Bringing Back the Fans

Fans who saw Pistons battle Miami left The Palace feeling like they saw a win

After spending two weeks on the West coast, the Pistons' home game against the Heat on Friday is merely a pit-stop before they embark on another four-game road stint.
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You don’t always sense the mood of a crowd in my job – I’m wearing headphones, concentrating on what goes on between the lines, not focused so much on what’s going on off the floor – but I could feel that Wednesday night was a very, very special night. It might be one of the greatest losses ever at The Palace. Most people walked out of there feeling like it was a win. You’re watching these young kids grow up right before your eyes against one of the most talented teams in the world. It was as close to a win as you could get without a victory.

I truly believe we got a glimpse of the future. You look out there at a key stretch in the fourth quarter at a unit with Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Jonas Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye. It takes some players a little longer to grow in to full-time, legitimate NBA rotation players and Austin Daye, I think, is a classic example of that. He’s trying his best to become that solid defender that Lawrence Frank really requires everybody to be if they’re on the floor for him. Austin, somewhere along the line, lost some confidence in his shot. That’s all part of the growth process.

This is a great league with great players and even the greatest need their confidence, especially at crunch time. There is so much thrown at a young player and so much of a learning curve that these guys can’t just take it all in in just a handful of games. Sometimes it takes more than one or two seasons. Often a third season is when somebody really comes into his own. Based on what we saw last night, this could be Austin Daye’s season.

I see Austin as a guy who, yes, of course, can be a hot shooter like he was in the second quarter when he was 7 for 7, including 4 for 4 from behind the long line, but I also see this guy as a legitimate, everyday shooter. Guys who can score do wonders for a team. You can’t put everything on your defense. If you’re struggling to score, there’s going to be a run against you at some point during the night. Shotmakers take and make shots when they’re there. That kind of guy can make a world of difference on both ends of the court, really.

You can’t expect guys to come out and shoot 70 or 80 percent every night, but a shooter is a shooter. He’s always going to make his share over time if he’s feeling good about not just his shot but his game. As he grows more as a defender and all-around player, he’s going to feel better and better about his shot. Speaking of defense, that was a great steal from behind on LeBron James that could have ended up being the play of the game.

The other young players – Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko – all have their best years in front of them. Everybody goes through this growing process in the NBA and the Pistons are going through theirs now. But when you have a night like the Pistons had against Miami at The Palace and the fans can see what the future looks like, you can also see that this might not be as long a process as the naysayers had predicted.

There’s no question our fans were disappointed and maybe wondering if there was light at the end of the tunnel. Those of us who follow the team every day know that of course there was. But it takes a game sometimes like the Miami game to really focus on the future and let fans know it could be right around the corner that this team becomes the kind of team you want to come out and see every time they play at The Palace.

For the nice crowd we had last night to see the type of game they saw makes me feel like the crowds are going to get larger and larger as this season goes on. Fans who were there are going to understand that if they want to be in the right seat for the right game a year from now, when this team is starting to emerge, and two years from now, when they’re really starting to become something special, now is the time. That – and the fact that they’re having a great time watching a young team with a future – is going to bring the fans back in droves.