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Pistons haven’t used zone defense, sounds like they won’t this season

David Mayo of MLive:

The Detroit Pistons never have used a zone defense this season and haven’t even implemented one, head coach Lawrence Frank said Wednesday.

“I think we showed it to our guys once but it was more to work against it,” Frank said.

Frank said he would have implemented a zone if he had a normal-length preseason training camp and an 82-game season to do so.

If the Pistons’ defense doesn’t leap forward next year, I’ll be disappointed.


  • Mar 29, 20121:29 pm
    by frankie d


    larry frank…bobby knight disciple.
    knight, famously, hated zones and never, ever used them.
    i see frank his following that example also.
    i usually think mayo does a pretty good job, but he describes the zone as a “gimmick” defense, used for one or two possessions.
    tell that to rick carlisle and dallas who use it extensively and used it to very effectively in the finals against miami last year.  in fact, one of the best ways to defend miami, and teams that have had success against miami have used zones.  
    zones are a valuable tool to be used against certain teams – like miami – and frank’s failure to use it is telling. most of the good defensive teams pull it out at certain times, if only to change the pace of the game and cause a hot team to slow down a bit.  the excuse about lack of time is ridiculous.  every player who gets to the nba is familiar with its general principles and how much time does it take to put in a basic zone defense.
    it is especially curious that the pistons would not use one.  they have a team that could very effectively put on court a long-armed set of 5 defenders who could be extremely effective in a basic zone defense.
    how about trying to play against a zone defense with stuckey and daye at the guards, tay and max (you could even hide CV’s deficiencies in a zone and his length would be extremely valuable) and monroe on the front line.
    that ‘s a line up with 4 guys who have the wingspans of 7 footers and a 6’5″ point guard.
    and it would allow you to even put a couple of guys on the court who bring offensive punch – daye and CV – but who you may have concerns about defensively.
    why wouldn’t any competent coach want to use that kind of physical advantage in certain circumstances?

  • Mar 29, 20122:21 pm
    by gordbrown


    I know that don’t use it extensively, but I know I’ve seen the Pistons go into a zone every now and again. In fact, I thought I saw it a couple of times last night, which I guess is why the question came up. Of course, teams used zones all the times under the old regime, they were just very adept at hiding it. The Pistons seem to have used the old match up zones on occasion (you go to your spot, pick up whoever you find and stay with them, switching on pick and rolls and if big guys go to post up small guys, etc).

  • Mar 29, 20123:34 pm
    by rick77


    Do you know why they have not used a zone and its principles that much? Would it possibly have something to do with a condensed season and young players. I am willing to give Frank a pass on this because this team will change dramtically over the summer assuming we get lucky in the draft. With that in mind with an extended training camp and players in year two of his sytem he can implement more defenses after getting his players in tune with his offensive playbook. Just cause he was Knight disciple doesnt mean he will go all Knight. I will give him chance before I label him like that. For the record he is not my favorite coach for Detroit but I think he has them moving forward. Whether he is here for the long haul that remains to be seen, but I will judge him on the developement of the young players and veterans over the course of a shortened season before I do it based off who was his mentor.

  • Mar 29, 20124:05 pm
    by frankie d


    its my opinion. i see a lot of bobby knight in his coaching style.
    in some ways, that is a positive. in other ways, it is a negative, imho.
    his formative years, as a young guy getting involved with coaching was under knight.
    i don’t think it is a coincidence that he has shown disdain for using zones, as staying with strict man defenses was one of knight’s most important edicts.
    but just about every nba team has a basic zone that they throw out there if only to confuse teams momentarily, to use it as a gimmick. lots of other teams, however, rely on it fairly extensively against certain teams.
    for instance, miami does not function well against zones. its a fact. why would any team fail to use such an important tool against one of the league’s best teams?
    my view is that the reason is primarily philosophical, rather than because of lack of practice time, as it fits in with the rest of his typically rigid approach. and it is that rigidity that ends up biting him in the behind often.
    and it is, imho, a recipe for mediocrity.

    • Mar 30, 20122:50 am
      by oats


      I thoroughly disagree with you, which I guess isn’t that unusual. First you jumped all over the phrase gimmick defense in your first post, and then advocated using it as a gimmick defense when you said, “most of the good defensive teams pull it out at certain times, if only to change the pace of the game and cause a hot team to slow down a bit”. That is a perfect description of what was meant when they called it a gimmick defense. Anyways, so far this year Frank has had to:
      1) Implement his offensive system. It looks way different than what we were watching under Curry/Kuester, although I would like to see fewer Prince isos and more passes to Monroe in the paint. It should be noted that the offense looks different now than at the start of the season, so it seems likely we haven’t seen it as a finished product just yet.
      2) Implement his defensive system. This sounds easy since we are talking man, but principals on switching, defending the pick and roll, how tight you defend, and how often you try to front post players all change from system to system. This is more involved than “Go defend your guy. Ready, break.”
      3) He has a young team he is trying to teach two new systems to, and he has to help them develop as players. He is likely spending a fair amount of practice time going over the things guys like Knight, Stuckey, and Monroe need to keep working on. By the way, all 3 of those guys are making pretty solid progress so far under Frank, so he is doing something right here. Yeah, I know his treatment of Daye and Macklin is open to criticism, but Frank should get some credit for the things he is doing right.
      4) He also had to gain the respect of the team. Between his highly publicized losing streak and firing in NJ, and the way the team turned against Kuester, this could have taken more time at the start of the season than we’d have liked.
      5) Figured out how to use players. Maxiell was dead weight last year. Prince’s role changed in the last few weeks. He correctly moved Knight into the starting lineup and has him and Stuckey sharing point guard duties. Admittedly this is still a huge work in progress. He doesn’t seem to know exactly what to do with Daye and Macklin, although Daye could just be the result of him being terrible at the start of the year. He definitely doesn’t know what to do with CV. How he’s doing in this is less important than the fact that it is an obstacle for a new coach in a strike shortened year.
      6) Dealt with the schedule. Not only did he miss a lot of preseason time, during the season there isn’t much time to get in practices. The schedule is too condensed.
      Considering all of his challenges, it is understandable that a zone hasn’t been implemented when it isn’t Frank’s primary defense. While Lebron James, and therefore the Heat struggle against the zone, many teams do pick it apart pretty well. Yes, if you really commit to it, the zone can be a legitimate defense that you can use a lot. That said, a lot of effort goes into getting it to the point where it becomes more than a mere gimmick. Is most of the league completely wrong not to use it more? I’m going to guess no. So given that, I am fully on board with the Pistons not having a zone in place yet. If he doesn’t use the zone roughly the same way the vast majority of the league does by next year (oh, and the way he did it last year as the defensive coach for Rivers in Boston), then you would have an argument. Until then, get off your soap box and calm down.
      As for Frank’s rigidity, you do realize that he had an offense he ran for Kidd, then a different one for Harris, and now he has a new one for Knight/Stuckey? He definitely has shown some flexibility schematically. You know who didn’t do that? Jerry Sloan. Sloan is one of the most rigid coaches in the history of the NBA, you either fit into his system or you didn’t play. He ran one offense his entire career. Frank is most definitely nowhere near Sloan’s level as a coach, but Sloan proved you don’t need flexibility to succeed in the NBA. I’d actually argue his rigid nature was a benefit to long term success as it made it clear to his GM what it takes to play for Sloan. I’m not saying this as some sort of gotcha response, it is just something to think about. I really don’t think flexibility is necessarily the only way to go, and many fans have felt this team has lacked a single coherent plan over the last few years. Having consistency from a decision maker in the organization is refreshing, especially after watching Curry/Kuester wavering on seemingly every decision.

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