Pistons’ Van Gundy wants Johnson to think defense

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — At first, Stanley Johnson turned down an interview request. He isn’t playing well, and perhaps didn’t want to discuss that as he embarks on his first Western swing in the NBA.

He’d also been talked to by coach Stan Van Gundy, who wants a new mindset when he hits the floor. Instead of thinking offense, Van Gundy wants Johnson to think defense and rebounds.

The rest will come.

“I think he needs to change his whole approach,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a pretty good defender, one of the best I’ve seen at that age. ... He needs to come in and impact the game with his defense and rebounding. ... He needs to let his offense come to him.”

Johnson is averaging 6.3 points (shooting 27.3 percent), 1.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

“When the boss gives you directions, you have to do it,” Johnson said. “I have to find a way to do it.

“I am very frustrated. I’ve had bumps in the road before. I played bad. I have played worse. It’s not that I am playing bad, it’s the process of doing things right.”

That process, however, begins on a tough six-game, 10-day trip against some of the best teams in the Western Conference.

It starts tonight in Phoenix, not far from the University of Arizona, where Johnson played as a freshman.

“(Van Gundy) just told me exactly what he wants me doing,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, I am more clear in my mind and play better.”

On the road

Terry Foster of The Detroit News thinks the Pistons will go 3-3 on their western road trip:

Phoenix, Friday: Getting off to a quick start is essential for the Pistons. Prediction: Win

Portland, Sunday: The Pistons will struggle with the Trail Blazers' backcourt. Prediction: Loss

Golden State, Monday: The goal is not to be embarrassed by the defending champions. Prediction: Loss

Wednesday, Sacramento: The Kings will be in the middle of a much needed six-game home stand. But ... Prediction: Win

Saturday, Nov. 14, L.A. Clippers: The Pistons have an advantage — they spend two days in Los Angeles before playing. Prediction: Loss

Sunday, Nov. 15, L.A. Lakers: L.A. is a young team that needs help. Prediction: Win

Pistons at Suns

Tip-off: 9:30 p.m. Friday, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC