Optimism in the air at Pistons' media day

BY foxsports • September 30, 2013

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 be
excited 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 a
playoff 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 past
few 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 than
they'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 front
line 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.

here 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 the
focus was on winning basketball games. 

That alone makes a nice change in Auburn Hills.

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