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Ilyasova shows his value with Pistons quickly

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — When the Pistons traded for power forward Ersan Ilyasova in June, it wasn’t so much the team trying to find a replacement for Greg Monroe as it was the team trying to reshape the roster.

Pistons forward Ersan Ilyasova

While Monroe needed space in the middle, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was looking for a floor spacer to open the driving lanes for the guards and clear more room for center Andre Drummond.

Ilyasova, at 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, has a deft outside touch — hitting 39 percent with the Milwaukee Bucks last season — and lends more to the offensive scheme that Van Gundy wants to run. For the first time in five seasons, the Pistons will get to see Monroe in an opposing jersey in Saturday’s preseason matchup at Milwaukee, and Ilyasova will get to return to where he was drafted in 2005 and played seven seasons.

The Pistons got a good look at Ilyasova’s versatile game, when he had 15 points and seven rebounds in an exhibition loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. Paired with Marcus Morris, also acquired in the offseason, Ilyasova gives Van Gundy a big weapon with an outside jump shot that can provide different looks for defenses to handle.

The challenge for Van Gundy is learning his new players and getting familiar with them.

“Both those guys will be good offensively; I have to learn them a little bit more,” Van Gundy said. “I know with Reggie (Jackson) and Andre (Drummond) and (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and Jodie (Meeks). You know after a year what you need to run for those guys.

“I’m trying to pick it up on those two and how it fits with what we do. You’ll see even more of what those guys can do offensively as I do a better job. I really haven’t done a lot for them.”

Ilyasova also got on the boards, with four on the offensive end, including a couple of putbacks, which belies his usual game.

“That’s important for him; that’s the one area of his game that’s dropped off the last couple years,” Van Gundy said. “We have to put him in position to do that, too.”

In 2011-12, Ilyasova was a force on both ends, with career highs in 3-point shooting (45.5 percent) and rebounds (8.8) and averaged 13 points. Those numbers dropped in the next three seasons with the Bucks, but he’s looking to reload with a new role with the Pistons.

But as the Pistons gain chemistry with their new roster additions, there will be some growing pains, such as the 18 first-half turnovers on Thursday night. But as they finish the first couple of preseason games, there’s much more improvement on the horizon.

“It’s training camp, but in these six days, we’ve worked on those things. You have to pick it up and a lot of new plays to remember,” he said. “Those turnovers are going to be there but we have to trust each other at both ends of the floor.

“It’s preseason and it can’t be excused but we have to work on it and hopefully we can fix things moving forward.”

Defense addressed

Van Gundy lamented the poor defense in Thursday’s loss but is looking to finalize and simplify the scheme, especially for the big men. The Nets had big men who popped out and hit jumpers, something the Pistons hadn’t worked on extensively in training camp.

“We’re just playing the way we play and that’s on me. The times we didn’t run back defensively, they have to do a better job there and we showed some of that on film (today),” Van Gundy said. “Some of the things with the big guys stepping back, we haven’t worked enough on.

“It’s going to be important because there are (other centers in the league) that are shooting the ball.”

Baynes ready to return

Backup center Aron Baynes (ankle), who has missed both preseason games, is approaching a return. Van Gundy said Baynes participated in practice Friday but may play in a game during the upcoming four straight road games.

Pistons vs. Bucks

Tipoff: 8:30 Saturday, BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

TV/radio: 105.1

Outlook: The Pistons will try to end their preseason two-game losing skid and will get their first look at former teammate Greg Monroe, who played five seasons with the Pistons before signing with the Bucks as a free agent.