Home Stretch

Over season’s last 10 games, Pistons need to start by re-establishing Palace’s home edge

The Pistons have four home games left in the 2012-13 season.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
Lawrence Frank anticipated giving the Pistons the day off on Wednesday. That was clearly what the calendar dictated with 72 games of pounding on the knees and backs of his players and two days off before the Pistons host Toronto to start another stretch of three games in four nights.

But the ghoulish specter of Tuesday’s 23-point dousing by the Minnesota Timberwolves needed to be purged and so...

“They needed to watch it,” Frank said after a practice light on the physical and heavy on the mental. “When you get embarrassed like we got embarrassed, it’s important to see it as opposed to waiting another day and letting it linger – address it.”

Frank wants the final 10 games to be about more than the anticipated return of Andre Drummond – and if it doesn’t happen Friday, after Drummond went through another practice on Wednesday, then it would likely come at some point on the three-game road trip that starts Sunday in Chicago – and help erase the slide that started so alarmingly upon the team’s return from the All-Star break.

From a 21-33 mark prior to the break, the Pistons have slumped to 24-48, 3-15 in their 18 games since returning. They have lost seven straight home games, their last win coming on Feb. 13 against Washington in the game that sent them into the break.

“When you have games like that, if we’re not embarrassed by those games … it’s seven consecutive home losses,” Frank said. “We haven’t won a home game in 42 days. Games like last night are very disheartening.”

Organizationally, the Pistons remain convinced they’re on the right path. Drummond is a huge part of that with the promise he showed over the first 50 games of his career to be the rare impact defender. As part of a young core that includes Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and rookie Kyle Singler, the Pistons will go into the off-season armed with another lottery pick and more cap space than all but two or three other teams to upgrade the roster.

One of the players they hope is convinced of that future, pending free agent Jose Calderon, experienced several years during his seven full seasons with Toronto that played out without the incentive of a playoff run.

“That’s the toughest moment,” he said. “Now you have to concentrate every game to try to get better. Last night … we have to forget about that one. But when you are playing against teams playing for something, that’s different. We’ve shown we can compete against everybody. We’ve just got to do it for 48. We’ve got to do it together. We’ve got to do the things we’re supposed to. I know it’s tough, because I’ve been in this situation before, but we’ve got to keep working. There is nothing else you can do. We’re playing better on the road than we’re playing at home right now. We’ve got to try to change that on Friday.”

The Pistons were a .500 home team, 15-15, after their February win over Washington. Now they’re seven games under .500 with four more to play at The Palace.

“When you’re at home, especially for the fans coming out, we owe them more,” Frank said. “We owe each other more. Usually, the grounds of building a team is, first let’s become a good home team. To drop another one at home in the way we dropped it is disappointing.”

Drummond’s anticipated return should provide a jolt on more than one level. His defensive presence has been sorely missed, of course, but beyond that his infectious enthusiasm had become one of the identifying characteristics of the team, now every bit as lacking as their sporadic defense has proven in the 3-15 run.

“I was totally shocked by that game,” Frank said. “I didn’t see it coming. Sometimes you see it coming; I didn’t see it coming.

“You don’t earn any sympathy as a group with 10 games left and you’re not going to the postseason. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. At the end of the day, we do have to remember this is a job. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves that we’re not in the playoffs so that gives us some sort of exception. We have to remember that we are paid professionals.”