Pistons coach Dwane Casey talks at media day. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — Media Day is like the first day of school, with plenty of familiar faces and a few new ones. Media Day for the Pistons was the final official event at their Auburn Hills practice before they move to midtown to open the season.
The vibe was a mix of goodbyes to their basketball home during the championship runs in 1989-90 and 2004 and hellos to the new offseason additions that the front office hopes can get them back there this season.
The new faces are numerous: Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, Joe Johnson, Tim Frazier, Christian Wood and first-round pick Sekou Doumbouya. That means only about half of the 15-man roster from last season’s playoff squad could be returning players.
A little of the old. A little of the new.
It could be some repetition for coach Dwane Casey in his second season, as he tries to drive home the same points as he did in training camp last season but reinforcing it for the new additions.
“We have eight new faces coming in so we’re cranking it back up from the start,” Casey said. “I told the guys last night that the guys who were here last year probably will get bored with what I’m going to say because I want to start from scratch because we did have so many new people on the team.
“The core guys understand the culture and identity of what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively. That makes it a little easier.”
Getting the roster chemistry, especially in the second group, could be one of the growing pains of the first part of training camp and the regular season but if things start to click, the Pistons could outpace their 41-41 season and raise some eyebrows.
Although some of the over-under projections have the Pistons at about 37½ wins, the huge roster turnover will take a while to gauge. The second unit had its share of struggles last season, but with a revamped reserve group, there’s a different level of optimism.
With Derrick Rose, Tony Snell and Markieff Morris among the new additions, the outlook for this season is making it back to the playoffs. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
“There’s a lot of options where we’ve helped ourselves depth-wise. We got better definitely depth-wise with that second unit,” Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski said. “It’s gotten considerably better when you put Derrick Rose in at the point guard position coming off the bench. He can move Reggie Jackson over to (shooting guard) … (Rose) brings that grit and grind, he’s been through the wars and he knows what it’s all about.”
Rose, a coveted free agent, said that he was intrigued by the roster and having an athletic and lanky team with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin as anchors, he saw a spot where he could come in and make an immediate impact.
Vice chairman Arn Tellem, a former player agent, had a connection with Rose which made the decision easier.
“One of the reasons I wanted to come here was the depth of the team — we have a very long team, where we can switch anything (on defense); we’re versatile,” Rose said. “With Blake and Drummond, the big dynamic is huge here and being in the East, you never know what can happen. That’s one of the reasons I decided to come here, along with the coaching staff and Arn Tellem.”
Much of the roster construction was done with the idea of bringing experienced, established veterans who can play together. Part of the intrigue with the new roster is the number of combinations and styles they can play, with Markieff Morris at backup center, for example.
The Pistons were swept out of the playoffs by the Bucks and not having many roster options to guard Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo was some of their undoing. With this new group, they look to be better equipped, without just focusing on the Bucks.
“Last year is last year; that’s in the past. You can’t dwell on it or think about it too much,” said Rose, who played with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. “It’s a new year and new people on the team and you have to have expectations and goals — and the goal is to do better than last year.”
New school or new team, Rose seems to have learned his way already.