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Pistons hope to build on decent finish from '11-12

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Pistons hope to build on decent finish from '11-12

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) For much of last season, the most interesting reason to watch the Detroit Pistons may have been to see which musical act was playing at halftime.

Then, after a 4-20 start, coach Lawrence Frank's group began to click a bit. Detroit was a .500 team the rest of the way, beating teams such as Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers and offering a bit of hope for the future.

``I love the direction we're heading,'' Frank said. ``This at times is going to be a tugboat. It may not be a speedboat in terms of progress. ... It's not going to be a quick-fix approach.''

There's still work to be done in this rebuilding project, but new owner Tom Gores has overseen an effort to improve the entertainment experience at home games. Now, he's hoping the Pistons - behind young big man Greg Monroe and guard Brandon Knight - are ready to make a push for the playoffs.

The Pistons were probably hurt more than most teams by the lockout before last season. Frank had just been hired as coach, and there wasn't much time for him and the players to work together before Detroit was playing - and losing - quite a few games early on.

But the organization was doing its best to reach out to fans, scheduling a number of halftime shows that would include performers such as Vanilla Ice, Gladys Knight and Bell Biv DeVoe. By the end of the season, it became almost the norm for some familiar name to show up and entertain at Pistons games.

Meanwhile, Detroit won seven of nine games during one February stretch. The Pistons finished 25-41 - an indication that the worst may be behind them.

In the offseason, Detroit continued to build, drafting Andre Drummond in the first round to help the interior defense. The Pistons also traded Ben Gordon and a future first-round draft choice to the Charlotte Bobcats for swingman Corey Maggette, shedding about $15 million in salary.

So Detroit has its share of new faces, but at least this season the Pistons have more time to adjust.

``With this team, (if we were) starting in December - you think 4-20 was bad last year, I think we would have been down that same path with the young guys that we have,'' forward Tayshaun Prince said. ``We've got a lot to learn.''

Monroe enters his third season looking like a potential star. He averaged 15.4 points per game in 2011-12 and is already a smart, polished offensive player. Knight settled into the point guard role last season.

``The position he plays, by far is the toughest position in basketball,'' Frank said. ``As a point guard, there's so many things you have on your plate.''

Rodney Stuckey can provide scoring punch from the backcourt, and Prince is the last remaining on-court link to Detroit's championship team of 2004. It's not clear how much Maggette will play, but his ability to draw fouls could help give the Pistons another dimension offensively.

``We've got to make the playoffs,'' Gores told reporters at the end of last season.

To do that, Detroit will have to make up a significant amount of ground. Even with their improved play toward the end, the Pistons finished 10 games behind the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference last season.

``I've never, ever made a prediction, even with teams that went as far as the finals,'' Frank said. ``To me, it's all about the process. It's about literally, every single day, making sure we're adding a brick to that foundation, and then the results will take care of themselves.''

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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor.

But the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots.  

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period. It was No. 77’s second tally of the series.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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The 2018 NFL schedule is here, but we still don't really know anything

The 2018 NFL schedule is here, but we still don't really know anything

The NFL dropped the Redskins' 2018 regular-season schedule on Thursday and everybody will predict the team’s season-long record. 

It’s a fun exercise, and something the football world enjoys doing.

Myself included. 

But don’t read much, if anything, into the schedule right now. 

Every year, some teams look mighty in the offseason only to fall apart in the regular season. 

Need an example? Many predicted the Giants to be the beasts of the NFC East in 2017, and the Eagles to finish last in the NFC East. 

What actually happened? The Giants finished 3-13 and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. 

The NFL cannot be predicted year to year. It can hardly be predicted week to week. 

Last season, two December home games against the Broncos and Cardinals looked very daunting when the schedule came out. Instead, that was a two-game win streak. 

Enjoy the schedule release. It’s a fun time to guess what will happen in 2018.

But remember, once the games start, anything can happen. 

(For the record: My prediction is 9-7.)

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