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.

Pistons fans come in all shapes, sizes and stripes. For some, the Pistons are a 12-month obsession. For others, here’s a primer to catch you up with the 2012-13 regular season within hours of tipoff.

Who’s New? – The Pistons have five rookies and one trade acquisition amid a full roster of 15 players.

Over four weeks and eight preseason games, Lawrence Frank has evaluated and assessed individual players and different playing combinations and the effectiveness of various schemes and concepts. He might not have all the answers he’d like, or quite enough evidence to make decisions with utter confidence, but that doesn’t much matter. The regular season starts in two days and decisions are due.

Here’s a rear-view look at the last month – what we know, what we think we know, and what we’re left to guess at.

What We Know:

James Harden often carried Oklahoma City’s offense for eight-minute stretches last season. He was good at it, too. Good enough to be the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. Now he has to carry Houston’s offense for 82 games.

We’ll see.

And nobody will see it sooner than the Pistons. If their season opener needed any added intrigue, it came Saturday night with the out-of-nowhere trade that shipped Harden to Houston – a team the Pistons not only host in Wednesday’s opener, but play again to wrap up a six-game road trip on Nov. 10.

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