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Published: Monday, 9/30/2013

DETROIT PISTONS

New Pistons bring confidence to team

Detroit hasn’t made playoffs since 2009

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cheeks Cheeks
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons have missed the playoffs four straight seasons, and the stakes are raised after a busy offseason.

Detroit signed forward Josh Smith and guard Chauncey Billups and also traded for point guard Brandon Jennings.

Add holdovers such as big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, and there's plenty of potential for improvement.

So the Pistons have little use for all those cliches about taking the season one game at a time. This group is already eyeing the postseason.

The most important addition might be Jennings. The Pistons gave up Brandon Knight — another recent first-round pick — to get him. Jennings is talented but a bit unpredictable.

The Detroit Pistons have little use for all those cliches about taking the season one game at a time.

This group is already looking at the big picture, and the goal is obvious.

"I don't expect anything less than the playoffs," said forward Josh Smith, who signed with Detroit in the offseason. "We're a confident bunch. You see it all over everybody's faces — the need to win."

"If you see our starting lineup, there's nothing but athletes," Drummond said. "We're going to run a lot of guys out of the gym, is what it looks like."

That's the best-case scenario. There's also the possibility the Pistons won't become a cohesive unit after so many changes. Detroit made a coaching switch after going 29-53, bringing in Maurice Cheeks to replace Lawrence Frank.

"Everything is new here," Cheeks said. "No disrespect to anybody else, but everything is new here. Habits are created starting tomorrow."

Smith says he's looking forward to playing with Drummond, the athletic big man whom Detroit took in the first round in the 2012 draft. Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 17.5 points for Atlanta last season.

The most important addition might be Jennings, though. The Pistons gave up Brandon Knight — another recent first-round pick — to get him.

Jennings is talented but a bit unpredictable. He shot 40 percent from the field last season, easily the worst mark in the NBA for any player who took more than 1,200 shots. Of course, he also averaged a career-high 6.5 assists per game.

"He and I just had a conversation," said Cheeks, himself a former point guard. "I just told him I'm going to try and help him with the game itself. He's a scoring point guard, which I think most point guards are today — they are scoring point guards.

"You don't want to restrict the ability of someone like him being able to score the ball, but he has to be able to run this basketball team."

Jennings didn't say much about that talk with his new coach, but he clearly understands the pressure he'll face.

"I'm not going to share what he said, but it was actually a very good meeting," Jennings said. "He said the team goes as far as I go."

Billups, for example, will surely be a mentor to Jennings, but he'll also compete for playing time in the backcourt. Rodney Stuckey returns after averaging 11.5 points per game last season.

"This is going to be a competitive camp," Cheeks said.



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