Captive Audience

Lawrence Frank finds Pistons eager listeners, willing learners

Lawrence Frank has found a group of eager listeners in the Pistons.
Christian Petersen (NBAE/Getty Images)
On the other side of the wall that separates the basketball court at the Pistons’ practice facility from reporters waiting to interview players after practice, the cacophony of defensive communication, whistles blowing and sneakers smacking the hardwood could be heard loudly and clearly.

It seems like Lawrence Frank’s message is being received exactly that way by his players, too.

“He’s in charge,” Will Bynum said, bathed in perspiration after a three-hour practice, the first of Sunday’s two practices on the first day NBA teams could go twice. “He’s definitely a leader. And he holds everybody accountable. That’s a big difference – he holds everybody accountable. Everybody is treated the same.”

“He’s doing a lot of teaching (on the) defensive end,” Charlie Villanueva said. “He’s teaching us how he wants us to play defense, talk, communicate, and if one guy messes up, we keep doing it again until we get it right.”

“As much as you get the itch to do, you can’t skip steps,” Frank said, his voice raspy. “There’s a lot of teaching, a lot of stopping and starting in terms of trying to get it right. It’s hard to go backwards. You always want to make progress going forward, but before you can go forward you’ve got to get it right and get in the habit of doing it right.”

Across the board, players have said the things that strike them about Frank are his communication skills, teaching ability and attention to detail.

“He tells you straightforward what he wants until you get it right,” Villanueva said. “That’s what he’s been doing in practice.”

“He’s always teaching,” Bynum said. “Never any letups. Whoever lets up, he’s letting them know. He’s on it that second, then on top of that he’s going to show you the mistake you made and correct you on how to fix it. It’s a huge, huge difference and I think it’s going to be really big to guys like Ben Gordon and myself and especially guards. The bigs are on point. He’s telling them to sprint to the screen, small stuff, in detail so everybody knows how critical each individual thing is that we have to do. If everybody does their job, we’ll be in the majority of games and have a chance to win.”

When a player hits the floor in practice, teammates rush to help him up. Frank has emphasized the importance of trust, unity and team spirit. Three days isn’t much of a test, but so far, so good.

“One of the other things he touched on was brotherhood, guys cheering for each other, guys running and picking a teammate up off the floor when he falls down,” Villanueva said. “That’s something we lacked last year and we’re excited for a fresh start. The first couple of practices, that’s what he has instilled in us.”

Consider Bynum’s answer when I asked him if thinning out the backcourt by one with the absence this year of Rip Hamilton would better define backcourt roles.

“However the pieces fall is how they fall,” he said. “We can just be supportive of our teammates, encourage guys and keep getting better and always put the team first,” he said. “The season ahead is a tough season where we’re going to need all 15 guys on the roster. So every single player is critical.”

In a compressed preseason, so is every practice and every teaching moment within every practice. It appears the Pistons have a willing teacher and a group of enthusiastic learners so far.