It’s Next Season

Dumars, Frank talk of laying groundwork for Pistons’ future

The 2011-12 Pistons season ended Thursday night. The 2012-13 Pistons season started Friday morning. That’s in part the nature of the beast – the NBA is a year-round commitment, like pretty much every professional sport these days – but in part an acknowledgment of the positive vibe that carries the Pistons into their off-season.

“There was a genuine disappointment this morning that we’re not playing this weekend,” Joe Dumars said Friday as he and Lawrence Frank met with the media to wrap up the season and look to the future. “That’s the first step toward turning things around, where you actually believe you’re good enough. I can’t sit here and say we were good enough to be in the playoffs the last couple of years. This off-season is the first one where not only is there an incredible positive feeling going into the off-season, but a genuine disappointment that we’re not in the playoffs.”

Lawrence Frank deflected every question throughout the season regarding the effects of the lockout and how it contributed to the team’s 4-20 start. It’s the same approach almost every NBA coach takes when asked about schedule quirks that disadvantage their teams in more normal seasons – don’t let your players see you latching on to any excuse and open a Pandora’s box. With the season behind them, Dumars at least conceded that Frank, as a new coach, was at a keen disadvantage on a number of fronts.

“We’ve never made excuses – we take our medicine. If it’s good, great; if it’s bad, you sit and take your medicine,” Dumars said. “But I will say this. All 29 other teams had tough schedules. We all accept that. But there were some teams that the lockout and the shortened schedule affected more than others. Not because of something unfair, just because of new coach, new system, no training camp, really no preseason, rookie point guard.

“You put all those things together in a shortened season, I firmly believe that’s why we got off to such a tough start. That’s why it took us 20, 24 games before you start seeing guys saying, all right, we’re good enough. We understand what Lawrence is doing now.”

So what will Frank do with an off-season not constricted by the lockout? Be at the practice facility, with his coaching staff, as needed for players who make Auburn Hills home base, but also travel far and wide to stay in touch with players in their home bases.

“We’ll have guys here in the facility, but also our staff will go out and visit guys,” Frank said, mentioning Austin Daye, who trains in Los Angeles and Las Vegas under Joe Abunassar in the summers; Charlie Villanueva, who will play for the Dominican national team; and Ben Gordon, expected to play for England in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Frank said not getting to do that last summer robbed him of the opportunity to build trust with a group of players before jumping in with a whistle and reprimands.

“One of the things that hurt us, especially with my coaching nature, I’ve always relied on the off-season to be able to connect with guys,” he said. “So now when you’re on the court and it’s in your face, it’s a little bit different because they know there’s something behind it. When we started, all they saw was confrontations and there was really no equity in the relationship.

“Our assistants will be touching guys throughout the whole off-season. I will, as well. I use it as opportunity to connect with our guys. I go to their hometowns, spend time with them in their surroundings, go out to dinner, maybe go to a playoff game. It’s invaluable.”

We’ll have tons more coverage on in the days and weeks ahead as the topics that will dominate the summer – the draft, Summer League, the futures of Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, Joe D’s expectations for roster change – were all discussed on Friday. Stay tuned.