John Kuester had spent nearly 20 years in the NBA before Joe Dumars made him Pistons head coach in time for the 2009-10 season, and sometimes it felt like 20 years of bad luck were crammed into his first season in the big chair as an avalanche of injuries buried the Pistons in a 27-win campaign.
“The experience was very important,” he said Wednesday. “It was different, because in my 20 years I hadn’t experienced the number of things that did occur last year in regards to the injuries and whatever. That was an adjustment, but you learn from that. I was able to sit down with Joe and evaluate a number of things that we’ve got to improve upon, things we did do well and things we’ve got to get better at. That’s the important thing.”
Like a litany of his players who’ve echoed the same mantra over the summer, Kuester is eager to get going and put last season further behind him, confident that a healthy roster will position the Pistons for results that will catch casual observers by surprise.
“There’s no question that we’re an outstanding basketball team if things stay right,” he said, “and we’re expecting it to stay right this season. The thing about it is our goals have not changed at all. We can be as good as anybody, in my mind. On any given night, we can put up big numbers on offense. Defensively, we’ve got to show our staples and understand what needs to be done, but I’m real excited about our group.”
Some other Kuesterisms as training camp’s opening is now less than three weeks away:
On Ben Wallace’s return: “I’ve had a history with Ben throughout his career. He’s been very valuable for our team and our organization. To get him back and have him be able to talk to our young players about what it is to be a professional and what it takes, to me he’s got the potential to be a Hall of Fame player.”
On Greg Monroe getting to learn from Wallace: “Ben will be paired up with him a lot. Greg will have an opportunity to find out what it is to play against one of the best defenders in our league.”
On finding minutes for Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon and Austin Daye: “You’re always constantly thinking about things. To have an opportunity to have more than less is always better. Having an abundance of talent more so than not having enough talent is good for us. That’s one of the things I see in this group – we’ve got a lot of talented players.”
On what he’s seen in observing McGrady’s workouts: “I did not see him run the court as opposed to watching him in his quickness drills. What Arnie (Kander) is trying to do is get him to where he is comfortable in all phases of running, sliding, ballhandling, whatever. What little I saw of him doing the quickness drills, he was outstanding.”
On the progress he saw from Daye in Summer League: “I know that Austin was so committed to becoming a better basketball player and it showed in those first couple of Summer League games until he got hurt. He has a bright future. I’m real excited about watching him when preseason comes because here’s a young man who’s only in his second year, but I’m expecting big things from him.”
On whether he knows what five-man unit he’ll send out on the first day of training camp: “We’ll figure that out when it comes closer to camp. There’s a long period of time before that happens, so we’ll just see what happens.”
On whether last year’s frequent use of Rodney Stuckey or Rip Hamilton at small forward throughout preseason and in the rare instances the Pistons were at full strength would continue this year with McGrady’s addition: “There are a lot of options we’re going to have this season, but the big thing is seeing how everything plays out in training camp, to give these guys an opportunity. We’re going to look at a lot of different lineups so we can get a better feel of what our team is going to be about. We have a tremendous amount of flexibility.”