“Look, this is the season,” he says. “You did see our record, right? We have a lot of work to do.”
But the record is two wins and zero losses better than it was 48 hours ago. And the Pistons, going non-stop since the day training camp opened on Dec. 9, suddenly have three days off before hosting New Jersey on Wednesday night. They’ve jammed 26 games into 41 days since the season opened on Dec. 26 without more than a day between games. Though the day after back-to-back (or back-to-back-to-back, in this most unusual of seasons) games – of which the Pistons have played nine sets involving all but seven of their games – does not include a formal practice, that doesn’t mean it’s a day off, either.
“I give our players credit,” Frank said. “When we have an off day, they all come in. Not only do they get treatment, they go through individual skill workouts (with assistant coaches), they go through strength and conditioning with Arnie (Kander), so that’s a real positive. And we’ll get after it Monday and Tuesday.”
Those will be just the fourth and fifth practices Frank has been able to hold in the past 30 days because of all the back to backs. In fact, it’s been so long since the Pistons have had anything close to a routine practice schedule that even Pistons players are saying things NBA players never, ever say: They’re looking forward to practice.
First, though, they’re looking forward to a day without practice, without a game or without a plane to catch on the way to a game.
“Definitely, just to get our legs back,” Greg Monroe said after his 24 points and 16 rebounds led the Pistons to a 99-97 Saturday night win over New Orleans despite losing Brandon Knight five minutes into the game with a broken nose. “It’s also going to be good just to get another practice under our belt to clean up a couple of things even more. Looking forward to the day of rest, but I’m also looking forward to practice.”
Somewhere, Allen Iverson just rolled his eyes.
Maybe nobody needs the day off more than Walker D. Russell Jr., who squeezed 11 games into his first 16 days in the NBA after a lifetime of trying to get to basketball’s top rung. The phone call came while he was on an airplane in Chicago, connecting on his way to Sioux Falls, S.D., and he had to hustle back from South Dakota the following morning in time to play that night when both Ben Gordon and Will Bynum couldn’t go. When Knight went down Saturday, Russell became one of only two guards on the roster, Rodney Stuckey the other, and his 33 minutes and fourth-quarter defense of Grevis Vasquez enabled the Pistons to hang on for the win.
“That’s going to help us a lot,” he said of the three-day break. “Continue to get some rest here, watch the Super Bowl and relax, but come back to work Monday.”
A two-game winning streak and a precious day off. Super Sunday, indeed.