The season opener at the Palace of Auburn Hills was not a wildly anticipated event, but they treated it like one. Official attendance was just over 16,000, though this number appeared to be quite generous. Nevertheless, the Palace production crew put on a pregame ceremony that was worthy of a relevant basketball team. Unfortunately for local fans, this would be the only Detroit Pistons highlight of the night.
James Harden stole the spotlight that night in what could only be described as a loud message to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This game was SportsCenter material, but for all the wrong reasons in Detroit. The Pistons had allowed Harden to use their home opener as a launch pad for his new solo-act.
And after laying down for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets in much-needed wins for each, it was becoming abundantly clear to the rest of the NBA that the Pistons were the cure to what ailed them.
So here are you 2012 Detroit Pistons: professional basketball team, storied franchise, travelling comedy of errors.
Three-game losing streak? The Pistons will fix that. Chemistry issues? The Pistons will fix that. Offense not clicking? The Pistons will fix that. Star player with something to prove? You get the idea.
But unlike other bottom-feeding teams in the NBA, the Pistons seem to have less of an excuse for their early mediocrity. They finished the final stretch of the 2011-12 season on a high note, winning more than they lost. And with an unimpeded offseason and full training camp to hang their hats on, they are now a year further versed in Lawrence Frank's defense-first philosophy.
Returning standouts Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe were to be the anchor for this fledgeling roster and help the Pistons take positive strides forward. But Stuckey, a ball-dominant player, has slumped since being shifted off the ball to shooting guard in favor of a more traditional point in Brandon Knight. He has admittedly struggled to find his place in the offense.
The contract of Tayshaun Prince now exists more as a haunting reminder of past successes than it does as an asset to the team. At this point, his services would be better utilized on a playoff-bound team and I expect him to be gone come trade-deadline.
Then there is Charlie Villanueva, noted headcase and psychopath. Villanueva predicts a renaissance year for himself, declaring that he is finally in the best shape of his life. He claims to have spent the offseason in a boxing gym with the intent to improve his defense (h/t David Mayo, mlive.com). Though he won't spar, mind you, because that might actually hurt.
It seems, however, that Charlie V. will need a miracle to crack into Lawrence Frank's rotation. His lack of defense and propensity to chuck the basketball, combined with his utter disconnection with reality make him a glaring liability on and off the court. Sadly, this means no more tweeting in the middle of games, no more tunnel brawls and no more run-ins with Kevin Garnett. For shame.
The Pistons are shaping up to be the wrong kind of catalyst this season. When you are the team that other teams look forward to play, you may have a problem. Basic logic would dictate that you watch another team and wait for the Drummond highlights in the morning. But if you are determined to go down with the ship (or the local economy?), this guy may be your only silver lining.
It’s cold in the D, as they say, and this team isn’t making things any warmer.