Rob Parker: The Palace is fun again


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – It sounded like old times.

Tuesday night, indeed, sounded like circa 2004.

If you closed your eyes, you would have believed you were back in the glory days ... where winning was routine for the Detroit Pistons.

But this was just a regular season game in November. The Pistons stumbled into the contest coming off four straight losses to cap their West Coast trip.

Worse of all, they had really played poorly in their previous three games. Hence, there really wasn't much to cheer about coming in.

Now granted, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were in town. And there were plenty of fans there to see James and root for him.

But, the cheers from the crowd of 18,442 were clearly for the home team. The Palace was alive and fun for a game in the grand scheme of things that doesn't really matter.

After all, the Pistons are young and rebuilding. Sure, they have a shot at the playoffs for the first time since 2009. But by no means is it a finished product.

Still, many can see the future in center Andre Drummond and realize there's a star in the making. He's the cornerstone you need to build a franchise into a legitimate championship contender.

In the Pistons' 104-99 victory over the Cavs,  Drummond had 25 points and 18 rebounds.

"It was a great basketball game," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It turned into a grind-it-out affair down the stretch.

"It was a great basketball game to watch. We have great fans here who appreciate good basketball. I have said that all along. They know what they're watching, which isn't the case everywhere. They knew the effort we were putting in and everything else and they got behind us. It was great."

The Pistons are now 6-5. That's nothing to write home about. Still, many fans remember last season's terrible start. The Pistons didn't get their sixth win until after Christmas.

On the schedule, it looked like it would be a gift for Cleveland. The Pistons were coming off a long road trip with little time to recuperate.

"First, you want to protect the house," said Pistons' guard Reggie Jackson, who had 23 points and 12 assists. "It's been a tough stretch for us these past four games. We wanted to find a way to get a win tonight.

"We battled all 48 minutes and found a way to get a win."

There was been so much made of the Pistons moving downtown. Many have proclaimed that The Palace isn't viable anymore and fans won't flock up there any longer.

The death knell for The Palace is definitely premature.

It's never about a location, be it close or far. Fans will come if they are offered an entertaining, competitive product.

That drive doesn't feel that long and rough to make if you're going to see some good basketball.

That's what the Pistons are offering these days. Sure, they weren't as good as their 5-1 start indicated. But they also aren't as bad as their 2-6 recent road trip.

And while their correct record will eventually adjust, there's no denying that the team is fun, energetic with a don't-quit attitude.

Fans saw that Tuesday night when the Pistons came from 13 points down in the second half to beat the best team in the East, the Cavs (8-3).

 "It was a really good team, a good win," Van Gundy said. "What was really important to us is that we played a lot better.

"We just have not played well in three games. It was good to see our team play well. And when you play hard and well, you want to see them rewarded."

The team was also rewarded with an atmosphere suitable for framing. It was loud, live and got a sense of urgency when the game was on line in the final two minutes.

"Any time you have our city backing us, fans packing out this building with that type of support, it makes it easy to play with energy," said Jackson.

The crowd didn't go unnoticed by the Pistons.

"We have the best fans," Drummond said. "They are loyal and stuck with us when we were down and now they are showing their appreciation."

By showing up and cheering, too.