Basketball is usually considered a city game, but the Detroit Pistons will try to revitalize their franchise next year by taking up residence in the country.
The Pistons are abandoning their longtime Cobo Arena home in downtown Detroit for the spacious Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., the home now of the Detroit Lions.
The Silverdome will hold 22,000 for basketball, an increase of 11,000 over Cobo's capacity. To fill their new arena, the Pistons realize they will have to attract a bunch of fans who previously were unwilling to make trip into Detroit.
At the same time, the Pistons are all but writing off the inner-city supporters. The trip of Pontiac is longer than the trip from downtown Washington to Capital Centre and the team admits it doesn't think many blacks will make the journey.
The move is a gamble by the Pistons' owners. They could have played in a new downtown arena presently under construction - the facility will be the future home of the Red Wings hockey team - but they decided to make a clean break with their mediocre past and try to jump new life into the club.
If the move to the Silverdome doesn't pay off in better attendance - Detroit currently has the second-worst attendance in the league - the franchise most likely will be sold. "The owners aren't going to lose money for many more years," said one source. "If our fans don't want a team, then it will be sold."
Of course, it would help if the owners could straighten out their player problems. The Pistons always seem to have loads of potential, starting with center Bob Lanier, but their on-court showing is consistently disappointing. Bob Kauffman, general manager and interim coach, has unloaded many of his controversial players this year but the club won't make the playoffs and still has unhappy members.