Pistons top Sixers, remain work in progress

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Pistons practices are long.

Including film study and meetings, they last approximately three hours. One in Orlando lasted 3:40.

"Practices are really, really, really long," rookie Spencer Dinwiddie said, laughing. "But (coach Stan Van Gundy) has a track record of winning, so with that in mind, how can you really argue about it?"

Van Gundy swears practices under Pat Riley were just as long — and tougher. But he's trying to make an impact with his work ethic and expectations. And he wants to see who stands up to the challenges.

We got a final look at the Pistons on Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers at The Palace before they begin the regular season next Wednesday at Denver.

The Pistons beat the Sixers 109-103 when Josh Smith (17 points and 10 rebounds) broke a late tie with a 3-pointer and free throw. D.J Augustin finished with a double-double (11 points and 11 assists), Kyle Singler added 19 points, Caron Butler 18 and Cartier Martin 17.

NBA analysts Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley said the Pistons are talented and should make the playoffs.

But Van Gundy's brother, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, said they are a work in progress.

That seems to be the case.

Take Stan Van Gundy's starting lineup — he doesn't have one yet. He runs out new lineups daily, trying to see how the pieces fit.

He can go big with Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe.

He can go long and lean in the backcourt with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-foot-6) and Caron Butler (6-6).

Or he can play small ball with Brandon Jennings.

Still ...

"I've seen a group of guys committed to playing together," Van Gundy said. "I've seen great leadership and I mean across the board. Everybody is really trying to get this right and pull together."

What he hasn't seen is smart play.

"I see guys working hard but that does not necessarily translate into smart now," he said. "I think we still have some bad habits to break. I think they are really trying hard.

"The smart part will come when we have a better knowledge of our style. We are in the early stages, and it is confusing. That part will come because we have smart players."