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Journey begins for new-look Pistons, Dwane Casey

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey smiles as he is introduced during a news conference in Detroit, June 20, 2018.

Auburn Hills — The first game of the season could have a vibe like the first day of school — nerves, anxiety and concern about whether a team prepared well enough.

If that’s how Dwane Casey feels ahead of his Pistons coaching debut Wednesday, he’s not showing it. On Tuesday, Casey held the final practice before the start of the regular season and it was business as usual, with no serious concerns about what might come in the opener against the Brooklyn Nets.

After signing a five-year contract in the offseason to replace Stan Van Gundy, many fans’ and experts’ expectations were increased immediately, starting with the notion that the Pistons would end their decade-long drought without a playoff victory. For his part, Casey is shooing that worry to the side.

“Whatever happens. You want to win but it’s not the end of the world. It’s a process of how we want to play and having to be successful,” Casey said. “We do have (player) buy-in so to continue to have that, you want to have success but the key too is not dropping your shoulders or head if something bad does go wrong or if you do lose a game. We can’t approach this like the world is falling apart because something happened. It’s a long season and a long journey and it’s up to us how we handle it.”

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The Pistons jumped out to a 14-6 start last season — with road wins over the Clippers and Warriors — before stumbling into a seven-game skid and languishing around .500 for the remainder of the season.

Casey isn’t anxious about running off an early winning streak to validate his hiring, but is more concerned about establishing habits that lead to winning ways, which may not stick in the early weeks, but will have staying power when they do.

“You always want to (win early) but I also know Rome wasn’t built in a day. If we don’t go 6-0 or 7-0, it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “It’s a process and it’s about patience and understanding. Selfishly, we’d love to get out but I’m not going to push the panic button if we don’t.”

Nets at Pistons

Tipoff: 7 Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons open the Dwane Casey era with higher expectations after going 39-43 last season and missing the playoffs for a second straight year. Stanley Johnson (toe) is questionable to start. The Nets won, 110-108, in overtime in the preseason.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard