Morris takes charge but ‘needs to go to church’ after tirade

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — This time, there wasn’t a players-only meeting — just a conversation between Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Heading into a matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Van Gundy was looking to get two of his starters to stoke a little fire and show some leadership. Throughout his three seasons, Van Gundy has been surly, going after his players’ lack of effort or poor performances.

This time, he put it on two of his leaders.

“I said I’ve been pretty negative — which is rare for me,” Van Gundy joked. “I said ‘I’m going to coach with the same intensity but you guys have to hold each other accountable.’ ”

It worked.

When the Pistons got down by 15 points in the first 10 minutes on Thursday against the Cavs, Morris took over, with a fiery, expletive-filled speech during a timeout.

“He said, ‘Bleep, bleep, bleep,’ ” Harris said. “A lot of F-bombs in there. He’s going to need to go to church with me on Sunday.

“He definitely set the tone for the team and it’s no secret that right after that, the group that went out there the lead started changing … You need moments like that that push teammates. We had to push each other and that’s a big leadership thing from him for our team — it’s huge.”

'I got this': Morris rant sparks Pistons past Cavaliers

The Pistons turned that 15-point deficit into a three-point halftime lead and they showed some moxie and chutzpah that they’ve lacked in many close games this season. They had a players-only meeting when some angst bubbled over, shortly after Reggie Jackson returned from a knee injury.

Van Gundy saw the need to let the players lead the charge, instead of going into his usual barrages.

This time, it was effective, as Morris took the lead.

“It hasn’t happened a lot but in fairness to our guys, I don’t really give them a lot of opportunity — they’re (usually) coming to the timeout and I jump in,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s more effective when they hold each other accountable. I don’t give them the opportunity to do that.

“I consciously told those two guys today and Marcus made sure in that huddle. He stopped me and said, ‘I got this.’ He went after them pretty good, to the point that I had to be the one to try to be positive after he was done. I’m not usually good cop, so that was a little interesting.”

Jackson said the fact that Morris was the one doing the yelling made a difference and possibly hearing a different voice made the difference on Thursday. In a long season, it’s something that can get lost, but the message hit home that time.

“We weren’t playing the way we should; we weren’t prideful,” Jackson said. “We weren’t holding ourselves accountable and that is something he was on us about. He definitely used that timeout and coach allowed him and I think we all locked in and listened and took constructive criticism.”

Morris had the defensive assignment on LeBron James and not only talked the talk, but walked the walk as well.

“What it displays is that everyone needs to hold each other accountable. You have to know that when you voice your opinion like that, you also have to have your ducks in a row,” Harris said. “It puts pressure on yourself and Marcus is a guy who embraces that type of pressure.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard