train

    A-Train Contributing Member

    Jan 1, 2000
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    OK, I'm calling it...His first game back, Piatkowski will have a poor shooting night, and somebody will whip out a "Trade Pike" thread...
  5. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

    Apr 11, 2002
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    Pike for McGrady...yeah. That's the ticket!:D
  6. ricerocket

    ricerocket Member

    Aug 10, 2001
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    Pike should be the point guard and Cat comes off the bench. Slide SF over to two and have JJ be a point forward...

    Good luck Pike!

    ;) :D
  7. MFW2310

    MFW2310 Contributing Member

    Nov 23, 2002
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    This proves that Donald Sterling is a moron. I mean sure Pike is not an all-star, but he's one of those above average players loyal enough to want to retire as a Clipper. The FREAKIN' CLIPPERS. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the players to let Pike walk? If there was one player not named Elton Brand they should have resigned it's Pike.
  8. themocitydon

    themocitydon Member

    Aug 20, 2002
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    good. now we dont have to loook at inconsistent three pointers thrown up by boki wackbar

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