It almost looked to me like in the first trip to New Jersey, the Pistons played like that kind of team. They lost – a narrow loss – but they certainly played well enough to win and they kept it together for nearly a full 48. You could just see, maybe good things were about to start happening.
Then they came home to play Milwaukee and that win was a monumental one, the first game of what is now a three-game winning streak. Milwaukee is a good team. I think they’ll be in the playoffs. They’re well-coached under Scott Skiles and the roster was improved by John Hammond – only tweaked, but made better. They came in brimming with confidence. Heck, the Bucks had beaten the Lakers and the Heat within the past few days. Not only did the Pistons have to beat them on the court, they had to beat them in the confidence game – and they did just that.
They never wavered in that game and Brandon Knight was terrific. Who knows? He might have taken a giant step that night toward really coming into this own as an NBA point guard. We all knew he could score and beat most guys up and down the floor, but he’s starting to make sensational passes with perfect timing and we saw that against the Bucks.
That gave his team a lift which carried over to the New Orleans win, which was basically done without Brandon after he broke his nose in the early going against a team that fights you to the bitter end. To win that game showed me something, especially on a back to back and playing the seventh in nine days. You could tell these guys believed in what they were doing – clearly believed in their coach and believed in each other.
Perhaps the best win of all, though, was the win at New Jersey in the return trip to the Prudential Center. That felt like the Pistons clearly deserved to win the game. To win it despite a 27-point second-half explosion by Deron Williams – they just kept their cool no matter what a genuine NBA superstar was doing to them – was proof to me that they now have the ability to hold it together and beat many teams in this league.
Credit goes to a lot of people, of course, including the always-growing Greg Monroe, whose signature dunk over Kris Humphries and Keith Bogans showed the Nets, and maybe the rest of the NBA, that the Pistons aren’t going to be pushed around anymore.
But you start by taking off your hat to Lawrence Frank. Here’s a guy who is demanding yet likeable and extremely well-respected everywhere you go in basketball. He knew what he wanted, he stayed the course, never made excuses and now he has his team clearly moving toward the kind of basketball he wants to see played.
There will be more bumps in the road, to be sure, but now we have proof positive that this staff and this team can handle them. It’s exciting to watch them play these days. It’s not easy going through the rebuilding process and trying to change the culture, but Pistons fans should feel encouraged and excited – and I know many of them already do – that we can now see that happening.