Fixing Flow

Stemming the tide of turnovers is first Pistons remedy, Frank says

Taking better care of the basketball is an aspect the Pistons hope to improve.
Dan Lippitt/NBAE/Getty Images
Listening to Tayshaun Prince talk about what ails the Pistons after their loss to Dallas the other night, you might have thought what they needed most to snap a five-game losing streak in which they’ve averaged 78 points was a plumber.

The word he kept repeating to describe his team’s offensive woes was “flow.” So what, exactly, does that mean? And how do you fix it?

“There’s a lot of disruption,” Lawrence Frank said after Thursday’s morning shootaround at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center, where the Pistons play the Bucks tonight. “Almost 20 turnovers a game. It’s very hard to get a rhythm when you’re turning the ball over. The second thing is that we’ve allowed teams to shoot a very high field-goal percentage against us. Some of that is the result of our turnovers, some of that is the result of poor defense. When you’re taking the ball out of the net, it’s hard. Then we’re just not attacking the paint consistently. Is that because we don’t know what to do or we know what to do and we’re not doing it or a combination of both? Or we’re trying to do the right thing so much to the point that we’re forgetting to pay the game and it may be symptoms of all three of those things.”

“I think everybody needs to be threats, first,” said Will Bynum, who managed 20 of the Pistons’ 86 points in their 14-point loss to Dallas. “We’re kind of thinking too much, trying to do everything the exact right way. But sometimes, things just happen off of instincts, things happen off you being aggressive, off you doing what you do best. That’s what we’ve got to get back to doing. Everybody’s got to do the things they do best out on that court. Whatever that is, we just need to flow off that. We’re all professional basketball players. We know what each other does well and what each other doesn’t do well. We have to play to those tendencies.”

The first step to scoring more, and scoring more efficiently, is safeguarding the basketball long enough to get off a shot. Over the last four games, the Pistons have averaged 19.3 a game. Through 10 games, they’re 28th in the 30-team NBA at 17.1. More troubling, there isn’t a single area or two or three things Frank sees that would make it a relatively easy fix.

“We watched all of them for the last four games and showed them to the team, as well, for the last game,” he said. “And they’re all over the board. If you could say they’re all in transition or all off pick and rolls or all of catch and shoots, then maybe you could say, we’ve got to stay away from that. They’re all over the board.”

It doesn’t help, of course, that two of their most naturally gifted scorers, Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva, remain sidelined with injuries, though neither has been ruled out for Milwaukee. Stuckey’s ability to get into the paint and to the foul line and Villanueva’s 3-point range, which stretches defenses thin and creates opportunities for teammates to get into the lane, will give Frank a few more weapons to enliven the attack.

“Of course it’s frustrating,” Villanueva said. “I want to be out there and help the team win and help out any way possible. Right now, my health is not allowing me to do that.”

Villanueva woke up to mysterious ankle soreness during training camp he said, provoked by nothing he recalls. Some days he thinks it’s on the mend, others – like last week, when he underwent X-rays – he feels like there’s a fracture somewhere.

It was in Milwaukee under Scott Skiles that Villanueva experienced his greatest NBA success. In 2008-09, at 24, Villanueva averaged 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. He felt similar results were likely under Frank.

“There are a lot of similarities between Skiles and (Frank),” he said. He envisioned being used to spread the floor, but also to post up and be a part of plenty of pick-and-roll scenarios.

“Just being able to spread the floor,” he said. “Coach likes bigs to set a lot of screens, drags. I think I would definitively be very effectie in those situations. It’s frustrating. You get a new start, a new coach, new staff. You want to go out there and show what you do can. Then start off being suspended for the first couple of games and then my ankle. I really haven’t had the opportunity to go out there and play, so it’s very frustrating.”