The Detroit Pistons lost their seventh game in a row to the New Jersey Nets Wednesday night, 99-96. While a loss is a loss in the NBA, the Pistons' post-game chatter was a bit more positive after this one. They were actually in this game. Brandon Knight, the Piston's rookie point guard, had a chance to tie it up when he got a great look at a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Unfortunately, the shot rimmed out.
This was a good time to talk about silver linings though. Teams must do that when they're in the midst of a dismal season like Detroit is.
Lawrence Frank, their new coach, pointed out that there were times the Piston's could have "gone south" but instead fought back. Veteran, and lone championship holdover, Tayshaun Prince talked about how it felt good to be close in the fourth quarter for a change.
The Piston's need to find positivity wherever they can. If not, a young team like this one might find it hard to be motivated every night.
One thing the team, and it's fans, can stay positive about is the development of Brandon Knight. He's been overshadowed—with good reason—by Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving this year, but the Pistons have to be happy with his development.
When you think about it, the Pistons' woes might actually be beneficial for Knight; although he'd never admit it. He'd rather be winning games, I'm sure.
For a 20-year old guy whose won everywhere he's been, and is now being asked to command an NBA offense from day one, perhaps it's good that the losing happens now.
When Knight joined the Pistons, they were already knee-deep in transition. A new owner and a new coaching staff were moving in, and several key members of the team were moving out. Despite some fans' disbelief, the rebuilding process had begun.
For Knight, this means no pressure to win now. Sure, the Pistons want to win. Professional athletes need something to motivate them to go to work everyday. But it's not like Knight was joining the Dallas Mavericks or Miami Heat.
Joining a championship-caliber team would probably sound great to Knight at this moment, but it would bring a whole new set of issues. He wouldn't start or play nearly as much. If he did start, there would be tremendous pressure on him to play flawlessly and not be the one who derailed his team's hopes of an NBA championship.
Compared to situations like these, Knight has very little pressure to cope with. He's free to focus his energies in other directions....
....Like Getting Better
Without the pressure to win from day-one, Knight has the benefit of taking his time. I'm sure watching Rubio and Irving get all the attention really stokes his competitive fire, but in the grand scheme of things, it's meaningless.
Knight is learning the game of NBA basketball—a completely different game than the NCAA version—from a different perspective than other rookies.
He can make mistakes, and learn from them, without having to worry about it being a disaster. He's able to take last-second shots and not feel like the world is going to end because he missed. He's learning to lead a team during the most difficult time for an athlete—losing.
In other words, he's able to focus on what he needs to do to get better, rather than what he needs to do to win a game. That will come with time.
There is something to be said for learning how to lose. It's a hard lesson to learn, especially for a young player; but it's extremely useful.
We've seen it destroy athletes so that they never reach their full potential, and we've seen it turn athletes into crybabies who demand one-way tickets out of town.
Knight will survive this losing season. In doing so, he will learn what it takes to win, much like Isiah Thomas and the pre-Bad Boy Pistons. Before Thomas and company were winning championships, they lost a lot of games. They had to learn what it took to beat teams like the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
Not just during the regular season either. Winning in the playoffs is a whole other lesson.
Once they learned those lessons, they were a force to be reckoned with.
This isn't the way all NBA franchises do things. Some teams can buy championships. They sign the best players available each year, then fill in pieces to keep them in contention.
The Pistons couldn't do this if they wanted to. There are no marquee free agents beating down Joe Dumars' door to sign. It's just the hand Detroit's been dealt.
So Dumars and the Pistons do it the old-fashioned way. Rebuild through the draft and develop winners. No instant gratification here. It's a slow process, but it works. Dumars should know. He has history on his side.
Let's hope history repeats itself with Knight and this Pistons bunch.