In just a few hours, the Pistons and Bucks will tip off in a game that actually means something. The last time these guys met, the Pistons decimated the Bucks 122-93 in Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs. These aren't the same teams, of course, but I think I speak for all of us when I say I'd be shocked at anything less than a W tonight.
In preparation for the game, here's something of a crib sheet:
Subplots: The Terry Porter connection. Porter was Milwaukee's head coach for two years before he got sacked before last season with a year left on his contract -- ironically, if you remember, because the team hoped to sign Flip Saunders. Well, that obviously didn't work out, and they settled for Terry Stotts, who led the team to a 40-42 finish last year before their untimely (for Bucks fans) demise in the first round. I don't think the Pistons need any extra motivation -- c'mon, it's the season opener! -- but if they did, well, maybe winning one for Porter can be it.
It's OK to cheer for: Charlie Villanueva, whom the Bucks stole from the Raptors in exchange for the erratic T.J. Ford. Why cheer? Because he's also the National Alopecia Areata Foundation Spokesperson, helping create awareness for a disease the affects millions of Americans, including one Rasheed Wallace.
What are they saying? You remember the Milwaukee Bucks Diary? They wrote a piece for us previewing the playoff series last year. They've made no bold preseason predictions but are instead awfully curious about what's in store this season:
[H]ow will this season play out? Will it end again with disappointment? Who can say for sure? This team, like most Harris editions, is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But, as Churchill said, there are some keys. Will Bogut transition successfully to center? Is Mo Williams a true point guard? When will Bobby Simmons return? Can Charlie Villanueva take charge and be a true second option? Is their commitment to defense real? What can we expect out of all our young second round picks? All these questions and more need to be answered before the story of the 2006-07 Bucks can be told.
Anyone hurt? Dale Davis is sitting this one out with a bum hammy, but there's a good chance he wouldn't have played regardless. Will Blalock or Amir Johnson should take his spot among the 12 who dress tonight, but again, don't expect any PT. For Milwaukee, Andrew Bogut is supposed to play after missing the entire preseason with a sprained knee. He may be a little rusty, but he's apparently kept in shape by hitting the nightclubs.
Last but not least: Enjoy tonight, but don't take it too seriously. For all of the regular-season success teams like the Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons have had in the last 12 months, each of those teams ended their season with a loss. Saunders and Co. still want to win every game this year, but they also want to peak late, so don't be surprised if young players like Jason Maxiell and Carlos Delfino are allowed to play through mistakes and prove themselves in crunch time.
Feel free to stop by before, during and after the game for conversation in the comments section (and if you're among the lucky 20-some-thousand going to the game, take pictures and add them to the Detroit Bad Boys group on Flickr) -- let's get this season started!