Pistons wide-eyed at their new Performance Center – ‘It’s a crazy great environment’

Joe Johnson says the Pistons new Performance Center is the best of new practice facilities he’s experienced in stops with Brooklyn and Utah.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – When the Bad Boys ordered banners to commemorate their two NBA titles, they didn’t need a duplicate set for their practice facility. They didn’t have a practice facility.

That put them at no competitive disadvantage three decades ago. No one else had one, either.

Joe Johnson’s NBA career began closer to the start of the radical evolution of NBA training facilities than to the current state of affairs. Drafted in 2001, Johnson has lived through the bulk of a transition that now has seen most teams go to the second generation of practice facilities.

“It’s waaay different,” he said Tuesday as the Pistons wrapped up day one in their new home, the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center. “Just from the aspects of the way you can take care of your body – hot tub, cold tub, sauna, float tank. That wasn’t around – well, hot tub, probably. But you didn’t have all the amenities that you have now. That’s key for longevity.”

Johnson was with Brooklyn and Utah when those franchises opened their modern training facilities recently, so he has a good idea of how the new $90 million, 185,000 square foot PPC stacks up. Or rather, how others stack up to the gleaming new Pistons home.

“This one, hands down, the best one,” he said. “I’m not just saying that because I’m here. I’ve seen both of them. I’ve been in both of them. I don’t think it compares. This is the one.”

Pistons executives, primarily assistant general manager Pat Garrity and chief of staff Andrew Loomis, conducted detailed scouting trips to new training facilities not just in the NBA but on college campuses, where power-conference schools are constantly trying to one up competitors in the recruiting arms race by building bigger and splashier facilities.

They took the best and brightest ideas from their visits – to places as far flung as campuses at Alabama and Oregon and more than a half-dozen new NBA facilities – and then gathered input from Pistons players, coaches and staffers for a wish list. Owner Tom Gores encouraged them to think big, understanding the real and perceived value of a state-of-the-art facility to not just the franchise but to the Detroit renaissance, as well.

“We’ve got everything,” Dwane Casey said after conducting his first PPC practice. “Tom did not spare any expense.”

For all of the training and recovery areas, the spacious locker room and players lounge, the on-site barbershop and cafeteria with 24-hour chef availability, Reggie Jackson appreciates the two full courts with nine backboards. Even on days the full 15-man roster and two two-way contract players are in uniform for practice, there are enough work stations so that no basket has to accommodate more than two players for shooting drills.

“The availability to have baskets, get up shots. Guys will be able – with our staff, they’re willing to work – to come in and get their work in. It’s one of the most important things.”

Coaches offices line the courts on the first floor of the gym area and front-office staffers’ offices overlook the court from their space on the second floor.

“It’s open, so you feel like you can get to where you need to be,” Jackson said. “Coaches can always look, front office can always watch us get our work in. It’s a crazy great environment.”

In the tight society of NBA players, there are no real secrets. Word of how spectacular the new Pistons facility is will spread quickly. The Pistons have only five players on the roster who predate Casey’s arrival, so their locker room is half filled with players who’ve had recent experience in other practice facilities. Three players – Tony Snell, Tim Frazier and Christian Wood – spent all of part of 2018-19 with the Bucks, who opened a new practice facility of their own last year.

“You know whose are better,” Jackson said. “Guys have been talking about theirs – Blake (Griffin) with the Clippers, myself coming from Oklahoma City a few years back. This is up there. It’s one of the tip top. We’re very appreciative and we’re going to do our best to make the most out of it.”

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