AUBURN HILLS -- Tom Gores says the biggest thing he had to learn in his first year as Pistons owner is patience.
He still doesn't have a lot of it.
Gores had a end-of-season meeting with the media Thursday evening, and his message was clear.
"We better make the playoffs this season," he said.
Team president Joe Dumars and Pistons coach Lawrence Frank had their end-of-season meeting with the players on Friday morning, and then met with the media.
"I think that's a very realistic goal," Dumars said, when asked about the owner's statement. "Obviously, that's the direction we want to go - otherwise we wouldn't be here - but I also think it is a reasonable expectation."
One place where Dumars and Gores differed was on the strategy Detroit would employ to transform from a 25-41 team into a playoff team.
"I'm not sure our roster requires any moves to make the playoffs, because we have some great players on the team," the owner said. "I'm not saying that we won't look into the possibilities of making changes, but I'm saying we already have some great players."
Dumars, on the other hand, thinks it is important to give Frank a better roster for the 2012-2013 season.
"That's my job - I have to give Lawrence more good players to work with," he said. "Lawrence is in charge of making the players we have even better, and I'm in charge of getting him more of them.
"I understand why Tom said that - we do have some very good young players on our roster - but you always have to move forward in this league."
Detroit's chances at the playoffs this season were ruined by a 4-20 start, but all three principals were encouraged by the 21-21 record that the Pistons posted from there.
"We don't make excuses here, and there were 29 other teams that were hurt by the lockout, but I think it did affect some teams more than others," Dumars said. "We had a new coach, a new system and a rookie point guard.
"We basically didn't get a training camp, there was no preseason, and then boom. You are playing a shortened schedule and working on the fly."
Frank agreed and plans to use the upcoming offseason as a chance to rectify some of those issues.
"I plan to take some time and visit with all of our players," he said. "I want to build up some relationship equity, so when I get in their faces about something, we have a bond established. Last season, I couldn't do that, so it was just a confrontation."
The Pistons will be building their future around the nucleus of Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, plus whomever they get in the draft. Barring a stroke of luck, they will have the ninth pick, and Dumars warned fans not to get too excited.
"Our draft isn't like the NFL, where someone gets drafted ninth or 10th and they say that he's going to start right away and play for 15 years," he said. "In this league, at that spot, you're looking at someone who will help right away, not someone who is going to be an impact player.
"Look at Greg Monroe. He helped us in his first season, but he didn't become an impact player until this year. That's the normal progression for players drafted in those spots."
Unlike last year's disaster under John Kuester, Frank kept the respect of his team, and unlike the past ownership issues, Gores now has firm control of the team and is willing to spend the money. Those things, combined with labor peace and the stronger finish to the season, means the Pistons go into the offseason in a positive state of mind.
"For the past couple years, it has been a relief just to get to the finish line," Dumars said. "This season, when we met with the guys this morning, there was a real sense of disappointment that we're not going to be playing this weekend.
"There are 16 teams that get to keep playing at the end of the year. This year, we aren't one of them. Next year, we plan to be."