“Of course, it’s merely symptomatic. The Pistons are a bad home team now because they are a bad team, period.”
So now it’s Dwyane Wade’s turn.
They’re lining up outside The Palace now, eager to kick the Pistons while they’re down.
On Friday, it was the star-studded Boston Celtics. On Sunday, King LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now tonight, Wade and his Miami Heat. Another night where the Pistons will be asked to fold their trays into the upright position, strap on their seat belts, and pray that the oxygen mask drops down in time.
It’s not just the league’s brutuses, either. Not just the Houstons and Dallases and Utahs. The likes of the Minnesota (Timber)Wolves and Philadelphia 76ers have all come into the Auburn Hills Arena and spanked the Pistons, and good.
The Pistons are 13-11 at home this season, which in the NBA is a home record reserved for the dregs of the league. They’ve lost four straight and six of seven at home. All mind-boggling numbers. And disturbing. Quite.
As recently as a month ago, when I’d look at the Pistons’ upcoming schedule, I was able to pretty much count on most of the home games as being wins. The Pistons have defended The Palace well, for the most part, in the President Joe Dumars Era. Single-digit losses at home, for the entire season, had been the norm. Now, the Pistons are proving to be very gracious and generous hosts. Teams are being invited to dinner and end up sleeping in the master bedroom, while the Pistons grab the sofa for the night. Most generous, indeed.
The flip side is that the team is 12-10 on the road. Not sure what to make of this, except that it smacks of mediocrity and averageness, which is what the Pistons reek of.
It’s to the point where you just hope the Pistons can give these superstar-led teams a good game; forget about winning. Just don’t get embarrassed out there.
Whatever aura The Palace had, whatever intimidation factor it once held, is kaput. It’s like Michigan’s Big House in football; that place isn’t scary for the visitors anymore, either. When Toledo comes to town and lifts your valuables, then your Big House is officially Everyone’s House.
Home teams generally have more of an advantage in the NBA than in any other team sport, with the possible exception of Big Ten basketball, whose home court advantage is legendary. There’s the loudness factor, of course, but it’s also about intangibles: lighting, atmosphere, comfort, etc. The urban myth — it may be true — was that in the old Boston Garden, the Celtics knew where all the dead spots were on the parquet floor. There were also stories — NOT myths — of cold showers and rats in the visitors’ locker room.
But that advantage isn’t anywhere to be found, these days, in Auburn Hills.
Of course, it’s merely symptomatic. The Pistons are a bad home team now because they are a bad team, period. And when I say bad, I mean…well, bad. There’s really no way to sugarcoat this. The Pistons are lucky to be competitive on most nights, and they even struggle mightily to defeat the REALLY bad teams. It seems so hard for them now, and there’s no shortage of theories as to why that is. I’ll save you the heartache by not listing them here, today.
But home court, even when the road was rocky or the state of the team was in flux, has been the hot water bottle and teddy bear for struggling NBA teams. Even the worst teams have been able to manage .500 records, at least, in their own building.
The Pistons are playing .143 basketball at home for their past seven Palace contests.
Someone replaced their hot water bottle with dry ice.