Point guard John Wall is part of a talented starting backcourt for Washington. (James Crisp / Associated Press)
Auburn Hills — Not exactly mirror images, the Pistons and Washington Wizards resemble one another in terms of playoff expectations and being teams built around youth with dynamic players looking to make a name for themselves.
But if you squint just a little bit, they’re almost exact opposites.
The Wizards’ strength is their backcourt, with 2010 No. 1 pick John Wall and 2012 No. 3 pick Bradley Beal carrying much of the load. For the Pistons, Andre Drummond (No. 9 pick, 2012), Greg Monroe (No. 7 pick, 2010) and Josh Smith lead what many believe will be a monstrous frontcourt.
The Wizards have been in desperate search for an identity that fits for decades. Beset by scandals of years’ past and injuries recently, they’re hoping this is the season all the pieces finally come together.
The Pistons know what identity works in this town, and after years of contending they’ve finally emerged from a painful rebuilding process.
In other words, both teams are looking to change the narrative of being teams that can’t get it right.
Tuesday’s exhibition — a dress rehearsal of sorts, considering they’ll play in the season opener one week from today — won’t count in the standings, but if all goes as expected, they’ll be competing for the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket come March and April.
Both Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks and Wizards coach Randy Wittman laughed off the notion that they would be hiding anything the other side could see in preparation for next week’s game, or any of their four regular-season meetings.
“There are no secrets in this game,” Wittman said. “We’re just kind of focusing on ourselves in the exhibition games and not the opponent. Obviously that changes when the regular season starts. Right now we need to focus on where we need to improve. Next week, we’ll get into strategy.”
In the NBA.com GM survey where league executives for each team were polled, the Pistons were rated as the team that will be most improved from last season and the Wizards tied for second in the voting.
Most agree there’s five guaranteed spots in the East, with Miami, Indiana, Chicago, New York and Brooklyn, with three spots open.
“A lot of people are gonna have that opportunity, It’s what you do with it,” Wittman said. “The East changed a little bit, Boston and the changes they made. Some teams have gotten better, too. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and teams have to maintain focus and understand where you’re at and where you want to get to. A lot of teams are pointing to that this year.”
Josh Smith sat out Tuesday’s game (rest), which gives the Pistons a chance to use a more conventional lineup as Kyle Singler started at small forward.
Chauncey Billups and rookie Peyton Siva started at guard. Although Siva had nine turnovers Sunday against Orlando, he only sat out a few seconds — due to Billups being unavailable and Will Bynum having food poisoning, along with Brandon Jennings (jaw) and Rodney Stuckey (thumb) being out.
“You saw he had 47 minutes,” Cheeks said. “He had to do something right. If you play 47 minutes and you’re bad, you won’t be starting (laughs).”
Villaneuva has sore back
Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva left Tuesday night's preseason game with a sore back. Villanueva did not score in 3 minutes in the first half.
Associated Press contributed