Drummond, Monroe get beefed-up roles with Pistons
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included a rhetorical question by Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy that was taken out of context. This version of the story is correct.
Auburn Hills — Whether Pistons coach had "remove Josh Smith" penciled in for Dec. 22 on his calendar when he plotted out the season, we'll never know.
But he's certainly alluded to the four practice days between games as key time for assessments and adjustments to the team's overall scheme when he's spoken to the media over the past couple of weeks.
Lowering Smith's usage, i.e. the number of plays he's intimately involved in, either as a facilitator or main scoring option, was going to be the goal. Perhaps Smith balked at the notion of being de-emphasized before he was let go, or Van Gundy made the decision for Smith anyhow, but a change was in order.
"He's ahead of our point guards," said Van Gundy in terms of Smith's usage rate. "That's pretty rare. We ran a lot of stuff through him. And clearly if you want other people to have more opportunities, you'd have to take some away from him. I didn't think that would be good for him. I don't think he'd be happy."
But it should be noted Van Gundy initially made the decision to run the offense through Smith, setting the stage for the inefficient results many saw as predictable.
"I wouldn't say Josh was a problem. We're 5-23," Van Gundy said. "We needed to give more opportunities," Van Gundy said. "We wanted it spread out a little bit more. Those plays have got to come from somewhere."
The focus turns to giving Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond more touches in bulk in the post, and although it's the duo's third season together, it'll be their first time playing alongside each other in a conventional lineup.
Former coach Lawrence Frank — and if you're counting, that's three coaches ago — resisted playing them together for some reason in Drummond's rookie year, then Drummond's back injury halted the plan.
And of course, Smith's arrival last season prevented the two young bigs from finding their way together.
"It's gonna be fun, you know, to get that duo going with Greg, to make this team better," Drummond said. "Josh is definitely gonna be missed. He's a great player and great person, too."
Monroe's minutes have been down, but per 36 minutes his scoring and rebounding are career highs (18.2 points, 11 rebounds).
"We're gonna ride him in the post," Van Gundy said. "We've done that when he's been in there but he'll get more minutes now."
Most see the two as the perfect complement: Monroe the skilled scorer, Drummond the athletic freak.
"I'm kind of the brute force on this team. And Greg, he finesses his way to the rim," Drummond said. "I'm trying to do the dirty work to get our team going, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, dunking. Greg does his thing, he's a facilitator, he can shoot the ball really well. He's a scorer and he'll be a big help on defense."
Getting down the floor without exhibiting the home run trot will be top priority for the two bigs, which Van Gundy stressed to them in practice. One of the things Smith did with regularity was getting back on defense, but it didn't carry over to everyone else.
"We're 5-23, so there's a lot of things," Van Gundy said. "The main thing is our defense. It's gonna take all year. It's not like three days and we're a whole new team."
Trip to the hospital
Drummond and Kyle Singler probably didn't have to encounter many Smith-related questions at DMC Children's hospital, as they visited the kids and gave each child Pistons-related gifts.
"We're gonna go down there and visit kids. Most of them probably watch our games," Singler said. "Andre going there is probably great for the kids and hopefully it uplifts their day.
"Whenever you see a kid smile, it does brighten up your day. You hear stories about how hard their day to day lives are, and it puts things in perspective for you. It's a great thing when you can spend some quality time with them."
Drummond has done it since his rookie year, but he said it doesn't get old for him.
"They're kids. They're excited to see somebody who's 6-10," Drummond said. "Some may know me, some may not. But it's cool to see somebody big that they can look up to. They know I play for the Pistons, too. It's a fun time for them and an experience they probably won't forget."