‘We’ll Be Ready to Play'

Labor impasse near settlement, Frank’s eager to open camp

Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank have their work cut out for them to prepare for the 2011-12 season.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
If I talked to a dozen people from Lawrence Frank’s past since his August hiring – and it’s been at least that many – close to every one of them said this or something that could substitute: “He’ll leave no stone unturned. Preparation will not be an issue for the Pistons under Lawrence Frank.”

So despite an interim between the start of training camp and the start of the regular season so short as to risk whiplash – and all of it compounded by squeezing free agency and a summer’s worth of dealings into a matter of days – fear not: The Pistons will be ready for their expected Dec. 26 opener.

“We’ll be ready to play,” Frank told me this week, gearing up for the Dec. 9 opening of camp with office hours that begin and conclude deep into darkness. “We’ll be far from a finished product, but our goal is to get better every day. You use this time we’ve had for a bunch of different plans and yet, at the same time, you’ve got to be very flexible.”

One of the areas that will demand flexibility of Frank is the level of physical conditioning he senses from the team when it’s assembled. As you would expect of Frank, whose thirst for information is a universal source of wonder among peers, he’s studied the effects of the NFL lockout on players when their own compressed training camps opened.

“You don’t know the condition that guys are going to come in,” he said. “You don’t know the type of injuries that are going to happen because of it. If you remember this past year in football, there were four times the amount of injuries – and specifically, Achilles injuries – so there is going to be a lot of injury prevention that’s going to take place. So opening night, we’ll be ready to play a game, but it’s going to be the first step of many steps to come.”

Because it’s a new coach with potentially many new roster parts – some old faces perhaps missing, some new ones maybe coming – the process of putting together an offensive playbook has been complicated by some uncertainty.

“The bottom line is we have many different options,” he said. “What you look at is simplicity and clarity is going to be key when you have such a short time to get ready. So we’re ready for virtually every different scenario and whoever ends up being on our roster, we’ll be able to adjust.

“As a staff, we’re prepared for every different situation because we don’t have the margin for error to waste time in that we’re not a team that’s coming back that’s been together for a while. We’re not a team that’s had the same system in place for a number of years where you can afford to have a bad practice, where you can afford, as a coach, to work on a defensive scheme or an offensive set for three days and then realize – scrap, it’s gone. We just don’t have that margin for error. New coach, new team, new system, condensed camp and we’re not going to skip steps, so we just have to make sure, as coaches, we’re prepared and we’re on point.”

Frank told me he wasn’t going to reveal too much about what he would tell his players – he doesn’t want players he’s never met hearing, and potentially misinterpreting, his message from anyone but him – but he did offer some insight into his mind-set.

“Everyone that’s a part of this organization, if you were here prior to when I was hired, you had to endure a tough three years, and a very, very tough last year. We all have a lot to prove.”