Detroit Pistons lobbied NBA to send them to France. Here’s what’s in store for Paris trip

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons will become the “Dey-twah” Pistons this week.

The Pistons took a long flight to France after Sunday’s 117-104 loss to the New York Knicks and will face the Chicago Bulls on Thursday in the NBA’s second global game this season.

For NBA fans, the Pistons’ trip to Paris will likely be headlined by what happens on the floor.

But for the Pistons, the game will be one aspect of a week-long, camaraderie-building adventure in a foreign country. The organization made it clear to the league they wanted to be considered for an international game this season, and their long-awaited trip comes after more than a year of intense planning and anticipation.

The traveling party was set to arrive in Paris on Monday morning following a seven-hour flight, and will head back to Detroit on Friday. In between, the team will enjoy French cuisine, shopping and plenty of sightseeing.

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The front office believes the trip will be particularly enriching for a young team with several players who will be leaving North America for the first time.

“It’s an honor for all of us to represent the NBA and the city of Detroit, and be in the position to spread goodwill, build the appreciation of basketball all over the world, and bring people together,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem told the Free Press on Saturday. “For our team specifically, it’s definitely great for team bonding and the spirit and for our players to experience this.

“When I was talking to players, many of our players have not traveled abroad. I think the vast majority have not been to Paris. And as you probably know, when you travel, you gain a deeper understanding of international issues, you develop cultural sensitivities, traveling helps you to see things for new perspectives. It helps build ones confidence. You develop a deeper empathy for others. This will be a very memorable trip for everyone that goes on it, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic experience for everyone, especially our players.”

Tellem said the team brought a party of more than 200 people to Paris. The list includes the Pistons’ roster, coaching staff and front office, business partners, members of Tom Gores’ ownership group, broadcasters, team staffers and many family members and romantic partners as well.

The team’s itinerary includes two major highlights: Dinner at the Palais Garnier, Paris’ historic opera house which opened in 1875 and the setting of Gaston Leroux’s famous novel, “The Phantom Of The Opera.”

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And on Wednesday before the game, the Pistons will have a reception with the United States’ ambassador of France, Denise Bauer, at the Hôtel de Pontalba — the official residence of the US Ambassador to France since 1971.

It’ll be the Pistons’ first international trip since playing the Dallas Mavericks in Mexico City in December of 2019, and the organization’s fifth international game ever. The Pistons previously traveled to Mexico City for a preseason game against the Washington Bullets in 1995; to San Juan for a preseason game against the Miami Heat in 2006; and to London for a regular season game against the Knicks in 2013.

A long list of Pistons staffers were involved in planning, but five were singled out as key planners: director of family and player engagement Mike Lindo, senior director of basketball administration Britta Brown, brand and event marketing coordinator Marissa Rickman, administrative assistant Micaela Rickman and executive assistant Justin Gendler.

“It’s so much work that goes into it and it’s been going on for three, four, five months, even longer than that,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “My hat is off to them for organizing it, and also for Tom Gores for allowing guys’ families to be able to come. That’s the big part of ownership, allowing that and giving us the resources to allow kids and wives and girlfriends. That’s his commitment to the organization. I thank him because a lot of teams don’t have that privilege.”

There’s rarely a bad time for a week-long trip to France, but the timing of the trip is especially good for a weary Pistons team that has already played 47 games — the highest total in the league thus far — and 10 of its 13 back-to-backs. The NBA frontloaded Detroit’s schedule to accommodate the trip to Paris. They have the league’s third-worst record at 12-35, and the next four months will be defined by their place in the race for Victor Wembanyama and the draft lottery this spring.

But this week, they’ll enjoy a few days off before facing the Bulls, and then get three additional days before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks next Monday.

“We knew this trip was going to be here, and excited to represent the NBA over there and represent Detroit,” general manager Troy Weaver told the Free Press. “It’s exciting for us to go over there and be a part of global basketball. The NBA has done a great job of that, and it’s our turn up. We’re excited about it.”

Check out the latest episode of “The Pistons Pulse” podcast, with Free Press beat writer Omari Sankofa II and former Division I player and current analyst Bryce Simon. Listen on AppleSpotify or wherever you load up podcasts.

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