We're just a couple of hours away from tip-off! Hopefully between all the articles and features in today's Free Press and News (not to mention George Blaha's chat, you got your preview fix. In case you missed it, here are my highlights:
GETTING PERSONAL WITH ... Maurice Evans [Detroit Free Press]:
Small forward Maurice Evans landed his first multiyear, guaranteed contract this summer when he signed for two years with the Pistons. He played for the Sacramento Kings last season and averaged 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds. He had an excellent exhibition season, leading the team with 11.7 points per game.
On his nickname: Evans has gone by Mo since he was in sixth grade, but the Pistons have nicknamed him "Logo," after the And1 player. "You know, the guy who's really strong and cut up," Evans said. "So Chauncey and all the guys gave that to me." Evans thinks the nickname trend is a sign of team cohesiveness. "That's kind of cool, I think. Everyone on the team is really cool and jelling together."
On his best friend in the league? Easy. Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett, the guys who first befriended Evans when he went to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2001 as an undrafted free agent. "When I went to Europe, I left my car at K.G.'s house, then I came back and lived with him in the summer."
Teammates [Detroit Free Press] -- Yeah, it's a fluff piece, but for some reason I've always like hearing players talk candidly about their teammates.
MITCH ALBOM: The Flip side [Detroit Free Press]:
Now, it is true, Saunders, the New Guy, won't get you national headlines. This week, on its front page, USA Today screamed the question, "Can Larry Brown save the Knicks?" -- even though the Knicks are a moribund franchise that has won nothing since the Willis Reed days. That's Larry. He was recently a guest on David Letterman. He sat down with Charlie Rose. He is a traveling road show, with potions and testimonies and true believers swearing they were healed by his power. He is instant headline.
But Detroit has had enough headlines involving the coach. It wants headlines involving the team -- and a title.
. . . snip . . .
Saunders, 50, talks fondly about his family and its discipline, and it's pretty obvious he is not on some lifetime quest for loving approval, the way Larry Brown has seemingly been since his salesman father died when Brown was 6 years old. Brown has wandered the basketball world looking for assurances, verbal hugs and pats on the back from management. When he didn't get enough -- and it was never enough -- he got restless and moved on, as he eventually got restless and moved on from Detroit.
Saunders is the opposite. He worked one NBA city before this one -- Minneapolis, where he was the Timberwolves' general manager and then coach for nearly 10 years, and he likely would have stayed there if he hadn't been let go.
Where Brown seeks the noise of drama, Saunders enjoys the quiet of consistency. His father was in the Marines, and he talks about being raised with military discipline but civil discourse.
MICHAEL ROSENBERG: Regular season counts this time for Pistons [Detroit Free Press]
The Pistons' regular season starts tonight, and the good news is that you don't have to tell the Pistons.
Last year, we weren't so sure. The Pistons treated the regular season like paperwork -- it had to be filled out before the postseason could begin, but it didn't require much attention. The Pistons started 12-12, quickly dismissed anybody who was worried, and figured they were so good, they didn't need home-court advantage in the playoffs.
They were almost right. They won Game 7 at Miami and Game 6 at San Antonio. But then they lost Game 7 at San Antonio. I'm sure they think they would have won Games 8 and 9, no matter where they played. But now they realize the importance of home-court advantage, and you can expect an attitude shift this season.
"That's going to be a little different," point guard Chauncey Billups said. "You go into the Finals and it's Game 7 on the road. ... Anytime you experience that, you say, 'You know what? We need to work a little harder in the regular season to try to get home-court advantage.' We just feel like at the Palace, there is no way we can lose a Game 7."
It's easy to get excited about the Miami Heat. They added Antoine Walker and Jason Williams to the mix in the biggest trade in NBA history.
The Indiana Pacers get Ron Artest back after he was suspended for most of last season following that ugly brawl at The Palace.
Many are excited about the New Jersey Nets, feeling Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson are a killer trio. With all three at full strength, they are supposed to cause some damage in the conference.
All the other stuff is true about the teams chasing the Pistons. Some of the same stuff was said the last two years.
In 2004, the Pistons won the NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers, sporting four future Hall of Famers.
Last season, the Pistons had the lead in the fourth quarter of the seventh and deciding game of The Finals in San Antonio, but couldn't hold on and lost.
Two years ago, it was all about the Nets. They had gotten Alonzo Mourning. Everyone was fretting about the addition of Zo. He wound up ill and had to bow out after only 12 games. The Pistons eliminated them in the second round.
They then went on to knock off the Indiana Pacers with Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Reggie Miller.
Last season, it was all about Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. It was supposed to be the best duo running since Shaq and Kobe Bryant. The Pistons, however, knocked off the Heat in the conference finals, winning Game 7 in Miami.
Yet, the talk is about other teams, not the Pistons. It's nothing new.
"We're still the team to beat in the East," forward Rasheed Wallace said.
Darko is ready to play pivotal role [Detroit News]:
The very fact Milicic was assigned to perimeter-shooting maneuvers Tuesday speaks in high decibels to how a 20-year-old player, and his role, have changed since Flip Saunders arrived as coach.
Milicic's mission is no longer viewed as low-post-or-bust.
Under old coach Larry Brown, Milicic came to see the basketball court as solitary confinement. Brown figured there was one way a 7-foot, 250-pound prodigy with Milicic's skills -- well, with Milicic's potential skills -- could ever help the Pistons and the game of basketball, overall. And that was by sticking like varnish to the baseline.