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Fred Hoiberg, Timberwolves Special Assistant, Meets with Pistons

3/8/2006

He retired as a player last summer, after open heart surgery to correct an aneurysm. Then he collapsed in his home, and had a pacemaker installed. He has been working for the 'Wolves off the court, but now Krista Latham of the Detroit Free Press reports Fred Hoiberg is in talks with the Pistons, including his former coach Flip Saunders, about possibly joining Detroit as the first NBA player with a pacemaker. (If he does come back, brace yourself for lots of bad analogies about Hoiberg being "the heart of the team" and "setting the pace.")

In December, after an echocardiogram, doctors turned down Hoiberg's pacemaker, letting his natural heartbeat take over. That was a good sign. He also met with doctors in January, at which time they still hadn't cleared him for NBA play, according to a story by the Associated Press.

In that story, Hoiberg said, "They didn't say yes, but they didn't say no."

Are there questions? Lots.

If the Pistons signed Hoiberg, who would be waived? (Most likely rookie Alex Acker, although Kelvin Cato could be a candidate, too. He's still on the injured list and hasn't been active since the trade-deadline deal with Orlando.)

Didn't the Pistons just sign Tony Delk, another guard? Wouldn't this be guard overkill?

(Yes, but none of those guards offers the same package. And if you can sign a great shooter and a veteran, you do it, right?)

But there's one thing Saunders doesn't question.

If healthy, the 6-foot-5 Hoiberg can play multiple positions and, in Saunders' book, is one of the top spot-up three-point shooters in the league. He averaged 5.8 points and shot a league-leading 48.3% on three-pointers in 2004-05.

"He looks and sees how he can help the team," Saunders said. "He knows the system, knows us. He has a comfort level. Knows what we're doing. And basically, you look at how he plays the last two years, and they were his best two years as a pro.

"There's no question that if Freddy is a healthy player, that he can come back and help people. ...People can look at him as an X-factor, maybe."