The Detroit Pistons hope to look back on 2012 as a year where they laid the groundwork for future success.
But the shortened 2011-12 season and start of the 2012-13 season really weren’t what the Pistons and their fans would call successful in themselves.
After all, the start of last season was delayed due to the NBA lockout, which was finally resolved in time to start games on Christmas.
It was not the ideal way for a team with a new coach and a new point guard to start their tenure in Detroit, yet that was the case for Lawrence Frank and Brandon Knight.
Frank did not have the luxury of summer league play or a full training camp to get to know his players and implement his system.
Knight, who spent just one year at Kentucky before turning pro, had just turned 20 when the Pistons started playing last season.
So it’s no wonder that the Pistons started last season 4-20 before finishing 21-21 to end the 66-game season with a 25-41 record.
It was Tom Gores’ first year of owning Palace Sports and Entertainment. Gores had his team working to make improvements to the Palace, which originally opened in 1988.
In addition to improvements in the physical building, the Pistons also brought in big-name entertainment acts like MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice to perform at halftime of Pistons games.
Gores also said at the end of last season and reiterated at the beginning of this season that he expected the Pistons to make the playoffs. Although Gores said it wasn’t a mandate, he was clearly looking for improvement on the court.
The Pistons did not make the playoffs last season and said goodbye to Ben Gordon (and a future first-round pick), who was traded to Charlotte for Corey Maggette.
Longtime Piston and one of the cornerstones of the 2004 championship team, Ben Wallace, also retired following the season.
The Pistons drafted big man Andre Drummond with the ninth pick in the June 2012 draft. The Pistons also selected small forward Khris Middleton with the 39th pick and guard Kim English with the 44th pick in the same draft.
Kyle Singler, who was chosen in the second round of the 2011 draft, returned to join the Pistons after playing a year in Spain.
The Pistons also signed free agent center Viacheslav Kravtsov.
Frank was able to spend time with his players over the summer and had a full training camp.
His players all said before the season started that, like Gores, they expected to make the playoffs.
Veteran Tayshaun Prince cautioned that no one should get overly excited because the team’s schedule did not look especially favorable to start.
Prince proved to be right as the Pistons lost their home opener to the Houston Rockets and then dropped all six games on their west coast road trip. They fell to a franchise-worst 0-8 start before finally winning their first game on the road in Philadelphia Nov. 14.
They also had a six-game losing streak from Dec. 10-Dec. 19, which they finally snapped on Dec. 21 at home against a very poor and undermanned Washington Wizards team.
The losing no doubt had an impact on the attendance, which is ranked last in the league with an average of 12,636 fans and selling a league-low 57.2 percent of tickets. The 29th-ranked team, the Sacramento Kings, are averaging 12,929 but they are selling 74.7 percent of tickets.
Before Christmas, the Pistons had a 9-21 record and three more games left in 2012 (at Atlanta, vs. Miami and vs. Milwaukee).
As the Pistons head into 2013, the biggest positive story of the season so far is Drummond, the 19-year-old rookie out of Connecticut.
Drummond is second among rookies in rebounding, averaging 6.8 rebounds a game. New Orleans’ Anthony Davis leads with 8.2 rebounds a game, but he’s averaging 31.2 minutes a game while Drummond is averaging 18.8 minutes. The two are tied in offensive rebounding, 2.8 per game.
Drummond is still pretty raw but he has developed a nice chemistry with Rodney Stuckey in the second unit.
Pistons president Joe Dumars told Keith Langlois of pistons.com that he likes what he’s seen so far in Drummond.
“He has the ability to make the ‘wow’ play,” Dumars told pistons.com. “To have a guy who can make those plays, especially on the defensive end, certainly can be infectious to your team. We’ve seen that over the years here in Detroit. We’ve had guys who can make those incredible defensive plays and he’s shown early on that he has the ability to make those plays. That’s a big plus for us.”
While Drummond may not be able to lead the Pistons to the playoffs this season, the hope is that he, along with Knight and Greg Monroe, will be able to do so in the near future.
Then fans will be able to look back at 2012 as a year where the Pistons laid the foundation for success.