Beard: Pistons hold team meeting to get on 'same page'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young, right, steals the ball from Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin during the second half on Friday.

Indianapolis — From the wait of almost 20 minutes following the Pistons’ 37-point blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, there was something palpable in the air. No one emerged from the Pistons’ locker room and the tension in Pistons coach Dwane Casey’s eyes almost told the story before he uttered an answer to the first question.

Two words: Team meeting.

“I want to first apologize to the fans of the Detroit Pistons. That’s one of the worst exhibitions we’ve put out on the floor,” Casey uttered. “We’ve got to have more pride than we played with tonight, more togetherness and all-out play. Indiana outworked us in every facet of the game.”

If there’s a way for that to be an understatement, it was.

The Pistons looked like they hadn’t practiced or played together at all, bumbling their way to 22 turnovers. What’s more disturbing is that it wasn’t too far of a departure from the way they’ve looked in the past four games, where they’ve eked out just one win, after almost blowing a 22-point lead against the Wizards.

Ex-coach Stan Van Gundy once scoffed at the thought of a team meeting — barking, “Team meeting, my ass,” when asked about the gathering and the subsequent result.

Casey and the Pistons veterans were more positive about their meeting Friday, with most parties pointing to the takeaways and how they can move forward.

“I thought it was all positive in the sense we’re all on the same page. We are taking the onus and everybody on the team knows it’s on us,” Blake Griffin said. “The coaches give us great defensive game plans and we walk through and we’re prepared for every single game, and then we just come out and either don’t play hard one game and then the next game play hard and then won’t play hard for a couple games and then play hard for a couple.

“It’s about consistency. It’s positive because it’s not like a bunch of finger-pointing. I’ve been through some bad team meetings — and this was a good one.”

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Griffin, along with veterans Zaza Pachulia and Jose Calderon, are the main new faces in the locker room who are tasked with helping Casey bring a new demeanor and winning habits to a franchise that has one playoff appearance — and no postseason wins — this decade.

The fan base has become numb to the perceived malaise and the players and coaches recognize it but completely rooting it out is like trying to rid a garden of weeds: even when they’re seemingly all gone, they inevitably come back from time to time.

The Pistons are just 16-17 but the blowout feels like one of the low points of the season, with the somber locker room giving just a hint of what transpired a few minutes before. Casey emphasized that it’s not just about yelling to try to drive a point home; it’s about doing something to change the sluggish behavior as well.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a low point, but it’s a bad point. You can’t get any lower than getting your butt kicked by 37 points,” Casey said. “We’re still right there and I don’t be just right there. I want to be upstanding, up in the top of the conference — that’s what I came here for and that’s what these players are here for. I’ve been there and I know what it takes and we’re not exemplifying what it takes to get there.

“We raised our voice but that’s not it. You can raise your voice all you want — but it’s not about talking; it’s about going out there and doing it. We can all raise our voices and I’ve raised my voice plenty of times.”

Whether the meeting actually makes a difference is still to be seen, as the Pistons continue on their four-game road trip, with a game Sunday at Orlando and then a back-to-back Tuesday at Milwaukee and Wednesday at Memphis.

There’s still time to turn things around, but the tenor of the meeting seemed to be airing grievances and getting on the same page to improve.

“The beauty of this league is you have two days to redeem yourself and get rid of this feeling. Zaza said it best: After a game like this, you should be pissed off; you can’t just say move on,” Griffin said. “You’re pissed off for a night but when you come in and watch film and practice, you go out and work on the things you’re supposed to work on and then it’s out of your mind. You need to keep in mind the changes you need to make.”

The Pistons will have to change or find themselves mired in another season without a playoff spot. And that will likely bring more change.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard