It’s a very simple question floating around nowadays: how do these Detroit Pistons define themselves?
For so long, Detroit basketball has been defined by toughness, so much so that it’s debatable fans in this state would respond to any other style of basketball.
The Bad Boys set the tone in the 1980s. The teal Grant Hill era, defined by finesse and oddly placed horsie heads on the jerseys, is all but forgotten. The Palace couldn’t even fill seats for playoff games the handful of times those 1990s teams led by Hill made it there. The franchise was reborn in the 2000s by re-focusing on a tenacious defense with an incurable confidence and swagger to match. "We’re gonna beat you up. We’re never out of a game. We’re the rightful champions every year."
Sometimes, the confidence rubbed fans the wrong way, particularly when it appeared the Pistons were on cruise control, only to show up in the crucial minutes of a game with a suffocating defense that choked the life out of opposing offenses. But I guarantee this: you’d be hard-pressed to find a Pistons fan who wouldn’t trade the identity-less squad of the last two years for the personality (warts and all) of those 2000s teams.
The good news is that the team spent media day expressing a desire to do just that: return to the attitude, toughness and style that this franchise has won big by embracing in two different generations.
From John Kuester: "Pistons basketball is playing defense, grinding things out, making sure you execute on offense, setting great screens. And I think that’s something this team will do. They will come out night in and night out and compete at a very high level, but for us to have success this season, our focus has to be defensively."
Kuester on the importance of Hamilton/Prince to that culture: "They’re part of the history of this franchise, and they’re a big part of why I feel comfortable going into this season."
From Rip Hamilton: "Any time you win as many games as we did in the past and come out last year and only win as many games as we did, it’s hard, it’s tough, it’s frustrating … We have to train guys on how to win. Coming from a team that was ‘win a championship or nothing’ (every year) is different than being on a team that just wants to make the playoffs. That’s (making the playoffs) our mindset."
From Charlie Villanueva: "I know it’s (playing better defense) the only way I’m gonna stay on the court. Pistons basketball is about being tough, being physical."
Listen, I know what media day is. Guys are going to be overly positive, they’re going to gloss over what were pretty major issues a season ago and insist the team has moved forward and it’s very rare that you’ll find a negative comment out of any team’s media day league-wide.
I don’t know if players like Villanueva, Ben Gordon or Tracy McGrady (or even Greg Monroe, who was more of a finesse player in college) can embrace the style. I’ve even stated my belief that the current roster would probably win more games with a different, more offensive-minded philosophy in place. But I have to admit, I like that the organizational commitment to a philosophy is not wavering, no matter what the personnel are and no matter how difficult last season was. If the Pistons are going to win, they are going to do it the Piston way.