October 10, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Terry Foster

Young Pistons need to meld old-school practices with an innovative approach

Pistons' Will Bynum scores over the Heat's Rashard Lewis in the second quarter in an exhibition game at The Palace of Auburn Hills Thursday. (Clarence Tabb, Jr. / Detroit News)

Auburn Hills — Miami Heat super starLeBron James hit The Palace of Auburn Hills Thursday night for a preseason game a week after proclaiming he will be an even better player this season. He’s added to his game, which could add even more to his fame and more headaches to opponents.

It is a sign that James is an old school player who is not satisfied with two consecutive NBA titles and two straight Finals MVP Awards.

“I want to be the greatest of all time,” James said during media day. “That’s my motivation. It’s that simple. It’s not simple, but for me it is. That’s my mind frame. It’s not to be the greatest of all time in anyone else’s book or how they judge the greats. It’s for me. I feel like I have the potential to continue to get better and to maximize my time while I play this game of basketball. I want to be the greatest.”

He is likely to show pieces of his new game during the preseason and then have a coming- out party at some point during the regular season. That is the way players used to do it. Now times have changed.

Players work hard during the off season, but many do not add anything to their game.

Isiah Thomas used to add new wrinkles to his game during most offseasons. He worked on a three-point shot one summer, a better cross over another season and he worked on movement so he could be a better defender. He always believed he needed to show something new to give opponents something new to think about.

Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks did the same when he played with the Philadelphia 76ers, a title contending team many years. He won a title in 1983, his fifth NBA season. He was never a big scorer, but Cheeks needed to hit open jump shot because teams often double teamed Moses Malone in the paint and Julius Erving on the wing.

“Standing here in Detroit where Isiah Thomas played I had to learn to score a little but not like this guy,” Cheeks said. “I could get to the rim but I had to learn to make open jump shots. I was told I needed to do that if I was going to stick around in the league.”

Still developing

The Pistons are a work in progress. They have young talent with great potential that needs seasoning and more additions to their game.

Andre Drummond is a freakish athlete who attacks the rim, but he lacks a post game. When he runs the court he is as fluid as anybody. When his back is to the basket he becomes stiff and predictable.

Greg Monroe must become better in traffic. He gets off a lot of shots inside, but he too often is off balance and not squared to the basket.

They are both very good players. But they are part of the new school mentality that must think old school. Both players need additions to their games.

“Yeah there are things I want to improve on,” Monroe said. “Defense is one of them. We will win with defense.”

Veteran guard Chauncey Billups is a holdout from the old-school mentality. He added to his game over the years. He became a better defender, leader, learned how to master the pick and roll, and more importantly, learned to look for weak spots in defenses and run the show.

He adjusted and added as he got older because Billups could no longer rely on speed and quickness.

Billups is here to help on the court and help the Pistons win games. But he also plans to be a teacher in games and practices. He faces the divide between old school and new school. The new guys simply play games in the summer and do not work on weaknesses.

“A lot of guys in the summer just worry about working hard and being in shape instead of working smart and working on your repertoire,” Billups said. “Adding a move or a counter move. That was a big deal when I came into the league. I don’t think it is a big deal today unfortunately. But any guys I am around I will make sure to carry on that old-school vibe or tradition.”

So what changed?

“I just think the game is so athletic now that if you are fast and a freak athlete and the season before nobody could stand in front of you, they are probably not going to be able to stand in front of you this season either,” Billups said. “You don’t have to add anything because they can’t stop you any way. When you slow down and get older and can’t skip by everybody you might add things. I need to get people off balance or change speeds.”



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