Brown missed 10 games

Updated: March 31, 2005, 5:54 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.-- Detroit coach Larry Brown never wanted to miss a game, let alone the rest of the season. Now that the coach's troubled hip is improving, the Pistons have their leader back.

Brown returned to coach practice Thursday, and will be on the bench Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers after a 10-game absence.

"It's great to be back with these guys," Brown said. "This is where I want to be."

Brown's future with the defending NBA champions became uncertain on Tuesday when he openly questioned whether he'd be able to return.

"I always intended to come back, and now seemed to be the right time to do it," he said. "I hate that it took this long, but I had to get well enough."

Brown has been unable to coach since undergoing a procedure related to hip surgery, which caused him to miss six games in November.

"It will be good to have him out there with us," center Ben Wallace said. "When you have a guy that is that passionate about the game, you want him leading your charge. We're just getting tuned up -- getting everyone back and healthy and ready for the playoffs."

Brown acknowledged that his health problems are not gone, but he isn't planning to dwell on them. He stressed that he intends to fully run the team, including practices and road trips.

"I have what I have," he said. "It's not going to change until after we get done, and hopefully that means another three months. It's not going to keep me from doing my job, and I'm not going to worry about it."

Brown sat out another game in February with the flu before the current absence started on March 14. Detroit has gone 9-8 under assistant head coach Gar Heard, well below their 35-19 mark with Brown at the helm.

"We're excited to have him back, because it is time for us to start our run," guard Lindsey Hunter said. "It has been tough, but we all understand his situation, and he picked up right where he left off."

The Pistons scored more under Heard than Brown -- an average of 97.9 points as opposed to 91.1 -- but that couldn't make up for a defensive collapse. Detroit has only allowed 87 points a game under Brown, and saw that balloon to 98.9 under Heard.

"It's good just have that presence back again," said Chauncey Billups. "Now we know we are going to be held accountable for our play."

Brown met with the team on Saturday and attended Tuesday's practice, so the players weren't surprised to see him on the court Thursday.

"We knew how much he wanted to be here, and we knew it was getting close," Billups said. "He felt bad about having to leave, but it was out of his hands, and now it is over."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press