Van Gundy’s focus is on current Pistons, not trades

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t pressing the panic button — at least not yet.

Following his somber, 90-second press conference after the Pistons’ 119-94 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at The Palace, Van Gundy pointed the finger not at his players, but at himself.

After Thursday morning’s practice, he reflected on the Pistons’ ups and downs in the first 34 games and the disappointing 15-19 record overall — 4-9 since Reggie Jackson’s return from knee tendinitis — and how to move forward.

Instead of targeting trades and blowing up the roster to try to get a quick fix, Van Gundy said he is examining what can be done with the current roster and trying to get back on track.

“I’m focused on getting this group to play better and to try to figure this out; my focus is not on changing everything,” Van Gundy said. “I’ve seen this group win; I know this group can win. I know this group can be good; I know this group should be better than it is. I’m approaching it as a coaching issue.

“I’ve got a team that is underachieving where they should be, from a coaching standpoint. That’s how my thought process is right now: How do we get this team playing better, bringing more consistent energy? That’s the only thing I’m thinking about.”

Although Van Gundy said he hasn’t heard much of trade chatter and teams contacting the Pistons about possible deals, he’s not seeing that as the primary option, especially before the midway point of the season.

The Pistons have played one of the toughest schedules in the league so far, but their results have been less than desirable — especially over the recent stretches — with half of their games being decided by 15 points or more.

That leads to talk of a potential shakeup, but exactly where is what’s vexing Van Gundy.

“There’s nothing that’s not on the table. Nothing. We’re just trying to find a way to make it work,” he said. “Everything is an option; everything’s on the table. You look at everything.”

In the last three games, since Tobias Harris has moved to a reserve role and put Jon Leuer into the starting group, Harris has been the Pistons’ best player, but after the two good showings against the Warriors and Cavaliers, the loss to the Bucks is a step back.

'It's on me': Van Gundy takes blame after another bad Pistons loss

Harris said it’s not just on Van Gundy to try to make things right; the players have some accountability in turning things around.

“If we really look at it, as a team, we have to be able to get up for every game, not big games where the crowd is sold out and the fans are into it,” Harris said Wednesday. “That’s where our energy comes; we have to bring our own energy every single night as players in the locker room. We have to expect more from each other.

“Everybody has to look themselves in the mirror and come with a better mindset every game, not just the big games.”

While the options are open, Van Gundy’s first choice is to stick with what he has, just based off the evidence he’s seen with them on the floor, at least since the beginning of last season. They improved the reserve unit, adding Jon Leuer and Ish Smith, but the chemistry seems to be off, especially in the first 21 games with Smith starting for Jackson and the 13 games since.

They fought their way to the playoffs and this season isn’t starting off as planned, but there are 48 games remaining.

“My issue right now is I look at a team where we have a roster of guys where we return seven guys that were in our rotation last year, who won 60 percent of their games when they were together and got in the playoffs,” he said.

“We added two good players to the rotation, who have done their job well — Ish and Jon — and we’re not as good. I know that those guys are good and it’s worked. I saw those guys play well for stretches this season.”

Pistons at Hawks

Tip-off: 8 Friday, Philips Arena, Atlanta

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: The Pistons (15-19) have lost six of seven and are in a tailspin. They won the first meeting against the Hawks, 121-85, on Dec. 2, which was the last game before Reggie Jackson’s return.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard