Ready or Not

Unusual preseason tips off with Pistons hosting Cleveland

Austin Daye's signature shooting touch has been elusive so far this season.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
With only two preseason games, there figures to be a sense of urgency for a coach to use his core rotation players more than he usually would consider in a preseason opener. But with only two weeks between the opening of training camp and the regular season’s tipoff, it’s probably matched by a coach’s wariness of pushing players too hard and risking a preseason injury.

And for a Pistons team that lost two players for the season – Jonas Jerebko and 2010 second-rounder Terrico White – in the 2010 preseason opener, that sense of foreboding might win out.

But Lawrence Frank isn’t tipping his hand as to how he will distribute minutes when the Pistons open an abbreviated preseason schedule Friday night by hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Minutes will be doled out, “based on performance,” he said. “We’re going to look at some different lineups. Based on how a guy plays will determine their playing time. Some guys we may want to give a longer look on Friday than on Tuesday (when the two-game preseason wraps up with a return match in Cleveland). Going in, we have a road map, but at the end of the day … if a guy is doing well, he may play a little longer. If he’s struggling, he may play a little shorter.”

Frank wouldn’t reveal his starting lineup or whether any veterans might be held out. Tayshaun Prince had been somewhat limited in practices this week with a minor knee issue, but the Pistons have no real news on the injury front after one week of training camp that wrapped up with another three-plus-hour session on Thursday.

Certain Pistons – Greg Monroe, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon, foremost – figure to eventually average more than 30 minutes a night, perhaps even pushing north of 35 toward 40. Would Frank be reluctant to start the regular season with such a heavy workload after such a compressed preseason?

“It’s a good question, but you’re going to have to really read it,” he said. “That’s why these exhibition games have more value. In a typical exhibition season, the first two games, you typically play your starters the first and third quarters. We’ll just have to read it and see how it goes. The more guys that are ready to contribute and play, the better off we’re going to be.”

Through his first two seasons as a Piston, Gordon has had to scrap for minutes in a crowded backcourt that has included Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey. With Hamilton now gone to Chicago and Stuckey’s contract status unresolved, minutes for the foreseeable future will be plentiful for Gordon. Will he be ready to log heavy minutes from Game 1 on?

“I think so,” he said. “Obviously, I haven’t done it since I don’t know when, but I’ve tried to stay in pretty good shape throughout the off-season, so hopefully my conditioning will carry over to the real season. Today, I was seeing a lot of guys seem like they didn’t have that step they had in the beginning of training camp, which is normal. That’s how it should be. I was talking to (assistant coach) Dee Brown and he said you want to get into your legs now, so when the real season starts you can get your second legs and get going. I think right now, if you asked everybody, the guys are a little bit tired. But that’s how it should be.”