By: Will Burchfield
The Pistons’ 2016-17 schedule was released last night, piquing the fans’ excitement for the upcoming season. Detroit will tip things off on Oct. 26 in Toronto against the Raptors, before returning to Auburn Hills for their home opener on Oct. 28 versus the Orlando Magic. Here are our picks for the Pistons’ five most intriguing home games of the 2016-17 season.
October 28, vs. Orlando.
On the heels of their winningest season in eight years and their first playoff appearance since 2009, the Pistons have generated some real excitement heading into the 2016-17 campaign. The fans will get their first live look at the team on Friday Oct. 28 against Serge Ibaka, Aaron Gordon and the Orlando Magic. Making their Palace debuts will be Jon Leuer, Ish Smith, first-round pick Henry Ellenson and the freakish hands of Boban Marjanovic. The Pistons finished 25th in average attendance last season, but that ranking figures to rise as the team does the same.
November 14, vs. Oklahoma City.
Cue Reggie Jackson. Since talking his way out of OKC late in the 2014-15 season, Jackson has fueled an ongoing feud with his former team. The Pistons’ starting point guard delighted in Detroit’s win over an undermanned Thunder squad last March, much to the chagrin of Russell Westbrook, who called Jackson’s showy postgame celebration “some real bullsh*t,” and Steven Adams, who simply said, “Says a lot about him.” Then, immediately following the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to the Warriors in last season’s Western Conference finals, Jackson reveled in their demise via Twitter. Needless to say, the next confrontation between these two rivals will be rife with rancor.
December 6, vs. Chicago.
The Pistons narrowly edged out the Bulls for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot last season, marking the first time Chicago failed to make the postseason in eight years. So the Bulls shook things up in the offseason, bidding farewell to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and welcoming in Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo. They also drafted former Michigan State star and Lansing’s own Denzel Valentine, who will make his much-anticipated homecoming in early December. Surely Pistons’ fans will give the local kid a warm welcome – but if Valentine goes off, do the cheers turn to boos?
December 23, vs. Golden State
The Pistons were one of nine teams to beat the Warriors last season, topping the 73-win Dubs 113-95 in Auburn Hills. Golden State will look to exact some revenge when they return to the Palace just two days before Christmas, led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and, yes, Kevin Durant. Durant was another key figure in last season’s Reggie Jackson beef, describing Jackson’s histrionics following the Pistons’ win over the Thunder as “bush league.” What’s more, Durant, who sat out that night, said afterward, “I wanted to play against Detroit for sure, but…you know. It’s Detroit. You know, who cares about Detroit?” It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he receives from the Palace fans.
December 26, vs. Cleveland.
How’s that for back-to-back games? First the Pistons take on the star-studded Warriors, then they turn around after Christmas and welcome in the defending champs. The Cavs swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season, punctuated by a 100-98 win in Game 4 after which Kyrie Irving bid the hometown fans a memorable farewell. They are no doubt looking forward to his return, which will come on the backend of easily the most exciting two-game set of the season.