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Monroe-Jerebko budding chemistry boosts Pistons’ frontcourt future

A Monroe-Jerebko tandem has the makings of a powerhouse.
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It’s not as if Joe Dumars and his front office staff are going to be any less zealous scouting college big men in a draft class expected to be rich in them, or cut back in the least in targeting potential frontcourt help among NBA rosters, but the chemistry the Pistons are seeing develop between Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko provides a different level of comfort with their current situation than they might have felt a few weeks ago.

Monroe solidified his status as not only the team’s best big man but a building block for the next generation with his emphatic closing rush to his rookie season, when he averaged a double-double from the All-Star break on. Jerebko opened eyes as a rookie when a rash of early-season injuries created unexpected playing time for the 2009 second-rounder and he embraced the opportunity without a whiff of trepidation.

So far this season, Monroe is averaging 14 points and 8.6 rebounds despite being limited by foul trouble in three of five games while shooting better than 60 percent. Jerebko is averaging 12.6 points and nearly eight rebounds and also shooting nearly 60 percent while displaying 3-point range to go with his breakneck demeanor. In his last two games, Jerebko has grabbed 23 rebounds to help the Pistons reverse an early-season trend of being overwhelmed on the glass.

“I like to see it on the defensive end and I like to see the chemistry there,” Lawrence Frank said of the Monroe-Jerebko pairing. “When you look at the body of work, Jonas missed last year, so all they had was training camp. It takes time to develop that chemistry, but I think you see a partnership forming there. That’s a positive thing.”

The Pistons thought the no-nonsense personalities of Monroe and Jerebko would be a good fit going into the 2010-11 season after taking Monroe with the No. 7 pick in ’10. But all they got to see was a few games in 2010 Summer League and training camp in 2010 before Jerebko suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in the preseason opener at Miami.

“We’re coming along fine,” Monroe said. “We’re only going to get better with time. It takes time to build chemistry. The more we play together, the better we’ll be. I think we just complement each other’s game. We’re both very, very unselfish players. He plays hard. He’s on the glass just like I am. That’s something that will always help. A good rebounder is always helping out another good rebounder. When two big men are willing passers, then everybody’s going to get easy layups.”

Though both Monroe and Jerebko are serious students of the game and players the front office and coaching staff know are most unlikely to ever stir up trouble, they take subtle and good-natured jabs at each other from their positions across from each other in the Pistons’ newly reconfigured Palace locker room.

“We’re starting to get there,” Jerebko said. “It’s still going to take some more games, but we’re starting to get there. We’re starting to find each other better. He can pass the ball and he can finish. I love playing with a guy like that.”

Teammates love playing with both Monroe and Jerebko not only because they’re both able and willing passers – Frank has talked of using Monroe more and more as the hub of the offense, and loves the fact Jerebko makes quick decisions with the ball to keep the offense from falling stagnant – but also play aggressively. Jerebko, in particular, plays with an infectious enthusiasm.

“I’m seeing the same Jonas,” Ben Gordon said. “He always, from day one, has played with a lot of energy. He might make mistakes, but they’re always aggressive mistakes. That’s all you can ask is a guy to play hard and bring it every night and he’s consistently done that. The more we can get from Jonas, I think the better team we’ll be.”