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Who Are These Detroit Pistons? They Arent Your Daddy's, But Are They Yours?

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent INovember 28, 2009

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 22:  Jonas Jerebko #33 of the Detroit Pistons during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 22, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Pistons 117-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A funny thing happened the other day in the Wierenga household, something that undoubtedly has played out (and will play out) over the course of this NBA basketball season.

I was sitting down to watch the Detroit Pistons take on the Phoenix Suns in the early evening.  While I am always excited to watch the Pistons, on this occasion I was a little more excited because it would be the first time my girlfriend would have a chance to watch the team this year.

Sara is not your typical girlfriend. She is a die hard sports fan which, coupled with her gorgeous looks, makes her quite simply the greatest woman in the world.

When we met, she was not really into sports. She had an interest in Peyton Manning (and still does), but that mainly stemmed from the fact that she is from Indiana and Manning gives that state a sort of favorite son.

She and I got together in 2003, right as the Pistons were getting swept by New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals. Therefore, she was with me throughout the entire magical 2004 that culminated in the Pistons first title in 14 years.

She saw the team shake off a terrible start to come together as the season moved forward.

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She also saw the change in the team once Rasheed Wallace and Mike James were added.

And she was right by my side throughout the playoffs, from Tayshaun Prince's block on Reggie Miller, to the Pistons engineering their finishing touches on a great season by essentially sweeping the Lakers in five games.

She had become emotionally invested in the team, and their success became one of the building blocks of our young relationship.

The Pistons were our team, and to commemorate the season, Sara put together a poster made up of press clippings from throughout the playoffs, a poster that has hung on one of our walls in all of our adventures around the country.

As the years went on, she was there with me through all of the tough playoff losses, her zeal for the team diminishing slightly with each exit at the hands of (to us) inferior adversaries.

Last year was the breaking point. Due to our relocation to the west coast and the fact that most games were on while she was still at work, she lost track of the team.

So when she was finally able to watch a game with me this year, she asked me "who are these guys?"

Since I have been so focused on all of the Pistons moves throughout the years, I have gotten used to seeing new faces.

But to Sara, this was a whole new team. She saw Jonas Jerebko from a distance and feared that Darko Milicic had returned to Detroit. She kept looking for Rip, hoping to see at least someone familiar, but to no avail.

When she finally saw a familiar player, she got excited. 

"At least Tayshaun is still there." To which I had to reply, "that's Austin Daye."

The only guy she knew was Ben Wallace, which confused her since the last time she had seen him he was Bull.

This seems to be a common occurrence. Most Pistons fans are keeping their distance from this team, fearing a Moses-like wandering through the desert of basketball mediocrity for the foreseeable future.

Critics of this team will say that they have finally fallen, and that there is a long way to go before they compete again.

Pistons apologists will no doubt smack back at these prognostications that this team has not been healthy all season and is a lot better than their record would show.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, although I will not get into that here (in my next article, I will discuss this in depth).

The fact of the matter is that the Pistons have endured a perfect storm of bad luck so far, and it is a terrible situation for everyone involved, from the economically challenged state of Michigan to the economically gifted Davidson family.

The Davidson family is easy to forget these days considering they do not share the same problems that most of their customers endure. However, they are dealing with a tough time as well.

Not only has the patriarch of their family, the always irascible William, passed away, but they are watching his pride and joy wallow among the dregs of the league.

This league would be a shocking sight to the man that built this franchise. The Atlanta Hawks are tied for the second best record in the league, and the Milwaukee Bucks suddenly look like a team on the rise.

The economy of Michigan is continuing to crash, and the City of Detroit just doesn't have enough money to go out and watch the Pistons. One could make the argument that even if this team was good, the fans would be forced to stay away.

Personally, I believe the fans will come back, even if the economy does not. But they have to make a connection to this team, and they still don't know what they are seeing.

They hear commentators like myself telling them that the young guys are going to be good and this team has a future. But nobody wants to wait to see talent exist in a vacuum; this is why minor league baseball games don't sell out.

And in the eyes of Pistons fans, that is essentially what they have in their town. They may go to a few games, but probably only because their is a talented individual on the other team, or because there was nothing else to do on a Tuesday night.

However, there is an opportunity here to be a part of something special. When the Pistons began their last quest for glory, they were comprised of castoffs and overachievers. There was not a flashy star that would bring in the fair-weather fans.

Instead, they were developed and cultivated and with a lot of hard work, they sprouted into a champion that was beloved in Michigan. As a result, they led the league in attendance six of the last seven years despite not having a single MVP candidate on their roster.

It was a team that allowed the fans to buy in at the ground floor and take ownership of a great franchise.

Today, the Pistons are offering that same chance. But the question is whether or not the fans buy that this team can develop into a winner.

Until the Pistons can start to put together some wins, the fans will likely continue to stay away.

And when they catch a glimpse of this team, they will ask, "who are these guys".

In order for the Pistons to answer that question, they likely are going to have to figure it out for themselves.

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