Pistons impress Van Gundy with work ethic

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — It’s still only the first week of training camp, but Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is happy with how things are going.

So far.

Through the first six practices, the Pistons have worked on installing offensive plays and some of their defensive principles, with mixed results. But Van Gundy has been impressed with the effort and mentality the players have shown, somewhat a result of the work they put in during the summer to improve their games.

“Some guys have improved some skills and it will help us. We’re a more focused group defensively, with those key guys who have come back,” Van Gundy said. “There are still some things I don’t like: I don’t think we’re doing a good job closing to shooters, contesting shots.

“Today we fouled too much. There is a mind-set of making an effort to defend. That’ll help us a great deal and indicates that we should keep improving.”

Van Gundy cited individual improvement as the biggest key to the offseason and the early returns are showing some gains there.

“Big picture, I like the way our approach is. Guys are working extremely hard trying to execute and do the right things,” Van Gundy said Friday. “I’ve been really happy with our approach. This is a good team to coach right now; everyone is working hard.

“Because of that, everybody’s getting challenged all the time and guys are playing against good players. It’s been good; I like this group.”

Building the bench depth, through free-agent signings and the draft, the Pistons have been solid through the voluntary workouts the last couple weeks and through the scrimmages in the first week of training camp.

While Van Gundy is leaning more on the players’ versatility, it also means taking more time to install the offense, as each player practices at each of his positions and gets enough reps across the board.

It’s a lot for some of them to take in — especially the rookies, Van Gundy pointed out — but with the first exhibition game on Thursday against the Nets, it’s a quick transition from the practice court to the game court.

Though the starting lineup seems to be intact from last season, there will be some back-and-forth for some of the reserve minutes, much of which will be worked out on the practice court during scrimmages.

“There really are no easy matchups. Andre (Drummond)’s playing against two really good players all the time. Tobias (Harris), Jon Leuer, Henry (Ellenson), Marcus (Morris),” Van Gundy said. “They’ve got good matchups. It’s tough. That’s good and it makes it more competitive because everyone is pushing everyone.”

The team has been alternating two-a-days and single practices so far in camp, with just one afternoon session on Friday. But with a 48-minute scrimmage, it was a tough turnaround from the two workouts on Thursday — and a challenge to try to bounce back physically and mentally.

Thin at shooting guard

With Jodie Meeks going to the Magic in the trade for a second-round pick in the summer, the Pistons are lacking experience at backup shooting guard.

Stanley Johnson and Darrun Hilliard are in their second year and Reggie Bullock is in his fourth. That’s also an indication of the revamped roster, which doesn’t have a player over the age of 30.

Van Gundy isn’t worried about having a grizzled veteran at that position, though.

“Those guys are good, solid players. Bullock and Darrun, when they got their chances in the second half of the year, both played really well,” he said. “Stanley had some really good games. We’ll be OK there, so I’m not really concerned. Those guys are good players and smart players.”

Injury update

Marcus Morris (dislocated finger) was limited for a second day in training camp, but Van Gundy said if it were a regular-season game, he likely would have played.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard