Charlie V: ‘It Feels Good’

Villanueva, Ben Wallace first in the gym as Pistons open practice facility

The mantra Lawrence Frank has instituted for these Pistons – “Earn Your Way Every Day” – hangs in enormous letters atop the wall along the north side of the basketball court at the team’s practice facility. You can’t miss it. Around the corner, the mandate Tom Gores gave his ownership of the Pistons – “Be Impactful” – dominates the west wall. Arnie Kander has a whole new array of conditioning aids affixed at the northwest corner of the building in colors that span the Pistons’ palette – red, white and blue.

Charlie Villanueva, entering the building for the first time in five months, took a look around and beamed.

“It feels good. Colors everywhere – ‘earn your way every day’ – it feels good to be here. I feel some life and I’m excited. I can’t wait to get this thing rolling.”

On the first day NBA teams’ practice facilities were available to players since the lockout that began on July 1 was conditionally resolved, pending ratification of a new labor agreement, Villanueva and Ben Wallace were the two Pistons who took advantage of the opportunity. Many others are still spread across the country and Villanueva expects several teammates to start trickling in by early next week. He said he’s been in frequent contact with Austin Daye, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince and Wallace and said Gordon, especially, had indicated he would be joining him at the team facility soon.

“It’s in the past,” Villaneuva said of the lockout. “Now it’s time to look forward and just worry about the next couple of days. Training camp is coming up. Look forward to that and all that other stuff is behind me and it should be behind us. I think we have some loyal fans and I think people want to watch some basketball. Everywhere I went, people would say, ‘Hey, when are you guys going to get this done? We want to see some basketball.’ Especially here in Detroit, we have some loyal fans and I think they’ll come out and support us.”

During the lockout, Villanueva did not have the benefit of working out under the supervision of Kander, whom he felt had helped him immensely the previous off-season. He tried to stay true to Kander’s teachings.

“It’s hard, not talking to him,” he said of Kander, who was at the facility and allowed to supervise conditioning work but not on-court basketball drills. “You just have to memorize. You’ve got to go to the back of your brain and see the things we did with him and do them.”

Conditioning and rust will be an early concern when camp opens, Villanueva said, as he anticipates a compressed NBA schedule that will feature periodic back-to-back-to-back sets for teams – three games in three days.

“I heard about the back to back to back,” he said. “Back to back is hard already. It just means take it easy as far as beating your body up and get the treatment you need. Taking care of your body, that’s what it’s about. Guys have not been together for a long time. I definitely expect a little bit more rust, but I think we will pick it up quick. Hopefully, Coach will understand, Arnie will understand.”

With the status of several teammates up in the air – Prince and Chris Wilcox are free agents, Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey are restricted free agents – Charlie V isn’t sure exactly who’ll be lining up with him when camp opens next week, but he’s eager for whatever the near future holds.

“We have about six or seven guys who are coming back, who are signed, but we still have some issues with free agency,” he said. “It’s hard to make an assessment on us because we don’t have a complete team. I’m just happy to be here.”