Auburn Hills — Last season, power forward was a critical position for the Pistons.
The Pistons improved the depth at the position in the offseason, getting Jon Leuer in free agency and Henry Ellenson in the draft to complement Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris. And the hope is the new combination will address some of the top stretch forwards in the league, namely Anthony Davis, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol.
During training camp, the Pistons have worked with all their options.
“At every position, we’ve had five guys work at that position,” said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who also used Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver in the power forward rotation last year. “You never know what’s going to come up — injuries, different matchups — it makes it harder in the short run, but in the long run, it’ll be pretty good.”
The early focus is on defense, and Harris is leading the way in some drills. One of those is a one-on-one competition between power forwards, with a different focus.
“When we break up with guys at their positions and play one-on-one games — and they’re defensive games, so you only score on defense — he’s won more than anybody,” Van Gundy said. “That’s in a group against Marcus and Stanley (Johnson) and Henry and Jon. Almost every day, he’s getting wins and he’s taking pride in it.”
The Pistons ranked 13th in team defense last season — Davis’s 59-point performance highlighted some of the difficulties the Pistons had in those matchups, as did Love’s production in the playoff series against the Cavaliers.
“We were 13th — that’s not good enough,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think there’s much doubt, to advance in the playoffs, that’s pretty much (the focus). You can’t be bad at the other end, either; 13th defensively is not going to take us anywhere near where we want to go.”
Health concerns light
Morris hasn’t missed much time because of injuries during his six years — the last three seasons, he played in 243 of 246 games with the Suns and Pistons.
Last season, Morris missed two games.
So, Van Gundy wasn’t overly concerned after Morris sustained a finger injury during Wednesday’s practice.
“The X-rays were clear,” Van Gundy said of Morris, who was limited Thursday. “He was just having some pain; it’s just tough to catch the ball and almost impossible for him to shoot the ball.”
Van Gundy said Morris seemed to dislocate his right ring finger, which isn’t broken.
The Pistons have been fortunate on the injury front. There's Morris’ issue and Reggie Jackson is dealing with some knee tendinitis that he said is something he’s been managing his entire career.
Gbinije learning fast
With a focus on defense Thursday, Van Gundy also was surprised by how quickly rookie Michael Gbinije was picking up on some of the concepts.
“To be a guy who’s a rookie and the last couple years of his college career in a zone, and to be able to pick up rotations like he did, he was very, very good,” Van Gundy said. “That was the biggest surprise.
“You still have to close out on people, be very active with your hands and anticipate plays. The rotations are something that’s a little different and he’s been able to pick that up quickly.”
Gbinije typically played a 2-3 zone at Syracuse.