Auburn Hills — After eight straight years of making the NBA playoffs, the Detroit Pistons fell off the map last year with their 27-55 record.
Although the coaches and players weren’t using it as an excuse, injuries played a large part in that. There were only 11 games in which everyone on the team was healthy.
Richard Hamilton (ankle — 36 games missed), Tayshaun Prince (back/knee — 32 games), Ben Gordon (ankle/groin — 19 games), Will Bynum (ankles — 14 games), Ben Wallace (knees — 13 games) and Rodney Stuckey (dizziness/ribs — 9 games) were among the walking wounded last season.
So it was no surprise that staying healthy was a theme of media day at the Pistons’ practice facility Monday.
“Everybody has to stay healthy,” Gordon said. “I think that’s half the battle right there. If everyone can stay healthy, I think there’s no way that we play the way that we did last season. Just hoping that we can all do that and the rest will take care of itself.”
The injuries especially took their toll on Prince, who saw his streak of 497 consecutive games played come to an end, and Hamilton, who considers himself “the best-conditioned athlete in the NBA.”
“Last year was the hardest year, not just because of injury but because of how the season went and everything,” Prince said. “I had 33 games last year where I couldn’t help my team. First time ever in my career I missed a game, and I’m not just talking about on the NBA level.
“It’s a wake-up call and a culture shock to me at the same time. I’ve been so excited about trying to get back into the swing of things. I’ll be a little nervous going into training camp because training camp is the hardest contact of the year. I haven’t put my body through that yet.”
Hamilton said that he feels like he’s back where he needs to be physically to perform at a high level. He also quelled any doubts that he wants to be in Detroit, despite all the trade rumors surrounding him in the off-season.
“I wouldn’t put this jersey on if I didn’t want to be here,” Hamilton said. “I think since I’ve been here, the fans, the organization has been so great to me, and the only thing I can do is go out on the floor and perform.”
Unlike many years, the Pistons are not considered the elite of the Eastern Conference anymore.
That’s something guys like Prince and Hamilton are not used to, having been a part of a lot of winning.
“It’s tough,” Hamilton said. “Anytime you win as many games as we did in the past and come out last year and only win as many games as we did, it’s hard, it’s tough, it’s frustrating. I’d be lying if I told you it was easy.”
Gordon didn’t mince any words when he discussed the lack of expectations for the team.
“It doesn’t bother me either way,” Gordon said. “Other people’s expectations should never sway your own expectations of yourself or your team.
“We were the underdog last year and we continue to be the underdog until we prove otherwise. If people feel like we suck, rightfully so. So we gotta go out there and show them wrong.”
Rodney Stuckey said he was misquoted in Dime magazine, saying the Pistons were the best team in the league. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have high expectations, providing everyone stays — you guessed it — healthy.
“I told him that we were one of the best — not the best — team,” Stuckey said. “We are. I believe in our team. I believe that we’re very athletic, we have a lot of great players on the team.
“I think if we can put it together and work as one, we’ll be pretty good. I know the Eastern Conference is tough now, but I think that if we all stay healthy, the sky’s the limit for this team.”