It wasn’t often a thing of beauty, but the 30 minutes of scrimmage that Lawrence Frank opened to reporters Tuesday would have sent a wave of electricity through Pistons fans for the defensive intensity and the constant communication exhibited from a team that too often came up lacking in those categories the last few seasons.
Frank, as several players have noted over the first five days of camp, interrupted the scrimmage a handful of times over those 30 minutes to point out mistakes, most notably for the way the White team defended the pick and roll. Twice he awarded the other team three points even when an open 3-pointer didn’t fall – once before it could even be attempted – as a way of pointing out the defensive breakdown.
“Any time you’re going against yourself, there is going to be a plus on one side and a minus on the other,” Frank said. “This has been a planned buildup. In the half court, we practice for 2½ hours before we scrimmage, so in the half court it’s got to be very precise and we’ve got to do it perfectly. But now there’s slippage once you go full court. We’ve just got to keep on building to have the same execution when we go full court that we do in half court.”
Some quick impressions from Tuesday’s scrimmage:
Brandon Knight might be more ready to press for playing time that even the Pistons anticipated. His teammates have noted that he has natural scoring ability, but Knight’s ability to see the floor and make passes with either hand has been a pleasant surprise. And he’s in phenomenal condition.
Greg Monroe ran the floor hard both ways, coming back to block a layup attempt and finishing on a fast break. He also was clearly the best rebounder on the floor. Monroe also looks to be in great shape coming into the season.
Jonas Jerebko’s shot looked a little rusty – then again, they were well into a three-hour practice by the time the scrimmage took place – but he was moving freely and throwing himself around just as he did in a rookie season that endeared him to Pistons fans. Jerebko was the first player to hit the floor, diving headlong after a loose ball.
Jerebko wasn’t the only one having trouble getting perimeter shots to fall. But Charlie Villanueva was draining almost everything. If Charlie V benefits from the defense-first insistence Frank is imparting to the team, his shot-making ability will make him an important weapon whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Their chances at cracking the roster will depend on what Joe Dumars does elsewhere, most likely, but both Brian Hamilton and Damien Wilkins showed well during the scrimmage. Frank said earlier in the week that the key for both would be to show he could be a lock-down perimeter defender and both appeared to take the message to heart. Hamilton, 29, is a D-League veteran who played at Louisiana-Lafayette. Wilkins, 31, has vast NBA experience, including last season with Atlanta. Hamilton made a terrific anticipation steal, then pulled away from the pursuit and threw down an emphatic dunk.