Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 12/21/11
The Pistons, like many teams, are a work in progress. They have a new coach in Lawrence Frank, former New Jersey Nets coach and a former assistant to Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Some of the old stalwarts are back. After plenty of time to think during the lockout, Ben Wallace decided to give it another year. Tayshaun Prince re-signed for four years. Jason Maxiell remains with the team. Rip Hamilton was bought out and has signed with the Chicago Bulls. Rodney Stuckey also opted to return to the Pistons for three years. Jonas Jerebko, who missed his entire second NBA season last year because of a torn Achilles, re-signed for four years. Greg Monroe, who showed great promise as a rookie last season, and Brandon Knight, whom the Pistons chose with the eighth overall pick in this past summer's NBA Draft, are expected to be the building blocks for the future. The Pistons also have veterans Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva under contract through 2012-13. Both of them have player options for the 2013-14 seasons. Forward Austin Daye is just 23 years old and the Pistons will have to make a decision on him following this season. The Pistons also have rookie Vernon Macklin, taken in the second round of this past NBA Draft, but they are still looking for an affordable big man -- preferably a veteran -- to work with Monroe. Those expecting the Pistons to return to the glory years of making the Eastern Conference Finals every season will have to be patient. This team is unlikely to make the playoffs. After all, Stuckey led the Pistons in scoring last season with 15.5 points a game, well below the Eastern Conference leaders in that category. Miami's LeBron James led the way with 26.7 points per game, Carmelo Anthony was second with 25.6 points per game and Miami's Dwyane Wade was third with 25.5 points a game. Stuckey ranked 27th in the East. The reality of the NBA today is that championship teams do need at least one superstar. The Pistons have some good players but no superstars yet. Knight has a chance but he's a rookie who is learning on the fly after the long lockout. So far the players have responded well to Frank's ways. Stuckey, Villanueva and Will Bynum have all talked about how much they appreciate the way Frank will stop a drill when a mistake is made, he'll describe what needs to be corrected and then he'll have them run the play again until they get it right. Young players like Knight, Daye, Monroe and Jerebko will need Frank to be an excellent teacher. The veteran players believe they'll benefit from Frank's ability to communicate and put players in positions to succeed. As you enter the court at the team's practice facility, you can see Frank's imprint already. On the walls next to the court above the training room are many of the things Frank talked about when he was introduced as coach. On the left is a list of "Our Core Values: trust, commitment, accountability, sacrifice, respect." In the middle it says, "How We Play: hard, smart, together; protect our paint 1st; force contested 2's; gang rebound; attack mentality; high assistlow turnover; take great shots." On the right it says, "Our Culture: strive for excellence, hardest working, most unselfish, great team spirit and unity, we are a talk team." In other words, no more buffoonery. Prince was the one who coined that term during last season's dysfunctional mess. Each player met individually with Frank and one of the things Prince was most pleased about was when Frank told him they weren't going to look back at last season, they were going to move on. Joe Dumars remains as team president and general manager but he will have the freedom to act now that new owner Tom Gores and his team are in place. Gores has also made an early impact by renovating many areas around the Palace, including the locker room. He also changed the team's travel plans by having them fly out of Pontiac instead of busy Metro Airport. If Monroe can continue to develop, if Knight can be as impactful a rookie as he was a freshman last year at Kentucky and if Frank can re-establish the Pistons' culture of defense first, the foundation will be laid for next season. Then some superstar-type players might want to come to Detroit to play with Monroe and Knight and help push the Pistons back into the playoffs. But for this season, fans will have to settle for solid progress rather than the postseason.
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