Our top takeaways on Detroit Pistons’ 2020-21 schedule

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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On Friday, the Detroit Pistons released their 2020-21 schedule. 

Or rather, half of it. The NBA is dividing the season into two halves, with the first half taking place from Dec. 22  through March 4. It will be a shortened season due to the delayed start, with all 30 teams playing 72 games. 

The Pistons will play 37 games during the first half, with 20 games taking place on the road. They’ll tip off their season Dec. 23 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and their home opener is Dec. 26 against Andre Drummond and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Some NBA arenas will allow a limited number of fans, but the Pistons won’t be among them to start the season. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the organization announced Friday fans won’t be allowed inside Little Caesars Arena until it’s deemed safe to do so. 

But even outside the scope of the pandemic, it will be a unique season for the Pistons after an active offseason. Here are five takeaways on the Pistons’ schedule. 

Drummond will make his homecoming early 

Drummond is one of the most prominent ex-Pistons in the league, after spending nearly eight seasons with the organization before being traded to Cleveland in February. Because Detroit will open its home schedule against Cleveland, he won’t have to wait long to make his return. It won’t quite be the same without fans, but he’ll certainty have extra motivation. 

Nearly half the Pistons’ games will be back-to-backs 

Detroit will have nine sets of back-to-back games, which will make up 18 of their 37 games in the first half. Only one back-to-back will be at home, when they host the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 22 and 23. They’ll play three back-to-backs on the road, and the other five will include one road game and one home game.

Early schedule is home-heavy but becomes chaos

The Pistons will play eight of their first 12 games at home. It won’t be an easy stretch, with three games against the Milwaukee Bucks (two on the road, one at home), two home games against the Celtics and home games against the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. But it could give them an opportunity to start the season on solid footing before embarking on three road trips, largely against potential playoff teams.

They’ll play consecutive games against the Miami Heat before travelling to Atlanta to play the Hawks during a three-game trip from Jan. 16-20, and close January with a five-game trip that’ll feature the Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Jazz, Suns and L.A. Lakers from Jan. 30-Feb. 6. 

The Pistons will have a second five-game road swing a couple weeks later, facing the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, consecutive games against the Orlando Magic and then the New Orleans Pelicans from Feb. 17 to 24. Both five-game road trips close with back-to-backs. 

Jerami Grant will get one chance to face his former team

Grant’s decision to spurn the Nuggets for a larger role with the Pistons was one of the bigger surprises of the offseason. Grant is confident he made the right decision for his career, but acknowledged it was a tough decision to make

“I was in a situation where I was comfortable,” Grant said earlier this week. “I loved my teammates, I loved the organization. It was a lot of things that made me teter between my decision. But at the end of the day, I made the best decision for me and my career. My growth as a player is extremely important to me.” 

During the first half of the season, his lone opportunity to play the Nuggets will happen on the road Feb. 1. Considering Grant’s decision shocked many Denver fans, it’ll be a game to watch. 

Troy Weaver will get one reunion with his former star, Russell Westbrook

Earlier this week, the Houston Rockets traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards. Westbrook and Pistons general manager Troy Weaver have a long history dating back to their time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Weaver identified Westbrook as a prime target in the 2008 draft. 

Now that Westbrook’s in the Eastern Conference for the first time in his career, it should lead to more games between the Pistons and Westbrook. 

“I’m looking forward to playing the Wizards,” Weaver said. “Russ and I had a long history.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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