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Over time, Frank plans to make full use of 2nd-year center’s passing skills

The Pistons' offense could soon run through big man Greg Monroe.
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Maybe it’s a measure of how far Greg Monroe came as a rookie that there hasn’t been a ton of buzz around him this preseason. Maybe it’s a measure of how, well, measured a personality the Pistons’ second-year center really is that there isn’t proportionate chatter about a guy who averaged a double-double after last year’s All-Star break. Maybe it’s that the media focus has shifted to Detroit’s 2011 lottery pick, Brandon Knight, whose electric moments have piqued the interest of Pistons fans who recall the way Isiah Thomas energized a stagnant franchise 30 years ago.

Probably it’s a combination of all of those factors.

But make no mistake: Greg Monroe remains the guy who Joe Dumars compared to the anchor store of a mall as last season ended.

Lawrence Frank, who observed Monroe from Boston’s bench last season and studied video of him through the summer and fall in preparation for taking over as his coach once the lockout lifted, has talked about using Monroe as the “hub” of the offense – eventually. Two preseason games and two weeks of practices haven’t given him a complete picture of what the possibilities really are for Monroe in his offensive scheme.

“Not really,” Frank said as the days dwindled to Monday’s season opener at Indiana. “That’s the big picture of where we’re going to go. He’s going to touch it a lot, but it’s going to be a progression. We’re just kind of at the ground floor in terms of building it first with a defensive mentality. As we build, we can get a little more creative offensively, but right now it’s just basic concepts on both ends. He makes a lot of good passes, but it’s not like right now the whole offense is going to go through him. But he will evolve into a guy you can definitely play through.”

Frank says there are five spots on the floor where the Pistons could put Monroe and utilize him as a hub: both elbows, both blocks and the top of the circle. One thing that could help make Monroe even more effective in that role is the thing he focused on more than any other over the summer: an improved mid-range jump shot.

“The more range you have, the more we can bring you out on the floor,” Frank said. “It’s not all going to be there in game one. We’ll continue to evolve. But sometimes, the best-laid plans … when you see it on the court, it’s not what’s in the best interests of the team. But going in, that’s something we have to take advantage of, his ability to pas the ball.”

Through two preseason games, Monroe averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds but didn’t pick up an assist. The sample size makes that relatively meaningless, of course, and the Pistons saw evidence last year of Monroe’s passing ability even in an offense that rarely saw him get post touches. That won’t change dramatically overnight – but Lawrence Frank is determined that it’s going to change.