October 31, 2013 at 1:00 am

John Niyo

Pistons fans treated to good first look, and reason to return

Auburn Hills They deserve a look. And at first glance, the Pistons will deserve more than a fleeting one this season.

Owner Tom Gores guaranteed a win about a half-hour before his teams home opener Wednesday night. And he got it, as the Pistons began a season of high expectations with a 113-102 win over the Washington Wizards at The Palace.

What the fans should get this season is something theyve been waiting for far too long.

What theyll get is a team with an edge in talent many nights, and talent that figures to play with an edge more often than not, led by an imposing young frontline.

What theyll also get, it appears, is a team that unlike the past few incarnations will keep their attention for more than a week or two.

After an offseason that saw a major overhaul of the Pistons roster, from the high-profile signing of free agent Josh Smith to the surprising trade for Brandon Jennings to the return of Chauncey Billups, theres some genuine buzz about this team again.

The energy in this building was something familiar, Billups said. It felt really good.

Especially for Gores, who, as promised, was front and center court Wednesday night, on his feet for player introductions and again in the fourth quarter, high-fiving every fan within reach when Billups Mr. Big Shot is back for an encore buried consecutive 3-pointers to put the game out of reach.

Ive seen him do that many times before, coach Maurice Cheeks said, smiling, after his winning debut.

So have these fans, of course. The announced attendance was 19,258, and as Billups went to the free throw line in the final minutes, most of them were serenading him with chants of M-V-P! M-V-P!

Hey, its been a while, OK?

Frontline spurs optimism

Even for Gores, who purchased the Pistons in June 2011 but hasnt had much to cheer yet, with a 44-94 record in his first two seasons. He called those first two years a transition time in a pregame media session Wednesday that touched on a variety of topics, including, yes, the possibility of relocating downtown. And he talked about staying largely out of sight, working behind the scenes with team president Joe Dumars and the rest of the front office to rebuild and rebrand this franchise.

But I feel like now that things have developed, its time for me to be here, Gores said. Joe and I have made the decision that we want to win now, without sacrificing the future. That was our philosophy in the offseason. I think weve played this out about as good as we can, and now we just have to perform.

Everyones wondering how the Pistons starting frontcourt Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond will perform together this season. And there surely will be nights where seven 3-point attempts from Smith he made a few Wednesday will spell trouble. As will the foul trouble that forced Drummond, who nearly had a double-double by halftime, to sit for much of the second half.

But that trio combined for 55 points and 29 rebounds Wednesday, led by Monroes 24 and 16. The Pistons held a 2-to-1 advantage in points in the paint (56-28), and thats a positive sign moving forward.

Thats where we feel our advantage is, with those three big guys, Billups said. We should have an advantage 90 percent of the nights in this league.

That advantage helped offset the backcourt concerns against the Wizards, with starting point guard Brandon Jennings (broken jaw) and Rodney Stuckey (broken thumb) both in street clothes to start the season.

And if not for the 18 turnovers plus a hot-shooting night from the Wizards Trevor Ariza, who hit six 3-pointers it mightve been over much earlier.

Gores: Fans will come

Then again, the fun and the intrigue is only just beginning. Gores said Wednesday hes very excited to see just what this team will do.

And a little bit nervous, he added.

As everyone at The Palace should be, really. The Pistons havent made the playoffs since 2009, and they havent finished with a winning record since 08, or four head coaches ago. Thats a drought that has to end this season. And thats a point Gores reiterated before the game.

I have very high expectations, the owner said. Of course you guys want to hear this, right? We expect the playoffs. I expected it last year. And as Ive said, Id be very disappointed if we didnt make it. It would be a huge disappointment if we didnt make it. We have to be successful this year.

Cheeks, for his part, isnt focusing on any mandate. Hes preoccupied with piecing together some cohesive five-man units, which isnt easy when the preseason gets derailed by injuries the way this one did. The new head coach used only eight players Wednesday, with rookie first-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope getting 27 minutes.

Still, Cheeks said, Expectations are what they are. You either live up to them or not. But you still gotta go play, either way.

If they play the way their talent suggests theyre capable, though, those expectations certainly are within reach. And if they do, Gores insisted Wednesday, This fan base will show up.

You just gotta deserve them, he added. And I think thats where were at right now.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com
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Pistons forward Greg Monroe goes up for two against Wizards' Marcin Gortat in the third quarter. Monroe finished with a game-high 27 points in Detroit's 113-102 season-opening victory Wednesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News