Flying Colors

Charlie V tests himself and passes in leading Dominican team

Charlie Villanueva has put in the work under Arnie Kander%u2019s supervision this summer.
Jesse D. Garrabrant /NBAE/Getty Images
It wasn’t NBA competition, but Charlie Villanueva’s first test of his summer makeover – the 2010 Centrobasket competition hosted by his Dominican Republic team – gives the Pistons another encouraging sign for the season ahead.

Villanueva, 13 pounds lighter and applying the lessons learned from weeks of work under Pistons strength coach Arnie Kander, led the Dominican to a 4-0 record in pool play and a semifinal win before losing to Puerto Rico in the gold medal game. Charlie V was second in scoring (20.6 points per game) for the tournament and an all-tournament selection, and when the Dominican really needed him to score, he turned it on in the title game and put up 36 points and 11 boards as the undermanned Dominicans lost 89-80 to Puerto Rico.

“I was the only NBA guy going against Carlos Arroyo, J.J. Barea, Renaldo Balkman and Peter Ramos, who played in the NBA back in the day,” Villanueva said Monday after another workout with Kander on a day a handful of teammates – including Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon and Greg Monroe – buzzed about the practice facility.

Kander is working with Villanueva this summer to improve his running stride and give him a more explosive first step.

“I didn’t even think that was something you could work on,” Villanueva said. “He wants me to be a more efficient runner. Arnie is a different guy. I think I made the best decision, staying here (over the off-season) and working with Arnie. There’s no doubt in my mind you’re going to see noticeable improvement when the season starts.

“Helping my running will definitely help in quickness and speed. I think it’s been helping already, this stuff I’ve been doing here. When I was down in the Dominican Republic, you could see the difference. I could feel the difference. You just feel that you run differently.”

In addition to greater focus on improving core strength, Villanueva said he’s eating better.

“I just feel a lot learner, for a lot more healthy and have more energy,” he said. “During the season, it’s hard because you’re in so many hotels in different cities, you get in at all crazy hours and you’re hungry. So you’re going to eat whatever they have.”

Charlie V knows well that Joe Dumars said a few months ago he intended to be active in the trade market, but he says he wouldn’t be disappointed if the Pistons lined up with the players who finished last season.

“To be honest, I would love to have the same team back – reason why is because we have something to prove,” he said. “Injuries set us back and the chemistry was just never there. The fact we had a new coach and a new system, it was tough on us. But I think we all experienced losing and we all experienced obstacles that we went through last year and now, let’s do it again. Now we’re going to improve. It challenges every individual on that team to not let what happened last year happen this year.”

Villanueva was curious why Prince, who usually spends the first part of his summer resting and recuperating and then camps in Las Vegas to work under trainer Joe Abunassar, also working with Austin Daye this summer, was already in Auburn Hills.

“A guy like him, a veteran, been around the league a long time, I asked him, ‘What brings you out here so early?,” Villanueva said. “He said, ‘I want to make sure my back is healthy, get ready for the season.’ So if you’ve got veteran guys who’ve been in the league numerous years talking like that, I would like to see the whole team come back because I know everybody’s attitude has changed as far as they want to do it again to prove that last year was a fluke.”

There’s another reason Villanueva wouldn’t mind if no big trades come. He said he caught one of the Pistons’ Summer League games on TV and came away convinced that Greg Monroe will offer an immediate boost.

“From what I’ve heard and what I saw in the one game I was able to see, he played a tremendous game,” he said. “Very skilled, very smart, a great passer for his size. I think he could be a guy who can help us out tremendously. And he’s a Georgetown kid – they have a very high basketball IQ and know how to play. The Big East connection. I think he’s going to be a guy who is going to help us right away. He can create a lot of mismatches because he can put the ball on the floor and he can shoot, too.”

  • Charlie V on the Miami Heat of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh: “Three tremendous players, but one basketball. It’s something that’s going to work very well or it’s going to backfire. Who is going to step back? Because those three guys, especially LeBron and Bosh coming from teams where they were the guy, now somebody is going to have to make a sacrifice. Are they going to do it? That’s yet to be seen. That fourth quarter, especially – LeBron, the fourth quarter, the ball was always in his hands. Dwayne Wade plays just like that, too. We’ll see how it gels. Chemistry is very important. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance.”

  • I talked to Greg Monroe, who is wearing a walking boot after undergoing minor foot surgery last week. Monroe saw the doctor Monday morning and was told the site – it’s the right pinkie, and he compared it to a hangnail, only worse – is healing as expected. Monroe is returning to Louisiana this week, then heading to Washington, D.C., to pack up his belongings. He’s found a place to live in the area and will be return in two weeks, when he next sees the doctor and expects to be given full clearance at that time.

    He told me in Las Vegas that he didn’t believe the injury, which first cropped up in his senior year of high school, had limited his play, but he admitted on Monday that, “I was real conscious of it, planting and stuff like that. It would give me a little trouble. It definitely will make a difference now that it’s gone.”

    We’ll have more from Monroe, including details on his injury and his thoughts on Summer League, on Wednesday as part of our Summer School series.