If Pistons want to win, they need to forget niceties

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Pistons guard Brandon Jennings was angry.

Too often Pistons leadership asks young players to do things. They don’t demand it. And Jennings simply wants to see more demanding even if it is the small chore of weight lifting.

He is right. The Pistons need to be tougher with one another.

Here is a message to Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson and anybody else who wants to take charge. You are too nice.

Being a leader is not always cuddly or stamped with smiley faces. It is not always about being buddies.

The Pistons (7-6) have a chance for a special season. There is talent on this team and Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has done a wonderful job with this group. However, there are a number of guys not pulling their weight and it needs to be addressed.

The Pistons don’t need the dreaded team meeting. There simply needs to be a team message that bench players, rookies and young players must grow up and share responsibilities.

This group wants to win a championship someday. They are willing to grow together and they are willing to learn together. The problem is the Pistons have a playoff starting unit with an expansion bench.

These guys need to wake up.

“Right now, we’re losing games for the team,” reserve guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. “The starters are playing well. They’re doing their jobs. We come in and we literally are giving up leads. It’s almost ridiculous at this point, so we have to figure it out.’

Or work it out.

A small example of that occurred over the weekend when former teammate Greg Monroe was embarrassed following the Milwaukee Bucks’ 123-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers. The Bucks trailed by as many as 40 points and he did not like what he saw and called out teammates.

“We have to learn how to fight,” Monroe told reporters after the game. “We were in the game at halftime. We’re right there. They make a run and we quit. We can’t do that.”

Here is news for leadership. The Pistons have made two successful championship runs and in both cases leadership wasn’t always nice.

During the 2004 run Ben Wallace could be a prickly pear. He made demands on the defensive end. He pushed for excellence and he pushed for concentration. Big Ben wasn’t always professional about it. If he didn’t believe players were serious about his message, then he went to the media and embarrassed them.

Chauncey Billups got his point across in stern ways, too.

It was even rougher during the Bad Boys era, which culminated in titles in 1989 and 1990. Isiah Thomas was the leader who had an iron fist. Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer were the sergeants-in-arms. They not only made demands of each other but made demands of the coaching staff and the front office.

Laimbeer questioned if Pistons coach Chuck Daly was fully committed to the team after being named coach of the 1992 Dream Team. Thomas pushed for general manager Jack McCloskey to bolster the Pistons front court.

Thomas once embarrassed a rookie guard, Doug Overton, in front of the team and the media because he didn’t believe he was talented enough or tough enough for the Pistons. He played him a game of one-on-one and told him every move he was going to make before making the move and scoring.

Thomas finished the session by saying, “Doug, Doug you done dug yourself a hole,” as he hit a fade-away jumper on him and walked off the court.

The issue today is that the bench is not performing. It was outscored 51-15 during a 97-95 loss to the Wizards. Reserves cannot be trusted and sometimes coach Stan Van Gundy extends starters for longer than he wants. The result Saturday was a near comeback by the starters who were too punch-drunk to finish the deal.

Eventually the issue will be resolved when Jennings and Jodie Meeks returns. Dinwiddie would fall to the third guard and the Pistons could reduce minutes for Kantavious Caldwell-Pope and would not have to play Reggie Bullock.

Jennings won’t return until around Christmas and Meeks might not be right until spring.

However, the Pistons cannot wait that long to become a whole team. Van Gundy cannot push starters any more than he has during a grueling 82-game season.

That is why the leaders on this team must figure a way to push young players and reserves a little harder.



Pistons at Bucks

Tip-off: 8 p.m. Monday night, BMO Bradley Center, Milwaukee

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: The Pistons face off against former teammate Greg Monroe, who signed as a free agent during the offseason. ... The Bucks have lost their last three games and given up 115, 115 and 123 points. That includes an embarrassing 123-86 loss to the Pacers.