Joe D on Greg Monroe

Work ethic, fire, coachability: Monroe can ‘get even better’

(Editor’s note: Pistons president Joe Dumars spoke with editor Keith Langlois this week about a number of topics, including the rapid development of second-year center Greg Monroe. We’ll have more in the next few days on Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey, Lawrence Frank and the effects of new ownership).

The adage that center and point guard are basketball’s most critical positions might not be as commonly held as it was before the Chicago Bulls won six titles in the ’90s with the likes of Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley at center and Ron Harper and John Paxson at point guard. But until the next Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen-Dennis Rodman triumvirate assembles, it’s still not a bad blueprint.

The Pistons, at least, will take their chances with 21-year-old Greg Monroe at center and 20-year-old Brandon Knight at point guard.

“We have two good young players at those positions,” Joe Dumars said earlier this week. “For us to continue to get where we want to get, both of those guys are going to continue to have to get better. But the good thing about that is we have every confidence that those are two guys who are going to put the work in to get better and better. If you can be good at those two positions, you’ve got a chance. You’ve got a chance because they’re the two toughest positions right now in the NBA to deal with – point guard and a big. We feel good about that going forward.”

Monroe’s rapid progress – not just through the course of his rookie season, but from year one to year two – portends tantalizing future possibilities. In the here and now, it speaks to Monroe’s focus and maturity despite his tender years.

“Two or three things you can attribute to Greg so far,” Dumars said. “One is he wants to be great. That’s first and foremost. None of the other stuff matters if Greg Monroe doesn’t want to be great. But the fact he wants to be great is the No. 1 reason why you’re seeing such a jump. The second thing is Lawrence (Frank) is running a lot of stuff through him. When the ball touched his hand (last season), something good happened just about every time. You’re seeing that now.

“The last thing I would say is the work he put in this summer – I talked to him about what he did and he was in the great state of Louisiana all summer, in the heat in New Orleans, working hard at his old high school and he put in a lot of work. He wants to be great, we’re running a lot of stuff through him and he put in the work he needed to put in to get better. Those three things right there is the reason you’re seeing him take the jump he’s taken.”

That Monroe made such a leap without benefit of working with Pistons coaches due to the NBA lockout underscores Monroe’s thirst for improvement, but also makes Dumars wonder what could be possible in the years ahead.

“It says he has a lot of self-discipline,” he said. “You’ve seen what can happen to a young guy coming out of a lockout – out of condition, don’t get better, all those things that happen. What it says about him is he has a lot of self-discipline, he’s a self-motivated guy, he doesn’t have to have someone standing over him to get better.

“It also says I can’t wait until he’s here for an entire off-season, where he can work with the coaches. For me, that’s exciting, because that says he can even get better. If he’s here and working with the coaches and they can put him through things that we know we’re going to be running with him, he can work on that stuff all summer so that by the time the season starts he’s been working on it. Think about it: This is a new offense for him, as well. He’s doing this in a brand new offense. A year of this offense and then the summer to work on all of it, I think he can get even better.”