Auburn Hills — There is a ritual between media members and Pistons second-year center Andre Drummond:
■ Drummond walks off the court at the practice facility. Media member asks for an interview.
■ Drummond grabs a drink and says no. He does not have time.
■ Media member’s jaw drops.
■ Drummond smiles and leads them to a set of bars that he hops on and talks for as long as the media wants.
He is playful, youthful, and impressionable and he hates losing. The smile has been replaced by a sullen look because the Pistons are so bad.
Now, Drummond still grabs his drink and stands near the bars when the media wants him. He still jokes around, but not as much. That is what losing does to you. And the Pistons must be careful they do not lose this 20-year-old.
There have been signs of him going through the motions. Monday night he turned into a mountain man with a 17-point, 26-rebound effort against the New York Knicks. The 96-85 victory does not solve the Pistons problems. They remain inconsistent and bad and listless many nights. They simply ran into a team they could not lose to at home.
“You know there is still a chance (for the playoffs),” Drummond said. “We have to take every game seriously. We can’t take games lightly. We have to finish the season strong and hope that the cards fall in the right place.”
Lots of room, but no improvement
A number of you have already placed dirt on the Pistons and buried them. I join you today.
I know. Why was I so late to the party?
I blame Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who told me earlier this season to give the Pistons through the month of February. If they did not turn it around by then, it was not going to happen. Spoelstra went down a similar road when he was an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy in 2003-2004, Dwyane Wade’s rookie season.
Miami was a disaster for much of the season but made a huge charge in March and rallied to make the playoffs. Even though their record didn’t turn around until March, Spoelstra saw better energy the month before.
I do not see better energy. I do not see better chemistry. I see a bunch of guys trying to figure each other out still. I see a starting front line of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe that cannot defend. I see a young man in Drummond who gets frustrated, and I totally understand why.
“I got to do a better job of not getting down on myself,” Drummond said. “I don’t like to lose at all. I can’t stand it. That’s part of the game, so you have to do a better job of being positive and bring my spirits up.”
Here is where the Pistons find themselves heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Bulls at The Palace. The Pistons have 22 games remaining to make up three games on Atlanta for a playoff spot. The numbers say it is possible. Here is the problem. The Pistons play 14 of those games on the road, where they own a 10-17 record. And 12 of those teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
The Hawks are in their final Western swing of the season and will probably tease the Pistons by losing a few games and allowing Detroit to get close. But the Pistons have a four-game swing remaining that takes them to Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles to play the Clippers and Utah. The Pistons are 4-19 against the West.
The Hawks, meanwhile, have 13 of 24 games left at home.
Nothing is impossible, but I have not seen anything out of the Pistons recently that suggest they are ready to erase this deficit.
“It’s never out of reach,” Drummond said. “We need consistency. We play great four or five games and then take a few steps back. We lost our coach, which was tough on us, but we cannot use that as an excuse or to justify the losses that we had. We have to figure things out and come together as a team.”