Auburn Hills — The Pistons quickly became Stan Van Gundy’s team. After a series of wheeling and dealing in just a little more than a year, the Pistons are younger, more athletic and can shoot the 3-pointer.
Training camp begins Tuesday and along with that come a number of questions, hopes and expectations.
Piston players say this is a playoff team. But the last time the Pistons played in the playoffs Reggie Jackson was a 16-year-old and Stanley Johnson was 12. Let’s put the glory days in perspective. Johnson was 8 in 2004 when the Pistons won their last title.
The education of Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson signed a five-year, $80 million deal, which makes him a big part of the Pistons present and future. Van Gundy gave him the keys to the car but along with that Jackson will learn the Van Gundy way during training camp. The team is working to make him a better shooter and decision-maker.
How hard will Van Gundy ride him?
The new Andre Drummond
The Pistons began reworking center Andre Drummond before the season began. He’s worked out with assistant coaches and teammates. He learned an effective jump hook but hopes to debut three or four new moves. And, yes, the Pistons worked on his free-throw shooting, partly by having him shoot 3-pointers.
Let’s see how that works out.
Rookie Stanley Johnson isn’t the first Detroit rookie to say he wants a title in his first season. Usually that comes from Lions players and, of course, we know how that worked out. However, Johnson is mature and talented beyond his 19 years. The question is will he remain cool and collected when the bright lights turn on?
Brandon Jennings’ future
This time last year, Brandon Jennings was auditioning to become the lead guard for the Pistons. Then he tore his Achilles tendon during the regular season and a few weeks later, the Pistons traded for “the point guard of the future.”
Jennings is a backup when he returns in December. Van Gundy said the team needs one more piece. Can Jennings play well enough to lure that piece from a team looking for a rental player?
Steve Blake and Spencer Dinwiddie hardly scare teams as backup point guards.
Marcus Morris said the trade that separated him from brother Markieff Morris in Phoenix is behind him. However, Markieff made plenty of noise and threatened to skip Suns training camp, although he said he will attend now. Can Marcus put the past behind him, which includes a possible trial for felony assault.
Pay that man
Everyone agrees that Drummond is a max player. The question is when do you pay him? He is in the final year of his rookie deal and if the Pistons fail to sign him by Oct. 31 Drummond can become a restricted free agent next summer.
The best scenario is for Drummond to sign later because his cap figure for the 2016-2017 season would be $8.2 million rather than the more than $20 million per season he would make if he signs now. The question is, does Drummond like or trust the Pistons enough to do so? And he is banking on good health. If Drummond is injured he is likely to lose millions.
The leading man
Jackson, 24, proved to be a solid leader during the offseason. But can he lead in a positive way when the team is on a losing streak and players are in foul moods? He is young, though Steve Yzerman became team captain at age 21 and Isiah Thomas led the Pistons after leaving the University of Indiana his sophomore season. So Jackson can be that key voice.
The 15th man
Guard Reggie Bullock and forwards Cartier Martin and Adonis Thomas are fighting for the final roster spot. Martin barely played last season and Thomas is an energy guy who has caught the staff’s attention.