Inching Toward Normalcy

Things again inched a little closer to normal Monday for the NBA. At the Pistons’ practice facility, where Ben Wallace and Charlie Villanueva were first through the doors last week when NBA teams were allowed to make their gyms available to players, three more players showed up to join them on Monday: veteran guards Ben Gordon and Will Bynum and second-round rookie big man Vernon Macklin.

Coaches are now allowed to talk to the players who show up – they couldn’t last week – and Macklin reported that at 10 a.m. sharp, when the rule was relaxed, there was Frank, introducing himself.

There likely will be a few more visitors over the next few days in advance of Friday’s start of training camp, which will be just one week removed from the Dec. 16 preseason opener against Cleveland at The Palace.

Gordon and Bynum, two of the team’s most notorious gym rats, appeared to be game-ready already. They shot at one end of the court on Monday, shirts soaked with perspiration after going through conditioning work first, while Macklin shot with Villanueva on the other.

Ben Wallace spent most of his day in Arnie Kander’s workshop. Wallace said last week that he needed to push his body and see how it responded before making any decisions about whether to return for the final year of his contract. On Monday, Wallace made his intentions even more clear.

“I'm leaning more toward playing than not playing,” he said. “Mentally, I'm at 80 percent (coming back). Physically, trying to catch up to mentally. But I want to play.”

For everyone who endured the past two trying seasons, Gordon said, there is a palpable sense of a fresh start renewing spirits.

“It’s definitely a fresh start – we have a new owner, we have a new coach,” he said. “We’re not sure what our roster is going to look like, so in every sense of the word and meaning, it’s definitely a fresh start for everybody on this team. That’s how I’m approaching it. It might as well be my first year.”

Based on what he believes he knows about Lawrence Frank from his time in Chicago playing against Frank’s New Jersey teams, Gordon has good vibes about Frank’s expected impact.

“He just seems like he always had his guys in the right position to be successful,” Gordon said. “He always seemed like he was saying the right things on the bench. He always had a plan and it seems like he’s a creature of habit. It seems like he really pays attention to detail, like he really knows what it is to have a winning team and get his guys to play winning basketball. That’s something I noticed when I was playing in Chicago and we played against him. When he was the head coach of the Nets with Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and those guys, they always seemed prepared and ready to go. They always played a fast tempo, which I think is to my benefit, playing a faster tempo and having nice plays for his perimeter guys. I look forward to it.”

Gordon draws some parallels to one of his Chicago coaches, Scott Skiles, in areas of structure.

“There wasn’t a day when you didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “If you weren’t playing, you knew why you weren’t playing. If you were playing, you knew exactly what was keeping you on the floor. In a situation like that, it makes it easier for the younger guys to understand what they have to do, for the veteran guys to understand what their role is and for the guys who are in between, they understand how they can get more minutes. Any time you operate in a system like that, it just makes it easier for everybody.”