NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Pistons wrapped up their preseason last week with an impressive win over Atlanta.
Now, the slate is wiped clean.
Detroit hosts the Houston Rockets in Wednesday night’s season opener, which the Pistons hope will be the start of a season that returns them to relevance in the Eastern Conference. Detroit started 4-20 in last year’s lockout-shortened season but went 21-21 after that. The Pistons are hoping to make a run at a playoff berth this season behind young big man Greg Monroe.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “You always have to be real, you can’t get a false sense of what it is and we have a lot of work to do.”
That comment came after a 104-88 win over the Hawks in the preseason finale, a game that will be pretty well forgotten by the time the Pistons and Rockets finish up Wednesday night. Frank is in his second season as Detroit’s coach. He had a more normal preseason this time around, with no labor dispute to shake up the league.
“What I’m pleased about is that I like our spirit, and I like our group,” Frank said. “I like the fact that our guys support each other, and the fact that our guys know that we have a lot of things to work on to get better, and they’re willing to do it.”
First-round draft pick Andre Drummond, taken by the Pistons to help support Monroe around the basket, had 13 points and 10 rebounds in that last exhibition game, playing extended minutes with the starters.
“We play well together,” Monroe said. “As we get more comfortable playing with each other, I think we will make a good pair.”
Point guard Brandon Knight showed promise last season as a rookie, and he’ll face an interesting matchup right from the start against Houston’s Jeremy Lin. The Rockets also acquired James Harden from Oklahoma City recently after the Thunder were unable to work out a contract extension with the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Monroe enters his third season looking like a potential star. He averaged 15.4 points per game in 2011-12 and is already a smart, polished offensive player.
Rodney Stuckey can provide scoring punch from the backcourt, and Tayshaun Prince is the last remaining on-court link to Detroit’s championship team of 2004.
The Pistons haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.
“We have a long way to go,” Monroe said. “I definitely think we are a good basketball team. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet, and there are some places we can get better. … We need to focus on one game at a time instead of thinking about the long term or making predictions.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)