Brooklyn — From the moment he was hired, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has preached trying to win now while preparing for the future, claiming all personnel moves would be made with that delicate balance in mind.
With the standings staring him square in the face, Van Gundy finally has accepted that goal is unlikely and now is tilting the scales firmly toward the future —and not just early 2015.
"The future is certainly the utmost priority," Van Gundy said before the Pistons played the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at Barclays Center.
"What we want to do, I don't think the goal have changed at all. We want to build a contending team. I think rather than sacrifice future for getting to whatever number of wins is not the smart way to go. As far as personnel moves, everything's gotta be aimed to the future."
He came into the season with champagne dreams, inheriting a young team that needed some molding, some maturation and good coaching. Van Gundy is accepting the reality of things, as he hasn't been able to coach up a team that the much-maligned Maurice Cheeks had at the .500 mark this time last season.
"It's not one I enjoy because it's not what I went into the season thinking," Van Gundy said.
Perhaps it was the loud roars of a Palace crowd cheering for the visitors Friday night, as the Toronto Raptors fans took over the building as the Pistons suffered an 11th straight defeat at home.
"I didn't think we'd be here at 5-22," Van Gundy said. "But this is where we are. So now you have to look and say, 'Where do we go from here' in terms of building a contender. I don't think it's (only) personnel moves."
Of course, personnel moves are a huge part of the equation. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings are on the trading block, and the organization has probed Greg Monroe about his willingness to give up his Bird Rights to be traded in-season.
The scuttle around the NBA is the Pistons are trying to receive top value for their trades, in terms of personnel and draft picks, but the market hasn't responded in a positive way, yet.
Until that happens, if that happens, Van Gundy wants things to look a little bit differently from a gameplan perspective.
"There has to be a shift in thinking, a shift in focus from a coaching standpoint, without question," Van Gundy said.
And certainly, Van Gundy's words read like a man who's embracing tanking for the future, although one can say with their current record, they're doing a pretty good job of losing without the intent of giving away games.
"No, no, no, no. Not at all," said Van Gundy to the suggestion he was tacitly aiming to tank.
Van Gundy attempted to make clear the focus would be on developing the Pistons youngest players: Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and second-round pick Spencer Dinwiddie, who hasn't played meaningful minutes in nearly a month.
"When I'm talking coaching adjustments, I'm not talking getting rid of our guys, going out and signing 12 D-League guys," Van Gundy said. "I want to win now but I want to do it differently than we're doing it. So coaching adjustments have to be made."
That means giving Drummond more looks on offense in terms of post-ups, doing more for Caldwell-Pope in terms of calling plays and merely giving Dinwiddie a chance to touch the floor.
For Drummond, it's a dicey proposition because that strategy sent him into an early season funk that he's just getting out of.
"We gave Andre more post-ups than we've given him lately," Van Gundy said. "We've gone away from that because I wouldn't say that's right now our best choice coming down the floor. We have to shift back to giving him that stuff so that he develops so we don't have him next year where he is now."
"KCP is a guy we don't give a lot. We haven't given KCP those opportunities. How's he gonna learn? Not tanking at all but a shift in thinking, we're trying to win within that but you've got to develop those guys."