Auburn Hills — Playing fewer than 30 minutes in three of the last four games prompted Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy to have a little chat with arguably his best player, Greg Monroe, before Saturday's practice.
"It just seemed to me like something was bothering him, but I wanted to check in on him," Van Gundy said.
Monroe has never been the type to let on to the public if something has him upset, but his outing Friday against the smallish Milwaukee Bucks seemed to take the cake — at least to some people watching the game.
By late in the third quarter, Monroe had only two shot attempts, a lower number than 13 players who participated in the game. He scored once off a double team in the first quarter and another off a backcourt steal, but in a game in which the Pistons likely needed someone to dominate on the interior in a deliberate fashion, they didn't go to their best low-post option.
"I talked to him today and I asked him flat out if he was upset about the minutes and touches and he said, 'I was terrible last night, I have no problem with what you did last night,'" Van Gundy said Saturday. "For whatever reason, it wasn't a good night.
"But tomorrow will be better."
The Pistons play the Warriors at The Palace on Sunday.
Monroe played 23 minutes against the Bucks, while playing 27 against the Clippers two nights before. In Atlanta, he played just 20 minutes, making four of his seven shots from the field. One would think if he has games like he did in Milwaukee earlier in the week, when he went 7-for-10, common sense would dictate the Pistons ride him more.
"Some people would say either or, have different opinions on it. I always felt like any coach would do what's best for the team, I don't think any coach is trying to lose the game," Monroe said. "Whatever he saw, he thought would help us or be beneficial for us to win the game, and that's what he chose to do."
The delicate relationship the two sides have entered into will bring instances like these into closer scrutiny.
Monroe, 24, appears likely to walk away after the season as an unrestricted free agent, after the Pistons failed to reach a long-term agreement with Monroe this past offseason. They decided not to sign-and-trade him either, which seemed to be a preferred option for Monroe.
Van Gundy has to walk the delicate balance between winning games now and developing players who'll be here down the road, while Monroe is walking a delicate balance of his own — going with the flow and becoming more vocal about getting more opportunities.
Van Gundy calls virtually every play, so Monroe won't be trying to supersede the coach's demands by lobbying the guards to get him the ball when he has an advantage.
"I get what you're saying, but he calls the plays and you don't wanna get into that where he calls one thing and you want to run something else," Monroe said. "I believe he's going with what he believes is best for us."
Interestingly, considering Monroe averages just 11.5 shots a game — fewer than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith — Van Gundy has called Monroe the closest thing to a "go-to guy."
"I look at him as the only guy we get points in the game where we go to for stretches," he said. "We don't do that with any of our guys but we do when he gets it going."
Monroe does get double-teamed, but considering the Pistons' anemic ways, perhaps the state of affairs is such because they haven't utilized an efficient player who makes smart plays with the ball.
Maybe it could be on Monroe to be more vocal to call for opportunities.
"I always try to. I don't wanna be the guy to sound selfish," Monroe said. "If I got it going, I would think they would keep going to me. If they don't, I'd figure he sees something that works better."
For a team that's a hair away from losing 11 straight, maybe a little selfishness isn't such a bad thing.
Warriors at Pistons
Tipff: 3:30 p.m. Sunday, The Palace, Auburn Hills
Records: Warriors 13-2, Pistons 3-13
Outlook: The Pistons play five of their next six games at home, with Wednesday's game at Boston the only exception. ... This is the first Warriors-Pistons meeting this year.