Pistons season starts with a dud

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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AUBURN HILLS - The end wasn't pretty.

In fact, it was downright frightening.

Normally, on Halloween night, it would be fitting. But this was the Pistons' season opener at The Palace on Wednesday night.

Not many have huge expectations for the mostly young, rebuilding team this season. Still, most wouldn't have believed that they would give up 33 fourth-quarter points to the blah Houston Rockets.

For sure, the Pistons' 105-96 loss to the Rockets has fans already thinking it's going to be another long season, another season will there will be no postseason.

In reality, that's just not fair. One game doesn't make a season, even had they played more like the third quarter when they had an 11-point lead and won. That, too, wouldn't have guaranteed anything.

"We just lost our pace," said Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, whose team had an 81-72 advantage to start the final quarter. "When you watch the amount of times we get into things later than we want to, and the ball sticking, we didn't change what we ran, but just our intent with it.''

Whatever that was in the fourth quarter wasn't pretty. It was a total collapse.

For whatever reason, many are down on the Pistons no matter what they do.

When they won the title in 2004, it wasn't enough for fans because they believed they should have won back-to-back and beaten the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.

Meanwhile, fans are crazy over the Tigers, still looking for their first championship since 1984. And the Lions are another team that gets so much love despite the fact that they have just one playoff victory since 1957.

No one has to make excuses for the Pistons. This team has made this city proud -- a few times.

Simply, this is what rebuilding looks like. You have to get young players through the draft and develop them.

Two of those pieces started. Brandon Knight had 15 points and Greg Monroe had 14 points and eight rebounds.

The last piece is rookie Andre Drummond, who had two points and two rebounds in almost 13 minutes of action in his debut.

Those are three pieces the Pistons hope to develop this season and then be able to add an impact player through free agency or a big trade.

That's what the Rockets did in obtaining James Harden from the OKC Thunder. Harden, who helped the Thunder get to the NBA Finals last season, scored 37 points and had 12 assists in his debut for Houston.

"We thought he would have had a tougher time as far as figuring out their offense," said Tayshaun Prince about Harden, who was traded to Houston on Saturday. "But they only stuck to a couple of plays the entire game."

"We know what type of player James Harden is. The more he has the ball in his hands, the more dangerous he is."

Frank, by no means, doesn't have an easy job to do before the Pistons get their impact player.

First, he has to get these guys to play defense from start to finish and every single night. That's how you close out games and not allow 33 points in the fourth quarter in your own building.

That's also how you win championships, playing defense. We saw it first hand when Larry Brown was the coach and the Pistons beat the Lakers in five games in 2004.

The concept is easier said than done. But Frank had this young group playing well in the second half of the season after a terrible start.

Defense is about desire and effort. You have to want to stop your man, get the rebound and go all out after those precious loose balls.

Yes, the Pistons aren't on the NBA America map anymore. For about a decade, Motown was the center of attention in the league and going to The Palace was the happening place.

But the Pistons were here first, losing and playing in front of a mostly empty arena in 2000. It didn't take all that long to get the ship righted.

Settle in Pistons fans. It will be another frustrating season, not a total loss, though. And the idea that they could settle in and grab the final playoff spot isn't out of the question.

"We want to see growth, improvement,'' Pistons owner Tom Gores said. "And ultimately, we have to win."

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