Determined Stanley Johnson not as patient as Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — After showing his game as a rookie, Stanley Johnson is looking to be better. Not better than any particular player — better than himself.

Every day in practice, Johnson works, sometimes making the same mistakes because of his stubbornness, but then shows why he’s gotten as good as he has, and so quickly.

It’s sometimes maddening for coach Stan Van Gundy to watch, but it’s part of the process in getting his young wing to improve. The Pistons picked up the third-year option on Johnson’s contract for next season — a mere formality, given the potential he’s shown.

“I don’t think there was any serious consideration or suggestion from anyone on our coaching staff or front office that we don’t do (extend him),” Van Gundy said Friday. “I still think he’s a guy with a really bright future. He’s struggling a little bit right now, pressing and trying to do too much.”

With his 6-foot-7 frame and muscular build, Johnson, 20, has shown he could be a bigger contributor, but then can make a turnover that frustrates Van Gundy even more. It’s just part of the growing process.

After a summer of honing his game, Johnson struggled in the exhibition season and had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in Wednesday’s finale. But Van Gundy liked what he saw in Johnson, playing more under control and circulating the ball in the offense.

“The game the other night, he played more the way he has to play: defend, rebound, take open shots and move the ball,” Van Gundy said. “Trying to force plays has not worked well for him. He tried to play the way we wanted him to play the other night in the game.

“That was a positive step and made three or four solid, simple basketball plays.”

He’s firmly entrenched as the sixth man, but as he strives for a bigger role, Johnson is driven to that fine line between making mistakes and making eye-popping plays.

“Stanley is in a rush to try to be a star. Right now, at times, trying to be a star has him making bad plays,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think at this point he’ll agree with that, but that’s part of the maturity.

“He’s got to agree with that.” @detnewsRodBeard