That’s a Wrap

Pistons lose finale, await decisions promised by owner Tom Gores

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

White Hot – The Nets closed the first quarter on an 11-0 run to break an 18-all tie and went on to a 103-99 win as the Pistons saw their four-game winning streak – matching their season high – snapped in Brooklyn. The Pistons finished the game on an 11-0 run and cut the lead to four with a minute to play but couldn’t score on their last two possessions. Will Bynum, potentially playing his final game in a Pistons uniform as he’s coming up on free agency, scored 23 off the bench to lead the Pistons, who now await word on the fate of team leadership, as spelled out Monday by team owner Tom Gores.

BLUE COLLAR – Greg Monroe continued his surge to the finish line, collecting his 37th double-double by putting up 12 points and 12 rebounds. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Monroe has 67 double-doubles, most in the Eastern Conference over that time. He averaged around 18 points and 10 rebounds, shooting better than 50 percent, in the 10 games since Andre Drummond returned to the lineup and Monroe moved to power forward.

RED FLAG – The Pistons committed six first-quarter turnovers that the Nets pounced on with lethal efficiency, turning them into 13 points. It snowballed late in the quarter. With the game tied at 18, Gerald Wallace converted Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler turnovers into dunks, then Deron Williams hit a transition triple after another turnover. The Pistons and Nets both wound up with 24 turnovers for 27 points the other way, but the Pistons dug themselves a huge hole early when their numbers were far apart in that category. On a night the Pistons weren’t playing lock-down defense , they couldn’t afford all those giveaways.

Their four-game winning streak came to an end in the season finale. Now the Pistons wait on word whether the Lawrence Frank era ended in Brooklyn, as well.

The Pistons fell 103-99 to the Nets, finishing a season Frank described after the game as “a very tough season, both personally and professionally.” He now awaits a decision on his future with the franchise after owner Tom Gores, while attending Monday’s home finale, promised a swift review of team leadership.

Asked whether he was optimistic about his chances to return, Frank said, “I think very realistic. Tom and I have very honest dialog. We’ll just kind of see how it plays out. You go into it eyes wide open. We both have mutual respect for each other, so we’ll figure it out.”

Frank thanked the players for staying the course, his coaching and support staffs in the locker room after the game, which left the Pistons with a 29-53 record. The Pistons went 25-41 in his lockout-shortened first season.

“Could we have won some more games? Of course. Do we have a long way to go? Yes. Are there definite things we need to address? Without a doubt,” Frank said. “The start of the season and March were very, very poor months. At least we finished on a fairly positive note in staying together. Some things are outside of your control, so we can’t really focus on that. … At the end of the day, that will be the last time we’re together with the changes that happen in this league.”

Frank spoke freely before and after the game about the reality that he might not return for a third season as head coach.

“I’ve got a great deal of respect for my supervisors, whatever decisions they make,” Frank said. “Tom Gores has been nothing but first class. I’ve got a ton of respect for him. Whatever decision he makes, whenever he makes it, I respect it. There’s a reason why he’s been so successful.”

The Pistons closed last season promisingly, going 21-21 over the season’s final 42 games after a 4-20 start in the wake of the 2011 lockout that limited Frank to a two-game preseason and no off-season to speed the acclimation process to a new coach. His second season began with an eight-game losing streak that included a rugged six-game road trip. Even as the early-season losses mounted, though, the Pistons were giving themselves chances to win that they often didn’t in the start to Frank’s first season.

That counted as progress. Through the season’s first half, the Pistons point differential dwindled to minus-1 and change per game. But in mid-February, shortly after the late-January trade that sent away Tayshaun Prince and the early-February loss of Andre Drummond for 22 games to injury, the Pistons suffered a string of lopsided losses. Frank also missed six games in March as he returned to his New Jersey home to tend to his wife, who underwent major surgery, and two young children.

Their play picked up, though, upon Drummond’s return with 10 games to play. The Pistons went 5-5 in those games and suffered narrow losses in road games at Chicago, Boston and Minnesota over that span.

Whatever is decided by Gores, it will be an eventful – and critical – off-season ahead for the Pistons. They will have a lottery pick and likely $25 million or more in cap space at their disposal.

“This is the first time in five years where you have flexibility,” Frank said. “You look for that window. Because of roster spots opening up, cap flexibility, the youth – especially when you have two young bigs like Greg (Monroe) and Andre – you have a chance to reshape your franchise.”

“We have to find a way to put full games together,” Monroe said of the lesson of the season. “That’s basically it. I think we play well in spurts, whether it be over the season or within games. I just think we have to get better at that as a team.”

With only eight players under contract for next season, the composition of the roster will change by nearly 50 percent even before the prospect of additional trades. Monroe, Drummond and Brandon Knight – the last three No. 1 picks – will form the young nucleus. The Pistons will add another lottery pick, ending the night tied with Washington for the No. 7 lottery position.

“This is the first time in five years we have an opportunity to get better from the outside,” Frank said. “There’s always trades, there’s always the draft. There are a lot of different ways to do it. But it will take time. This is an exciting time, this off-season.”

It remains to be seen if he’ll be a part of it. Stay tuned.