AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The nucleus of Detroit Pistons veterans that was expected to be broken up in the off-season was back together Monday, all focused on bringing an NBA Championship together.
It's a title quest that many thought would take on a new look after Pistons' president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said in June there would be "no sacred cows," essentially putting all of Detroit's marquee players on the trading block.
Four months later, the talk was business as usual.
"It's a great opportunity. I think a lot of people and a lot of teams would want us to break up," guard Richard Hamilton said Monday at the team's annual media day. "I think everybody was licking their chops at the end of the summer.
"But we feel good about our chances."
Detroit has been eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals in each of the past three years losing to Boston, Cleveland and Miami.
After the Pistons' latest disappointing finish, head coach Flip Saunders was fired and Dumars talked about rebuilding his corps of veterans that includes Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Price, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.
But after hiring Michael Curry to replace Saunders, Dumars chose to stick with his stable of household names while adding some youth with center Kwame Brown, guard Will Bynum and forward Walter Sharpe and promising more playing time to returning youngsters like Rodney Stuckey.
Stuckey, who appeared in 57 games last year averaging 7.6 points per game, was the only player Dumars said he wouldn't trade.
Curry said Monday he's pleased with the collection of players he has to work with, adding he wasn't surprised that his team's nucleus remains in tact.
"We don't have guys that you just want to get rid of," Curry said. "If there was a trade out there that was going to make us better, (Dumars) was willing to do that.
"Nothing came close to coming across his desk that was going to make us better as a team."
While Curry won't tinker with his team's core, he knows that age also will be a factor. He's pleased with the physical condition Detroit's veterans reported to camp in, and he knows he must get more out of his younger players.
And if another successful postseason run comes as a result of Curry's dedication to play youthful players more, Pistons' veterans aren't complaining.
"To me, that's good," Wallace said. "When you get in those tough situations, our young guys will be prepared in the playoffs for a tough game. They're going to win some games for us this year and they're going to lose some games for us.
"But I would rather that happen in the regular season so they know how to prepare themselves and they know what to do."
The Pistons will attempt to reach at least the conference finals for the seventh straight year, combining the new with the old.
And although some analysts believe the Pistons are too old to make another run and that their window of opportunity has closed, Curry's players are anxious to prove the naysayers wrong.
Chief among those most eager are Detroit's veterans, who look at Dumars' decision to keep them together as another chance to succeed.
"We've had some great years and I believe we're going to have some great ones," Billups said. "Like I've said all along, I love playing with these guys. We've been to the top of that mountain before together and I think with a few little change-ups, we can get back there."