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Van Gundy: 'I Think The Next Few Years Here Can Be A Lot Of Fun'

By Ashley Scoby

Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy has never promised Detroit any kind of instant gratification. His philosophy of a slower build yielding a better product is starting to take shape, especially after the Pistons' trade for Tobias Harris Tuesday.

Harris, at 23 years old, fits well with the young core that Van Gundy is putting together. There's 22-year-old Andre Drummond, as good of a franchise player as Detroit has right now. There's 22-year-old Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 25-year-old Reggie Jackson, 19-year-old rookie Stanley Johnson and the 26-year-old elder statesman, Marcus Morris.

That core has been inconsistent this year, as youth tends to be. Detroit spent the majority of the first half of the season above .500, before floundering into the All-Star break and dropping half a game out of the eight-seed spot in the Eastern Conference.

And although Van Gundy's (and the team's) desire to be in the playoffs this year is obvious, the plans for this group are bigger than a likely first-round knockout by Cleveland this season.

"We'd love to be in the playoffs this year," Van Gundy said on Thursday's Stoney and Bill show. "But our goals go way beyond just trying to fight for the eight-seed in the playoffs for years to come. We want to get back to where we can be contenders and that's going to take some work and it takes more talent and I do think now we're starting to develop a really good young core … I think we're in a great position going forward and it's just a matter of how quickly we'll be able to adjust for the rest of this season."

Adjusting will include Harris' ability to mesh with the rest of the team. He's heralded as a multi-position player with a high ceiling. Van Gundy said Harris was probably the most athletic player on the team, and that the trade (which sent Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to Orlando) was essentially a no-brainer.

For the Magic, Harris was averaging 13.7 points and seven rebounds a game.

"You don't get 23-year-old guys with that kind of talent from other teams – I mean, you just don't," Van Gundy said. "You've either got to wait until free agency or you get them maybe when they're 27, 28, 29 years old. We were really surprised that he was available and glad we were in position to make the deal."

The Pistons are set to start the second half of the season Friday against Washington. They stand at 27-27, in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls and Hornets are both ahead of Detroit, but the Pistons are in position to make a run and still nab a playoff spot.

Even with that goal hanging over the rest of the season, Van Gundy said that the Harris trade was more of a long-term move than a short-term fix. In a few years, he hopes the Pistons will be fighting for more than just the bottom seed in their conference.

"I think the Detroit fans are intelligent and I think they look at the young core we have," Van Gundy said. "They look at what we're able to do on our best nights, and they know it's gonna take some time to gain the consistency, but I think they see good things happening. And I think the next few years here can be a lot of fun."

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