November 22, 2016
Downtown Detroit the big winner
as Pistons announce homecoming
By KEITH GAVE
Chalk up another big victory for the City of Detroit: The Pistons are coming home. And while we’re at it, a moment of silence for the Palace of Auburn Hills, which on its worst day was a thousand times better and nicer in every way than Joe Louis Arena.
The Pistons are moving back to Detroit and will play their home games at Little Caesars Arena, the new home of the Detroit Red Wings in The District Detroit, which is under construction and on schedule to open for the start of the National Hockey League season in the fall of 2017.
Pistons owner Tom Gores planned to make the long-expected announcement this afternoon at a joint news conference with Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch holdings and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
The Palace, which opened in 1988, nine years after The Joe, remains one of the most beautiful arenas in North America – the one that ushered in a new era in sports entertainment. will not be sold. Nor will it stand vacant. It provided a blueprint for several other buildings of its kind, from the United Center in Chicago to the Pond in Anaheim to the Shark tank in San Jose.
But the Palace will not be put on the market for sale. Nor will it stand vacant. It faces the same destiny as Joe Louis Arena. Because the land on which the building and surrounding parking lots sit is so valuable, the Palace will be razed for future development.
That’s a thought that sickens Tom Wilson, the president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment. Wilson held a similar position as the right-hand man of Bill Davidson, the late owner of the Pistons. Wilson oversaw the construction of the Palace in much the same way as he is heading the development of The District Detroit and the new arena downtown where the Red Wings and Pistons will share their new home.
This is a financial windfall for everyone in the neighborhood. Not only will bars and restaurants get another 41 paydays for all the home games the Pistons will draw (basketball capacity in the new building is about 21,000), but all those concerts that played the Palace will be coming downtown as well.
The Tigers and Lions are just across the street and the Fox Theatre is just a block or so south on Woodward Ave. Clearly sports and entertainment are leading the way in Detroit’s historic renaissance. To be sure, it has a long, long way to go, but this is a great start.
A Rivalry Reborn
A point-spread of 6.5, down from the 7-point opening, seems awfully fat for a game between two teams ranked in the top three in the land. But those guys in Las Vegas know what they’re doing, and this is probably fair.
It also may be a long time before we see a spread like that again between these two teams – so long as Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer are patrolling the sidelines at Michigan and Ohio State.
The Wolverines are catching up. But just wait. Harbaugh has been able to do this largely with players he inherited from the failed Brady Hoke regime. Wait until Harbaugh has another year or two of recruiting, and his team is loaded with all those four- and five-star recruits – like the teams ahead of Michigan in The Associate Press poll, Alabama and Ohio State.
Meantime, the Wolverines have a tough assignment Saturday (kick-off at noon), having to play this game at the raucous Ohio Stadium with an inexperienced quarterback who has had trouble moving the ball since starter Wilton Speight went down with a with an upper body injury. With John O’Korn leading the offense, Michigan has scored just three touchdowns in the last two weeks.
Ohio State is led by Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett, but he’ll be facing the nation’s top defense, statistically.
This game will be decided by the quarterbacks. If Speight is healthy enough to play, the Wolverines will make a game of it. If he’s not, it could be that the point-spread isn’t nearly enough.
PICK: Ohio State 17, Michigan 9
A Gridiron Hat Trick
A Thanksgiving Day game. Against a divisional opponent. With a lot riding on the outcome.
Thursday’s Detroit-Minnesota game we’ll be watching while the aroma of a stuffed turkey baking in the oven wafts through the house has all the makings of a kind of desert before dinner.
Both teams are 6-4 in the NFC North, but the Lions hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their stunning, come-from-behind 22-16 victory a few weeks ago in Minnesota. A Detroit win in this game could put some serious space between the two teams.
It should be a good one. Minnesota’s win Sunday over Arizona snapped a four-game losing skid. Detroit has won five of its last six games, doing it a never-say-die offense and a defense that isn’t getting as much credit as it deserves.
This is a challenging week, with just two days of preparation after Monday’s day off. But Lions coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t mind.
“It’s kind of a delicate balancing act between making certain you’re physically capable to go and also make certain that you’re mentally prepared,” Caldwell said.
One thing is certain: There’s no time to get fancy.
“I’ve often said that I kind of like these weeks because of the fact that it doesn’t allow coaches to come up with some unbelievable schematics. It makes them pair it down rather quickly, and I think that’s a bonus for us.”
I couldn’t agree more. This is a statement game for the Lions before a national TV audience.
PICK: Detroit 34, Minnesota 17