One of the qualities that endeared both Kyle Singler and Kim English to the Pistons over the course of their four-year college careers was the sheer competitive drive. So it won’t surprise anyone at 6 Championship Drive that the season-opening loss to Houston cast a pall on their otherwise successful debuts.

But their performances as primary backups to Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey were among the bright spots of the 105-96 defeat. English scored eight points in 14 minutes with three assists. Singler scored 10 points in 16 minutes with a couple of rebounds and a blocked shot.

Tom Gores says his job is to be the impatient owner obligated to deliver championships, but he isn’t necessarily demanding overnight shipment.

“The first standard is to grow, to make progress” the Pistons owner said before tipoff of Wednesday’s season opener. “That’s the very first standard that we have. We would like to make the playoffs and I expect that, but there’s no ultimatum. There’s no ultimatum that says you have to make the playoffs or you’re gone. We don’t work that way.

To borrow from Jim Mora – and you’ll have to mimic his whiny tone yourself – “playoffs?”

As in, can the Pistons make them … this season?

Maybe. Historically, a .500 record puts a team in the Eastern Conference mix. In fact, the 2012 playoffs – in the aberrant, 66-game regular season – marked the first since the 2004-05 season when no Eastern Conference teams qualified for the playoffs with a record of .500 or worse. Two such teams made the field in 2011, one in 2010 and three apiece in the four preceding seasons.

When the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons kick off their seasons in Detroit, the Rockets will take the floor with a new star acquired just four days earlier.

James Harden makes his Rockets debut Wednesday night after a trade few - if anyone - saw coming.

After Oklahoma City was unable to agree to a long-term extension with the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Houston shipped Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Thunder on Saturday in exchange for Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward.

Lawrence Frank’s video study has been broadened as he prepares the Pistons for their 2012-13 season opener. In addition to poring over everything there is to know about the Houston Rockets, he’s been watching TV reports and weather patterns affecting his family and in-laws in storm-battered New Jersey and New York.