Holiday Break?

Pistons look to carry momentum over after season’s first 3-day rest

As luck would have it, the schedule that’s been so demanding of the Pistons through the season’s first two months turns soft just as they’ve mustered some momentum. Coming off a weekend home-and-home sweep of Washington, the Pistons head into Christmas in the midst of their first three-day break since they tipped off on Oct. 31.

Only twice in the intervening weeks have they had as many as two straight days without a game. And now the NBA tells ’em to kick back and cool it?

“It is what it is,” Lawrence Frank said after Monday’s practice, pushed up earlier than usual to allow players and coaches to spend as much time as possible with family and friends on Christmas eve. “They ain’t changing it. Just like they weren’t changing it when we played the most games. You look at our record and the Wizards’ record and you realize how many more games we’ve played. But it all catches up to you. When you have days off, it’s the balance between rest and recovery and work. You just take advantage of it the way it is.”

Washington has played just 25 games, as has Atlanta, which hosts the Pistons on Wednesday. Miami, which has the best winning percentage in the East, has played a league-low 24 games.

Even after a day off Sunday, the Pistons have still played more games than anyone in the NBA, 30. Only three others – Cleveland, San Antonio and Utah – have played as many as 29. The average number of games played by the East’s other 14 teams is 26.6. To the extent it will all even out in the weeks ahead, it comes at a cost to the Pistons – one fewer home game than anyone else and a trans-Atlantic flight to London to “host” the Knicks on Jan. 17.

The compacted nature of the Pistons’ schedule has made Frank walk a tightrope between squeezing in needed practice time and recognizing the physical toll on players.

“You just read the situation,” he said. “Maybe your team is in desperate need of a practice but the schedule says you can’t, yet you have to do it. Or sometimes you read your team and they need some more time off. Christmas eve is always an interesting practice, but I thought our guys did a very good job. Spirited practice, went hard, had a lot of up and down. Now, we basically have a day and a half of enjoying the holidays.”

The Pistons will fly to Atlanta on Christmas night and the good news is that Tayshaun Prince will accompany them after giving them a scare Saturday when he twisted his right ankle as he landed on Nene’s foot after a jump shot. Prince is listed as a game-time decision, but he was walking without a noticeable limp after Monday’s practice, in which he did not participate but worked with strength coach Arnie Kander on speeding his recovery.

“I didn’t do anything today, but I should be all right by the game,” he said.

Prince, an ironman who logged six straight seasons of playing all 82 games until a disc injury led to a 49-game season in 2009-10, said he’s frequently sprained his left ankle but this was the first time for his right.

“It was a little bit more painful,” said Prince, who added that he couldn’t sleep Saturday night while wearing a special tape Kander applied that prevented swelling. “My left one, if I sprained it right now, it could be a bad sprain but I’ve sprained it so many times I could bounce right back. But the right one hasn’t been twisted. I’ve done the left one about 20 times, so every time I do that one, no matter how bad it hurts, I can still go. Plus, it’s not my jumping leg or dominant leg, so it’s not much of a problem.”

Frank wouldn’t tip his hand for what Plan B would be if Prince can’t go. Austin Daye has been the backup to Prince for the past four games, supplanting Corey Maggette, who has been inactive for the past two games.