By Steve Keating
With seven wins in their last 11 contests, the Pistons (11-24) have begun to claw their way out of the Central division basement but it has been a bumpy ride. A four game winning run in early February was followed by a two game slide, then a three game winning streak before dropping back-to-back to games to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.
Falling 103-93 to the Atlantic division struggling Raptors (10-23) on Wednesday was not the way the Pistons would have liked to close out the first half of the compacted season, but for first year coach Lawrence Frank it is not yet time to start counting wins and losses.
"It's all about the process of understanding what it takes to be successful," Frank told reporters. "Toronto and us are in the same boat, you're grinding every day, you're trying to build the right habits and sometimes there isn't instant gratification.
"Sometimes you can work your tail off and put everything into it and still lose. That's part of the process.
"The fact we have been able to pick up some wins that's a plus but at the same time you don't judge it by wins and losses, you judge by the process and are you getting better or not."
With six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2003 to 2008, the Pistons stock was as high as General Motors, winning it all in 2004 and reaching the NBA finals again the following season.
For five of those six seasons, the Pistons led the league in attendance and had a run of 259 consecutive sellouts at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
But at about the same time as the auto industry was imploding and Detroit's economy was crashing, the Pistons began their own downward slide, struggling through three seasons where they have lost more games than they won.
As tough as the competition is on the court, the Pistons face greater challenges away from the hardwood as they battle for Detroit sports fans attention and wallets.
Once the NBA's hottest ticket, Detroit ranks 23rd among the league's 30 teams in attendance this season.
The NFL's resurgent Detroit Lions may well be able to boast they are now Motown's most treasured ticket while the Detroit Red Wings are the National Hockey League's best team.
The Detroit Tigers became American League champions last year and fanned World Series hopes for the coming season by making one of the biggest off-season splashes signing slugger Prince Fielder.
"We have a lot of work to do," said Frank. "Do we want to be the group that played the first 24 games or do we want to be team that put together some consistent basketball.
"We want to be that group but you have to be mentally and physically engaged every night and that's what we have to commit to."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Patrick Johnston)