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17 Pistons begin the fight for minutes in tonight’s preseason opener

Lawrence Frank has 17 players on his roster and vows to give each of them an honest shot. But to do it, he has to eliminate a handful of them from consideration for playing time in each of the Pistons’ eight preseason games.

The same group that started the last 43 games of the 2011-12 season when healthy – Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey – will start tonight’s preseason opener against Toronto, Frank said after Wednesday’s morning practice. But the starting lineup could change throughout the preseason, and for certain the playing group will be altered from game to game.

“There are going to be games where guys are told ahead of time, ‘This isn’t going to be your game,’ ” Frank said. “In terms of core minutes, the most you can really stretch (the playing rotation) to is 11. That’s the most. You may play 13 guys, but in terms of guys getting good, legitimate minutes, you’re looking 10, 11, 12.”

The Pistons play a rare preseason back-to-back set at Toronto and Milwaukee on Friday and Saturday, which provides Frank an opportunity to nearly split the roster down the middle for each game with minimal overlap.

“Over three games, you’ll have a legitimate opportunity to evaluate everyone,” he said. “The starters could be fluid. We’ll take it game by game. We kind of have it mapped out for three games.”

With four point guards – Knight, Will Bynum and the only two players in camp without guaranteed contracts, Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn – Frank said Rodney Stuckey would likely get limited repetitions in preseason at point guard, but would see his time there pick back up during the regular season.

With no veteran shooting guard behind Stuckey on the roster, Corey Maggette – primarily a small forward throughout his 13-year career – will see minutes at shooting guard. That could open minutes at small forward for rookie Kyle Singler, but it also could allow Jonas Jerebko to play there and open minutes at power forward for Charlie Villanueva or Austin Daye behind Maxiell.

“I’m not smart enough to figure out how to get 17 guys playing time in one game, nor do I really believe in it,” Frank said. “I believe in taking 10 guys and playing them between 18 and 26 minutes, give them a sizable chunk to make a difference in the game. Then there will be two, probably three, that will get in the game. They’ve got to make their minutes count, too, but it’s not going to be 18.”