Attack Mode

Frank’s pick-and-roll past spells possibilities for Pistons

Ben Gordon's return is a good sign for the Pistons.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Nov. 7, 2008 will be remembered in Pistons lore as the debut of Allen Iverson. It came in that season’s fifth game, at New Jersey, and resulted in their first loss of the season. But the significance of the night has now shifted for the Pistons. On the other sideline, Lawrence Frank was Nets coach. And in that game, Frank’s point guard, Devin Harris, scored 38 points. He shot 9 of 15 from the field, but 20 of 24 at the foul line, getting into the paint at will by slicing through the Pistons’ defense on one pick-and-roll play after another.

Iverson has moved on, as has Harris, and Frank, of course, is now coaching the Pistons.

And the pick-and-roll, which was never a staple of John Kuester’s offense, will be used to full effect this season, whether by Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon or Brandon Knight, all of them confident that Frank’s system plays to their strengths.

When I asked Stuckey over the weekend if he agreed with the feedback he’d gotten from Bynum and Gordon that Frank’s system would especially benefit perimeter players, he said, “Absolutely. The system that we’re doing now, it’s a lot of pick and rolls, a lot of chances to take your man off the dribble, which is good for us. I think we’ll be excited once the season comes around.”

“It’s very important,” Frank said of the place the pick and roll holds in his playbook. “Not just one single – multiple. It’s a way to get the defense to break down, it’s a way to exploit rotations. It’s the hardest thing to guard in our league if run properly and (holds) the ability to counter any defense, whether a team is showing or blitzing or pushing you baseline. You have to have a response – the precise passing, how to throw a pocket pass, the reads you need to make.”

“There’s great spacing in the system,” Gordon said. “A lot of pick-and-roll plays. He has a lot of counters. We try to prepare for really good defenses. Most times, you’re not going to get that first shot or even that second shot. Some of the things we’ve seen early in training camp is his attention to detail, execution and his counters on the offensive end. If we’re able to stick to the game plan and execute, we’ll have a shot.”

Knight, in his preseason debut and throughout camp, has exhibited the quickness, vision and decisiveness to exploit slight gaps in a pick-and-roll defense, as Bynum has in the past. Gordon used pick-and-roll plays, he said, to great effect under Scott Skiles with Chicago. Stuckey’s strength and speed, Frank believes, should make him a significant weapon to get into the lane.

“He’s just an attacker,” Frank said, turning aside the question of whether Stuckey would spend more time at point guard or shooting guard. “I would say if you watch Miami play, who’s the point guard? Well, you may say (Mario) Chalmers by introductions, but (Dwyane) Wade and (LeBron) James handle the ball more. … He’s an attacker. We want him to live in the paint, want him to get to the free-throw line. Defensively, we think he can be an elite defender. We want him to show all those gifts.”

Stucker and the rest of the backcourt believe Frank’s system is the one that will allow them to do so.