Hamilton starts in place of Iverson

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Falling fast in the Eastern Conference standings, the Detroit Pistons decided to mix things up again.

Shooting guard Richard Hamilton replaced Allen Iverson in the starting lineup against the Orlando Magic on Friday night, two days after Hamilton insisted he should start.

Pistons coach Michael Curry said the move was made before Iverson traveled back to Detroit to see a specialist for his stiff back. An MRI earlier in the day came back negative.

Curry was hoping a new lineup would jump-start his Pistons, who began Friday mired in an eight-game losing streak and on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture.

"This change is more than about Allen and Rip," Curry said. "We hope that with this change, more guys will play better. That's what we are seeking. Hopefully this will allow us to execute better, get us back in sync and rejuvenate us."

Hamilton had been critical of Curry's decision to make him the first man off the bench.

The Pistons are 4-12 since Hamilton was taken out of the starting lineup. After Detroit's 90-87 loss at New Orleans on Wednesday night, the shooting guard insisted he was trying to do what was best for the team but said coming off the bench wasn't the answer.

"We wasn't winning," Hamilton said before Friday's game. "It was time for a change."

Curry said he spoke with Iverson about the move Thursday night. Iverson wasn't happy with the decision, but the coach expected him to handle it like a professional. Iverson is not expected to play Sunday at Boston, Curry said.

"He didn't react any different than Rip did when I talked to him about coming off the bench earlier," Curry said. "Neither guy wants to come off the bench, but this is the hand we've been dealt."

The Pistons entered the season expecting to contend for the Eastern Conference title with a lineup featuring All-Stars and up-and-coming players. But things suddenly changed when team leader and point guard Chauncey Billups was traded to Denver for Iverson.

Detroit began Friday 23-29 since Iverson joined the team and holding on to the seventh playoff spot in the East by a mere game over Milwaukee. That's unfamiliar ground for a team that has advanced to the conference finals six straight seasons.

Hamilton said he's hoping that returning to the starting lineup will help snap the Pistons out of their slump.

"I've been doing it my whole career," Hamilton said. "And I've been doing it with a lot of these guys."