Pistons' defensive regression worries Van Gundy

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Stan Van Gundy

Denver — After a day to reflect on his comments following the disappointing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy reiterated his comments about the team’s porous defense.

In an interview on the Dery and Sharp Show on WMGC on Friday afternoon, Van Gundy stood by his comments about the lack of defense and focus, especially in the past couple weeks. In the team meeting, that was the major point of emphasis, to get back to the type of defense they played early in the season that got them off to a hot start.

“We really haven’t defended well over the last five or six games — that was the theme today, that we’ve got to get back to playing defense,” Van Gundy told host Matt Dery. “We watched film on some of the things we weren’t doing well and we’ve got to get back to playing at that end of the floor.

“As our offense has improved, our defense has taken a step back. We’re not going to win consistently like that.”

The other major takeaway from Thursday’s loss was reserve guard Brandon Jennings’ comments about the team not having a true leader. Van Gundy didn’t dispute the claim, but said there are other issues and that shouldn’t be the sole focus.

“Maybe, but I don’t think that’s the big issue. The big issue is we’ve got to get back to playing hard and defending,” Van Gundy said. “If there was one leader, maybe he could influence people. The bottom line is it comes down to the nine guys we’ve been playing have to go out and play it better. They can do that with or without a leader.”

Jennings said he had been a leader last year, before his season-ending Achilles surgery, but with the later acquisition of Reggie Jackson as starting point guard, things changed for him.

Beard: Pistons need leader to step up � and fast

Jennings’ comments were the first signs of locker room disharmony this season, but Van Gundy welcomed Jennings’ and Marcus Morris’ words, possibly as a catharsis for moving forward and airing out some grievances that other players have been holding in.

“I thought Brandon’s comments were good. Both Brandon and Marcus both had really good comments,” Van Gundy said. “The point is that we need the leadership on the floor; we need somebody to go out and do something to set a tone.

“People focus too much on the verbal part of leadership and who’s going to say what and what’s said in the locker room. We actually need somebody to do something better on the floor. That kind of leadership always gains followers, in my experience.”

Instead, Van Gundy notes that the Pistons could use a leader by example, who could spark the team with play on the court. Jackson has had some standout individual performances this season, including a career-best production at Portland, but has struggled a bit of late.

Van Gundy, though, wasn’t willing to point a finger at Jackson or Andre Drummond, when asked specifically whether either of them should be the team leader.

“It’s got to start with everybody who steps on the floor. It’s certainly got to start at the beginning of the game with our starters — that’s got to set a tone,” he said. “Everybody needs to look in the mirror and be accountable for their own actions.”

The Pistons face the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night at Pepsi Center.