Pistons' Greg Monroe seeks public's understanding
Auburn Hills — It was certainly a summer of discontent for Greg Monroe, the most stable and consistent Piston during a stretch of seasons the franchise and its fans would like to put behind them.
Monroe, purposely quiet during his restricted free agency, had to endure trade rumors and reports of him trying to strong-arm the Pistons into trading a teammate while negotiating a long-term contract that didn't materialize.
And just as things began to die down, another swirl of negativity came to light as news of his DUI arrest from February became public and resulted in a two-game suspension from the NBA — with some less-than-flattering details not far behind.
"I broke the law and I've grown from it," Monroe said. "I know it. I did everything I was asked to do legally. At this point, the main thing that's messed with me mentally is my teammates have to play two games without me."
At age 24, Monroe arrived at a point he believed his consistency and stability would be rewarded, although expecting it from a franchise that has displayed a lack of those traits could be described as a stretch.
"Honestly I didn't know because I didn't know Stan (Van Gundy) so we were trying to work things out," Monroe said of an offseason game plan.
He adjusted to playing for four coaches in four years, began to modify his game when Andre Drummond's role grew faster than expected, then altered his play again when Josh Smith arrived via free agency last summer.
When Van Gundy replaced Joe Dumars as the top name on the basketball operations masthead, it was yet another change in a career full of them, but short on victories. Although the Pistons offered him a sizable contract, slightly larger than Smith's deal, Monroe turned down the security, preferring to take a one-year deal to have his freedom next July.
"It's no disrespect to the people working here but it was just tough for me to agree to another four years with new people," Monroe said. "Honestly, if you were to ask the average person would they do that in the arena they're in, they'd say no."
He wanted to make clear he's fully embraced the city and its fans, details that often get caught in the crossfire of a player looking for a new situation.
"I can't speak for everybody but in my case, when talking about leaving Detroit, it was the team specifically," Monroe said. "I have no problem with the city, or the fans or the people. I don't have a problem with anyone here. I've been received with open arms. People have always shown me love. Fans, they've stuck with us through tough times."
While nothing was ever close, the Pistons discussed trade possibilities with other teams and Monroe would've gotten a long-term deal and a fresh start, but he's not miserable about spending another year in Detroit because he doesn't know how things will turn.
Monroe remembers former teammate Chauncey Billups, in a moment of seriousness last year as the two lifted weights, looking him square in the eye and endorsing him as a player.
He consulted his inner circle which includes two uncles who know the business of basketball, along with former players and executives before turning down the Pistons' offer while being incensed at the notion he demanded Smith be traded as a condition of re-signing long-term.
He snapped at the suggestion of a rift on media day, and said he would approach Smith if necessary to clear things up.
"The trade scenarios fell through and the offers (from the Pistons), obviously that fell through," Monroe said. "Coming in, honestly it was a new regime. A new beginning, just getting to know him and talk to him to see what he had planned."
It sparked some backlash on social media from fans, which he has tried to ignore.
"In my eyes, I'd have a problem if I decided to do this and nobody said anything," Monroe said. "I look at it (like) people say crazy stuff, no matter how crazy it is, because it comes from a place that wants me to be here."
He disputes the fact he would only take a max contract, especially with the NBA's salary cap expected to rise exponentially over the next summer or two.
He doesn't want his value measured against his teammates, or against players like LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland) or Roy Hibbert (Indiana), players who signed their deals in 2010 and '12, respectively.
"People get caught up in the money and think because it's offered to you, that you're supposed to take it," Monroe said. "We make a lot of money, but everything else can't be disregarded because of that. If players did that, they'd be unhappy because guys would take the money just to take it and wouldn't be fully invested."
Monroe has spent many nights with a forlorn expression on his face, both on the floor and in the locker room after frustrating losses. The franchise's lack of direction led to his questioning whether his future lies with the Pistons or elsewhere.
Van Gundy's track record as an accomplished coach could give Monroe hope, but his lack of experience as an executive could take it all away. Now he's hearing whispers that he might have to come off the bench because it's clear he, Drummond and Smith can't be effective on the floor at the same time.
Monroe hopes the business of basketball doesn't get in the way of the game of basketball.
"People have brought that up multiple times. I would hope that it doesn't," Monroe said. "The question I ask is, if I signed the extension would I automatically be starting? What would the answer be?
"I hope everything that's given here is earned. If he has to bring someone off the bench I would just ask that you do it purely on what people have done on the court. My only question is, if I signed the extension, what would it be then?"
No matter what happens, Monroe isn't comfortable being the villain, and the criticism has bothered him because he's felt he's done everything asked of him.
"I'm blessed to be in a situation where no matter what happens this season, I'll get a good contract and I'll be OK," Monroe said. "My decisions don't just affect me but my family and people close to me, and I hope people respect that."