Column: Pistons fans have reasons for hope

By Colleen Miller

The Detroit Pistons should be wearing teal jerseys again.

It’s funny what a color can represent to a franchise. There is a lot of pride in a team’s colors. In 2001, the Pistons turned back the clock, returning to the colors of their glory days. With the return of red, white and blue came perennial playoff runs and renewed excitement to Detroit.

These days, I suppose it would be appropriate for the Pistons to turn back the clock again to the late-1990s. They look a lot like the teams donning teal jerseys that ran out Eric Montross at center. Maybe it goes in 10-year increments.

While they look pathetic now, I’ll cut them some slack. A team that goes on a seven game losing streak normally wouldn’t be spared the criticism, but the Pistons are a team making a sound transition, and are not in a long rebuilding phase.

Unfortunately, the Pistons’ plan of attack for the 2009-10 campaign has been marred by injuries. At one point Detroit suffered from four starters being injured. The impact of losing Tayshaun Prince, and especially Richard Hamilton, has buried this team.

The capabilities of Hamilton were best displayed in the Larry Brown era. Hamilton was often used off of screens and curls, wearing out his opponents, in their vain attempts to contain his speed.

Hamilton has shown what he is capable of offensively and that if the offense is run through him, he can average 20-plus points a night.

With new head coach John Kuester, Hamilton was looking at a more substantiated role. Flanking Ben Gordon, the two natural shooters were expected to feed off each other. Hamilton went down only a game into the season with a severely sprained ankle. We have yet to see what the Pistons are capable of offensively with Hamilton in the lineup.

On the other side of the ball, Tayshaun Prince is the team’s best defender. While I think his defensive play is overrated at times league-wide, it still can’t be discounted. Prince’s ability was to defend the best opposing guard or small forward on the court. It isn’t a recipe for success having his replacements, rookies Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko, tasked with guarding the likes of Lebron James.

However, it’s not an entirely bad thing that the Pistons have to rely on these two youngsters. Jerebko and Daye were expected to be project players when they were drafted.

Daye was expected to serve as Prince’s understudy and take time to develop physically to be able to play in the NBA. In the long run, the Pistons will be better off having thrown Daye into the fire this season.

Jerebko has shown that as both a small or power forward, he can get to the basket and draw fouls. His strength will eventually be his ability to get in the post and step out and hit the 15-footer, similar to Antonio McDyess. Just don’t expect 10 rebounds a game.

The contributions of these rookies are especially notable given the fact that you can almost count the Pistons’ number of quality draft picks in the last decade on one hand.

There isn’t a player in the game who has the ability to heat up like Gordon, but he too is suffering from an injury. When he is on, he can hit half-court shots blindfolded. Well, maybe not, but you get my point. An ankle injury is a tough one for a guard. The ability to cut, pivot and set for shoots are vital and very hard to do with a sore ankle. Once Gordon gets healthy and is combined with Hamilton, they will make for a very formidable backcourt.

Charlie Villanueva, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey have each had their own bright spots throughout the season as well. The Pistons will actually have pretty strong depth once everyone gets healthy.

Overall, fans can expect the Pistons to shed the teal gloss that they have been coated with and have a very strong second half of the season. I see Detroit sneaking into the playoffs, despite their low standing in the Eastern Conference right now. There are far more reasons for optimism now than there were a year ago. There is a core of youth that is getting valuable experience while the veterans deal with their various injuries.

The Pistons can only go up from this point and in time they will. Unlike last year’s roster, consisting of several misfit toys, this season’s team actually has a young nucleus of players to build around for the future.