Detroit Pistons’ Arn Tellem: Let’s do what we can to fill Little Caesars Arena again

Detroit Free Press

Arn Tellem
 |  Special to Detroit Free Press

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The other day, while watching the Detroit Pistons‘ first practice of the 2020-21 season, I was reminded of something Vince Lombardi once said — individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

It was hard to believe this was our first full team practice in nine months, or that we will begin anew in fan-less arenas. And while we’re encouraged by the imminent availability of a vaccine and the prospect of better economic times, the top priority of the new NBA season is the health and safety of players, staff and fans.

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The upcoming campaign will include the return of the play-in tournament that will determine the final four teams in the playoffs and an abbreviated 72-game season that begins Tuesday.  We begin at Minnesota on Wednesday and return to Detroit three days later for our home opener, against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Only four players are returning from last season: the revamped roster ranges from All-Stars Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin to three first-round draft picks and veterans added through trades and free agency. Everyone has something to prove. We’ve tried to build a team of character, competitiveness and toughness, like the championship Pistons squads of the past. The alchemy of old and new gives us hope — it’s the lifeblood of both a basketball franchise and a community.

Until a time when Little Caesars Arena is allowed to receive fans again, we urge you to watch the Pistons on Fox Sports Detroit or listen in on 97.1 The Ticket and follow the health and safety protocols established by medical authorities and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. We urge you to take some simple precautions, like wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, washing your hands, and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet. Earlier this month, the governor chose Griffin to be the lone athlete on a new task force charged with raising awareness about COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy and the Pistons support those efforts.

Unfortunately, given the skyrocketing resurgence of COVID-19 in our state, the next few months promise to be extremely challenging.

“We are at the precipice,” Whitmer said last month. “We need to take some action because as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, the virus will spread, more people will get sick and there will be more fatalities.” 

The Pistons stand behind her recent order limiting attendance at professional sporting events given current conditions in our state and throughout the country.

It’s never been more important to consider how our actions, as individuals and as a community, affect others. We’re collectively navigating a pandemic — a virus that’s caused far-reaching pain and loss, especially in the most vulnerable parts of Detroit. That’s why it’s imperative for people to minimize their differences and pull together in a more unified way, just like any great sports team.

In this moment, the commitment to social responsibility of the Pistons and owner Tom Gores is a call to action in which we make decisions with others in mind. Ours can’t just be an institutional commitment, but rather a joint series of individual commitments to one another and our country.

Arn Tellem is Vice Chairman of the Detroit Pistons. He joined the Pistons in August 2015 following a distinguished career as one of the top player agents in sports.

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