Van Gundy’s next defensive move: Simplify

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — In trying to find what’s ailing the Pistons’ defense, coach Stan Van Gundy is going into study mode to try to find some solutions.

He’s trying to find the difference between what the Pistons did early in the season when they were one of the top-10 defensive teams, to now, 53 games into the season and struggling to get a more consistent defensive effort.

The Pistons (27-26) have allowed at least 100 points in each of the last seven games. The Jekyll-and-Hyde defense continued in Monday night’s 103-89 loss to the Toronto Raptors, with a 19-point first quarter, followed by 30 points in the second period.

“I gave our analytics department more hours of work than they wanted after the game tomorrow night to analyze where we were after the first 10 games and where the differences are, both individually and as a team. I’m still a visual guy with the film. I want to see,” Van Gundy said.

“The numbers tell me what’s changed and what’s wrong but I need to look at the film to know why.”

Van Gundy is looking to review the individual and team assignments on defense and see if there are schemes that might fit the team better.

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As he’s adjusted to individual strengths and weaknesses, Van Gundy might have sacrificed some of the team’s strengths. While the assistant coaches helped identify some of the issues and worked with players on Tuesday, Van Gundy knows there is no quick fix.

“We’ve got to look at what we’ve done scheme-wise. One of the things that came up from coaches was, as we’ve hit some tough times defensively, I probably went too much to changing schemes and things in our system to eliminate whatever hurt us,” he said.

“We’ve maybe over-adjusted to the point that our players are having to think a little bit too much.”

The Pistons allowed the Raptors to shoot 56 percent from the field, a high this season for any opponent. But after a good first quarter, things seemed to go downhill.

“We can’t say we played well defensively after the first quarter, though I thought we played pretty well in the third quarter, too,” Van Gundy said. “That’s where we’ve been lately, our defense overall has not been nearly good enough.

“We’ve played, in most of the games, two good defensive quarters and two quarters where we literally couldn’t stop anybody. That’s where we were last night.”

Caldwell-Pope update

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has missed the last three games as he recovers from a core muscle strain, is working his way back. He won’t play tonight, but is on course to return after the All-Star break, against the Wizards on Feb. 19.

“He looks a whole lot different, he’s moving around fine and was riding the bike,” Van Gundy said. “He did some weight room work and he’s still got another nine days before we’re back to practice. We’re feeling pretty good about him.”

Dinwiddie returns

Reserve point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who had been playing with the Grand Rapids Drive in the D-League, is back with the Pistons after suffering an ankle injury. Besides some swelling, Dinwiddie should be fine and the plan is to have him practice with the Pistons and figure out the path forward.

“I talked to (Dinwiddie) quite a while yesterday before the game to talk about the whole D-League experience, now that he’s been there a longer period of time,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll weigh what’s best for him and what’s best for us. Initially, we’ll bring him back; I’d like to see him (play) now.”

Chauncey’s take

ESPN analyst and former Piston Chauncey Billups, who is set to have his No. 1 jersey retired tonight, likes the direction the young Pistons are going with their young roster.

“You have a good point guard with Reggie (Jackson) and I’m a huge fan of KCP — I think he’s undervalued. I don’t think they appreciate him enough around the league and he’ll continue to get better,” Billups said Tuesday.

“You’ve got (Andre Drummond) in there and you have a phenomenal coach. They’re on the right path — it’s just time now. You’ve got to see who’s going to get better and how fast will it happen.”