Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy still gets butterflies before the start of the season. He's not nervous. No; he's excited.
To him the start of the Pistons' media day, the unofficial start of the season and the start of training camp, is like the first day of school.
"That’s a great analogy. There is an excitement every year just like there is for kids on their first day of school. A lot of times, my kids weren’t looking forward to that day, but I am looking forward to today," he said with a grin.
"I’ve been excited to get going since last week or so. I really just want to get to Tuesday and start camp, and get out on the court with the guys."
After failing to reach the playoffs last season, and now returning downtown, there's a lot to get excited about. Not to mention the new faces that'll wear the red, white, and blue. The Pistons can wash the bad taste of last season out of their mouths, and essentially start over by hitting an imaginary reset button.
"We have a lot of new guys, and just the move (downtown). Playing in a new state of the art arena, all of that is exciting. We went into the off-season with the goals of putting together the best roster, while improving our financial flexibility. We didn’t want to take on aging players either because we wanted to maximize our growth potential," Van Gundy explained.
On the court, the Pistons have added what Van Gundy calls tough, competitive players through the five guys they added. Headlining the list is former Boston Celtic and newest shooting guard Avery Bradley. But there was a method to the madness when he acquired Langston Galloway in July, and also brought back Anthony Tolliver from Sacramento.
"We needed to greatly improve our 3-point shooting with proven NBA guys: Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, Anthony Toliver. We added guys that made threes-per-36 minutes played at 39-percent or better. There were less than 40 of those guys in the league, and we got three of them," he added.
Attacking from beyond the arc will not only help the Pistons spread the floor, which will open the offense, but also help improve a team that finished 28th in 3-point shooting last season.
"When guys get the ball, we need to be able to shoot. Whether it’s a pull up jumper or if they’re wide open, we can’t hesitate. It helps me get rebounds, but it makes teams guess on what we’re doing," Pistons center Andre Drummond said.
"It will open up me and Reggie’s pick and roll game because teams don’t contest the 3-point line. They just dropped back and clogged the middle last year. We were dared to shoot, and we wouldn’t. So we need guys who are willing to shoot."
The Pistons also needed guys who could help ease the roll of the point guards as well.
"Tobias Harris should continue to improve from being our leading scorer last season, and Boban Marjanovic could be the most indefensible offensive force in the game coming off our bench. Reggie (Jackson) being healthier. It might take a while to get him back into full strength, but when’s back doing what he’s capable of, he’s a special player.," Van Gundy added.
"Even our younger players have made strides. We’ve seen a real maturity in Stanley Johnson's mindset, and he’s really ready to go this year and play a big role. Henry Ellison has made strides, and added weight to his frame. He’ll push hard for minutes this season. And, it’ll be hard to keep Luke (Kennard) off the floor."
Despite the additions though, the Pistons need to find an identity. Last year, the team was a bit schizophrenic, and often lacked the ability to stop teams consistently. That's where he hopes Bradley's defensive prowess wears off on the rest of the team.
"On the defensive end, I think we the makings of a team that can be very, very good. We have smart, tough guys. That alone will make you pretty good. And we have a couple of guys that can be real big time defenders," Van Gundy said.
"Avery has been an all-defense guy. And Stanley has the capabilities to rise to that level or get pretty darn close to it. Those two will key our defense. I expect Andre to make another jump defensively. He’s big, and he has quick feet. We want to give him the freedom to be more aggressive defensively and take advantage of his quickness."
Regardless though, Van Gundy freely welcomes the open criticism and pressure that comes with Little Caesars Arena. He said that there might be a little more edge to the crowd, and more pressure (to win there). But if you’re in this business and you’re running from pressure, "why’d you go into it?"
Overall the increased energy is a positive in Van Gundy's eyes, and the home of the Pistons already is the apple of his eye.
"The District Detroit down and around the arena is phenomenal. It gives Detroit the best sports and entertainment district in the country. I don’t think there is anything to criticize," he said.
"I think Little Caesars Arena is great. It’s a world class arena. It’s the best in the entire country. The sight lines are terrific. The way it’s built, it puts people close to the court, which will give us an outstanding home court advantage when we get our fans yelling and screaming."
Only time well tell if the yelling will be due to excitement or in agony of another lost season. Either way, Van Gundy and the Pistons are ready to get in the swing of things.