Besides working on his three-point shot during the summer, Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey has seen the need to be more vocal this year because he's surrounded by youth.

What he has found is the youngsters have been willing to listen.

"We still have a lot of room for improvement, but I like the group of guys we have," said Stuckey, now a veteran who is 26 and entering his sixth NBA season.

"The guys come in and work hard and try to give good effort each and every day. That's all we want. It should be an exciting year. We just have to play together, and if we're all together on the defensive side of the ball, I think we can do good things."

Young at guard, center and backup small forward, the Pistons likely will be among the teams battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

While coach Lawrence Frank said he doesn't look ahead on the schedule, the Pistons start the season at home Wednesday against Houston before a tortuous six-game road trip out west.

Good teams usually rely on defense, especially on the road, and if the Pistons are to get off to a reasonably good start, they must defend better.