AUBURN HILLS -- Andre Drummond noticed it immediately.
Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups promised it is going to continue.
There's something strange in the air at the Pistons practice facility -- optimism.
"As soon as I walked in here today, I noticed that everyone is excited," Drummond said at Media Day. "I'm always excited, so that doesn't mean anything, but I didn't see this last year. We've got new young guys and new veterans, and there's a lot to beexcited about."
Billups left the Pistons early in the 2008-09 season in the ill-fated Allen Iverson trade that set the franchise back by five years. Monday, he couldn't keep the smile off his face as he looked down at the familiar red-white-and-blue No. 1 jersey.
"When they gave me my jersey at the press conference a couple months ago, I took it home, and practiced wearing it," he said. "I've never done that before, but, as all of you know, this jersey means a little more than anything else I've worn."
Even during his five-year absence, Billups has followed the fortunes of the Pistons, and he knows how bad things have gotten since he was traded -- a move that led to the cap-wrecking signings of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Detroit hasn't won aplayoff game since he left and has dropped from the league's top attendance to 29th and 28th in the last two seasons.
With Smith and Brandon Jennings coming to Detroit, plus the additions of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva in the draft, Billups promised the fans that they won't keep watching the same terrible basketball they've seen in the pastfew years.
"There's nothing better than the Palace when it is rocking, and we're going to bring that back," he said. "I can't promise that we're going to jump right back to where we were when I was here before, but we're going to play much better basketball thanthey've seen in the last two or three years."
Smith was willing to go even bigger.
"There's no question in my mind that this is a playoff team -- my only question is what seed we're going to get," he said. "I thought this was a playoff team before we added Chauncey and Brandon, and now it's not even an issue.
"We've got a great frontline with Greg (Monroe), Andre and I, and we've got two guards like Brandon and Chauncey. That's a lot of talent, and a lot of guys who know how to win in this league."
As one of the NBA's best post defenders and a shot-blocking specialist, Smith thinks that playing with Drummond -- another player with the same qualities -- will make both of them more valuable.
"I've never been able to play defense with someone like Andre behind me," he said. "That is going to give me a lot of freedom to make plays, because I won't be the last line of defense. We're going to make things very tough for teams inside."
New coach Maurice Cheeks agreed that defense is, as always, going to be the focus of the Pistons.
"I'm looking at a group of players that can get steals, block shots and get out into the transition game," he said. "That's the kind of team that I think we've got here -- an athletic group that can run."
Cheeks also said that he's not going to treat Drummond with the same kid gloves as Lawrence Frank, who limited him to just 20.7 minutes a game as a rookie.
"I want Andre to be on the floor -- my plan is to have him on the floor as much as possible," he said. "He's only 20, so he shouldn't have a problem with getting tired, and I can't think of any way that we'll be a better team with him on the bench.
"He'shere to play basketball at a very high level, which he has already shown he can do. He's not here to sit."
There were the usual strange moments at a Media Day -- Jennings played down his "minor altercation" at his birthday party with rapper "The Game", while Drummond happily agreed that his actress girlfriend, Jeanette McCurdy is "adorable", but most of thefocus was on winning basketball games.
That alone makes a nice change in Auburn Hills.