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Friday October 20th, 2017 4:30AM

Pistons' owner: Team 'very close' to deal to move downtown

By The Associated Press
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Pistons are closing in on a move downtown.

Owner Tom Gores said Friday night the team is "very close to a deal" to leave The Palace of Auburn Hills and start playing downtown next season. The Pistons have been in talks about playing at the Detroit Red Wings' new arena, not far from where the Tigers and Lions also host their home games.

"I think if we're going to do it, it's going to be soon," Gores said before Friday night's home opener in Auburn Hills. "We're getting close."

The Pistons have played in Auburn Hills since 1988. Prior to that, the team played at the Pontiac Silverdome for a decade. The Pistons were downtown when they called Cobo Arena home from 1961-78.

The Pistons won championships in their first two seasons in Auburn Hills and again in 2004, but the atmosphere slipped in recent years as the team went through several dreadful seasons. Detroit returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009.

The Palace was built with private funds by William Davidson, who owned the Pistons from 1974 until his death in 2009. The increasingly likely move next season meant Friday's game against Orlando may have been the final home opener at the suburban arena.

"We're serious about making this move, and I think we should take it in. I think we should enjoy it, The Palace," said Gores, who bought the team from Davidson's wife Karen in 2011. "Really has been a historic arena, credit to Mr. Davidson."

Gores said the Pistons have not thought about building their own facility to play in downtown. The Red Wings, who are owned by Mike and Marian Ilitch, are in their final season at Joe Louis Arena before moving to Little Caesars Arena.

The new venue will be across the highway from where the Tigers and Lions play at Comerica Park and Ford Field, and a group is hoping to put a stadium for a Major League Soccer franchise in that area as well.

"There's a lot going on down there," Gores said.

Gores said if a deal is reached to leave Auburn Hills, there would still be time to celebrate the team's history at its current arena.

"I think we have to be really mindful of this community in Auburn Hills and their loyalty in showing up," he said. "This has been a real community, and I want them to feel the same wherever we're playing."

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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