The end is near: Pistons close season tonight against Knicks

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What: Detroit Pistons (31-50) @ New York Knicks (17-64)

When: 8:00 p.m., FSD

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City

The Pistons (31-50) complete their first season of the Stan Van Gundy era tonight against the New York Knicks (17-64), winners of two straight. Another Knicks victory would clinch top lottery odds for the Minnesota Timberwolves, so pay attention to that tank-ready subplot.

Regardless of whether the Knicks win or lose tonight, this will be their worst season in franchise history. Head coach Derek Fisher and team president Phil Jackson were brought in to change the culture and bring a proven winning strategy to one of the most important franchises in the NBA, but in-fighting, injuries and dysfunction have slowed the rebuilding process.

Like the Knicks, the Pistons have several questions heading into the off-season, none bigger than the future of forward Greg Monroe. Ironically enough, he has been strongly linked to the Knicks recently. Monroe has denied the reports, as any agreement between the Knicks and Monroe before the July 1 start of free agency would be a violation of the NBA’s tampering rules.

The Pistons have won two of three in the season series, including a 97-81 victory on Jan. 2 in New York, but the Knicks won the previous eight meetings at Madison Square Garden. The last matchup between the two teams was a 121-115 Knicks win in Detroit on Feb. 27 behind a season-high 25 points from Andrea Bargnani.

Second notable losing-based subplot: while defeating the Knicks wouldn’t change the Pistons’ draft position, a loss would give them a shot of tying Denver for the seventh spot in the NBA draft lottery. Though, regardless of how the lottery odds play out, barring a trade, both the Pistons and Knicks will have a top-10 pick to enhance their roster and change the fortunes of their franchises.

This season for the Pistons has been a learning experience for all parties involved – the players, coaching staff, team management, fans. There are many questions to be answered this off-season. Who will Stan Van have running the point: Brandon Jennings or Reggie Jackson? Will the Pistons sign Greg Monroe? Who are the Pistons zeroing in on in the draft?

Fans will have to be patient, but it seems coach Stan Van Gundy already has the wheels in motion to get the Pistons back to where they belong: playoff bound year-after-year.