Ratliff returns to the Pistons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

DETROIT &045; Theo Ratliff reached an agreement to join the Detroit Pistons for the remainder of the season in a deal that will reunite him with the franchise that selected him 18th overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.

The announcement came Tuesday evening, less than a week after Ratliff and the Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to a buyout of the remainder of his $11.6 million 2008 salary. While the terms of the buyout were not released, it is believed the deal saves Minnesota an estimated $3.7 million on the year.

For Ratliff, the move was nearly a no-brainer.

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Opting to sign with Detroit provides Ratliff not only the rare opportunity to compete for an NBA title, but the added bonus of doing it in a city with which he is already familiar.

Ratliff’s familiarity with the city comes from the numerous charity and community service projects in which he was involved during his two-and-a-half-year stint with the Pistons to start his career.

However, it may be his familiarity with members of the organization which played the biggest role in his decision to return to Detroit. Piston general manager Joe Dumars was Ratliff’s teammate during Ratliff’s first go-round in the Motor City, as was current assistant coach Michael Curry.

In Detroit, he will join a frontcourt which has struggled to find depth since dealing center Primoz Brezec to the Toronto Raptors for former Maryland standout Juan Dixon at the trade deadline a few weeks ago. Ratliff will likely see limited minutes early as he learns the system while superstar Rasheed Wallace and former Alabama great Antonio McDyess continue to tote the bulk of the minutes.

Ratliff played in only 10 games for the Timberwolves this season while dealing with a torn meniscus in his knee.

Ratliff’s first exit from Detroit came in 1997 when he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for guard Jerry Stackhouse. Since then, he has spent time with the Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and the Timberwolves. This summer, he will have the opportunity to select his next destination as free agency approaches. However, Ratliff was not closed to the notion that his next stop may not be in the NBA.

Whatever his &8216;next best move’ may be, the 34-year-old is certain it will be one that is in the best interest of his primary team, his family.

For the time being, the former all-star will look to capture one of the few accolades which has eluded him throughout his tenure in the league, an NBA title. As for what will follow that quest, the veteran center has yet to decide, but is adamant his priorities off the court will dictate if and where he steps back on it.