By Ashley Dunkak
AUBURN HILLS (CBS DETROIT) - Even as head coach Stan Van Gundy will not venture a guess as to how good the recently rejuvenated Detroit Pistons can be this season, Van Gundy the general manager will soon have to make exactly such a determination and then make moves accordingly when the trade deadline hits Feb. 19.
Whatever deadline plans Van Gundy had in mind in mid-December may have undergone serious revision since the Pistons have now won nine of their last 10 games after starting the season 5-23.
There is no guarantee the winning will continue, but if it does, Van Gundy said such success will certainly influence what the team tries to do at the deadline.
"Of course it does," Van Gundy said Wednesday. "You make adjustments probably every week in that regard in terms of looking at where you are and where you want to be and everything else. It doesn't mean you won't do anything, but it certainly, if you're continuing to play really well, it changes the way you look at it."
Van Gundy said he always considers the impact a move will have on team chemistry, and this season it will be no different.
"We've been careful of that with everybody that we've brought in here since we've gotten here," Van Gundy said. "We've been very cognizant of character and how we thought they would fit in, and I don't think we've made a mistake in that regard yet. And even our in-season stuff, I think Joel [Anthony] has added to that, I think Anthony Tolliver has added to that, so we'd always be careful about that, but we also would not be afraid to make a move if it was a high-character guy that we think added something to our team now or in the future.
"Look, we're not where we want to eventually be," Van Gundy continued. "I love the way we're playing now, and hopefully the rest of this year will go very well, but it's still - we're not going to rest on that until we're in contention, and so there's a long way from 14-24 to being a contender, and we've got to keep that goal in mind and not get overly wrapped up in playing 10 good games here."
As well as the Pistons have played recently, Van Gundy will have to decide whether the personnel that has gotten Detroit nine wins in its last 10 games - and whatever else they accomplish before Feb. 19 - can keep them viable the rest of the season.
As the general manager, he has to take the long view.
As the head coach, however, he does not care to look too far ahead.
"People talk about turning the corner," Van Gundy said. "I don't think there's any corners in an NBA season. I think it's one long marathon. I know this - we've got 44 games to go, [and] there's going to be some tough stretches too. We'll have our times where we'll go through tough stretches and lose a few and things like that. It's just the way it is. Even the best teams have those, other than when the Bulls won 72, even the best teams. I've had teams that won 59 games and had four- and five-game losing streaks.
"It's not going to continue to just go like this" - Van Gundy shoots his hand into the air at a steep upward angle - "for 44 more games. There's going to be ups and downs, and how we handle the downs will have a lot to do with the amount of success we have the rest of the way."
While Detroit's surprising streak shocked many, guard Brandon Jennings said he believed all along the team would eventually hit its stride.
"We've been working hard since September 1, so something had to pay off, and I figured we would change the season around," Jennings said. "Even when we were 5-23, I still said, 'I still think we have a chance to make the playoffs.'"
Rather than talk too much about the future, however, players are following Van Gundy's lead in taking the season one game at a time.
"We're not getting high, we're not getting low, we're just staying in the middle," Jennings said, "and we're just enjoying the ride right now."
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