Van Gundy tinkers with Pistons' personnel strategy
Auburn Hills — Stan Van Gundy has been reluctant to embrace the possibility of reviving the "small-ball" personnel setups from his days as coach of the Orlando Magic, until now.
Van Gundy estimates that now, without Josh Smith, the Pistons will play with one big man and four shooters for at least half the game. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will start games together, but Monroe is also the backup center — which is his natural position.
"Virtually anytime Greg isn't on the floor at the (power forward) now," Van Gundy said, "he's gonna play (center). You gotta think you're talking at least half the game. With Jonas (Jerebko) or Caron (Butler) or Kyle (Singler)."
The adjustment without Smith has trickled down to the likes of Singler and Butler, who'll see more time at power forward. Singler has played more at that position in the last few days of practice, to get acclimated to where he has to be on both ends of the floor.
Yes, more spacing but also defending bigger and stronger players is a downside for a guy who struggles on the defensive end against like-size players.
"It's gonna be a little bit of a transition because there's quite a bit that's different," Singler said.
"It's easy when playing the 2 or 3. But when you're playing the power forward position, you have to learn some new coverages, double teams."
It all starts with Drummond in the middle, who isn't the polished force Dwight Howard was in Orlando when Van Gundy was coaching, but the Pistons will try feeding him the ball more on the block.
Drummond struggled in the early season when the Pistons force-fed him the ball down low, to disastrous results.
Whether it's a subtle shot at Smith or not, Van Gundy alluded to the internal environment changing that will prevent it affecting the other facets of Drummond's game if offensive success doesn't come easy.
"I do and I think the other things that's happened, guys have gotten on him when he hasn't tried to score down low," Van Gundy said. "I think he's got a good atmosphere conducive to that."
Van Gundy was then asked if the player swishing 3-pointer after 3-pointer on the practice floor, Gigi Datome, would see the light of day. There doesn't appear to be much hope.
"He's a great shooter. He really works at it hard," Van Gundy said. "He's behind the other guys. Cartier (Martin) would get a look before him. I think his defense has been good the last three days. He and Brandon (Jennings) were the guys who've taken the biggest step the last three days in terms of their play."
Van Gundy noted Smith handled nearly one-fourth of the Pistons' possessions, so others, like Jennings, will get a chance to handle the ball more and make plays.
"Our point guards will lead the break a lot more," Van Gundy said. "Josh did that a lot. Again, that's part of the plan. It doesn't mean it'll be better. Josh made good plays in transition. We got some 3's, Andre got some lobs. That's gonna take time. This is all gonna take time."
And time apparently seems to be something Van Gundy has in spades, both from a coaching standpoint and as an executive.
"There will certainly be an adjustment phase which will allow guys more opportunity, which initially mean a lot of mistakes," Van Gundy said. "Hopefully, down the road it will mean guys get better, and we have more diversified offense."