Early Road Tests

Pistons open at The Palace, then head West for 6 games

The challenge to avoid a slow start last season for the Pistons stemmed from the lockout and the handicaps it imposed on their first-year head coach, who had no familiarity with any of his players. This season, the challenge for Lawrence Frank and the Pistons out of the gate will be a schedule that takes them on the road for six of their first seven games.

After a Halloween opener at The Palace against Houston and its lineup rebuilt around Jeremy Lin, the Pistons hit the road for a six-game trip that includes daunting visits to the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA runners-up to Miami last season. That six-game trip – the Pistons’ longest of 2012-13 – also takes them to Phoenix, Denver, Sacramento and Houston.

The Pistons, oddly, will have home-and-home games with Houston and Oklahoma City and be finished with those teams for the season within their first eight games. The Pistons host Oklahoma City and USA Olympic team members Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden on Nov. 12 , two days after their nine-day Western trek wraps up in Houston.

The Pistons have three nationally televised games, two on ESPN – Nov. 16 when they host Orlando and Feb. 27 at Washington – and one on NBA TV, Dec. 10 at Philadelphia.

The schedule contains 19 sets of back-to-back games, none of them including consecutive home games. Seven will be home-away sets, six away-home and six away-away.

The Pistons will play 16 games apiece in November and December, 14 in March, 13 in January and eight in April in addition to the Oct. 31 opener, but their busiest month for all practical purposes will be February. The calendar’s shortest month will see the Pistons play 14 times despite squeezing the five-day All-Star break, spanning Feb. 14-18, in the middle of it.

The Pistons will play 20 of their 82 games on Friday, including 11 Palace dates. They’ll play 19 games on Wednesday, 13 of those on the road. New for the season, Sunday home games will match the typical 7:30 p.m. tipoff of all other nights. Twenty home games will fall on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The Pistons also will host Sacramento on Jan. 1 to ring in 2013.

After a lockout-affected schedule that saw the Pistons play only three of the Western Conference’s 15 teams both home and away, the 2012-13 schedule returns to normal: 30 games against the West and 52 against Eastern Conference teams, 16 within their own Central Division. The four teams from the East’s other two divisions that the Pistons will play just three times instead of the four that they meet all other conference opponents are Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Atlanta. Philadelphia and Miami are the two Eastern opponents on the Pistons’ home schedule just once.

Miami’s visit will come on Dec. 28, a post-Christmas matchup on a Friday night that is sure to be a fast sellout. Kobe Bryant’s Lakers come to The Palace for a Sunday matinee on Feb. 3.

The Miami game opens the team’s longest home stand of the season, a five-game stretch that features games against Milwaukee, Sacramento, Atlanta and Charlotte in addition to the visit from reigning MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat.

The Pistons will play 11 of 16 games on the road from mid-February to mid-March, a stretch that includes a four-game trip to Los Angeles (Clippers), Utah, Golden State and Portland.

The Pistons will make their first visit to Brooklyn, home of the relocated New Jersey Nets, and its new Barclays Center on Dec. 14. That’s also where they will wrap up the regular season, on April 17.