Hunter brought defensive energy to long NBA career, stints with Pistons

Lindsey Hunter was the Pistons first round selection in the 1993 NBA Draft.

When Lindsey Hunter finally retired after the 2009-2010 season he was the last member of the draft class of 1993 to take of his sneakers. He’d spent 17 seasons in the NBA, winning two championships and earning respect at each of his stops.

Hunter’s two stints with the Detroit Pistons made up the bulk of his career. From 1993 to 2000, and from 2003-2008, he wore the red-white-and-blue of the Pistons, in two different, but important roles. In his first stint with Detroit, Hunter was a point guard, scoring as many as 14.8 points per game as he replaced legend Isiah Thomas as the floor leader of the team. When he came back to Motown, the quick-footed Hunter came off the bench to spell Chauncey Billups. Considering Billups played more minutes than any other point guard in the NBA, Hunter didn’t play a lot in his second stint with the Pistons, but he was a valuable leader and role model to young players.

“Having Lindsey on those teams when we were battling in the playoffs was good for the club,” said Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars.

Dumars knew Hunter well, having played with Lindsey at the end of his Hall of Fame career. That was when Hunter was a young, seemingly impossibly fast little guard out of tiny Jackson State University in Mississippi. Hunter was taken with the 10th selection in the first round of the ’93 NBA Draft. The Pistons had two first round picks that year, and with the other one they chose Allan Houston, a high-scoring shooting guard. With two rookies in their guard rotation and Isiah ending his Hall of Fame career, the 1993-1994 Pistons lost 62 games and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

But within a few years, Hunter, Houston, and Grant Hill – the Three H’s – had the Pistons back in the playoffs. This was during the dreaded “teal era” of the Pistons, when the franchise drifted under a series of new coaches, a new identity, and in the wake of the end of the Bad Boys era. Though Hunter never set any team records and wasn’t a superstar, he was a popular player, with his defensive intensity, slicing drives to the basket, and occasional three-point threat.

Hunter spent a single season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001-2002, winning his first NBA title serving as a bench player under coach Phil Jackson and with mega-star teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. He was re-acquired by the Pistons prior to the 2003 season in a trade for Micheal Curry. He spent the next five seasons back with Detroit, save for a brief spell when he was traded and re-signed in the span of a week when the Pistons needed to make room under the salary cap to get Rasheed Wallace. Hunter gladly served as a pawn to help make that happen, and was awarded with another ring a few months later.

Hunter was the rare guard who played almost until he was 40 years old, joining Bob Cousy, John Stockton, and Michael Jordan as one of the oldest at that position to play in The Association.

Though he will never have his number lifted to the rafters at The Palace, Lindsey Hunter is among the most popular players in franchise history, and he ranks among the all-time leaders for the Pistons in steals and three-pointers attempted.

This season Hunter is serving as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns, and he’s pegged as a possible future head coach in the NBA.