SVG gets his guy: Pistons land elite 3-point shooter Jodie Meeks
Andrew D. Bernstein (NBAE/Getty)
When Stan Van Gundy and his inner circle pored over the list of free agents at their basketball team’s greatest position of need and vetted those names against the qualities they most valued, nobody crossed off every item on the wish list quite like Jodie Meeks. So when free agency opened, there was no question who would get the full-court press to join the Pistons.
“The main thing for us was the high-character, real hard-playing guys – that was number one,” Van Gundy said Monday when the Pistons announced their first free-agent signing. “But from a skill standpoint on the perimeter, shooting was our primary focus. We really wanted to change that. We were spending virtually all day, every day watching film on the free agents and Jodie was the guy that emerged. It stood out just looking at the numbers, but the more we watched on film with the competitiveness, with the energy and everything else. We talked to everybody he’s played for in the NBA, did a lot of background.
“As a lifelong coach, I really care about what other coaches say and everything they said about him … he vaulted to the top of our list.”
Free agency was a mere few hours old when Meeks, impressed by the vision being sold and the commitment offered to him, agreed to become the first building block in Van Gundy’s Pistons makeover.
Van Gundy conveyed to Meeks that he was the Pistons’ “number one priority. He liked the way I competed on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. My motto is to compete every day, don’t worry about the bad shooting nights or not playing as well as possible – just come in and play well and let the chips fall as they may.
“They were very aggressive from day one and that’s what I was looking for – come in and compete for a starting job. I know they need shooting and that’s what I bring to the table – and hard work. I’m looking forward to it.”
Meeks, a five-year veteran out of Kentucky, shot 40 percent from the 3-point arc last season with the Lakers when he exceeded his previous career high in minutes by more than 500. Meeks has been at least a part-time starter the past four seasons and he averaged a career-best 15.7 points a game last season, attempting five 3-pointers a game.
Given the Summer League star turn taken by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons have an intriguing 1-2 punch taking shape at shooting guard. Meeks’ shooting and Caldwell-Pope’s defense and athleticism give the Pistons both versatility and depth at the position.
“I like competition,” Meeks said. “That kind of stuff just makes me play well, but we’re on the same team. It’s not like we’re enemies. Regardless of the situation, I’m going to root for him and I hope he roots for me. This is a family environment and coach explained that it’s going to be a loving and caring environment. It’s going to get honest, but at the same time he wants us to succeed and play well.”
The Pistons will be adding a few other perimeter shooters in free agency and Van Gundy is already convinced the team’s 29th-place standing in 3-point shooting last season will be significantly improved.
“The more the better, but it starts with one,” he said. “I think that we’re going to be a much, much different team in terms of our ability to spread the floor next year. (Meeks) plays at a great pace all the time and I think at that position, with he and KCP, we’ll always have a guy on the floor at that position that plays at an extremely high energy level that is very athletic. So many teams like to downsize now, I think you’ll see us play pretty significant minutes with them playing together on the wing and really have great, great quickness on the floor. I think it opens up a lot of possibilities for us.”