NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS (AP) — The Detroit Pistons are getting back to work.
On the first day players were allowed to use team facilities after the NBA lockout, Villanueva took advantage, showing up at Detroit’s practice building next to The Palace. Villanueva said he lifted some weights Thursday.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I can’t wait to get this thing rolling.”
Ben Wallace was also there shooting baskets, but he left without speaking to reporters.
NBA officials have been working to complete a two-game exhibition schedule for each team that will lead to a 66-game regular season, starting with a five-game slate on Christmas. The NBA agreed to allow players to re-enter the buildings Thursday.
The Pistons need to hit the ground running. They went 30-52 last season and now have a new coach. Lawrence Frank was introduced in August — with the lockout in full swing — to replace John Kuester.
Frank coached the New Jersey Nets to the conference semifinals three times before being fired in late 2009.
“I don’t really know too much about him,” Villanueva said. “I just know he was in Jersey, and he was a good coach, so I’m excited.”
Villanueva said he’s been dealing with a mild sprain of his right ankle for about a week, but he didn’t seem too concerned about it. On a franchise in need of a fresh start, Villanueva will still have to deal with some fallout from last season.
The 6-foot-11 forward was suspended for five games late last season for initiating an on-court altercation with Cleveland’s Ryan Hollins, trying to get at the Cavaliers’ bench and attempting to enter their locker room. He served the first game of the suspension in Detroit’s season finale.
With each team preparing to play 66 games, Villanueva was asked about the possibility of having to play back-to-back-to-back games at some point.
“Back-to-back is hard already,” he said. “Taking care of your body — that’s what it’s about.”
The 37-year-old Wallace pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and possessing a firearm while under the influence of alcohol. He still faces sentencing Dec. 13.
Wallace was considering retirement at the end of last season, but he said in June he was leaning toward coming back, and Villanueva said he wasn’t surprised to see him back at the practice facility right away.
“He works hard every day,” Villanueva said. “That’s his lifestyle.”
Detroit drafted Kentucky guard Brandon Knight at No. 8 overall, adding to its perimeter logjam with Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon. Center Greg Monroe showed promising signs last season as a rookie and power forward Jonas Jerebko, who didn’t play last season after tearing his right Achilles’ tendon, will get an opportunity to bolster a thin frontcourt.
Villanueva says he’s ready to move on from the acrimonious labor dispute that delayed the start of the season.
“It’s in the past. Now it’s time to look forward,” he said. “I think we have some loyal fans, and I think people want to watch some basketball.”
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