AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The lasting memory Scott Brooks has of The Palace is this: He was an undrafted second-year player making the start for the Philadelphia 76ers because Maurice Cheeks was injured. He had a chance to get the franchise's first win at the arena that had opened the previous year.
Brooks had 20 points in 44 minutes, shot 7-for-13 and had seven assists playing with Charles Barkley. It didn't work out, as they lost 115-112 in overtime on March 20, 1990.
Monday, as coach of the Wizards, Brooks won the final game at the venue 105-101 which is closing after this season for the Detroit Pistons who'll relocate downtown. The outcome didn't mean anything to the Wizards' place in the East (fourth) or Detroit which already had been eliminated from the playoff race.
"It was one of my few games I started. Maurice Cheeks was out five or six games," Brooks said. "I don’t know if (Isiah Thomas) respected me a whole lot. We had a chance to win the game but one of our players – I’m not going to name his name – turned it over at the end of the game. We lost the game. I think it was actually on TNT. It was one of the first times I’d been on national TV as a player. Great memories. Lot of great players and teams. A lot of great basketball was played through here."
The teammate Brooks tried to cover for? Mike Giminski, who threw away the inbounds pass in a panic, stolen by Thomas. The Pistons trailed 103-99 with 10.8 seconds left but forced the extra session to win in what would be an NBA championship season. They won three overall here, 1989, 1990 and 2004.
The Pistons' new venue will be Little Caesars Arena. It'll be more easily accessible than The Palace of Auburn Hills, located far outside of the metro area, but it set the trend for the spacious, luxury-box filled facilities that are common today such as Orlando's Amway Center. Even now, The Palace is one of the more pleasant places to watch an NBA game.
Markieff Morris, who had 20 points and eight rebounds, took a special joy in beating his brother, Marcus. He had 12 points for the Pistons in defeat. He also had the game-winning tip-in vs. Wizards in the last meeeting here.
"My brother couldn't close it out so I had to step up, take his place and close it out," Markieff Morris said.
Alumni such as Chauncey Billups, Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, James Edwards, Rick Mahorn, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were in attendance for a halftime tribute that featured the trophies and memories of the last 29 years.
"It’s sad to see it go but like everything there’s always something better around the corner," Brooks said. "I’m sure the next building is going to be phenomenal."