News & views: Pistons need to get homecourt advantage for playoffs

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Marcus Morris

News: The Pistons beat the lowly Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night for their third straight win and hold the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Views: The Pistons are looking to end their streak of six seasons in the draft lottery — and out of the playoffs.

It’s yet another crest on a season of roller coaster rides. While the Pistons have struggled against some of the weaker teams in the league, they’ve started to make progress against some of the playoff contenders.

The Pistons are within 1.5 games of the Atlanta Hawks, who sit in the No. 4 spot, which would give them homecourt advantage for a first-round playoff series. With their 13-5 home record — and 8-11 road record — getting homecourt advantage has to be the immediate goal if they’re going to make any kind of postseason run.

Their next five games — against San Antonio, at Memphis, versus Golden State and Chicago and at Houston — comprise one of their toughest stretches of the season. All five are playoff teams, and if the Pistons can win three, they’d be sitting pretty at the official halfway point of the season.

News: Center Andre Drummond is set to become the Pistons’ first All-Star selection since Allen Iverson in 2010.

Views: The nod is well-deserved, as Drummond has been the most dominant big man in the league this season, averaging 18.1 points and 15.6 rebounds. He’s increased his scoring by more than four points and two boards over last season and has 31 double-doubles this year.

Although Drummond has his issues — a career-low 36 percent on free throws and lapses of low effort — he’s only 22 and in just his fourth season. He’ll get better in both areas and could be the premier big man in the league in a couple of years. He’s worked extensively on his hook shots with both hands and, with Greg Monroe gone, has plenty of room to roam in the paint.

Drummond has a slim lead in fan voting to be the third frontcourt starter, but even if he falls behind Carmelo Anthony, Drummond still would be picked by the coaches.

Reggie Jackson ranks 10th in voting among guards and although his numbers (19.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists) suggest he could be an All-Star, it probably won’t happen this year.

He’s behind the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas and Jeremy Lin. Jackson might not be an All-Star this year, but leading the Pistons to the playoffs might be a better honor anyway.

News: The Pistons will retire Ben Wallace’s No. 3 on Saturday, when they also play the Golden State Warriors at The Palace.

Views: For the next generation of Detroit fans, Wallace is as synonymous with the Pistons as Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars or Bill Laimbeer is for the previous decade. Wallace and the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons were the anti-superstar team and Wallace will be remembered for his blue-collar work ethic and for helping Pistons fans move past the Grant Hill era.

Wallace and Chauncey Billups, whose No. 1 jersey will be retired next month, could be the last ones with their numbers in the rafters for a while, unless Andre Drummond builds a comparable career.

News: Marcus Morris (knee tendinitis) missed Saturday’s game, as the Pistons had their first alternate starting lineup this season.

Views: The Pistons were the last team in the league to use a different starting lineup. It’s a testament to how well coach Stan Van Gundy assembled the roster and a nod to bringing rookie Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 overall pick, along slowly and not having to rush him along, as many other rookies have been.

Morris has been durable this season, tied for sixth in minutes played (36.5) this season. It would be difficult to expect him to remain healthy, with the time he’s logged and how hard he plays on both ends of the court.

With all the success that Drummond and Jackson have enjoyed this season, Morris is the glue that holds the Pistons together, giving them a swagger and a toughness that they’ve lacked. Of all the transactions made in the offseason, the trade for Morris might not be the flashiest, but it might be the most critical for the Pistons’ turnaround this season.