Pistons' lack of focus frustrates Van Gundy

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Philadelphia — Throughout his career, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has seen his share of head-scratching games.

But the effort of his team in a 94-83 road loss to the 76ers on Wednesday might rank near the top.

For a team that was 15-52 and jockeying for the worst record in the league, the 76ers looked to be easy pickings.

During morning walk-throughs, Van Gundy had a viable game plan to try to take advantage of the aggressive 76ers defense — a strategy that didn't pan out, mostly because his team didn't follow it. As Philadelphia gambled, the plan was to find the open shooter.

Instead, the Pistons got the ball in the paint and were denied by the 76ers big men, shooting 33 percent.

"I didn't see any focus whatsoever in being strong with the ball, and I saw no focus whatsoever in trying to find open people," a flustered Van Gundy said Wednesday. "When you don't throw the ball to open people and you continue to force shots in the paint …"

The lone bright spot was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 20 points. But Spencer Dinwiddie and Jodie Meeks combined to shoot 4-for-23 for 15 points.

Reggie Jackson, who looked to be turning a corner after a dazzling performance against the Grizzlies, had a deceptive triple-double (11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), but shot 4-for-17 from the field.

"We wanted to come out and play hard but had a little miscommunication on the court," Caldwell-Pope said. "What we had game-planned, we didn't execute it. That was bad for us; we knew coming in they were going to be aggressive on the ball and try to go for steals."

With 14 games left, Van Gundy will have to find some positives and salvage what he can from the roster, given the uncertain status of trying to re-sign Greg Monroe, who missed his second straight game with a knee strain.

Although the results might not matter, some of the intangibles might be what matter more for Van Gundy in making his assessment.

"I'm not saying anything about effort; there are some things about the effort I wasn't happy with," Van Gundy said. "It wasn't the effort; it was a total lack of focus in getting ready to play a game and knowing who your opponent is and taking what you go through in the morning and preparing yourself to play."

Elder statesman

On a 76ers team nearly bereft of experience, veteran guard Jason Richardson stands out — not from a statistical standpoint, but simply because of the years he's been in the league.

Richardson, the former Michigan State standout, is in his 13th season — more than double the years of the next-tenured 76ers player. And after missing all of last season, Richardson is making an impression, cracking the 76ers starting lineup and averaging 9.3 points and 4 rebounds in 10 games.

He showed flashes of his more energetic days, with 14 points in 25 minutes against the Pistons.

"He's one of my favorites; he's a great, great pro, a great worker, a great person and a tremendous guy to coach," said Van Gundy, who coached Richardson, 34, in Orlando. "I really feel good for him getting back.

"It would have been easy for him to just stay out and collect his money, but that's not him. He missed being out there."