Detroit Pistons Season Preview

October 15, 2009

detroit pistons

*click on the pic to view this post at SLAMonline.com!

by Eric Woodyard

We’ve seen this before!

The pieces are in place. The hunger is back. The story is just waiting to unfold. 

Is it just me, or does this year’s Detroit Pistons team remind you of the team in 2001? Think about it for a minute…

• Rookie Head Coach (check)

• Solid Veterans (check)

• New cast of players (check)

• Youth (check)

Just like in 2001, under the direction of Rick Carlisle, look for the Detroit Pistons to be the silent assassin of the Eastern Conference. There is no reason that they don’t have the opportunity to compile a 50-win season.

Let’s be honest here…no one expects them to do much of anything this year right? This makes them the undisputed underdogs of the league, putting them in unfamiliar territory than what they’ve been accustomed to throughout most of the new millennium.

Starting with their new head coach, John Kuester, who has spent over 13 years in the NBA as an assistant coach the franchise has already established leadership from the sidelines. During his tenure as an assistant coach, Kuester has helped guide the Philadelphia 76ers to the Finals in 2001 and played a solid role in helping Cleveland reach the Eastern Conference Finals this past season. He has also helped coach six different franchises, including the 2004 Pistons championship team, under Larry Brown.

This is similar to Carlisle’s coaching journey as he also performed as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets, Portland Trailblazers, and Indiana Pacers before ultimately shining alone in the head position.

Lack of direction from the sidelines may have been the key to last year’s dismal team that went 39-43 with Michael Curry calling the shots. This clearly won’t be the case this season as Kuester brings respect and keen knowledge, just like Carlisle did back in 2001 and 2002 when he led the team to consecutive 50-32 records, winning 61 percent of their contests. Carlisle even garnered the Coach of the Year award in 2002, which may be highly possible for Kuester this season.

The Pistons also had the luxury of acquiring a couple of solid, hungry veterans, notably Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins who were also a part of those two seasons under Carlisle. These veterans will establish the importance of defense which helped build the Pistons to national prominence.

Although a few things have changed with this year’s Ben Wallace than the one from the past, he still will be effective. We no longer fear the fro, he’s in his mid-thirties, and he has a number change (6), but he will now understand his role.

This was a problem in his latter years with the franchise when he wanted to focus more on scoring and forgot what propelled him to the top: Defense! Who knows…we may even see him make a return onto one of the NBA’s All Defensive Teams this season. Look out.

Atkins will be able guide the younger players through the tough grind of full NBA season. Averaging double digits (10.2 points) throughout his entire 10 year career, he has the credibility to impose his will onto the team. This was also missing from last year’s team. When times got rough, there were not any veterans like Dana Barros or Cliff Robinson to help direct the younger players in the right path like they did with the 2001 team.

Atkins and Wallace will serve as that role and bring stability into the locker room, weeding out all of the frivolous bickering that often occurred in the past.

While there has been much publicity given to the new cast of players onto the organization, I really don’t feel as though they have been given their proper respect. Really take a look at Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Chris Wilcox! Those are some big-time pick ups.

Gordon is coming off of a playoff season in which he averaged a career-high 24.3 buckets per contest, Villanueva is fresh off of a 16.2 ppg and 6.7 rpg season with the Bucks, and Wilcox brings that grittiness back to the squad. He also cut the braids to show his fresh start to life…if that means anything.

Anyway to get back to the point, the Pistons will be fresh this year. Unlike any of the past 6-7 years when we knew what we were gonna get when we watched the Pistons: A slow it down, grind it out approach to the game. But now, we really don’t know what to expect.

Teams will fear the unknown because they won’t know how to approach the new team. Will Ben Gordon go bananas? Will Rip Hamilton regain his mid-range stroke? How focused will Ben Wallace be on Defense? Who will take the last shot? Will they focus more on defense or offense? Who are the Detroit Pistons??

All of these questions have yet to be answered. But one thing we know is that the Detroit Pistons do have the potential.

You’ve got Rodney Stuckey (Dumars’ golden boy), Rip Hamilton (Coatesville’s finest), Will Bynum (Chi-Town legend), Tayshaun Prince (lock-down defender), Jason Maxiell (a beast), and DaJuan Summers (hot-shot rookie), just to name a few.

Will this be enough to help them return to championship status? I honestly don’t think so, but I do think the possibility of a 50-win season is within reach.

Don’t think so? Hey, people didn’t think the Detroit Pistons of 2001 would do it either but shit happens!

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