Posted Jul 8 2009 6:13PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Twentysomethings Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva joined the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, signaling the start of a new era for a new-look team.
"They're making a lot of changes," Gordon said. "They still have a few pieces from the championship team, but there's definitely some new blood and we're hungry."
Gordon, one of the top NBA free agents this summer, signed a $55 million, five-year contract in leaving the Chicago Bulls and Villanueva inked a $35 million, five-year deal as he bid farewell to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The 26-year-old Gordon averaged 20.7 points last season for Chicago, leading the team in scoring for the fourth straight year. Villanueva, who turns 25 next month, averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds last season with Milwaukee.
"I love it," Detroit's 23-year-old point guard Rodney Stuckey said after working out at the team's practice facility. "We're getting younger."
The Pistons also hope they're competitive as they transform from a veteran-laden team to one counting on players in their mid-20s.
"Happy to add both of these young guys," Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We think both guys are just reaching their prime."
Detroit went into the offseason with a lot of salary-cap space because Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson had expiring contracts. The team has essentially dismantled the nucleus that led Detroit to the 2004 title and made it the first NBA team in two decades to play in six straight conference finals.
The rebuilding plan was expedited last season, when point guard Chauncey Billups was sent to Denver for Iverson. The Pistons never recovered, posting their worst season since 2001, but knew they would have a chance to reshape the roster this summer.
On the day free agents could begin listening to offers last week, Gordon and Villanueva chose to be Pistons in a move that reunites them five years after they led Connecticut to the U.S. college championship.
"Ben and I, we're two very good offensive players," Villanueva said. "The last time I played with Ben, we won a championship so that made my decision a little easier."
Gordon, the No. 3 pick in 2004, is coming off a postseason in which he averaged a team-high 24.3 points in seven games. But the Bulls didn't negotiate to re-sign him.
Gordon said the Pistons can put him and Richard Hamilton -- both shooting guards -- on the court together.
"I have no problem handling the basketball and creating plays for my teammates," Gordon said. "I think that's a part of my game people haven't seen yet."
Villanueva went from being a restricted free agent to an unrestricted one when the Bucks chose not to make him a qualifying offer. The Toronto Raptors drafted Villanueva No. 7 overall in 2005 and traded him to Milwaukee after his rookie season.
"I've never been in the playoffs," he said. "I'm tired of losing. I have a great chance in Detroit to win some games."
The Pistons are expected to soon hire Cleveland Cavaliers assistant John Kuester, who was on Larry Brown's championship-winning staff in Detroit five years ago, to replace the fired Michael Curry.
"He's been in the league a long time," Gordon said. "He was here when the Pistons won the championship, so he knows more than anybody what needs to be done."
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