It was the same opponent, the exact lively atmosphere at The Palace, but last year the Pistons felt they were on the verge of something substantial.

This season, as they closed out their 18-23 home campaign with a 109-101 win against the Philadelphia 76ers, there weren't headbands all down the Pistons bench in honor of the retiring Ben Wallace, nor smiles of anticipation of the next season.

There was the usually-heavy footed Greg Monroe outrunning everybody for a fast break layup, only to dish it to a cutting Kyle Singler for an easier attempt.

Then there was Brandon Knight, who at times can be a whirling dervish, grabbing an offensive rebound amongst the trees, only to get it blocked by a bigger player, his youthful exuberance in full display.

The smiles were there, and so was the fun, but the smiles were wry, wistful and an overall feeling of what could've been had this team put its pieces together for a complete 82-game season.

Pistons owner Tom Gores issued strong words before the game, in what's become commonplace at the beginning and ending of seasons to assess things as he sees it — whether he's around every day or not.

"I expected to be in the playoffs so I'm disappointed by that," Gores said. (But) I'm very excited about where we're going. We've set ourselves up financially — basketball operations has set ourselves up, so I'm excited about the future but I'm not content with how we performed this year."

The future doesn't alter or excuse the present, though the Pistons know the winds of change are on the horizon.

The ever-honest (and free agent-to-be) Will Bynum, a player who chooses his words as carefully as any player on this current team, stressed the importance of positivity surrounding a young team. It was in short order during this disappointing season.

He cited all the games the Pistons lost when leading by double figures, believing had a few gone their way earlier, this game would've been more meaningful and less symbolic.