Optimism abounds as Wiz square off with Pistons

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams with plenty of optimism this season get together Wednesday, as the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards kick off the new campaign from The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Pistons will boast a new coach, new free-agent prize, new borderline All- Star point guard and two returning legends, one on the court and one on the sideline.

Mo Cheeks earned his third different head coaching gig after President of Basketball Operations, Joe Dumars, canned Lawrence Frank in the offseason. Cheeks has a career mark of 284-286 and was recently an assistant for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Josh Smith was considered by most to be the second-best free agent on the market after Dwight Howard. Smith, a versatile, but enigmatic forward, inked a four-year, $54 million deal to complete a long, athletic front court.

"I didn't have any other options. This is the team I wanted to play for, so everything else I wasn't worried about," said Smith.

Brandon Jennings was acquired in a trade for Brandon Knight, who played admirably in two seasons with the Pistons. Jennings got three years, $24 million from Detroit to try and get the Pistons to the postseason.

"Things that I can bring to the table - just a lot of energy, of course I want to win, I've helped the Bucks get to the playoffs twice already," Jennings noted. "So, I just want to bring that winning mentality back into Detroit again."

Chauncey Billups is back with the Pistons after he won the Finals MVP in their title run of '04.

Rasheed Wallace, who also helped the Pistons win a world title in 2004, retired after an injury-plagued season with the New York Knicks. Cheeks brought him on board to be an assistant coach.

Washington hopes to build off a strong second half from last season and, like the Pistons, is hoping to capture a playoff berth. The first part of 2012-13 was the 5-28 start, which included a 12-game losing streak to begin the campaign.

The second part was the 24-25 finish. After missing the first two months of the season with an odd left knee injury, Wizards star John Wall came back and led the team toward respectability. He hopes this season will be special.

"Yeah, I feel like the pressure is a lot more," Wall said during media day. "I embrace it. I love pressure."

The Wizards received the third pick in the NBA draft and tabbed Georgetown forward Otto Porter, Jr. Porter fills a big need at the small-forward spot and defensively, he can be a problem with his huge wingspan.

Bradley Beal, Nene and Kevin Seraphin give Washington a formidable lineup and the recent addition of Marcin Gortat from the Phoenix Suns should ease the burden Emeka Okafor's absence would have caused. Okafor, who has a serious neck injury, was sent to Phoenix for Gortat.

The Wizards lost all four matchups with Detroit last season and are only 3-16 in the previous 19 meetings between the clubs. Washington has dropped three in a row, 10 of 11 and 20 of the past 25 visits to The Palace.