Boston — It's a move that could be seen a mile away, even though Greg Monroe going to the bench is tough to comprehend from a basketball standpoint.
But with the Pistons losing 10 in a row and their super-size lineup not bearing fruit, a change had to be made. And Monroe's performance against the Boston Celtics proved he's still on the boat and not eyeing his impending free agency.
Monroe scored 11 in a row to help pull the Pistons even late, pushing the game to overtime. He finished with a season-high 29 points, outperforming his last three games combined when he mustered 26 points, and it appeared he was on the verge of getting phased out of the offense.
"I just tried to go aggressive early when I was in the game, and I was able to get to the free-throw line and get a couple baskets," he said. "I got into a good rhythm and I just have to continue to be comfortable coming off the bench."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen Monroe go to work, as he scored 20-plus points twice against them last season, and had no choice but to allow Monroe to keep cooking Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller as opposed to doubling and giving up open 3-point shots.
"Monroe, obviously that's a tough spot when you're coaching because you know what can beat you is the three, and they keep chipping away two after two," Stevens said. "(We) guarded him as well as you could, but he just made shot after shot after shot."
Van Gundy tried adding in a caveat to Monroe's reserve status, saying he would start Monroe and move Josh Smith to the bench when the opposing team starts out with a big lineup and goes to a shooting power forward in the second unit.
Considering those lineups aren't abundant, with Van Gundy going as far as to say the team is built "the old-fashioned way" in terms of height, it appears Monroe will have to get accustomed to coming off the bench, barring something crazy happening in the next few months.
"I've always said I'm comfortable. I just try to focus on, when I'm on the court, doing my job," Monroe said. "I had a good night, but we have to find ways as a team to win."
Monroe won't brush off questions concerning coming off the bench, as he's too professional to bristle publicly, but he's certainly making a sacrifice, especially since he can easily be viewed as the odd man out in the Pistons' future plans.
In the meantime, though, Van Gundy can count on Monroe performing from the uncomfortable position of being a reserve.
"I hope they trust me, I trust them in any decision they make," Monroe said. "When I have the ball I just try to make the right play, the right decision and stay aggressive. I do my best to deliver."
Playing through pain
Brandon Jennings went through another miserable shooting night, likely due to his sprained left thumb, but he won't sit out to let it rest.
"I'm definitely going to continue to play through it," Jennings said. "I'm treating it every day, two times a day, but it's just something that's going to take time."
In the last two games, Jennings has shot just two for 21, going without a field goal Wednesday, and also fell on it awkwardly trying to swipe the ball away from Evan Turner late.
"It didn't really hurt that bad until I fell at half court," he said. "It was just an awkward position."