Van Gundy lets Pistons figure it out for themselves

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — For a chance, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy tried the hands-off approach. In the midst of a six-game losing streak, he didn’t rant and rave or yell at his players to try to get them to get out of the slump.

Instead, he decided to let them watch game film on their own and try to see if they could find the issues themselves. It’s a rarity, in that Van Gundy tends to be very hands-on in his handling of game preparation and improvement.

“It is good when they can sit in there and do it. I don’t do it often; I’ve maybe done it two or three times in my whole career,” Van Gundy said. “I thought for that day and where we were and guys being a little down, seeing themselves playing well and being able to interact with each other would be helpful, then we’d go back to work on the court.”

Van Gundy said the issue wasn’t the effort or energy; rather, it was the intensity in the action on both ends, including running to screens, cutting and being crisp in half-court offense. During the losing streak, it’s been one of the noticeable differences in their play, from when they were beating the likes of the Celtics and Thunder to falling into their longest skid in two years.

It was an exercise in just getting away from the normal routine and trying something different. The Pistons’ psyche has seemed to take a bit of a battering during the skid — which featured some of the top teams in the league — but getting a fresh outlook could provide the boost they need.

“A lot of good play in the San Antonio game, against a very good team. Just to show that we’re not playing that badly, we need to be more consistent, we need to avoid those huge runs we’ve given up in games and we have to finish games more like we were early in the year than (of) late.”

He pointed to the perception the Pistons are sinking, but at 14-12, they are right in line with many of the projection models for the 26-game mark. Van Gundy counters that starting 14-6 and then losing six straight clouds that outlook, which has some players and fans down on what they’ve achieved so far.

New role for Ellenson?

Second-year forward Henry Ellenson has been waiting for his turn to contribute, since getting a vote of confidence from Van Gundy, then being surpassed by Anthony Tolliver as the primary backup power forward.

There might be another path for Ellenson to get minutes, though. Van Gundy said that Ellenson has started to get some reps at backup center. It likely would only come in certain specialized matchups, but there are opportunities to flex the big men.

“We have talked and worked with him some at playing him at (center),” Van Gundy said. “There’s not a lot of minutes there and that would be in some different situations. It’s not an easy situation with him because we are happy with him.”

The problem for Ellenson is the logjam ahead of him at power forward, with Tobias Harris and Anthony Tolliver playing well.

Ellenson, at 6-foot-11, is regarded for his outside shooting, but much like Jon Leuer, who already has played some minutes at reserve center this season, the offense could dictate that the Pistons utilize that potential perimeter mismatch in order to find time for the young big man.

“We’d like to get (Ellenson) in there. We’ve been really happy with Tobias and (Tolliver),” Van Gundy said. “Those guys have both been not only good, but very consistent. It makes it tough.

“You’d have to take minutes from one of those guys to get (Ellenson) in there.” @detnewsRodBeard