Hornets-Pistons: new season, new arena, new faces (Oct 18, 2017)
A new home should help the Detroit Pistons erase the memories of a poor season. They will get a fresh start in their new building, but coach Stan Van Gundy still does not have a strong feeling about his starting lineup.
The Pistons will play the Charlotte Hornets in their first regular-season game at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit on Wednesday. The Pistons had called The Palace of Auburn Hills home since 1988.
Detroit played three preseason games at the sparkling new building, which is also the new home of the Red Wings.
"Everybody's right on top of you," Van Gundy said of the arena's intimacy.
While the Pistons try to get familiar with their new digs, Van Gundy will try to sort out his rotation. Center Andre Drummond and a newcomer, shooting guard Avery Bradley, are the only surefire starters on a team that went 37-45 last season after making the playoffs the previous campaign.
"There were a lot of good things in the preseason, things that gave me optimism but I did say to them, 'We're not where we need to be,'" Van Gundy said. "A lot of it is through no fault of anybody. I don't have a good handle on my rotation. That's probably the worst thing coming out of the preseason."
Bradley, who was acquired in a trade from Boston, should provide a boost offensively and defensively. He averaged career highs in points (16.3 per game), rebounds (6.1) and assists (2.2) last season.
Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson will look to bounce back from subpar seasons. Jackson was limited by a knee injury last season, and the production of his main pick-and-roll partner suffered.
"We are a team that can play with anybody but if we don't do it consistently, it's going to be a tough year," Drummond said.
Jackson and Ish Smith, who had a strong preseason, will split time at the point. Van Gundy has not revealed his forward rotation, though Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer will likely get the most minutes.
"All 12 players we dress will be legitimate options to play," Van Gundy said.
Detroit will face an opponent missing two of its starters. Charlotte, which also failed to make the playoffs last season while finishing 36-46, is depleted at the wing with the absences of Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Batum suffered a torn ligament of his left elbow in the first minute of a preseason game at Little Caesars two weeks ago. He's expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks. Kidd-Gilchrist is attending to a personal matter.
Like Van Gundy, Hornets coach Steve Clifford is undecided on his starting lineup. He'll wait until Wednesday afternoon to make his final determination.
"We're playing without two starters for this first stretch," he said. "We don't have the depth, nor are we as strong to start the games as we will be a month from now. That's always a factor. But it also gives us a chance for these other guys to grow here early in the year."
Charlotte's biggest move this offseason was the acquisition of center Dwight Howard from Atlanta. Clifford was an Orlando assistant coach under Van Gundy when Howard was the franchise player there.
Howard, who averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds last season, isn't the same player he was with the Magic but the Hornets hope he can anchor their interior defense.
"If he has a really good year, we can have a really good team," Clifford said. "I think he's determined to do that."