In High Gear
Vinnie Johnson led the bench brigade for the Bad Boys and usually had one of the starting guards, Isiah or Joe D, out there with him, and while those two are both Hall of Famers, Vinnie was the catalyst of that group.
Depending on who happened to be starting at the time – and for much of the time it was Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and Adrian Dantley followed by Mark Aguirre – think about the group coming off the bench. Along with Vinnie, you had Dennis Rodman, John Salley and James Edwards.
I think this bench is reminiscent of that group. There are a couple of reasons why this happens. No. 1, you have to have talent, but No. 2, you also have to be able to play together and this group certainly does that. You also have to remember, a lot of times they’re not playing against starters and you can take advantage of that fact when most of your bench could be starters.
Lawrence Frank has said often that on this team, there’s not that much difference between some of the guys who start and those who come off the bench – or even beyond that, to some of the guys not currently in the rotation. It’s often about how players fit together and seeing what works.
I really believe you have to give Will Bynum all the credit in the world for the way this group plays. I’ve always been an admirer, always loved his game. When he gets minutes, Will usually makes good things happen. Just as Vinnie was the catalyst for the Bad Boys, Will Bynum is the catalyst for this group.
As Greg Kelser said on our telecast during the win over Sacramento, they play at this pace. They play his game. He sets them all up. He was the first to give Andre Drummond lob dunks and now those guys are so connected, I think when Andre’s not in the game or Will’s not in the game they need a tranquilizer, they play so well together. When you look at what Charlie V and Austin Daye have been able to do from long range, and Rodney Stuckey before he sprained his ankle – we all know how explosive he can be – I love this group.
This bench is more explosive and more dangerous when Rodney is on the court. Don’t take anything away from Rodney, but since he’s been hurt it’s almost like the bench hasn’t missed a beat and I think that goes back to Will Bynum. He’s the guy with the basketball in his hands for the most part with this group.
Look at his productivity in the Sacramento game – 15 points and four assists in 21 minutes, but even that doesn’t really tell the story. His idea, I believe, is No. 1 he wants to set up his teammates but he wants to set them up for sure things. What he really wants is to get a guy a lob dunk and if you’re got Andre Drummond on the floor, there’s a good chance that can happen.
Second of all, he knows he’s quicker than whoever’s trying to guard him and he can get by him and get his own shot. If you empower a player like that, just as Lawrence Frank has, it makes the opponent crazy. There’s really not much they can do with a guy like that but hope he misses. Will’s going to miss some shots and take some that maybe he’d like to have back, but not very often.
When you talk about the way this bench plays, it’s kind of like what came first – the chicken or the egg? If you penetrate and draw the defense in, then it gives the guys who spot up on the wings and behind the 3-point line wide-open shots and these guys are great 3-point shooters. Everybody’s a little better when nobody’s in their face. When Charlie V and Austin are making shots, players tend to try to go out and play them a little harder, which opens up the lanes for guys like Will and Rodney to get to the basket and finish or find Andre for a lob dunk. This is almost the perfect storm.
If you talk to most coaches in the Eastern Conference, they would tell you to watch out for Detroit. The Pistons were never as bad as their record. Their point differential is amazingly good for a team 10 games below .500 and they’re coming on strong. They just needed something to get them going and the bench has been that something.
I think our fans are going to enjoy this. What we thought before the season was that, one way or another, this team would at least be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Would we have predicted what happened? Of course not. But based upon the almost ridiculous early schedule and now the schedule softening up a little bit and the way the bench is exploding, the turnaround is now not just under way, they’re in high gear. They’re coming full force.