There might not be two more different franchises than the Brooklyn Nets and the Detroit Pistons. Since their move from New Jersey the Nets have been all about flash and grabbing headlines. They wanted star power early and gave Jay Z a slice of the team. They wanted to look different so they went with the aggressive black-and-white color scheme. They wanted a championship so they traded for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
The Pistons, meanwhile, are paragons of mediocrity. The team sticks to the tried and true — they won a championship under Larry Brown by “playing the right way” and have spent the 15 years since doing everything possible to play by the rules and color inside the lines.
The two teams face off Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, and because it’s a big game for Detroit, I wanted to highlight the game a little earlier than usual. I’m hoping LCA is raucous and boos Kyrie Irving mercilessly while at the same time praying Spencer Dinwiddie doesn’t rip our hearts out.
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Tickets: Buy Tickets to Pistons vs. Nets
Back to what makes these two franchises different.
While the Nets have done everything in their power to be different, the Pistons love routine. The Pistons can’t quit their classic logo and color scheme while most others call it boring. They love traditional lineups and traditional draft picks and traditional team building. Their version of a star-making move is signing Josh Smith and then paying him to go away. They don’t grab headlines and are mostly an NBA afterthought.
When Brooklyn needed to rebuild they did it all the way — accepting a terrible team now and building assets for the future. Trading away anything of value for future picks. Taking flyers on young, buy-low players and counting on them to develop. They executed the plan brilliantly. Detroit, meanwhile, has been stuck on the notion of winning now and winning later. They have ... not executed that plan brilliantly.
Detroit wants to win, though. Oh, man, do they want to win. Their venture capital owner wants winning and playoffs and full stadiums, but he doesn’t quite know how to get there. He made his big, big move by trading for former commercial regular and dunk champion Blake Griffin. But just as soon as Griffin arrived he traded his dunks in for something more — an al-around game with 3-pointers and free-throws and assists that make Pistons fans thankful while the rest of the NBA looks away or shrugs.
Both franchises have had their ups and downs, and both are hoping to find themselves in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season. Brooklyn did the only thing they know how to do — go big. They signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant and look to be a title contender next season. The Pistons, meanwhile, worked around the margins. Swapping out useless back-of-the-rotation players for competence. Derrick Rose might be a name but he’s also a bench player now and in the future. And nobody is going to run out for a Tony Snell or Tim Frazier jersey.
If the Pistons want to win, and they want Little Caesars Arena full, they’ll need to win games like Saturday’s against the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams are scuffling a bit out of the gate, but if Detroit can get a win they could get some real momentum going.
They’ll be 3-3 without Blake Griffin and largely without Reggie Jackson. They will be adding Griffin back to the lineup soon and he seems like he’ll be able to fit in seamlessly alongside the balling Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose and might really open things up for Luke Kennard.
The Pistons also have a pretty favorable November schedule to put some consecutive victories together. Their November slate: @Bulls, Nets, @Wizards, Knicks, @Pacers, Timberwolves, @Heat, @Hornets, @Bulls, Hawks, @Bucks, Magic, @Hornets, Hornets, Spurs.
The Pistons aren’t going to run that table, but they could reasonably be looking at 10 wins in the month. And if they want double-digit wins they need to beat good teams like the Nets, shut down stars like Kyrie Irving, exorcise some demons like Pistons killer Spencer Dinwiddie and separate themselves from the franchises who are fighting with them for playoff seeding. And, make no mistake, Irving is an ice cold killer. I don’t love him, and I don’t particularly love his game, and the less said about his philosophizing the better, but he loves to step up and stomp out your hope. He’s the kind of player who senses fear and smells the blood in the water.
A team like the Pistons — one with talent but perhaps a higher opinion of themselves than warranted — are the kinds Irving loves to bully with big shots, acrobatic plays at the rim and going into full takeover mode. Dinwiddie, meanwhile, has no love lost for the team that drafted him.
The Pistons best hope is that Drummond will be able to attack the player formerly known as DeAndre Jordan and that for every punch Irving manages to throw, Derrick Rose can throw one right back. And while those two go toe-to-toe on offense, Bruce Brown could do himself well by getting out of his funk and delivering a lock down defensive performance.
And who doesn’t want to see a Joe Harris vs. Luke Kennard shootout? Anyone?
I can’t wait.
Tim Frazier, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, Andre Drummond
Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, DeAndre Jordan
Question of the Day
How many wins and losses for the Detroit Pistons in the month of November?
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