Archive → December, 2011
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said Knight played well against the Cavaliers. But Frank said his job is to place the best team out on the floor. Right now, he believes in the Gordon-Stuckey backcourt until further notice, but he said he is willing to change if things don’t work out.
Fans, of course, want Knight to play because he is young and talented.
“We have other very talented players too,” Frank said. “Your minutes have to be based on merit. Brandon is working hard. It is not a knock on him. Right now, the thing that gives us the best chance is the starting group we have. But with that being said, throughout this whole process we have to be flexible. As a coach, the one thing you maintain your integrity with the team is tell the truth. The group we put out there is the group we are starting, and if there is a change that has to be made it always has to be in the best interest of the team and not in the best interest of the individual.”
That’s about what I expected. I make no attempt to hide my belief that Knight should start, but Frank does have a responsibility to play the guys his bosses signed to big money until it becomes obvious to everyone that Knight is better than both. Fortunately, it looks like Knight is on the verge of doing that sooner than most expected.
- Actual record: 54-28
- Pythagorean record: 59-23
- Offensive Rating: 102.0 (18th of 29)
- Defensive Rating: 95.4 (2nd of 29)
- Arena: Palace of Auburn Hills
- Head coach: Larry Brown
- Beat the Milwaukee Bucks in first round, 4-1
- Beat the New Jersey Nets in Eastern Conference Semifinals, 4-3
- Beat the Indiana Pacers in Eastern Conference Finals, 4-2
- Beat the Los Angeles Lakers in NBA Finals, 4-1
- Points per game: Richard Hamilton (17.6)
- Rebounds per game: Ben Wallace (12.4)
- Assists per game: Chauncey Billups (5.7)
- Steals per game: Ben Wallace (1.8)
- Blocks per game: Ben Wallace (3.0)
Wallace was voted into the All-Star Game as a starter and won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004. Wallace shot the ball poorly (42 percent), but new Pistons coach Larry Brown began to actually involve Wallace in the offense more. Wallace averaged a then-career high 9.5 points per game. He would best that the following season under Brown as well.
Wallace’s touches didn’t always result in great possessions for the Pistons, but involving Wallace on offense often had an impact on the game. In 2006 under Flip Saunders, Saunders’ offense frequently ignored Wallace, causing Wallace to feel left out and sometimes affecting the energy level he played with. Brown’s reasoning seemed to be that even a bad offensive possession from Wallace was a good result if it caused Wallace’s intensity level to remain constant at both ends of the court.
Traded Zeljko Rebraca, Bob Sura and a first round pick to Atlanta for Rasheed Wallace; Traded Chucky Atkins and Lindsey Hunter to Boston for Mike James
The rebuilding Hawks only wanted veteran Rasheed Wallace, who they acquired from Portland, because of his expiring contract, so they gladly shipped him to Detroit for the Sura/Rebraca expiring deals and a first round pick. Wallace was Joe Dumars’ second high risk/high reward move to pay off just before winning the 2004 title. He parted ways with successful coach Rick Carlisle and replaced him with the talented but unstable Larry Brown and then just before the trading deadline, he added the talented but unstable Rasheed Wallace.
Wallace and Brown, both UNC alums, got along together great and Brown still might be the only coach Wallace ever had in the NBA who understood what buttons to push with ‘Sheed and when to push them. Wallace gave brown the best defensive frontcourt in basketball as he and Ben Wallace combined to swallow up anyone who got near the basket (they combined to average 5 blocks per game after the trade). And Detroit gave ‘Sheed a stable, veteran environment with no pressure on him to be the face of the team.
Much like the Lakers trade of Kwame Brown and the draft rights to Marc Gasol for Pau Gasol, this is a trade that looks slightly better with age. Both deals at the time were incredibly uneven, but Marc Gasol turned into a stud and the Hawks used the late first round pick acquired from the Pistons to take Josh Smith, who has developed into an All-Star. But making this move gave the Pistons the defense, depth and momentum needed to win a championship, so it was a win even if it would’ve been nice to have the chance to take Smith in the draft.
Beginning March 4, 2004, the Pistons played one of the best stretches of defensive basketball in recent NBA history. The team held eight straight opponents under 80 points. The first four opponents in that stretch failed to score 70 points. The Pistons were simply suffocating. Their wing players were physical and adept and funneling their men into the lane at poor angles to get shots off over the Wallaces. Defensive subs like Lindsey Hunter and Mike James relentlessly pressured the ball when they came in. Larry Brown loved using energy guys like Darvin Ham and Tremaine Fowlkes as situational perimeter defenders as well. And big men like Elden Campbell and Mehmet Okur, while not as solid defensively as the starters, could still hold position, rebound and play with toughness on D. This season’s Pistons were the most complete defensive unit we’ve seen in the last decade or so of NBA basketball.
Why this season ranks No. 3
This championship came out of nowhere. The Pistons had successfully built themselves into a contending team with shrewd moves. Joe Dumars had great success finding players who were undervalued elsewhere who excelled when their roles were expanded in Detroit. Larry Brown was exactly the right coach to mold this already good defensive team into a great defensive team and to teach Chauncey Billups to be a full-time, halfcourt point guard. Most fans probably expected the build into a championship contender to continue. But I don’t think anyone would honestly say they expected everything to come together as quickly as it did for the Pistons. What made this season truly amazing was the slow but steady realization that this team had everything needed to win a title. There are numerous iconic moments from 2004 that are worth remembering, but after the two plays below, it felt like a foregone conclusion that Detroit would win.
The Pistons didn’t even win the playoff game vs. New Jersey when Billups sunk a halfcourt shot to force overtime, but that play still made the team seem invincible:
Losing a three overtime game at home to fall behind 3-2 in the series after hitting a shot like that should’ve been devastating. Instead, the Pistons just went out and won the next two games against a team that had been to two straight NBA Finals.
And in the Eastern Conference Finals, Tayshaun Prince provided the moment of his career by catching Reggie Miller:
(Doc Rivers’ commentary on that play is seriously fantastic too)
That block — Prince completely selling out to make a play — is the lasting symbol of the 2004 team. Subsequent teams were good, but none could quite match the level of passion, work, talent, toughness and commitment to a singular cause that we saw in the title run.
- 63. 1979-80 Detroit Pistons
- 62. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons
- 61. 1963-64 Detroit Pistons
- 60. 1965-66 Detroit Pistons
- 59. 2010-11 Detroit Pistons
- 58. 1980-81 Detroit Pistons
- 57. 1971-72 Detroit Pistons
- 56. 2009-10 Detroit Pistons
- 55. 1994-95 Detroit Pistons
- 54. 1948-49 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 53. 1964-65 Detroit Pistons
- 52. 1978-79 Detroit Pistons
- 51. 1966-67 Detroit Pistons
- 50. 1968-69 Detroit Pistons
- 49. 1969-70 Detroit Pistons
- 48. 1951-52 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 47. 1958-59 Detroit Pistons
- 46. 1959-60 Detroit Pistons
- 45. 1962-63 Detroit Pistons
- 44. 2000-01 Detroit Pistons
- 43. 1950-51 Detroit Pistons
- 42. 1960-61 Detroit Pistons
- 41. 2008-09 Detroit Pistons
- 40. 1982-83 Detroit Pistons
- 39. 1974-75 Detroit Pistons
- 38. 1975-76 Detroit Pistons
- 37. 1981-82 Detroit Pistons
- 36. 1999-2000 Detroit Pistons
- 35. 1957-58 Detroit Pistons
- 34. 1956-57 Detroit Pistons
- 33. 1977-78 Detroit Pistons
- 32. 1992-93 Detroit Pistons
- 31. 1997-98 Detroit Pistons
- 30. 1967-68 Detroit Pistons
- 29. 1961-62 Detroit Pistons
- 28. 1953-54 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 27. 1972-73 Detroit Pistons
- 26. 1952-53 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 25. 1976-77 Detroit Pistons
- 24. 1970-71 Detroit Pistons
- 23. 1998-99 Detroit Pistons
- 22. 1991-92 Detroit Pistons
- 21. 1995-96 Detroit Pistons
- 20. 1955-56 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 19. 1985-86 Detroit Pistons
- 18. 1983-84 Detroit Pistons
- 17. 1984-85 Detroit Pistons
- 16. 1949-50 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 15. 1996-97 Detroit Pistons
- 14. 2001-02 Detroit Pistons
- 13. 2002-03 Detroit Pistons
- 12. 1973-74 Detroit Pistons
- 11. 1990-91 Detroit Pistons
- 10. 2006-07 Detroit Pistons
- 9. 1954-55 Fort Wayne Pistons
- 8. 1986-87 Detroit Pistons
- 7. 2007-08 Detroit Pistons
- 6. 2005-06 Detroit Pistons
- 5. 1987-88 Detroit Pistons
- 4. 2004-05 Detroit Pistons
Tom Gores is doing all he can to bring hope back to the Palace. In Wednesday’s home opener against Cleveland, pregame festivities featured a tribute to William Davidson, the choir from that Eminem/Chrysler commercial that all of the moms who work in my office loved so much, Mason giving the fastest, most monotone visiting team intros in NBA history and Gores making the media rounds talking up his vision for the Pistons’ role in the city of Detroit’s resurgence.
All of that stuff is great. I’m glad Gores is engaged and interested in improving the fan experience at the Palace. The building has been stagnant, along with the team, for three years and badly needs an active, visionary owner. But the energy is not going to return for more than a brief special occasion like a season opener after a prolonged lockout without a product to put on the court. Wednesday’s loss to a really bad Cleveland team showed the Pistons don’t yet have a product.
Gores deserves some patience. He admitted after purchasing the team that he has to learn the basketball side of the business. He’s new to the league and, due to the lockout, new to the players. He is making a good faith effort to make things better for fans at the Palace. Gores and the new people he’s hired seem to understand that Pistons fans are frustrated and interest in the team is at a low point. I’m not convinced they yet understand just how low that interest has fallen and how long fans have been clamoring for a shakeup though.
This is largely the same roster that ended the last two seasons in the middle of the draft lottery. This offseason gave the Pistons their first chance in a couple seasons to cut ties with some of the old guard. Other than Rip Hamilton, they declined to do so. They kept Tayshaun Prince on a deal that has been largely panned. They kept Rodney Stuckey on a deal that, while probably more reasonable than Prince’s, was still expensive. They kept Joe Dumars, whose contracts to Charlie Villanueva, Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Jason Maxiell have all turned into albatrosses. They declined to use their amnesty provision to rid themselves of one of those pricey underachievers. They failed to address the team’s one glaring, obvious, agreed on by everyone need: getting frontcourt help.
Mind you, I’m not saying any of the above non-moves was necessarily the wrong thing to do if there is indeed a vision in place behind the scenes that I am too much of an outsider to see or get. Smart people whose writing and opinions I respect have convincingly argued for and against each move I’ve listed above. My point is simply that non-moves won’t excite the fanbase. Cool player intros, flashy new attractions at the Palace, honoring legends of the past … those are all nice things. But if Gores is serious about letting the fans know he’s serious, they need to make a big personnel move. There are Pistons fans so desperate for new blood on this roster that they are lamenting losing out on career fifth big man Kyrylo Fesenko.
If you want to improve the fan experience, let the fans know that the organization is cognizant of something that has been apparent to anyone with eyes for quite some time now: the product they are putting on the court is not working. They still have a collection of players whose skillsets don’t match. They have a collection of limited veterans signed to expensive contracts who have never played well together. They don’t have any depth in the frontcourt. They don’t have a post presence. They don’t have many defensive-minded players. They lack athleticism at virtually every position. These are realizations that most fans have already arrived at or will arrive at shortly with more efforts like the one displayed against Cleveland. The time for the organization to acknowledge that this roster is in need of more than just a few tweaks here and there is long overdue.
They do have Brandon Knight, though, and that’s a start. Knight will ensure that people at least pay passing attention to the team, even if the win-loss results don’t get much better. There were two things I came away with watching him against Cleveland:
Knight should start right now
I don’t care who he starts in place of, Gordon or Stuckey. Knight is the most intriguing prospect on this roster. I don’t think his 23-point/6-assist/2-turnovers/2-steals performance against another bottom feeding team is a signal of his arrival as a future star. But it proved to me that he can do enough things to compete on a nightly basis. He’s not going to shoot that well every night, he’s going to struggle with turnovers some games, he’s going to face tougher guards, but he’s confident enough to play through mistakes and he has enough physical gifts to create matchup problems.
Fans like Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko. They are nice young players who work hard and are still getting better. I don’t know that people will pay to watch those two or tune in on a nightly basis to watch them. Knight has star potential. I don’t know if he’ll get there, but the Pistons have nothing to lose by playing him big minutes right now. He’s the most intriguing player on their roster and needs to figure prominently into the lineup from now on. There isn’t a good reason to leave him out of the starting lineup.
Let’s reel in the hype
George Blaha has a tough job. He’s a great play-by-play guy and has to ensure that fans are gleaning enough positives from a horrid performance like Wednesday’s to hopefully encourage them to continue tuning in. Against the Cavs, Knight was really the only player on the Pistons who did much of anything worthwhile after the first quarter or so. Consequently, Knight figured prominently into the talking points of Blaha and Greg Kelser. After the game, Blaha said he hadn’t seen a Pistons rookie guard have a game like that since Isiah Thomas. I don’t think Blaha was lying, but I don’t like that the organization tends to oversell its young players so prematurely.
Look no further than Stuckey. Stuckey has had a pretty good career for a mid-first round pick, many of whom don’t amount to much in the NBA. But because the Pistons quickly ramped up expectations by trading a veteran All-Star to clear a spot for him while talking up Stuckey’s limitless upside the whole way, it has done Stuckey no favors. His incremental improvements into a pretty solid rotation guard is good by any standard except for the lofty one the team set for him.
There is a chance that Knight will be one of only a few Pistons bright spots this season. But overselling his potential by throwing insanely lofty comparisons out there right off the bat won’t serve him well. He’s young, talented, intelligent, confident and fun to watch. Let that be enough for now.
Austin Daye is lost
For two straight years, Austin Daye has followed up promising preseason performances with really passive starts to the regular season. Last year was pretty easily explainable: he was played out of position at power forward.
This season, he’s played a mix of shooting guard/small forward and he’s produced 0 points on 0-for-8 shooting in about 30 total minutes. Against the Cavs, he really seemed to be trying to do things that are outside of his skillset. Namely, he over-dribbled. Daye’s offensive strengths are his shooting range and his ability to pull up for a mid-range floater after one or two quick, aggressive dribbles. In the first half, he passed up an open three and tried to drive all the way to the basket, getting caught in the air and forcing a pass that went out of bounds. He also dribbled into an offensive foul while trying to lead a break and not giving the ball up soon enough.
Daye has the best pure shot on the Pistons’ roster. His ability to stretch the floor could be a huge weapon off the bench for the team. But if he keeps dribbling into mistakes and passing up open jumpers, there is little reason to have him on the court.
Ben Gordon’s shots
Gordon got 19 shots for the Pistons and scored 25 points. That’s encouraging and was certainly needed after Gordon played terribly in the season opener. But I wasn’t encouraged by the 19 shot attempts. I was encouraged by the nine 3-point attempts. Gordon’s most valuable commodity in the past was his 3-point shooting. He attempted about five threes a game in Chicago in his career and shot better than 40 percent each season with the Bulls. With the Pistons, his 3-point attempts have fallen to about 3 per game and he’s shot just 36 percent from three with the Pistons. If he will ever become a viable 20 point scorer again, it will be because he looks for his three ball often. Shooting 4-for-9 against the Cavs was a good start. Gordon should be looking to get off as many threes as possible when he’s on the court.
Stuckey has to draw contact
Much like Gordon, Rodney Stuckey has one thing on offense that he does that is really valuable: get to the free throw line.
This skill gets opposing bigs in foul trouble and it gets Stuckey to the line where he hits at better than 80 percent. It’s also important because if Stuckey doesn’t get contact, he’s not a good finisher. Four of his six misses against the Cavs were within 10 feet of the basket. Stuckey also was a bit too aggressive at times, including diving to the basket on a one on four break that led to a turnover.
Knight looks to be on the fast track for the starting PG job. If he gets it, I honestly don’t know who I’d favor as the starting SG between Stuckey and Gordon. Both do certain things well but have significant drawbacks when they’re playing poorly.
The frontcourt still struggles on defense
The Pistons once again struggled on defensive rotations and struggled to defend the pick and roll. Jerebko and Monroe were better on the offensive glass (combining for seven), but Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Antawn Jamison and Samardo Samuels all had big scoring nights with their movement, cutting and activity. Monroe played 36 minutes but only grabbed seven total rebounds. Jerebko only grabbed two defensive rebounds in 31 minutes. Ben Wallace and Maxiell combined for four rebounds off the bench.
The Pistons are really deficient on the boards, and Villanueva returning from suspension isn’t going to help in that department. If the team can’t rebound, there are going to be very few games they’ll be competitive in this season.
- Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons
- Date: Dec. 28, 2011
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Detroit
- Pistons: 0-1
- Pacers: 0-1
- Kyrie Irving
- Anthony Parker
- Omri Casspi
- Antawn Jamison
- Anderson Varejao
Las Vegas projection
Spread: Pistons -6
Score: Pistons win, 99.5-93.5
Three things to watch
1. The schedule
Cleveland is a winnable game for the Pistons. After facing the Cavs, though, things get much tougher — Boston, Indiana, Orlando, Chicago (twice), Philadelphia, New York and Dallas follow before the Pistons get somewhat of a reprieve with games against the Bucks and Bobcats. In any event, not beating the Cavs in tonight’s home opener could be the difference between a bad start to the season and a historically bad start.
2. New era, part two
Things didn’t go so well in the first game of the Lawrence Frank era. The team didn’t rebound well, the defensive effort was questionable and there was little for fans to get excited about watching the opener against the Pacers. Cleveland is much worse than Indiana and the Pistons are at home, so they get a new chance to make a more positive impression the the direction the team is headed in.
3. Can someone rebound?
In limited minutes against the Pacers, Ben Wallace, Greg Monroe and Austin Daye led the team with seven rebounds each. Cleveland’s frontcourt has a pair of solid veteran rebounders in Varejao and Jamison as well as an active rookie in Tristan Thompson. The Pistons will need a much better effort on the glass from Jonas Jerebko (five rebounds vs. Indiana), Monroe and Jason Maxiell (0 rebounds in 16 minutes). In two preseason games against the Cavs, both teams shot poorly, so there should be plenty of boards to go around.
“I got to workout with Kobe once this summer and it was a great workout. I got to see how much work he puts in off the court, on the weights, and it just made me realize how important that stuff is.”
“He works so hard and pushes himself in all aspects of the game, it’s no wonder he’s the best player in the game. Same thing with Lebron, he’s probably the most dynamic player in the game, he’s so versatile and I can just tell how his workouts help with all the dimensions to his game. Both of those workouts really gave me a good perspective on how hard I need to keep working if I want to be one of the best.”
“Working out with KD (Kevin Durant) was a whole different ball game, I went out to D.C. with him for a week to workout with him. He’s a guy who I’ve always been compared to because of our body types. KD just loves hoop, maybe it’s because I was with him for a whole week, but we were waking up every morning , 7 a.m. bike rides for 40 miles, come back in the afternoon go 1-1 against each other, get a good workout in, then in the evening we would go play in a pick-up game. It was a great experience working out with him, we are both around the same age so we relate to a lot of the same stuff.”
Dan Feldman also talked with Daye about his summer with KD earlier this year. Daye wasn’t as aggressive as I hoped he’d be in the first game of the season, but I’m a big believer that the work he put in will make him a regular contributor for the Pistons at some point this season.
Lawrence Frank announced before the season that the Pistons would focus on the defensive end (like every coach of every team always says).
Against the Pacers, I couldn’t really spot a change in the team’s defensive alertness, though. The Pistons were lazy and slow on rotations, never really put the effort into their defense and got punished for it. I wrote about Greg Monroe’s shortcomings earlier, he is a part of this example as well. Most of my focus in this one, though, is on veteran Tayshaun Prince. Again, this is just an example out of many, I spotted at least three more in the third quarter alone that were similar to this one.
The Pacers play a side pick-and-roll on the right wing. Roy Hibbert comes over to set a screen towards the middle; Prince is ALREADY out of position at the beginning of the play. Look at how far he is away from Danny Granger, a very good shooter and the Pacers’ go-to scorer. Monroe could go a little higher to distract the ballhandler, but this is meaningless during this play as you will see in the next picture. I absolutely love Indiana’s spacing. Darren Collison is far away from the basket so Granger and Hibbert have the entire right side of the court to themselves.
The defender’s (Prince) duty in guarding the ballhandler (Granger) is to lead him into the screen. You don’t want to give Granger two options and you want to know which option he will use. It also facilitates the job of the teammate, Monroe in this case, to show on the screen. Prince lets Granger go to his right instead of leading him into the screen, which lets the Pistons’ defense basically implode. Now, this can happen every once in a while. After all you have a long season with a lot of pick and roll played against you. Jonas Jerebko on the other side of the court does a nice job of rotating over to try and contest Granger.
So here you see the real breakdown. Monroe showed on the screen, which wasn’t used by Granger. This puts him out of position, and Hibbert cuts right to the basket. There is no way Monroe can get back to his man in time. Prince seems to be caught up by the fact that he let Granger drive to his right. Both Monroe and Prince try to make up for it by going after Granger, completely forgetting to shut down the passing lane. Jerebko did a nice job of contesting the lay-up and Prince needs to step in the passing lane to force the steal. Instead he is watching passively as Granger locates his open teammate. At this point in the play, Monroe and Prince are dead bodies because they don’t have a purpose on defense. If two players aren’t guarding anyone, someone is open.
Granger drops the dime and Hibbert gets the easy two-handed dunk. What bothers me about this isn’t that Prince let Granger get to the basket. He just didn’t try to make up for it afterwards. I once had a coach who never pulled us out of a game if we made a mistake. We could do the stupidest thing and he would let us play through it. The only occasion he would yell at us was if we screwed up and didn’t fight to make it up afterwards. The Pistons have a lot of shortcomings, but if they are not willing to make up for them by hustling 48 minutes per game for 66 games I see a horrible season ahead. There might still be some confusion concerning the new defensive schemes and I hope this is the reason for the effort last night. If this is what we can expect from the team this year the Pistons will be gruesome to watch. They just don’t have the players to play half-heartedly and still win games. This effort will have to improve if the team is going to be competitive at all this season.
Fifth-year center Kyrylo Fesenko has agreed to a one-year, $1.07 million deal with Golden State
Fesenko was my dream choice for a late signing. If the Pistons still want to sign a big man, their options are limited:
- Yi Jianlian
- Alexis Ajinca
- Hamed Haddadi
- Erick Dampier
- Keith Benson
- Francisco Elson
- Joel Przyzbilla
- Melvin Ely
The dance team Automotion now just goes by the name of "Pistons dance team."
I’ve been on board with basically everything Tom Gores’ regime has done, but they lost me here. Automotion is a great name, an improvement from the group’s original title: the already-good “Classy Chassis.” “Pistons dance team” is as boring as could be.
I assume the dance team will eventually be rebranded, and maybe its new moniker will be an improvement – but I doubt it. Automotion set a high bar.
Although the Pistons probably could have used one, shooting guard Ben Gordon said owner Tom Gores’ message to the team following Tuesday’s marathon practice wasn’t a pep talk.
Gores, who will be on hand tonight for the first home game since he bought the team, addressed the players at the request of coach Lawrence Frank, in the wake of Monday’s season-opening thumping at Indiana.
"He’s just a normal guy," Gordon said. "He wants us to go out there and take our jobs serious every day, and he told us great things can happen.
"He says he’s a kid from Flint that worked hard and was consistent with his work every day, and that’s the same thing that he wants us to do. He made it very clear that he’s here to support us, and we’re all in this together."
Insert Patrick’s assertion that Tom Gores is from Genesee, not Flint. To be fair, a kid from Genesee who worked hard has meaning, too. It’s just a different story.
Anyway, it’s interesting to see how hands on Gores is being. Speaking to his players after a practice is far from excessive, and I’m curious whether this will be a regular occurrence or saved for special occasions.
After a lengthy lock-out it is good to be finally back to watching Detroit Pistons basketball and breaking down plays from their games. It is hard for any fan to be deprived from watching a sport they love. I had to look out for other hobbies to pass my time with, such as watching Bundesliga soccer or building miniature planes. Against the Pacers, we finally got to watch whether Greg Monroe and the rest of the squad passed their free-time during the extended offseason improving their basketball or Halo skills.
I am looking forward to seeing what Lawrence Frank can get out of this team. After all Monroe, Brandon Knight, Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye are supposed to be young talent helping the team advance into the playoffs. Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell supposedly suffered under the coaches the past few years and are better players than they have shown. The alleged rotten apple Richard Hamilton is gone, plus the team finally has an owner in place to start a season, so the excuses of the past few seasons are gone. After the first game, though, the results haven’t changed much.
After looking at ways to get Gordon going yesterday, today I’ll focus on Monroe’s pick and roll defense from game one, which wasn’t good against the Pacers.
Monroe was possibly the lone bright spot last year, so naturally, this year, fans expect him to be a leader for the team. I don’t think he is a polished player and might not be for a couple of seasons. I think if he gives the team energy and hustle he will be fine and a very good center. Against Indiana, I was missing the energy. The Pacers killed Detroit on the boards, Monroe looked a bit slow and was often just overpowered by strength (David West), size (Roy Hibbert) and hustle (Tyler Hansbrough). What I found the most lackadaisical, however, was his P&R defense. Here is an instance from the first quarter with about 8:10 to go.
You can see Hibbert setting a screen, not a very good one at that, for his point guard Darren Collison. You can see Gordon should not have a problem fighting over the screen, which is usually your preferred defensive strategy. Nonetheless, Monroe is supposed to show for a split second so he can buy his teammate Gordon a little more time to recover. You do that by taking one strong step, acting as if you want to steal the ball, and then you move back to your own player. Collison would be forced to move back a little bit or at least hesitate and delay his decision. .
Here you can see how far Monroe backs off. Instead of making Collison hesitate, Collison just got to the spot he wanted to get to with ease. Monroe did not show at all. There is of course the possibility of not showing at all and letting the ballhandler try to create off the dribble, but Collison is more of a playmaker and not a big scorer. He wants to find open teammates. Letting him create offense for himself is fine with me, but you need to close down the passing lanes then. As you can see after the screen, Hibbert just runs towards the basket and has a clean lane. Even if Jerebko decided to come over and help he leaves his guy wide open. Monroe needs to put more pressure on the ballhandler and then recover quickly so he closes down the pass. The P&R wasn’t executed very well, yet it killed the Pistons throughout the game. I don’t mean single Monroe out since the entire team did poorly defensively, but I expect that Monroe can improve this part of his game.
As the play unfolds, Collison hits Hibbert with a bounce-pass, Stuckey rotates over and is forced to foul — a 6-foot-4 guy can’t to much more than that against a 7-foot-2 center on the move.
I’ll keep an eye on how Monore performs in the pick and roll the next few weeks. I was pretty thrilled when Monroe hit his first jumper, it really looked as if he had added it to his repertoire. His foul problems might have taken his confidence away, but as I have explained before, he doesn’t need to score 20+ points per game, he needs to show constant defense and then he can improve on offense. I wouldn’t consider the Collison-Hibbert tandem to be a premier P&R team in the league, so if the Pistons struggle to guard those two, how is the defense going to handle Chris Paul and Blake Griffin?